About me

As the header states, I’m a native of the Shenandoah Valley, and, for the most part, this area (and a little beyond the confines of the area’s watershed, geology, and culture) is central to much of what I write… and hence, the title “Cenantua’s Blog”. Take a look at the “‘Cenantua’ – What and Why” page, to get a better idea of my geographic area of interest.

The “backdrop”, or geographic area being set, you’ll find that I often write about the American Civil War and Southern Unionism within this area, and often relate to the time through my findings in the people here… to include my ancestors.

Then too, I’m also interested in the history of this area before and after the Civil War era, and have, from time to time, reached as far forward as the First World War, and back into the colonial period, and even before. Also, as a veteran of the Navy (a submariner) and Army, and a military brat of “the Corps”, I might even drop in a post that has something to do with these things.

I know that some of the things that I write about may challenge the views of others, and, hopefully, this will prompt thoughtful comments from the readers. All that I ask is that those who comment remain civil, and consider this “writing space” as a place in which thoughts are fluid, and are not necessarily static and unbending. I hope you enjoy the blog, and make it a regular part of your Web-reading, and interactions.

Abridged Curriculum Vitae

◦ Student, PhD Program in Writing and Rhetoric, George Mason University, Fairfax, Va., Jan. 2016 – ?.
◦ Master of Science, Technical and Scientific Communication, with a focus on Technical Writing and User Experience Design for the Web and Print, May 2009.
James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va.
Thesis: “Blogging as Historians: Considering Interaction, Authority, and New Practices for the Web.”
◦ Master of Arts, History, with a focus on the American Civil War Era, May 2007.
Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Va.
Thesis: “Flaws in the Armor of the Grand Illusion: Dissent, Reluctance, and Disaffection Toward the Confederate Cause in the Central Shenandoah Valley – A Study of Page County, Virginia”

Digital projects:
All of the following projects were created within the structural framework of the Weblog, though not all fit the traditional definition of the blog.
Cenantua’s Blog
Southern Unionists Chronicles
◦Too Long Forgotten: Searching for the history of slaves and free blacks in Page County, Virginia
◦Being Cenantua
◦Brythonica (formerly “Clach Nam Breatann”): Connecting Y DNA to history… and prehistory

Published Works:
◦ (Contributor) We Learned That We Are Indivisible: Sesquicentennial Reflections on the Civil War Era in the Shenandoah Valley. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2015. (I contributed a chapter on Southern Unionism in Page County, Virginia).
◦ (Contributor) Lexington, Virginia and the Civil War. Charleston: The History Press, Inc., 2013. (Author is Richard G. Williams, Jr. I contributed the narrative pertaining to Southern Unionists and USCTs).
Tragedy in the Shenandoah Valley: The Story of the Summers-Koontz Execution. Charleston: The History Press, Inc., 2006.
Short Historical Sketches of Page County, Virginia and Its People, Volume 2. Westminster: Heritage Books, Inc., 2005.
Short Historical Sketches of Page County, Virginia and Its People, Volume 1. Westminster: Heritage Books, Inc., 2005.
Gibraltar of the Shenandoah: Civil War Sites and Stories of Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County, Virginia. Virginia Beach: The Donning Company Publishers, 2004.
Avenue of Armies: Civil War Sites and Stories of Luray and Page County, Virginia. Virginia Beach: The Donning Company Publishers, 2002.
The 1st and 2nd Stuart Horse Artillery (Virginia Regimental Histories Series). Appomattox: H.E. Howard, Inc., 1999.
Miscellaneous Disbanded Virginia Light Artillery (Virginia Regimental Histories Series). Appomattox: H.E. Howard, Inc., 1997.
Graham’s Petersburg, Jackson’s Kanawha, and Lurty’s Roanoke Horse Artillery (Virginia Regimental Histories Series). Appomattox: H.E. Howard, Inc., 1996.
Chew’s Ashby, Shoemaker’s Lynchburg, and the Newtown Artillery (Virginia Regimental Histories Series). Appomattox: H.E. Howard, Inc., 1995.
The Richmond Fayette, Hampden, Thomas, and Blount’s Lynchburg Artillery (Virginia Regimental Histories Series). Lynchburg: H.E. Howard, Inc., 1991.
The Charlottesville, Lee Lynchburg, and Johnson’s Bedford Artillery (Virginia Regimental Histories Series). Lynchburg: H.E. Howard, Inc., 1990.
The Danville, Eighth Star New Market, and Dixie Artillery (Virginia Regimental Histories Series). Lynchburg: H.E. Howard, Inc., 1989.

