Dr. Samuel G. Boyden – Gold Hill, North Carolina

As many of you know I am fascinated by early photography, and collect images primarily from the 1850s-60s period, comprising daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes. Most of these are from North Carolina, where I have deep family roots. Although my focus for the last few years has been telling the history of soldiers, I am always interested in a good story, and that is where this one begins.

By way of background, finding an identified image from this period is always a challenge. You are lucky if someone wrote an inscription or left a note identifying the subject. Likewise, most images you see from the period are of individuals, usually taken in a photographer’s gallery or in a make-shift “studio” by an itinerant. Rarely do you see an outdoor image. So when I came across the image posted here, the rare outdoor scene, I was intrigued. But when I learned it was identified to North Carolina, I was in awe.

The image itself is a ¼ plate ambrotype taken on clear glass, and inside was the following writing on a piece of paper as follows:

“Picture of Dr. Saml Boyden at his home in Gold Hill.”

With these details, the research hunt began!

Samuel G. Boyden was not a native “Tar Heel,” but was actually born in Deerfield, Massachusetts, about 1815. He moved to North Carolina at the age of eighteen, likely following in the footsteps of another local kinsmen, Nathaniel Boyden (lawyer, member of Congress, and NC Supreme Court justice). After reaching the age of majority, Samuel began studying medicine, and is said to have graduated with honors. He ultimately settled in Salisbury as a Doctor. I find the first mention of him in 1841 under the practice of “Henderson & Boyden.” In 1847, he moved to the nearby Town of Gold Hill, where he formed “Drs. Rice & Boyden.”

I cannot lose the opportunity here to talk about Gold Hill. Organized as a Town in 1843, Gold Hill was a bustling gold mining town, years before the rush began in California. In fact, Gold Hill was the most significant mining area in the state of North Carolina, and one of the most prosperous in the South.

Dr. Boyden capitalized on this opportunity in Gold Hill, not only moving his medical practice there, but also investing in one of the local mines. Unfortunately, gold or should I say greed can bring out the worst in people, and Dr. Boyden found himself in the middle of a nasty dispute in 1851. After having been invited to join a friend at his local gold mining office, another principle in the business – Joseph A. Worth – ordered him out of the same building. Apparently Dr. Boyden and Worth had a running dispute, and this only brought it to a head. As their discussion turned heated, Worth called Dr. Boyden a liar, to which Dr. Boyden responded that he was a “damned liar” and drew his Colt revolver. Escalating the situation, Worth sprung toward Dr. Boyden, and fisticuffs ensued. Dr. Boyden fired off three shots, one grazing Worth’s finger. Once the dust settled, Dr. Boyden was criminally charged with assault and assault with intent to murder. Following a jury trial, Dr. Boyden was convicted on both counts, and given a fine and imprisonment. At the time, however, such a charge was only a misdemeanor, and it appears Dr. Boyden spent little time incarcerated. His case was ultimately appealed – and conviction upheld – by the North Carolina Supreme Court (if you want to read more about this, check out State v. Boyden, August Term 1852.)

The conviction apparently had little affect on his life or activities though, as Dr. Boyden continued to practice medicine and was very active in Whig politics throughout the 1850s. He also was married to Letitia Bruner, his bride fourteen years his junior.

But the bright times soon came to an end. On November 25, 1862, the local newspaper The Carolina Watchman, reported that Dr. Boyden had passed away from “hypertrophy” at his residence at Gold Hill in the 46th year of his age. The newspaper detailed:

“Having a practical knowledge of his own disease and its fatality – he was influenced, several months prior to his death, to view the vanity of earthly things and the necessity of making preparation for the realities of the future, leaving his friends to hope that he now reposes in the bosom of heavenly rest.”

In conclusion, shown here are several versions of the image, one of which I have edited to bring out some details. Taking outdoor images at this time was very difficult, and this image was underexposed which is why it is so dark. There are some interesting things to point out, however. For one, Dr. Boyden is shown on a gig or sulky – a carriage designed to be pulled by one horse, and usually made for one rider. Also, if you look at the details of the house, you will see that it has gutters/downspouts visible. There may be some other things you will see, I pick up some new detail each time I look at it. Enjoy!

