The Civil War, or “War Between the States” as my high school teacher required us to say, was not that long ago. My Granddad, Wilford Hall, was born in 1877, 12 years after the end of that war. His parents, John Henry (“Pudd”) Hall and Ann Rebekka Harris, lived through the war and he knew many other people who experienced that war first hand as did my uncles and aunts born in the first and second decades of the last century. In my family there were many word of mouth stories about the war and events associated with the war. One of the earliest that I recall was to be poked in the tummy on my belly button and told “That’s where the Yankee shot you”. Being told that was a frequent occurrence for toddlers in the family.
My uncle, George Hall, told me a very interesting story about one of the raids on Beaver Dam depot during the war. The depot now is just one old brick structure but during the war there were many buildings for storing supplies for the southern army. When the Yankees burned the buildings on one of the raids, my uncle George told me, the warehouse was filled with pork bellies and side meat. We would call it bacon today. He said it smelled so good when it burned and you could smell it from a mile away and there was so much in the warehouse the grease was running down the road. I could almost smell that bacon cooking when my uncle told me the story.
Another story was told to me by Len Wash. Len was a bachelor and an unusual person. He lived alone with his mother during his mother’s later years. According to Len he and his Mother would sit and she would relate to him stories from the past. Len shared some with me. Len and I shared common ancestors on the Hall sides of our families. He told me about one of our ancestors who was conscripted to fight for the southern army but did not like it and ran away and came back home to the farm. People asked him if he was afraid to fight and he said no, if the Yankees came on his farm he would fight them and if the rebels came he would fight them too. But he was caught for desertion and carried to Beaver Dam depot to be shipped far down south, too far for him to run back home again. To constrain him they put him in a barrel stave strait jacket. He was very angry to say the least. While walking around the depot with his arms strapped to his sides he saw a fancy rebel officer on a horse so our ancestor, doing all he could in his angry but constrained condition, fell down on the ground and rolled under the officers horse making the horse buck and throw the officer. That has to be a true story. Imagination is not sufficient to create such a yawn!
Roswell Page told me another story about my ancestors in the war. I made an appointment to chat with Roswell because he was generally recognized as the best authority on local history and local families. I asked him about a specific individual from our family. He thought awhile. We were sitting in Roswell’s study and I was sitting close to the door. He said look out the door to the right; see that door down the hall? I looked and saw the door. He said that was my grandmother’s bedroom during the war and your ancestor slept on the floor there in front of the door to protect her from the Yankees. I was stunned for awhile trying to encompass all that he was saying. I was looking at a place my ancestor had slept during the war, doing his duty as he saw it to protect a local lady from harm.
Len Wash told me another story that was so profound and with tentacles reaching into the present day, that I had to do a lot of research to establish its potential validity. He did not relate it as fact but told it as a “it-was-said” kind of story. He told me that “it was said” that a Yankee officer fathered the son of one of our ancestors. The details were not too hard to unravel and it was an amazing story in many dimensions. It was fairly obvious that the “it was said” story occurred because our ancestor had given one of her son’s the name, a rather exotic name, of a famous Yankee Coronel. That the Yankee Coronel was not the father but just the namesake of the child was apparent from the fact the Coronel was killed near Richmond over a year prior to the birth of the child.
He told me which of our ancestors bore the child but he didn’t seem to know who the Yankee officer was who fathered the child. The details give an insight into the lives and social norms present during that war that raged across our land where we now live. Here is what happened. A southern girl named her fourth child and third son, born during the war, after a famous Yankee Colonel who had participated in one of the raids on Beaverdam depot. She gave her son, for a middle name, the name of her father, his grandfather. The Yankee colonel was Col. Ulric Dahlgren, at 21 years of age, the youngest colonel in the northern army.
The saga of Col. Dahlgren, a grandson of a Swedish consul, is both sad and spellbinding. Ulric Dahlgren had lost a leg to amputation after a wound in his leg became infected. As he was recovering from the amputation he was promoted to Coronel despite his youth, only 21 years of age. His father, Rear Admiral John Dahlgren was a famous naval hero and inventor of the Dahlgren gun. He was a personal friend of President Lincoln and promoted the idea of promoting his son. After recovering the young coronel went back into service and became involved it the raid on Beaver Dam depot followed by the foolish attempt to invade Richmond to free union prisoners and, according to papers found on the young coronel’s body, to assassinate Jeff Davis, President of the Confederacy.
The saga continued after the death of the young coronel. His father inveigled to have King and Queen Court House, near which his son had been killed, attacked and destroyed which happened. Since the mission on which Col. Dahlgren embarked was apparently approved by President Lincoln himself, the anger resulting from the apparent ordered assassination of President Davis is quoted by some as the motive for Lincoln’s assassination 13 months later.
Col. Dahlgren was killed on March 2, 1864 following a botched attempt to invade Richmond to free Union prisoners. Our shared ancestor, Dahlgren Thompson Hall, was born June 19, 1865, a year, 3 months and 21 days after the death of his namesake, Col. Dahlgren. Although Col. Dahlgren could not have fathered the child, we do not know all the details of the Colonel’s march from Beaver Dam Deport to the South Anna River which would have taken him by the home place of Thompson Hall who lived on a farm close to Old Bandana. But we can say as fact that the young woman, Martha Anderson Hall, who gave birth to “Dal” Hall as he was called, was not sympathetic to the southern cause since she blatantly named her son after a very famous Yankee colonel. Martha Anderson was not alone in her disdain for the Southern Cause. Many others, even very famous families, opposed session, opposed slavery and the war.
She was also a free spirit, giving her own family name to all of her children, not the name of the father or fathers. Many Halls in the following generations owe their last name to the matriarchal power of Martha Anderson Hall. She was definitely a feminist and a strong feminist before the word was invented. Her younger sister, Margret Perlina, younger by 6 years, married Zephaniah Powhatan Stanley. Following the death of Margret Perlina in 1885 at the age of 48, Zephaniah Powhatan married Martha Anderson when she was 54 years of age. Their pre-nuptial agreement is on file in the Hanover County Court House. It is a very brief but very beautiful document signed by Zephaniah. He expresses his eternal love for her and gives her all his worldly possessions in exchange for her hand in marriage.
Martha Anderson’s parents, Thompson Hall and Elizabeth Harris, were not slave owners. But William Hall, perhaps his brother, was a slave owner with a plantation close by in the north west sector of where 715 crosses Little River. I have not established it for a fact that they were brothers but their age and proximity suggest that as a possibility. They were born in the late 1780s and early 1790s and (I speculate again) were possibly children of William Hall, born in 1759, who served in the Revolutionary war. He served in the Revolutionary War when he was 16, marched with the Marquis de Lafayette and was at Yorktown when General Cornwallis surrendered his sword to General Washington. He received a pension for his services in the 1830s when he was in his 70s and a few years before his death. Congress was not too prompt in awarding pensions to the veterans of the Revolutionary War.
The publicity given to the “Dahlgren papers” was pervasive and lasted throughout the war. In that “gentleman’s war” the idea of assassination was verboten. The South used the papers to demonize the Northern government but to no eventual avail.
Martha Anderson Hall, by giving her son this exotic name, totally unknown in the region in which she lived, blatantly branded herself as a northern sympathizer. She had five children, four sons and one daughter. Those five gave her a total of thirty nine (39) grandchildren, 33 HALLs and six (6) STANLEYs from the marriage of her daughter. Needless to say the land of Beaverdam and beyond is littered with HALL and STANLEY descendents of Martha Anderson.