◦ “Custer and the Shadow Soldiers,” Civil War Times Illustrated XXIX, No. 1 (March 2000), 29-34, 58.
◦ “Break out! The capture and adventures of Washington Brown Traweek in Yankeedom and his part in leading up to the daring escape of Confederate prisoners from Elmira, New York,” Civil War Times Illustrated XXIX, No. 5 (Nov./Dec. 1991), 26, 52-54, 56, 59-61.
◦ “A Matter of Injustice: The Summers-Koontz Incident,” Blue and Gray Magazine (February 1992), 32-34.
◦ “The 38th Battalion Virginia Light Artillery at Gettysburg,” America’s Civil War (January 2000), 12, 14, 16, 18.

Other Published Works:
◦ Local, weekly history column, Page News & Courier, Luray, Va., 1998-2010 [see a chronological list of articles here]

Museum work:
◦ Development Director/Grants Manager, Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia (1999-2002)
◦ Tour guide, CSS Neuse and Governor Caswell Memorial (1987)

Volunteer work:
◦ History and Text Review Committee, Virginia Civil War Trails Program (1999-2003)
◦ Education and Interpretation Committee, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation (2000-2003)
◦ Volunteer (period-clothed interpretation), Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (2012-2016)

82 Responses “About me” →

  1. david wiles

    October 22, 2011

    Just saw your wonderful photos of Plumb Grove. I don’t think we have ever met (but if we have, forgive me, for I work third shift and I’m very tired at this moment) but I am guessing you are aware of the Nesbitt-Moore connection. Also, I worked many years in Harrisonburg and Stauton and look forward to viewing more of your site after I get some rest.

    David Wiles
    prersident, Clear Spring Historical…

    • Thanks so much for commenting, Mr. Wiles! I’m not aware of the Moore-Nesbitt connection, but would be interested in hearing more, as I have suspected there might be one. I would very much like the chance to visit the Clear Spring Historical Society office, and see what you have. I’m especially interested in Otto Nesbitt’s diary, for the course of the Civil War. Looking forward to talking with you more.

  2. Mr. Moore –
    I am a student in high school, and I am working on a presentation about the remaining emotions/prejudices/controversies surrounding the Civil War here in the Shenandoah Valley. Your blog is fascinating, but I am not allowed to use web sources. I was wondering if you would be available for an interview?
    Thanks, and happy Thanksgiving!

    • Hello Helen,

      Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Yes, I would be willing to do an interview, via e-mail… if that would be acceptable. Thanks also for reading, and commenting!


  3. Dan Fleming

    December 18, 2011

    Mr. Moore,
    I write a history newsletter near Newark, Ohio. There is a Hanger family here whose ancestry is from the same line as James Edward Hanger, whose photograph I see on several internet sites. One of the sites credited you for that photo. I would like to use it in my article with your permission.

    Thank you,
    Dan Fleming
    Editor, Licking Valley Ledger


  4. Dan Fleming

    December 24, 2011

    Never mind. I got it from Hanger Orthopedic Group. Merry Christmas!
    Dan Fleming

    • Sorry for the delay in responding, but recent matters prevented me from getting back to you in a more timely fashion. All is well, however, as you actually secured permission from the source from which I secured permission, for the Hanger photo. Merry Christmas to you as well!


  5. David Cuff Burnette

    January 2, 2012

    I really enjoy your blog. I am a descendant of the Cuff family who resided in Mercersburg.We have retained alot of our history from the Civil War years and prior.I would definitely like to compare notes sometime.

    David Cuff Burnette

  6. Robert,
    I’m a Hollywood producer who has figured out a way to combine my passion for the Civil War with the latest media technology and came up with a new way to attract a younger crowd and still remain true to the core group of fans.
    The results can be see at masondixonreport.com. We’re getting 3,000 hits a month without any advertising. We’re hoping to increase the eyeball traffic through great sites like yours.
    When you get a chance check it out and look forward to your feedback.
    Steve Ecclesine


  7. Bill Keyes

    January 26, 2012

    Just curious – are you the same Robert Moore that established a memorial camp for individuals who could trace their ancestors serving in both the Confederate and Union armies? My g-g grandfather served in the Confederate Cavalry out of Tennessee. He was captured and spent a winter at Rock Island Prison. He subsequently enlisted as a “Galvanized Yankee” and served until November 1865 on the frontier in Kansas.

    If I have the right person, I’d like to know more about your camp, if it’s still in existence.


  8. Laura Keaton Morrison

    February 1, 2012

    Hi Robert, I have a copy of Chew’s Ashby, Shoemaker’s Lynchburg… I’d like to ask you about John Herley (p. 114) and the quote you used in your work. Can you tell me where you found your information and the quote? I’d like to research John Herley and would love more detail. Laura

    • Hi Laura, You mean about the mischief behavior? If so, it’s been a while, but, if I were to guess, it likely came directly from an entry in his service record.


