My Dear Sister

May. 13th 2014

My Dear Sister,

I am sorry that my letters have not been getting through these past years. While I have longed to talk to you, we have been restrained from sending our correspondence due to the war. But now that the fighting has ended, we are again at liberty to send them.

Much has changed since we last spoke. The war has taken much from us and I fear things will not be the same as it once was. It is hard for me to remember how we long thought we would escape this war as Mr. Turner and our son, George were neither of age to fight. Since the war, Mr. Turner seems to have aged so much. While he is just fifty-seven years old, he seems to have aged to much older through these last four years. One would think that it was 1885 instead of 1865 according to the lines on Mr. Turner’s face and the look of exhaustion.

Belle Grove Pan

Riverside of Belle Grove Plantation – Madge Haynes

While other homes were not spared the invasion and destruction of either armies, our beloved Belle Grove Plantation still stands. But I don’t know if the loss of our home would not have been better than the terrible sight we witnessed as the Union army approached and took our home from us. We were only given a short time to collect what clothing and personal items we could and were forced to leave. How hard it was to gather my four, young daughters and son into the wagon we were allowed to take, never knowing if we would ever see Belle Grove Plantation or our fine things again. Taken from us were all of our livestock and slaves. One officer seeing the tears of our nine year old son, George, did allow him to take his small pony with him.  I think had it been a horse, George would not have been given such a gift.

john 2

Union Marine – Mary O’Dell

john 3

Union Marine – Mary O’Dell

We left Belle Grove Plantation to head to Chotank to be near our family. It was here that we stayed through the rest of the war. I have to say, dear sister that it was one of the most peaceful places we have been. We were away from the main fighting and were able to living without much fear.

It is my understanding that our home was also used as a headquarters during that time that the Union army held her. I must say, it is with thanks that they did use her as such for I am sure it would have been worse for Belle Grove. There is even a rumor that they used part of Belle Grove as a prison of war camp for a short time.

We have been able to return to Belle Grove Plantation, but it is not as it was before. Much of our fine personal items were stolen from our home. All the livestock have been taken or eaten. The slaves were taken from the plantation and used by the Union army or released. It seems such a different place than it was before. It is as if something had died, never to return again. Oh, will it ever be that grand place I once called home? I fear not. If it wasn’t for Mr. Turner, I think I would have rather stayed in Chotank.

Oh how I long for those days that seem so long ago. My memory of the beginning of the war, when our men were so sure. I did have the honor in meeting some of these great men just as the war started. General Robert E. Lee, whose old family home, Stratford Hall is yet but a day’s ride from Belle Grove Plantation, stopped by early to assure us that all would be far away from us and that we would not need to worry. He and General Stonewall Jackson, both made us feel that comfort we longed for. How sad was the news of General Jackson’s death early in the war.

Rich Johnson Lee 2

Rich Johnson - Stonewall Jackson

Stonewall Jackson – Rich Johnson Photography

Rich Johnson Jackson - Lee

Stonewall Jackson and Robert E Lee – Rich Johnson Photography

RIch Johnson Lee

Robert E Lee – Rich Johnson Photography

Robert E Lee

Robert E Lee – Madge Haynes

 The 47th Virginia made a stop at Belle Grove as well. We offered them water and what food we had to give. Many soldiers walked up our lane throughout the time we were at Belle Grove Plantation, in need of water, food and a place to rest. It was our honor to be of what assistance we could.

Lee Jackson 47th

Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson and 47th Virginia – Madge Haynes

Rich Johnson - 47th

47th Virginia – Gloria Sharp


47th Virginia – Mike L Cary

Rich Johnson - Soldier 2

Soldier – Rich Johnson Photography – Gloria Sharp

Rich Johnson - Soldier

Soldier – Rich Johnson Photography

soldier 2

General Bartow – Leslie

The one sight we soon learned to fear was that of the Union army gunboats. These steamboats were fitted for war and would sail up and down the river, firing their guns at whatever fancy they saw fit to shoot. Many of our plantation homes along the river have felt their guns and several home stand no more because of them. Once I received word that our family at Camden were fired upon. An officer from one of these gunboats arrived at their door asking if anyone was at home. Our dear cousin told him that she and her sick child along with their servants were the only ones at home. He reassured her that she was be safe and they would not harm her or her home. When the officer boarded his gunboat, the captain of that gunboat gave the command for them to fire upon the house. The officer that had spoken to our dear cousin protested telling the captain he had given his word that no harm would come to the home. The captain did not relent. As our dear cousin was laying her sick child down in her crib a shot broke through the nursery wall and nearly killed her. Had she not been laying over the crib, surely the shot would have struck her and killed her. They continued their barrage until our dear cousin’s tower on her beautiful home lay in ruins. Yet sad news still followed just a week later as our dear cousin’s child passed away in her arms.

