The 38th Virginia at Five Forks

A friend and I traveled to the Five Forks battlefield, hoping to improve our understanding of the role of the 38th Virginia Infantry (the “Pittsylvania Regiment”) in the battle.

The area around Five Forks is still rural and undeveloped, probably looking much as it did on April 1, 1865, although of course the roads are now paved.


Five Forks–so named because five roads intersect here


The 38th Virginia was part of Steuart’s Brigade. So maps such as this one would lead one to believe that the regiment was entrenched on White Oak Road, with the rest of the brigade.


But in fact the 38th had been detached from the brigade and was deployed on the extreme left of the Confederate line, north of the Angle.

We were able to find the entrenchments that the regiment would have occupied. They are now overgrown in young trees, but as the map above indicates, the area was clear at the time.


Although not clear in the photo, the earthworks are plainly evident on the ground

So while under attack from the federal forces advancing from the east, the regiment had a clear view of Crawford’s federal troops passing to their north and into the rear of the Confederate lines.


In a desperate attempt to meet the threat, Colonel Griggs pivoted the regiment to face north, and began to fire at the enveloping federals, but by this time the regiment, the division and the Army of Northern Virginia itself were doomed. Overwhelmed and being surrounded, the line collapsed. Some of the men of the 38th regiment were able to escape, but many were captured. With his crucial lifeline now gone, General Lee ordered the evacuation of Richmond and began his retreat, which would end with the surrender at Appomattox nine days later.

Many local men served in Company C, the Laurel Grove Riflemen. At least five of them were captured at Five Forks.

Samuel T. Crews had enlisted on March 15, 1862. A resident of Halifax County, he had been wounded at Gettsyburg. After being captured, he was sent to the federal prison in Point Lookout, Maryland. He was released on June 25, 1865.

Robert H. Greenwood. A 36 year-old wheelwright from Halifax County, he was sent to Point Lookout prison. He was released on June 27, 1865. His younger brother Benjamin had also enlisted in the Laurel Grove Riflemen. Benjamin died of pneumonia in Richmond in April 1862 at age 24. Their parents were Henry Greenwood and Rhoda Epps Greenwood.

John H.S. Hubbard. Enlisted in Danville on October 14, 1864. He was sent to Point Lookout prison on April 6, 1865, and was released on June 13, 1865. John was one of 15 children of Rev. Joel Hubbard and his wife Elizabeth Stone Hubbard. Forty years old when he enlisted, John was married to the former Anne Jackson and they had at least four children, all born before the war.

Thomas J. Johns. Having been severely wounded in the shoulder at the Battle of Seven Pines on May 31, 1862, Thomas had been absent from the company recovering from his wound until Feb. 25, 1865, a little over a month before the battle. He was sent to Point Lookout prison and was released on June 14, 1865.

Abram Rives/Reaves

Image result for abram rives

He enlisted on May 30, 1861 and had been hospitalized with illnesses three times before being captured at Five Forks. He was sent to Point Lookout prison and later released on June 17, 1865. He married Eliza Ann Chaney on April 3, 1858 and they had raised ten children. Abram is buried in the Chaney Burying Grounds on Reeves Mill Road in Keeling.

Abram Reaves




Country Stores

All but one are gone now, but when I was growing up here in the 60’s and 70’s there were at least nine country stores along a three mile stretch of SR 360.


Mr. Shelton’s store was also the Keeling Post Office.


The Lesters store at the intersection of Slatesville Road and 360. It is now a private garage.

The Lesters’ store was operated by Melvin Lester and his wife Rose. This was the store my Grandma favored. Being a good Baptist, she generally avoided the Wiles’ store, as Mrs. Wiles sold beer and wine.


Sadly, the Wiles store is now overgrown and nearly invisible from the road.

Cliff and Lucy Wiles owned and operated the store. Mr. Wiles was a mechanic. Mrs. Wiles ran the store. They lived in the back part of the store and she could go to her kitchen and make hot dogs or fried bologna sandwiches for anyone who ordered one. She had a license for “ABC on/off” so folks could sit and the counter and drink a beer. I remember the large sticks of bologna (Jessee Jones of course). To buy it you would tell her how much you wanted and she’d slice it off you. There was a picnic table in the place, where us kids would sometimes sit and eat ice cream. If have lots of great memories about this store and about Mrs. Wiles, who was a kind and generous woman.


The Hawkers store

The Hawkers’ store became our primary store after Mrs. Wiles retired. I don’t remember much about it, other than that they kept a notebook behind the register to write down what people bought if they wanted to buy on credit and pay later. When my mother sent to me this store to get something, that’s the way I recall handling the purchase.

I don’t remember much about these next three.



The shooting range came later. It was a plain old country store the last time I went in it–old men whittling, a barrel of ice with bottles of Pepsi in it.


