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.

 

Thanksgiving, A Southern Tradition Since 1619

by Fred D. Taylor, originally published November 2005 in the Suffolk News-Herald; updated November 2015.

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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.”

berkeley-plantation

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.

HistoryMobile Rolling into Historic Downtown Suffolk

Press Release from the City of Suffolk Division of Tourism

VIRGINIA’S CIVIL WAR 150 HISTORY MOBILE
ROLLING INTO HISTORIC DOWNTOWN SUFFOLK

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SUFFOLK, VA (March 3, 2015) History is on the move in Virginia as the Civil War 150 HistoryMobile rolls into Suffolk for a two day visit on Friday, March 13th, and Saturday, March 14th, from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. both days. The exhibit, an initiative of the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission, will be located at the Suffolk Visitor Center, 524 North Main Street. Admission to the HistoryMobile is free and open to the public. These “history days” are presented by the Suffolk Division of Tourism partnering with the Suffolk Public Library, Riddick’s Folly House Museum and the Hilton Garden Inn Suffolk Riverfront.

In addition to the HistoryMobile exhibit, the event also includes tours and a living history reenactment at Riddick’s Folly House Museum; guided tours of historic Downtown Suffolk and the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge; and a genealogy workshop and a history presentation. Stop by the Historic Seaboard Station Railroad Museum to browse the large selection of Historical Society publications and learn about the importance and history of railroads in Suffolk while viewing the HO scale railroad model of 1907 Suffolk.

The HistoryMobile uses immersive spaces and interactive exhibits to draw together stories of the Civil War and emancipation from the viewpoints of those who experienced it across Virginia—young and old, enslaved and free, soldier and civilian. Visitors will encounter history in ways they may have never experienced before. The HistoryMobile exhibit is divided into four sections: Battlefront, Homefront, Journey to Freedom, and Loss-Gain-Legacy. From the bewildering sense of chaos experienced by soldiers, to the last letter written by a dying son to his father after sustaining a mortal wound, to a hushed conversation between a husband and wife considering the great risks and rewards of fleeing to freedom, the HistoryMobile presents the stories of real people in Virginia whose lives were shaped by the historic events of the 1860s, and invites visitors to imagine, “What Would You Do?”

The Civil War 150 HistoryMobile crosses the state visiting museums, schools, and special events. Its tour began in July 2011, and since then it has made over 120 stops and attracted visitors from every state and a number of other countries.
In addition to learning more about Virginia’s history, the HistoryMobile also provides visitors with information from Virginia Tourism about the many historic sites and destinations that they can explore today.

Admission to the Virginia Civil War 150 HistoryMobile is free and open to the public. For additional information on event happenings in conjunction with the HistoryMobile visit such as tour reservations, associated costs and times contact the Suffolk Visitor Center at 757-514-4130 or visitsuffolk@suffolkva.us. Space is limited on tours. Advance reservations are required.

Friday, March 13, 2015 Activities

10am-5pm HistoryMobile open to schools and public

10am-4pm Riddick’s Folly House Museum open for hourly tours ($5 per person)

10am Washington Ditch Boardwalk Guided Walk ($5 per person; reservations required)

11am-4pm Suffolk Seaboard Station Railroad Museum open to public for tours (donation)

12pm Great Dismal Swamp’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Pavilion Tour ($5 per person; reservations required)

3pm Historic Downtown Narrated Bus Tour ($5 per person, reservations required)

6pm Legends of Main Street: A Suffolk Ghost Walk ($10 per person; reservations required)

Saturday, March 14, 2015 Activities

10am-5pm HistoryMobile open to public

10am-4pm Riddick’s Folly House Museum open for hourly tours ($5 per person)

10am-4pm Period reenactments on the grounds of Riddick’s Folly (free)

10am-1pm Genealogy Workshop with the “Daughters of the American Revolution” at Morgan Memorial Library

10am Washington Ditch Boardwalk Guided Walk ($5 per person; reservations required)

10am-3pm Suffolk Seaboard Station Railroad Museum open to public for tours (donation)

12pm Great Dismal Swamp’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Pavilion Tour ($5 per person; reservations required)

