Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Talking Spirits IX, Part 3

Continuing on through the cemetery via a rather circuitous route, we next arrived at the marker for Laura Noland, daughter of William H. Noland. According to promo about the tour, William was to be one of this year's "spirits," but was not actually included, except for this brief stop at his daughter's grave. Noland and his wife A.M. are also buried in this section, in unmarked graves.

Noland and his family came to Madison in the 1850's, the first African American family to settle here permanently. Sons Charles and Frank were the first African American children born to the town, and one of his sons is believed to be the first AA graduate of the University.

Known as "professor" to many citizens of Madison, Noland worked as a baker, barber, clerk and bookkeeper in the land office, and operated a dying and scouring business at the corner of Main and Fairchild. In 1957, William B. Jarvis nominated Noland as notary public, but the appointment was refused by Secretary of State David W. James, on the grounds that no one would go to or trust a negro notary public.

In 1861, Noland wrote to Governor Randall, asking if he would accept a negro company on equal terms with whites. Randall refused. In 1866 his name was placed on the democratic ballot for mayor as a joke, against his wishes. He was defeated 691-306 by Elisha Keyes.

A short distance further along our path we encountered another Civil War officer, General Theodore Read, portrayed by Brian Belz. Read never actually lived in Madison himself, his father having moved the family here during the war. The Civil War began the day after Read's 25th birthday, and he quickly rose from private to general. Wounded in the spring of 1863 at Chancellorsville, he was brought back to Madison to recuperate and was back with the army three months later. He was wounded again at Cold Harbor in May 1864 and promoted to major soon after. The following autumn he was promoted yet again, to brevet brigadier general. His greatest feat was to be his last.

On April 6, 1865, Colonel Francis Washburn was sent to High Bridge, VA to take control of a bridge and effectively end Lee's retreat west from Petersburg. Hearing that Confederate General Thomas Rosser had learned of the plan and was in pursuit of Washburn's party with 1200 men, General Ord sent Read to warn his men and take control. He arrived at High Bridge to find the men holding a fence in a small strip of woods above the bridge. Weighing the uneven odds--his 500 men against 6,000--Read nonetheless led his men in an attack against Rosser's cavalry. All Union officers, including General Read, were killed, and those men not killed were wounded and captured. Read was the second to last General killed during the Civil War.

Considering his demise, one might think the Battle of High Bridge an inconsequential failure but, in fact, Read's gallantry actually brought about a quick end to the Civil War. Upon hearing of Read's troops and the battle fought, Lee believed General Grant had some how gotten ahead of him. Halting his troops, Lee entrenched--a delay which allowed Sheridan's cavalry and the 6th Corps to catch up to him, capturing 7,000 Confederate troops. Lee surrendered to Grant a mere three days after the Battle of High Bridge.

Theodore Read was borne back to Madison for burial, where he lay in state in the assembly chamber at the Capitol. The Capitol was not used again for a funeral until that of Lucius Fairchild thirty-one years later.

1 comment:

Jana said...

Sounds like you had another year of historical fun. :-)