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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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
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.
Statement by: Colonel Greg Eanes, USAF (Retired)
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 legislation. The 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.
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.
 Eanes is the Action Officer for Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7819 and a mayoral candidate in the Town of Crewe.
January 19, 2016
by Jenny Gray
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 email@example.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.
By Fred D. Taylor
For decades, a number of Taylor family researchers have worked tirelessly to determine the parents of Lewis B. Taylor of Brunswick County, Virginia, who was born circa 1772 and died before December 1831.
When my father and I first began our own family tree quest in the early 1990s, this mystery was a source of almost heated debate among our cousins, spanning from family researchers very close to the source in Brunswick County, all the way out to the West Coast, and everywhere in between. To say the search was both dedicated and committed is an understatement. Countless hours were spent by dozens of individuals in libraries and courthouses across Virginia and North Carolina in hopes of untangling this genealogical roadblock. From there, professional genealogists were employed to put an independent set of eyes on the project. When that failed (or rather, did not succeed), researchers in the family decided a new route – that of DNA testing, at that time (the mid 2000s) a research tool in its infancy.
Through all of that, the ultimate goal of learning more about Lewis B. Taylor, and more importantly his parents, remained elusive. During this time and up to recent years, I remained in the peripheral of this research, occasionally touching base with family across the country to see if they had uncovered any new leads of interest. We also discussed the DNA aspect, as it was becoming trendy, but that seemed to be nothing more than the latest rabbit hole for genealogists.
For some years, I remained out of the loop, but in 2013 decided to renew my own research on the family. My first objective was to not simply rely on everyone else’s records, or rather, their assumptions about certain information. This is something I see all too often in the genealogical world. Instead, I wanted to find the actual documentation of a certain fact, or at least be able to back-track a source to its origin. The best example I can offer in this scenario is the name itself of our subject, Lewis B. Taylor. For years, I had been told that his full name was Lewis Ball Taylor. However, when it comes to the records for him, no court record, legal document, or other period account supports this. Instead, what we find is Lewis B. Taylor or Lewis Taylor or L.B. Taylor. So where did the Ball name come from? From what I can now tell, it came from an assumption within the family that the “B.” in Lewis B. was Ball, because of the fact that he had a grand-daughter whose name was Minerva Ball Taylor and a great-grandson named Benjamin Ball Taylor. Down the road, while we certainly may learn that Ball is his middle name, without more at this time, it is only conjecture.
But I digress from the main topic of this story.
In addition to starting from scratch on the research aspect of Lewis B. Taylor’s history, I finally convinced myself that it was time to do more with the DNA angle. At that time, there had been one Lewis B. Taylor family descendant to contribute to the Taylor Family Project at Family Tree DNA. To give those of you a little background on this project, I will quote from their website directly:
“The Taylor Family Genes Project (TFG) — with more than 700 members — is the largest and best Taylor Surname DNA project offered by any DNA testing company. For a common, multi-origin surname like Taylor, database size matters; it increases your chances of finding a match within the project. Having begun in late 2003, we have members with various DNA tests and are growing daily. Among our >550 members with more than 12 markers of Y-DNA results, we have identified ~80 genetic Taylor families and more than 300 unique haplotypes (individual family lines).”
When it comes to DNA research like this, size matters, and this project is THE project if you want to be serious about your Taylor family origins.
Unfortunately though, even with this kind of resource at our disposal, our one Taylor DNA submittal had turned up no matches to any other Taylors. Despite this, I decided that it would not hurt for me to submit as well, so at the very least we would know that our “control” subject for descendants of Lewis B. Taylor was accurate. We also decided to upgrade the test for our early DNA submission. Originally, he had only been tested at the Y-25 level, which while cutting edge at the time, was a less than helpful tool a decade later.
So what did we find out? Well, not surprisingly, our original submission and I came back as the highest matches for each other. For easier reference, I will refer to him as Taylor Test One.
To give you an idea of how this works, of Taylor Test One’s 111 Y markers tested, I tested as an exact match for 108 of them. This is highly significant, as in scientific terms it carries a 78% chance of a common ancestor within the last 8 generations and 91% within the last 10 generations. This testing also confirmed some of our “paper” genealogy, as we came from two different branches of the Lewis B. Taylor line, specifically: Taylor Test One was a descendant of William Ney Murat Taylor (1816-1896) and I am a descendant of John W. Taylor (1797 – ca. 1870s).