  9. Laura Keaton Morrison

    February 2, 2012

    Hi Robert, Yes the mischief, demotion then reinstated to sgt. He is a younger brother of my husband’s great-great grandmother. I hate to show my ignorance, but, where are the CSA hard copies with details like the mischief? Are the records at the NARA? Thanks, LKM


  10. appalachianhistory

    April 21, 2012

    Robert, just read your post re: Tragedy in the Shenandoah Valley… soon to be an e-book. Would you be interested in running a brief excerpt of same on the App Hist site, with a short mention in the intro of the fact of the book coming out in e-book form?

    • Sure, Dave. Would love to do so. I’ve got a blurb… just let me know when you want it. Thanks much for the opportunity!


  11. Joyce Rowe-Follett

    April 22, 2012

    Hey Robert,
    I have to tell you I love reading your posts. They not only give me a better insight as to what was happenings in Page County during “The War Between the States” (hey, that’s what my Virginia history books called it),but also when you write about Co. D of the 7th Virginia, I know you are speaking of our mutual relations.

    The question I have is, in Weyland’s book it says that during the flood of 1870, the William Dorraugh family was lost, we know this is not true, because we are here. I can find no other mention of the family when reading further. Do you have any idea where they were and how they escaped?

    I know you and I have searched for William before 1837 with no luck. I am just about ready to stop beating my head against this brick wall and hire a professional to do a search…any suggestions?

    Body in Texas, Heart in Virginia

    • Hi Joyce, Thanks for reading!

      The only thing I can think of is that Wayland was off on the information he received, or made an error in transcription. I can’t explain it otherwise.

      As for the family before William Dorraugh, I gave up a while back. There’s simply no bread trail. Frustrating indeed.


  12. Ron Painter

    June 1, 2012

    Henry Aleshite (Aleshire) was my third great grandfather and Thomas Purdom was alos my third great grandfather. I am in the process of joining the Sons of the American Revolution under Henry, but can you recommend any sources for legal documentation of Thomas Purdom to wife Agnes, their daughter Sarah (Sally) an d her marriage to Peter (Bender) Painter? These are missing links in the Purdom line to me. Thanks, Ron Painter


  13. Mary Nicholson Burnett

    June 23, 2012

    Robert, we are related somehow and I can’t figure it out. My grandfather was Benjamin Robert Nicholson, my father was Earley F. Nicholson. If you don’t mind me asking, who were your mother and father. thanks so much. Mary

    • Hi Mary,

      BRN was my great grandmother’s brother… so, we’re second cousins, once removed. Good to hear from you. Hope you’ve enjoyed my posts about the Nicholsons!


  14. Mary N. Burnett

    June 30, 2012

    would you mind giving me your parents names, I’m not quick on figuring out these family links .

    • I prefer not to post such information for security reasons, but can tell you, my great-grandmother was Mamie Virginia Nicholson (1891-1965). She married Edward Benjamin Emerson (1884-1970).


  15. Mary N. Burnett

    July 2, 2012

    thank you. I’ve gotten so much useful information from you. I also found that a picture my family has is Henry K. Emerson. Don’t know how my Dad got it. I do know he had an uncle Emerson in Luray.

    • You’re welcome, and thanks for commenting, cousin! What does the photo of H.K. Emerson look like? I have two photos; one from wartime, and one from later in life. I’m curious to know if it might be one of the same of those two, or something different.


  16. Mary N. Burnett

    July 5, 2012

    It looks like the one you posted of him almost. How would I send you a copy?

  17. Mr. Moore.
    Your site inspired me to create, Civil War Bummer….foraging food for thought. If you
    have the time to critique the content I would be thrilled. Thank you for your time in advance.
    My kids did not know the origin of the term Bummer regarding Sherman’s foragers so I included it on the home page.

    The origin of this term, applied to Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s foragers during the March To The Sea and the Carolinas Campaign, is obscure but was common army parlance by 1864. Possibly deriving from the German Bummler, meaning “idler” or “wastrel,” the name was embraced by many soldiers, who believed it struck terror in the hearts of Southern people. The soldiers of the Army of Georgia were authorized to live off the land, since it was Sherman’s intent to “make Georgia howl” and to lay just as heavy a hand on South Carolina, which many Federals considered a “hellhole of secession.” On the road from Atlanta to the sea and then north, Sherman’s columns left their supply bases far behind, and their wagons could not carry provisions sufficient for all. Nevertheless, the Union commander sought to regulate and limit foraging, keeping it within accepted rules of warfare. Each brigade leader was to organize a foraging detail under “discreet officers.” The details were empowered to gather rations and forage of any sort and quantity useful to their commands and could appropriate animals and conveyances without limit. Soldiers, however, were not to trespass on any private dwelling, were to avoid abusive or threatening language, and, when possible, were to leave each family “a reasonable portion [of provisions] for their maintenance.” In regions where the army moved unmolested, no destruction of property was permitted. But where bushwhackers or guerrillas impeded the march, corps commanders were enjoined to “enforce a devastation more or less relentless, according to the measure of hostility.” Many who marched through Georgia and the Carolinas disregarded these prohibitions. Too often, foraging parties became bands of marauders answering to no authority. One conscientious bummer wrote to his sister about the depredations inflicted on South Carolina:

    How would you like it, do you think, Ab, to have troops passing your house constantly … ransacking and plundering and carrying off everything that could be of any use to them? There is considerable excitement in foraging, but it is [a] disagreeable business in some respects to go into people’s houses and take their provisions and have the women begging and entreating you to leave a little when you are necessitated to take all. But I feel some degree of consolation in the knowledge I have that I never went beyond my duty to pillage.

