Colonel JOSEPH DARE,
War Department, War Records Office,
Washington, D. C.:
COLONEL: Your letter to the postmaster at Richmond, dated the 1st instant, with his reply
of the 12th, and a note from Mr.
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Historical Society Papers.
Brock, Secretary of the Southern Historical Society, enclosed to me at my residence in
Washington and forwarded thence, has reached me at this place, where I am spending a short
season of recreation. I take pleasure in giving the information you request touching the
"Home Guard" of Richmond, though I must do so entirely from memory, as I have no
papers here; indeed, those that I had, relating to this matter, have been lost or stolen.
The "Home Guard" was an organization intended for local defence at Richmond, and
was commanded by myself under a commission from the State of Virginia. At the beginning of
the war I was President of the James River and Kanawha Company--an office which I had held
for more than seven-and-a-half years. Having, previously, for several years commanded a
volunteer company of artillery, called the "Richmond Fayette Artillery," and
being at the outbreak of the war colonel of the Fourth regiment of artillery, composed of
volunteer companies in Richmond, Petersburg, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Norfolk, and several of
the counties embraced within the bounds of the regiment as a part of the Virginia militia,
but having been, by the Governor of the Commonwealth, detailed to act as President of the
Canal Company, after the adoption of the Ordinance of Secession in April, 1861, I proposed
to raise a force for the defence of the city of Richmond, to be composed of those who,
like myself, were either exempt under the law for military service, or had been detailed
for special duty at home. Upon communications from myself, giving reasons therefor and
explaining my views, the city council made an appropriation of eleven thousand dollars, to
be expended in the purchase of horses for our use; the Governor consented to issue to us,
from the State armory, twelve guns, and harness for the horses; and the Confederate
authorities agreed to give us forage and stabling for the horses. I enlisted three
companies of nearly one hundred men each, which were commanded respectively by Captain
Robert M. Nimmo, Michael Bowen and George Bargamin. The men evinced a very fine spirit,
attending the drills, which I personally directed, at least twice a week at night, without
arms, and sometimes each company having a separate drill under its own captain. At first,
our drill-room was a large upper room of the Mechanic's Institute, situated on Ninth
street, between Main and Franklin streets, which building was afterwards occupied by the
Confederate government for its War Department; subsequently, our drills were in Military
Hall over the Old Market, at the corner of
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"Richmond Home Guard" of 1861.
Main and Seventeenth streets. After the men had attained something like proficiency in
squad and company movement, we several times marched, in the afternoons, through the
principal streets of the city, with a good band of fifes and drums.
Sometime after the battle of First Manassas, on the 21st July, 1861, and about the time
that our guns were nearly ready for us--a considerable delay having taken place in the
delivery of them to us, by reason of the urgent demand for similar equipment in the
army--Colonel William N. Pendleton, who had then, I think, been appointed Chief of
Artillery of the Army of North Virginia, came down from Manassas with a message to the
Governor from General Joseph E. Johnston, saying that General Johnston had received secret
information that General McClellan was preparing very largely to increase the artillery
arm of his army for the ensuing campaign, and that it was necessary that the Confederates
should meet that by a corresponding force as far as practicable. He therefore desired the
Governor, first, to see if he could not send him the "Home Guard," of which he
had heard, as a body; or, secondly, failing in that, to send him the guns, horses, and all
the equipment that had been provided or was being provided for the "Guard."
Colonel Pendleton, accompanied by General William H. Richardson, Adjutant-General of the
State, came to see me on the subject; and I promised to call my men together and submit
the question to them--reminding him, however, of the peculiar character of the
organization, and of the distinct understanding with which the men had enlisted--namely,
that they were not to go into the field for general service. The "Home Guard"
was accordingly called together; the proposition of going into the field was submitted to
them, and discussed at more than one meeting; if I mistake not, Colonel Pendleton was
himself present at one of the meetings; and finally it was decided by a large majority
that the reasons which had originally influenced them to join this organization would
prevent their volunteering to leave Richmond, or its vicinity, and go with the Army of
I had several interviews with Governor Letcher, and a correspondence with him on the
subject, his replies to my letters being written, presumably under his direction, by
Colonel S. Bassett French, one of his military aids; and there was quite a discussion of
the affair in the newspapers, particularly in the Richmond Whig,
Page 60 Southern
Historical Society Papers.
Mr. John Graeme, one of the associate editors of the Whig, being a member of the
The result of it all was that with my consent (though I had throughout favored Colonel
Pendleton's proposition) the "Home Guard" was disbanded, and its guns, horses,
harness and entire equipment, completed or in preparation, was turned over to the Governor
to be placed at General Johnston's disposal.
I have the honor to be your obedient servant,
THOMAS H. ELLIS.