Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Even If Etched In Stone...

Along the edge of the Wilderness Baptist Church cemetery, lie a cluster of graves belonging to the Todd family, a lineage dating back to the mid eighteenth century in Spotsylvania County. One of the stones marks the final resting place of Richard Lewis Todd, b. May 8, 1836, d. May 29, 1911. Sharing this marker is Charles Robert Todd, bearing the lines:
Killed By A Shell
October 7, 1865
At Rest

The inscribed date of death has led many visitors to speculate that Charles Robert Todd had perhaps been a civilian victim of an unexploded artillery shell, carelessly mishandled just six months after the war's end. Tragic incidents have been recorded that document such a fate. Often times children who would find "dud" projectiles, only to end up maimed or killed when a rock or hammer was applied by the hapless victim in an effort to break open their deadly find. Numerous incidents around Gettysburg are detailed by historian William A. Frassanito in his book Early Photography at Gettysburg.
The true fate of Charles Robert Todd however, is not as some have assumed, but no less tragic. The year of his death, as it is inscribed, is incorrect. The year was mistakenly entered as 1865, when the reality was 1864. The circumstances played out roughly seventy-seven miles south of Spotsylvania, near the Darbytown Road, south east of Richmond. On October 7, 1864, Private Todd of the Fredericksburg Artillery was killed during fighting  north of Fort Harrison. According to former NPS Chief Historian Robert K. Krick's The Fredericksburg Artillery, a Union artillery shell had struck the muzzle of the battery's No. 4 gun, killing Todd, and severely wounding four other members of the gun crew.
It is uncertain if Charles actually shares this grave with his younger brother Richard. His remains may in fact lie near the field of battle. Richard and another brother, Oscar, both served in the 9th Virginia Cavalry.
Due to contradictory birth years recorded in the only two census records where Charles is enumerated by name, it is uncertain of his age when killed. Based on the age given in the 1850 census, we can speculate he was born in 1832, given the entered age of 18. Ten years later, in the 1860 census, his age is given as 23, a five year variance during a ten year span.
The Todd's are known most famously in Spotsylvania for the tavern location on the Brock Road which carried their name. According to historian Noel Harrison's research, the Todd family had sold the property around 1845 to Flavius Josephus Ballard who then re-sold the property in 1869. The intersection where the tavern stood still maintains the name "Todd's Tavern".  
   
The former Todd residence, not the Tavern, as seen sometime after 1933,
 in a Photograph made for the HABS HAER collections.
The house stood north of Catharpin Road, off of what is today,
 Carriage Road.
An on the spot drawing made by newspaper artist William Waud, showing the October 7, 1864 battle of Darbytown Road. The position of the Fredericksburg Artillery is in the left distance, accented by the
billows of smoke emitting from the guns.
The same image as it appeared in Harper's Weekly newspaper,
October 29, 1864 issue.

1 comment:

Dena Cooper said...

Hi John,

I've really been enjoying your blog (even if I'm a bit late in discovering it). Regarding the Todd family, Wilderness Baptist Church has a wonderful library with a few books about the Todd family and their significance to Spotsylvania and the Civil War. My family have been members of Wilderness since it started as the Simpson Meeting house in the 1730's. The church's involvement in the war and as a historical landmark of Spotsylvania are rarely touched on which is a bit sad, seeing as it served as a hospital during the Civil War and a pit-stop for Jackson before he lost his arm. Just in case you were unaware! Also, the graveyard has some very interesting characters that have been living in the county since Revolutionary times. Thanks for your contributions! I will definitely be watching for more of your exciting finds.