Craigtmonroe's Blog

Life for a native of Northern Virginia

With a view of taking command of a company of cavalary

Drive out Route 50 West towards Middleburg, and you can read about a Civil War cavalry battle that was fought in nearby Upperville, Virginia.  Every time I drive by the Civil War Trails sign there I think of one of the Washington & Lee University men who fought in, and survived this battle – only to die in the closing days of the war – after expressing a premonition about his own death.  His name is found in the Book of Remembrance in Lee Chapel,
and I was blessed to be able to conduct the original research that placed him into memoriam there.

Joseph B. Cherry entered the Washington College Class of 60-61 from Bertie, North Carolina.   

Cherry is a model example of the dedicated Confederate.  His tenure not only lasted the entirety of the war, it counted two branches of the service, and spanned from staff work to hand-to-hand combat.

“J.B.” mustered into the 8th North Carolina Infantry as an adjutant. 
He was appointed 2nd Lieutenant on May 16, 1861 and rose to 1st Lieutenant on September 11, 1861. 

On August 2, 1862 he respectfully submitted his resignation to Stonewall Jackson stating that he had a
“view of taking command of a company of cavalry.”

 Cherry initially had the honor of defending his native soil.  On August 9, 1862 he was appointed Captain of Company F, 59th North Carolina troops (4th North Carolina Cavalry) under David D. Ferebee. Cherry saw a good deal of action during his tenure with the 4th North Carolina Cavalry.  In August of 1862, he participated in skirmishing near Franklin, North Carolina as well as along the Blackwater and upper Chowan Rivers. 

At Washington, North Carolina in March of 1863, his unit was shelled by gunboats as they tried to prevent the Union advance into Washington and New Bern, North Carolina.  On April 24, 1863 at Tranter’s Creek Bridge, North Carolina he was complimented for the intelligence gathering ability he displayed in his estimation of the Union Forces at Plymouth, North Carolina.  The ultimate beneficiary of this same information was General D.H. Hill who was formerly a professor of Mathematics at Washington College Hill was also well known to Cherry’ former boss Stonewall Jackson: being his brother in-law as well as Jackson’s key sponsor in obtaining his teaching position at Virginia Military Institute.

The 4th North Carolina Cavalry then left the North Carolina to travel north into Virginia.  In June of 1863,
it was attached to General Beverly Robertson’s brigade under General  J.E.B. Stuart.  Cherry now found himself in the middle of the Gettysburg Campaign.  The Regiment participated in the cavalry reviews of June 5th and 9th at Brandy Station.  During the Battle of Brandy Station the 4th North Carolina Cavalry was held in reserve, though it did take some casualties due to artillery shelling. 

 The Regiment distinguished itself during the running cavalry battles that occurred when Stuart’s boys veiled the northward flow of Lee’s Army. Some of the most severe engagements occurred in what is still referred to as “Mosby’s country”.  On June 20, 1863 Cherry and his men assisted in capturing the First Rhode Island Cavalry near Middleburg, Virginia.(verify date).  On June 21, 1863 Cherry’s Company F sustained heavy loss as it fought more Union cavalry in the streets of nearby Upperville, Virginia.  A contemporary sketch of the fighting is shown in the image below.

The first two days of the Battle of Gettysburg had yielded comparatively little cavalry fighting. 
On July 3, Robertson’s Brigade reinforced Jone’s Brigade in its efforts to repel the blue troopers under the chronically flamboyant George Armstrong Custer (verify disposition of troops). 

 Stuart’s cavalrymen rejuvenated their spirits and recovered their reputations as they shielded the retreat of Lee’s Army. One such shot of confidence came at Jack Mountain at nine o’clock in the evening of July 4th.  Here the 4th North Carolina engaged in a rare night battle as it pitched into Kilpatrick’s cavalry and drove it away from the train of wagons and ambulances that shuttled injured men back towards the comparative safety of Maryland. The Regiment would then skirmish at Hagerstown, Maryland and other locales throughout the July 7 through July 13 time span.

The Fall of 1863 was comparatively quiet for both armies.  The 4th North Carolina fought only two actions of noticeable size.  On September 22 it fought the blue troopers to a draw at Jack’s Shop in Virginia. 
Back in Mosby country again, it pushed its old nemesis right off the Sperryville Turnpike when it fought Kilpatricks cavalry on October 11, 1863.

