Friday, December 21, 2012

The "Gordonsville Grays" Company C, Virginia 13th Infantry Regiment: Full Ordnance Sergeant Andrew Jackson Blackburn, my 2nd cousin 4x removed

Flag of the Gordonsville Grays

The Gordonsville Greys were originally organized in Orange County, Virginia in 1859 when the Governor of Virginia, John Letcher, called for 50 State Militia units to be mustered into temporary service as a consequence of John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry.  This terrifying experience showed the lack of military preparedness in Virginia.  As a result, new militia companies started springing up all over Virginia. 

A Military Convention convened in January of 1860 to advise Virginia's General Assembly on how to improve the 1858 Militia Law.  Legislation was passed on March 30, 1860 that incorporated many of the Military Council’s suggestions, particularly those in regards to supply and logistics.  Less than three months later, the Gordonsville Grays were organized and received the above flag from the ladies of the community. 

The Gordonsville Greys, along with two other organized militia companies comprised of Orange County men, the Montpelier Guard and Barboursville Guards, proceeded to Harper's Ferry and were enrolled into the service of the State of Virginia on May 9, 1861.

Drum of the Gordonsville Grays, currently on display at the Museuem of the Confederacy

Pressure from the previous month's cannonade at Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina caused the citizens of Virginia to move rapidly with a vote on seceding from the Union.  On May 23, 1861, the Ordinance of Secession was approved by the Orange County electorate with a vote of  853 to 0.  

A Regiment was soon authorized to be organized from the Companies coming from the North Central and Northwestern region of Virginia.  This Regiment was first designated the 4th Virginia Infantry Regiment, but quickly changed to 13th Virginia Infantry Regiment when it was discovered another Regiment had already been assigned the 4th's designation.  The Montpelier Guard, senior by virtue of having been organized earlier, became Company A, while the Gordonsville Grays were assigned as Company C. and the Barboursville Guards as Company F. 

Flag of the 13th Virginia 

The Virginia 13th Infantry Regiment completed its organization during the summer of 1861 with men from Winchester and Culpeper, Orange, Louisa, and Hampshire counties.   Ambrose Powell Hill was appointed as the unit's Colonel.  An unidentified soldier from the Virginia 13th had the following to say about A. P. Hill:

"Our colonel was A.P. Hill, who had won a fine reputation in the old army, and was one of the most accomplished soldiers with whom I ever came in contact, who was the idol of his men, and who, by his gallantry and skill, steadily rose to the rank of Lieutenant General, and fell, mourned by the whole South, on that ill fated day, at Petersburg, which witnessed the breaking of his lines and the virtual fall of the Confederacy."

A. P. Hill

The Virginia 13th Infantry Regiment is one of the few Regiments from the Civil War that produced Three Generals from their ranks.   Along with A.P. Hill, other notable commanders of the Virginia 13th who were promoted to the rank of General include, James A. Walker and James Barbour Terrill. 

Colonel A.P. Hill was promoted to Brigadier General on February 26, 1862 and given command of a Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia.  The command of the 13th Virginia now fell to James A. Walker, who was promoted from Lieutenant Colonel to the rank of Full Colonel.  James B. Terrill was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

James A. Walker

Colonel Walker commanded the Virginia 13th Infantry Regiment through the Battle of Chancellorsville.  In May of 1863, he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and transferred to the Stonewall Brigade, where he commanded Stonewall Jackson's former troops.  Following Walker's departure the command of the 13th Virginia was passed to James B. Terrill, who was promoted to Full Colonel.

James Barbour Terrill

Terrill was killed in action at the Battle of Totopotomoy Creek or Battle Bethesda Church in Hanover County, Virginia on May 30, 1864, a few days before the bloody Battle of Cold Harbor.  James B. Terrill's brother, William R. Terrill was a Brigadier General in the Union Army.  William R. Terrill was killed in action at the Battle of Perryville Kentucky.   James B. Terrill had already been nominated for the rank of Brigadier General. The Confederate Senate confirmed his appointment the next day, May 31, 1864. 

Chaplain of the Virginia 13th Infantry Regiment, Reverend J. William Jones, had the following to say about the regiment:

"The Thirteenth Virginia infantry gave to the Confederacy three generals, who were its original field officers: A. P. Hill, who rose to the rank of lieutenant-general, one of the most accomplished, skillful and successful soldiers the war produced; James A. Walker, who commanded the Stonewall brigade until he was severely wounded at the "bloody angle" at Spottsylvania Court House, May 12, 1864, and afterward led Early's old division to Appomattox Court House; and J. B. Terrill, who was promoted only a short time before he was killed at Bethesda church in June, 1864, and would have won higher distinction had his noble young life been longer spared."

The Virginia 13th Infantry Regiment served with Elzey's Brigade prior to his injury and with Jubal Early in the Shenandoah Valley.

