As I started working on this post, it was just to be the last of the history I had of the Turner Family before we moved on to the 1900s. Little did I know that it would end up being so much more for us.
During my initial research, I had found a number of documents at the Library of Virginia on Belle Grove and the families that called it home. One of those documents was a copy of a Presidential Pardon from President Andrew Johnson to Carolinus Turner for his connection to the rebellious uprising of the South. I would later find out that the original copy is stored in the archives of the King George Library. Currently the King George Library is undergoing some remodeling so I have not been able to visit and view any of their archives.
One thing that has eluded me has been what connection Carolinus Turner and his family had with the Confederate Forces and what happened to Belle Grove and his family during the Civil War. I have known that most of the area of King George County and Port Royal were primarily Confederate. When I was at the King George Historic Museum, I had come across a document from the Confederate Memorial Association of King George County Virginia with a list of members that included Carolinus Turner. But with this evidence, a couple of things left me truly puzzled.
First, Carolinus would have been in his early fifties when the Civil War started. He also had a very young family. All of his children, including his only son were under 15 years old. At this age, would he have been able to serve as a soldier? Also, during the restoration of Belle Grove from 1997 to 2003, no evidence was found that would indicate that the house had ever been shot at during the war. This was really hard to believe considering that all the plantation homes along the Rappahannock River had either been damaged or destroyed by shots fired from Union gunboats. Why wasn’t Belle Grove scarred by this war?
Here is a little bit of background information on these Presidential pardons that occurred during and after the Civil War. I discovered a wonderful essay by Dr. William Long that best explains the pardons. With his permission, I will be sharing some of that essay with you. You can find the whole essay on his website at
During and after the Civil War, Federal officials recognized the need for new laws to deal with the rebellious acts by most of the Southern population. There were two acts passed by Congress in 1861 and 1862 that fixed penalties for the lesser crimes of “conspiracy” and “rebellion”. The second act also provided for future pardons and amnesty to those who participated in the rebellion.
The first amnesty proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on December 8, 1863. It extended pardons to persons taking an oath to support the Constitution and the Union and to abide by all Federal laws and proclamations in reference to slavery made during the war.
“During the Civil War many statutes were passed which allowed punishment and confiscation of land of people who fought against the Federal government on the side of the Confederacy. The most important law to this effect was the Second Confiscation Act of July 17, 1862. It assessed penalties for treason (not less than five years in prison or $10,000 fine, with the maximum penalty being death) and for insurrection against the US (not exceeding $10,000 fine or 10 years in jail), as well as the liberation of his slaves and the confiscation of his property. But, significantly, the Congress also approved Sec. 13 of the bill, which provided as follows:
“That the President is hereby authorized, at any time hereafter, by proclamation, to extend to persons who may have participated in the existing rebellion in any State or part thereof, pardon and amnesty, with such exceptions and at such time and on such conditions as he may deem expedient for the public welfare.”
This, then, provides the legal framework and basis for Presidential pardon in the Civil War Era.”
“Just as Abraham Lincoln waited until a propitious time (the Union victory at Antietam in Sept. 1862) to announce the Emancipation Proclamation, so he waited until he felt the tide was largely turned in the war to issue his first amnesty/pardon proclamation. In addition, this amnesty proclamation was coupled with a plan for reconstruction. Thus, amnesty and reconstruction would always go hand in hand in Lincoln’s mind. The first proclamation was made on December 8, 1863. In order to get people to resume their allegiance to the United States, Lincoln proclaimed:
“I Abraham Lincoln..do proclaim, declare, and make known to all persons who have, directly or by implication, participated in the existing rebellion, except as hereinafter excepted, that a full pardon is hereby granted to them and each of them with restoration of all rights of property, except as to slaves and in property cases where rights of third parties shall have intervened, and upon the condition that every such person shall take and subscribe an oath and thence-forward keep and maintain such oath inviolate…” (Quoted in Dorris, Pardon and Amnesty under Lincoln and Johnson, 34).
