Powhatan Civil War Round Table
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DISPATCHES FROM THE POWHATAN CIVIL WAR ROUNDTABLE NEWSLETTER

 

APRIL 2019

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN STRINGFELLOW

SPY FOR JEB STUART, AND UNSUNG HERO OF THE CIVIL WAR

Born on June 18, 1840, Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow volunteered to fight for the Confederacy, but was turned down due to his slight build.  At five foot eight, and 100 pounds, Stringfellow endeavored to prove his value by reconnoitering the Powhatan Troop, Company E of the Fourth Virginia Cavalry.  The seemingly frail 21 year old captured three guards at gunpoint and marched them to the Company Commander’s tent. Persuaded that the young man had some skills to offer, he was sworn in on May 28, 1861.

Coming to the attention of J.E.B. Stuart, who referred to Stringfellow as “A young man of extraordinary merit,” he was asked to become Stuart’s personal scout, and proceeded to spend the war gathering intelligence in imaginative ways.  By posing as a dentist, and hiding under the petticoats of an Alexandria woman to escape Union troops, his espionage exploits became the stuff of legends.  Crossing the enemy’s lines multiple times, he eventually drew attention to himself by refusing to drink to Lincoln’s health.  Stringfellow was captured, exchanged, and captured again.  Escaping near the end of the war, Frank Stringfellow was 25 years old, penniless, with a $10,000 price on his head. When the war was over, he made his way to Canada to try to start anew.

This month, we are excited to present Charles Wissinger, the Director of Operations at Richmond Discoveries, a non-profit organization, founded in 1985 to provide educational and historical tours, and Richmond's oldest educational tour company. 

Charles is a professional actor who loves history. A graduate of Ferrum College with a BA in Theatrical and Performing Arts, he has worked on stage, in films, television, and commercials. Our speaker has combined his love for acting with his love for history by researching and creating an interpretation of historical figures, from the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the War of 1812 and World War II, that played significant roles in the development of the United States of America.

Charles started working in living history as a Re-enactor recreating the Second Virginia Convention where Patrick Henry gave his famous 'Liberty or Death' speech. Since then Wissinger has expanded his repertoire to include portraying James Madison, writer of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights; Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the Revolution; Major John Andre, the British officer who convinced Benedict Arnold to change sides; Francis Scott Key, author of the Star Spangled Banner; Edgar Allan Poe, author, poet, editor, literary critic; Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow, spy for J.E.B. Stuart and unsung hero of the Civil War; and Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier of World War II.

See our website, and click here for more information on Charles and Richmond Discoveries.  We eagerly anticipate this presentation.  Join us!

MENU OPTIONS

The County Seat offers our members and guests a main course, or the soup and salad bar.  This month’s main course is roast turkey, veggie, stuffing, mashed potato, and dessert.  Please specify your dining preference when you submit your pre-paid reservation, which is due the Tuesday prior to each meeting. 

NEXT MONTH

Thursday, May 16, 2019 - Sarah Bierle presenting on the battle of New Market.

CIVIL WAR QUOTES

Lee, the result of the last week must convince you of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia in this struggle. I feel that it is so, and regard it as my duty to shift from myself the responsibility of any further effusion of blood, by asking of you the surrender of that portion of the C.S. Army known as the Army of Northern Virginia.

~ Ulysses S. Grant in a letter to Robert E. Lee April 7, 1865 ~

LOCAL EVENTS

History Happy Hour RVA: Diamonds, Education, Emancipation and Race: The Family of Silas Omohundro

Location: Havana 59

Silas Omohundro was a white slave trader in pre-Civil War Richmond. His third wife Corinna and their children were legally his human property. Encounter the contrasts between Silas’ family and material life and that of the enslaved people he bought and sold.

Speaker: Emmanuel Dabney, Historian

Cost: Free

Program Date: Monday, April 8, 2019 - 6:30pm

Pamplin Park, Park Day 2019

April 13 @ 1:00 pm-3:00 pm

This annual event is sponsored by the Civil War Trust and brings history enthusiasts together in an effort to help keep our nation’s heritage not only preserved, but pristine. Join the Pamplin Historical Park team to help beautify aspects of our 424-acre park.

“Since 1996, the Civil War Trust has sponsored Park Day, an annual hands-on preservation event to help Civil War — and now Revolutionary War & War of 1812 — battlefields and historic sites take on maintenance projects large and small. Activities are chosen by each participating site to meet their own particular needs and can range from raking leaves and hauling trash to painting signs and trail buildings.”-Civil War Trust

Volunteers should meet at The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier (Park Entrance) dressed in work attire. Water, gloves, and eye protection will be provided to volunteers. Pre-registration is required. For more information and pre-registration call (804) 861-2408.

Book Talk: Raising the White Flag: How Surrender Defined the American Civil War

Location: White House of the Confederacy

The American Civil War began with a laying down of arms by Union troops at Fort Sumter, and ended with a series of surrenders, most famously at Appomattox Courthouse. In the intervening four years, both Union and Confederate forces surrendered en masse on scores of occasions. In no other American war did surrender happen so frequently.

David Silkenat will discuss his book which provides the first comprehensive study of Civil War surrender, focusing on the conflicting social, political, and cultural meanings of the action.

Cost: Free

Program Date: Saturday, April 20, 2019 - 2:00pm

REMINDER: 2019 ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP DUES

Your Membership Dues for 2019 are due.

Individual Membership - $25.00  / ¨ Family Membership - $35.00     

THIS MONTH IN THE CIVIL WAR 1865 - Courtesy History Learning Site

April 1, 1865 - The attack on Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia continued.  Union troops were especially successful at Five Forks, Virginia, where nearly 50% of the Confederate force was taken prisoner.

