During most of the Civil War (1861-1865), Charles City County lay between two armies: the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia safeguarding the Confederate capital of Richmond and the Union Army of the Potomac occupying the Lower Peninsula. As a result, Charles City Courthouse passed in and out of the hands of both armies more than once during the war.
When Union forces evacuated Harrison's landing in August 1862, more than 60,000 men marched past Charles City Courthouse on their way to Williamsburg. Souvenir seekers rummaged through old records in the clerk's office, carrying some off and destroying others.
Charles City Courthouse fell into Union hands again in June 1864, when Gen. Grant moved 115,000 men across the county and the James River in a lightning-swift assault on the city of Petersburg. By the time of this occupation the tavern and other buildings had been burned.
G.W. Jones and eighty-nine other members of the 24th Virginia Cavalry were captured here in a surprise attack early on the morning of Sunday, December 13, 1863. One of the captives turned out to be a woman. Union soldiers said she fought as well as the men. Why do you think a woman might have disguised herself as a man so that she could join the army?
Book cover and photo. "Frances Clayton in the uniform of a Union Soldier. Courtesy Trustees of the Boston Public Library."
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