Before getting to the actual words of the oath, a few points should be made. Note that the person who is seeking pardon will not have slaves (an example of property) restored to them. Other legislative acts said that no compensation for loss of slaves would accrue to former slaveholders. The meaning of “rights of third parties” in property issues simply means that where title has passed legitimately to other parties–bona fide purchasers– the person applying for pardon didn’t receive back that land.
Then there is the oath. It is quite wordy, but let’s hear it:
“I ______________ do solemnly swear, in the presence of Almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States and Union of the States thereunder; and that I will in like manner abide by and faithfully support all acts of Congress passed during the existing rebellion with reference to slaves, so long and so far not repealed, modified, or held void by Congress or by decision of the Supreme Court…(another similar phrase followed regarding “proclamations of the President”)…So help me God!”
From an Essay by Dr. William Long
One interesting note on Confederate Presidential Pardons is the Pardon for Robert E. Lee. Lee applied for a Presidential Pardon under President Andrew Johnson, however it was never approved. The reason was that the Oath of Allegiance was said to be missing from his application. After Lee’s death, his oath of allegiance was found, misfiled (possibly by someone who didn’t want to see him pardoned). Lee was indicted for treason in June, 1865, but it was never acted on. Lee’s citizenship was restored by Congressional resolution and a pardon was granted posthumously effective 13 June 1975 by Gerald R. Ford.
As I said before, I had come across a copy of Carolinus Turner’s Presidential Pardon. When I started working on this post, I pulled up information on Civil War Presidential Pardons. When I did, came across a new resource for military records. There I found something I never thought I would see; Carolinus Turner’s handwritten application for Amnesty for his part in the rebellious uprising! I couldn’t believe it! This letter gave me insight into his part in the war and possibly Belle Grove’s part in the war!
Here is what the letter says:
“Port Conway, King George Co. VA
July 20, 1865
His Excellency Andrew Johnson
President of the United States
I have the honor to make application for pardon and protection of property under your Amnesty Proclamation of May 29th 1865.
Neither I nor any member of my family have taken part in the rebellion or sympathized with its abettors. I represent property the taxable value of which may be estimated at more than twenty thousand (20,000) dollars. I am fifty two (52) years of age and with my wife and children (four (4) girls and one (1) boy under twelve (12) years of age have remained throughout the entire war quietly at my home which for a great part of the time has been within the lines of the United States Army.
During this period I made the acquaintance of many officers of the United States Services some of whom I beg leave to refer your Excellency (via?) Gen G Burnside, U.S. Army Gen Abercrombie and Acting Master G.C. Shulze U.S. Navy who has been in command of this Station for the last year and a half. I would also beg to refer you to Captain William Jameson U.S. Navy an uncle of my wife.
Hoping that this may meet with your favorable consideration.
I am Sir
With Great Respect
Your Obedient Servant
In this record, there is also a handwritten Oath of Allegiance by Carolinus Turner and a copy of the witness by the Provost Marshall’s Office in Tappahannock, Virginia. One last sheet of paper shows that Carolinus Turner was recommended for pardon.
From this I am guessing that Carolinus was in fact too old to serve in the military and that he and his young family did remain at Belle Grove throughout the war. This also shows that the Union Forces were in fact in Port Conway through most of the war. This would lead me to believe that Belle Grove may have served as a headquarters, which was one of our theories!
It also tells us that General Burnside and General Abercrombie visited the plantation where Carolinus and his family lived. Wow to know that well known Generals of the Civil War walked here! But here is a funny twist. While Generals of the Union Army were spending their time at Belle Grove, Confederate Generals such as General J.E.B. Stewart were being hosted by the granddaughters of the man who built Belle Grove for his daughter, at his home, Rose Hill Plantation (also known as Gaymont during the Civil War). Rose Hill Plantation sits high on a hill across the Rappahannock River, with a clear view of Belle Grove. We think that he placed his plantation on the hill so he could look after his daughter and her plantation (Belle Grove).
The discovery of Mr. Turner’s letter may help us find out whose the name is etched in the window is under Carrie Turner’s name! If Belle Grove was used as a headquarters for the Union Army, maybe W. Vanderburgh was a young Union soldier that she met while he was there! I think we might need to get History Detectives involved on this one!