On July 25, 1861, the Army of the Shenandoah was reorganized and the Virginia 13th Infantry Regiment was assigned to the Fourth Brigade, General Richard S. Ewell's Second Corps, Army of the Shenandoah, under the command of Brigadier General Arnold Elzey.

Brigadier General Arnold Elzey

The Virginia 13th Infantry Regiment, while attached to Elzey's Fourth Brigade, participated in Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign that took place in the Spring of 1862.

General Elzey was shot through the head and seriously wounded at the Battle of Gaines's Mill on June 27, 1862.  His wound kept him from active field command for the rest of the war.  Following Elzey's injury, the Virginia 13th Infantry Regiment was attached to the Army of Northern Virginia.  While attached to the Army of Northern Virginia, the 13th Virginia participated in every engagement from the Seven Days Battles, which took place in mid 1862 through the bloody Battle of Cold Harbor, which took place in mid 1864.  

After the Confederate victory at Cold Harbor, the Virginia 13th Infantry Regiment was attached to Lieutenant General Jubal Anderson Early's Corps, where they participated in the Early's Valley Campaign that took place in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia from May to October 1864.

Lieutenant General Jubal Anderson Early

Following the Valley Campaign, the Virginia 13th Infantry Regiment took part in the Defense of Petersburg, Virginia.  The Siege of Petersburg took place between June of 1864 to April of 1865.  Andrew Jackson Blackburn was wounded in action in a Battle that took place on April 3, 1865 near Fort Mahone. 

Third Battle of Petersburg by Currier and Ives

Andrew Jackson Blackburn was born in Henrico County on January 15, 1835.  He is my 2nd cousin, 4x removed.  Prior to his enlistment, he was a farmer by trade.  Andrew enlisted as a Private in the Gordonsville Grays, which would later become Company C, Virginia 13th Infantry on April 17, 1861.

1st Muster for Andrew

He was promoted to Full Sergeant on May 15, 1862. 

Muster Roll showing Andrew had been promoted to Sergeant

Andrew was wounded in a Skirmish near Fredericksburg, Virginia on May 4, 1863.

List of Wounded soldiers from Smith's Brigade

On February 1, 1864, Andrew was promoted to Full Ordnance Sergeant. 

Muster Roll showing Andrew's promotion to Full Ordnance Sergeant

For the period of time between March and September of 1864, Andrew was on detached service "threshing wheat".  He returned to duty on September 25, 1864.

Muster Roll showing Andrew's detached service

Andrew was captured in a Skirmish near Piper's Mill in October of 1864.  He was later exchanged and returned to duty.   The Virginia 13th Infantry Regiment participated in the defense of Petersburg, Virginia.  On April 3, 1865, Andrew Jackson Blackburn was wounded 6 times and lost a leg near Fort Mahone.  He was taken prisoner and later released on parole on April 24, 1865.

Parole of Honor for Andrew Jackson Blackburn

Andrew Jackson Blackburn lived an additional 42 years following the end of the Civil War.  He died in Richmond, Virginia on December 5, 1907.  He was 72 years old.  Andrew is buried in Richmond's Historic Hollywood Cemetery.

Grave of Andrew Jackson Blackburn

Here's my relation to Andrew:

Andrew Jackson Blackburn (1835 - 1907)
is your 2nd cousin 4x removed
Absalom Blackburn (1811 - 1879)
Father of Andrew Jackson
Absalom Blackburn (1784 - )
Father of Absalom
Absalom Blackburn (1766 - 1854)
Father of Absalom
Josiah Blackburn (1790 - 1857)
Son of Absalom
Sarah Jane Blackburn (1831 - 1896)
Daughter of Josiah
Samuel Henry Conway Jr. (1868 - 1936)
Son of Sarah Jane
Eunice Maud Conway (1895 - 1981)
Daughter of Samuel Henry
Robert William Lewis (1913 - 1990)
Son of Eunice Maud
Joyce Elaine Lewis (1948 - )
Daughter of Robert William
Chip Stokes
You are the son of Joyce


  1. I also have an ancestor in the Gordonsville Grays. My question is, do you happen to know if there was a special militia uniform? Ive been trying to research but so far come up empty. I would appreciate any help I can get.



    1. I found mention in a book about the "Acts of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia" mention of an act that authorized the Gordonsville Grays, the Culpeper Minutemen and the Norfolk City Guards to "uniform themselves as they may prescribe" so I assume they did have a special militia uniform. Other than that, I've not been able to find anything. Hope this helps.


  2. Very fine piece with important scholarship. Thank you so much.

    We have 13 members of the family who were in the Gordonsville Grays. My relations are through the Cowherd family. We own the Cowherd farm north of Gordonsville along Lover's Lane, on the southern slope of Cowherd Mountain. The farm was the site of General Lomax's cavalry engagement on December 24th, 1864. Details of this action are summarized in the book Gordonsville, Virginia: Historic Crossroads Town, by William H. B. Thomas.

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