James Bogle Henderson
Submitted by Lisa Swope
My great-great-grandfather, James Bogle Henderson (1832-1895), served with the 7th Battalion, Virginia Infantry, Company D, which later was assimilated into Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Henderson was a farmer whose father had died when the boy was eight years old, leaving his mother to raise eight children alone. While some of his siblings left home for other opportunities, James stayed on the land in Giles County, Virginia, that had been purchased from Joseph Cloyd by his grandfather, William Henderson, an immigrant from Northern Ireland, and two of his friends in 1809.
James nor his ancestors owned slaves. They came here to farm their own land, to be free of the outside rule and displacement the Scots-Irish suffered in Europe. Their American home was nestled between the mountains of southern Appalachia, with Walker’s Creek nearby and Indians no longer a menace to the immigrants who settled there. But by the time James was thirty, Virginia was engulfed in civil war. When called to serve, he obeyed.
In his book, The Story of a Confederate Boy in the Civil War, David E. Johnston, who served with Henderson, relates the intense fighting he faced. Confederate troops were ill-supplied and underfed. In the cold of winter, some lacked blankets and would sleep where a burning log had been rolled across the ground to warm it. If they came across a cow, the men butchered it, eating the meat raw, stuffing some of it in their pockets to eat later.
Johnston notes that Henderson was part of a small group of men who were deeply religious, and held frequent services, during which they sang hymns, read the Bible, and prayed. According to Johnson, these men’s faith and example influenced the others in their unit and led to better behavior by the troops. James B. Henderson was admitted to a Richmond hospital at one point, begging to be discharged even though he still was feverish so he could rejoin his unit for battle. Near the end of the war, only 18 of the original 122 “Mountain Boomers” remained. Surrounded by Union troops at Sailor’s Creek, they were taken to a Union prison camp at Point Lookout, Maryland. The conditions there were terrible. Men were underfed and received little medical care. Henderson’s own uncle, also a P.O.W., had died at Point Lookout just three months before he arrived there.
After the war, released prisoners were taken by boat to Richmond. Henderson made his way across the state and lived in Giles County until his death. He married the autumn after his return, becoming a respected farmer and a faithful Methodist. At one point, he served as county magistrate. Of his six children, one became an Oklahoma state representative, one a doctor and superintendent of a state mental hospital, another married a West Virginia businessman, one was an attorney, another a clerk for the railroad, and my great-grandfather was a farmer.
James Henderson died in 1895, nine years before the birth of my grandmother.
Editor’s note: Want to join the 2019 Commemoration in honoring our armed forces? Mark your calendar for the Fanfare to the Military & Democracy.