    • Thanks for the comment. Glad you found value in the example of my blog and started one of your own. I have added you to the blogroll. Welcome to the CW blogosphere!

  18. Thanks for your time and I am honored to be added to your blogroll.


  19. drewhousman

    November 19, 2012

    Mr. Moore,

    My name is Drew Housman, and first off I just want to say that your blog is fantastic. I have only come to it recently, but I am already captivated. You are doing yeoman’s work over here, and it does not go unnoticed.

    I write to you because I am involved with a movie called “Saving Lincoln.” It tells Lincoln’s story through the eyes of Ward Hill Lamon. The movie is Directed by Salvador Litvak, who invented a filming process called CineCollage in order to make the movie on an indie budget. The tentative release date is Lincoln’s birthday this coming February.

    I would really appreciate it if you took a look at our teaser trailer http://www.savinglincoln.com/ and our Veterans Day tribute http://is.gd/XNQMi8.

    I would love to hear any comments you may have. Maybe we can find a way to drive our respective supporters toward each others projects in a mutually beneficial way. I hope all is well, and keep up the great work!

    • Hi Drew,

      Thanks for stopping by, as well as your kind remarks! It’s actually ironic that you left a comment at this time considering I’m trying to figure out how I want to approach Ward Hill Lamon as a Southern Unionist… not only with roots in the Shenandoah Valley, but as one who grew up here as well. Having taken more time to focus on the common folk Unionists, I haven’t written much about what might be considered the “super star Unionists” of the Valley… and Lamon and his brother Robert certainly qualify. Incidentally, I’m a FB follower of “Saving Lincoln”, but I’ll take another look at your teaser.

      Hope you find the upcoming blog post of interest.


      • drewhousman

        November 20, 2012

        Glad to hear you already know about Saving Lincoln! Informing your other readers about it as the release date approaches would be a huge boon to us. I look forward to your upcoming blogs, can’t wait to hear your take on Lamon and his brother.


  20. Kerry Moore

    November 21, 2012

    Mr. Moore,

    I am currently piecing together my family tree, and that is how I came across your space on the web here. I am also a descendant of James “110” Moore, and that is where I am coming up short on information. I have found a few different bits of information that have him being born in different places (i.e. Ireland, Scotland, England etc). I was wondering if you could possibly share some information with me in terms of James Moore, and anything further down the line that you have (his family tree). I’m sure you are a busy gentleman, and I’m rather stuck at this point, so any help would be greatly appreciated (maybe you can wrap your head around how we are related? ). And I’m sure you can appreciate, by reading some of your postings, that I now am somewhat relieved to at least have an idea of who was carrying the 1860 Harper’s Ferry musket that has been passed down to me. Thank you for your time.

    Mr. Kerry Moore

    • Hi Kerry,

      I’d be happy to help with what I can. Can you provide me with a tree, beginning with you and rolling back?

      As for the origin of our Moore line, I’m fairly sure that it is somewhere in the vicinity of Fifeshire in Scotland. There are a good number of pieces that fit together regarding James’ capture while fighting against Cromwell at Dunbar under Leslie (and that our Moore line was probably a sept of the Leslie Clan). Also, there is a connection with Ninian Beall that seems to make it even more likely that all of the above is true. Lastly, I participated in the DNA program and have found matching markers with some other Moores from that area of Scotland.

      Looking forward to hearing from you again.


  21. Kerry Moore

    November 21, 2012


    Thank you for your response. Is there an email address you would like me to send the tree to ? I really do appreciate you taking the time to respond and assist me with this endeavor.

    Thanks again,


  22. Robert,

    I just came across your Southern Unionist site and became intrigued. I am writing a family history book and one of my ancestors residing in McNairy County, TN was pro-union which has caused me to investigate how much pro-union feeling existed in the south. And I have learned that more anti-secessionist feeling existed throughout the south than is generally known. Also I noted in your tree both Koontz and Roudabush surnames which I also have from Rockingham county. I have not examined the intersection but I am sure there is one.

    Dave Hearne
    Vermont and Virginia (split my time)

    • Thanks for the comment, Dave. The deeper we dig, it does appear that more Unionists existed than we realized. Additionally, there’s a need to consider categories of Confederate-leanings just as much as there is a need to categorize various levels of Southern Unionism. At points, there are even intersections between the two.