Cherry then found himself in the same pattern of service as many of his Washington College peers – blocking Grant’s Army from taking the Confederate capital at Richmond.  The first example of this came on May 9, 1864 when the
4th North Carolina fended off Union General Kautz’s attack on the south side of Petersburg.  Likewise, it skirmished at Hatcher’s Run near Burgess Mill on October 27, 1864.  The valuable service it rendered here would buy the Confederate cause another Winter’s worth of resistance.

 Unfortunately for Cherry, he would fall in battle as he fought the first advance movement against Petersburg on March 29, 1865.  Lieutenant Shaw of the 4th North Carolina provides a personal account of the event that transpired along a military road being shelled by Union artillery:

“As we were slowly retiring from this point of attack there came a message from Captain J.B. Cherry, the next officer in command to send him a horse to bear him from the field.  This gallant young officer, who seemed to know no fear and who had an hour before to the writer expressed a presentiment that this would be his last fight, had received a fatal shot.  From the field he was taken to Petersburg where he expired just as the enemy was entering the town.”



October 15, 2009 Posted by | W&L in the Civil War | , , , | Leave a comment

Oh Misfortune…

My people are Irish Catholics, so this topic hits home for me on many levels.

The unfinished railroad bridge you see in this photo was built in Centreville by Irish immigrants who fled political strife and famine in their homeland for the promise of a better future.  Working alongside local slaves they toiled for years on a railroad line that went unfinished due to an economic crisis known as the Panic of 1857.  Though they were paid as day laborers, the fact that the line never saw fruition denied them future jobs as porters, engineers, and small business owners along the rail line.

Years later, these same Irishmen would kill one another across this line
fighting for either the North or South during the Civil War.

As teenagers, Don Schrum and I camped here one evening and built a nice bon fire….
providing me with my first and worst case of poison ivy. 

The additional lesson in this bridge for me is that Northern Virginia has a long history of uncompleted rail projects.

Back when Don and I were camping around here, Metro convinced Fairfax County taxpayers to pay for bonds that would bring Metro to Centreville….in 1983.

Until you can sit in a seat… with your feet…

October 13, 2009 Posted by | History of Centreville VA | , , | 1 Comment

Rock Fight

Late one cold winter evening in February 1862, Confederate guards on patrol in the Centreville Historic District thought they heard horses kicking against the wall of a barn.  They walked down old Braddock Road to the stream that runs between the present day Stone Church and an old barn.  There strung out across the road were two groups of men formed into two lines facing one another.  These men were Confederate soldiers yelling curses and throwing fist-sized rocks at one another. 

The camp guards were Company I of the 4th Virginia Infantry, part of the famous Stonewall Brigade.  These men of the “college company” or “Liberty Hall Volunteers” were young Washington College students (present day Washington & Lee University) who have often been referred to as “Stonewall’s Bodyguard”, for they were the headquarters sentries for Confederate General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson.

The soldiers in the street were men of the 1st Louisiana Infantry, a.k.a “Wheat’s Louisiana Tigers,” named after Confederate Major Chatham Roberdeau Wheat, who banded together Bowie Knife wielding dock-workers from the wharves of New Orleans Louisiana.  Arrayed against them were men of the 1st Kentucky Infantry.

By pointing rifles with bayonets at the soldiers, the camp guards broke up the fight.

Realizing that the feuding soldiers were drunk, the guards searched for the source of the liquor.  In the cellar of a home occupied by a sutler (store owner) they discovered flour barrels in which whiskey bottles had been hidden.  To restore order, the guards poured the liquor into the “Thames”, the little stream that runs between the Old Stone Church and the barn.  Despite their efforts, the guards soon saw numerous pairs of feet sticking over the edge of the stream as soldiers put their mouths into the stream to lap up the “whiskey and water on ice.”

This photo of two whiskey drinking Tiger Rifles appears courtesy of the 1st Louisiana Special Battalion website whose members proudly reenact the heroic military exploits of their unit.  There are members of the Tiger Rifles buried in the
St John church cemetery in the Centreville Historic District, please be gentle when visiting those grounds.