Just as the war ended, we were yet pulled into another event that will forever be imprinted in my mind. In April, word traveled to us about the death of President Lincoln. Shortly after, we saw a sight that again brought fear to us as a group of Union soldiers once again rode up the lane at Belle Grove. We were informed that the assassin and his companion were in our mist and that the soldiers had been pursuing them for days. They required our front lawn to rest and eat before moving on the next day. One of these officers, Lt Col Conger, seemed in a very bad way. This officer had been wounded three times during the war and was having a hard time of this pursue. We allowed him to come into the front hall to rest and eat. My dear sister who would have ever guested that the famous actor, John Wilkes Booth would be the one to bring down our President! As I am sure you know, he did not survive Garrett’s Farm. I have heard that Lt Col Conger, the very one that slept in our hall, set Garrett’s barn on fire in hopes of smoking out the assassin. But before J Booth could exit, another soldier fired through the barn wall striking down J Booth forever.

Rich Johnson President Lincoln

President Lincoln – Rich Johnson Photography

Rich Johnson - Lincoln

President Lincoln – Rich Johnson Photography

soldier and lady of the house

Soldier and the Mistress of Belle Grove – Leslie

Today, I walk the bluff overlooking our river, hearing the sounds of the past years and longing for them to quit. I do not know if that will ever happen here or if it will ever be that grand place in my heart as it once was. But I pray and hope for it. Until then I continue to walk and watch for the end in my heart and head to finally come.

William Hutchins Gone with the Wind Belle Grove

Mistress of Belle Grove Plantation on the Riverside Bluff – William Hutchins

Your Loving Sister

Belle Grove Field

Fields of Belle Grove Plantation – Madge Haynes

All the photographs were taken during our Civil War Day at Belle Grove Plantation. We would like to thank each of the photographers that gave of their time to capture our first Civil War event.

The re-enactors seen in the photographers all gave of their time for our Civil War Day at Belle Grove Plantation. They came short notice and helped us make the event such a great success. We wish to thank each of them for come and being a part of the event and hope to see them again next year. Next year, the event will be a weekend camp out and we hope to have several more units with us.

We would also like to thank all the volunteers who came and helped us. Without our volunteers, Belle Grove Plantation could not present our living history events as we do. You are so special to us!

The letter in this blog is a fiction letter written from the history we have uncovered over this past two years. It is told from the view of Susan Augusta Rose Turner, wife of Carolinus Turner and mistress of Belle Grove Plantation during the war. Susan did in fact have family in Chotank as well as the Pratt/Turner family at Camden. After the death of Carolinus Turner in 1876, she did not remain at Belle Grove Plantation. The plantation was willed to their four daughters and she moved back to Chotank. Whether it was for her own comfort or for whatever other reason, we do not know. It is a fiction thought that she might have wanted to leave after the events of the war at Belle Grove Plantation.

We also do not know if General Robert E. Lee or General Stonewall Jackson ever came to Belle Grove Plantation. It was added to the letter so we could show the photographs of our re-enactors. We do know that the Turner Family was forced from the home and their home, belongings and livestock were taken. It was through family information that we found that George was allowed to take his horse. We assume that it was a pony because a true horse would have more than likely been kept. We also believe that Belle Grove was held as a headquarters for the Union Army. One reason was that the house has never had any bullets holes, shots or cannon ball scaring. Another reason is we have found Union “drop bullets” at the base of one of the outside staircases and at the white entry fence. One last clue was in the pardon letter from Carolinus Turner to President Johnson. In this letter, Carolinus speaks of knowing General Burnside. While we still haven’t confirmed the thought that is was a headquarters or even a POW camp, we believe that the clues do lean that way.

