A fire licked the home of memories, back in 1947. My father recalled being summoned by the farm’s bell, and dashing up the pasture with his dad to watch a chimney fire consume the Dodson Home Place, built in 1860 just off of Butcher’s Creek, Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Family Bibles, photographs, letters and clippings; beds, clothing, sheets, tables, books, piano – all gone in a matter of hours. Family and friends gathered food and clothing to comfort the Stricklands, and others shared photographs – like this one – that the memory of Oakview and her history might not be buried in the ashes of that tragedy.
Born on 15 August 1856 in Regiment 22 of Mecklenburg County, Virginia, Lillie Dodson was one of ten children: Greene, Virginia, Harvey, Henry, Dora, Molly, Adlaide, Rebecca Eulelia (Lillie), Edward, and William Rowlett (Bud). Her parents, James H. and Sarah Jane Rowlett Dodson, farmed land just off the Boydton Road south of The City.
Mr. Dodson was a planter and slave owner. Miss Rowlett moved with her parents from (Chesterfield County, Virginia) and settled on land adjoining the Dodson plantation. They were united in marriage in (1844) in Mecklenburg County, Virginia.
Mr. Dodson built the old Dodson home and moved into it when Lillie was three years old, about 1859. She said she could remember walking across from the “Old House,” climbing over the felled trees, carrying her dolls. The house had not been completed, and as the War soon started, he never did finish it.
Mr. Dodson gave each of his children a tract of land for a homestead. He gave the Dodson house and a certain number of acres to the three unmarried daughters, Dora, Molly and Lillie.
…Soon after moving to Virginia with his parents in 1870, Clifton Sayles paid court to Lillie Dodson (a neighbor girl). Her parents were still living, and twas too soon after “The War between the States: ended; feelings still ran high. For Clifton’s father, Ira Sayles, had been a Captain in the Federal Army, and Lillie’s brother, Greene Dodson, had been killed while serving in the Confederate Army; consequently Lillie’s parents did not favor the suit, and Clifton married another girl.
This wife, Anna McCullough, died sometime after the census date of 1900, and Clifton again paid court to Miss Lilly, who had remained single.
Clifton Duvall Sayles, born April 11, 1851, in Alfred, N.Y., and Rebecca Eulelia (Lillie) Dodson were united in marriage January 9, 1901 in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Born to this union: Anna Florette, born December 4, 1901.
At the time of her marriage, Lillie traded her share in the home with Ed, for his share, called the “Old House” tract, and she later sold it. Ed, Dora and Molly remained single and continued to live at the Dodson home until their deaths in the 1920s (at which time the land was bequeathed to the adopted son, George Strickland.)
George …was a real son to them. He continued to care for and look after them untill their final illnesses and deaths. He called Ed “Master Ed” and said Aunt Dora and Aunt Molly and called their sister Aunt Lillie. In appreciation of the love and care George bestowed on (them) Ed Dodson deeded George Ricks Strickland the old Dodson home place.
Around 1920, George Strickland drove a wagon over to the Sayles home and paid court to Florette. They were married September 28, 1921 in the Baptist parsonage in Chase City, Virginia by the Rev. H. L. Williams. Four sons were born to this union: George Sidney, Clifford Ricks, Paul Warren, and Norman Scott. The family survived the depression by returning to the Dodson farm.
At around the same time, Clifton Sayles died, leaving Lillie a widow; she moved in with her daughter and nephew to help raise the four boys–and made certain that cookies were a regular part of their diet.
Source: Strickland, Anna Florette. Some Genealogical Facts of the Strickland-Sayles Family. Chase City, VA: Handwritten, March 1976.
How did they get to Mecklenburg County, Virginia? What resources could they count on? How did they meet prospective spouses? Why did they stay when so many residents of southside Virginia were moving on west?
Discovering an online source of original documents has been one of the most important moments in my budding genealogical life. Footnote.com has diverse collections with new offerings being added regularly. The footnote viewer is by far the best image viewer anywhere. Stumbling onto this digital archive I whimsically started searching the Dodson side. Lo! and behold! A pre-Civil War document popped up in the Revolutionary War Pension Records. When viewed it became clear that this was just one piece of a 75 page file, filled with family information from the 1840s and 1850s.