Coincidentally, St John church is immediately adjacent to “Royal Oaks.”  Chatham Roberdeau Wheat was a cousin of James M. Roberdeau, who lived at Royal Oaks here in Centreville prior to the war (Wheat grew up in Alexandria). Both men were descendants of General Daniel Roberdeau, a Revolutionary War soldier and statesman.

October 12, 2009 Posted by | History of Centreville VA | , | Leave a comment

Reverend Finley

Finley, Rev., Miley Photo George Williamson Finley graduated with the Washington College (Washington & Lee University) Class of 1857-58 as a brother in the Virginia Beta Chapter of the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity.

Finley was a 1st Lieutenant in the Confederate Army, and led Company K of the 56th Virginia Infantry at the Battle of Gettysburg.  

As a member of Picketts division he marched for over one mile in an open field that turned into an infamous killing field for the Union cannon.  At one point, Finley noted that “one company, a little to my right, numbering 35 or 40 men, was almost swept, to a man, from the line by a single shell”.  

Finley’s men tore down a snake rail wooden fence and fought their way to the infamous “angle in the stonewall” and held it for less than 30 minutes.  Historians have termed this brief moment in time the “High Tide of the Confederacy”.  Here at the wall Finley took a musket and captured several Union artillerymen.  While charging towards the cannon he captured, Finley could “distinctly feel the flame of the explosion.” 

Gradually, the weight of Union reinforcements overwhelmed Finley’s men so he ordered them to surrender. While being led to the rear, Finley came upon Confederate General Lewis A. Armistead on whose staff he had previously served.  Presuming Armistead to be dead, Finley never stopped to console the dying Armistead and was filled with regret.

While being held as a POW at Hilton Head South Carolina, as one of the “Immortal 600”,
Finley consoled many a fellow POW, and made his decision to become a Christian Minister. 

Reverend Finley entered the Presbyterian Ministry after the war.  A native of Mecklenburg County, West Virginia, he was a Pastor at churches in Frederick, Berkeley, and Romney, in West Virginia.

A truly learned man, Washington & Lee University awarded him a Doctor of Divinity in 1899. 

Finley was President of the Board of Trustees at Mary Baldwin.  He also served as Trustee at numerous colleges and universities including: University of the South, Davis, Elkins College, and at his “other” alma mater Hampden-Sydney, where he initiated Phi Kappa Psi as a Virginia Gamma before transferring to W&L. 

Reverend Finley died in Staunton, Virginia on April 23, 1909. 
He outlived 5 of his 14 children.

October 12, 2009 Posted by | W&L Phi Psi in the Civil War | , , | 2 Comments

The Life of Riely

Reiley, John W., LHV PhotoA member of the Virginia Beta Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity, John W. Riely marched off to the Civil War and carved himself an interesting niche in the Confederate Army.

He left Jefferson County, West Virginia to become a student at Washington College (Washington & Lee University).

He served as a private at the Battle of First Manassas. Months later, while stationed in Centreville, he tented around the Mt Gilead house in what is today the Centreville Historic District.

At Centreville, Riely rose to sergeant. He was then rocketed up the chain of command by General Gustavas Smith who promoted him to Captain and Assistant Adjutant General – a staff role in which he also served for General Arnold Elzey.

Stationed at Mt Gilead with General Smith, he would have witnessed the infamous “Rock Fight” that his fellow Washington & Lee men broke up one night in front of the Old Stone Church.

After leaving Centreville, Riely rose to the rank of
Lt. Colonel.  He was a staff officer to General James Longstreet during the Gettysburg campaign. 

After Gettysburg, he served as a staff officer in Richmond, relaying orders from the Secretary of War to various Generals in the field. 

He also served Samuel Cooper the Inspector General.  In this role, Riely delved into some of the most controversial topics of the war, including the transfer of Union prisoners to Andersonville, the voluntary use of Union prisoners in Confederate armament factories, and the enlistment of African American soldiers into the Confederate Army. 

Riely surrendered a couple of months after Appomattox.  In essence, he negotiated his own surrender to Sherman.

After the war, Riely was the Commonwealth’s Attorney of Halifax County and “Revisor of the Code.”

He died August 20, 1900.