We would like to say that they letter is written from the view of someone that lived through and lived after the Civil War. The reference to the actions of either Union or Confederate armies or the reference to slaves does not reflect our belief and is used only to show what Susan’s feelings may have been. Again, this is a written fiction letter and not intended to be taken as fact.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History | 4 Comments »

Pardon Me

Sep. 29th 2012

As I started working on this post, it was just to be the last of the history I had of the Turner Family before we moved on to the 1900s. Little did I know that it would end up being so much more for us.

During my initial research, I had found a number of documents at the Library of Virginia on Belle Grove and the families that called it home. One of those documents was a copy of a Presidential Pardon from President Andrew Johnson to Carolinus Turner for his connection to the rebellious uprising of the South. I would later find out that the original copy is stored in the archives of the King George Library. Currently the King George Library is undergoing some remodeling so I have not been able to visit and view any of their archives.

Copy of Carolinus Turner’s Presidential Pardon
Library of Virginia
Their copy was dark so my copy is not as clear

One thing that has eluded me has been what connection Carolinus Turner and his family had with the Confederate Forces and what happened to Belle Grove and his family during the Civil War. I have known that most of the area of King George County and Port Royal were primarily Confederate. When I was at the King George Historic Museum, I had come across a document from the Confederate Memorial Association of King George County Virginia with a list of members that included Carolinus Turner. But with this evidence, a couple of things left me truly puzzled.

Confederate Memorial Association
Carolinus Turner’s name is listed
King George History Museum

First, Carolinus would have been in his early fifties when the Civil War started. He also had a very young family. All of his children, including his only son were under 15 years old. At this age, would he have been able to serve as a soldier? Also, during the restoration of Belle Grove from 1997 to 2003, no evidence was found that would indicate that the house had ever been shot at during the war. This was really hard to believe considering that all the plantation homes along the Rappahannock River had either been damaged or destroyed by shots fired from Union gunboats. Why wasn’t Belle Grove scarred by this war?

Here is a little bit of background information on these Presidential pardons that occurred during and after the Civil War. I discovered a wonderful essay by Dr. William Long that best explains the pardons. With his permission, I will be sharing some of that essay with you. You can find the whole essay on his website at

During and after the Civil War, Federal officials recognized the need for new laws to deal with the rebellious acts by most of the Southern population. There were two acts passed by Congress in 1861 and 1862 that fixed penalties for the lesser crimes of “conspiracy” and “rebellion”. The second act also provided for future pardons and amnesty to those who participated in the rebellion.

Abraham Lincoln

The first amnesty proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on December 8, 1863. It extended pardons to persons taking an oath to support the Constitution and the Union and to abide by all Federal laws and proclamations in reference to slavery made during the war.

“During the Civil War many statutes were passed which allowed punishment and confiscation of land of people who fought against the Federal government on the side of the Confederacy. The most important law to this effect was the Second Confiscation Act of July 17, 1862. It assessed penalties for treason (not less than five years in prison or $10,000 fine, with the maximum penalty being death) and for insurrection against the US (not exceeding $10,000 fine or 10 years in jail), as well as the liberation of his slaves and the confiscation of his property. But, significantly, the Congress also approved Sec. 13 of the bill, which provided as follows:

“That the President is hereby authorized, at any time hereafter, by proclamation, to extend to persons who may have participated in the existing rebellion in any State or part thereof, pardon and amnesty, with such exceptions and at such time and on such conditions as he may deem expedient for the public welfare.”

This, then, provides the legal framework and basis for Presidential pardon in the Civil War Era.”

“Just as Abraham Lincoln waited until a propitious time (the Union victory at Antietam in Sept. 1862) to announce the Emancipation Proclamation, so he waited until he felt the tide was largely turned in the war to issue his first amnesty/pardon proclamation. In addition, this amnesty proclamation was coupled with a plan for reconstruction. Thus, amnesty and reconstruction would always go hand in hand in Lincoln’s mind. The first proclamation was made on December 8, 1863. In order to get people to resume their allegiance to the United States, Lincoln proclaimed:

“I Abraham proclaim, declare, and make known to all persons who have, directly or by implication, participated in the existing rebellion, except as hereinafter excepted, that a full pardon is hereby granted to them and each of them with restoration of all rights of property, except as to slaves and in property cases where rights of third parties shall have intervened, and upon the condition that every such person shall take and subscribe an oath and thence-forward keep and maintain such oath inviolate…” (Quoted in Dorris, Pardon and Amnesty under Lincoln and Johnson, 34).

