Celebrating Southern Heritage Month

                                                 April 9, 2005 Meeting

                                 April 23, 2005 Southern Heritage Parade


Events that Overtake the Community


The First Land Battle of the War Between the States 'Big Bethel'

The Burning of Hampton, our County Seat

Peninsula Campaign Begins

The Iron Clads Battle in Hampton Roads

Fox Hill Churches Burned

Fox Hill Boats Burned by Union Troops in Back River

Granny Wyatt's Encounter with the Union Troops

Tucie Johnson's visit to General Butler at Fort Monroe

Timeline of Virginia Battles with Antietam, MD and Gettysburg, PA

Fox Hill Survives



The Battle of Big Bethel

       10 June 1861, information was received that the enemy in force were advancing upon us. Colonel Magruder immediately ordered up a redoubt fronting toward a ravine, over which it was supposed the enemy, might attempt to turn our right flank. The men worked well, and had nearly finished the redoubt when the first gun from our batteries was fired. 

       The enemy returned the fire with spirit, and the shell and shot flew thick and fast about my command. There were 2,500 union men, 18 killed, 53 wounded, and 5 missing; there were 1200 Confederates, 1 killed, 7 wounded. The first casualty was a Virginian, Henry Lawson Wyatt.  Wyatt was born in Richmond on 12 February 1842, but had enlisted with the First Regiment of North Carolina Volunteers. The Union was embarrassed by this loss and refuses to recognized this as a real battle. Confederates won this encounter.

Other Names: Bethel Church, Great Bethel

Location: York County and Hampton

Campaign: Blockade of the Chesapeake Bay (May-June 1861)

Date(s):  June10, 1861

Principal Commanders: Brig. Gen. Ebenezer Pierce [US]; Col. John B. Magruder and Col. D.H. Hill [CS]

Forces Engaged: 4,700 total (US 3.500; CS 1,200)

Estimated Casualties: 87 total (US 79; CS 8)



First Manassas (Virginia) or Bull Run - July 1861

View of the battlefield

               Confederates won the First Battle of Manassas


The Burning of Hampton, our county seat

        August 7, 1861, General Magruder in command marched from Yorktown to the town of Hampton. The order was to burn Hampton to sacrifice it to the gods of war. Sgt Robert S. Hudgins II wrote in his journal the following: "they paused at St. John's Church to participate in the burning. Very quickly, the entire town was blazing from the creek on the east, as far west as the crossroads. The area from the wharf up King Street to Mallory Avenue was entirely a roaring, seething mass of flames and flying sparks. The few inhabitants in the town had become demoralized as they saw all that they owned going to feed the flames, but like the Spartan mothers of old, they freely offered their all and were sorry that they had not more to put upon the altar."


Peninsula Campaign Begins  

         On 9 March 1862, General McClellan launches his Peninsula Campaign from Fort Monroe, VA. The plan is to march to Richmond and defeat the rebels. May 1862, General McClellan's troops invaded Yorktown and more Union troops were in Williamsburg and Hampton Roads.

Battles:      June 1862, Battle of 7 Pines

                July 1862, Mechanicsville Battle [Fair Oaks]; Gaines Mill, Savage Station, Frayser Farm and Malvern Hill

                2 July 1862, Confederates withdraw ending the Peninsula Campaign


Battle of the Iron Clads

       The naval battle was a draw between the Merrimac and the Virginia (Monitor) but the Virginia sunk 2 wooden Union warships off Norfolk, VA.

Spectators watched from the shoreline as the iron dads did battle with each other. "I trained my glasses toward the action and could now plainly see the Virginia, which looked like an enormous terrapin with a smokestack on its back."

Recollections of an Old Dominion Dragoon,  Sgt. Robert S. Hudgins II.


Fox Hill Churches Burned

       During the War Between the States the Union soldiers came to Fox Hill, confiscating everything in sight and burning buildings including two churches. Many families hid their food underground to keep from starving.


Granny Wyatt's Encounter with the Yankees

        Granny Wyatt and her children fell upon hard times during the war years. The men were gone, either to join the army or hide from the Yankees while the women were left to feed, protect, and care for children and homes in Fox Hill. Granny Wyatt had 9 children the oldest was 14 years of age, a girl, Mary Elizabeth.