      I’d be curious to know more about your Roudabush/Koontz connections. The name Roudabush is so rare that I have found common links with folks in Pa., Ohio, and other areas.

      • Robert, I have not done much research in my Roudabush/Koontz connection, but I believe the following is correct. My 4g-grandmother Maria Roudabush (b. about 1784) was sister to your Jacob (b. 1786). In 1804 Maria married Peter Keller (1778-1857). Peter Keller was the son of Lewis Keller (1734-1823) and Sarah Koontz (1742-1782). I have no documents giving the parents of Sarah Koontz, but my information on the ancestors of Maria and Jacob, Jr. Roudabush match yours. But they could well be from the same source. We do seem to be very distant cousins.

  23. Hi Robert, Yesterday I read your book about the Summers-Koontz “incident”, and I thank you very much for writing the book. One of the surprising (to me) things I learned is how many Unionists there were in Page County. Another thing I learned is that my step-mother is something like a second cousin three times removed of Capt. Summers. (I am descended from Elder John Koontz through David Reuben Koontz of Stanley, first county treasurer, I believe. I have two of David’s diaries, 1872 and 1878, which are a very interesting peek into life at that time.) I am writing to ask if you know of a George Moore who lived about the time of the Civil War, or perhaps a bit later. I have a blanket chest that my mother always said was made by Cousin George Moore. I can send you a photo if you’d like. Thanks, Susan

    • Hi Susan, Glad you read the book and enjoyed it! I’m not sure I can help with the George Moore question. It may be that he was from the Moore family from New Market. My line was from Western Maryland, before coming up the Shenandoah Valley in the 1880s.


      • Susan Blake

        February 28, 2013

        Thanks Robert. I haven’t had time to visit your site, but now am going back and catching up. Too bad you’re not related to “Cousin George” — he was a fine furniture maker.


  24. Larry Lamar Yates

    March 24, 2013

    I am embarrassed to say I just came across your blog and your account of John J. Robinson. I am the self-published author of a very wide-ranging book, The Scalawag Scholar’s Notes on Virginia, which critiques the Virginia Gentleman from his origins in Jamestown to the present day, mainly from an anti-racist point of view. Like all who try to write honest polemics, I am dependent on those like you who do detailed scholarly work, especially at the margins of received historical doctrine.

    One chapter of my book deals with white “race traitors” of the slavery era, and I included George Boxley, driven to Indiana for his part in a supposed rebellion of the enslaved; Etheldred Brantley, who was saved and healed by the preacher Nat Turner before the insurrection; John Kagi, who was with John Brown and came from a Shenandoah Valley family; Samuel Smith, who boxed up “Box” Brown and others and went to prison for it; and the Methodist Rev. James Allen, who died rather than give up an escaped slave.

    If you would be interested in seeing a copy of my book, I would be glad to get one to you.

    Thanks for what you do. I have signed up for email notifications and will be returning here.

    Larry Lamar Yates

    (My scalawag claim is my own modern one; my Southern (and wholly Confederate) ancestry is through central Georgia, though I believe a Yates ancestor who fought in the Revolution lived in Virginia.)

    • Thanks for the comment, Mr. Yates… as well as for starting to follow the blog.

      We have what appears to be a similar interest in countering traditional Southern memory. Mine has been to make folks aware that there was not a solid South in the Civil War. Southern Unionists are central to that. Likewise, I’ve also spent time bringing about an awareness to the stories of the Valley-born African-Americans who became members of the USCT. I am, however, more conservative in my views on what you refer to as “white race traitors”. It’s very easy to project our modern mindsets on people in history, and as a historian, I try as much as possible to avoid that path. The word “racist” is a precarious thing when used against folks in history. While we can compare them to us, and perhaps feel confident in evaluating “them” on a comparative basis as “racist”, I think such things muddy our ability to look objectively at all that is in the history of those people. I suppose righting a wrong, at least in my eyes, is directed at telling the stories of those who have been forgotten (or pushed under the rug) up to this point. Each perspective is a valuable tool to evaluate the whole, and give us a more accurate image (if only in our minds) of what Virginia and other places “looked like”. It’s almost like the Polaroid reality vs. the hand-colored images of an edition from Harpers Weekly.

      As for your offer to see a copy of your book, I thank you very much and would greatly enjoy the opportunity to read your book. I must confess, however, that I’m not a patient reader (but rather, a notorious “skimmer”). Likewise, I’m now moving along to complete my next published work, with the hope of a Fall, 2014 publication date. So, if you were to provide a copy of your work, I’m afraid my good intentions to read would be overshadowed by the need to move forward with my current writing projects. Despite this, I hope you will continue follow and enjoy the blog.

  25. I write with great respect, but with a different approach. I don’t intend or expect to start a dialogue, but felt I must respond, since your comment is one I run into often.

