By J. L. Starkey
What has happened to it all?
Crazy, some’d say
Where is the life that I recognize?
Gone away.– Simon John Charles LeBon
Pleasant Womack’s Manchester property was absolutely perfect. Three lots at the corner of Stockton, fronting sixty feet on Marshall, extending back 118 feet, right across the river from Richmond, close to work, school, and church…and all for just $350!
It was the right time to buy, too. Everett Baugh had read all the latest news, and he knew a good market when he saw it . Yes, there was talk of secession and war, but that was further south – the news reports were pretty reassuring about that. Fort Sumter was said to be secure, so that really wasn’t a worry, either . Plus, it wasn’t like Virginia had seceded, or anything like that. There were rumors aplenty, but Everett never put much stock in that sort of thing.
Even if the the worst-case scenario played out, would that really affect him – or his family? He didn’t own a plantation, he had never owned slaves, and he had no intention of taking up arms against his own country. Talk like that was ridiculous, and he wanted no part of it.
His decision made, Everett signed the indenture paperwork on April 2, 1861 . Life certainly was grand on that day. He had a steady job, a wife and two children (and a baby on the way!), and now he owned this amazing property, too? It seemed too good to be true. Everything was finally falling into place, and –
“Oh no,” I whispered as I inspected the record, and that date in particular. “No! Don’t sign that!” I thought. “The timing is disastrous…you don’t know what’s coming!”
This simply could not be, could it?
Sadly, it could be…and it was.
Just ten days after my third-great-grandfather, Everett Wingfield Baugh, purchased his dream home, the Civil War began. Five days later, Virginia seceded from the Union .
And just like that, Everett’s dream turned into a nightmare.
When I discovered Everett’s name on that April 1861 deed, I wondered if the deal was actually finalized. Maybe, at the last minute, he didn’t complete the purchase because the property had issues. Or maybe Pleasant Womack changed his mind and decided not to sell. Yes, the document included both a notary signature and a court date, but property deals fell through all the time, didn’t they?
They did…but not this time. Last week, while searching for another Chesterfield County Court record, I spent some time looking at a few additional pages in Volume 38. That turned out to be a wise choice, because there, on digital image 275, were two names that looked mighty familiar: Womack and – yep, you guessed it – Baugh.
On May 13, 1861, Everett Baugh and Pleasant Womack appeared in court to finalize the sale of the Manchester property, and their deed of bargain was officially admitted to record .
Just one week later, the capital of the Confederacy was moved to Richmond, less than three miles from Everett’s front door .
The war was about to hit home…literally.
Innocent Bystanders, Lost Causes
Although I’ll never know with 100% certainty, I believe that Everett, like his son William, was vehemently against slavery and the Civil War. Born into a family with deep southern roots, his ancestors were wealthy landowners and – tragically – slaveholders. Many of his relatives followed in the footsteps of those ancestors and, when the war broke out, were quick to enlist in the Confederate army.
But Everett was different. He never owned a plantation, he never owned slaves, and he never voluntarily defended the Confederacy. He may have thought (or hoped) that his actions would spare his family from the effects of the war, but he would have been wrong about that. In reality, his life would never be the same after April 1861.
Everett finally owned his dream home, but the town around it was forever changed by civil war. His third child – a daughter named Elizabeth – was born just one month after the war began . By the time Elizabeth was three months old, Richmond was described as “one vast armed camp” by some, and as “little different from the wicked biblical city of Sodom” by others. Manchester, once a quiet community of churches, schools, and mills, was now home to a field hospital, a Confederate Navy Yard, and several artillery batteries .
Eleven months after the war began, Richmond was placed under martial law . Over the next two years, the population would increase exponentially (and with it, the crime rate), food and supplies would become scarce, Confederate currency would prove worthless, and inflation would exceed an astonishing 9000% .
Finally, Richmond reached a tipping point. Frustrated, hungry, and feeling ignored by their leaders, a group of women took to the streets. By the time it was over, thousands of residents would join them, looting businesses and chanting “Bread or blood!” Violence would rage for hours, and only the threat of military force would succeed in dispersing the mob. Local papers were urged not to report on the event, as officials felt it would “fuel union propaganda” and lower morale. While the Richmond press complied with this plea, Union POWs did not, and the “Richmond Bread Riot” was soon front-page news .
The date was April 2, 1863.
It had been exactly two years since Everett Baugh had purchased his “dream” home.
A Soldier’s Conscription and Sayler’s Creek
He might have tried to avoid defending a cause he didn’t support, but by 1864, Everett had no choice. In August of that year, he was conscripted into the Second Virginia Volunteers, a “Local Defense” unit also known as Waller’s Battalion. At the start of his enlistment, he continued working as a machinist at Manchester Cotton and Woolen Manufacturing, a factory-turned-munitions plant .
In 1865, however, everything changed when Waller’s Battalion was sent to fight in the Appomattox Campaign. Everett was one of more than 7,700 CSA soldiers taken prisoner at “the largest field surrender in American history,” the Battles of Sayler’s Creek . Though he probably didn’t know it at the time of his capture, Richmond had already fallen, marking the beginning of the end of the Civil War.
The date was April 3, 1865.
It had been exactly four years and one day since Everett had purchased his “dream” home.
Speaking Up…Or Maybe Not
He was born into a life that didn’t quite suit him. Faced with tough choices, he persevered. And he stayed, though some might question the wisdom of that decision. Why did he remain in an area with a civil war raging just outside of his front door? If he didn’t support the CSA, why didn’t he speak up, or just leave?