Paul’s Place lives on. It is now the only store in the community. Things have changed.


Paul’s Place

Before my time there were at least three stores on Slatesville Road–the one operated by Felix Slate, another one operated first by Richard Alderson and later by J.D. Sparrow, and the East store on the other end of the road.

My memory isn’t doing justice to these places. I invite any reader with memories or information about them to share them in a comment.

The Franklin Rangers

Because he had drilled with militia before, and claimed to know cavalry tactics, twenty-year-old Giles Hale, a student at Randolph Macon College, was elected Captain of the “Franklin Rangers,” when the volunteer cavalry company was organized in the Hales Ford community in May, 1861.  Soon thereafter, Mark Holland, who had been a student at the University of Virginia, was elected Lieutenant.   The company was, in Hale’s words, “almost all boys.”

The enthusiastic young men called upon the Governor to send them arms and ammunition so they could “whip ten Yankees to our one.”  Captain Hale later wrote that: “The Governor quickly responded and sent us a lot of flint-lock pistols, a lot of reap hooks, which he had the temerity to call sabers, and about two dozen bullet molds; ordered us to get all the shotguns we could and report at once to Lynchburg. Many of our boys decided not to go unless we possessed ourselves of a bugle. A warehouse tin horn, ten feet long, was substituted.”  Armed with these makeshift weapons, the Rangers left Franklin County on May 24, with 100 enlisted men, soon to be incorporated into Confederate service as Company D of the 2nd Virginia Cavalry.

Five of the sons of James and Elizabeth Burroughs joined the Rangers (a sixth son enlisted in the infantry). Like all Southern cavalrymen, the Rangers were required to provide their own horses, tack, equipment and uniforms. The loss of so many horses would obviously be a hardship on a small farm, but likely they expected the war to be over well before the expiration of their one-year enlistments. If so, they were mistaken about that, of course.

Billie Burroughs was killed at the Battle of Kelly’s Ford on May 17, 1863 and his body was sent home to be buried on the family farm in Hale’s Ford.

A month and a half later, on the morning of July 3, 1863, the 2nd Virginia Cavalry deployed on the extreme left of General Stuart’s line just outside Gettysburg, where they engaged federal cavalry and artillery. It had been 14 days since the men had last drawn any rations.

When the defeated Confederate army withdrew the next day, Frank Burroughs was left behind to help care for the wounded who could not be moved, including his brother Ben Burroughs, who had been shot in the hip. Ben recovered from his wound but, after being exchanged in September, was declared unfit for further duty. His brother Frank was sent to a federal prison, where he died of chronic diarrhea in November, 1864.

James Harrison was another of the Rangers’ wounded who had to be left behind. Captured in a hospital in Gettysburg on July 4, he was sent to Ft. Delaware prison where he died of typhoid fever on January 29.  William Mays was captured on July 5, and died on November 2, 1864 at Point Lookout prison, of diarrhea.  William Hudson was wounded and captured on July 3.  He died of his wounds, in Gettysburg.

Newt Burroughs was wounded at the Battle of Haw’s Shop on May 28, 1864, but he survived. After the war he took a job as a farm laborer and married Mary Peters in 1869. After her death he married Berta Kern. Newt died in 1922 at age 78, and he and both his wives are buried with his mother in the Robertson family cemetery in Bedford County.



The James Burroughs Family

Although eclipsed by the fame of Booker T. Washington, the history of the James Burroughs family is interesting in its own right.

James Burroughs was born near Smith Mountain in Bedford County, Virginia, in 1794, one of eleven children of Baptist minister Joseph Burroughs. In 1818, at age 24, he married 16 year-old Elizabeth Robertson. In 1850 the family moved from Bedford County to the Hales Ford area of Franklin County, onto the 207 acre farm where Booker T. Washington was born in 1856.

James and Elizabeth Burroughs had 14 children. While the five-room house they lived in has not been preserved, the stone foundations are still visible at the home site, now owned by the National Park Service as the Booker T. Washington National Monument.

At the time of the 1860 census the Burroughs family owned seven slaves, 4 of whom were children (including 4 year-old Booker). The farm was largely self-sustaining, producing most of the food and other necessities of life. They raised a small crop of tobacco as their cash crop.

According to the census, 100 acres of the farm was “unimproved” and the family owned 4 horses, 4 milk cows, 5 beef cows, 12 sheep and 16 pigs. In addition to tobacco the farm produced wheat, corn, oats, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, wool, flax, flaxseed, butter, peas and beans.

When the War began in April 1861 the six Burroughs sons all enlisted, five of them joining the “Franklin Rangers,” a company of cavalry organized locally. Two would die in the war, another would be captured, and two more wounded.

