13 November 2012

"Not All Yankees Were Bad" - How My Yankee Ancestor Helped Defeat Confederate General William Mahone

B.F. Williams, on the far right ;o) - Click image to enlarge

Follow up to this previous post . . . the following is an excerpt from this source:

Not all Yankees who came South after the war seeking their fortune were bad. In 1876 B. F. Williams settled in Nottoway from Pennsylvania, and, unlike most northerners, he seems to have had the welfare of the State of his adoption at heart. He soon took an interest in local politics and was elected to the State Senate on the Republican ticket from Nottoway.
     In 1881 came the Readjuster campaign, resulting in the election of their candidate, William E. Cameron, for Governor. The leader of this movement, General William Mahone, sought to build up a vast patronage that could be used to put Virginia under his party's control, but to do this he had to control the legislature. He sought to bind all the Readjusters to support the decision of the Readjusters' caucus.
     In the House Mahone had a majority and could carry out his plan. In the Senate, however, there were four who refused to sign the pledge to enter the caucus or to accept its decisions. These men were Samuel H. Newberry, of Bland; Peyton G. Hale, of Grayson; A. M. Lybrook. of Patrick, and B. F. Williams, of Nottoway. Parson Massey, having turned against Mahone on account of his failure to receive the appointment of Auditor of Public Accounts, aligned himself with these four Senators.
     On the vote of these men the fate of the State depended. If they stood with Mahone, Virginia would be looted, and if they rebelled, the State would be saved. So much depended on their vote that these Senators came to be known as the "Big Four". Every conceivable pressure was brought to bear by the Mahone faction to have them vote with the Readjusters.
     When Mahone's patronage bills came up, the four, with Parson Massey courageously voted with the Democrats against the Readjusters which gave the Democrats a majority of six.
     It was almost as narrow an escape as Virgina had in 1869 when the Republican Carpetbaggers and Scallawags sought to create a Republican Solid South, and by their infamies made it solidly Democratic. The State of Virginia has recognized the valuable services of these men and a portrait of the "Big Four", with Parson Massey, painted by the Richmond artist, Silvette, has been hung on the walls of the Senate Chamber of the State Capitol.

The last I heard, the portrait had suffered some water damage prior to the renovations at the Capitol building in Richmond and was being restored. I need to follow up to see what the status is. 

Here's another excerpt from a piece about the Big Four and their portrait:

At one point, Massey had a falling out with Gen. William Mahone, who had assumed control of the Readjusters, and was a U.S. senator. Although Mahone wanted to control state politics from Washington, D.C., Massey had other ideas.

Four senators were not bound to Mahone. Sens. Samuel H. Newberry and Peyton G. Hale were Democrats; Sens. A.M. Lybrook and B.F. Willams were Republicans. They're the ones in the picture. (Lybrook is identified in another text as Samuel E. Lybrock.)

As Massey writes: "By voting with the anti-Mahoneites of the Senate, these four could defeat any bill by a majority of one. These men became so conspicuous, and their votes were so important, that they were termed The Big Four."
More to come about my great-great grandfather in future posts.


Brother Juniper said...

"Not All Yankees Were Bad"

Now you've gone all soft on us.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Yeah, just call me ole' softy. How 'about Jed Hotchkiss?

Brother Juniper said...

I'll get picky here. Yankees aren't Northerners. They're New Englanders.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

It's a state of mind.

Chaps said...

How about "Some yankees changed their ways after The War?"

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hey Chaps - that works. ;o)