October 12, 2009 Posted by | History of Centreville VA, W&L Phi Psi in the Civil War | , , , | Leave a comment

Ghosts of Centreville

Thousands of Civil War soldiers died in Centreville from disease and wounds.
The historic preservation community is aware of several unmarked graves.
The Union soldier shown in this picture was removed from the McDonalds on Route 28,
at roughly where the drive through sign is today.
Erosion in the yards of homes in Centreville is always revealing historical artifacts.
Some artifacts date back to PaleoIndian times.
Should you find anything of a historic nature, please contact me, or anyone with the Friends of Historic Centreville.
Our website is a fun destination for kids with school projects.

October 12, 2009 Posted by | History of Centreville VA | , | 1 Comment

Precious Memorials of My Dear Boy: The Life and Death of Albert Edward Ludwig

You are about to read a true story about a life that ended in 1865.

The story is based on letters written during and after the U.S. Civil War.

What you will find is that the themes from those letters ring true today.
Namely, that the Federal Government denied death benefits to military families 120 years ago
in roughly the same manner that they do today.
You will also see an Immigrant who fought for his adopted country.
A family that was ripped off by a Madoff like predator.
And you will see a town that had grown weary of war, and relied on its soldiers to send the truth home.
In the very last line, you will read a plea from a mother to a government – that went unfulfilled – for a purpose.

I wrote this article back in 1997, as a contributing author to the Book of Remembrance found in Lee Chapel at Washington & Lee University.  The letters are contained in the National Archives, a former client of mine.

Let yourself be moved to action.


Precious memorials of my dear boy 

Albert Edward Ludwig was born in Switzerland and eventually immigrated to the Shenandoah Valley
along with his parents and siblings.

Before the outbreak of the war, Albert’s father Edward resigned his Washington College professorship and moved the family to Honesdale, Pennsylvania where he taught the French and German languages to students at the nearby Erie Academy.  Edward chose to move to Pennsylvania to avoid the unpleasantness that he associated with Secession.

Edward’s relocation paralleled that of his colleague, Dr. George Junkin, President of Washington College.
Dr. Junkin could no longer tolerate the Rebel flag-hoisting antics of Albert’s classmates, so he moved
North and founded Lafayette College. 

Like his father, Albert was also a Unionist.  Albert was thus unlike his peers in the Class of 60-61 who formed the initial body of the Liberty Hall Volunteers, the so-called bodyguard of Dr. Junkin’s former son-in-law, Stonewall Jackson. 

In other respects, the Ludwig household was fairly typical of the academic community at the time.  Albert’s father supplemented the family income by teaching music and serving as a newspaper editor.   Albert also provided for the family by working as a store clerk for an employer who posthumously characterized him as an “intelligent, faithful, industrious and every way a noble Christian boy just budding into manhood…whose patriotic heart grabbed in unison with the call of the government for Volunteers to save the Country…” 

 In the fall of 1864, Albert balanced his patriotic zeal with his financial responsibilities through the bounty he was paid when he joined the Union Army as a substitute for a man named  George H. Rowland. 

On September 15, 1864, at the age of 18, Albert mustered into Company E of the 53rd Pennsylvania Infantry as a private. Albert stood 5 feet 7 inches tall, had grey eyes, brown hair and a fair complexion.  His service record further confirms that he was promoted to Corporal in March of 1865.  There is a single reference to his being promoted to Sergeant on November 27, 1864.  However, the balance of evidence labels him “Cpl” (Corporal). 

Glimpses of Albert’s wartime experiences are contained in the letters written by him and about him during his time in the blue uniform.  Used in conjunction with records of activities these letters describe the final chapter in his life. 

The 53rd Pennsylvania Infantry was in the 2nd Corps, 1st Division, 3rd Brigade of the Army of the Potomac and was led by Col. William M. Mintzer during Albert’s tenure.  The Regiment saw heavy action prior to Albert’s enrollment, namely: Yorktown, Fair Oaks, Gaine’s Mill, Peach Orchard, Savage Station, White Oak Swamp, Malvern Hill, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Bristoe Station, Mine Run, Wilderness, Po River, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Totopotomoy, and Cold Harbor.  Based on the records concerning Company E, it appears that Albert spent the balance of his service in the fighting around Petersburg and Richmond,Virginia.