In July, 1861 James Burroughs died of lung disease, at age 67, leaving Elizabeth, her daughters and ten slaves (two men, two women and 5 children) to maintain the farm.

Following the war Elizabeth tried unsuccessfully to sell or rent the farm, which she could no longer maintain. Ultimately, she moved to Bedford County to live with the family of her daughter Eliza Witt, and the farm was untended until finally sold in 1893 to John Robertson, likely a relative of Elizabeth.

Elizabeth died in December, 1895 at age 93. She wanted to be buried next to her husband on the farm in Franklin County, but because the roads were too muddy to allow travel, she was buried instead on her daughter’s farm in Bedford County. Only the graves of her husband James and her son Billie (killed at the Battle of Kelly’s Ford in 1863) remain to mark the Burroughs family’s time on the farm.

James Burroughs

Billie Burroughs

Up From Slavery

When the slave Booker was born on James Burroughs’ farm near Hales Ford in Franklin County on April 5, 1856, no one could have guessed that he would someday be one of the most famous and influential men in the United States.

At age 16, Booker T. Washington left his job as a salt miner in West Virginia and walked 500 miles to Hampton, Virginia, where he was able to convince the administrators of the Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) to admit him as a student. Arriving with only fifty cents in his pocket, he worked as the school janitor to pay his way through school, ultimately graduating in 1875.  Having distinguished himself as a student, Booker joined the faculty upon his graduation and, a few years later, left to help found Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Along with the school’s first students, he literally built what would become one of the country’s most important educational institutions.

Booker T. Washington’s boyhood home in Franklin County, where he spent the first nine years of his life (through the end of the Civil War), is now preserved as a national monument.  The cabin he lived in has been reproduced, as have some of the important outbuildings on the farm.



Booker T. Washington’s dedication, perseverance and work ethic continue to be inspiring.

“I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.”

“Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.”

“I had the feeling that to get into a schoolhouse and study in this way would be about the same as getting into paradise.”

“There is as much dignity in tilling a field, as there is in writing a poem.”

The 38th Virginia at Malvern Hill

When the Civil War began, many local men enlisted in the the company of infantry organized in Laurel Grove, calling themselves the Laurel Grove Riflemen. When the Virginia forces were organized, they became Company C of the 38th Virginia Infantry regiment. Because nearly all the men in the 38th were from Pittsylvania County, it was known as the “Pittsylvania Regiment.”

Earlier this month a friend and I traveled to the Malvern Hill battlefield. Three of my friend’s ancestors served in Company C.  Among other things, we were hoping to improve our understanding of what the men of the 38th regiment experienced in that battle.


The Malvern Hill battlefield is one of the best preserved battlefields in the country. This photo is from what was the center of the federal line. On the afternoon of July 1, 1862, Armistead’s brigade advanced out of the woods in the distance, toward the federal line across this ridge. One of the three regiments in the brigade was the 38th Virginia. Having suffered heavy casualties at Seven Pines a month earlier, once again the men of the Pittsylvania Regiment found themselves in the hottest part of the battle.


This is the view the men of the regiment would have had when they emerged from the tree line, with the federal cannons massed atop the hill in the distance. In the upper left is the Crews farmhouse, which is still standing.

When the federals sent out skirmishers to shoot at the Confederate artillery batteries, being deployed southeast of the Crews house (far upper left in the photo above) General Armistead ordered his brigade forward, in order to drive them away. Armistead did not intend a general assault, but after pushing the skirmishers back, the regimental commanders, believing their orders were to proceed to charge the federal line, continued to advance toward the main federal position.

As can be seen in the photo above, the ground dips down before rising again toward the top of Malvern Hill. Upon reaching the base of the hill, the brigade halted, pinned down by heavy cannon and rifle fire for 2-3 hours. By this time the men were blinded by smoke from the federal fire, which was so thick that even though the sun was shining brightly, it was impossible to see. Armistead’s brigade charged the cannons 6 times, and were each time driven back. The attacks against massed artillery and three lines of infantry, were hopeless. A survivor of the assault in Garland’s brigade, which advanced to the left of Armistead, but not as far forward,  wrote afterwards that they faced  “the most terrific and destructive fire that any troop met since the world began.” When the brigade was finally able to withdraw, after nightfall, there were 50 bullet holes in the regimental colors. At least 25% of the 38th regiment, all local men, were killed or wounded at Malvern Hill that day. An excellent description of the battle is HERE.

I know of seven casualties in Company C.

Twenty-seven-year-old Alexander Pruett was seriously wounded and died in a field hospital a week later. His widow was Janet Lovelace Pruett. They had been married less than two years.

