150 years ago today, although not a major battle, the city of Lynchburg heard cannon fire and gunshots. The Battle of Lynchburg is technically a misnomer as the failure of the Union assault kept Lee’s supply lines open, which enabled him to fight for an additional eight months.
It took more than three years for the war to reach Lynchburg. Troop trains regularly pulled into Lynchburg’s Ninth Street Station bearing carloads of wounded Confederate soldiers, as the majority of the tobacco warehouses had been converted into hospitals, making Lynchburg the second-busiest hospital town in the south. Lynchburg manufactured ammunition at it’s foundries and provided milled grain and flour from one of the area’s largest grist mills. As a major supply route for the Confederate Troops, General Grant gave General Hunter orders to destroy Lynchburg thereby disrupting supplies to the Confederate Army and thereby ending the war.
As General Hunter marched through the Shenandoah Valley on his way to Lynchburg he ran into little resistance. He took a page out of General Sherman’s march through the south as he burned and plundered the small towns and villages, including VMI in Lexington as he headed towards Lynchburg. Meanwhile General Lee, knowing the importance of Lynchburg to the South sent General Jubal Early to defend the city as there were very few able bodied persons left in Lynchburg to mount any type of defense.
As General Early was racing to Lynchburg to defend the city, General Hunter and his men, on their way from Lexington to Lynchburg, arrived in the Town of New London where they were offered food and drink. This slowed the advance on Lynchburg by several hours buying General Early several hours of time. Finally, General Hunter arrives in Lynchburg and takes over Sandusky, a plantation in the northwest section of Lynchburg, as his headquarters. While preparing his battle plan he sends out spies to the city.
During the evening and night of June 17, 1864, empty trains kept pulling into the 9th Street Station to the cheers of the townspeople as the band played. Word got back to General Hunter that dozens of trains full of Confederate Troops were arriving to defend the City. Fearing that he was outnumbered General Hunter decided not to attack the City and retreated. In a letter to General Grant, General Hunter states, “It had now become sufficiently evident that the enemy concentrated a force at least double the numerical strength of mine and what added to the gravity of the situation was the fact that my troops had scarcely enough of ammunition left to sustain another well-contested battle.”
While there were a few small skirmishes in Lynchburg during the Battle of Lynchburg, the city was left standing and continued to supply the South for the remainder of the war. Because of General Hunter’s retreat from the Battle of Lynchburg we have many buildings that may have been destroyed if he was able to complete his mission. Sandusky stands today and has been restored to the way it looked when it was General Hunter’s headquarters. It is open to the public. Check the link for more information.
If you are interested in the Civil War, the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse celebrates its 150th year anniversary next spring. We are now taking reservations, and I recommend you book early, if you plan on taking part of all the activities the National Park Service has planned for that week. We are about 20 minutes from Appomattox Courthouse!
On May 26, 1864, Union General David Hunter, under direct orders from Ulysses S. Grant, marched south from Cedar Creek, near Winchester, VA, to drive out Confederate forces, lay waste to the Shenandoah Valley and destroy transportation facilities in Lynchburg, VA.
Hunter and his army of 18,000 soldiers marched south along the Shenandoah Valley. In Staunton he destroyed depot buildings, warehouses and railroad lines. Continuing south he reached Lexington, where his men looted the Virginia Military Institute, seizing the bronze statue of George Washington as a war trophy (it was later returned). Then the Military Institute was set ablaze.
After three days
Packet boats were small boats designed for domestic mail, passenger and freight transportation on North American rivers and canals. Used, starting in the 17th century in Europe, packet boats in the United States were drawn through canals by teams of two or three horses or mules. Compared to overland travel, the boats cut journey time in half and were much more comfortable.
The finest packet boat to travel the James River and Kanawha Canal, ‘the Queen of the James’ cost between three and four thousand dollars. 90′ long by 14′ at the beam with an 11″ draft, she was solidly built with creosoted wood rib frames on 12″ centers inside a hand formed iron hull that measured 3/16th of an inch thick. The cabin interior was paneled with Dominican Mahogany and divided into staterooms (separate for men and women) and a main dining salon which converted into an area for fold down sleeping berths at night and a kitchen in which to prepare meals. The Marshall was able to transport up to 60 passengers at a time. The Packet Boat Marshall carried passengers from Richmond to Lynchburg, charging $8 for the 33 hour trip. It averaged four miles per hour.
Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson was mortally wounded, near Chancellorsville, VA on May 2, 1863. His body was transported by train from Fredericksburg to Richmond to Gordonsville to Lynchburg. The train arrived in Lynchburg, VA about 6:30 pm on the 13th of May at which time the remains were removed, placed in a hearse and a procession began to the Packet Boat Marshall Landing at Ninth Street and the Kanawha Canal (Behind what is now the Depot Grill Restaurant.). The Packet Boat Marshall left Lynchburg about 10:00 pm for the final portion of the journey to Lexington, VA., Jackson’s final resting place. This trip is what is most remembered about the Packet Boat Marshall.
In 1864, after being partially burned when General David Hunter’s army road through Lexington the Marshall was repaired. General Robert E. Lee rode as a passenger in the late 1860’s. In 1877 a flood breached the packet boat on the river bank above Lynchburg. In 1900 Corbin Spencer came to own the beached packet and lived in it with his sister Mary. In 1913 the Spencers survived a flood that washed away the wooden superstructure of the old packet. In 1936 the metal hull of the Marshall was unearthed and prepared for placement in Riverside Park for Lynchburg’s Sesquicentennial. Between 1970 and 2003 the remains of the Marshall hull lay neglected and exposed to the elements, resulting in severe deterioration. In 2003 the Lynchburg Historical Foundation undertook steps toward the preservation of the deteriorating hull by building a roof over the artifact, which was followed by a structure to further protect the historical boat.
Each June between 12-18 packet boats recreate the journey between Lynchburg and Richmond. This reenactment demonstrates how the boats were used to transport tobacco and people between the two cities in the mid-1700’s until the late 1800’s. If you would like to see the packet boats in the James River Batteau Festival this June, give us a call at 434-846-1388 to make your reservations now or book on-line.
The Battle of Sailor’s Creek was fought on April 6, 1865, near Farmville, Virginia, as part of the Appomattox Campaign, in the final days of the American Civil War. It was the last major battle between the armies of Gen. Robert E. Lee and Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.
After Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant broke the Confederate defenses at the Siege of Petersburg, Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia evacuated Petersburg and Richmond on the nights of Aril 2 & 3, 1865. They began a retreat in hopes of linking up with Gen. Joseph Johnston’s army in North Carolina. As the union Army pursued and engaged the Confederates in the Battle of Namozine Church (on April 3) and the Battle of Amelia Springs (on April 5), Lee discovered that his route to Danville was blocked by the Union cavalry under the leadership of Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan. Lee’s only remaining option was to move west on a long march, without food, to Lynchburg. But the Confederate Commissary General promised Lee that he would send 80,000 rations to Farmville, about 25 miles to the west.
On the rainy morning of April 6, skirmish fire announced that Gen. Andrew Humphrey’s Union Second Corps was in pursuit. Gen. Sheridan’s cavalry cut off nearly one-fourth of the retreating Confederate army. The Confederates counter attacked but were driven back just as the Union cavalry cut through the right of the Confederate lines.
April 6, 1865 became known as “Black Thursday” among the Confederates. In the three engagements along Sailor’s Creek, Lee lost roughly one-fourth of his army, many of them captured. The Federals claimed 7,700 prisoners that day, including six generals. Lee wrote to President Jefferson Davis, “a few more Sailor’s Creeks and it will all be over.” Lee surrendered three days later.
The Appomattox County Historical Society will present the battlefield re-enactment of “The Battle of Sailor’s Creek” April 11-13, 2014. The location of the re-enactment is the Appomattox Center for Business and Commerce, Industrial Park Lane (access from Route 26), Appomattox, VA 24522. The business center is about 1/4 mile northwest of Route 460 and the town of Appomattox. Spectator admission is $10 for a single day pass or $15 for a 2-day pass. Guests attending the re-enactment while staying at The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast will be provided with a “bag lunch” to take with you to the re-enactment. Call us at 434.846.1388 to inquire about availability and prices.