2pm-3pm “The Battle of Suffolk: Through Soldier’s Letters,” a presentation by Kermit Hobbs at Morgan Memorial Library

3pm Historic Downtown Narrated Bus Tour ($5 per person, reservations required)

6pm Legends of Main Street: A Suffolk Ghost Walk ($10 per person; reservations required)

War and Reconstruction, Part 3 of 3

Originally published in the Suffolk News-Herald, August 2005

In my previous column, Charles Henry Causey had seen capture and parole, an assignment with the Confederate States Secret Service, and ultimately, an appointment to the command of Major General George Pickett.  In this last and final column, I will relate Causey’s final days of the war, and how a young man born in Delaware ended up making Suffolk his home.

By 1864, Charles Henry Causey had clearly found his niche and spent the remainder of the war as a scout and member of the famed Confederate Secret Service, working both in Pickett’s command and also through the War Department.  Not surprisingly, his entire record remains a bit of an enigma due such secret and dangerous operations.  Though a scant number of military service records, official reports, and letters do exist, for the most part Causey’s activities from 1861 to 1865 remain obscure.  When the National Archives compiled these records, they too noticed the irregularity of his “official” assignments.  In a statement filed by one of the records compilers, it was noted that there was “a slight endeavor on the part of Confederate authorities to make it appear that this man was on Signal Duty.”  However, there was “no indication that he knew anything of a signal code, or of any action except as a scout or spy.”  It was also pointed out that his support by General Pickett in 1863 was clearly emphatic as to the importance of his services, but “makes no mention of what they are.”

The one thing that is known is that Charles Henry Causey’s role in the Tidewater area certainly had a lasting effect on his life.  Apparently, during his time scouting in the Suffolk region he had the opportunity to meet the young Martha Josephine Prentis, daughter of Peter Bowdoin and Eliza Wrenn Prentis.  Martha was eighteen when Causey met her in 1863, and their relationship blossomed from those occasions when he could avoid the roaming Union cavalry parties that passed through Suffolk in 1864.  Despite the infrequency of their meetings in the midst of a raging war, they decided to take their courtship to the next level by the fall of that year.  On September 26, 1864, Charles Henry Causey and Martha Josephine Prentis were married in Suffolk.  But their time together was anything but a honeymoon, and was abruptly curtailed due to the dismal outlook of the Confederate army.  By the winter of 1864, Union General Grant had placed a stranglehold on Lee’s army, and the Signal Corps’ operations were limited to Pickett’s thin defenses on the south side of Petersburg.  Causey did manage to slip in and out of enemy lines and continue his reconnaissance work in the Tidewater region, but for the most part his previous services were no longer needed with the Confederate capital under siege.  In April of 1865, when Petersburg and Richmond were evacuated, Causey was presumably in the Tidewater area and was not with the army during Lee’s retreat or subsequent surrender at Appomattox.  Instead, he turned himself in to Federal authorities two weeks later on April 25, and was given a parole under the terms agreed upon by Lee and Grant.

Upon his parole, Charles Henry Causey returned for his bride in Suffolk, and started a family.  Their first child, William Bowdoin Causey, was born on June 11, 1865, and named for Charles Henry’s brother and Martha’s father.  Their second child was a daughter, Marianna Causey, born in 1866, and the Causey family continued to grow with the birth of Charles Henry Causey, Jr., born in 1868; Peter Prentis Causey, born in 1872; James Campbell Causey, born in 1874; Margaret Webb Causey, born in 1876; and Josephine Causey, born in 1878.  Records indicate two more children who died in infancy, but their names are unknown.

Besides the growth of his family, Charles Henry Causey’s law practice also took a turn for the better following the end of Reconstruction in 1870 and the removal of Federal troops from Virginia.  Among his clients included the Atlantic and Danville Railroad, as well as the Seaboard Airline Railroad, putting him in almost daily contact with his fellow Confederate comrade, General Laurence Simmons Baker who served as railroad agent in Suffolk.  This also gave Causey the opportunity to befriend former Confederate General William Mahone, a prominent railroad builder and the president of several railroad lines.  It was through Mahone that Causey became active in state politics.