Remembering Sharpsburg

It has been a while since I have made a history-related post, and I was reminded that today is the anniversary of the battle of Sharpsburg, Maryland. 159 years ago.

While many look at the battle of Gettysburg as the deadliest of the Civil War – and it was – it also lasted over a course of several days. Sharpsburg, on the other hand, was a one day battle and due to that, is recognized as the single deadliest day in American military history.

I have always been intrigued by this battle. And not just because I have walked the fields of conflict. My own family participated in the battle, and witnessed the carnage that day. In a 1905 letter to his daughter, one of my kinsmen – Sergeant Major Newsom Edward Jenkins of the 14th North Carolina – wrote of the battle. At the time, he was serving as an Orderly Sergeant and the acting Commissary. His old Company – A, the Roanoke Minute Men – on the eve of battle had no commissioned officers in the field. He recalled:

Newsom E. Jenkins

“The men had a premonition of an engagement, something you feel, but cannot explain, and my old company… wanted to know who would take them in if we had a fight. I promised I would stay and go with them – we were soon ordered to change our position. We were moved to a position in a lane known (now) as “Bloody Lane,” fronting up the creek. Our position was on the left center of the Brigade [Anderson’s Brigade, comprising the 2nd, 4th, 14th & 30th NC]… Soon after we had taken this position, we saw the columns of enemy moving towards us. Col. R.T. Bennett commanding the regiment… told me to take the Company out and deploy them as skirmishers, and go out to meet the enemy… we fired on them when they got in range. They then fired a volley into us. I ordered a retreat, we fell back to our position… but we had one of our best men killed [Bob Shearin] before we got back and several wounded. The lines of the enemy came up and charged our position a half dozen times or more, but we drove them back, and held our position for three hours under a terrific fire from the infantry line while shells were plowing the fields around us and clearing every thing in its sweep.”

Ultimately, the lines of Anderson’s Brigade were overwhelmed, flanked, and captured. What was left of the 14th Regiment in the Lane surrendered about 80 men. Of the twenty-eight from Company A who began the battle, nine were killed, and eighteen wounded and/or captured.

Amazingly, when Jenkins wrote this account some forty plus years later, he particularly recalled his capture by the command of Charles Augustus Fuller of the 61st New York Infantry, and asked his daughter to try to locate him. Fuller was also a Sergeant at the time of the battle, and ultimately rose to the rank of Lieutenant before his discharge due to wounds. His account, “Personal Recollections of the War of 1861,” is an excellent biography of his service and the history of his regiment.

Charles Augustus Fuller

To take the story a step further, I went on a tour of Sharpsburg in the late 1990s. As we walked the Bloody Lane, our tour guide began to recite the story of his own great-grandfather who had been on the field that day. Who was that man? Sgt. Charles A. Fuller. And there we all were, some one hundred and thirty years later the descendants of those same men, meeting under much different circumstances.

It doesn’t get much more close to history than that. “The past is never dead. It is not even the past.” – William Faulkner

Images: (1) Post war cabinet card of Newsom Edward Jenkins, donated by my family to Duke University; (2) the carnage of the Bloody Lane, photograph likely taken by Alexander Gardner, Library of Congress; (3) Charles Augustus Fuller of the 61st New York, image from Antietam on the Web (https://antietam.aotw.org/index.php)

Fearless on the Cape Fear River

A sneak peak of my article in the Summer 2019 issue of Civil War Navy—The Magazine (civilwarnavy.com) profiles Thomas Mann Thompson, Jr., one of the Confederacy’s most successful blockade runner pilots, making over 30 runs through the blockade while escaping capture. Famed Confederate Captain Michael P. Usina called Thompson “an officer who knew no fear.”

(Thompson carte de visite courtesy of the Fred D. Taylor Collection. Image photographed by S.W. Gault, Hamilton, Bermuda, circa 1864.)

Military Images Magazine: Legacy Fulfilled

My latest project has recently been published in Military Images magazine, on the life of Captain William Rice Jones of Brunswick Mineral Springs.  Captain Jones was a Virginia native, West Point Cadet, Confederate artillery Captain, and ultimately, a Texas Rancher!