Before getting to the actual words of the oath, a few points should be made. Note that the person who is seeking pardon will not have slaves (an example of property) restored to them. Other legislative acts said that no compensation for loss of slaves would accrue to former slaveholders. The meaning of “rights of third parties” in property issues simply means that where title has passed legitimately to other parties–bona fide purchasers– the person applying for pardon didn’t receive back that land.

Then there is the oath. It is quite wordy, but let’s hear it:

“I ______________ do solemnly swear, in the presence of Almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States and Union of the States thereunder; and that I will in like manner abide by and faithfully support all acts of Congress passed during the existing rebellion with reference to slaves, so long and so far not repealed, modified, or held void by Congress or by decision of the Supreme Court…(another similar phrase followed regarding “proclamations of the President”)…So help me God!”

From an Essay by Dr. William Long

Robert E. Lee

One interesting note on Confederate Presidential Pardons is the Pardon for Robert E. Lee. Lee applied for a Presidential Pardon under President Andrew Johnson, however it was never approved. The reason was that the Oath of Allegiance was said to be missing from his application. After Lee’s death, his oath of allegiance was found, misfiled (possibly by someone who didn’t want to see him pardoned). Lee was indicted for treason in June, 1865, but it was never acted on. Lee’s citizenship was restored by Congressional resolution and a pardon was granted posthumously effective 13 June 1975 by Gerald R. Ford.

Andrew Johnson

As I said before, I had come across a copy of Carolinus Turner’s Presidential Pardon. When I started working on this post, I pulled up information on Civil War Presidential Pardons. When I did, came across a new resource for military records. There I found something I never thought I would see; Carolinus Turner’s handwritten application for Amnesty for his part in the rebellious uprising! I couldn’t believe it! This letter gave me insight into his part in the war and possibly Belle Grove’s part in the war!

Carolinus Turner’s Handwritten Application Letter
page 2

Here is what the letter says:

Port Conway, King George Co. VA

July 20, 1865

His Excellency Andrew Johnson

President of the United States


I have the honor to make application for pardon and protection of property under your Amnesty Proclamation of May 29th 1865.

Neither I nor any member of my family have taken part in the rebellion or sympathized with its abettors. I represent property the taxable value of which may be estimated at more than twenty thousand (20,000) dollars. I am fifty two (52) years of age and with my wife and children (four (4) girls and one (1) boy under twelve (12) years of age have remained throughout the entire war quietly at my  home which for a great part of the time has been within the lines of the United States Army.

During this period I made the acquaintance of many officers of the United States Services some of whom I beg leave to refer your Excellency (via?) Gen G Burnside, U.S. Army Gen Abercrombie and Acting Master G.C. Shulze U.S. Navy who has been in command of this Station for the last year and a half. I would also beg to refer you to Captain William Jameson U.S. Navy an uncle of my wife.

Hoping that this may meet with your favorable consideration.

I am Sir

With Great Respect

Your Obedient Servant

Carolinus Turner

In this record, there is also a handwritten Oath of Allegiance by Carolinus Turner and a copy of the witness by the Provost Marshall’s Office in Tappahannock, Virginia. One last sheet of paper shows that Carolinus Turner was recommended for pardon.

From this I am guessing that Carolinus was in fact too old to serve in the military and that he and his young family did remain at Belle Grove throughout the war. This also shows that the Union Forces were in fact in Port Conway through most of the war. This would lead me to believe that Belle Grove may have served as a headquarters, which was one of our theories!

It also tells us that General Burnside and General Abercrombie visited the plantation where Carolinus and his family lived. Wow to know that well known Generals of the Civil War walked here! But here is a funny twist. While Generals of the Union Army were spending their time at Belle Grove, Confederate Generals such as General J.E.B. Stewart were being hosted by the granddaughters of the man who built Belle Grove for his daughter, at his home, Rose Hill Plantation (also known as Gaymont during the Civil War). Rose Hill Plantation sits high on a hill across the Rappahannock River, with a clear view of Belle Grove. We think that he placed his plantation on the hill so he could look after his daughter and her plantation (Belle Grove).