I will also note for you DNA nerds out there that we are labeled as Group 81 in the Taylor Family Genes Project, with the R1b group designation, and the R1b1a2 sub-clade. Advanced Y-DNA testing also has the ability to dig beyond the R1b1a2 designation into further sub-classes, and specific SNP mutations that we share with smaller groups of people. Think of it as a family tree descendancy chart. Now I can go into a lot more detail here about the various sub-clades (and their designations) that we match up to (there are thousands), but at the end of the day, our classification comes down to a group designated as Z-253 and below that, FGC3222. [Now, end of the scientific/DNA details.]
Unfortunately, while our DNA testing (at this point) has turned up no other direct Taylor family matches, it has allowed us to start eliminating some other Taylor families who resided in and around Brunswick County in the 18-19th Century. This is a biggie for genealogical research, as it allows us to exclude some of those rabbit holes we had been chasing for decades. So here is who we are NOT related to or descended from:
- The Edward Taylor (1722-1784) and Jesse Taylor (1752-1800) Families of Brunswick County… In a prominent and often cited discussion on Genealogy.com, Taylor family historian Ed Dittmer theorized that Lewis Ball Taylor could be a son of Jesse Taylor. This was a great lead, based on the dates, location, and the fact that LBT had a son named Jesse. However, DNA data proved this to be incorrect, as confirmed “paper” genealogy and later DNA showed that descendants of Jesse Taylor (specifically, Jesse Major Taylor (b. 1798) and George Edward Taylor (b. 1797/98)) are from the Y-DNA group I-M253. They have been separately designated in the Taylor Family Genes Project as I1-001 Group 01, and appear to descend from Robert Taylor of Rappahannock County, Virginia, circa 1688. See http://www.taylorfamilygenes.info/groups/grp_001.shtml for more information about this line.
- The Thomas Taylor (1750/60–1820) and Benjamin Taylor (1780-1853) Families of Lunenburg, Brunswick, and Mecklenburg Counties and Elsewhere… Again, another prominent family that we originally believed that LBT may have had a connection to due to ages and similar family names. Upon the submission of a Y-DNA sample from a descendant of this line, however, it was determined that this line has a Y-DNA of I-M270, and appear to descend from the Rev. Daniel Taylor, Sr. (ca. 1664-1729) of New Kent and King William Counties, Virginia.
- The James Taylor, Jr. (1770-1827) of Mecklenburg Family. This was another potential “hope” of ours, as this family spread across Brunswick and Mecklenburg Counties, as well as into Halifax County, NC, in the late 18th Again, we met a roadblock, as the DNA submission from a descendant of this line determined that this family has a Y-DNA of R1b-M269, with the Western Atlantic Modal Haplotype, and have as their most distant paternal ancestor, John Taylor (1627-1702) of Northumberland County, Virginia. This line has been separately designated in the Taylor Family Genes Project as R1b-091 Group 91.
- The James Taylor (1642-1698) Family (which includes the Rev. Lewis B. Taylor of Granville County, North Carolina). This is probably the most notable of Taylor families, and the one that many Taylors claim and wish to be descended from, as this includes the lines of such notables as Presidents James Madison and Zachary Taylor, among many others. However, the reality is that very few are connected to this line, and ours is one of them that certainly is not. This line is designated as group R1b-002 Group 2 in the Taylor Family Genes Project, and more information about this line can be found at: http://www.taylorfamilygenes.info/groups/grp_002.shtml
[Note: *Currently, we are testing two possible Taylor candidates through DNA submission (and with Brunswick & Mecklenburg County ancestry), with the hope that we may find a match to our Lewis B. Taylor family line.*]
Now, where does that leave us?
Much like those dedicated researchers before us, I and many other continue on our quest to discover new information about Lewis B. Taylor. This has come with some reward. For one, we have been able to locate the lands owned by Lewis B. Taylor that were situated in the White Plains area of Brunswick County, and discovered that his home place still exists. While we do not know for sure, it is very likely that he is buried on this property.
Similarly, focused research on those period documents that relate to Lewis B. Taylor help to tell us more about the man himself, and his family. For instance, an inventory of his Estate after his death, and recorded at the Clerk’s Office of the Brunswick County Circuit Court on December 31, 1831, relate that his personal property included such items as English furniture, numerous books, pictures, and a looking glass. Based on other Court records, we also know that Lewis B. Taylor could read and write, had vast vocational skills that included carpentry and farming, and that he was very active in his community. Unfortunately, those bits of information do not answer for us where and when he was born, his family, or even details about his upbringing. Our earliest record of him comes to us from Brunswick County in 1793, so we can presume he was “of age” at that time, but we know little else.
For now, I have kept a log of “field notes” about Lewis B. Taylor, of which I share with you today in the file Lewis B. Taylor Notes – Jan 10 2016.