This all came together after years of research efforts, and the stars aligning to bring his story to life, through the help of the Jones family. I can’t express enough my gratitude to his family members who provided the images, Ron Coddington at Military Images, and the ever-faithful assistance of William J. Stier and my wife, who have always been willing to read drafts of my stories and provide much-needed critique!

Find out more about the article and Military Images magazine here.

 

Debut in Military Images Magazine

Many of you who know me are aware of my passion for history, and my interest and collection of Civil War-related items. For several years, that has included a focus on identified items in which I can bring the stories of the men and women from that period “to life.”  Particularly, period images.  Nothing brings history to life more than a photograph, where one can see a face and look into the eyes of an individual…. and the period just prior to and during the Civil War was truly the awakening of photography, such that these images tell a story as significant as battle reports, letters, or books.

I explain all of this to proudly debut my first (of many, I hope) article to appear in Military Images magazine. MI is one of the foremost historical publications in existence today, and the only one whose exclusive focus is the study of photographs of Civil War soldiers.  I began my journey here when I discovered (rediscovered?) an albumen print of Lieutenant Otway Berryman of the United States Navy.  Prior to obtaining this image, I had never heard his name mentioned. But he was a Virginian, and that interested me, and I quickly learned he died at the outbreak of hostilities.  That also piqued my curiosity.  Armed with this information, I began a quest some eight months ago researching this “unknown” naval officer.  What I learned from that research moved me so much that I knew his story needed to be told.  So this article is the culmination of that research, and from my perspective, a tribute to Lt. Berryman and his service.  For those of you who already subscribe to Military Images, I hope you enjoy the article. If you do not, but are interested in such history, please check out their website, and consider a subscription.  The current issue can be purchased, as well as subscriptions from the following link.

I cannot conclude without also thanking my family and my dear wife who tolerated my many hours locked away in research, and ultimately for her critique of this article.  I also knew that if I was going to write for a scholarly publication, I needed to run this article by historians and image collectors who not only had previously contributed to MI, but whose advice (and criticism) I knew would make this a better read. Those gentlemen include my dear friends Rusty Hicks, William Stier, and Doug York. Finally, I cannot say enough about the courtesy and professionalism extended to me by MI Editor and Publisher Ron Coddington who truly helped bring this story to life with his recommendations as we drafted our way through to the final version.

 

Latest on the Book that Never Ends… aka the Roanoke Minute Men / 14th North Carolina Project

I certainly did not go into this endeavor believing it would happen overnight, but I also planned that I would quickly be able to dive into the meat of the book, the writing, editing, and so on.

Unfortunately, that was not to happen.  Work, family, and life have kept me occupied these last two years, and away from settling in to fully write this book.

On the flip side, I have still been blessed to have opportunities to travel, read, and continue my research efforts.  For that, I have been entirely rewarded with previously unpublished material, letters, and other items of significance to the 14th North Carolina.  Additionally, I have been fortunate to meet and correspond with others historians, as well as descendants of members of the 14th from across the nation, who have graciously supplied me with family data and anecdotes.

So where do we stand two and a half years later?

From a small file folder with three period letters and a diary, I now have compiled over fifty (yes, 50!) letters from members of the 14th; additionally, I have located “new” images, period and post-War accounts of service, and much more.

As we approach 2018, my hope and goal is to turn this raw data into the story that I originally set out to tell in 2015.

For more information about the Roanoke Minute Men / 14th North Carolina project, or to make submissions to this effort, please contact Fred D. Taylor at roanokeminutemen@gmail.com, telephone at 757-705-0950, or by mail to:  160 West Washington Street, Suffolk, Virginia 23434.  All submissions will be properly credited to the owner.

Find the project on Facebook at:  Roanoke Minute Men Project

June 4: Memorial Service to Honor General Junius Daniel of Halifax

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On Sunday, June 4, 2017 at 2:30 in the afternoon, the General Matt W. Ransom Camp #861, Sons of Confederate Veterans, will host a Confederate memorial service at the grave of Brigadier General Junius Daniel.  This grave site is located within the bounds of the state historic site in Halifax, North Carolina at the Colonial Cemetery.   Attorney and historian Fred D. Taylor of Suffolk, Virginia, will speak on the life and service of the General, who fell in battle at the “Bloody Angle” during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House in May of 1864.