General Ambrose Burnside

General John Abercrombie

The discovery of Mr. Turner’s letter may help us find out whose the name is etched in the window is under Carrie Turner’s name! If Belle Grove was used as a headquarters for the Union Army, maybe W. Vanderburgh was a young Union soldier that she met while he was there! I think we might need to get History Detectives involved on this one!

Etching in the Window
Carrie Turner
W Van der burgh
May 18 1869

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 36 Comments »

Surprises around every corner… part two of four parts

Aug. 1st 2012

View of the Mountain Range
Hite Family Cemetery

From the Hite Family cemetery, we headed out to find a place to stay for the night. We ended up in Winchester, Virginia. As we drove we used my cell phone to look for bed and breakfast locations. There we found three and chose to stay in the oldest place.

Nancy Shepherd Inn
Winchester, Virginia

Nancy Shepherd Inn
Winchester, Virginia

This was the Nancy Shepherd Inn. The history of this inn according to the inn’s website is:

“The Nancy Shepherd House Inn was built as a dwelling in the 1700s on the south end of Winchester’s main street, lot 213 on South Loudoun Street. So far, our earliest findings of its existence are from insurance policies from 1792, but it was certainly built much earlier. In 1792 the building was listed as a one-story wooden dwelling.

Nancy Shepherd Inn
Winchester, Virginia

It is constructed of log and was originally one and a half stories high with two rooms and a large central chimney. In 1798, the house was bought by Robert Cochran who considerably enlarged and embellished it for the purpose of an ordinary or tavern. He also added the fine moldings and a grand three-story staircase.

Nancy Shepherd Inn
Winchester, Virginia

Nancy Shepherd Inn
Winchester, Virginia

Nancy Shepherd Inn
Winchester, Virginia

In 1814, the inn, now enlarged and greatly improved, was passed on by Robert Cochran to his daughter, Mary (then Mary Schenck), for $500. She, her husbands, and her children ran the inn until it was sold to O. M. Brown for $1,500 in 1840, a considerable amount of money at the time, indicating that the business was quite successful.

Front Parlor
Nancy Shepherd Inn

The property remained a thriving tavern until the war, but since Winchester repeatedly changed hands between union and confederate forces, the local economy was crushed and so was the tavern business. During the war, the building was used as a rooming house for occupying soldiers of both sides, and also as a hospital for the injured from surrounding battles. By the end of the war the property was listed in city records as a “two story wooden tenement”. After its glorious pre-war days as an inn, the building began a slow process of deterioration as it changed owners over the years. From the 1860s until we acquired it, Robert Cochran’s old tavern remained a rooming house or multi-unit apartment building. To this day, it has not been a single family dwelling since 1798!

Dining Room
Nancy Shepherd Inn

The property was bought at public auction on the Winchester courthouse steps in early 1987 by Nancy Shepherd McLaughlin who realized that most of the building’s original fabric still lay intact under aluminum siding, dropped ceilings, drywall, and plywood & carpet floors. She decided that its preservation was critical and that it was too important to allow it to continue to deteriorate. Her mission was to bring the tavern back to life as a historic B&B inn, just as it had originally been during it grandest days between 1798-1861.

Wood Floor
Nancy Shepherd Inn

Nancy Shepherd McLaughlin (1927-1996) put her son David in charge of the restoration. David has had a life-long interest in the preservation of America’s early buildings. As the steward of the Nancy Shepherd House Inn, he has worked non-stop for twenty years making the old tavern suitable for a true historic bed & breakfast inn, undoing alterations and unsympathetic modernizations. He has brought it back to its early 19th century state, preserving everything that is original from the Robert Cochran period, and has done so without removing its essence of ‘old.’”

