Rebecca Eulelia Dodson Sayles: Sunday’s Obituary

"Lilly" Rebecca Eulelia Dodson Sayles

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.

from left: Sidney, George Strickland, Paul, Florette Sayles Strickland, Norman, Clifford, Lillie Dodson Sayles

Source:  Strickland, Anna Florette.  Some Genealogical Facts of the Strickland-Sayles Family.  Chase City, VA: Handwritten, March 1976.

Follow (me to this site) Friday: footnote Adds More Than Footnotes to Your Family History

Another brick wall in tracing the Dodson family had been hit. My Grandmother Strickland’s Genealogical Facts of the Strickland Family plunked the family down at the Civil War.  Great. Just great.

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!

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.

The Cruel War Is Raging, Johnny Has To Fight

This is the third post in a series about young William Greene Dodson that began with A Mom’s Goodbye and The Cruel War Is Raging.

The Dodson Farm, Mecklenburg County, VirginiaThe 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.

A view of Richmond, Virginia 1862

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,

…with Company B, 34th Regiment Virginia Infantry. Captain T. T. Pettus mustered him in as a private, to serve under his uncle, Sergeant Ben Dodson, for the duration of the war.

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.


View of Town. (Petersburg, Virginia.)

A view of Petersburg, Virginia 1864