Archive for February, 2010


Mules at Thompson’s Crossroads 1863

February 8, 2010

We’ve been working on a new Civil War tour brochure for Louisa County of late, trying to make those tough determinations of what might hold the most interest, be of greatest importance, etc.  Last week I was in the Civil War room at the Sargeant Museum with two other women on the tour committee.  We were all three drawn not to the details of the battles, but to the horrendous cost of the war in human and animal suffering.  

Let me first say that two new burro friendsThe new burro in Bumpass arrived at my neighbor’s barn this weekend.  They replace a dear ol’ girl named Patty whose green-teethed smile and raspy bray we all miss, for Patty passed on to the great pasture beyond early this summer.   I’ll share my slideshow link later in this post, but I can’t help thinking of what happened during the Civil War just a few miles from here.

The story has always been told (siting most often Malcolm Harris’ history on Louisa County) that up Rt. 522 at Thompson’s Crossroads, about 220 horses and mules were killed, and an equal number at Yancyville, by Union forces determined to hinder the power of the Confederate forces.    By Harris’  account, persons living near Thompson’s Crossroads lost everything.  “All the corn, bacon,  meal, animals  One resident reported, “We have been visited three times by Northern raiders and they left us with no corn, meat, oats or fodder. They killed nearly all my hogs and some of the cattle and sheep…”   

The destruction of mules and horses at Thompson’s Crossroads intrigues me and so I started searching for some official source to verify the information.  After all, if these animals were perfectly fine, why not confiscate them instead of slaughter them…each army was desperate for good mounts and drafts animals.  I discovered what I suspect is the truer story in the Official Reports of Gen. George Stoneman’s raid and the Confederate Citizens Claims at NARA.  Both relate that Stoneman’s invasion of Louisa County during the severe rains of May 1863 left many of his animals exhausted from the journey through mud and flooded creeks.  He did take from local residents any and every animal he could find to replace his useless ones.  Those that did not have the strength to leave with him, he indeed slaughtered lest they be rehabilitated and used to sustain the war effort.  One free black farmer filed a claim with the Federal Government after the war for two horses which Stoneman’s forces commandeered. In his application (which was approved for payment of compensation) he says “I did not try to hidemy horses, as I had always been a Union man and did not think the Northern army would take my horses.”  

Regardless of which army was to ‘blame’, the fact is that the war had a devastating effect on Louisa County.  The county tax books indicate that  about 1/3 of the livestock was lost in the war.  Of course, the tax revenue for the county also fell sharply, since 2/3 of the personal property tax base in 1863 was made up of slaves.  After the war, they were no longer ‘property’ to be taxed.  They themselves had nothing taxable after the way, too, as most  began their new life of freedom with nothing of their own. 

It’s unthinkable to me that men of conscience could slaughter animals such as my little furry friends at my neighbors except during the horror of war.  So much death must blind soldiers to their own normal outrage at what they have to do to men and beasts.  But back to my story of burros in 2009.

Ol’ Patty is the brown burro you’ll see first in the admittedly whimsical slideshow I just added to YouTube. My neighbors were out of town the night she died and I discovered her the next morning with Higgins (the white burro you’ll see in lots of the pictures!) standing over her, perplexed as to why he couldn’t rouse her with his prodding nose.  All summer he has been uncharacteristically subdued while his human friends searched for new companions to share his pasture.  Higgins’ new friends arrived today…minature donkeys, one male and one female. ( the male is shown above)  I think the animal friends you make living in the country are good for the soul.  Maybe that’s because staring into their honest eyes rekindles the desire to handle the world we share with them wisely- for their sake and for ours.  And maybe, too, they remind us to never forget to enjoy the smallest patch of shade on an August day, or the first sweet grass of spring, or the company of friends.  Oh, I promised pictures.    You can click here and find them…and a little music to boot!.