In the late 1870s, Mahone became the leader of a somewhat unpopular group at the time known as the Readjuster party, which sought to lower Virginia’s prewar debt.  This group was a coalition of Democrats, Republicans, and African-Americans opposed to the Conservative Democrat platform that most ex-Confederates aligned themselves with.   In 1881 though, the Readjuster Party won control of the Governor’s Mansion with the election of William A. Cameron, and swept a number of seats in the Virginia General Assembly.  Charles Henry Causey supported these reform policies of Mahone, and became an active member of the Readjuster Party as a result.  In return for his support, Causey was named Clerk of the Virginia Senate in December of 1881, appointed to the Board of the Eastern Lunatic Asylum in 1882, and served as Commonwealth’s Attorney for Suffolk.

However, party politics would again change in the Old Dominion, and the Readjuster Party could not hold together its coalition of minority parties in order to stay in power.  Sensing the change in the political climate, Mahone made the bold move of aligning himself and the Adjuster Party with the Republican Party in 1884.  This created quite a storm in the state, as many considered then (and some still do today) the Republican Party as the “Party of Lincoln.”  As a result, a number of citizens ostracized Mahone and other ex-Confederates like Causey as scalawags, but in reality the Virginia electorate remained split fifty-fifty.

Charles Henry Causey, circa 1880s.

Locally, a number of Nansemond County and Suffolk citizens voted Republican in the 1880s.  It was through their support that Charles Henry Causey became the first Republican elected from Suffolk to the Virginia State Senate in 1884.  Charles Henry Causey served in the Senate until his term expired in 1887, and also became a Republican elector for the 2nd Congressional District.

Besides his political activities, Charles Henry Causey was also a prominent Mason and Odd Fellow, and an active member of the Pickett-Buchanan Camp of the United Confederate Veterans based in Norfolk.  At the time, the Tom Smith Camp in Suffolk had yet to be formed, and a number of Suffolk’s Confederate veterans held membership in the Norfolk camp.

In August of 1890, sickness struck Charles Henry Causey, and he was ill but for a few days when he suddenly passed away at 10:30 PM on Wednesday, August 27, at the young age of fifty-three years.  His death was announced in both the Suffolk and Norfolk newspapers, and came as a great shock to the community and all that knew him.  Prior to his passing, he had often remarked that he wished his funeral to be conducted by his comrades in the Pickett-Buchanan Camp, and per his wish, the old veterans of that group organized on the day of his funeral.  Due to his position as attorney for the Atlantic and Danville Railroad, the railroad offered a special train car from Norfolk to carry the Confederate veterans to Suffolk as they paid the last honors to their fallen comrade.

Captain Charles Henry Causey was laid to rest in Cedar Hill Cemetery on Friday, August 29, 1890.  He left a wife, and five children.  Of those, all rose to some prominence in the community, with Charles Henry Causey, Jr., and James Campbell Causey serving with the 4th Virginia Infantry from Suffolk during the Spanish-American War, William Bowdoin Causey serving as a Lieutenant Colonel of Engineers in World War I, and Peter Prentis Causey becoming a noted local doctor.  There is no doubt that a respect and reverence for military service was instilled in the hearts and minds of the Causey children, especially in Charles Henry Causey, Jr.  He rose to the rank of Captain during the Spanish-American War, and it was through his efforts that following the war Suffolk Post No. 57 of the American Legion was organized in our city.

Clearly, the accomplishments of his children were a reflection on the character and example left by Charles Henry Causey.  Yet, no greater testimony can be said of his life than the one given by the Norfolk Virginian newspaper (today’s Virginian-Pilot) at the time of his death:

“He was a prominent citizen of Suffolk, foremost in all enterprises, looking to the advancement of the section in which he lived, and his loss will be keenly felt…He was a good husband, an affectionate father and a devoted friend.”

Cedar Hill Cemetery, Suffolk, Virginia

The South’s 007, Part 2 of 3

Originally published in the Suffolk News-Herald, August 2005

At the close of the last column, Lieutenant Charles Henry Causey had received a rather favorable recommendation for promotion from Major General John Bankhead Magruder.  This letter asked of the Secretary of War that Causey be given the rank of Major, and placed in command of a battalion of cavalry that was being mustered into Confederate service in North Carolina, where he was stationed at the time.

