Archive for Southern Unionist

Rockingham County, Virginia’s John Francis Lewis, Southern Unionist

Posted in Cenantua's Blog, Virginia Unionists with tags , , , , , on April 23, 2010 by Robert Moore

As the following obituary from the New York Times indicates, John Francis Lewis was openly opposed to secession, but was still selected by the people of Rockingham County, the people knowing clearly where he stood on the matter. Not only did he not vote in favor of it, he also refused to sign the Ordinance of Secession.

John F. Lewis, formerly United States Senator from Virginia, died yesterday at his home, at Lynnwood, Rockingham County, Va. He had long been a sufferer from cancerous affection. The disease so affected the sight of one of his eyes that the organ had to be removed about three years ago.

John F. Lewis was one of the most conspicuous figures in Virginia during the reconstruction days. A Whig all his life, and an opponent of secession, the deceased, after the war, became a member of what was known as the True Republican Party. After the close of the war Mr. Lewis advocated a liberal policy on the part of the Federal Government toward the South, and was instrumental in procuring pardons for many Southern men excluded from amnesty by President Johnson’s famous proclamation.

He was twice Lieutenant Governor of Virginia during the most trying and important periods in its history – the first time in 1870, under Gilbert C. Walker, and the second time in 1882, on the readjuster ticker with William C. [E., not C.] Cameron. His election to the Lieutenant Governorship in 1870 was with the understanding that he would be made United States Senator for the long term. This understanding was carried out and Mr. Lewis and John W. Johnston were elected to the United States Senate as the first representatives of Virginia after the reconstruction. Mr. Lewis, who was a member of the State Secession Convention of 1861, was the only member of that body within the present limits of Virginia who refused to sign the ordinance of secession adopted by it. He was elected from his county with the distinct and avowed understanding that he would under no circumstances vote for the secession of the State. He took the ground that secession was as impolitic as it was unconstitutional and from that position he could never be swerved.

Mr. Lewis was born in Rockingham County, Va., on the 1st of March, 1818.* He was a lineal descendant of John Lewis, father of Gen. Andrew Lewis and of Thomas Lewis, and the first settler of what is now Augusta County, Va. He was also descended on the maternal side from Col. Charles Lewis, who was killed at the battle of Point Pleasant. He had all his life been a farmer, and belonged to that class of Virginia gentlemen who took a special pride in fine stock, and particularly in thoroughbred race horses.

Mr. Lewis was never a candidate for any public office until 1861, when he was prevailed upon to run as a delegate to the convention which declared in favor of his State seceding from the Union. After President Johnson’s famous proclamation, Mr. Lewis, with others, appealed to Gen. Grant, when President of the United States, to recommend the passage by Congress of a law submitting to a separate vote of the people of Virginia the odious disfranchising clauses of the Underwood Constitution, which was done, and at the election at which the expurgated Constitution was adopted he was elected to the second place on the True Republican candidates, headed by Wells.

Mr. Lewis almost ever since the war antagonized Gen. Mahone and the character of politics represented by him. Although he ran on the readjuster ticket in 1881, and was elected to the Lieutenant Governorship, Lewis was not in full accord with Mahone. Their views on finances at that time probably accorded, but there was no community of sympathy or interest between the two men to any further extent. After 1883, when the Democrats elected the Legislature, and subsequently acquired control of the State Government, Mr. Lewis vigorously opposed Mahone. When the latter was the Republican candidate for Governor in 1889 Mr. Lewis threw his influence against him.

After his retirement from the office of Lieutenant Governor, in 1886, Mr. Lewis took little active interest in public affairs. For the last four or five years he had been in very bad health, and during the last two years was confined to the limits of his farm.

He was of a warm and generous nature, brave, magnanimous, and outspoken, and intensely loyal to his friends. He was a half-brother to Lunsford L. Lewis** of Richmond, the former President of the Supreme Court of Virginia, and father of Sheppard W. Lewis, for many years United States District Attorney for the Western District of Virginia.

*John Francis Lewis was a son of Gen. T. Samuel Hance Lewis (1794-1869).
**Lunsford Lomax Lewis (1846-1920) was a half-brother to John Francis Lewis, and he married Rosalie Summers Botts, daughter of Virginia Unionist John Minor Botts.

This is a dual post, appearing also in my main blog.


