Late in the afternoon of May 15, 1864, Union Gen. August V. Kautz and his cavalry division rode into Lawrenceville, the Brunswick County seat. They were on the second leg of a two-part, two-week-long expedition to destroy railroad bridges and depots in the Southside and frustrate Confederate efforts to supply Petersburg and Richmond from the south. They were en route from Black's and White's Station on the South Side Railroad to Belfield on the Petersburg (Weldon) Railroad.
Edward R. Turnbull, the clerk of the county court, left his office here in the courthouse (then on the right inside the front door) just before the Federals arrived. First, however, he draped his Masonic apron over some county records on a table. Twenty minutes later, a Union guard rode up to his house and handed him the apron. When Turnbull returned to the courthouse after the raiders departed, he found his office a foot deep in scattered, ink-soaked papers. On closer inspection, however, he discovered that the apparently vandalized records were merely blank forms and blank pages torn from birth and death registers. No county records were damaged, probably because someone in the raiding party was a Mason himself.
Kautz hinted at the vandalism in his official report: "We here [at Lawrenceville] captured forage and bacon for the command and a few prisoners, and encamped for the night. ?I have to ? deplore a disposition to pillage and plunder on the part of some of the men." The raiders left the next morning.
Edward Randolph Turnbull, a Brunswick County native, served as Brunswick County court clerk from April 24, 1843, until his death in 1885. His son Robert Turnbull, who was about 13 years old at the time of Kautz's raid, was with his father during the raid and wrote his recollections in 1915 at the request of Virginia State Archivist Morgan P. Robertson.