Here’s what you can find out:
A pension for Revolutionary War soldiers and their widows was granted by Congress in 1832. Young men fighting in the Revolution were by then elderly men needing lots of neighborly attestation and official witness. Elderly men died and their widows petitioned to receive the awarded funds; their claims of marriage also needed neighborly attestation AND male family intervention since women could not own property or evidently handle money.
In the pension application pulled by my Dodson query were details about William Rowlett and Rebecca his wife–both mentioned in my Grandmother Strickland’s family history as the parents of Sarah Jane Rowlett Dodson who married James H. Dodson in 1844. The Edward Dodson attesting to the validity of William’s claim of service and Rebecca’s identity was both neighbor and Justice of the Peace in Mecklenburg County. Further footnote documents, newspaper articles and register reports suggest that this Edward Dodson is my great-great-great-grandfather. In later papers James H. Dodson acts as agent for his mother-in-law, Rebecca Rowlett. These are my peoples! This file records some keystone information, in addition to personal details.
I LOVE footnote! The site’s multiple collections can be sorted by time frame, name, place, and date; and the search engine, though requiring some patience, is quite good. Within the viewer an historian can read documents and make annotations and/or comments so that subsequent readers get even more from the document. The site also has the capacity to store, organize and share your family’s documents, including your uploaded photos and documents.
Follow me to footnote.com! But be prepared to get lost in time!
We, descendants of George and Anna Florette Strickland, are of the “Dangling Dodsons”, those Dodsons for whom there is no definite connection to the lineage of Charles Dodson, Sr. of Richmond County, Virginia–the progenitor of many, many American Dodson branches.¹
Our American connection begins with a William Dodson, Sr. and his wife Elizabeth, most probably from England and most definitely early settlers of Henrico County, Virginia. In 1688 William Dodson and James Franklin transported eight negroes into the colony. Under the Colonization Act an individual was due certain acreage based on the number of persons for whom passage was paid. Thus the men were granted 360 acres on the north side of Swift Creek, in Bristol Parish, (later Dale Parish, Chesterfield County) which they subsequently divided between them. William (before 1668-1746) and Elizabeth had three children, William II, Thomas and Stephen. William and Thomas both remained in Chesterfield County, while Stephen (?-1755) migrated with an unknown wife to Amelia County, Virginia where together they had two known children, Edward, Sr. and John.
By 1772 Edward, Sr. moved to Mecklenburg County, Virginia where he purchased 95 acres on the little fork of Allen’s Creek adjoining John Hydes spring branch. On 31 January 1785 he purchased from Alexander Boyd an additional 280 acres near the first tract. This ancestor died before 11 January 1808 when a deed¹ was recorded in Mecklenburg County transferring his heirs’ title to the 375 acres to his wife Frances during her natural life. The nine children from this union were:Sally, William, Elizabeth Dodson Beavers, Martha, Nancy (Ann) Dodson Roffe, John, Edward, Mary and Francis.
Edward, Jr. then married and had eight children with an unknown wife(wives).²Stephen, Sarah, Martha, Frances, Lettice, Rebecca, William, and Edward, the third, who married Mary Green in 1814.
Just a wee bit of a problem with this scenario.
On 21 September 1812 a will ³ was presented to the Mecklenburg County court for a Francis Dodson in which he/she listed the following children:Edward Stephen William John (dec’d) Francis Lettice H Rebecca W Sarah Martha Elizabeth Hudson Ann Roffe Polly Rowlett
The last list of children combines the first two lists. What’s up with THAT? One conclusion is that Rev. Silas Lucas invented a generation of Edwards. Another conclusion is that the 1812 Will lists names without properly identifying children from grandchildren, and the Register Reporter listed an assumption not a fact. My d kay s conclusion is that I don’t have enough information to make a conclusion.