Back Parlor
Nancy Shepherd Inn

We met David and he walked us through this wonderful old building. It is filled with antiques from David’s family. Our room, located on the second floor was very comfortable. Unlike the grand rooms we have been staying in, this room had charm and atmosphere. It wasn’t large and gave us the feeling of what it would have been like staying in a tavern inn. Our bath was just across the hall and would have been a shared bath if another guest had been staying on the same floor. But since we were the only ones on the second floor, we had it to ourselves.

Our Room
Nancy Shepherd Inn

After showing us the room, David informed us that he was on his way to a concert he was performing in with friends just a town over from Winchester. He walked me through the house and showed me the kitchen area where he invited me to take anything we needed. As we were walking through, his friends were in the front parlor room playing banjo and preparing for their night. They were playing folk music at the concert. What a treat to hear the music and to see such a wonderful place.

Front Door
Nancy Shepherd Inn

Once David left, Brett decided to take a quick nap and I headed out to an antique mall I saw as we were coming over to the Inn. Sadly, I didn’t find any tea items to add to my collection. When I arrived back to the Inn, Brett was just waking. Our bed was like a Tempurpedic, but not a name brand Tempurpedic. It was glorious! We have a Tempurpedic at home so when we travel now, I find it hard to go back to a spring bed. I end up with sore spots from the springs. I think we could have slept the whole next day because it was so comfortable. Brett and I have been talking about what mattress to purchase for the plantation and I am sure we have to have at least two Tempurpedics.

Old Towne Walking Mall
Winchester, Virginia

We headed out to find some dinner at the Winchester Pedestrian Mall. This mall is located on Loudon Street and is about three or four blocks that has been closed off and is now a nice open air mall area. We have been here before, so we had a good idea where we wanted to go. It was up to two choices, Union Jacks, which is a British Pub and Violino’s Italian Restaurant. We had eaten at Union Jacks before, but never at Violino’s so we head that direction.

Godfrey Miller House – Built in 1785
Old Towne Walking Mall
Winchester, Virginia

As you walk down the mall, you can see limestone buildings dating back to the 1700s, brick building dating to the 1800s and early 1900s. There is a courthouse which is now a Civil War Museum as well. We stopped there first to check the hours, which we found that they would be open until 9pm, just for a special night that night. So off to dinner and we would return to see the museum after.

Winchester, Virginia

Violino’s was quite the place. It is fine dining, but it is open for both formal, business casual and street wear. Brett and I were in blue jeans. The atmosphere is wonderful. They have both indoor and outdoor dining. The wait staff went over and above in their service. As we walked up to the door, the hostess opened it before I could and welcomed us. We had a cozy table for two and were surrounded by Italian pictures and musical instruments hanging on the wall.

After reading the menu, our waitress tempted us with delicious specials of which we tried one of the appetizers. This plate was fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with mascarpone and mozzarella cheese, a zucchini fritter, caramelized figs and fresh slices of tomatoes. As we delighted in this appetizer plate, I heard someone walk by with a strong Italian accent.

Brett and I have friends who own an Italian restaurant here in Chesapeake that are from Sicily, so we are familiar with that accent. I asked our waitress if it was one of the owners and if she was from Italy. She told us that it was an owner and she was from Italy, but wasn’t sure where. So she asked the owner, who came to our table to talk with us. Her name was Marcella and she was from Torino, Italy in the Northern Region. She told us that her husband, Franco was the chef and he was from Friuli, Italy. Brett has traveled to Italy with his job in the Navy and his current job so he and Marcella were able to talk about places in Italy that he had been and food he had eaten. We talked with her about why we were in the area and about our Belle Grove. She told us that she would love to come see us once we opened and that she and her husband would jump on the motorcycles and take a ride over soon.

Our dinner came shortly after our conversation with Marcella. Brett ordered the basic spaghetti with Bolognese sauce and I had manicotti filled with ricotta cheese and asparagus and topped with a cream sauce, fresh basil, pine nuts and red currants. What a meal! It was beyond delicious! As I sat there enjoying the meal, I was working out in my head how to make this dish into a savory breakfast dish. So I am going to make it using crepes instead of pasta and call it “Crepes Marcella”. So next week, you may see my new menu item!

We finished up and were offered desert. As wewere eating, we had seen the deserts coming by and could not say no. We decided on the Chocolate Hazelnut Torte with Raspberry and Whip Cream. It was heavenly! What made it even better was as we were eating our desert, they had a violinist come out and play. It was a great dinner!