While visiting the area, be sure to visit High Bridge Trail in Farmville.
Richard Thomas Watts, better known as R.T. had the home at 404 Cabell Street built for he and his family in 1878. Today the home is The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast in historic Lynchburg Virginia and was named as one of the top 10 Bed and Breakfasts in the United States by BedandBreakfast.com. On the anniversary of his death we are reprinting the obituary that was published in Lynchburg News on September 22, 1911.
Citizen, Business Man and Veteran Passes Away After Long Illness.
Richard Thomas Watts, aged 78 years, one of the pioneer wholesale merchants and for many years a man prominent in the financial affairs of the city, died yesterday morning at his residence on Cabell Street where he had been ill nearly two years. Mr. Watts’ illness dated back to a stroke of apoplexy which was sustained on November 17, 1908. He recovered from that sufficiently to be about, but never gave attention to business. For some days his condition had been critical and the end did not come as a surprise today, for it had been expected for the past day or two.
Mr. Watts was a native of Bedford County, having been born on September 5, 1838. When but a youth he went to Salsibury, N. C. and at the age of 18 years started in business with the firm of G, M. and A. T. Jones. Later, he went to Selma, Ala.,where he was a partner in a merchandise business with A. T. Jones. When the war between the States broke out, Mr. Watts enlisted as a private in company A, Second Virginia cavalry, joining that command at Manassas Junction. He served as a private and color bearer with that company until he was recommended by General T. T. Munford, now of Lynchburg, for promotion as adjutant of Whites battalion, this promotion coming for bravery. He held that command until May 6th, 1864 at which time his horse was killed under him and he was wounded and taken a prisoner at Spotsylvania Courthouse. He was sent to Fort Delaware, where he was held prisoner of war until the surrender took place, after which he returned to his old home in Bedford.
Later he came to Lynchburg and together with his brother, the late J. W. Watts, and brother-in-law, the late George M. Jones, formed the well-known house of Jones, Watts & Co., this being one of the first wholesale houses of the city. In 1888 he retired from this concern and became largely interested in coal properties as well as holding other large financial and industrial institutions of the city. Until his health gave way he was vice president of Lynchburg Trust and Savings Company and a director in the Lynchburg Cotton Mill, as well as in other private industries of the city.
Mr. Watts was educated at Emory and Henry College, having spent several years there before the war.
On April 22, 1874, Mr. Watts married Miss Emma M. Hurt, a daughter of the late Stephen H. Hurt, who, together with four sons and a daughter, survive. The children are: R. T. Watts Jr., Dr. Stephen H. Watts of the University of Virginia; James O. Watts, R. C. Watts, and Miss Mary Watts, all of whom were present when the end came.
Mr. Watts was a member of Court Street Methodist church, having been faithful in his attendance upon its services until sickness prevented him from doing so.
The funeral service will take place this afternoon at 4 o’clock from the residence, and the burial will be at Spring Hill.
General T. W. Munford, who recommended the promotion of Mr. Watts, has prepared the following tribute to the decease:
Adjutant R. T. Watts entered the Confederate Army as a private in Company A, Second Virginia Cavalry, from Bedford County, then commanded by Capt. W. R. Terry, who was promoted to the Twenty-fourth Virginia Infantry as its colonel, succeeding Colonel Jubal A. Early, and subsequently becoming brigadier general of Pickett’s Division, Col J. W. Watts a brother of the deceased, succeeding Colonel Terry at the re-organization of the army in March 1862, was elected lieutenant colonel without opposition. He detailed his brother as courier at his quarters. He soon attracted my attention by his dash and strict attention to all duties. At a sharp encounter between General Ewell’s division, to which we then belonged, and General Hooker’s division near Bristoe station the day before the second battle of Manassas, it became necessary for General Ewell to retire his battery because of the advantage of position and metal of the enemy, but is was a delicate . Ewell was not there to bring on a battle nor to run, he ordered me to send a sergeant and four men to gather up the debris left by our crippled battery, not wishing to show that it was a retreat. Courier R. T. Watts was dispatched for this detail and soon returned with the four troopers. General Ewell said to me: “Where is the sergeant?” The reply was: “He has not yet gotten up.” I replied, “Watts will take them himself and the next time the sergeant will listen to his instructions.” Watts was then told by General Ewell to go to that position and gather up every buckle that belonged to the battery. We were watching and they were soon dashing up to where the battery had stood. The enemy opened fire upon them, but they literally swept the deck and brought off everything.