In 2022, it’s easy to wonder about Everett’s actions. But in 1860s Richmond, speaking up meant putting his wife, his children, and his extended family in danger. Leaving meant selling his property and financing a costly relocation, but money, along with just about everything else, was in short supply.
Faced with no other choice, Everett stayed.
Though he moved around a bit in the post-war years, Everett never left the Richmond area, and he ultimately returned to Manchester, where he remained until his death in 1902. Perhaps he mused about what might have been, had it not been for the choices he made during those ten days in April 1861.
And perhaps he wondered if anyone was listening.
In 2017, I learned that Everett’s youngest son, my great-great-grandfather William Everett Baugh, left Richmond as soon as he was of an age to do so. He settled in Chicago, where he became a successful businessman and a loving father. (You can learn more about William Everett Baugh by clicking here.)
In 2019, I discovered the fate of William H. Baugh, an orphaned nephew who was raised by Everett. While most relatives believed that William was killed in action during the Civil War, he actually faked his own death, deserted the Confederate Army, and enlisted with the Union Army. After the war, he settled in Pennsylvania, raised a large family, and even drew a Union pension! (You can learn more about William H. Baugh by clicking here).
Did anyone hear you, Everett? Was anyone listening?
They did…and they were.
They absolutely were.
- “Real Estate in Richmond,” Richmond Dispatch, Richmond, Virginia, 2 April 1861, p. 1, col. 6. Retrieved 26 February 2022 from newspapers.com.
- “Commissioners of the Confederate States at Washington,” Richmond Daily Whig, Richmond, Virginia, 1 April 1861, p. 3, col. 2. Retrieved 25 February 2022 from Genealogy Bank.
- Chesterfield County, Virginia, Deed Book No. 45, 1860-1862. “Chesterfield, Virginia, United States Records,” images, pp. 369-370 [digital images 554 & 555 of 744]; Virginia. County Court (Chesterfield County). Retrieved 17 June 2021 from FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C373-89B8-V : February 28, 2022).
- “Civil War.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 15 Oct. 2009, https://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/american-civil-war-history. [See also: “The War Commenced,” Richmond Dispatch, 13 April 1861, p. 3, col. 1. Retrieved 26 February 2022 from newspapers.com; and “Virginia Will Secede!” The Kansas State Journal, Lawrence, Kansas, 18 April 1861, p. 2, col. 7. Retrieved 27 February 2022 from newspapers.com.]
- Chesterfield County Virginia County Court Minutes No. 38, 1857-1863. “Chesterfield, Virginia, United States Records,” p. 476, item 27 [digital image 275 of 485]; Virginia. County Court (Chesterfield County). Retrieved 26 February 2022 from FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSY6-CV47 : February 28, 2022).
- “Capital Cities of the Confederacy.” American Battlefield Trust, 26 Mar. 2021. Retrieved 27 February 2022 from https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/capital-cities-confederacy.
- “Virginia, Death Certificates, 1912-1987,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVR7-QHRV : 16 August 2019), Elizabeth Amos Waldrop, 13 Aug 1918; from “Virginia, Marriage Records, 1700-1850,” database and images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : 2012); citing Richmond, Henrico, Virginia, United States, entry #, Virginia Department of Health, Richmond.
- DeCredico, Mary, and Jaime Martinez. “Richmond during the Civil War” Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (05 Feb. 2021). Web. Retrieved 2 March 2022 from https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/richmond-during-the-civil-war/. [See also: “The Manchester Industrial Historic District.” Church Hill People’s News, 28 Dec. 2016. Retrieved 1 March 2022 from https://chpn.net/2015/04/21/the-manchester-industrial-historic-district/#civilwar.]
- Camp of U.S. Military R.R. Construction Corp near Manchester, Va., April. [Photographed 1865, printed between 1880 and 1889] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2012648020/>.
- Flook, Jim. “Civil Liberties in Virginia during the Civil War” Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, 7 Dec. 2020. Retrieved 1 March 2022 from https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/civil-liberties-in-virginia-during-the-civil-war/. [See also: “Martial Law in Richmond,” Richmond Enquirer, 4 March 1862, p. 4, col. 2. Retrieved 1 March 2022 from newspapers.com.]
- Escott, Paul. “Speculation during the Civil War” Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (05 Feb. 2021). Retrieved3 March 2022 from https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/speculation-during-the-civil-war/.
- DeCredico, Mary. “Bread Riot, Richmond” Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (05 Feb. 2021). Retrieved 2 March 2022 from https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/bread-riot-richmond/. [See also: “Bread Riot in Richmond,” The New York Times, New York, New York, 8 April 1863, p. 1, col. 4. Retrieved 2 March 2022 from newspapers.com.]
- “Virginia, Civil War Service Records of Confederate Soldiers, 1861-1865,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:J3WD-FCX : 5 December 2014), E W Baugh, 1864; from “Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Virginia,” database, Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com : n.d.); citing military unit Second Infantry Second Infantry, Local Defense, NARA microfilm publication M324 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1961), roll 381. [See also: “A Good Man Gone,” Richmond Dispatch, Richmond, Virginia, 23 Jan 1902, Page 5,col. 4. Retrieved from newspapers.com.]
- Schroeder, Patrick. “Sailor’s Creek, Battles of” Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (12 Feb. 2021). Retrieved 3 March 2022 from https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/sailors-creek-battles-of/. [See also: “Sailor’s Creek” @ https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-battles-detail.htm?battleCode=va093; “10 Facts: Sailor’s Creek.” American Battlefield Trust, 13 Apr. 2021, https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/10-facts-sailors-creek; and Schroeder, Patrick. “Appomattox Campaign” Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Jan. 2021). Retrieved 2 March 2022 from https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/appomattox-campaign/.]