On February 25, 1865 Albert sent a brief note to his father enclosing $311 in greenbacks as a “gift from your son”.
He also conveyed his blessings and noted that it was “raining incessantly.”  Old Man Winter had been conspiring to delay Grant’s Army from dealing Lee’s boys their death blow, but this soon changed.  Luckily for Albert, he experienced some joy before being drawn into these events.

Albert was on a home furlough in mid-March of 1865.  He apparently chose to visit his father who was working at a newspaper in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  His mother and youngest brother remained in Honesdale, but his father planned to move them to Scranton by April 1, 1865.  On his way back home from Scranton, Albert visited Washington D.C.  He has was accompanied by an unnamed Sergeant and enlisted man from his regiment who were also enjoying a respite.

In a letter to his mother, written exactly one week before his death, he describes this furlough and opens with the greeting “I have the honor of writing you a letter from the Capitol of my adopted country. You can have no idea how beautiful the City is.  I have spent the whole day in one continuous state of joy and delight.”  Being a single man, he wrote of the “pleasant ladies” he encountered on the train but also showed another angle of his refined eye in describing the art and architecture of the Capital.  Being a common soldier, he also described the “good dinner” he had consumed at a German restaurant that evening.  Being a good son, he told his mother that she was in his prayers and assured her that “you are not forgotten by your loving son.”  

In earlier letters, we learn more about his family and the war he witnessed.  Half way through his 12 month term of enlistment, Albert wrote his mother stating that he had “not been sick one single day” and “never knew that (he) had such a strong constitution.”.  In the same letter, he gingerly sought to convince his mother that she should not allow his 13 year old brother Paul to join the Army because he was “too small and too young.”  This was a tough time period for the Ludwig family.  Albert’s 17 year old brother Emanuel or “Many” was apparently in poor health.  Clearly, Albert sought to assuage his mother’s anxieties about all three of her boys. 

In letters to his father, Albert shared the detail of war.  In his letter of March 4, 1865, Albert provides an insider’s view of one of the darker features of the war.  He relates this as follows: 

“Yesterday 2 deserters out of the 64th New York Volunteers were shot, one regiment out of each Brigade was present.  3 volleys were fired into them before they were completely killed.  This, dear Father, is a dark side of the Beautiful picture of War. But they were caught in the act of deserting to the enemy.  I have just read information than another man of that regiment attempted to desert, was captured, tried, condemned, and will be executed next Friday. ‘Sic semper desertritus’ “ (underline and quotes are emphasis in original) 

Albert then turned his attention to editorializing upon a newspaper article that his father had written based on information that Albert had provided him.  In a small though ironic twist,  Albert’s missive refers to the  February 5-7 fighting in which Woodville Bowyer (a W&L man fighting for the South) was struck down.  He writes as follows:  

“You made a slight mistake in my little account of the Battle of Hatchers Run viz – you said that the 1st, 2nd or 5th Division of the Sixth Army confused marching orders.  I think my words were the 2nd Corps 5th Corps and the 3rd Division of Sixth Corps. But your readers would scarcely notice the mistake.” 

One thing that was unmistakable was Albert’s desire to see a command change, yet not at the peril of his possible furlough home.  He writes in the same letter: 

“We have some hopes of having the Regiment transferred to Hancock’s Veteran Corps, as Brevet Major General Brooke, formerly Colonel of our Regt is doing his utmost to have the transfer take place. May he succeed.  My chances of getting a furlough are small as our adjutant has been detailed as Gen Brooke personal aid and will leave for Washington next Monday and then with a new adjutant I will be kept very busy.” 

We know from Albert’s letter of March 24 that he did receive his furlough home.  Thus he probably was not present for the fighting on the following day in which his company scrambled out of Ft. Sampson and drove Confederate pickets back to their own works.  He was present on March 30 and helped erect breastworks beyond Boydton Plank road. 