Yet, that was not to be the fate of Causey.  Instead, he was promoted to the rank of Captain in November of 1862, and ordered once again to report to General Magruder, who was by then stationed in San Antonio, Texas.  From the records available, it appears that Causey never made it to Texas as ordered, but managed to get his assignment once again changed.  By the close of 1862, he was serving on the staff of Major General Arnold Elzey, Commander of the Department of Richmond, responsible for defending the Confederate capital.  Causey’s scouting services were once again employed in his new position, but were quickly interrupted in January of 1863.  Unfortunately, the records do not indicate how it occurred, but Causey was captured and sent to Old Capital Prison in Washington, D.C.  He spent about three months in prison, but was quickly exchanged and returned to Confederate service by April.

Upon his return, Charles Henry Causey was assigned to duty under Major William Norris, Commander of the Confederate States Signal Corps, and also a former staff officer under Magruder.  For the most part, the signal service was a team of signal “flagmen” who used flags during the day and torches by night to replicate the Morse code system of dots then used with the telegraph system.  Most importantly, this signal system found great use on the battlefield between distant units, as well as across large rivers that made the use of couriers or water-passage impossible.  However, while the Signal Corps operated out of a modest office in downtown Richmond, in reality its back room was the home of the Confederate Secret Service office, where a much greater degree of intelligence was relayed.  Here, valuable information was disseminated, usually in secret code, from operatives as far away as New York City and Europe.

Though assigned to service with the “Signal Corps,” it is more likely that Charles Henry Causey was as an agent with the more covert Secret Service.  Specifically, his assignment was for duty on the lower James River, which by that point in the war was completely under the occupation of the Union army.  His headquarters and rendezvous point was located across the James River, near Burwell’s Bay and Fort Boykin in Smithfield, a relative safe-haven given the nearby 20,000 Confederate troops involved in the Siege of Suffolk at the time.  Each night, or as often as possible, Causey would cross the James River to meet with other agents and friendly Southerners within the Federal lines.  On his first crossing on April 11 of 1863, Causey returned to Smithfield with valuable information as to Union troop movements on the Peninsula, including information as to whether reinforcements were being sent to Suffolk to block Confederate attempts to regain the city.  By April 20, less than two weeks later, Causey had successfully breeched the enemy lines as far in as Fortress Monroe, and reported back to the Confederate War Department with copies of Yankee newspapers, troop strengths on the Peninsula and Suffolk, the number of rations being issued, and reports on the number of naval vessels in the James River.

Charles Henry Causey maintained this system of nightly trips across the James River up through fall of 1863.  At that point, Causey fell out of favor with his Commander, Major Norris, and was told that his services were “no longer important.”  However, Causey’s operations during the year had put him in contact with another important branch of the Secret Service, a group known as the Independent Signal Corps.  This group, stationed exclusively in the Tidewater area was not under the command of Major Norris.  Rather, it was led by Major James F. Milligan, who had actually taught Norris the signal codes & operations, but was passed over for appointment to the regular Signal Corps.  Rather than create a rift between two powerful and important leaders in Signal Corps operations, the Confederate government allowed Milligan to maintain his Independent Signal Corps without ever having to report to Major Norris.

In his defense, Causey sought the support of Major General George Pickett, who he had worked with during the Siege of Suffolk campaign.  In an October letter from his headquarters in North Carolina, Pickett stated that since April, Causey “has, with five assistants, organized a line of communication with the enemy’s line in vicinity of Fortress Monroe, and has to the present time obtained daily intelligence, the latest New York papers, and kept open mail communication with all parts of the North.”  Ironically, the same day that Pickett issued this letter, he also appointed to his command Major James F. Milligan as his department’s chief signal officer.  Not surprisingly, all of this opened up another bitter dispute between Major Norris, Major Milligan & the role of the Independent Signal Corps, and Major General Pickett.  A week following Pickett’s letters, Norris again wrote to the Confederate high command that Causey’s services were no longer needed.  Yet, this attempt to discredit Causey by Major Norris was in vain, as General Pickett made it clear in his last and final letter on the subject, stating that Captain Causey be ordered to report to him, that he was not in the Signal Corps, and that he be ordered to report for duty, “at these Hdqrs., irrespective of the Signal Corps and Major Norris.”

