Confederate ancestor analysis #2 – Henry K. Emerson/Emmerson

Posted on July 6, 2009 by


H. K. Emerson ca. 1861Henry K. Emerson (1840-1918) enlisted in Company D, 7th Virginia Cavalry on August 10, 1861. Prior to his enlistment, he did not serve as a member of the local (97th Virginia) militia. He was a little slow in enlisting (the company was originally formed on June 1, 1861), but the reason for the delay cannot be determined. Following enlistment, his record is relatively simple to follow, not even being listed on a furlough until April 15, 1864. Prior to his furlough, he was detached to serve as an orderly (seemingly for Col. Thomas A. Marshall, Jr., commanding officer of the regiment). Though there is no record of another furlough, he was at home, in Page County, on July 7, 1864, when he married Sarah Elizabeth Dorrough/Dorraugh (1841-1914). Clearly returning to service sometime after the wedding, he was listed as absent sick from August 15 – August 30, 1864. There is no further record of his service after that date, and it’s not surprising considering the incomplete nature of the regimental records beginning in the fall of 1864.

Henry applied for and received a Virginia Confederate veteran’s pension. Yet, it appears that he is absent from local U.C.V. activities in years after the war (and not on the membership rolls at all). His obituary mentions nothing reflective of his service.

Henry Emerson, aged 84 years, an industrious and highly respected citizen of Page died on Monday after — with a complication —- incident to old age. Mr. Emerson had been a lifelong resident of —- wife preceeded him to —-about three years ago. The deceased is survived by one daughter and —- sons, Mrs. Kate Boyd of —- and Charles and Edward Emerson of this county. He is also survived by two brothers, Joseph ———-Emerson, both of Page. The funeral services were held from his —— at 11 a.m. on Sunday —–by Rev. Mr. Earp, pastor of ——- Christian church of which the —– had been a member —- forty years. Interment took place in the family graveyard of —- late home.

So, what about his siblings and even his brothers-in-law? Henry had at least one brother to also serve in the Confederate army.

Jacob D. Emerson (1845-1887) did not enlist until March 1864 and served in Co. E (not Co. D, like his older brother), but he had just turned 18 in January; perhaps reflecting a father’s preference for his son to wait. Jacob served until December 20, 1864 when he was listed as AWOL. No further record of his service is known to exist.

Like his brother, he applied for and received a pension… and his obituary mentions nothing of military service.

EMMERSON, JACOB died at his residence near Luray, last Sunday morning. He had been sick only about a week, his disease being pneumonia. He was a member of the Dunkard Church, quiet & unobtrusive in manner & was respected by all who knew him. He leaves a wife & 7 children. Mr. Emmerson was 42 years, 7 months & 6 days old. (PNC – issue 12 Apr 1887)

Yet, Jacob Emerson/Emmerson was buried in Green Hill Cemetery in Luray… the burial site of many members of the Rosser-Gibbons Camp, U.C.V.

James Joseph Emerson (1847-1924) may have served in Co. E, 33rd Virginia Infantry, but it isn’t clear. A James Emerson enlisted in the 33rd on 3/10/62, at which time, James Joseph would have been 15. There is no mention of military service in his obituary.

EMERSON, JOSEPH died at his home near Morning Star Church last Friday afternoon about five o’clock following an illness of several weeks from pneumonia. Mr. Emerson’s wife died about ten years ago and since that time has lived most of the time by himself. He was a quiet, inoffensive citizen and had the respect of all who knew him. His wants during his last illness were looked after by the citizens of that community. He was 77 years and one day old. The funeral was conducted in Morning Star church on Saturday afternoon by Rev. C. I. Morgan. Mr. Emerson leaves one brother, Edward Emerson of Luray (PNC – issue 01 Apr 1924).

