We are getting close, I can feel it!

Oct. 8th 2012

Etching in the Window at Belle Grove

Okay, this post was not planned! But I had to let you know about a find that I happened on today! As you have read in the past posting “Mystery in the Window”, we have an etching in one of the upstairs bedrooms that reads:

Carrie Turner

W (or M) Van der burgh

May 18, (18)69

This was done by Carrie (Caroline) Turner, the oldest daughter of Carolinus and Susan Turner. Back during this time, it was common for brides to be to etch their names and that of their fiancés in the window of their homes with their diamond engagement ring. The only problem with is etching is that Carrie Turner didn’t marry Van der burgh and she didn’t marry in 1869. She married Dr. William Jett, a widower and local doctor and they married in 1876.

So the mystery is who is Van der burgh? There have been many theories. One is that it was a close friend of hers that was at the house to celebrate her 21st birthday. Another is that it was a beau that she was to marry, but didn’t for some reason. I don’t think the birthday etching is right. The etching was marked May 18, 1869. Carrie was born on July 1o, 1848. It would have been a little early to be celebrating her birthday.  So could it be a beau that she was to marry?

I have spent the last several months trying to figure out this mystery. I first started looking for families in the area and in Virginia named Van der burgh. I hit a dead-end. No names under Van der burg in the state of Virginia during this time. It would have been kind of unusual since most daughters married within families of the area or close by. So then I started to think about the time and what was going on during this time.

The 1869 was just after the end of the Civil War. At the start of the war in 1861, Carrie would have been 13. She didn’t marry until she was 28 years old. For a young girl during the Victorian age, she would have been considered old. But after the Civil War, the local population of men had dropped dramatically. So her options would have been limited. That could explain her late marriage.

Then just recently, I found the hand written letter from Carolinus Turner asking for amnesty for being part of the Confederate side of the war. In this letter, Carolinus talks about how he met General Burnside and General Abercrombie, both Union Generals. He also states that he and his family remained quietly at home and that his home (Belle Grove) had been behind Union lines for most of the war.

We also think that Belle Grove served as a headquarters for the Union Army during their time in Port Conway. We think this is correct because the house bears no scars from shoots being fired at it from the river as it had happened to all the other plantations in the area.

So what if during the Union Army’s time in Port Conway, Carrie met someone named W (M) Van der burgh? It could have been a soldier from another state. But which state? What unit? What side? Until that letter I had no idea. I did have some help just recently too from another blogger who gave me a link for a family of Van der burghs out of New York. (Thank you!)

With the knowledge of General Burnside being in the area, I started looking for a Union unit from New York that may have been in the area. I found one from another bloggers post. Emerging Civil War is the blog and the post is “The Other Port Royal” posted on November 15, 2011. (http://emergingcivilwar.com/2011/11/15/the-other-port-royal/) In the posting it states:

“On April 18, 1862, the Union army entered Fredericksburg and occupied it through August 1862.  In the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, is a report from Acting Master Nelson Provost, United States Navy, commanding the USS Anacostia to General Ambrose Burnside about the August 15-16, 1862 “Expedition from Fredericksburg to Port Royal, VA.”  The report states that Provost had the steamer with its crew and 25 men of the 9th New York Infantry (Hawkins Zouaves) proceed down the river toward Port Royal because of reports that the Confederates had held regular communication with Baltimore and Richmond. The expedition landed at several plantations along the way, which were deserted by their proprietors.  Contrabands told him that recruits for the rebel army were ferried across the river from Port Conway to Port Royal with arms, goods, and stores.”

Yes, I had a unit! Now I needed to find a muster list. It took me most of the day to locate one. Finally I found one. The 9th New York Infantry served the following in our area:

  • Expedition to Port Royal August 15-16 (Co. “H”)
  • Rappahannock River August 15 (Co. “H”)
  • Battle of Fredericksburg, Va., December 12-15.
  • (Co. “G”) at Burnsides’ Headquarters October 31, 1862, to January, 1863.)

Then looking through the muster list, I found ten companies (Co. A – C0. K). I slowly scanned through the list. Under Company A, I found the following:

  • Vanderburgh, Richard A 28 * Pvt.

Could this be the Van der burgh we are looking for? Could he have been on the Expedition to Port Royal or could she have met him when her father met General Burnside? If they met, she would have been 14 and he would have been 29. Could they have made friends and wrote to each other for three years? If they were to have married in 1869, she would have been just shy of her 21st birthday and he would have been 36. Could he have died just before they were to marry? Dying at 36 wasn’t unheard of during that time. Could he have been wounded and died due to those wounds?

Now my task is to look for personal information on Richard and see if I can confirm anything. And I also have been studying the etching in the window. Is that a “W” or “M” or a quickly etched “R”?

Close Up
You be the judge
Is it a “W” “M” or “R”?

If we hit a dead-end again on this, I think we are going to have to call the real History Detectives!

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 46 Comments »