CHAPTER OR STORY 17 – WAR STRIKES DOWN A WASHINGTON https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LJpJeIwFMw#t=50m14s Click Here and the link will take you to the beginning of this story at 50:14 within the longer video called “Jasper Thompson’s Destiny Day September 6, 1906”
With support from American Public University System (apus.edu). The sentiments expressed do not in any way reflect modern-day policies of APUS, and are intended to encourage fact-based exchange for a better understanding of our nation’s foundational values.
FIRST, A WORD
The Washington Family presence in Jefferson County included among its residents two of George Washington’s brothers (Samuel and Charles) and their descendants. Then there is a third brother’s – John Augustine Washington – very numerous descendants that included those with other surnames (but not John Augustine himself).
The three family owners of Mount Vernon lived here in their “personal” home from 1829 up to the end of the 1850s when Mount Vernon was sold. According to scholar, Scott Casper, ten persons of color and their children originated in Jefferson County and relocated to Mount Vernon after 1833.
The family presence was so great that even in the 1920s when the late John A. Washington, the family historian, visited as a young boy that, he said: “It seemed as if I was related to everyone in Charles Town.”
I think of Jefferson County as the Washington family’s “ancestral pillow.”
Walter Washington’s fabled home, Harewood, heads the list of the best known, most historic of the family homes: Happy Retreat, Cedar Lawn, Blakeley, Beallair, and Claymont. There is also Belleview (Bellevue), Walnut Hill, Anna’s Woods, Barleywood, Braddock, Richwood Farm, Sulgrave, several homes built in Charles Town by family, in addition to those no longer standing that include Braddock Hill, Megwillie, Prospect Hill, Locust Hill, and Rock Hall). Then there is the George Washington Masonic Cave with his name and the date “1748” chisled into a wall. Today I count four, to my knowledge, Washington family members living in the County.
This background frames the fact that family members most related to George Washington living in our county and up to and including the Civil War time, generally saw themselves more as Virginians, than Americans, as a touchstone of their identities, personal and collective.
The fighting-age men enlisted in the Confederate Army and several died in so doing. I’m sure this reality about the Civil War era descendants to General George Washington, the exemplar even to this day of a military leader – if he could ever have known – it would have wounded, nay, enraged him as almost the opposite of his lifelong goal of birthing a powerful, united nation, weaning itself from enslavement practices.
Worthy of more study and recognition, as John Washington said, are some of the pious and impactful Washington women, especially the so-named Blackburn sisters, who married Washington men. They are worth more study because of their keen consciences and activism with regards enslavement. Jane Charlotte Blackburn Washington (“Grandmother Jane” to family members today), owned and managed Mount Vernon for some time and deserves to be seen of as the one who woke Americans to the need to preserve its most historic homes – starting with Mount Vernon, the structure that, at one point, was the only thing citizens – North and South STILL jointly revered.
So this is an account of the fate of the last family member to own Mount Vernon who fell from his horse – barely a soldier – in a rainy West Virginia forest in September, 1861, struck by three bullets – while wearing the Confederate grey. – Jim Surkamp
That August (1861), there were many young mouths to feed at Claymont, Blakeley and Walnut Hill Farms with the male head of both Claymont (Bushrod Corbin Washington II) and Blakeley Richard Blackburn Washington) going off to war.
. . . trying his hand at being aide-de-camp for the emerging Confederate leader, Robert E. Lee, who himself always carried a deep fascination with the George Washington story.
“I have literally had my feet wet for a week at a time and though on top of a high mountain am really in all the mud and mire of an alluvial bottom, such is the soil on these mountains . . .
“My health has been perfect thus far, lost thirty lbs of flesh – “superfluous beef” My health has been perfect thus far, lost thirty lbs of flesh – ‘superfluous beef'”
“If I have any wheat in Jefferson to sell and there is sale for it, sell it if you can.
“Please also sell any corn or other grain that may be due me. . .
“Charly I hear is in the Army & believe me my dear Doctor . . .
“Most affectionately yours, John A. Washington”
Then three quickly-fired bullets ripped into the body of Washington when he strayed a bit too far into the woods —— on a reconnaissance.
Wrote Union officer and eyewitness Warren Kiefer:
“Colonel Washington, on the 13th, in endeavoring to get on our right came into Elkwater Valley via Brady’s Gate, and descended it with Major Lee’s cavalry as escort.
“Three balls passed through Washington’s body near together, coming out from his breast. Colonel Washington was struggling to rise on his elbow, and, though gasping and dying, he muttered, ‘Water,’
“but when it was brought to his lips from a nearby stream . . .
“He was dead.”
The losses from war’s killing still very new to him, General Lee wrote Washington’s daughter:
Keifer, Joseph Warren. (1900). “Slavery and Four Years of War, Vol. 1-2.” New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. archive.org pp. 205-228.
“Simple Inscriptions and Sentiment Tell the Impressive Tale: Letters of General Robert E. Lee to Miss Louisa Fontaine Washington,” edited by John E. Stealey, III, Ph.D. Magazine of the Jefferson County Historical Society. Vol. XLVIII. (December 1982). pp. 31-37. Print.
Stutler, Boyd. (1961). “Death of Col. John Augustine Washington, CSA, at Elkwater.” Magazine of the Jefferson County Historical Society. Volume XXVII. pp. 15-18. Print
Washington, John A. (2007). “John Augustine Washington III et al.” with photographs provided by Walter Washington. Magazine of the Jefferson County Historical Society. Vol. XLVIII. pp. 24-34. Print.
Washington, John A. “The Washingtons of Jefferson County.” Justjefferson.com.