This ended any questions on the subject, and on November 6, 1863, Captain Charles Henry Causey was ordered to report to the famed leader Major General George Pickett at Petersburg for assignment to duty.

In my next column, read about Captain Causey’s last two years in Confederate service, his marriage, and his new life in Suffolk following the war.

The Life of Charles Henry Causey, Part 1 of 3

Originally published in the Suffolk News-Herald, August 2005

Today when we think of intelligence operations, we are accustomed to hearing stories of James Bond and Britain’s MI-6, or our own Central Intelligence Agency.  However, both of these groups found their early development in military operations and activities that had occurred many years before.  In the United States, this developed through the Army’s signal service in the 1850s, and was quickly revolutionized during the War Between the States due to the necessity to quickly disseminate valuable information as to troop movements.  Though many were involved in the day to day operations of the intelligence departments on both sides of this conflict, one figure stands out quite prominently.  Though not a Suffolk native, the war and his activities brought him here, and eventually resulted in him making Suffolk his home.

Charles Henry Causey was born on July 14, 1837, in New Castle, Delaware.  He was the oldest of three children born to the Maryland native William Causey and his Scottish-born wife, Mary Colvin.  By the age of two, however, Charles Henry and the Causey family moved to Elizabeth City County (present day Hampton), presumably following a job opportunity offered to his father, who worked as an engineer.  In the same year, the second child of the Causey family was born, William N. Causey; and in 1841, the third and final child, James Colvin Causey.  As a young man, Charles Henry attended local schools and excelled in his studies.  It was no surprise then when in the mid-1850s he was accepted to Waynesburg College (formerly Madison College) in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, a prominent Presbyterian affiliated school.  Charles Henry graduated from Waynesburg in 1857, and returned to Virginia to seek a law degree from the University of Virginia.  He graduated from UVA in 1859, but before starting his formal law practice, began teaching at a school in Elizabeth City County.

In less than a year though, the political atmosphere of Virginia and indeed the country completely changed.  Following Lincoln’s call for troops to suppress the “rebellion” in the spring of 1861, the Commonwealth of Virginia seceded from the Union on the 17th of April by a vote of a special convention.  One month later, the citizens of the state went to the polls, and voted overwhelmingly to secede, with the constituents of Elizabeth City County voting in favor of secession, 343-6.  Despite their support for the Confederacy, however, Hampton was occupied by the Federal armies early on in the war due to its proximity to Fortress Monroe.  In fact, on June 10 the first land battle of the war in Virginia was commenced from Hampton and occurred at Big Bethel in Newport News between Confederate forces under the command of Colonel John Bankhead Magruder and Union forces under General Benjamin “Beast” Butler.  Though insignificant in numbers, this early battle was a sign of things to come for Virginia and the Peninsula.

In the meantime, military units were springing up all across the South enlisting young men to defend their homes and sweethearts.  On June 24, having been forced away from Hampton as refugees, Charles Henry and his brother James Colvin Causey heeded the call for troops, and joined the Old Dominion Dragoons, Company B of the 3rd Virginia Cavalry.  With his vast educational background, and knowledge of the Peninsula region, Charles Henry was detailed to serve as a scout for Colonel Magruder who was quickly throwing up a line of defenses in Newport News in order to protect the new Confederate Capital in Richmond from attack.

In October of 1861, Charles Henry Causey was conferred with a promotion to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in the Confederate States Cavalry by President Jefferson F. Davis.  Amazingly though, no records as to his particular assignment or unit are available with his promotion or included in his service records.  Rather, he was issued a statement from his commander in the 3rd Virginia Cavalry announcing his promotion, and describing him as, “…5 ft. 8 in. high, dark complexion, dark eyes, dark hair, and by profession a farmer…”  The only explanation to such a promotion and descriptive letter hint to Causey’s early service as a scout.  Due to the nature of his work, affirming his position in Confederate military service was absolute necessary in the event of capture.

