On Memorial Day, May 31, 2010, I visited Ararat, Virginia, and my parents early in the morning. I took the opportunity to visit the graves of several men from the community who served this country in the United States Armed Forces. Just a mile from my parent’s home down the Homeplace Road is the grave of Command Sergeant Major Zeb Stuart Scales, who was my neighbor and whom I spoke about this weekend at the Memorial Day Ceremony at Rocky Mount, Virginia. While Zeb did lose his life in service, he is I think one of the most decorated soldiers from The Free State Of Patrick.
You can read those remarks at www.freestateofpatrick.com/memorialday.pdf.
I drove up to the Blue Ridge Elementary School and turned on to Raven Rock Road, up past the Dan River Park as a fog hung low over the Blue Ridge Mountains. Down the hill I went to the intersection to the River Road and the Raven Rock Road just up the hill from the Ararat River. I took a moment to visit the grave of Levi Barnard, who lost his life just over a year ago in Iraq. I did not know him personally, but I had known of him since his birth. Here is his myspace page http://www.myspace.com/43293558. Levi was the last person from Patrick County serving from our area to lose his life. I hope he is the last, but for today anyway he holds that distinction.
Nearby his grave was another grave that of Charles Barnard of Company I, 24th Virginia Infantry. Charles died on June 30, 1862, in a Danville hospital per the Patrick County Death Register in the courthouse in the town formerly known as Taylorsville. I have several letters from him that I will write about another day that are in my book The Free State Of Patrick: Patrick County in the Civil War.
Downstream along the Ararat River several miles is the grave of the first man from Patrick County to lose his life in service to this country. He was a Corporal in Daniel Carlin’s Henry County Militia Company. During the American Revolution, Patrick County did not exist and was part of Henry County.
In the summer of 1780, Lord Charles Cornwallis was coming through the Carolinas heading for a date with Nathaniel Greene at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in March 1781 and a date with George Washington at Yorktown, where he surrendered and practically ending the American Revolution. The pro-British Loyalists or Tories became embolden by the presence of a large British force close by and looked for targets on the Patriot side. Living on the banks of the Ararat River was William Letcher, his wife Elizabeth Perkins Letcher and their daughter Bethenia recently born. The Letchers married in 1778 and he was a strong Patriot. One summer day in August 1780, a stranger came to the Letcher’s cabin door and inquired about William. Elizabeth as the story goes invited him to wait. When William arrived the stranger, tradition holds as a Tory named Nichols shot Letcher in the presence of his wife and left him to die in his wife’s arms. Tradition holds that George Hairston and the Henry County Militia came over captured the Tories led by a William Hall, who lived just across the state line in Surry County, North Carolina. They held a “Drumhead” trial, convicted, and hung the murderous gang. Other stories have Hall coming to his end at the hands of Native people further west and Nichols finding the end of a rope later. Either way William Letcher died just about a year before Cornwallis surrendered to Washington, making him the first man from what is today Patrick County to lose his life during a war in service to this nation.
Just over fifty years after Letcher’s death, his great-grandson was born on the same land along the Ararat River. He, like Letcher, lost his life around the age of thirty, fighting in what he no doubt considered his own “Rev War.” Most everyone has heard of him as he was James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart and William Letcher was his material great-grandfather. The Ararat River begins just behind Bell’s Spur Church along the Blue Ridge Parkway near the Squirrel Spur Road. The river meanders down the mountain past the Raven Rock and across the bottom where Charles and Levi Barnard rest today. Further downstream a great-grandfather rests along the same stream that his famous descendant was born. This small mountain stream’s history now includes the first and the last man from Patrick County to lose their lives in service of this country. I thought on Memorial Day that they both deserved a visit.