General Ewell remarked to me: “That fellow should be a sergeant, for he has won it by distinguishing himself.”
The next day in the great cavalry fight he was made by my order sergeant major of the Second Cavalry.
Col Elijah White, whose original company had served some months with the Second Cavalry, wrote me a note requesting me to send him a man to act as his adjutant and believing Sergeant Major R. T. Watts qualified he was dispatched and graciously accepted the offered position, and he more than once exemplified his qualifications and satisfaction for the promotion.
“Adjutant Watts was a quiet, unobtrusive, active soldier. Like his noble brother, when his name is mentioned in the presence of old comrades it will ever be with pride which only Confederates felt toward each other and understand.”
Perhaps the most recognizable architectural structure in the town of Buchanan is the Buchanan Swinging Bridge. Not long ago we read an article about this quaint little town and decided to head there to check the town out and to see if there were any treasures we couldn’t live without in the couple of antique stores in town (there weren’t). The town is a small southern town on the James River. Main Street is dotted with mom and pop shops (there were no chain stores that we saw). The people were friendly and this would be a great place to get away from the rat race.
While the town is small, the town and the bridge are rich in history. The bridge is 366 feet long and just over 57 feet tall and portions of this bridge date back to 1851. Today the Buchanan Swinging Bridge is recognized as a National Register Historic Landmark. The large stone pier rising from the James River was constructed in 1851 as part of the Buchanan Turnpike Company’s Toll Bridge. Back then, the bridge was a covered bridge. The toll to use the bridge was five cents for every person plus an additional five cents for each horse, mule, oxen or wagon. On June 13th 1864 Confederate General McCausland burned the bridge by packing it with oil soaked hay and then lighting it on fire when Union General William Averell’s cavalrymen attempted to cross the bridge on their way to Lynchburg where they would join up with Union General Hunter who was under orders to burn Lynchburg because Lynchburg was a major supply depot for the Confederate Army. The wind carried embers across the river and eleven houses burned. Averell’s men helped extinguish the fire. The bridge survived the fire but was unusable. The next day, General Hunter’s troops crossed the Blue Ridge Mountain (on what is now Route 43) on his way to Lynchburg.
After the war, the bridge was rebuilt but in 1877 the bridge was destroyed by a major flood. The R&A Railroad Company built another bridge during this time and that bridge was toll free. In 1897 this bridge was replaced with a steel bridge that remained in use until 1938. In July 1937, construction of the current concrete James River Bridge was started with an agreement to maintain a pedestrian bridge (today’s Buchanan Swinging Bridge) between the town of Buchanan and Pattonsburg (the town on the opposite side of the James River). Today, the Buchanan Swinging Bridge uses the large stone pier of the original covered bridge that dates back to 1851.
If you are looking for a nice day trip you may want to consider a trip to Buchanan where you can grab a bite to eat at one of the mom and pop restaurants in town. From Lynchburg, take RT 460 west to Bedford’s RT 43 exit. Stay on RT 43 and you will wind up at the Peaks of Otter entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Turn Left onto the Parkway (heading south) and stay on the Parkway for about 5 or 6 miles until you see the exit for RT 43. Take Rt 43 into the town of Buchanan. As you enter the downtown area, the bridge is on the right. Driving time from The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast in Lynchburg is about 90 minutes. And just in case you were wondering, yes, the bridge does swing back and forth as you walk across the bridge.
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