On March 31, 1865, the day before his family was to move to Scranton to begin another chapter in their life, Albert was struck down as he leapt from behind these breastworks.  Albert’s company commander, Lieutenant Daniel Artman described the event in an April 20 letter to Albert’s father who had written him on April 14 apparently inquiring about Albert’s whereabouts: 

“….when our victory was nearly complete your son who was foremost in the fight received a severe wound in the head by a Rebel Bullet which rendered him insensible.  I was unable to attend to him personally at the time.  As the line was pushed forward in rapid pursuit and did not again return to that part of the field.  But I learned next day that he was in the field Hospital of the 2nd Corps and yet alive……Please accept of my heartfelt sympathy in this your sad bereavement: your son was a man whom I highly esteemed.  And he was beloved and respected by every officer and enlisted man in the Regiment: He was brave even to the point of rashness.” 

Lieutenant Artman followed with an April 30 letter in which replied to the April 26 letter Albert’s father had written him regarding his oldest son’s fate.  Artman states: 

“I have not yet received official notice of the death of your son from the Hospital where he died.  Owing no doubt to the fact of their ignorance of the company and regiment to which he belonged.  But your letter has dispelled all doubts from my mind about his death.  It is surprising to me how he could possibly have survived such a length of time with such a wound he received….Lieut Thomas Davis, Quartermaster of the Regiment who was with Albert on the 2nd of April at the time he was sent to City Point: gave to me your sons Pocket Book: containing Twenty Two Postage Stamps: and One Dollar and thirty cents in Money: Davis was not with the Regiment until within a few days: he told me that your son was unconscious at the time and he was advised to take his effects to prevent them from getting lost.  I have sent you his album and two other little books which he entrusted to my care previous to entering on this campaign as he had no means to take them with him.  I hope that they will reach you in safety in a few days.  I will send you a copy of his final Statements and of everything which he possessed.”   

In concluding his letter to Albert’s father, Lieutenant Artman grieved at the loss of his own brother, longed to see the Lincoln assassins punished, and then closed the letter with a promise to visit Albert’s parents.  

Albert lingered in his mortal condition for 10 days until he died April 9, 1865 in the hospital at City Point, Virginia. 
On that same Palm Sunday, Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Courthouse Virginia.

Decades later, despite being absolutely deserving of Albert’s pension, the Ludwig’s had to go through an extraordinary process to justify its receipt.  The attorney they had retained to represent them was the source of the trouble.  He began to feud with them about fees and expenses owed him.   His words landed him in serious trouble with the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Office.  One official from the Pension Office even recommended that he be disbarred on the grounds of perjury. 

Eventually the matter was satisfactorily resolved for the Ludwig family who had apparently remained in Honesdale after the war.  

Ironically, had the lawyer not chartered his ugly course, some very informative letters would not have been found in Albert’s pension file.  Albert’s mother, Frederique retained a picture of her son, yet ultimately submitted the above referenced letters in order to bolster her prospects of continuing to receive her mother’s pension.  This elderly woman received her pension at the price of losing ownership of these letters, despite the following handwritten plea to the Pension Office:

“The few letters I send you from and about my son I pray you to return. 
 They are precious memorials of my dear boy.”

October 11, 2009 Posted by | W&L in the Civil War | , , | Leave a comment

Civil War Battle Fought in Little Rocky Run

The houses in Little Rocky Run are built atop a Civil War camp that I relic hunted years ago.

In the August 25, 2005 edition of the Centreville Times, I published an article on the Civil War
fighting that took place in Little Rocky Run – actually all along Compton Road.

When you read the link, and look at the attached map you will see the names of several subdivisions

When I conduct the walking tour of this battle, I point out graves and earthworks (forts),
but most importantly, I talk about the individuals who were there.
And I discuss the vision of historic preservation that my fellow activists in Centreville share.

Next time you turn the corner at St Andrew the Catholic Apostle Church, or at Liberty Middle, and head down Compton Road on your way to Route 28, think about what you read here – and the road will forever feel different.

And when you drive past South Springs Drive (a key feature in this story) honk your horn, it’s the street I live on.


October 11, 2009 Posted by | History of Centreville VA, Little Rocky Run | , | Leave a comment

I am not that Craig Monroe…the baseball player…I am the “T”

Everybody Googles everybody.

When they look for me, they find a former baseball player instead.

“Keystone” as I call him (it’s his middle name) buries me in the search results.
But I persevere.

So let me tell you what the “T”
in Craig “T” Monroe stands for in my life.

T is for Thomas – the doubting apostle.

T for me is the Sign of the Cross.


October 9, 2009 Posted by | Biographical | , | Leave a comment