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Re: Culpepper VA - Black History

I have been working for a number on a military biography of Confederate Colonel Charles Edward Lightfoot of Culpeper. The Colonel's family had a MOST interesting relationship with the black community of Culpeper County.

One . . . of many good stories: When Lightfoot was a boy, and a student at VMI, he expected to inherit a great deal of money, and many slaves, from an aged uncle who lived, with a true, dear, and very close friend, a slave, in a small house that still stands on Main Street, in Culpeper.

Much to young Lightfoot's chagrin (and, apparently, even more to his MOTHER's chagrin), his uncle's will freed all his slaves, and ordered that enough of his other property be sold to provide enough money for each of his freed slaves to live as if they had always been free men.

"Sharpers" in unknown numbers, but with apparently boundless energy, soon began recruiting black people from as far away as Pennsylvania to claim their Lightfoot "heritage."

My guess . . . purely conjecture at this stage . . . is that the Uncle's will is the reason so many black families in the Culpeper area adopted and made a willing decision to keep the Lightfoot name. Some out of gratitude for Lightfoot's freeing his slaves more than a decade before the end of the Civil War. Some because there was both legal and financial security linked to bearing the name.

The "disappearance" of Lightfoot's long-awaited "inheritance" also forced him to get real job after graduation (as First Captain) from VMI in 1854. He started his own military school in Culpeper, then taught at Hillsborough Military Academy in NC just before the war. After the war he taught at Bethel Military Academy, near Warrenton.

I would be MOST happy to share all I've found so far on Colonel Lightfoot and his family . . . and would be ESPECIALLY grateful if anyone can steer me toward any photographs of the Lightfoots. (I have some shots taken in Hillsborough, NC . . . but can't be 100% sure they're REALLY Lightfoot.

The Colonel and his immediate family are buried in the Masonic Cemetery in Culpeper. Other members are buried in the Episcopal Church cemtery downtown.

Lightfoot served in the 6th NC, the 22nd NC, and in the closing years of the war, ran his own "flying battery", Lightfoot's Artillery (assigned to the Artillery defenses of Richmond). The company commanders in the 6th NC unanimously requested that he NOT be made their Colonel after 1st Manassas. He was captured, some say under sketchy circumstances, in 1862, while serving as Colonel of the 22nd NC. His stint as commander of his own "flying artillery" battalion (after he was exchanged) appears to have been a success, however, . . . and his unit had a reputation for well-drilled spiffiness that would have made a VMI First Captain, and a Commandant of Cadets at Culpeper and Hillsborough proud.

After the war Lightfoot's cadets from Bethel marched in no less than two inaugural parades . . . and, according to at least one source, visited the White House, wearing gray uniforms and bearing arms. (Bethel Military Academy's connection to Confederate Colonel turned Republican, John S. Mosby, no doubt helped.)

Many thanks for your posting about Henry Clay Lightfoot!


Dan Morrow
The Jamestown Exploration Company
The Louis Round Wilson Academy

Messages In This Thread

Culpepper VA - Black History
Re: Culpepper VA - Black History

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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