Twenty-two-year-old John Thomas Meeks was seriously wounded in the face and eye, the first of several times he would be wounded in the war. Later he was shot in the thigh at Gettysburg, captured, and eventually exchanged. In December, 1863, while home on furlough, he married Caroline Hopper. After returning to the regiment he was shot in the head while on picket duty at Hanover Junction in May 1864, then shot in the shoulder at Drewry’s Bluff the next day. He survived his wounds and after the war was a farmer in Henry County, where he and his wife raised five children. He died of stomach cancer in Leaksville, NC (now Eden) in 1919 at the ripe old age of 81.

Forty-two-year-old Eli Lewis suffered a gunshot wound to his right wrist. Never able to regain full use of his hand, he was eventually discharged and later assigned to the Invalid Corps. He died in 1909 at the age of 83 and his buried on Brumfield Road in Keeling, along with his wife Elizabeth Dodson Lewis.

Eli J. Lewis

Twenty five year-old Daniel S. “Joe” Chaney received a gunshot wound in the leg. Hospitalized until he recovered, he rejoined the company and served for the duration of the war. On December 19, 1867, he married Emma C. “Emily” Shelton and they raised nine children on their farm in Laurel Grove.


Daniel S. Chaney and Emily Shelton Chaney

Thomas M. Williams was wounded in the leg at Malvern Hill. Shortly afterwards he died of typhoid fever.

Albert J. Dodson was shot in the hand, and was admitted to Chimborazo hospital that same day. Two months later he deserted.

Benjamin H. Lewis, a 28 year old farmer who had married Mary Ingram four months earlier, suffered a scalp wound in the battle.

Any readers with more information about these men and their families are invited to share it in the comments section.

A Tragic Loss

Keesee home

I am saddened to report the loss of one of the most historic homes in the Keeling community.

Last Thursday night the old Keesee home on Keesee Lane burned to the ground after being struck by lightning. The home was built in the 1840s (possibly earlier) by George Peyton Keesee and his wife Amanda Clay Keesee. George, a physician and farmer, moved to Pittsylvania County in 1822 after marrying Amanda Clay, daughter of Matthew Clay. Matthew Clay was an officer in the Continental Army, one of the founding trustees of Danville, and represented Pittsylvania County in Congress for over 15 years. He was the first cousin of Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky, and the second cousin of Senator Clement Clay of Alabama.

Amanda Keesee died five hours after giving birth to her son Peyton Clay Keesee, who lived in the house his entire life.


Upon Peyton’s death, the house passed to his son Matthew Keesee, and then later to Matthew’s daughter Evelyn Gardner Keesee. Today the farm is owned by Evelyn’s daughter Joan Gardner Taylor and her husband Horace.

Joan is devastated by the loss, of course. In the future I intend to post more and better pictures of the home, and I’ll share the sad story of George Keesee’s sons.


Thanks to Sonja Ingram for the photo of the house at the top of this post.

Rite to Linches, Left to Beavers


Sometime between 1790 and 1820, someone carved and planted a stone marker at the intersection of the Old Richmond Road and what is now known as Slatesville Road (SR 701), in the community now known as Keeling,  in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. The inscription on the east side of the stone, facing any traveler heading west on Old Richmond Road, reads “Rite to Linches 60 M.” The inscription on the north side of the stone reads “Left to Beavers 8 M.”

“Linches” refers to either Lynchburg, which was incorporated in 1805, or Lynch’s Ferry, which began operation in 1757. “Beavers” likely refers to Beavers’ tavern, which operated from 1800 to 1840 in what is now the Blairs community. It may refer to Walter Beavers’ place, which was there before the tavern. The distances indicated on the stone are approximately correct.

At some unknown time in the past, perhaps when a newer marker was installed, the stone was moved across the road, and converted into a step stone at the house located there, which was the home of Hartwell Ingram prior to his death in 1949. I don’t know the history of the home prior to Hart Ingram owning it.

After Hart Ingram’s death the house and farm were sold to Annie Maud Edmunds Dodson, wife of Charlie Dodson. Their daughter Alice married Delly Eastwood. Later Alice and Delly’s son Bob Eastwood lived there.

A few years ago, when the house was about to be sold out of the Eastwood family, Delly relocated the stone to his home a bit further down Slatesville Road. Recognizing its historical significance, and wanting to make sure the stone was preserved, he erected it in his yard, where it stood for a number of years.

With Delly and Alice Eastwood now in poor health, their daughter Pat contacted the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), to see if there was any interest in preserving the stone. The VDOT representatives were thrilled by the discovery and soon had their archaeologists and historians involved.

And now, thanks to Pat’s efforts, after many years astray, the stone has now returned home.

A few days ago I was privileged to attend the ceremony unveiling the stone, now returned to its original location.


It is believed to be one of the oldest such stones in Virginia.


Pat Eastwood, Larry Chattin, and their son Grayson