It’s just one example of what likely occurred in many a Virginia household, in 1861, and even later. Yet, popular contemporary “memory” of Virginia, at war on the side of the Southern Confederacy, seems to have no, or very little “recollection” of such instances. The following comes to us via the August 7, 1861 issue of Hagerstown’s Herald of Freedom and Torch Light.
Victims of the Battle from Martinsburg
A private letter received in Baltimore from Martinsburg, speaking of the Battle of Bull Run, says: “We have lost some of our best citizens. Payton [sic] Harrison [Co. D, 2nd Va. Infantry... see an earlier post mentioning him, here], Mr. Conrad’s two sons [Pvt. Henry Tucker Conrad and Sgt. Holmes Addison Conrad, both of Co. D, 2nd Va. Inf.], young Frick [Pvt. John E. Fryatt, Co. D, 2nd Va. Inf.] and Dr. Page’s son [Pvt. Richard L. Page, Co. G, 2nd Va. Inf.], were all killed. Mr. Maner [sic], of Hedgesville, lost his son David [1st Lt. David Holmes Manor], and had another son [Charles W. Manor] wounded. George Mullen [?], of Hedgesville, is also wounded.”
“The Boonsboro’ Odd Fellow, in alluding to Mr. CONRAD’S sons, says: “Holmes Conrad, Esq., of Martinsburg, a prominent lawyer and a firm Union man, had two promising sons, aged about 22 and 19, one, we believe, following the profession of his father [Holmes A. Conrad graduated from Winchester Academy, attended the University of Virginia, and served as principal of Martinsburg Academy, 1857-59], and the younger a student of theology [Henry T. Conrad attended the University of Virginia, and was a student of divinity at Episcopal Theological Seminary, in Alexandria, at the outbreak of the war]. Both belonging to Captain Nadenbush’s [John Quincy Adams Nadenbousch] company, composed of about one hundred of the most active young men in Berkeley county. “The two young Conrads, like all of their companions, volunteered for the war, against the consent and urgent protests of their father, who told them that they could not expect to enter his house if they disobeyed his orders. But feeling that they were in honor bound to follow the fortunes of their commander, they enlisted for the campaign. At the recent battle of Bull Run Captain Nadenbush’s [sic] company was put in the front line, where they fought with great bravery until relieved. When the road of the cannon was over, and the strife ceased to go on, the two brothers, the Conrads, were found dead, locked in each others embrace. Together with three more of the same company, who were also killed, their bodies were brought to Martinsburg and buried at the solemn hour of midnight, the moon shining beautifully. Thus has a fond father’s house been made desolate, and two bright young men, upon whom all his cherished hopes were centered, been hurried into eternity.”
Here’s the thing… in the title of this post, I project what may have been said by the Conrad brothers’ father (David Holmes Conrad, 1800-1877), based on what was noted in the newspaper article. Yet, was the newspaper (keeping in mind that the original article came from the Boonsboro Odd Fellow) account accurate regarding the Unionist sentiment of the David Holmes Conrad*, or was it suggesting something to its Maryland readers that may not have been true, and was actually suggestive media (was the Odd Fellow pro-Union or pro-secessionist?) put into play in the name of preserving Unionists sentiment among fathers and sons in that state? Of course, more research would be necessary, but, it may or may not be unlike the sentiment shown by David Holmes Conrad’s brother, Robert Young Conrad (1805-1875).
*It’s difficult to define the extent of the occurrence, but it wasn’t uncommon to see fathers and sons engaged in a much more personal crisis over the Unionism of the fathers, and the service of sons in the Confederate army. Warner Alexander Thomson, a slave-holding Unionist living in the Shenandoah Valley, wrote of his estrangement from his Confederate sons, “My natural affection for my sons & love for my country cause a struggle in my mind—it is a painful one.” Warner Thomson was from neighboring Jefferson County (Summit Point); one of his sons, William Sydnor Thomson, served initially with Co. G, 2nd Va. Inf., seeing action at First Manassas (he wrote about it, in a letter to his wife, in 1906). He later transferred to Co. B, 12th Va. Cav., before finishing the war in Capt. J.W. Carter’s Ashby Battery, Horse Artillery (R.P. Chew’s former battery). For more about the Thomson family, see “Family Life During the Civil War”, Encyclopedia Virginia; Notes, The Divided Family in Civil War America, by Amy Murrell Taylor; William Sydnor Thomson Papers, Emory University.