From February to July of 1862, military service records show Charles Henry Causey as serving on the staff of then General John B. Magruder.  Magruder’s own records reflect this, and in a May report to General Robert E. Lee, Causey was commended as an officer “of great advantage to the service” and whose “intrepidity and enterprise have been in the highest degree conspicuous on every occasion.”  With the help of Causey, and others on his staff with the knowledge of the area, General Magruder was able to hold the Union army at bay for a number of months, when in reality they were vastly outnumbered.

Following the Confederacy’s abandonment of the Peninsula, and subsequent fighting of the Seven Days Battles around Richmond, Magruder was transferred to the Department of Texas.  Causey requested from Magruder to stay behind until which time he could gain an official transfer to a command closer to home, and the possibility of a promotion, if available.  Being without a Command to report to, Causey was issued orders by the Adjutant General’s office to report to the North Carolina coast, a post he had first requested back in February of 1862 in the midst of the battle of Roanoke Island.  With these orders, he was told to report to General Daniel Harvey Hill.  More than likely, this was not his first interaction with Hill, as Hill had served for a number of months on the Peninsula during and after the Battle of Big Bethel.  While Causey remained in North Carolina throughout the fall of 1862, he did not stop lobbying for the promotion which he believed had been long overdue.  In September, Causey’s old friend Major General Magruder weighed in and sent a letter to the Secretary of War, George W. Randolph, urging for a promotion for his able Lieutenant.

Commenting on his abilities as a scout and reconnoitering officer, Magruder explained, “I was indebted to him during the Peninsula Campaign for valuable information as to the enemy’s numbers, position, movement, and designs.  On one occasion and at a critical period… he volunteered to undertake the perilous task of penetrating the enemy’s lines and succeeded in getting into their rear and reported to me the information he obtained which proved to be valuable as to their numbers, position, etc.  During this expedition which he undertook alone and on foot, he was nine days in the enemy’s lines and endured great hardships from hunger, fatigue, and exposure to cold & wet in the woods and marshes on the Peninsula.”

With such a high recommendation in hand, the future for Charles Henry Causey was destined to be interesting.  In my upcoming columns, read how Causey found his way into the Confederate States Secret Service, and ultimately to his future home in Suffolk.

The Gray Ghost of Suffolk, Part 2 of 2

Originally published in the Suffolk News-Herald, April 2006

The Great Dismal Swamp Escape 

In my last column, Richard H. Hosier had been sentenced to death by Union officials.  His punishment was overturned by the commanding Union General in Norfolk for reasons unknown, and instead his sentence was commuted to hard labor.  Robertson Arnold’s recollections of the Dismal Swamp recalled this story of Hosier’s capture with much revelry.  According to Arnold, Richard Hosier was taken to Norfolk to be put to work on the earthen defenses there, but while en route, he escaped from his captor (again!) and made haste toward the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River.  Since there was a great deal of boat traffic along the river, he waited until nightfall to cross.  Hosier then tied his clothes up in a bundle, placed them on his head, and swam across the river.  Once safely on the other side, he proceeded toward the Deep Creek Canal and then into the Dismal Swamp, where he was safe from recapture.  From there, he planned to cross Lake Drummond and make his way back home.  Picking up with Arnold’s telling of this adventure:

