Simeon B. Gibbons (1833-1862)

Simeon B. Gibbons, ca. 1861

Simeon Beauford Gibbons was born near what is now Shenandoah, Virginia (Page County) on May 25, 1833, a son of Samuel and Christina Miller Gibbons (a descendant of Valley pioneer, Adam Miller). Though he spent the first eleven years of his life in and around the iron-ore industry-based village in which he was born, after his father sold his interest in the business, “Sim” and his family moved to the village of Mundellsville (known mostly, today, for the site of “Willow Grove Mill”), near Luray.

“Willow Grove”, ca. 1900

He left Mundellsville to matriculate at the Virginia Military Institute in 1848, attending with other Page Countians, Hiram Jackson Strickler and William Overall Yager. Gibbons graduated (civil engineering) in 1852 (ranked 7th out of 24), and returned to Page County, where he taught school near “Hudson’s” just across from “Willow Grove”.

About 1854, Gibbons moved to Harrisonburg, where he joined with Samuel Shacklett in the mercantile business. In 1855, Simeon married Shacklett’s only surviving daughter, Fannie, who died less than a year later.

During the years leading-up to the Civil War, Gibbons also joined the Rockingham Union Lodge #27, A.F. & A.M, and served on the Board of Visitors for VMI (1859-1860).

Gibbons was an active participant in the prewar militia in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, and served initially as captain of the Harrison Valley Guards, which was organized in July 1859. Gibbons was present with his company at the hanging of John Brown, in Charles Town, Virginia (West Virginia), on December 2, 1859. On November 25, Gibbons wrote about the days leading-up to the event…

After being ordered and counter ordered by about a dozen pompous officials for several hours I was at last assigned quarters. I nearly broke myself down in running, from one official to another to obtain something to eat for my mess and at last had to buy some butter, crackers and bacon and cook it ourselves. Nearly five hundred troops were thrown in here yesterday without any notice having been given. I was directed to procure board for my men at 50 cents a day, if I preferred it to rations. So we are boarding now. As for lodging we throw straw on the floor and wrap our blankets around us. The men are well and in fine spirits. No fight is contemplated but some seem anxious to. I do not know how long my company will be kept here. I think my company will compare favorably with any country company that is here. There are five volunteer companies here from the cities. There will be near 1500 troops here on the day of the execution. No visitors are admitted to Brown’s room. 21 of my men were on guard last night. I pitied the boys and asked General Taliaferro to spare them last night as they were up the night before. He replied, ‘I have not been to bed for five nights.’ I said nothing more on the subject. We took in a son of Col. Abbert of Woodstock as drummer. He is a little fellow only 7 years old and plays as well as any drummer on the ground. He is the center of attraction. Our trap band is the only one here. The flags flying from the various “Head Quarters” and the cannon stationed about on the streets give this place quite a military appearance. Tell father and everyone not to come here on the day of the execution as I do not believe the hotels can accommodate them. In haste.

Your affectionate son,
Simeon B. Gibbons.

It’s been a number of years since I took this, but this is S.B. Gibbons’ shell jacket… actually, more of a frock coat, which used to be on display at the Manassas Battlefield. The coat strikes me as worn by a rather unassuming person. I’m not sure if it is still on display there.

In January 1861, he was made colonel of the 4th Regiment Virginia Volunteers, which, along with his with his old company, included six more from Rockingham County. The 4th Regiment left Harrisonburg for Harper’s Ferry on April 18, 1861, and prior to June 1, 1861, was merged with more companies to form the 10th Virginia Infantry, which Gibbons continued to command as colonel. The 10th was accepted into Confederate service on July 1, 1861.

Three of Simeon’s brothers, William, John, and Alfred, also served in the Confederate army.

Gibbons’ black plumed hat, also at Manassas. About 20 years ago, I held his VMI class ring in my hand, and saw his sword, as well as a number of personal items, during a visit with his great-grandnephew (a direct descendant of Sim’s brother, Alfred). Wish I would have taken photos…

William, who had matriculated at VMI in July 1860, was detailed as drillmaster in Richmond and Harper’s Ferry, drilling both Co. K, 10th Virginia Infantry (the “Page Volunteers” from Page County), and Co. K, 1st Tennessee Infantry. Meanwhile, with the bulk of the Gibbons family having moved to Rome, Georgia after selling “Willow Grove” in 1860… John enlisted in Co. A (the “Rome Guards”), 8th Georgia Infantry.

Ultimately, John would be the first casualty of the Gibbons family, dying of typhoid (or pneumonia) in Centreville (though another account claims Middletown), Virginia, on the same day in which his regiment was initiated in battle at First Manassas, July 21, 1861. He was the last Gibbons family member interred in the family plot near “Willow Grove” (his grave is currently unmarked; the stone is believed to have been destroyed by cows after the fence deteriorated over the years).

Less than 10 months later, “Sim”, while leading his regiment up Sitlington’s Hill, near McDowell, Virginia, was struck by two bullets to the forehead. The wounds were clearly mortal, but members of his regiment rushed the colonel to the rear. Serving as Simeon’s orderly at the time, William Gibbons arrived by his brother’s side, just after Sim had died.

(Thirty-three second video of the McDowell Battlefield. At frame 14.3, I point out the general area in which Gibbons received his mortal wound)

Simeon was buried in the Shacklett family plot in Woodbine Cemetery, Harrisonburg, Virginia. His grave is next to that of his wife, Fannie.

*More to follow in separate biographical sketches about William and Alfred, as well as sketches about VMI classmates Yager and Strickler.

