The Burwells of “Glenvin” (not “Carter Hall”), and one of the real “Undefeated”

Posted on October 30, 2012 by


Writing when the mood strikes… I should write a post specifically focused on that… but… not today.

Still, there are indeed certain “triggers” that prompt me to write about certain things on certain days… and today, it just so happens to be a situation in which the Sesqui (though I’m a little off by over a month) crosses paths with my reflections on my days of writing about the Stuart Horse Artillery. Of course, a third intersection, which goes hand-in-hand with the nature of this blog, is that it also has ties to the Shenandoah Valley. On top of that… this sorta piggy-backs on my post of the other day, when I took a look at another who had connections with nearby Old Chapel, in Clarke County. I took a walk through that cemetery a few weeks ago and it… well, I’ll say a little more about it at the end of this post.

By the time of the Civil War, the Burwell family had at least two to three generations born in the Valley… but it’s deeper roots were back in the Tidewater (and, to include certain cultural influences that carried over from the Tidewater to the Valley), traced to Carter Burwell… the grandson of Robert “King” Carter of Carter’s Grove. Of course, as agent for Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, it only makes sense that, even while in the Tidewater, the Carter family had eyes on some choice real estate out this way, perhaps keeping in mind opportunities for other family members at some point in the future. And as such…

… Carter Burwell’s son, Col. Nathaniel Burwell, inherited the 5,800 acre estate (in what is now Clarke County), on which (around 1792) he began building Carter Hall.

Carter Hall

There’s a significant amount of Civil War history behind this mansion, as well as the village of Millwood, which grew up around Carter Hall. As the title of this post states, however, the wartime inhabitants of Carter Hall are not my focus… not today, but maybe in a week or so.

Burwell family members also resided in nearby “Glenvin”. Yes, these folks were also descended from the same line as those who lived in Carter Hall. Nathaniel Burwell (… not the one mentioned above, but born 1819 and died in 1896) was the patriarch of the “Glenvin” Burwells.

Robert Powell Page Burwell

Anyway, it was about 150 years ago… a month ago… that the first of these “Glenvin” Burwell boys moved to join the Stuart Horse Artillery. Robert Powell Page Burwell was the first to join. Having already served in the 2nd Virginia Infantry, he transferred to the SHA, and by September received his commission as a lieutenant. After being wounded at Brandy Station, on August 1, 1863 (his fourth wound while with the battery), Robert died of a resulting infection.

Robert’s brother, George Henry Burwell, followed suit, but by a more round-a-bout way. George too had served in the 2nd Virginia Infantry, but was captured at Kernstown, on March 23, 1862. Sometime after his exchange (June 1862), and between August 1862 and the Spring of ’63, he transferred to the SHA. George W. Shreve, a member of the SHA, later remembered George and his father…

A unique and interesting character amongst us was “Major [Nathaniel] Burwell.” His title was probably derived from the Militia service… During the Campaigns of 1862, the major was with us as a sort of father or general benefactor of the Company. He was a man of high social standing and of means, living on his estate at Millwood, Clarke County, Va. In whatever section we happened to be located, he seemed to have friends of ample means, who would furnish him with provisions, including delicacies, which he would bring in to camp on his noble charger, and distribute to us bountifully. He was very proud of the deeds of the Battery, and did not hesitate to go into action with it on occasions. He was with us about a year, and visited us afterwards. His younger son, George, came to us later on; I think after our first campaign in Maryland. He was a high spirited boy, educated and of pleasing appearance, and good physique. On one occasion, I have forgotten the place, when a cavalry regiment was passing our battery in a charge, our guns being just then silent, he obtained permission to accompany it, and dashing on with it, he captured a cavalryman, with a fine horse and equipments, and displayed the trophies with great pride. I think he could not have been much over sixteen years old… After the surrender, he would not return home; but crossed the Mississippi, and went on to Mexico, where he offered his services to Maximilian. On account of his youth, he was denied a commission at first; but meeting Queen Carlotta, she was so impressed with his appearance and enthusiasm that she championed his suit, and obtained it for him. He was made Captain, and in battle with the Mexicans, he was killed in a charge.

Of course, there were others who went to Mexico after the war, but young Burwell’s connection with the Valley is what drives my interest. It also brings to mind thoughts of a John Wayne movie… in which other Confederates headed for Mexico in the wake of the war…

Rock Hudson, John Wayne, and Lee Meriwether in “The Undefeated”

While both Robert’s remains rests in the cemetery at Old Chapel, in Clarke County, George Burwell’s final resting place remains unknown.

It’s always interesting to see how some movies… though we may not have realized it until some later point… give us a taste of actual history. Still, my fascination with those who lay quietly in Old Chapel cemetery is more than that. I think I’m most interested in these Clarke countians knowing that their origins in the Tidewater brought a unusual aspect to the history of the Shenandoah Valley. In their elite origins, these folks were atypical of the normal settlers of the Valley (with the exception of the Hite family, of course), and with their introduction into the Valley, they introduced cultural features that stand in stark contrast with what we can see in others here… as in the case of those of Germannic origin in the central Valley (just as an example). In past posts, I’ve often mentioned how the Civil War South (or, for that matter, the modern South) is not uniform, and I’ve often given the example of the Valley, standing in contrast with other areas. However, even in the Valley, uniformity has its limits.

But, I digress…