        One night after dark Yankees on horse back were heard approaching the Wyatt farm in Fox Hill. Granny Wyatt reached for her fire place poker about the same time the cabin door was kicked open. Granny yelled, "WHAT DO YOU WANT"! The leader told her they were looking for John Saunders Wyatt. Granny told them. "HE IS NOT HERE!"   My sleeping children and me are here, now get out or I will put my poker up beside your head.

          She must to have been convincing because the Yankees left in quick order. As soon as they were gone, Granny told her oldest son, Jack to run tell Bill Holston that the Yankees were looking for the men. The men with the livestock were hiding on Horse Point in Back River but very soon there was no place to hide.


Fox Hill Boats Burned by Union Troops in Back River


        After Big Bethel and the Yankee defeat. General Butler began to prosecute the war from Fort Monroe all over Elizabeth City County and up the peninsula towards Richmond. The Peninsula Campaign was serious business. All the well to do families had left and gone to Richmond and further west.   Only the folks that lived on small farms and merchants remained such as Fox Hillians.

        There were sentries and blockades posted all over. Not a road or waterway was open for traffic. One fateful day several schooners were trapped in Back River and burned. John Saunders Wyatt's schooner, 'Perserverence' was burned. It had been built on Back River, Elizabeth City County, Virginia in 1842, and used to haul goods up and down the Chesapeake Bay. These men were taken to Fort Monroe and put in prison.

'Perserverence', a schooner, measuring 40/60/95 tons; 51 feet 8 inches x 17 feet 7 inches x 5 feet 4 inches with one deck, two masts, and square stern, the carpenters certificate was William H. Ruggs dated, 12 Sep 1842. It was enrolled number 40, 12 Sep 1842 Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia.


Tucie Johnson Visits General Butler at Fort Monroe 

        Union soldiers visited Fox Hill often making threats to anyone left in the community. They took live stock and any item that they fancied. This persecution continued until a brave woman, Theresa Hubbard Johnson, walked to Fort Monroe and complained to the authorities. General Butler.  This lady was lovingly known in our community as 'Aunt Tucie' and after her visit, conditions were somewhat improved and a few kind hearted soldiers brought food to the community.


The Union Soldier

        On one visit to Fox Hill, a Union Soldier picked up a young girl, Amelia Routten and placed her on his horse. He rode off with her. This worried and frightened her mother and neighbors. All sorts of wild imaginations were conjured by well meaning folk. After a length of time, the soldier returned with Amelia on his horse. She had a bag of candy and had been treated well. The soldier said he had a daughter at home in the north that looked like Amelia and that he missed her very much. The war was full of pain and suffering for those in the line of fire and those left at home.


Surrender and Survival in Fox Hill


        Although Fox Hill was always behind Union lines, surrender was essential to end the unpleasantness. Many of the men did not want to be a part of the surrender at Appomattox, in fact, it has been said that 'Dipper' Johnson refused to walk home to Fox Hill with a former Union Soldier that had married a local girl and who now made Fox Hill their home. Eventually, men like Frank Darling came and established businesses like the fish factory at Grandview. Gradually, conditions began to adjust themselves. Social life began to return to our fishing village and Fox Hillians became hardy survivors of reconstruction.




            Aug 1862            Second Manassas Confederate Victory

            Sep 1862             Antietam 'bloodiest day'

                Dec 1862            Fredericksburg Confederate Victory

    May 1863            Chancellorsville resulted in more casualties than any other engagement on Virginia soil.

                                      Gen Lee's greatest Victory.

            Jun 1863             Gettysburg

            13 Jun 1863         Confederates defeat Union at Winchester, VA

            Jan - Apr 1864      Winter at Brandy Station

            May 1864              Wilderness, Union had most casualties but South had no Replacements.

            May 1864              Battle of Spotsylvania

            Jun 1864               Battle of Cold Harbor, Union lost 7000 men in 20 minutes.  Lee suffered fewer casualties, but

                                         never recovered from General Grants continual attacks. This was Gen Lee's last clear victory.

                Nov - Dec 1864      Siege of Petersburg (Pamplin Park)

    Jan 1865                Fall of the Confederacy

                Apr 1865               Richmond falls; surrender at Appomattox Courthouse

                                         Lincoln assassinated



 Recommend readings:

 Fox Hill, Its people and Places, by Charles Elliott

 Recollections of an Old Dominion Dragoon, by Sgt. Robert S. Hudgins II