With this story, I hope to not only draw more interest from those already researching the Taylor family (and specifically Lewis B. Taylor), but cross my fingers that this information and that which remains to be discovered will lead us to eventually unraveling the mystery of Lewis B. Taylor of Brunswick County.
Have questions? Want to aid in the search? Please contact me! firstname.lastname@example.org
First, I would like to wish you all a blessed and prosperous new year as we go into 2016!
Now, for an update that many have been asking for …
When I began the Roanoke Minute Men Project in the spring of 2015, I underestimated the response it would create. For years, I had “tinkered” with writing a history of Company A or the 14th North Carolina Troops, but had never felt like I could add to the histories already out there in the public (such as, The Anson Guard). But slowly that changed, as I collected more and more accounts that had previously gone unpublished, or those that took up a mere footnote in some other history text. That gave me the courage to start my journey, and so I began simply with my rough file of notes, a list of soldiers names, and this website to chart my course publicly.
Since that time, I have managed (part-time) to put together a detailed roster of the Company, to include individual service records, which encompasses on its own eighty-five plus pages of text. This does not include the background and family history data that I ultimately intend to add.
Additionally, I have now collected and transcribed over a dozen period letters and accounts, ranging from the early days of the Company’s formation through 1864 (still looking for an 1865 letter!) While a dozen letters may not seem like a lot, I started my journey with only three letters, a diary, and several post-War accounts. Today, I wrap up the year having gone through and transcribed all of those, and have on hand as I type this FIFTEEN (yes, 15!) more letters sitting on my desk to transcribe. To say I am excited about the stories these letters tell is an understatement, and this progress has helped to encourage my efforts into the new year.
I have also been blessed to correspond with and meet numerous Roanoke Minute Men descendants and family historians who have shared their own research with me, and have had the opportunity to do research at some of the South’s foremost academic institutions and historical archives. I can not say enough good things about the staffs at the Rubenstein Library at Duke University, Wilson Library at UNC, State Archives of North Carolina, North Carolina Museum of History, Virginia Historical Society, and countless smaller libraries, local historical societies and courthouses that I have had the pleasure to work with over the past year.
From here, I still have a long way to go before I reach the finished product, but in the meantime please do not forget I am always looking for more letters, diaries, family histories, and images of the soldiers themselves to add to this history and honor the story of those brave veterans of the Roanoke Minute Men.
As always, I thank you all for the assistance, input, and kind words you have provided along the way, and I look forward to “charging on” into the new year!
roanokeminutemen at gmail dot com
As Thanksgiving is just days away, I decided to change the pace away from simply discussing someone of local significance or an historic battle, and talk a little about the history of the first English Thanksgiving in America.
While most school children in the last few weeks have been performing plays celebrating that spectacular gathering between the Pilgrims and the Indians, the truth of the matter is they got it all wrong. Gasp! Yes, I’m here popping the bubble of all the little kids who dressed up in their pilgrim hats and buckled shoes, or Indian headdresses, to tell the story the history books didn’t want them to know…
Despite popular American nostalgia that the first Thanksgiving was held by the Pilgrims after the arrival of the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock, it actually had its beginnings just a few miles from us along the James River at present-day Berkeley (pronounced Bark-lee) Plantation in Charles City County.
The year was 1619, twelve years after the establishment of Jamestown, when a group of thirty-eight settlers aboard the ship Margaret arrived after having made a ten-week journey across the Atlantic. Upon their landing, they knelt and prayed on the rich Tidewater soil, with their Captain John Woodlief proclaiming:
“Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrivall at the place assigned for plantacion in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.”
As historically recorded, this event was the first English Thanksgiving in the New World. So why the big deal about the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving being at Plymouth Rock? Good question. Some historians follow the trail to northern-written textbooks (after the War Between the States, of course), but even then anything more than a cursory study of colonial history will lead one to the discrepancy between the dates of the first Thanksgiving. Yet, we continue today to recognize the Plymouth Thanksgiving as the first, despite the clear evidence to the contrary. In fact, the irony of all ironies is that not only did Virginia’s Thanksgiving celebration occur before the one in Massachusetts, the Pilgrims had not even landed in America yet! The Pilgrims arrival would come one year and seventeen days later in 1620, and their Thanksgiving celebration nearly two years later in 1621.
Celebrations of “thanksgiving” would become a deeply rooted American tradition though, usually brought on by periods of great hardship. During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress proclaimed days of Thanksgiving every year from 1778 to 1784. Likewise, George Washington issued the first Presidential proclamation of Thanksgiving in 1789, and a few of his successors followed suit. Interestingly, Thanksgiving was not a specific day or even month, and apparently was issued on the whim of whoever was in office. Sporadically between the years 1789 and 1815, days of Thanksgiving were recognized in January, March, April, October, and November. This recognition of Thanksgiving ended in 1815 following the term of President James Madison, and a President would not issue such a proclamation for another forty-six years.