A Genealogist’s Goldmine

February 8, 2010

Our resident genealogical sage, Janice Abercrombie, recently alerted me to the existence of the ledger books from the store of Thomas Partridge in Hanover County.  The store ledger from 1734-1756 was transcribed and published in 1985 and 86 in the Virginia Genealogical Society Quarterly. (I’ll paste  below the accounts of my ancestors from Louisa,  Cornelius and John Dabney, just to whet your appetite!)  You’ll find in the ledger the name of almost everyone in  Louisa County between 1730-1750s.   The Quarterly is available online for those of you who have a subscription to  Go to the card catalogue to find the journal and then search for your ancestor in just that publication.  Janice was also kind enough to donate her collection of the Quarterly to the Sargeant Museum. (please make an appointment if you’d like to research them at  

By the way, Janice has transcribed some of the third series of of these ledgers and they will be appearing in the Louisa County Historical Society Magazine over the next few years.  If you are not a member of the Society, please join and receive these issues as they are published.

The article in the Virginia Genealogical Quarterly describes the ledgers this way:

“If the Partridge Store stock may justly be taken as typical of early retailing, any notion of the Virginia frontier as an isolated, homespun community is dispelled. For grooming, there were razors and combs, and for adults and children there was a remarkable variety of hats, gloves, hose, garters, buttons (in metal, horn, and mother-of-pearl to sew on coats, shirts, vests, and sleeves), buckles (in silver, steel, and colors for shoes and for knees), handkerchiefs, ribbons, caps, and wallets. . . For the kitchen there were pewter plates and basins, china, knives and forks, frying pans, funnels, pots and pot hooks, brass kettles, meal sifters, egg flasks, nut crackers, bottles, water pails, and jugs. Hams and cheeses were for sale at the store and to wash them down, rum, beer, cider, and tea. For the cook there was sugar in loafs, single and double refined, salt, pepper, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and all-spice. For the household, Mr. Partridge sold bed cords, blankets, rugs, carpets, chamber pots, candlesticks, pictures, mirrors, chests, and brass locks. For the users of tobacco there were pipes and snuff boxes, and for the affluent a Japanese tobacco box was available . . . The farmer could buy hoes, reapers, axes, sheep shears, butchering knives, and cabbage seed, and among the tools available were saws, hammers, augers, gimlets, and chisels, besides nails which sold in great quantities in size 3 to 10 d… 

. . . As to rum, it was so heavily consumed in St Paul’s Parish as to make it doubtful there was little more than a vestige of religious or social restraint on its use. The horse races, fairs, shooting matches, and bowling tournaments mentioned are likely to have been occasions of considerable revelry, so much so as to make one wonder if the monotonies of frontier life have been stressed at the expense of its lighter side.” 

My ancestor Cornelius Dabney had an ongoing account at Partridge’s store.  Here are a few highlights from entries to his account:  on September 17, 1737 for 1 pair of women’s shoes, 1 pair of red heel ditto. (Red-heeled shoes were the height of fashion after Louis XIV made a law in France that only those accepted at the royal court could wear red-heeled shoes. Even in the colonies, it was unacceptable for anyone other than gentry to wear them.  To be ‘well-heeled’ has long meant to be of good lineage!) In December of 1737, he bought 25 pounds of sugar and 7 gallons of rum.  In January he purchased 4 hats and on March 28, 1738 there is a summary of his bill including 1 pair of girls gloves, rum lost at nine Pins, and 1 pair of mourning buckles (for shoes).  Notation indicates payments on Cornelius’ account made by ‘your son John Dabney’ and another by ‘your son William’.   Later that year he purchased another pair of women’s red heeled shoes (we have to wonder to what occasions Sarah Jennings wore so many classy shoes!) 1 pair of womens wash gloves, writing paper, 1 pair of men’s shoes, and more rum.  On July 19 of that year, one pair of red-heeled shoes was returned for credit. 

Cornelius’ sons made purchases of shot and powder, rum and shoes. William, the oldest, also purchases a Bible and there is a notation on June 1 of 1737 that cash was paid for him by his father at ‘the Shoot match”. 

 Fascinating stuff for those of us who like bringing our family tree to life with a little ACCURATE social history!   

Elaine Taylor at the Sargeant Museum