A number of distinguished guests will attend to bring greetings, to include Mrs. Peggy Johnson, President, North Carolina Division, United Daughters of the Confederacy, and Commander Kevin Stone, North Carolina Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans. Additionally, the Ellis Battery, Northampton Artillery and numerous reenactors will also be in attendance.

A display of Daniel related items and relics will be on display.

The public is invited to this event, and we hope you will attend!

For more information, please visit the General Matt W. Ransom Camp SCV Facebook Page.

Combat Veteran says: “Virginia’s War Memorials Are Still Protected”

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Statement by:  Colonel Greg Eanes, USAF (Retired)[1]

Governor Terry McAuliffe’s veto of HB 587, the clarifying language to Virginia’s war memorial protection law has no impact on existing state code. The Governor’s veto of HB587 only means the state code may at some point be tested in a court of law at great financial expense to localities and the taxpayers of those localities.

HB 587 was meant only to clarify existing state code to say in plain language that Virginia’s war memorial protections law encompasses all war memorials regardless of when they were built. The current law implies in language, logic and context that this is already the case. However, a Danville judge last year, in a case in which he ruled the law did not apply, observed the law might be misinterpreted and should be clarified by the General Assembly.

Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 7819 in Crewe and veterans from other VFW, American Legion and American Veterans (AMVETS) posts requested language to clarify the law. HB 587 was requested by American military veterans. Delegate Charles Poindexter rose to the occasion to sponsor that legislationThe bill was actively and publicly supported by the Department of Virginia VFW, the Department of Virginia AMVETS, the 5th District American Legion, the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

Virginia’s existing law has protected our war memorials sparing communities needless discord and saving millions in litigation dollars. HB 587 was meant to ensure such would remain the case. The General Assembly clarified the existing state code’s intent. Regardless of the Governor’s veto, the General Assembly’s clarification is now a matter of public record.

In honoring our gallant war dead, veteran service organizations do not discriminate on one’s period or place of service or the often divisive politics surrounding the various wars. Politics has no place as men and women served and serve where they are called. This includes Confederate veterans who are, by law, custom and practice, American veterans. All American veterans are treated equally. What impacts one, impacts all.

Our honored dead cannot speak for themselves therefore we the living must speak on their behalf.  Virginia’s veterans have done so by asking for and supporting HB 587.

Background Information

Veteran’s service organizations (VSO) have been involved in a number of costly and litigious war memorial preservation fights across the country in recent years.  Among these:

  • In 1994 the Air Force Association, joined by other VSOs, fought to correct a politically motivated Smithsonian interpretation of World War II’s Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb. The political activists tried to depict the United States as evil and the Japanese as victims;
  • In 2015 the American Legion was successful in protecting Bladensburg, Maryland World War I Veterans Memorial. Atheists wanted to either “demolish” the memorial or deface it by cutting off the arms of the cross to make it a “slab” citing the shape of the Christian cross was offensive. The American Legion spokesman said, “We’ll continue to defend this veteran’s memorial to see that it stands for another hundred years. The men it honors, others who have served, and those in uniform today deserve no less.”
  • In 2015, after 25 years of costly litigation, the Veterans of Foreign Wars was successful in protecting the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross, a Korean War memorial in San Diego.

Elsewhere Vietnam memorials have been vandalized and one has been taken down while two war memorials in Hawaii (one each for World War I and World War II) are targeted for destruction so the space can be used for economic development.  These incidents, and many others across the country, illustrate an intolerant mindset that has threatened and continues to threaten American war memorials and the memory of the American veteran.

Every major veteran service organization has a memorial and remembrance component to their charters.  Preserving and protecting American war memorials is a ‘veteran’ issue.

[1] Eanes is the Action Officer for Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7819 and a mayoral candidate in the Town of Crewe.

Man Seeks Information About Local Company of Soldiers

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The Daily HeraldThe Daily Herald (Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina)

January 19, 2016

by Jenny Gray

Article Source

On the morning of April 9, 1865, men from the Roanoke Valley fought in the Battle of Appomattox Court House, the final engagement of the Army of North Virginia before surrendering — and thus ending — the Civil War.