    I certainly agree that we should not project our modern mindsets on people in history. On the other hand, we should not condescend to our ancestors either. They were as capable as we are of applying basic moral concepts, grasping ambiguity, and knowing that freedom is.

    My stance is that seeing the peculiar institution as deeply and in some ways uniquely immoral is not at all a modern mindset. It was clear from its formation in the 1600s as a new and brutal system, as various contemporary critics, not the least of them John Wesley, demonstrate.

    If one includes people of African descent as people, and looks at the emigration from the South of respectable businesspeople like Quakers, I think the evidence is clear that the peculiar institution was always extremely controversial among Southerners. In fact, the idea we tend to assume on the part of people in the past — that most people accepted slavery as part of life, without questioning its morality or its permanence — was probably largely limited to early 19th century white Yankees, who could afford to be oblivious about something they personally did not experience or have a stake in (until Southern developments forced them to).

    Clearly the majority of people directly participating in the slavery system found it highly repugnant, as is clear from the quite high prevalence of radical responses to the system — leaving one’s birth community for a totally unknown North, poisoning their work supervisors, organizing complex rebellions despite having no legal rights, etc. These are actions that most working people, even peasant serfs, do not take. In addition, the oral traditions of these Southern working people, from “Go Down Moses” to “Blue Tailed Fly,” makes clear a condemnation of slavery.

    The obsessive defensiveness that dominated white Southern elite culture in the 19th century indicates that very few people, even among “owners,” found the slavery system clearly moral or acceptable. Jefferson was far from the only one recorded as feeling that he had inherited a system that he did not know how to let go of, but that he understood was immoral and unsustainable. That at the same time the elite found it necessary to use harsh means to enforce the system, and lashed out against a tiny white abolitionist movement as if it was a major enemy, hardly contradicts the idea that their souls were troubled and their minds were anxious.

    I would suggest that to not talk about “race traitors,” the invention of whiteness, and the constant tension that slavery generated among all its participants, is itself a “modern mindset.”

    Again, thanks for your work.

    • Thanks for your response.

      I agree regarding an awareness among 18th and 19th century Southern whites, in their own time, regarding the peculiar institution. Many (though, I have to say, due to geography… not all) battled with it in various ways, from Jefferson’s “tiger” theory to the efforts (though generally more unsuccessful than successful) in colonizing African-Americans as a means to “clear the slate”. While we are shocked by the effort to justify, I have no doubt that many (most especially slaveholders) felt comforted by the 1861 sermon of Woodrow Wilson’s father, in Augusta, Ga. The more remarkable point, however, is that the institution is denied more today, mostly because of the years (and historic benchmarks that actually pronounced a race divide even more) since that time. I believe many of these historical “benchmarks”. into the 1960s and early 70s, make some Southerners wish to suppress it even more. On the other hand, I’m concerned that just as much as there are those who are adamant in denying that part of the history of the South, there are those who are just as adamant in defining the South with a hard pendulum swing in the other direction. Both may hold grains of truth, but neither is all-inclusively accurate. One monolithic definition is traded for yet another. Perhaps the directional swing is necessary before we are able to settle into an in-between that gives us the ability to see the South that is more multi-faceted than either pendulum swing wishes to acknowledge. I say this, but have my doubts as to when the pendulum will settle into a balance.

      There are different approaches to bringing about awareness. Some are subtle while others are pointed. What might be the most effective in reaching the largest possible audience, and will prove more beneficial, bringing about an accurate portrayal of the history of a multi-faceted/complex South? Will time and tests of the approaches be the only manner in which we can learn the answer? At present it would seem that both are theories in action, but are both moving toward the same objective?

  26. Great blog! As a member of the Nicholson clan that descended from Nicholson Hollow, my grand father was Hilton Nicholson, son of Russ and that leads back to Aaron. So, I guess we are related!

    • Thank you, Stacy! Yes, I’ve had the good fortunate to connect with many cousins because of these posts. Hope you enjoyed all the posts about the Nicholsons. Would love to do more… if I could find more source material about the family prior to the 1920s.


  27. Jeff McMillan

    May 6, 2013

    I perhaps discovered your placard ascending the Massanutten ridge. Is this your scholarly residence? I’m a playwright building a home in Egypt Bend.

  28. Robert, appreciate your blog. Can you give me a shout here at the Library of Virginia? We have a project coming up that I think you could contribute to.

    Mark Howell, program manager, LVA

    • Hi Mark,

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I sent you an email yesterday evening. Looking forward to hearing from you.


  29. Frank Volpe

    July 22, 2013

    Robert: I just received my copy of the Short Historical Sketches of Page Co. Well done! I am enjoying the articles. My wife and I bought a house built in 1812 near Bixler’s Ferry and the Strickler Stone House. Because of the house, we are gobbling up any books and articles that might discuss it or its location. Your book is a great resource.