That President was Jefferson F. Davis, who recognized a day of thanks, humiliation, and prayer for the young Confederate States of America for October 31st, 1861. Not to be outdone, President Abraham Lincoln resurrected the forgotten day in the United States as well, and issued a similar proclamation in April of 1862. In 1863, Thanksgiving was made a national holiday, and in 1866, the tradition of recognizing Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November was started by President Andrew Johnson.
From that time on, every sitting President has recognized Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Nonetheless, the twists in the story continue. While the recognition of the holiday has been uninterrupted since 1861, the explanations of the origins of Thanksgiving have been numerous. For years, the residents of the Oval Office ignored Virginia’s claim to the first Thanksgiving, but that all changed in 1963. It took a Massachusetts Yankee by the name of John F. Kennedy to take the risk of alienating his constituency back home to tell the rest of the story. President Kennedy honored Massachusetts’s and Virginia’s claim in his proclamations of 1963 at the urgency of his Special Assistant Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., a noted historian and political scientist. After Kennedy’s death, President Johnson mentioned Virginia twice, President Jimmy Carter recognized it in 1979, and the last to recognize Virginia’s claim was President Ronald Reagan in 1985.
Today, the struggle to tell the true story of Thanksgiving continues in classrooms across America, and even more so here at home in Virginia where it all started. For several years now, a group of concerned citizens have organized an annual event to celebrate the First Thanksgiving at Berkeley, and each year they recreate that historic event on the shores of the James River.
In the wake of America’s 400th Anniversary in 2007, the necessity to tell the real Thanksgiving story is all the more important. So as you prepare for Thanksgiving this year, take a few minutes to reflect on this story, and to pass this tidbit of history along to others. Every little bit helps in getting the truth out. As for me this year, I’ve certainly got plenty to be thankful for, but in honour of those courageous thirty-eight who arrived on the shores of Virginia in 1619, I’ll be substituting my turkey and stuffing for Smithfield Ham and Chesapeake Bay Oysters.
DATE: March 15, 2015
Re: Research for new book on veterans from Littleton, North Carolina
In December of 1860, a militia company known as the Roanoke Minute Men formed in Littleton, made up primarily of citizens from Halifax and Warren Counties. This Company enlisted into state service for North Carolina, and later into the Confederate cause, as Company A, 14th Regiment North Carolina State Troops (formerly the 4th North Carolina Volunteers.) Throughout four years of bloody conflict, this Company saw action from the early days of the War on the Virginia peninsula all the way to the last shots fired at Appomattox.
While recognized as one of the Tar Heel state’s greatest fighting units, no formal unit history has ever been compiled of the men who served in the Roanoke Minute Men – until now – and this work focuses on rare and previously unpublished letters, diaries, family histories, and service records to tell the story of these brave veterans and their families.
Although substantial progress on the history of the Roanoke Minute Men has already been made, historian Fred D. Taylor hopes to engage public support for his efforts and seeks submission of individual family histories, images of veterans both in uniform and as civilians, war-time accounts, and/or letters of the men who served in this unit.
Family surnames included in the research of this Company are: Adams, Ales, Allen, Allsbrook, Aycock, Barkley, Bobbitt, Bolton, Boon, Boswell, Brown, Burge, Burrows, Camp, Carlena, Carroll, Cherry, Clements, Day, Deaton, Eaton, Edmonds, Edwards, Felts or Feltz, Floore, Floyd, Forrest, Goodson, Hardister, Hardy, Harper, Harris, Herbert, Hicks, Holt, House, Hurley, Ingram, Jarrald, Jenkins, Johnston, Kearney, King, Lancaster, Latham, Lewis, Lynch, McCarson, McCaskill, Marlow, Mathews, Moore, Morris(s), Munn, Myrick, Nevill, Newsom, Parsons, Pendergrass, Peterson, Pittard, Pryor, Pugh, Riggan, Roberts, Rodgers, Rooker, Scarlett, Shearin, Tucker, Turner, Vick, Walker, Webb, Williams, Wilson, Wright, Yarbrough, and Yeourns.
For more information about the Roanoke Minute Men project, or to make submissions to this effort, please contact Fred D. Taylor at email@example.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.
Fred D. Taylor, whose family hails from the Littleton, North Carolina, area, is a native of Virginia, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Old Dominion University, a Juris Doctorate from the Mercer University School of Law, and is an attorney by profession in Suffolk, Virginia.