Dodson : Surname Saturday

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).²

Stephen,
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.

Follow Friday: Ancestry Civil War Collections–Worth Another Look!

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.

friend of friends friday-BLACK PIONEERS OF MECKLENBURG COUNTY, VIRGINIA

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

Source:

Morales, Leslie Anderson., Ada Valaitis, and Beverly Pierce. Virginia Slave Births Index, 1853-1865, Volume 2, D-G. Westminster, MD: Heritage, 2007. Print.

Military Monday: The Dodsons of Company B

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 cardsconcise 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>.)

Huzzah!!

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.


Wordless Wednesday: The Dodsons of Company B

 

Confederate Breastworks in Front of Petersburg, Virginia, 1865.

Confederate Breastworks, Petersburg, Virginia, 1865

 

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.