James Morgan Valentine Testifies on Behalf of Newt Knight Before the U.S. Claims Commission

Posted in Disallowed Claims, Examples of acts against Southern Unionists, Mississippi Unionists, threats made against Southern Unionists with tags , , , , , on May 15, 2009 by renegadesouth

By Victoria E. Bynum

The following post expands upon the story of James Morgan Valentine, Newt Knight’s 1st Lt. in Mississippi’s “Free State of Jones,” posted last week on Renegade South, Like Hiram Levi Sumrall of my earlier post on this site, Valentine testified in 1890 and 1895 on behalf of Newt Knight’s claim for compensation for members of the Knight Company. A summary of Newt’s claim, below, is followed by excerpts and analysis of Valentine’s depositions.

For thirty years, Newt Knight, Captain of Mississippi’s most notorious band of deserters, the Knight Company of Jones County, pursued compensation from the federal government for himself and his company. Newt initiated his first claim in 1870, before the Southern Claims Commission had been established (RG 233, Box 15, HR 1810). That claim had long ago died in committee when Congress passed the Bowman Act in 1883, followed by the Tucker Act of 1887, which allowed individuals to resubmit rejected or tabled claims. With lawyers now representing his case, Newt renewed his efforts to win pay for his “soldiers.” Newt’s two final claims, #8013 and #8464, were eventually merged into one.

On November 20, 1890, fifty-year old James Morgan Valentine appeared before the Jones County Chancery Court to lend support to Newt Knight’s claim. The first question posed to him by the government’s lawyers was whether Newt Knight had “commanded a company of men known as Union men,” and whether they were “equipped as soldiers during the war and what part did they act as such?” Valentine replied that he knew Newt Knight to be the captain of a company, “armed and equipped,” that “acted in opposition to the rebel forces.”

To further questions, Valentine answered that the Knight Company had operated in Jones, Smith, Jasper, and Covington counties from October 13, 1863 until September 5, 1865, and that he had been with them “all the time except about a month while I was in prison.” Here, Valentine was referring to his capture by Col. Robert Lowry’s Confederate forces during its raid on Jones County. In his 1895 deposition, he specified that he was captured on April 16, 1864 and sent to Shubuta, MS, where he was imprisoned until June of that year. (Information included on Newt Knight’s roster of 1870 corroborates this.)

When asked if he engaged in any battles as part of the Knight company, Valentine replied that he participated in three, those of Saul’s Battery (Sal’s Battery), Tallahala, near Ellisville, and Knight’s Mill, the battle in which he was wounded and captured by Col. Lowry’s forces.

When asked whether the Knight Company was ever mustered into the Union Army, Valentine replied unequivocally, “They were not.” Despite that fact, he believed all the men remained loyal to the Union throughout the war. He reiterated this testimony in his second deposition of January 29, 1895.

In 1895, Valentine also testified that despite the company’s failure to become an official unit of the Union Army, it nonetheless had collaborated directly with Union forces. His examples, however, which lawyers were quick to note, occurred in July 1865, shortly after the war had ended. Valentine recalled that Lt. H. T. Elliott of the U.S. Army had ordered Newt Knight and his men to “seize and hold in possession certain cloth and wool in the hands of one Amos Deason” (Deason was Jones County’s Confederate representative to the state legislature), that the Knight Company had also captured a “stand of arms in the court house,” and turned them over to Capt. A. R. M. Smith of the federal army post at Ellisville in Jones County, and that U.S. Gen’l William McMillan had once supplied the company with rations. (All of these actions are verified by documents submitted to the government in 1870 by Newt Knight.)

When government lawyers asked Valentine whether these interactions occurred “after the Confederate armies had all been disbanded and returned to their homes,” Valentine replied, “I could not tell you sir whether they were all disbanded or no.” When reminded that Generals Lee and Johnston had surrendered in May, 1865, Valentine reminded the lawyers that “there were Ku Klux in this country after the surrender that we had to contend with.”

Valentine’s uncertainty about whether the war was truly over in July, 1865, reflected ongoing battles over power throughout the South, including in Jones County. That very month, Newt Knight and his supporters petitioned provisional Governor William Sharkey to overturn Jones County’s 1864 elections on grounds that local Unionists had been denied the vote. Pro-Confederate citizens soon retaliated against several appointments and elections of Unionists to office by successfully petitioning the Mississippi State Legislature to change the name of Jones County to Davis County (in honor of Jefferson Davis). Valentine’s testimony reflected his memory that, for Newt Knight, and the Knight Company, battles over local political power remained fierce in the aftermath of the Civil War.

NOTE: Newt Knight’s long struggle with the U.S. Court of Claims, as well as Jones County’s Reconstruction and New South political struggles, are analyzed in my forthcoming book, Southern Communities at War: Essays on Civil War Era Dissent and it’s Legacies, scheduled for release by the University of North Carolina Press in spring, 2010).

