15 April 2017

Book Review: The Confederate Soldiers of Rockbridge County, Virginia: A Roster


As promised in an earlier post . . . 

The Confederate Soldiers of Rockbridge County, Virginia: A Roster
Paperback, 360 pages
Publisher: McFarland (2016)
 ISBN-10: 1476664110
ISBN-13: 978-1476664118

The drive to Brownsburg, Virginia from my home is always a pleasant one. Driving south on Route 252 through the rolling hills and farmland of Augusta and Rockbridge Counties is like taking a trip back in time. Much of the landscape appears as it did 150 years ago. It is simply beautiful.

But my most recent trip had an added benefit: I was headed to the home of Robert (Bob) J. Driver, Jr. to chat with him about his most recent book: The Confederate Soldiers of Rockbridge County, Virginia: A Roster .
Driver’s circa 1795 home in the quaint village of Brownsburg provided the perfect setting to discuss the book. The publisher summarizes the book as follows:
Based on an exhaustive search of various sources, this book provides a comprehensive roster of all known Confederate soldiers, sailors and marines from Rockbridge County, Virginia, or those who served in units raised in the County. Washington College and Virginia Military Institute alumni who were from Rockbridge, enlisted in local companies or lived in the County before or after the war are also included. Complete service records are given, along with photographs where possible.
Bob Driver is somewhat of a legend among Civil War buffs here in the Shenandoah Valley. His encyclopedic knowledge of local Civil War history is evidenced by the twelve books he’s authored on Confederate soldiers and related history. Born in close-by Staunton, Driver is a retired Lt. Colonel (USMC) so his interest in the Valley’s Civil War history comes naturally. Moreover, Driver served as president of The Rockbridge Civil War Round Table in Lexington, Virginia for over thirty years. That organization is one of the most active Civil War Round Tables in the United States.

Though styled as a “roster”, Driver’s latest book is actually much more. It is a treasure trove of useful—and often fascinating—snippets and anecdotes about the Confederate soldiers from historic Rockbridge County. For example, Driver recalls the experience of Colonel Andrew Jackson Grigsby of the 27th Va. Infantry (Stonewall Brigade). After proving his bravery and battlefield prowess in several engagements, Grigsby resigned in protest over Major Elisha F. Paxton of Stonewall Jackson’s staff being nominated for a promotion to Brigadier General over (in the opinion of Grigsby and others) much more deserving officers. One of those considered more deserving was Grigsby himself. More than 40 officers signed a petition recommending Grigsby over Paxton noting “No bolder or more daring officer ever led troops into a fight or managed them better when actually engaged.”

Grigsby was “mad as thunder” and vowed, “As soon as the war ends, I will challenge Jackson to a duel.” Driver notes in his sketch of Grigsby that the Colonel was so upset that he travelled to Richmond for “an audience with President Davis.” Driver describes the testy exchange:

In the midst of the dialogue , epithets rent the air. The president leaped to his feet and shouted, “Do you know who I am? I am the president of the Confederacy.” Grigsby replied in kind. “Do you know who I am? he bellowed. “I am Andrew Jackson Grigsby of Rockbridge County, Virginia, late colonel of the Bloody 27th Virginia of the Stonewall Brigade, and as good a man as you or anyone else, by God!” Needless to say, Grigsby did not receive his well earned promotion. Grigsby returned home where he remained for the balance of the war.
Driver also includes the notation that Grigsby had the privilege of leading the survivors of the Stonewall Brigade for the dedication of the Jackson statue in the Lexington Cemetery in 1891 and closes his bio of Grigsby with a quote: “A bluff soldier much given to swearing.”

Scores of other stories, many just as interesting as Grigsby’s, are scattered throughout Driver’s book. All in all, over 3000 men from Rockbridge County served in the Confederate army. 253 were killed in action, 368 were wounded. Sixty-two had limbs amputated and 1004 were captured—some more than once. Twenty-five were veterans of the Mexican War and 286 were present and surrendered at Appomattox. Benjamin Marion Cash was the last veteran from Rockbridge County to die. He passed away, interestingly enough, in Brownsburg, Virginia on the 5th of February in 1945.

While the book is quite comprehensive, Driver notes in his introduction that “the information for these muster rolls of all the soldiers from Rockbridge County is not complete” even though “Rockbridge County probably has the best records in the state on its Confederate soldiers.” But after examining this book, I’d venture to say it is the most complete record on Rockbridge County Confederate soldiers available to date.

Driver’s dedication and motivation in compiling an accurate record of the service of these men is obvious in his preface:

This book is a labor of love to honor the Confederate soldiers who served their country during their War for Independence. Few of them ever owned a slave or considered slavery a major issue causing the war. They looked at the conflict as a means to relieve themselves of the economic domination of the Northern states and unfair tariffs on their products. They were not secessionists but . . . Lincoln’s call for troops from Virginia was the last straw for the men of Rockbridge County . . . They considered themselves patriots, just like their forefathers who fought  in the Revolutionary War. . . . This book is meant to establish a permanent record of their service and sacrifice for the cause they believed in.
Driver’s book is a great resource for historians, researchers, genealogists and buffs in general. It provides many jumping off points for additional research into the lives of these Confederate soldiers. Organized alphabetically by the soldiers’ last name, the book is an easy read with a complete bibliography and, despite the retail price of $49.95, it is money well-invested and a book this reviewer would highly recommend.

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