“It was at that place he performed his great feat.  He could not procure a boat, and the prospect before him was gloomy indeed.  If he remained there he would, in all probability, have been devoured by bears and other wild animals in the Swamp, or perhaps, starve.  Not being in the least daunted, he prepared himself to reach the western shore, which could only be done by swimming. It was seven miles across, but he nerved himself to the accomplishment of his object.  He prepared himself as before by making a bundle of his clothes, which he placed on the top of his head, and was then ready to swim across or perish in the attempt.  When he was about half-way across he was attacked by a large serpent, and had it not been for a school of gars that was following him, he would no doubt have been devoured.  He reached the shore only to meet a more formidable enemy.  It was a large black bear.  In his scuffle with the serpent he had lost his bundle of clothes and had nothing but a large knife, which was buckled around his waist. Drawing his knife, he rushed forward and was met by the bear, when a regular hand-to-hand fight was commenced.  He did not wrestle long before he found an opportunity to use his knife, and plunging it up to the hilt, he soon had the bear lying prostrate at his feet. Having lost all his clothes, it became necessary that he should do something in his nude state. The bear’s skin was the only thing that he could get, so with his knife he skinned him, and getting inside the skin, he started to find some settlement.  But his condition was as bad as before.  The idea of his being able to get near enough to any person to tell of his condition was absurd.  The very sight of him would scare every man, woman and child off the plantation.  He could not get a living soul to come to him, and it was not until he had reached his own home, some few miles from Suffolk, that he could present himself as Mr. Hosier.”

Following the war and in the midst of Reconstruction, Richard Hosier went back to farming.  As he learned to cope during such a trying period for the South, he was dealt with another blow, the loss of his wife.  Her death left Hosier with five young kids to take care of, including their last child, J. Walter Hosier, who was born during the war in 1863.

A few years later, seeing that his children needed a maternal figure in their life, Hosier remarried on January 5, 1871, this time to Sarah Henderson Williamson, whose husband Richard Williamson had died in the late 1860s.  Richard and Sarah had three children together: Blanche Hosier, born in 1872; William Paul Hosier, born in 1874; and Robbin Hosier, born about 1877.  Richard and Sarah’s time together was short though, as Sarah died sometime in the 1880s or 90s, leaving Hosier again a widow.

With most of his children now grown, Richard Hosier found other ways to occupy his time.  In 1895, the Tom Smith Camp United Confederate Veterans was formed in Suffolk, and Hosier was an active member of this veterans’ group.  By this point, however, age was catching up with him.  In 1898, Hosier turned eighty years old, but was diagnosed with cancer a month after his birthday.  He fought the illness for about a year, but finally succumbed to the disease on the morning of September 25, 1899, after being in a coma for nearly a week.  At the time of his death, he was eighty-one years old, and the second oldest person in Suffolk.  His funeral took place at the Suffolk Christian Church, followed by the burial in Cedar Hill Cemetery.

Richard Hosier was survived by only six out of twelve of his known children.  The oldest was Richard T. Hosier, who moved from Suffolk in the 1870s, and became a farmer in the Western Branch area of Norfolk County (now Chesapeake).  The next was Samuel Sampson Hosier, who married Florine V. Gay in 1888, and lived in Suffolk.  One son, William Paul Hosier, eventually settled with his family in Mississippi.  A daughter, Blanche Hosier, married Charles H. Smith of North Carolina, and they moved to Boston, Massachusetts.  There is also an unidentified daughter who is noted in the obituary only as Mrs. M.E. Philhower.  The most notable of the Hosier children was J. Walter Hosier.  Walter served on the Suffolk City Council for a number of years, and also ran an insurance company in Suffolk.  Following his death in 1955, the insurance business was continued by his son, Henry Duke Hosier.  Today, while the insurance company no longer remains in the Hosier family, it still retains his name, “J. Walter Hosier & Son Insurance.”

Of course, this story is not complete without again mentioning that following his death, Hosier’s family placed a stone on his grave in Cedar Hill Cemetery with his name, no dates, and the word “Mosby.”  Of all the epitaphs, this one was certainly fitting.  Undoubtedly, his stories of adventure and escape would have made the original “Gray Ghost” very proud.

The Gray Ghost of Suffolk, Part 1 of 2

Originally published in the Suffolk News-Herald, April 2006

Circa 1890s

Richard Hosier, Circa 1890s

The word “Mosby” is etched across his tombstone, and for many years Suffolk historians believed that Richard H. Hosier served with the famous Confederate cavalry leader John Singleton Mosby.  Of course, that certainly would have been an accomplishment of which to be proud.  Mosby and his men were the famous band of partisan rangers that waged a guerilla war against the Union forces in northern Virginia from 1863-1865.  Among their successes included the capture of a Union General, and the famous “Greenback Raid,” where they seized over $173,000 in newly-printed Federal greenbacks.  In more recent memory, Mosby and his men were featured on the silver-screen in the 1950s in the famed TV-series, The Gray Ghost.  However, Richard H. Hosier never rode with the famed “Gray Ghost.”  Rather, Hosier earned that title in his own right.