Winchester, Virginia

Old Courthouse Civil War Museum
Winchester, Virginia

After dinner, we headed over to the Courthouse Civil War Museum. The Courthouse was built in 1840 on the site of the previous 1741 Courthouse. The tour started with a small speech located in the court room of the courthouse. The room reminded me of the courtroom in the movie “The Patriot” with Mel Gibson. You could almost see him standing there expressing his views. After the speech, I was able to talk to the director and we talked about how the Civil War affected the Winchester area compared to our plantation. Afterwards we headed upstairs for a self guided tour of the artifacts and history of this area.

Old Courthouse Civil War Museum
Winchester, Virginia

Old Courthouse Civil War Museum
Winchester, Virginia

During the Civil War, Winchester, just like Belle Grove in Middletown, Virginia, exchanged hands many times. Most of the local buildings and churches in the area were destroyed by the Union army. The courthouse had been spared and had been used for a hospital and prison. When it was in the hands of the Union army, they had housed 1500 prisoners in the front yard area.

Civil War Cannon

The collection upstairs was a range of items from guns, cannons and artillery to personal items like belt buckles and buttons. One of the most interesting parts was the graffiti that the soldiers left behind. During the restoration of the courthouse, they have preserved this graffiti and have it on view to the public.

Civil War Graffiti
Old Courthouse Civil War Museum

Civil War Graffiti
Old Courthouse Civil War Museum

Civil War Graffiti – Jefferson Davis Curse
Old Courthouse Civil War Museum

One of the most interesting pieces was a curse on Jefferson Davis. It reads as follows:

“To Jeff Davis -May he be set afloat on a boat without compass or rudder then that any contents be swallowed by a shark the shark by a whale whale in the devils belly and the devil in hell the gates locked the key lost and further may he be put in the northwest corner with a south east wind blowing ashes in his eyes for all eternity.”

As we walked out, I felt sad by the loss of so many. You know Brett and I poke fun at each other because he was born in the North and I was born in the South. He likes to point out that they were the ones who won. But you know I don’t look at it that way anymore. I look at it as we all lost. So many died, so many came back without arms and legs and families were torn apart. It truly was a sad part of our history.

Confederate Memorial
Front Lawn – Old Courthouse Civil War Museum
Winchester, Virginia

We arrived back at the Inn and settled down for the night. Our room was without television so I grabbed a book and settled into bed to read for awhile. As I lay there, I realized how quiet and peaceful this place was. I tried to imagine what it would have been like with the Inn and Tavern next door to each other and how the people who came to stay felt. I thought about the solders from the Civil War that hid out in the Inn. One thing David had told us was that they had found both Union and Confederate uniforms stuffed into the walls. I thought about the fear of discovery for those men. And what the owners felt as they watched this drama unfold around them.

I finally turned the light off and drafted to sleep. This time, my mind wasn’t racing with the thoughts of what we needed to do for our Belle Grove. This time, it was quiet and peaceful.

The Story Continues Tomorrow…

Going Sky High!

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 18 Comments »

Life is like a box of chocolates… you never know what tea cup you may find!

Jun. 17th 2012

Brett is traveling for business again this weekend and week, so you know what that means! More tea cup and antique shopping! Since Father’s Day was this weekend, I asked my father to ride along. I have pretty much checked all the local area’s antique stores and flea markets for tea cups, so I decided to change locations. We heading up Route 17 to Gloucester, Virginia and then jumped on to Route 33 and then to Route 3 (Kings Highway), which takes us up through the Northern Neck of Virginia and to Route 301 (James Madison Highway) that takes us to Belle Grove Plantation.

Our first stop was at an antique store that Brett and I have passed many times on the way to the plantation from our current home in Chesapeake. It is located in Saluda, Virginia, just outside Gloucester. It is called the Treasure Antiques Thrift store. I met the owner as soon as I came in. Once I told him what we were doing and what I was looking for, he quickly helped me locate several cups that met my needs. He even worked out a good deal for me so we could get all of them! What a score! I did have a picture of him and the inside of the shop, but sadly I lost it along with three other pictures when I downloaded some pictures last night. (Bummer) But I know we will be returning so I can get another one next time! John was also helpful in telling us where some other locations were that we might want to hit up! And he even had a map with all the antique stores in the area that we could take with us! I knew after this, it was going to be a good day!