Leroy C. Gilbert of Rockbridge County, Virginia

Posted in Examples of acts against Southern Unionists, threats made against Southern Unionists, Virginia Unionists with tags , , , , , , , , on November 29, 2008 by SouthernUnionists

Portions of the Southern Claims Commission Application for Leroy C. Gilbert. Deposition taken 16 July 1872.
Gilbert resided in Rockbridge County, Va., “ all the war on my farm, my farm contains 50 acres, 40 acres of it is cleared land. I did not leave the State during the war.”

Q5 – “I took the amnesty oath after the war at the Natural Bridge in Rockbridge Co., Va. I had nothing to be pardoned for.”

Q24 – “I never was arrested by either government.”

Q25 – “I had bacon taken by the Confederate authorities. I received no pay for it.”

Q26 – “I was threatened to be taken to Castle Thunder because I talked too much in favor of the United States.”

Q29 – “I had no chance to do any thing for the US Government.”

Q30 – “I had four sons, one half- brother in the Confederate army; names of my sons were John [C, 1st Va Cav], James [E, 52nd], Leroy [?] & Andrew [Co. E, 52nd); name of my half-brother was Ezekiel Gilbert [C, 1st Va Cav]. Two of my sons John [died at home on Broad Creek of disease 12/20/62]and James [died of wounds received at Gettysburg] were killed in the Confederate army; the other two, Leroy and Andrew are living in Rockbridge County, Va. My brother was killed [5/26/64, Kennon’s Farm] in the Confederate army. I furnished them with no military equipments money or clothing. They volunteered without my approbation.”

Q40 – “I sympathized with Union at the beginning of the war and not with the Rebellion. I neither voted for or against the ordinance of secession. I held to the stars and stripes during the whole war.”

Q41 – “From the beginning of the war to the end I desired to see the Government put down the rebellion…”

In support of Gilbert’s deposition, Eli Swartz testified…

I reside on the adjoining farm during the war. I saw him often, talked to him about the war very frequently. He was bitterly opposed to the war. I heard him say that if he could keep his sons out of the Confederate army he would do it. I think he was a Union man if there was one on the South. He was regarded as a Union man by his neighbors. I do not know how he voted upon the ordinance of secession or that he voted at all. I heard Capt. McClintock say that he ought to be watched, that he was a dangerous man to the South. I do not know that he owned any Confederate bonds do not think he did anything to support the credit of the C.S. Do not know that he gave any information to any U.S. officer. I think I have heard him say that if the South gained her independence he could not remain here.

Also in support of Gilbert’s deposition, William B. Miller testified…

I have known the claimant 30 years, I live very near him, I saw him often during the war. I conversed with him about the war frequently. I heard him say once that he wished all the Confederate officers were in Hell. I heard him say that he opposed the war that he would have his right arm cut off before he would vote for the ordinance of secession. I regarded him as a Union man, he was looked upon as a Union man by his neighbors (loyal). I heard that the Confederates had threatened to hang him because he was a Union man.

John Dogan’s Story

Posted in coercive activities with Free Blacks, Examples of acts against Southern Unionists, Free Black Southern Unionists, Virginia Unionists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2008 by SouthernUnionists

The following has been extracted, with permission, from the post “The flip-side to the search for black Confederates,” from Cenantua’s Blog.

“John M. ‘Jack’ Dogans was the only free black in Page County to leave a record of his wartime experience as a Unionist through his Southern Loyalist claim. As one who vocalized his interests in the Union and the hope that its success would result in the freedom for all slaves, Dogan’s life was regularly threatened. In one of the documented incidents, Dogans heard from ‘old Mr. John Smith’ that a party of men said that they meant to ‘kill that damn nigger [Dogans] down at the furnace.’ Following the First Battle of Manassas in July 1861, when local merchant David E. Almond assembled several ‘free negroes’ to serve as teamsters with the Confederate army, Dogans was pressed into the service. When Dogans voiced his opinion over the matter, Sheriff Benjamin F. Grayson told him simply that ‘we’ll shoot you if you don’t go.’ After driving a wagon for about sixty days, Dogans returned to Page County and continued to support the Union troops who occupied the county for the balance of the war.”

“Dogans is listed as ‘Dugans’ in the 1860 Page County census as a forty-one year old mulatto with $45 in real estate. Dogans’ Southern Loyalist Claim was the only claim filed by a former free black in Page County, and was approved by the claims commission.”