Richard H. Hosier was born on August 14, 1818, in Nansemond County, the son of Sampson and Elizabeth Hosier.  Little is known of his early life, although census records show that Hosier never learned to read or write, indicating he had little, if any, formal education.  In the mid-1840s, Hosier married Sarah (some records indicate her maiden name to be ‘Duke’), and they began a family, with Richard farming on a tract of land near his parent’s farm, south of Suffolk.  Their first child was born about 1845, and she was named Mary Hosier.  A second daughter, Eliza Hosier, was born about 1847.  In May of 1850, they celebrated the birth of their first son, and named him Richard T. Hosier, after his father.  A number of other children soon followed.  About 1852, their third daughter was born, Frances Hosier; then another son, Samuel Sampson Hosier (named after his grandfather), born in January of 1855; and two more daughters, Sarah Hosier, born about 1856, and Julia Hosier born about 1858.

By 1860, Hosier’s real estate was valued at two-thousand dollars, and his personal estate at five-hundred dollars.  At the time the census was taken, there were fifteen people shown in his household.  This included the nine members of the Hosier family, a young man by the name of Richard H. Norfleet who had apparently been orphaned at a young age and was being cared for by the Hosiers, one white farm laborer, and four free blacks, that ranged in age from eight to sixteen.  Of note here is that a similar demographic was shown in the 1850 census, with a number of free blacks being shown in the Hosier household.  Apparently, Richard Hosier employed them to work on his farm.  One source from the 1920s indicates that Jason Boone, the well known black Confederate soldier from Suffolk, was one of a number of the free blacks employed by Hosier.

This was disrupted by the start of the War Between the States in 1861, and subsequent occupation of Suffolk by Union forces in the spring of 1862.  While many of his neighbors had enlisted in the Confederate army, Hosier was age 45 in 1861, and considered too old to join the regular service.  On the other hand, he was also viewed as a threat by the local Union authorities because of his Southern sympathies.  Hosier was caught in a dilemma.  He could either stay in the area and risk harassment by the Union forces, or flee the area like many locals had already done, usually becoming a refugee across the Blackwater River in nearby Southampton County.  Hosier, instead, chose another option, and joined a band of local partisan rangers organized by Captain Hamilton L. Norfleet.  This company served as a quasi-militia or home-guard cavalry company around Nansemond County.  Their purpose was to protect local homes and families from harassment by Union forces, and recruit more soldiers for the Confederate army.  The center of their activities and majority of their numbers were from the South Quay area.  Their ranks were composed of basically old men and young boys, and they carried on their normal activities as farmers by day, but served as soldiers when called upon for duty.

Richard Hosier’s career on the fine line between civilian and soldier was a dangerous one, and as a result, Union cavalry patrols were sent out to capture Hosier and others like him.  At the start of the Siege of Suffolk in April of 1863, Union General Peck issued explicit orders to capture the “leading secessionists” in the area.  It is believed that Hosier was included in that number, and was taken into custody by Union officials, only to escape shortly thereafter.  This would be an oft-repeated event in the life of Richard Hosier.  From the scant records that account for this, it seems that Hosier was likely operating as a civilian spy in and out of Suffolk and Norfolk, and reporting his findings to the Confederate forces then surrounding Suffolk.

In a similar record from the latter part of May of 1863, a “Miss Hozier” of Suffolk was detained by Union officials in Norfolk boarding a train, and found to be concealing papers that detailed Union troop strengths in Norfolk and Suffolk.  This “Miss Hozier” is presumed to be a daughter of Richard Hosier, and it is likely she and her father were working together to transfer information to Confederate authorities.  While it is unknown what punishment was carried out on “Miss Hozier” for her activities, it was not long after that Richard Hosier himself was captured in Norfolk.  Local Union officials, tired of his repeat offenses (this was his third capture) and believing that he was a spy, sentenced him to death.

The remainder of this story will be continued in my next column.