Henry K. Emerson’s brothers-in-law, James Hiram Dorraugh (1837-1870) and Elijah Russell Dorraugh (1845-?) also served in Co. D, 7th Virginia Cavalry. James enlisted on June 1, 1861 and, by December 1862, was absent on a surgeon’s certificate. It is unclear what happened, but he was discharged in 1863 due to paralysis of his left side. Elijah Russell Dorraugh was a member of the same unit, but there is no enlistment date. I don’t have it handy, but somewhere in my collection, I have an account (published in the Page News & Courier on 12/15/1922) as written by his son (D.T. Dorraugh) of his father being the last man on the picket line of the Laurel Brigade (with which the 7th Virginia was regularly affiliated) when word came of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. In this brief account, Elijah also recalled having “been starved for three days before he surrendered.”

As some might recall (from an earlier post), Henry K. Emerson was also 1st cousin to Edwin Arthur Emerson… the actor who was closely acquainted with John Wilkes Booth… and performed in the role of the character Lord Dundreary in Our American Cousin on the night that President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Out of Edwin A. Emerson’s five age-eligible brothers (age-eligible for service for the Confederacy under the three conscription acts), Benjamin Franklin Emerson (a tinsmith/coppersmith by trade) was the only one recorded as serving. He was originally a member of the Mt. Vernon Guards (militia) from Alexandria, Virginia; the militia unit later becoming Co. E, 17th Virginia Infantry. B.F. Emerson was mortally wounded at Frayser’s Farm and died in Richmond on July 19, 1862. He was not reburied in Alexandria (St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Cemetery) until November 26, 1865. (By the way, St. Paul’s has an interesting Civil War story of its own… for one, Wilmer McLean’s father,  Daniel McLean, was a member… and then there is the story about the church being occupied by Federal soldiers and the arrest of the interim minister). I have a few Emerson ancestors buried in the cemetery, including my fourth great grandfather, Aquilla Emerson (1771-1850) and his wife Susannah Simpson Emerson (1772-1859), so I feel that the branch of my Emersons that lived in the Shenandoah Valley still probably had some form of contact with the branch back in Alexandria during the war. 

HK and Sarah Emerson ca 1910While Henry K. Emerson seems to have become modest about his prior service or maybe he even considered himself among those who had left the past to the past, comrades did look upon his service in a favorable light. In the effort in the early 1910s to assess the loyal service of Page County’s Confederate veterans (for placement of the names of the loyal local Confederates on the Confederate monument in Luray), Henry K. Emerson’s comrades noted that he was a “good soldier.” I have no family stories about his service and no idea about his inspiration for service, so I don’t dare trot down the path of presumption and state in the affirmative that I know absolutely what he was fighting for or against; but based on what I do know, would he object to the placement of a Confederate headstone at his otherwise unmarked grave on the family homestead? I didn’t think so… and I ordered a headstone for him and placed it at his grave in 1999. Henry K. Emerson is one of my four (4) great-great grandfathers who were Confederate soldiers.


1) Henry K. Emerson’s father, William W. Emerson, was not a slaveholder. He was a tailor/farmer by trade.

2) Another 1st cousin to H.K. Emerson, John C. Emmerson may have served with Co. G, 3rd Maryland Cavalry, USA.

3) One of Henry K. Emerson’s sons married a granddaughter of the Garnett Nicholson mentioned in Confederate ancestor analysis #1. Edward Benjamin Emerson (1884-1970) & Mamie Virginia Nicholson (1891-1965) make-up one set of my great grandparents. 

**This is part of a series in which I will be analyzing the service of my Confederate ancestors. For the analysis prior to this one, see Confederate ancestor analysis #1 – Garnett Nicholson. The analysis that follows this one focuses on Joseph Richards.

Of all of my direct ancestors (lineal alone), I had four (4) great-great grandfathers who served in the Confederate army (Henry K. Emerson, Siram W. Offenbacker, James Harvey Mayes, and Charles Robert Hilliard). I also have three (3) … possibly four (4) third great grandfathers who served in gray… Garnett Nicholson, Absalom Franklin Nauman, Joseph Richards, and maybe… William Davison. All were from Virginia except Davison, who was from Kentucky. All of their stories worked together are important for the fact that they help illustrate the diversity of sentiment (and not Confederate alone) in the South.