I need transcriptions!! Lots and lots of transcriptions! Then cross checks with tax and census lists. Ultimately I will have to create a name index with associated dates…..take road trips……conduct on-line searches……request documents from Mecklenburg County…….and use my Stress Reduction Kit frequently!
Someday I will have a solid connection with this Edward Dodson of Amelia County. For now I have to be content starting my register report with Edward the Younger, who married Mary Green, daughter of William Willis Green, on 7 June 1814, the Rev. James Meacham presiding in Mecklenburg County, Virginia.
to be continued………..
¹,² Williams, Sherman. The Dodson (Dotson) Family of North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, Virginia: a History and Genealogy of Their Descendants. Easley, SC: Southern Historical, 1988. Print.
³ Register Report, “Descendants of Francis Dodson” by the Cox family.
Much of my family’s history was shaped around the American Civil War, so I have been eagerly anticipating the crisis’ Sesquicentennial. Photographs and documents, long held in private collections, are being sought for public collections, like that of the Civil War 150 Legacy Project at the Library of Virginia. Public documents, long preserved and accessed on site, are being digitized and shared on-line. Case in point, Ancestry just announced the assession of several new collections like the US Draft Registration Records and the US Confederate Pensions Collection, 1888-1958.
I discovered that my great-great-grandfather Ira Sayles had blue eyes and dark hair from his 1862 registration in the 130th Regiment NY Volunteers. And I confirmed that great-great-grandfather Francis Marion Minor of Greene County, Pennsylvania was drafted in 1863–but sent a substitute. In the Confederate (Widows) Pensions File of 1888, I discovered that great-great-granduncle Benjamin Franklin Dodson of the 34th Virginia Infantry (Mecklenburg County) was shot through the brain by a Union minnie ball on 6 July 1864 in the lines outside of Petersburg.
I am fascinated by the number of features in this Ancestry collection that prompt the user to explore beyond ancestral information. For instance, this timeline at the bottom of the page begs the reader to review events and examine how ancestor records fit in–pictures, timelines, graphs are often so helpful in this regard.
The events of the Civil War affected my ancestors’ life choices: a carpetbagging Clifton Sayles was prohibited from marrying young Lillie Dodson until after parents died and they were middle-aged. The Minor and Dodson family farms were ferociously tended, defended and passed on as coveted assets–safe havens for subsequent generations faced with their own economic crises. In taking the time to study the Civil War, I have deepened my understanding of my country and my family, past and present. I harbor this hope that I am building a shared memory with other family historians/genealogists, and that this common understanding of our country’s past might inform a more powerful, insightful understanding of our country’s present. Maybe, just maybe, this genea-community can be a force for creative, civil discourse as our country navigates the current economic, political and social crises.
My ancestors include well-to-do farmers in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. James H. Dodson (1815-1884) was a middling planter; in other words, he owned enough slaves to not work along side them in the field but not so many as to be considered upper-crust in his society. In the gathering shadows that my research summons are the shapes of people, folks he owned, black pioneers who helped him plant and harvest the foods he placed on his family’s table and the tobacco he sold in his community’s auction. I have uncovered little information about the women of James H. Dodson’s life, and even less about the slaves that worked his land.
A SOURCE OF INFORMATION
Both our federal and state governments found the gathering of census information to be useful quite early in our nation’s history, and the reams of resultant data provide valuable glimpses into the past. One such census was begun in 1853 by the Commonwealth of Virginia; its purpose was to conduct an annual registration of births and deaths. The Slave Birth Index was transcribed for the years 1853-1865 by the Works Project Administration and recorded on microfilm in the 1930s. To make this information more accessible to genealogists and family historians, the volunteers and staff of the Alexandria Library transcribed the microfilm in the 2000s, making it available in a multi-volume print record. It is from this source that some of my family’s shadows get names.