    • Very glad you are enjoying the book. I sincerely hope that I can get the last three volumes out within the year. Thanks for commenting, Frank!


      • Frank Volpe

        July 22, 2013

        I should have mentioned, if you run across anything about the house please send me a note (frv0922@gmail.com). We hear there was a piece published in the local paper about an enslaved boy drowning while saving another boy and a couple ghost stories–but we have not located any further details, In the meantime, happy and successful writing. Thanks.

        • Thanks, Frank. Will do. Also, is this the Harrison Strickler House?


          • Frank Volpe

            July 26, 2013

            Hmmm, I’m not sure. But it is next to the Heiston-Strickler House, so I think that must also be the Harrison-Strickler property. On a 1870s magisterial survey of the Virginia counties, it is shown as being owned by a W.E. Grayson. By the way, Volume 2 came in mail today–I hope you’re making money on these!!!! I bought both as new books.

            • Thanks for buying another, Frank!

              Take a look in my book. Avenue of Armies, p. 25. Is that your house?

  30. Frank Volpe

    July 26, 2013

    But maybe, Harrison Strickler does show up in the land records and the house may have been owned by Daniel Strickler and his wife Elizabeth as well. So, maybe!


  31. Frank Volpe

    July 29, 2013

    I guess I have to buy another book. As soon as I find it, I’ll take a look. Thanks


  32. Frank Volpe

    July 29, 2013

    If you are interested in seeing a picture, I can send one by email. Just shoot me an email at fvolpe@sidley.com Have a good day.

  33. I really enjoy the blog and site, and was wondering if you would be interested in any Unionist information from the Tidewater. I have a blog on New Kent county history and have recently been doing research on Reconstruction on the upper Peninsula. There was much more information out there than I thought, even in the “burned” localities. Not sure if this the proper place to ask, but I saw no email address.

  34. Robert,
    I just found your blog..and your history about Thornton Hamilton Taylor. Thornton was my Great great grandpa. So we are cousins!!…Wonderful to read something about my family history. I know very little about this side of my family. I have been searching for any info on our relative Jeremiah Taylor. Do you have any info on who his parents were…Where they originally all came from? Was it England? Were they Scott/Irish? I know of another Taylor family that was living in Virginia at the same time…they are related to a Capt. Zachary Taylor. I haven’t been able to connect the two families. Maybe they aren’t connected? I have been looking for info on Jeremiah for over 7 yrs…it gets so frustrating…I hope you can help me.
    My Grandma was Pauline Esile Taylor, her father was Edward Enoch Monroe Taylor, his father was Thornton H Taylor.
    Thanks for any help

    • Hi Inga,

      Thanks for commenting. Yes, I’m descended from Jeremiah Taylor. His lineage is somewhat sketchy, but, I think because Valentine Dudley Taylor (one of Jeremiah Taylor’s sons) was christened where he was (St. Mark’s Parish), it puts this line of Taylors in the same church as those Taylors tied to Zachariah Taylor. I’d just like to see some records from St. Mark’s to help satisfy my need to officially patch up some of the gaps. Based on this connection, Jeremiah would have been the son of Zachariah and Elizabeth Lee Taylor. You can see more via the Find-a-Grave page that I maintain for Jeremiah.

  35. Robert,

    Great blog! I especially enjoyed the entry on grain whiskey in the Shenandoah Valley. I am rehabbing a historic grist mill (Plains Mill) built in 1847, along with a craft distillery, and found this article very interesting. I have information on some of the existing distilleries in the Valley during the mid-late 1800’s and would love to see any information you have as well! Feel free to visit my website (www.plainsmill.com) for more information on the project, on contact me via email I provided. I have traced the Plains Mill property back to an 1773 land grant and the first mill was built on the property in 1774. Also we have access to amazing volumes of the daily journals and day books of Siram P. Henkel (rebuilt the existing mill in 1847) which go into great details of life at the mill and on the farm from 1840s-1870’s – including multiple occupations of the mill by Union and Confederate troops during the war. You may be interested in reading a copy of them, especially during the war time. Or there were several books written from them by Elsie Newcomer and Janet Ramsey titled “1861: Life in the Shenandoah Valley”. Also in the set there is “1862”, “1863” and “1864”.

    Please feel free to contact me or visit the Plains Mill if you are ever in the area!

    Zach Grandle

    • Thanks, Zach! I have nothing on the individual distilleries, but my interests in agriculture (as well as literature) in the Valley, between the 1840s and 1865, has grown considerably within the last year. I will indeed touch base with you when I’m back in the upper Valley, as I’d greatly enjoy seeing the mill!


  36. Phil Gibbons

    February 16, 2014

    Sir. I noticed the update on Col Sim Gibbons. I have located the copies of his family letters from my last move. I would be happy to send you copes or hand them off to you. I think we are both local if I recall correctly from our last e mail?




