Today, April 9, 2015 marks 150 years since the surrender at the Appomattox Courthouse, ending the horrific war between the North and the South. Called the "Civil War" by many, this savage and sad event has also been called the War Between the States, War of the Rebellion, Great Rebellion, War for Southern Independence, War of Northern Aggression, Freedom War, and War of Secession.
Here on Reflections, I have written about Solomon B. Eley and his family several times. I have addressed his participation in the war effort. I have several other veterans and Man does as well. But, Solomon holds a special place in my researching heart. Probably because I have been unable to locate his place of burial. And, because, frankly, of the truth behind the family stories passed down and the reality. The family stories were "enhanced", but, I found they held some basis in reality.
So, today, I am going to post a combination of my prior posts, with editing and new information, discussing Solomon and his participation in the events from April 22,1861 to April 9, 1865.
On Friday, September 11, 2009, I first posted Ancestor Military Battles, Solomon B. Eley. I also published "April 9, 1865, the Day of Surrender, Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia" on at least two occasions, April 9, 2010, and again on April 9, 2014. The disclaimer, I do not profess to understand all the documents surrounding war. So, I may have made some errors in my presentation.
To the left, is a "photo" of Solomon B. Eley, Captain of the 16th Virginia Infantry, Company D.
Solomon is my second great grandfather. He was born around 1836 in Isle of Wight County, Virginia. Solomon was the son of Exum Eley and his second wife, Martha (Darden) Marshall Eley (she was a widow when she married Exum). Exum and Martha had 3 children, Solomon being the last born.
The uniform Solomon is wearing is not necessarily the same as he wore during the Civil War. Can we say, "pre-computer era enhanced image"? The hat is not true to era, nor are those epaulets on his shoulders. In a color version of this photo, those shoulder epaulets are painted "gold". My belief is that a descendant "edited" the original. As, in, painted the epaulets in! LOL
Solomon enlisted in the 16th Virginia Infantry during April of 1861. He was "signed up" by M. H. Watkins. M. H. Watkins would marry Solomon's widowed sister after the war.
Solomon served with the 16th Virginia Infantry, Company D. He entered the war as a Second Lieutenant, eventually was promoted to a Captain (per his compiled record cards, that promotion was March 13, 1862). For a number of months he actually was the top commanding officer of Company D while his superior officers were indisposed.
During my research on Solomon, I was fortunate to be able to chat with some reinactors from the 16th Virginia Infantry. They do remarkable research and shared willingly. They provided me with transcripts of some war records that told of Solomon taking command of the 16th Virginia. There were at least 3 dates provided, October 31, 1864, November 28, 1864 and February 28, 1865. The following is a direct copy/paste of the worked shared with me, thanks to the 16th Virginia Reinactors.
"With this report we can see the effect of battle on the regiment; four days before this inspection the brigade was engaged at the Battle of Burgess Mill, October 27, 1864. At Wilderness Colonel Joseph Ham’s 2nd Manassas wound flares up, causing him to leave the regiment until early-October. He is again wounded at Burgess Mill. Days before Burgess Mill, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Whitehead was also wounded, and Major John Woodhouse was still recovering from a wound received at the Crater; leaving command of the regiment to Captain Solomon B. Eley of Company D."
Was Solomon in charge of the unit during the actual battles of October 31, and November 28, 1864? From the discussion with the reinactors, it appears he was.
Solomon was listed as the Commanding Officer on this Compiled Service record card (number 33 of at least 93 cards that I have copies of). This is the February 28, 1865 date referred to by the reinactors. In reviewing the compiled service record cards, I do not find another that states he was in "command" as does this specific card.
However, when I think of Solomon, (and I DO understand this), what I remember is that he signed the Surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. On April 9, 1865 he was at Appomattox Courthouse, and signed the surrender papers. Each officer of the unit had to sign the surrender papers, Solomon signed on page 2 of this document. And, I have a copy of the document! Here are two parts of the 4 legal sized pages document:
The printed portion of this graphic reads:
We, the undersigned Prisoners of War, belonging to the Army of Northern Virginia, having been this day surrendered by General Robert E. Lee, C.S. A., Commanding said Army, to Lieut. Genl. U.S. Grant, Commanding Armies of the United States, do hereby give our solemn parole of honor that we will not hereafter serve in the armies of the Confederate States, or in any military capacity whatever, against the United States of America, or render aid to the enemies of the latter, until properly exchanged, in such manner as shall be mutually approved by the respective authorities.
Done at Appomattox Court House, Va., this 9th day of April 1865.
Solomon's signature appears on this graphic, the last signature:
After the war, Solomon married Sarah (Sallie) Anne Darden, had children, we believe 2 girls and 2 boys, the boys dying young. Solomon himself died in Sussex County, Virginia on April 20, 1871 from consumption. His remains were taken back to Isle of Wight County Virginia for burial. That burial place in Isle of Wight County, Virginia remains undiscovered.
Because the family had a photo (original format unknown) of Solomon and could prove he was at the Courthouse on the day of surrender, his photo has been placed on the Wall of Honor at the Appomattox Courthouse. This photo was taken a number of years ago, and is slightly out of focus, but, there he is (lower left corner).
Solomon's photo, with that of his wife, Sallie, hang in my home, a constant reminder of my family and their stories.
* To learn more about the activities this week surrounding the 150th Anniversary of the Surrender, check out the National Parks Service page. This link may not be available in the future.