From the second volume I transcribe here the slave births of Oakview Plantation, home of the James H. Dodson family, Mecklenburg County, Virginia:
Baby Mother’s Name Date of Birth
female Ann May 1857
female Fanny February 1855
male Jane April 1857
Catherine Jane January 1857
Eliza Joana December 1855
George Ann September 1854
George Ann December 1855
Charlotte ——- July 15, 18xx
female ——— April 15, 1853
Catherine Jane June 1856
Clarasey Hannah August 1860
Cornelius Fanny July 9, 1860
George Joanna May 7, 1860
Lucy Joanna December 1861
Martha Fanny December 1858
S. B. Jane November 1858
Morales, Leslie Anderson., Ada Valaitis, and Beverly Pierce. Virginia Slave Births Index, 1853-1865, Volume 2, D-G. Westminster, MD: Heritage, 2007. Print.
This post is the next in a series about the Civil War service of William Greene Dodson, detailed in A Mom’s Goodbye, The Cruel War Is Raging and The Cruel War Is Raging, Johnny Has To Fight.
Muster cards–concise who-what-when story lines. I LOVE these mines of family history. My current extraction comes from the Civil War Service Records, housed in the National Archives and digitized through Footnote.com. I add my knowledge of 1860 Federal Census data for Mecklenburg County, Virginia and my grandmother’s family history to discover that Greene Dodson served as a private—without pay– in Company B, 34th Regiment Virginia Infantry for the months of May and June 1864, having enlisted in Mecklenburg County on April 15, 1864. T. T. Pettus enrolled Greene for the duration of the war, and told him that he was entitled to a bounty for his enlistment.
The muster card for Ben Dodson shows that he, too, served—without pay– for those spring months.
Muster cards provide the who, what and when—but not the why, where and how of a fuller family story. I was spurred into this deeper research by some mystic mom-to-mom connection: What battle action did Greene Dodson see? Where was he stationed? What news would Sarah Jane receive about her son?
First I had to address my limited knowledge of military jargon, and place Greene into a larger Confederate force.
Company B was one of perhaps 10 companies in the 34th Regiment Virginia Infantry. Each company was hopefully close to its 100 man quota. The 34th Regiment was serving with the 26th, 46th and 59th Virginia Regiments, forming a brigade under General Henry A. Wise. The brigade had been called from duty on Richmond’s fortifications in September 1863 to join General P.G.T. Beauregard’s Department of the Carolinas and Virginia, defending the coastline of the Carolinas.
With this knowledge I knew then that Greene and Ben Dodson were serving under the Beauregard command in May and June. A quick scour of the Internet led to a speech given in 1870 by Henry A.Wise in which he gave the history of the brigade under his command.
(“Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 25., The Career of Wise’s Brigade, 1861-5.” Perseus Digital Library. Web. 22 Oct. 2010. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:2001.05.0283>.)
The 34th Regiment Virginia Infantry was called off the coastal defenses in April 1864, when Beauregard received the order to hurry north to defend Petersburg and Richmond from Union General Butler’s advancing Army of the York. “The brigade was pushed forward with all expedition, reached Petersburg punctually, and from that time to the surrender at Appomattox, was, I may say, constantly under the fire of the enemy in the trenches and fields around Petersburg…”
General Lee was confronting Grant north and east of Richmond at this time, which had allowed Butler’s army to land unopposed at City Point and Bermuda Hundred, a peninsula on the James River north of City Point. While Butler’s men built entrenchments straddling the Appomattox River, Beauregard had General W.H.C Whiting position troops in and around Petersburg; the 34th Virginia was one regiment posted north of the Appomatox with Whiting. Beauregard took a further 8,000 troops at Drewry’s Bluff where he successfully defended Fort Darling from Butler’s army in mid-May, driving them back to their entrenchments in Bermuda Hundred. The 34th Virginia took part in the fight when the Union troops reached Walthall Railroad junction, where the Confederate Army “was very decided in capturing 6,000 prisoners and in shutting Butler up, as General Grant said, in Howlett’s Neck, ‘like a fly in a bottle.’”