After we left we hit up two of the locations John had recommended that were close, but sadly one we couldn’t find. The second one, we did find, but I was only able to find one plate there that fit my needs. There was a second plate that I was on the fence about, but decided to leave it. Now I wish I didn’t because it would have matched a cup and saucer perfectly. Guess I will have to go back and hope that it’s there!

From here we headed towards Kilmarnock across the Rappahannock River. Just as we crossed the river, I sighted a small house that had a sign that read “Revolutionary War / Civil War / Indian Artifacts”. I quickly made a U-turn and headed to the house. What a great stop!


As you walk into this store, you are greeted by a Union soldier’s uniform and Indian Shirt with beading. The front room is filled with anything and everything Revolutionary and Civil War time periods. It was overwhelming. I just didn’t know where to begin. The back door opened and I looked up half expecting Mel Gibson’s character, “Benjamin Martin” to appear. The owner, Chris Trimble greeted me and helped me locate several of his prized items.

The first was a portrait of Mary Ball Washington, mother of George Washington. This was really something to see! (It was also one of the lost pictures from my download) Chris explained that it was of Mary when George would have been just 1 ½ years old. He also told us that there was a companion portrait of Augustine Washington, George Washington’s father, that went with this portrait of Mary. That portrait is located in the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. The next piece he showed us was a snuff box. He told us that it had been handed down through his family and had once been owned by Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee and Robert E. Lee! (another lost picture). Then he showed us two buttons from the uniform of the paymaster on the Titanic. (another lost picture-but don’t worry! We are going back!)

Chris continued to show us around looking at buttons from the Revolutionary and Civil War time periods, swords, uniforms, dish, Indian Artifacts and so much more. Chris also makes and restores period furniture. I think we are going to have to look into this when we get the furniture for the house!

We left there and head to a restaurant we passed as we crossed the bridge called “Willaby’s on the Rappahannock” for some hamburgers and a great view of the river.

Then it was back to Route 3 and up towards Belle Grove. This drive was wonderful! It was filled with small towns and crossroads. But what struck me was the fact that this was the road that great men traveled. As we made our way up, we passed Stratford Hall, home of the Lee Family and Robert E. Lee (just 20 minutes from Belle Grove) and the birthplace of George Washington (just 15 minutes from Belle Grove) and the birthplace of James Monroe (just 10 minutes from Belle Grove). We also passed Vineyards and Wineries and antique shops!

Our last antique stop was just 10 minutes from Belle Grove. It is a big red barn set up in a flea market style. I scored big here!

Then we head to our favorite candy stop in King George, Mary’s Cakery and Candy Kitchen,  where my father purchased a small bag of candy. He told me that he was going to eat just a couple, but they didn’t last long. They were pretty much gone by the time we reached Belle Grove. I knew they wouldn’t last. They are so addictive!

Belle Grove – Plantation side

Belle Grove – River side

We made a quick stop at Belle Grove so my father could see it and I could get some more pictures of the house and “Dolley”, our resident osprey.  She was being her normal self, screeching and flying around because someone was there. As she flew off the nest, I walked around to the Riverside to take a few pictures of the house and of her flying and landing back on the nest. As I walked back around to the Plantation side, something caught my eye. I reached down and picked up what looks to be some kind of pottery. So I put it in my pocket and headed back to the car.

On a closer look of this piece, it looks like pottery and it looks like it has a barnacle attached to it. The barnacle is worn down somewhat. I am thinking maybe it was in the river at one point and it washed up during a flood. I am not sure. If anyone thinks they know what it is, let me know! I would love to figure this one out.

We ended our day with a visit to Hornes  Truck Stop in Port Royal for an old fashion hamburger. Anyone that travels Route 17 through Port Royal knows about this place! One of the best stops for fast food on Route 17. And it is only yards away from the site where John Wilkes Booth was killed at Garrett’s Farm.

All and in all it was a great day. Great finds, great food and good company. So now, on Father’s Day with Brett still away, I guess I have only one thing to do… go antique shopping.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 63 Comments »