Capt. John Dooley Documents Pittsylvania/Danville During Surrender Week 1865

By Henry H. Mitchell

During April 1865, Confederate Captain John Dooley of Richmond (who had been wounded, imprisoned, and paroled) traveled through Pittsylvania County, Virginia, on his way from Amherst Court House to Danville. Accompanied by his friend Ben Haskins, Dooley left Lynchburg on April 1, heading south through Campbell County. They have just heard of the fall of Richmond to Union forces.

Entering Pittsylvania By Pannill's Bridge

“Stragglers from Lee's army are flowing by us in crowds. The army is completely disorganized, and every one for himself is the sole idea. We borrowed a mule from a negro boy named Hiram.

“On this borrowed nag we move briskly and soon approach Pannill's Bridge [at Green Hill Plantation on the Staunton River at Long Island], through a portion of the State that has never felt the scorching breath of war or drunk the warm life blood of the South's bravest men. Here rise tall fences enclosing rich pastures, fields of waving wheat and sprouting corn. But the plenty scattered here appears in strange contrast with the desolation and exhaustion of the rest of the State.

“No Yankees are as yet in sight but our own cavalry are straggling across the bridge by scores; also the infantry skulking from their regiments, invalids, trumpeters, etc. The country is full of deserters, and judging from his detached forces, the army under Gen. Lee's immediate command must be reduced to a few thousand men. We heard cannonading all the morning in the direction of Appomattox station and the stragglers report that Lee lost 60 pieces of artillery and is retreating upon Lynchburg.”

Losing Their Mule At Riceville

“Arriving at Riceville wet and weary we fall in with a pressing gang who demand our fine and faithful mule for the service of the Confederate Government. We are at first disposed to resent this highway assault, but the pressing officers are polite and impressive, shewing us their papers and orders for doing this forcible deed. Upon examination we find their papers correct and part with our valuable friend with much regret.

“In order not to incommode us too much these agents of the government give us a small lazy and almost broken down affair (in the shape of a mule) and giving Hiram (the colored boy, donor of the mule) $10 extra we prevail upon him to take us five miles further on our route. Poor Hiram! The large tears trickle down his cheeks at the thought of his lost mule and he frequently bursts out with, ‘What'll poor old massa say about this thing?’ He beats the present mule unmercifully however, partly I suppose because the beast is slow, partly to smother his indignation and in sorrowful remembrance of the other which was so much superior to his present successor….”

Overnight With The Jackson Family

“We stop for the night at the house of a Mr. Jackson. While we are drying our clothes by a large log fire his daughters prepare a meal for us which is to be considered dinner and supper together.

“The[re are] three daughters, one grown, another about 15, and the third about eleven. While we are eating these young damsels come in the dining room, gaze at us for a while, titter and then retire; this amusement they keep up until a late hour of the night, coming to the door and peeping through the cracks, giggling, and running away.”

On To Danville

“We proceed towards Danville, accompanied by Mr. Jackson's young son…By and by young Jackson points out a house by the road side where he thinks we can get some apple brandy. We enter and a nice and gentle woman with a sad expression of countenance consents to sell us a pint (for accommodation sake), but is far more concerned for her absent husband whom she fears has been killed in the recent battles. A little infant lies sweetly sleeping in its crib and smiling in its sleep, and an older child is making great sport with the cat upon the floor, both unconscious of their father's death and their mother's woe. We divide the brandy, but I think young Jackson gets the largest share for he very soon after as we resume our journey shows unmistakable signs of elevation; doffing his hat and twirling it high in air he puts his nag to redoubled speed and bids us follow him.

“As we approach Danville the roads become thronged with stragglers of all descriptions, wagon loads of people and their effects, moving into Danville, and crowds moving from the town. No one appears to have any settled conviction of what they are going to do or what the government is going to do. All is confusion and panic. Jackson in spite of his father's commands, urged on by curiosity and the desire of another treat, and the apple brandy god impelling, takes us all the way to Danville. Here not finding any places open where we could treat him, we send him back giving him 5 dollars with which to treat himself. I doubt a little if he got back safe with horses and buggy, for such articles are in constant demand by many loose and roguish stragglers.

Danville In Chaos

“Danville is in a perfect uproar. The President and his Cabinet were here last night and hearing officially of Lee's surrender left these parts for Greensboro, N. C.… Large crowds of savage and blood thirsty looking stragglers parade the streets and appear awaiting an opportunity to do some ugly deed.”

Observations On A Southern "Genealogist"

Dooley and Haskins continue on to Yanceyville, High Point, Salisbury (where they see the Jefferson Davis entourage), and Charlotte before turning back toward Richmond. North of Greensboro they are inconvenienced by a collapsed rail bridge, and stay at the home of an old friend George Bethel, where Dooley wrote the following observation.

“George Bethel is extremely lazy, but neither his brother William or his Father is of indolent habits. I believe in most Southern families that are well to do there is nearly always one son constituting the sporting member of the family, who makes it his especial business and duty to keep up the honor of the house by fine horses, hounds, talking of his ancestry, etc., and to do nothing else; and people who write so much about Southern pride, wealth, and indolence, take their impressions generally from these worthless but petted members of the family.”


Notes:


Books on Related Topics from This Page's Sponsor

Available directly from the publisher, and at museums throughout the United States.

Yanks, Rebels, Rats, & Rations

Yanks, Rebels, Rats, & Rations

Union Army Camp Cooking

Union Army Camp Cooking

Confederate Camp Cooking

Confederate Camp Cooking


Confederate Home Cooking

Confederate Home Cooking

Northern Ladies' Civil War Recipes

Northern Ladies' Civil War Recipes

Cooking for the Cause

Cooking for the Cause


Civil War Plants & Herbs

Civil War Plants & Herbs

Home Front Regiment 1861-1865: Women Fighting from the Hearth

Home Front Regiment 1861-1865: Women Fighting from the Hearth

Civil War Celebrations

Civil War Celebrations



This webpage is sponsored by Mitchells Publications and the Sims-Mitchell House, Chatham, Virginia.