Confederate sons, Postwar, and Manifest Destiny

Posted on January 16, 2014 by


Just over a year ago, I encountered a headstone that really… seemed to pique my interest. I began developing a post around it, but, for whatever reason, it fell by the wayside. Today, the thought seemed to find its way back to me.

Headstone of Pvt. James Ridgely Dick/Dix, Old Chapel Cemetery, Millwood, Virginia.

Headstone of Pvt. James Ridgely Dick/Dix, Old Chapel Cemetery, Millwood, Virginia.

The lighting was not the best when I took the photo this afternoon, so, allow me…

J. Ridgely
Son of
J.M. & S.A.
Hero of the Indian campaign
At the battle of
Wounded Knee
Co. E, 18 Regt.
Died April 11, 1891
23 yrs, 22 days.

I realize some people might have a tendency to wince when they think of Wounded Knee. I get it… and at the same time, I think we need to step back and remember just what was in the National spirit at that time. Please keep in mind, this isn’t me being cold, but rather, it’s me trying my best to think objectively here. Like it or not, Manifest Destiny was still a reality, and “Indian Removal” was being taken to the extreme, and STILL… in the name of westward expansion.

"Manifest Destiny" (1872), by artist John Gast.

“Manifest Destiny” (1872), by artist John Gast.

We can look back on this and debate it all we want, but we have to be mindful that the times were different, as was the National mindset. Hence… “Hero of the Indian campaign at the battle of Wounded Knee.”

This also brings to mind another thought, especially as we enter into the 150th of 1864. I’ve often heard folks speak of Philip Sheridan and his quest to assist in the annihilation of the Southern people. While I, myself, am shocked at the actual expression made by Southern Unionist David Hunter Strother (see my comment to a comment, in this post), I don’t subscribe to that theory as a part of Sheridan’s military philosophy, here in the Shenandoah Valley. But, it doesn’t end there as there is often a feeling of empathy from Southerners who reflect on the theory of cultural annihilation, and the same as imposed (by Sheridan, for example) on Native Americans. What folks don’t think about is the fact that Southerners were in the very ranks of the army that was out west, employed in the vision of the “Only good Indian is a dead Indian” (Chief Tosawi made the claim that Sheridan said this; Sheridan denied it). Again, keep in mind… there were Southerners there… and these Southerners were doing just as an “effective” job as the other fellows in the ranks. George David Wallace, Ernest Albert Garlington, and John Chowning Gresham are three names that come to mind. Wallace and Garlington were South Carolinians; Gresham was from Lancaster County, Virginia. Garlington and Gresham received the Medal of Honor for their part at Wounded Knee. Given time, I’m sure there would be more… as in the case with James Ridgely Dick/Dix (who, by the way, was the son of a late war member of the 6th Virginia Cavalry, C.S.A.).

Typescript card (1916) found in John M. Dick's Combined Service Record.

Typescript card (1916) found in John M. Dick’s Combined Service Record.

All that said… let’s back it up a bit.

Why, I have wondered, does his headstone say he was at Wounded Knee? Granted, I have a limited knowledge when it comes to the “Indian Wars”, but I don’t think the 18th Regiment U.S.V. was there. I did a little research to try to figure out this mystery.


J.R.D. apparently left his home in Greenway, Clarke County, Virginia, sometime in the winter of 1887/88, and by February 3, 1888, had enlisted on the rolls of Co. E, 18th Regiment, United States Volunteers, at Fort Logan, Colorado.

Here’s another document regarding his enlistment…


And here’s another regarding his discharge, in May, 1889…


Yes, that’s correct… he was discharged in 1889, and yet… Wounded Knee was, when? December 29, 1890. If J.R.D. was discharged, in what capacity was he serving in, at the time of Wounded Knee. Additionally, as his death was on April 11, 1891, was it the result of a wound at Wounded Knee?

While this remains a mystery to solve, I thought I’d also share the fact that both of his parents applied for and received a pension based on the military service of their son.



It never fails to amaze me what I find in this Valley, and how so many of the things I find, challenge us to think…

I’ve posted a comment/query, at the Army at Wounded Knee blog regarding J.R.D., and I think… perhaps, the pension record might provide better light on whether or not the Wounded Knee claim is real or, perhaps as case of… “stolen valor”. That said, however, his parents’ application for a pension was approved.

*As a reminder, I also posted last year about the Shenandoah Valley’s Charles Bare Gatewood, known for his efforts in capturing Apache Chief, Geronimo.