  37. Shirley Boswell Brown

    June 20, 2014

    Robert Moore my name is Shirley Boswell Brown. I believe we are related. My gggrandfather was William M. Dorraugh born about 1811, he was an enumerator for the 1850 US Census for Page Co., VA, my ggrandfather was Elijah Russell Dorraugh born 1844, my grandfather was William Elijah Dorraugh born 1899, my mother was Mary Edna “Mickey” Dorraugh born 1915 who married Harry Morton Boswell. Did you write about the Alderson family history? My mother’s grandmother was Anna “Annie” Alderson née Moore born in 1871 in County Durham, England, died 1950 in Linton, Greene Co., Indiana, came to the USA in 1904. My grandmother was Helena Elinor “Nellie” Dorraugh née Alderson, born in County Durham, England in 1899.
    My email is:


  38. Shirley Boswell Brown

    August 5, 2014

    Hi, Robert,
    Yes I did find the Find-a-Grave page and your post on William M. Dorraugh. I’ve been doing genealogy research on Ancestry.com for several years (I’ll be 80 later this year) now mostly on the Dorraugh and Boswell lines. Have you read his son Elijah Russell Dorraugh’s Find-a-Grave page (Fairview Cemetery, Linton, Greene Co., Indiana)? Someone recently added an article written by William M. Dorraugh in defense of Elijah’s shooting another man.

    • Hello again, Shirley,

      Yes, I also maintain the page for Elijah and updated it with the shooting incident info a few months or so back.


  39. Patt White

    August 12, 2014

    REUBEN YANCY COFFMAN WAS MY GGF. HE WENT TO PA. AFTER THE WAR, and built a small house on Valley Forge Mt., near Paoli, PA. His first wife was Catherine (Small, Smart, or something similar) also from Page Co. They had several children, and their daughter, Edith Mae, was my GM.

    I’ve often wondered about how these two got together…did he go back and forth several
    times ? Were they married in VA ? Catherine died and Reuben married a woman with two daughters…don’t know where they were from, but have photos of them also.

    Reuben was buried in the Great Vally Presbyterian cemetery…they can’t locate his plot, since there was a bit of shifting of graves many years ago.

    Mother told me about Reuben (she was born in 1906) , and she had photos of him, and of another man who was apparently a Preacher, and supposedly his brother. The story Mother remembered was that the two young deserters went North for work, and that one worked in a Phila. hotel. Reuben was a stone mason, I believe.

    After building the house, Reuben built a log cabin to serve as a kitchen. It still stands on the mountain, near the Octagon Schoolhouse, an local historical site.

    Can you verify any of this tale ? I’d sure like to get a handle on my Coffman family !

    Cordially, Patt

    • Patt,

      I can’t verify what you are asking, but actually, Reuben did not go to Pa after the war, but during… he deserted from the Confederate army, in 1863. In fact, he, along with his brothers, left Virginia for Pa. You can see a synopsis of the story here. It’s a fine story that I recovered from old issues of the Page News & Courier, in Luray.


  40. Sheree Thoburn

    November 16, 2015

    Hi Robert. I just read Tragedy in the Shenandoah and want to thank you for teaching me so much about George W. Summers Senior. I feel like I know him after reading your book. He was my 3rd Great Grandfather, as I am descended from David F Dovel and Sarah Jane Summers. On page 102 of the book, you write that Abraham Hollingsworth, of Abram’s Delight in Winchester, was the Great Grandfather of Capt Summers. I have not had success yet finding documents of Susannah Hollingsworth’s birth to determine who her parents were and would appreciate your help. Can you tell me the source of your information about the connection of Susannah to Abraham Hollingsworth? I am new to the geneology search and still learning.

  41. Mr Moore, I also am a descendant of Peter Wyant of Beldor Va. and may have some insight on Edmund Shifflett and Milly Wyant…I descended through Peter’s daughter Francis (Fannie) Wyant Davis…wife of Leonard Davis Jr. Peter purchased his Farm fro Leonard Davis….


  42. Colleen

    March 19, 2016

    Do you have an email address? I am related to Elizabeth Geary and have information which may be of interest to you. As well, I am wondering if you have any information of her brother George Atkinson who was living in Darien in 1850 with his family.

  43. Hello! I enjoyed reading your entry about the Winchester Conrad family. I married Bryan Hunter Conrad in 1980 and we have 3 sons, so finding information is a treat and good to share with my boys. Thanks!


  44. Chris Taylor

    February 17, 2020

    Looking for more info on Jeremiah Taylor. He’s my 6th great grandfather. I believe you posted the info here: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/119639805/jeremiah-taylor. I’m unable to find any source that links him to a sister named Frances. The theory behind John or Mungo seems plausible, though while I find tons of citations for Mungo I can’t link him to John. I admit I’m still new to the ancestry thing so any help would greatly be appreciated.


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