The Confederate capital of Richmond, Va., was lost to the South. Retreat was cut off by Union forces. Losing that morning battle brought General Robert E. Lee to the courthouse that afternoon where he signed the documents of surrender and gave up his sword.

Standing there was the company that included members from Halifax, Warren and Northampton counties. Now an area historian wants to know what made them tick.

Attorney, historian and author, Fred Taylor grew up visiting his grandmother on the banks of the Roanoke River. His forefathers operated Eaton’s Ferry, and somewhere along the line he learned of the Roanoke Minute Men, a Littleton-area militia that formed before the Civil War, and fought in that war from the start to the finish.

“For me personally, I’ve always been a history buff,” Taylor said during a recent visit in which he gathered more research on this militia. “A lot of people think history’s boring. It’s abstract. It happened 100 years ago.”

But that’s not how Taylor said he feels. Following in the footsteps of a family member, he started building on the family genealogy about two decades ago and was hooked.

“All this history comes back to my own family,” he said. “My dad grew up on the Roanoke River, and later, Lake Gaston. My grandfather pulled Eaton’s Ferry.”

Then along came the story of the Roanoke Minute Men and Taylor’s hobby turned into something more serious.

“My first big find was the diary of a soldier during the Civil War, and I was related to him,” Taylor said. “I started reading that and seeing how these guys fit into a bigger story.”

His hunt began in earnest last spring as he read more and more accounts of this band of local soldiers. Taylor has assembled a detailed roster of the Company including individual service records and period letters and accounts from the early day of the company, formed in 1864. He has corresponded with and met Roanoke Minute Men descendants and visited state and local archives, gathering more information.

He learned that the Company was among the first to serve in the Civil War.

“They formed as a militia just before the Civil War and eventually went from Littleton to Weldon, and then over to Garysburg to train,” Taylor said. “One-hundred and forty men ended up serving in the unit.”

Taylor said while his book will include military information, that’s not the goal. Troop movements during the Civil War are well documented, but to get to the heart of his subject, Taylor said he wants to make it personal.

“My preference is not talking about battles or generals; I’d like to know more about these soldiers,” he said.

The initial diary, Taylor added, wasn’t about war, per se. It was about how the soldier felt.

“He talked about love and poetry and there were some religious overtones,” Taylor said of the diary. “I don’t think any soldier can be in battle without getting a little closer to their maker.”

Most of these soldiers had never gone more than a few miles from home, Taylor said, and must have been frightened at times.

“My focus has been trying to emphasize their story — that life of the enlisted soldier who left family and loved ones and marched off hundreds of miles away to face enormous odds,” he added. “I think this sort of veterans’ story strikes a chord with anyone, regardless of age or race or what war we are discussing, or even whether or not they like history.”

To gather information, Taylor travels as often as he can while still managing his law practice in Suffolk, Va. He also has used the Internet, creating a website at: fredonhistory.com/roanoke-minute-men

Taylor, whose roots go back to the Jamestown Colony, also has a Facebook presence at www.facebook.com/roanokeminutemen.

Anyone from the Littleton area will recognize many of the surnames on the list of soldiers: Allen, Bobbitt, Holt, Kearney and Newsom, among others.

“Their average age was about 25 years old; literally every 18 to 40 year old, able-bodied man went,” Taylor said. “I’m gong to tell the big picture but I want these people to speak for themselves. And I want to be able to tell what was going on at home.”

He spoke of one of the company’s members, a black soldier named Hilliard Goings. Taylor said he was close to his fellow soldiers, including Newsom Jenkins.

“He served as a pallbearer at his funeral, and went to all the veterans’ reunions,” Taylor said of Goings. “I want to cover it all, and find the motivation to what prompts a young man to leave home and stability to go fight for four years. And what was the effect of that on their families. … I want to get down into the heart of that.”

So Taylor is asking people to help him find these photographs, diaries and letters. For more information about the Roanoke Minute Men project, or to make submissions to this effort, contact Taylor at roanokeminutemen@gmail.com, telephone at 757-705-0950, or by mail to: 160 West Washington St., Suffolk, VA. 23434. All submissions will be properly credited to the owner, he said.