Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Battle of Old Men & Young Boys

My oldest son, the history nut, will be coming home for a visit at the end of June and to take part in a high school friend's wedding ceremony.

It's too bad he won't have more time as I wanted to take him on a short trip to Virginia, to where many of our ancestors lived.  Hubs isn't interested in going as he isn't "into" family history/genealogy, even his own family's! 

June 25th of this year marks the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Staunton River Bridge.
This was a crucial win for the Confederates at that time, as the successful defense of that bridge and the railroad line there, kept the supply line open to the Confederacy and troops in Richmond and Petersburg and delayed the end of the War of Northern Aggression.

This battle was part of the Wilson-Kautz Raid by the Union to try to destroy supply lines. 
After 3 days of Union raiding forces tearing up the Confederate rail lines, they were stopped in their "tracks"(pardon the pun)by the forces assembled at the Staunton River Bridge near Randolph VA, over the Staunton River.
You can read more about this specific battle HERE.

Captain Benjamin Lyons Farinholt and 296 Confederate reserved troops were warned of the approving Union forces to Charlotte County VA.  Fairnholt sent out couriers into the adjoining counties to muster up volunteers to come aid the troops in holding the bridge.
Fairnholt also ran trains non-stop on the rail line there so it appeared to Union spies in the area that reinforcements were amassing in great number to confront the advancing Yankees.  In reality only 642 reinforcements arrived-150 regular army and the rest were comprised of old men and young boys from the surrounding communities.
They successfully held off 4 attacks of Union forces that were 4 times their size.

Benjamin Lyons Farinholt, born 1839 in Virginia, he attended Randolph-Macon College. Farinholt, enlisted July 1861 as a 2nd Lt., 53rd VA Infantry Regiment.  He saw action during the Peninsula and Maryland Campaigns, at 2nd Manassas, and was captured at Gettysburg (July 3, 1863).  He spent 7 months in the POW prison on Johnson's Island, Ohio before escaping and making his way back to Richmond to reenter the war in May 1864. He was regimental Captain by June 1864 of the 53rd VA, when he defended the Richmond & Danville Railroad at Staunton Bridge with a troop of wounded veterans, reservists and old men and boys from the area.  At wars end, he was a 26 year old Colonel, C.S.A.  He died 24 Dec. 1919 and is buried in West Point, VA

This Battle was the only one fought during the Battle Between the States in Charlotte County VA and it was fought near where many of my mother's family's ancestors lived in the 1860's.

Unless your ancestor was a regular Confederate soldiers it's very hard to find or prove they took part in this battle, other than oral history or written personal journal entries of participants or their family members.

So far in my digging, I have only found 1 ancestor that is proved to have been at the battle that June day in 1864. (Though in the partial list of the regular troop roster there are 4 or 5 men with my family's surnames who I may be related to as well, but is not proved yet.)

I found a memoir written by my 5th Cousin 1 x removed.  In it he recounted that his Great Grandfather, Lafayette Hale Mason, Sr. was among the defenders of the Staunton River Bridge the day of the battle.  The story was handed down in his family's line.

Lafayette Hale Mason, Sr. is my 2nd Cousin 4 x removed. Lafayette Mason was born sometime between 1816-1820(according to census records) and died in 1890.  At the time of this battle, he was in his mid to late 40's.
In the 1860 Census he is shown living in Charlotte County Virginia with his wife Judith Irvin(Irvine) and their children John, Susan and Lafayette Jr.  He was a farmer.

Confederate Patriot Lafayette Mason, my 5th Cousin & I share an ancestor, John Mason III, born 1741 in Surry County, VA. (Many genealogists show him as being born in Sussex County, VA, though up until 1753 this county was part of Surry County, VA.  Pre 1652 Surry County had been part of James City(or Citie) County as well.  John Mason's birth predates the formation of Sussex County.)

At any rate, this June, the weekend of the 21st and 22nd there is to be a commemoration of the Battle of The "Old Men & Young Boys" in Staunton River Battlefield State Park.  I would have liked to have gone to the descendants medal ceremony to be present as the service my ancestor(and probably more ancestors that I am unaware of at this time)performed for Virginia and the South was recognized and acknowledged.
And watching the re-enactors and the cannons being fired would have been cool too.

And I think my son would have gotten a charge out of attending as well.




  1. One of my ancestors who was 13 or 14 at the time came across Confederate soldiers and warned them that they were walking right into a large Union camp in N Mississippi. Since he knew the area, he stayed with them for several years and kept them apprised of Union movements. He could travel without suspicion. When his widow applied for a pension in the early 20th century, there were enough people alive and enough records in the form of old letters/official transmissions that she got the pension even though the boy was never in the service officially.

    Your son would probably like the ceremony and re-enactment. Maybe it will work out that you and he can go.

  2. I am SO looking forward to getting back into my genealogy research mom put a lot together pre computer days and I picked up where she left off but it's so time consuming I had to stop for a few years as work was so busy BUT only 59 more days til I actually have some FREE TIME. It's so much fun because it's detective work and I always wished that had been my career path instead of teaching - maybe in my next life!

  3. Maybe you will get lucky and get more time with your son. Maybe if you offer a few bucks cash he will find more time to be out here. Hahahaha, ok that was a bad idea. DJ would take the money and run.

  4. Hi, was looking for a list of participants in this battle for my dad ...I see that you are
    a relative, Hale Mason Sr. is my dads great grandfather.Thought I would say hi.

    My dad is Ce cil M.Berkley sr. he is 87, was very close to his grandfather Hale Mason jr.

    1. Hi Cecil,
      Nice to meet you, my 6th cousin. We share an ancestor in John Mason (1742-1801). Your direct ancestor was Claiborne Mason and mine was his brother, Joseph Mason.

      I found your dad's online biography earlier this year. The commemoration website for the battle has a list of some of the battle's participants on it but is far from complete.
      Are you going to be there this weekend? I can't make it from PA unfortunately. Feel free to email me at arcure(at)ptdprolog(dot)net if you want to correspond. 8-)


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