- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

This is how the fatal wounding of Lt. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson on the Chancellorsville, Va., battlefield is recorded by the Hatch, Talley and Herring families who farmed there.

According to Leona Hatch Herring, in a paper she wrote, Union cavalry had crossed the Rapidan River at Germanna Ford and were on a foraging expedition for food and horses. The Hatch and Talley families, hearing of their coming, hid as many horses and provisions as they could. This was probably an early scouting expedition for Union Maj. Gen. O.O. Howard and his 11th Corps, who took that route in late April 1863 at the beginning of the Battle of Chancellorsville.

The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and the Union Army of the Potomac had gone into winter quarters in December 1862, after the Battle of Fredericksburg. In April 1863, newly appointed Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, commander of the Northern army, sent Howard with his corps to the west of Chancellorsville, crossing the Rappahannock River at Kelly’s Ford, then crossing the Rapidan at Germanna Ford to get in the rear of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army.

Howard distributed his corps parallel to the Orange Turnpike, facing south. In the center of his disposition was the Hatch-Talley house and farm, where Union Brig. Gen. Charles Devens Jr. set up his headquarters.

The owner of the farm, John Allen Hatch, was from Connecticut, and in 1815 he had moved to Fauquier County, Va., where he married Susan Smith in 1821. They had five children, of whom Mary Ann Hatch survived. After Susan’s death, John Hatch married Dinah Stephens in 1834. They moved to the Fredericksburg area, where three more daughters were born. In 1859, he bought the farm in Chancellorsville — 126 acres straddling the Orange Turnpike and the Orange Plank Road.

On May 1, 1863, when Devens occupied the house, Hatch was a widower again and still working the farm. With him lived unmarried daughter Leona and another daughter, Lucy, with her husband, James M. Talley, and their three children. Hatch’s first daughter, Mary Ann, had married Charles H. Bradshaw and lived on a farm nearby.

Passed down from the family through oral history are the events that follow:

On May 2, 1863, Devens told the family to leave and find shelter because a battle was shaping up. Hatch and daughter Leona took refuge in the root cellar of the house. Lucy went with her children to Dowell’s Tavern, the home of their minister, the Rev. Melzi Chancellor. Lucy’s husband had left the previous day to join Company E, 9th Virginia. At Dowell’s Tavern, Lucy encountered Frederick S. Herring.

During the day of May 2, Jackson had moved his command to the west of Howard’s Corps in one of the classic maneuvers of the war. By 6 o’clock, Jackson ordered an attack on Howard’s position. The Confederates crashed through the Union line and continued 1 miles to the east. At that point, the advancing Rebels stopped to regroup.

Jackson needed to know the terrain in front of him, according to the family, and he directed Pvt. Frederick Herring, a scout for the 9th Virginia Cavalry, to the Hatch-Talley house to ask for directions through the thorny underbrush.

Pvt. Herring found John Hatch, who agreed to direct them. In the group was Maj. Jed Hotchkiss, Jackson’s topographical engineer, who reported back to the general a way through the underbrush as directed by farmer Hatch. Jackson, however, decided that he needed additional information, and he asked Pvt. Herring to again ask Hatch to show the path to Jackson and a group of officers.

On the way to the house, Pvt. Herring encountered fellow cavalryman James M. Talley, who had come to see what damage had been done to his house. Pvt. Herring asked Talley if he could show the officers the way through the underbrush, and Talley agreed. Then Jackson rode out in front of his staff — and, returning, was wounded by friendly fire, from which he would later die.

Oral history of the families states that James Talley realized the significance of the place where Jackson was mortally wounded and immediately marked the spot with small stones, branches and dead cornstalks. Before he returned to duty, he asked his sister-in-law, Leona Hatch, to maintain the site.

Talley and Frederick Herring, after returning home before or just after the war ended, realized that the place where Jackson had been wounded was sacred to the South. With the aid of Hatch, Charles Bradshaw and possibly one other man whose name has escaped history, they transported a large quartz stone to the spot, where it stands today. Before it was placed, Leona Hatch scooped soil from the site and made five embroidered Victorian sachets for the five men who moved the stone.

After Chancellorsville, John Hatch’s home and farm were in shambles, having been used as a hospital, field headquarters and burial site for 13 Union soldiers. Rail fencing had been removed, siding taken off the house, and the barns were dismantled. He and daughters Lucy and Leona continued to live there while the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Courthouse, Germanna Ford and Mine Run battles raged around them. In that year, 1864, John Hatch had duties away from home, as well.

His son-in-law, James Ferris, who had married daughter Ellen and moved to Connecticut, had joined a Connecticut heavy artillery regiment in the Union Army. He was wounded at Cold Harbor on June 3, 1864, and had a leg amputated below the knee. Hatch escorted Ferris back to Connecticut — as well as the body of a nephew, 2nd Lt. Calvin B. Hatch, who had also been a member of the Connecticut artillery regiment and was killed at Cold Harbor, where the artillerymen had been converted to infantrymen.

In April 1865, the war ended, and farmer Hatch returned to Virginia to spend the last three years of his life desperately working to rebuild the farm. He died there in 1868. At his funeral, daughter Leona placed a sachet of the “Stonewall” soil in his coffin.

James Talley continued the work at the farm while he and Lucy raised 14 children. He died in 1905, and once again Leona Hatch placed his sachet of soil in the coffin. Frederick Herring married Leona Hatch, and they had seven children. When he died in 1913, Leona placed a sachet of soil in the coffin. He and James Talley lived out their lives as farmers in Chancellorsville and for 35 years attended reunions of the 9th Virginia Cavalry.

What happened to the other two sachets remains a mystery, but it is believed they were placed in the coffins of Leona and Mary Ann.

In the 1880s, considerable controversy erupted over the placing of the quartz stone. The Talley and Herring families did not engage in this debate, as they felt they knew the true story.

Robert A. Crawley is a member of the board of the Prince George’s County Historical Society.

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