Greene and Ben could have been there, could have heard this noise, could have seen these prisoners. In all likelihood the Dodsons of Company B were also in the thick of it when Wise’s Brigade joined up with Beauregard’s army. From May 18th until May 28th, 1864 there was heavy fighting along the whole s picket line, culminating in a charge by the 600 men of Wise’s Brigade. “The 600 carried the front before either brigade came up; so rapid and so undaunted was this charge of the 600 it was Balaklava like. This charge was made in open field for one-half a mile, under 10 guns, against a full line of infantry in parapet. The men, though falling ‘like leaves of Vallambrosa,’ moved steadily up under the point blank fire until within ten or twenty paces, when the enemy threw down their guns and cried for quarter. “
Thus young Greene, just barely 18, ended his first month of service to the Confederate States of America.
June 1864 saw the arrival of Grant’s troops in the Petersburg area. Having been defeated again and again by a tenacious rebel army, Grant decided to leave Lee guarding Richmond from the north and east, sweep broadly east across two rivers, and lead his army up the James River, capturing the railroad center—Petersburg—before trying once again to capture the capital, Richmond. General Beauregard was the first Confederate commander to scout and anticipate this bold Union plan, and while waiting for Lee to concur and send supporting troops, Beauregard had to defend Petersburg with a mere 15,000 men, Greene and Ben Dodson among them.
Lee had, at the eleventh hour, finally agreed with Beauregard’s conclusion about Union troop movements. His orders to send reinforcements to the south’s railroad heart 17 June kept Petersburg from falling, but the 34th Regiment and the rest of the Confederate line had retreated to a more defensible line, dug by slaves, citizens and soldiers bearing tin cups and bayonets.
The trenches of Petersburg were now full. Their occupants, Greene and Ben among them, would remain in contact with the enemy for nine more months, and their interactions determine the outcome of the Civil War—for the Dodson family, the state of Virginia and for the Union of the States.
I imagine the newly enlisted man-child, Pvt. William Greene Dodson, sitting on a train to Petersburg, in the company of his uncle, Sgt. Benjamin F. Dodson and other Mecklenburg County farmers. The sights, smells and sounds of battle were yet but words from others’ mouths. Would this young man have been excited? Scared? Resolute?
Company B, 34th Virginia Infantry arrived in Petersburg May 1864 as part of Wise’s Brigade, under the command of P.G.T. Beauregard, and were charged with the protection of the railroad hub. Greene and Ben would have welcomed the local Citizen’s Militia who helped swell the troops’ numbers to a scant 2,200 bodies. Perhaps Greene wondered what kind of hell he had entered, as he stared at this landscape, stripped of trees, riddled with tunnels, rifle pits and bombproofs. A bleak reality must have confronted the young soldier, even before the first bullets whistled in his ears.
The land of Mecklenburg County, Virginia rolls from pasture to forest to creek. Wild roses and honeysuckle form dense thickets, and glossy leaves of poison ivy climb oak and ash and maple. In the 1860s this was farm country, dependent on bonded black labor to make its red soil produce abundant crops of tobacco, corn, hay. And from her male ranks came soldiers prepared to fight for the right to prosper by the South’s peculiar institution–slavery.
Among these men, in March of 1864, were William Green Dodson, age 18,and his uncle, Benjamin Franklin Dodson, age 37. Digging around in the archived Civil War Service Records within Footnote.com I discovered the elements of Ben and Greene’s 1864 story. I then correlated that keystone data with information from the 1860 Federal Census and the book Chase City and Its Environs to tell this family tale.
Ben Dodson enlisted 8 March 1862 with Captain Thomas Taylor Pettus, commanding officer, signing his papers in Mecklenburg County. The husband of Delia Boyd Dodson and father of five little ones signed up for the duration of the war. Ben Dodson was mustered in a 3rd Sergeant in the 4th Regiment Virginia Heavy Artillery, which was attached to the command of Brigadier-General Henry Wise. During the Battle of Seven Pines, 31 May-1 June 1862 in Henrico County, Virginia, this unit manned the heavy guns at Drewry’s Bluff, successfully repulsing the advance of the Federal gunboats the Monitor and the Galena. The men of Company B saw action again during the Seven Days Battle, at Frazier’s Farm and Malvern Hill, Virginia 25 June-1 July 1862. The Brigade was then attached to the Department of Richmond and held the lines around the capital until 1863.