Thanks for sharing. Keep up the great detective work!
Thank you for stopping by! We are working hard 😉
Cool bit of history of a dark time in this country. Keep digging!
Thank you! It just keep producing new things every time I turn around.
This is stunning and well researched. I am so impressed. I hope you will keep us in the loop with this story as you find out more. I am reblogging it because it is worthy of a wide audience.
Thank you so much for sharing it with your readers! We really appreciate it! I really love how things just keep popping up!
There is a certain energy
Reblogged this on idealisticrebel.
Wonderful post!!! History is truly exciting, remarkable and relevant to the present.
Thank you! It is just amazing how things just keep showing up!
The mystery deepens. Hopefully someday you will figure out who Vandeburgh is.
Look at this website. http://www.lakedunmorevt.com/vdb/ It is a history of the Vandeburgh family. There are a lot of Vandeburghs that served in the Civil War. Look at the 7th and 8th generations.
Wow! Thank you! Maybe I might find a lead there!
I hope so. It is really nagging at me. It will come though. I just know it will, when I least expect it.
Very interesting! It is so nice that you are doing so much good research!
This research was kind of an accident. But a very good accident. 😉
The history in your neck of the woods is so rich.
It truly is. There is just so much of it, you just drown in it.
This is absolutely fascinating! You must have been so pleased to find that application for amnesty.
Do you have a post here somewhere dedicated to the etched window? I’ve never heard of the practice, and am wondering how common that was.
By the way, I’m very much enjoying your blog. What an amazing adventure you’ve embarked on.
I was very excited to find that handwritten letter. What wonderful handwriting Carolinus Turner had! I do have a post dedicated to the etching called “Mystery in the Window”, published in July. It was a very common practice for girls to use their engagement rings to etch their names in the window along with the date. The only issue here is that Carrie didn’t marry anyone named W Van der burgh and she didn’t marry in 1869. She married Dr. William Jett several years later. In doing the reach on W Vanderburgh, I haven’t found anyone of that name anywhere near Belle Grove or in Virginia. My thought is it may have been a Union soldier she fell in love with but didn’t marry for whatever reason. SO for now, the mystery continues. Thank you for reading and joining us on this wonderful journey! We hope to see you at the plantation someday!
fascinating, great story.
Thank you! I was a joy to write this one! I love when I find pieces that have a personal connection such as the personally handwritten letter!
A very interesting article written beautifully, I enjoyed it tremendously but perhaps I’m a little biased – my last name is Turner! Well done this is great. Take care, Supernova
Turner, huh? Maybe you might be related down the line somewhere 😉 Thank you!
this was so fascinating. it made me feel like i was right there among it all. thank u so much for sharing this important information!!
You are so welcome! I was just so excited to find a new piece of history!
So interesting! Keep up the good work!
And I do have to just add that they don’t grow facial hair like they used to 😉
I am assuming you are talking of General Burnside’s facial hair. I did try to get Brett to grow one, but he won’t hear of it.. image that 😉
Fascinating. I bet a great novel could be written based on the relationship between Rose Hill and Belle Grove during the war.
Brett and I were joking about it last night. I imaged that they are were staring at each other through telescopes. 😉
Thank you so much! It was a pleasure to do and share!
This is an absolutely fascinating post. I had only the most general knowledge of presidential pardons, and I could not have imagined that a family could “live quietly” in the middle of the Civil War while their home served as a headquarters for Union Troops. People are infinitely various! And life is indeed a rich tapestry. You have done excellent and persistent detective work.
Thank you! I was the same when it came to Presidential Pardon knowledge. It was an eye opener for me.
A wonderful insight into life during a defining moment in history. Much success with your current and future research and restorations. Thank you for your visit to my Blog – you also obviously have a keen sense of humour!
You are so welcome! We look forward to seeing more of your blog! Yes, this time in history was a very defining moment in our time. We are so excited to share it with everyone! Thank you for joining us on this journey!