** See this link for better images of Gibbons’ coat, hat, AND tobacco found in his coat

16 Responses “Simeon B. Gibbons (1833-1862)” →

  1. William Brockner

    May 26, 2011

    Thanks. Writing up a proposed article on the Va/CSA Once and Tenuous Outpost in Jefferson
    County in the Spring of 1861, including letter wriiten by Simeon in late May to father Sam in Georgia about the politics involved in the officer selection process. Your article clarifies that he was Col of the 4th Inf.He writes that he doesn’t retain command, he will be in the fight with “a musket.” Death at Mcdowell not noted in Mcpherson’s ” Stonewall.”


  2. Brian Houston

    October 25, 2011

    There is a partial letter from the Simeon Gibbon Collection, drawer 150 – Box 105 at the GA State Archives. It was written after 1st Bull Run (Date Missing) and most of the letter is missing and I was wondering if you have ever seen this full letter anywhere? Nice Blog

    • Thanks for commenting, and your remark about the blog. I’m familiar with the Gibbons Family collection there, but haven’t had the opportunity to look through it, personally. Most of what I have used, in my articles for the newspaper in Luray, were published in those newspapers in the early 20th century.


  3. Phillip Gibbons

    November 28, 2011

    Somewhere in my papers I have copies of Col Gibbons’ correspondance from early 61 until just before his death. They are copies of copies of the originals, but still in good reading order. The originals were housed at the Manassas Battlefield museum for years until they came up “missing” around the late 60’s or early 70’s. They were part of the original collection donated by the Gibbons family long before the current museum configuration.

    I would be willing to share his correspondance if you are interested in viewing them



  4. Phillip Gibbons

    November 30, 2011

    I’ll go through my boxes of stuff this weekend. Should be no problem sending you copies of the documents. They are really a great read. A good deal of the content deals with financial affairs and maintaining his affairs back in Harrisonburg. I really like the letter where he describes his white leather sword belt.



    • Thanks much. Look forward to them!


      • Jan Fisher

        August 29, 2012

        Hi from western Canada. Please excuse my ignorance of the details of the Civil War. I’m coming up to speed quickly but am quite a neophyte.

        I’m doing some family history research. I have a Matilda Crigler whose 1900 obituary says that she traveled to Rome, Georgia in 1861 with the family of Colonel Samuel Gibbons from Luray, Va. Would this have been a relative of the fellow you’ve documented here? I’m trying to figure out why she was traveling with this family as she had many siblings & her own father, James Crigler, appears to have been named a Son of the Confederation, which I assume means he was also involved in the war.

        Even more importantly, can you provide any hints on how to go about researching a Captain of the Civil War? I’m looking for anything on John Morrison (1831 North Uist, Scotland – 1904 Atlanta, Georgia), whose obit & numerous news articles refer to him as Captain John Morrison. He arrived from Scotland in Atlanta or Rome Georgia in 1859.

        Is there a particularly good starting place to look into his involvement in the Civil War?

        Thanks for any assistance you can provide. Jan

        • Thanks for the comment. I too am curious as to why Matilda Crigler accompanied.

          As for the service records, is there a middle initial for John Morrison, and, without seeming to be the obvious, does it appear certain he served from Georgia?

          You can check initially in the soldiers and sailors database, for the National Park Service. If you are able to narrow down, I would be happy to look his service record up in Fold3.


  5. Neil Garrison

    February 5, 2014

    Hello. I’ve enjoyed your blog for quite some time. I have a particular interest in the S.B. Gibbons story, and have done quite a bit of research, since stumbling upon the graves of S.B., and “consort,” Fannie’s graves many years ago at Woodbine cemetery. Sam Shacklett actually donated at least an original portion of Woodbine, to be used as a soldier’s cemetery.
    Did Mr. Gibbons send you the S.B. Gibbons letters? Would love to have a copy.
    By the way, Fannie died of typhoid fever. Neil

    • Thanks for following, Neil. Regretfully, no, I haven’t seen all of his letters. They were donated to a private museum, here in the Shenandoah Valley, at some point. Thanks also for the update on Fannie. What’s your particular interest in Gibbons?


  6. Neil Garrison

    February 9, 2014

    I think the span and content of “Simi’s” life (this he was called by close friends and relatives) is fascinating to me. How his father earned his early wealth at Shenandoah with the Forrer brothers in the iron business, the VMI years with George Patton, learning under an eccentric professor named T.J. Jackson, the short-lived marriage to Fannie and association with her brother in the dry-goods store in Harrisonburg, and the fact he witnessed the execution of John Brown, and went on to (at one pt.) be the youngest Colonel in the Confederacy.
    Of course his unit, the 10th Va., was instrumental at Manassas, but like thousands of others,wearing blue or gray, met an untimely death, in his case, at McDowell in May, 1862.
    The more I have investigated on Simeon, the more I want to know. Did you know he traveled to Montgomery, AL in February of 1861, to one of the first gatherings of seceded states?
    I’m not clear if he was just an observer, but I found online his letter describing it and the train ride.

  7. I am searching for information on Simeon father. Samuel. Does anyone know if he was a wood carver? If so was he able to carve in the Adam brother style?


  8. Norman Henry Tribbett

    March 29, 2017

    always enjoy reading anything new on my Gibbons relatives. My was Simeon B.Gibbons aunt. Some of the family did go to TN. before ending up in Rome,Da.

2 Trackbacks For This Post
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    […] Moore has this interesting biographical sketch of Col. Simeon B. Gibbons of the 10th VA Infantry (Smith/Elzey Brigade).  Check it […]

  2. Along the road to McDowell… another Sesqui moment « Cenantua's Blog

    […] County, West VirginiaPage County, VirginiaPeter B. Borst (1826-1882)Simeon B. Gibbons (1833-1862)Robert Franklin Leedy (1863-1924)Michael Shuler (1844-1864)Diary of Captain […]

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