April 2, 1865 - Grant launched an all-out attack against Lee’s army before dawn.  Thick fog covered the attackers and the thinly defended Confederate line outside Petersburg, Virginia was broken in many places.  The Army of Northern Virginia pulled back to Amelia Court House, just 40 miles from Richmond.  Panic swept through the Confederacy’s capital and many evacuated the city, followed by looting and a general breakdown in law and order.

Grant’s men occupied Petersburg, leaving nothing between Petersburg and Richmond to stop the approach of Union forces.

Selma, Alabama was taken when nearly 3,000 Confederate soldiers surrendered.

April 3, 1865 - The US flag was flown in Richmond as Union troops entered the city.  Jefferson Davis and his cabinet fled their capital on a train that took them to Danville, Virginia. What was left of the Army of Northern Virginia fled in a westward direction from the city.

April 4, 1865 - President Lincoln visited Richmond and was greeted and cheered by former slaves and Union supporters.  Grant decided that an active pursuit of Lee’s men was not required, but followed them on a parallel course. Grant hoped that what had happened at Petersburg would lead to Lee’s army imploding, with many soldiers simply trying to return home. However, Grant was wary about any attempt by Lee to link up with what was left of Joe Johnston’s men.

April 5, 1865 - General Lee gathered what was left of his command group at Amelia Court House. Here he expected to find rations for his men, but none had been sent.

April 6, 1865 - Lee continued his retreat, but now mutiny was a concern. General Ewell had to surrender his men at Sayler’s Creek when they refused to carry out his order to fight advancing Union troops.

April 7, 1865 - Grant called on Lee to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia. Lee was effectively surrounded by a very large Union force.

April 8, 1865 - Lee decided to try to break through Grant’s lines and continue his retreat, however, he cautioned this decision with one rider – if nearby Union cavalry forces were supported by Union infantry, he would surrender.  Lee assumed that Grant’s cavalry was further advanced than the infantry. If this was not the case, he believed that any attempted breakout was doomed to failure.

April 9, 1865 - The Army of Northern Virginia fought its last battle against Union infantry.  Lee and Grant met at Appomattox Court House where Grant presented Lee with the terms of surrender. Grant allowed all Confederate officers to keep their own personal weapons and their horses if they claimed ownership. Lee rode back to what was left of the Army of Northern Virginia and told them: “Go to your homes and resume your occupations. Obey the laws and become as good citizens as you were soldiers.”

Mobile, Alabama fell when 16,000 Union troops attacked a much smaller Confederate force.

April 10, 1865 - The Army of Northern Virginia received rations from Grant’s men.  In a final address to his men Lee wrote: “With an increasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration of myself, I bid you an affectionate farewell.”

April 11, 1865 - Sherman continued with his task of hunting down what was left of General Johnston’s army.

April 12, 1865 - The Army of Northern Virginia formally surrendered its weapons and flags at Appomattox.

Montgomery, Alabama was occupied by Union forces.

April 14, 1865 - President Lincoln met Grant to discuss the status of the war.  In the evening he went to Ford’s Theatre to see the comedy “Our American Cousin.”  At 10:00 p.m. Lincoln was shot in the back of the head by John Wilkes Booth.  The assassin made his escape by jumping on to the stage from the Presidential box, exiting the theater to a waiting horse.

April 15, 1865 - Lincoln died at 7:22 a.m.  At 11.00 a.m. Andrew Johnson was sworn in as President.

Doctor, Samuel Mudd treated John Wilkes Booth’s badly damaged his leg, which was injured when he leapt onto the stage during his escape.  Ultimately, Mudd would be sentenced to life in prison for helping Booth.

April 16, 1865 - Sherman received a message from General Johnston asking for a cessation of hostilities with a view to negotiating a surrender.

April 17, 1865 - Sherman and Johnston met at Durham Station.  During the talks Johnston made it clear that he included other armies in the surrender, not just his own.

April 18, 1865 - Sherman and Johnston continued their discussions. The terms of surrender went beyond military issues. Sherman guaranteed Southerners political rights as laid down in the US Constitution. The document also stated “the US government is not to disturb any of the people by reason of the late war, so long as they abstain from acts of hostility and obey the law.” Sherman received a great deal of criticism regarding this and politicians in Washington saw him as interfering in political issues that were outside of his military focus.  In his defense, Sherman claimed that he was doing what Lincoln would have wanted as part of his policy of reconciliation.

April 19, 1865 - Jefferson Davis learned of the death of President Lincoln.  Lee wrote to Davis advising him that any form of guerrilla warfare against the victorious Union forces was folly.

April 21, 1865 - Lincoln’s body started its journey to Springfield, Illinois.

April 24, 1865 - Grant met with Sherman and criticized him for trespassing on political issues when he drew up the settlement with Johnston. He ordered Sherman to resume hostilities against Johnston until a proper surrender had been negotiated with a political input rather than a sole military one.

April 25, 1865 - Sherman met with Johnston and told him that hostilities would have to begin between the two armies within 48 hours.  Johnston informed Jefferson Davis that he would have to surrender to Sherman regardless of what terms were laid down.

April 26, 1865 - General Johnston surrendered his army to Sherman who adopted the same terms as Grant had done for Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.  Sherman even provided Johnston’s men with transport to their homes.

Federal troops surrounded a farm near the Rappahannock River where John Wilkes Booth was hiding along with accomplice David Herold, who surrendered.  Booth chose instead to fight, and was killed. 

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