Ben Dodson fell ill during that guarding of Richmond. The farmer was furloughed to recover at his home 25 October 1862 and rejoined his company in early 1863.
Ben Dodson led his men throughout the company’s 1863 defense of Charleston, South Carolina’s seacoast, under the command of Colonel John T. Goode, Major John R. Bagby, and Lieutenant-Colonel Randolph Harrison, with the regiment attached to the forces commanded by General G. T. Beauregard.
8 March 1864 the 4th Regiment Heavy Artillery was redesignated the 34th Regiment Virginia Infantry.
On 17 March 1864 Ben received leave to go home to Mecklenburg County for 15 days.
On 15 April 1864 William Greene Dodson enlisted, again,
There are no muster cards on file to shed light on how Greene Dodson went from being a private with Company I, 25th Infantry Battalion in Richmond, December 1863, to being a private with his uncle’s regiment April 1864. I am left with questions: Why did Ben come home? Was he just needing a break? Was he recruiting? Why was Greene home? What words were exchanged between nephew and uncle? Did Sarah feel more or less relieved that her son was joining a close relative’s company?
One thing is certain: Ben and Greene returned to Company B that April 1864 in time to be swept up in General Beauregard’s move toward Petersburg, Virginia. The families would be changed forever by that hot and dusty summer.
Next: The Dodsons of Company B defend Petersburg.
In my last post, A Mom’s Goodbye, I began the story of Greene Dodson and his home-leaving to join the Army of the Confederate States of America. Today I continue building proofs which document my family’s lore.
All sorts of paper have been saved by our federal, state and local governments, and while I may groan about filling out the forms today I am sure grateful my ancestors completed theirs. The Confederate’s Citizens File is one such collection of forms and notes, offering proof of services and goods rendered by private citizens and businesses to the Confederate States of America. My search of this data-mine was possible through the entity of Footnote.com through which I pulled up a file on James H Dodson, Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Previous work with Federal census data from the mid-1800′s has confirmed the existence of only one James H Dodson in Mecklenburg County, and therefore this file documents some of the transactions my great-great-grandfather made. Bonanza! for among these records was this scrap:
The search moved to the files of Civil War Soldiers, Company I, 25th Battalion, Virginia Infantry (Richmond Battalion). Upon clicking my cursor I felt a connection so palpable, I could almost talk to my ancestors. In November of 1863, with the war continuing far longer than anyone had ever dreamed, Greene Dodson dropped out of school and traveled the hundred or so miles to Richmond, Virginia, capital of the Confederate States of America. His father accompanied him in order to give his consent, which reads:
Richmond, Virginia Nov 21, 1863
I hereby consent for my son, William G. Dodson, to join and become a member of Capt. Aston’s Co. I 25th Inf Batt. James H Dodson
Witness: W.E. Hitchcock
It appears that someone had written out the text, with James filling in his son’s name, and signing his own name.
Four other documents are included in this file, yielding precious nuggets of information, keystone elements of my family’s story. William Greene Dodson, seventeen years and eight months, stood 5’9″ tall. Greene was light complected with dark hair. His hazel eyes must have burned with earnest bravado as the young farmer signed the enlistment papers for Captain Samuel T. Bayly. Volunteering to serve three years or the duration of the War, my great-great-uncle took the oath of allegiance to the Confederate States of America and its leaders. By the end of the day 25 November 1863 all the forms had been filled out, all the recruitment exams and procedures conducted–William Greene Dodson was a Private with Company I, 25th Battalion Virginia Infantry.
I imagine James and Sarah down home in southside Virginia, pausing during their chores, half expecting to see their son’s lanky frame come ’round a barn door. And then remembering with a mixture of pride and fear that Greene had stepped into being a man, answering a call to duty.
We leave Greene in Richmond, where he is on the List of Recruits, 31 December 1863. There are no further muster cards for this ancestor with this company. I can only speculate at this point what Greene did between December 1863 and 15 April 1864 when he re-enlisted.
Next: The Dodsons of Company B, 34th Regiment Virginia Infantry.