Dog-gone blog post done gone and got ahead of me!

Posted on February 11, 2012 by


Time IS a factor, and, while I’ve had the post from the other day in the hopper for a while, time got ahead of me… and so too did the post which I had timed to be released. Of course, time continuing to be a factor, I’m just now catching up with it, with this post…

But, that’s ok.

Let me cover the basics again…

On Feb. 9, 1862, the Rev. Kensey Johns Stewart was arrested by Union officers after failing to offer a prayer for the President during the height of the Civil War. A melee occurred in the sanctuary as the congregation attempted to defend its minister. On that same day, a warning was issued to “females and others,” threatening arrest for offensive remarks and demonstrations—prompted, no doubt, by the actions of several St. Paul’s ladies, including one who is said to have dropped her Prayer Book down from the gallery onto the head of an offending officer.

On June 28, 1862, St. Paul’s was seized and used as a hospital for Federal forces until the spring of 1865. It was at the Appomatox Courthouse, home of a St. Paul’s parishioner, Wilmer McLean, that Robert E. Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865.

Again... St. Paul's Episcopal Church, during Union occupation, 1862

Alright, standing by itself, the story about St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is moving, but I meant to add that I have a learned connection to it, meaning it isn’t in our family memory… neither the event itself, or the ties to that particular church.

In fact, my 4th great grandparents are buried in the church cemetery, as are other kin.

Aquilla (a very cool name, by the way… which also happens to be the given name of yet another ancestor, though unrelated to this ancestor) and Susannah Simpson Emerson resided in Alexandria, where Aquilla operated a tavern, opposite Market House, “a few doors above the old Bank on Cameron St. lately occupied by Mr. Lanham as a public house; 1808, 1818, 1819, licence granted to keep an ordinary; Wm. B. Stewart, Laurence Hooff, Jr., James Campbell was his security; 1821, operated a tavern at the lower end of Wolfe St. opposite the Jail on Potomac Strand; ACCOB: July term 1808, 24th day; April term 1818, 10th day; April term 1819, 13th day.”

I don’t know a great deal about him otherwise, but have learned that, on January 29, 1846, Aquilla signed legislative petition A538, which dealt with the “passage of a provisional act by the Legislature accepting the retrocession to Virginia of a portion of the District of Columbia south of the Potomac River.”

Aquilla died in March of 1850, so he missed all of the activities that were to come just over a decade. His wife passed August 26, 1859, so she too missed the events that were to follow.

While they missed out on those events, so too did my third great grandfather and his family, having removed to Shenandoah Valley in the 1820s. Still, I wonder if he kept in touch with his siblings back in what is now Old Town Alexandria, or even if he made any return visits. Sad to say, that part of my family history is simply lost.

So, in short, I wouldn’t be surprised if Emerson family members were present, that day, when Rev. Kensey Johns Stewart refused to pray for President Lincoln. Though I don’t even have their impression (if they were present that day), fellow blogger Ron Baumgarten helped me out with the impression of those from the other side of the event… at least one of those the 8th Illinois Cavalry.

…yesterday morning at St. Paul’s Church, during what ought to have been divine service, but which the reverend traitor converted into an insolent and defiant endorsement and glorification of treason and rebellion.

Wish I had more, but that’s about all I can grab from p. 73 of Abner Hard’s account. No doubt, the day was a tremendous one for all who partook.

So, who, from among my third great grandfather’s siblings, may have been in attendance that day? I am sorry to say, I don’t know exactly when John Simpson Emerson and his wife died (he was born ca. 1794), but, perhaps some of their children were in attendance that day. I wonder…

What I do know is that there is another grave of a family member in the church cemetery… that of Benjamin Franklin Emerson. Granted, Ben wasn’t there on that February day in 1862, but was engaged in other activities, elsewhere. Yet, I wonder if any of his siblings wrote him of the event, and, how it impacted what he thought. Was he even more resolved in his decision to remain with… Co. E, 17th Virginia Infantry? If he did get word, I imagine that he may well have become even more resolved. Then too, if my branch of the family kept up with the Alexandria branch, I wonder (if they received word) how it may have inspired my own second great grandfather, Henry K. Emerson, who had been serving under Turner Ashby, in Co. D, 7th Virginia Cavalry, since August 1861.

It’s a guessing game at best…

But, let’s think about this from a “memory” angle. Should I… today… be irked at this, and start ranting about how hideous these “Yankee invaders” were? Nahhhh… that’s just pure silliness. Rather, what I take from this is that this is an amazing story, and one part of my overall story as a Southerner… and even more importantly, only one part of my Southern family story as it relates to the Civil War era. Additionally, as I mentioned, it’s only learned history… a history by association, and I have nothing via family stories that say anything about this.

O.K., as a follow-up… I like “what happened to…” elements of these types of stories…

What happened to Benjamin Franklin Emerson?

He continued to serve with the “Mount Vernon Guards” until he was wounded at Frayser’s Farm. He died of those wounds on July 19, 1862, and was buried in or near Richmond. His body was disinterred and brought home, to be buried again in the St. Paul’s Church cemetery. To my knowledge (and according to my research), he was the only one of five age-eligible sons of John Simpson Emerson to serve in the war. I’ve covered the very interesting story of one of his siblings… Edwin Arthur “Ned” Emerson, in a post a few years ago. Whether you recall or not… he was my cousin who acted regularly with John Wilkes Booth… knew him quite well… and was in the play that President Lincoln watched on the night of his assassination. Good stuff that I’ve learned over the years.

As for Henry K. Emerson… yup, I’ve touched on his story as well, in a previous post. I always love an opportunity to visit the land of his old homestead, as well as the old family cemetery, tucked in the bosom of the western hollows of the Blue Ridge, every chance I can.

Breathtaking entrance to the opening in the "holler" where Henry Emerson moved with his wife, in the late 1860s/early 1870s; Ida, Page County, Virginia

Oh yes, and as for Rev. Stewart… he also has an interesting story. While not a relative, I may write about it in another post, sometime soon.

**Be sure to also check-out fellow blogger Ron Baumgarten’s post on the church!