in the 26th Virginia Infantry
By L. Roane Hunt
The principle regiment in the Confederate Army from the Middle
Peninsula of Virginia was the Twenty-sixth Virginia Infantry, which was
organized and mustered into service in May 1861 at Gloucester Point. It
consisted primarily of companies from King and Queen, Gloucester, and
pastor of the two Baptist churches near Gloucester Point of Gloucester
County, and he enlisted as a private along with other members of his
community and churches. He was the natural choice to be their chaplain
and was appointed on October 1, 1861. He held this position and served
faithfully for the duration of the war that ended with the surrender at
Appomattox, Virginia. Therefore, the story of Chaplain Wiatt's war
ministry is also a story of the war experience of this confederate
regiment from the Middle Peninsula. This article is based on the work of
Alex. A. Wiatt who has published the war diary of William E. Wiatt
Confederate Chaplain William Edward Wiatt,
26th Virginia Infantry
in the The Virginia Regimental History Series by H. E. Howard, Inc.
When the war began, William Wiatt had a vibrant gospel ministry in
both churches (Union and Providence) and was happily situated with his
wife and children. During the war, he established and maintained his
ministry of preaching, personal contacts to meet the needs of the
soldiers, and helpful contacts with the families of his soldiers. Later
in the war, he was forced to remove his family to his wife's home in
Alabama where she died before the war ended. Following the war, he
re-established his pastoral ministry in Gloucester County and continued
until his retirement in 1910. During this time he also held other
significant positions, serving as County Surveyor and the first
Superintendent of Schools in Gloucester County.
William Edward Wiatt was born at Independence, Gloucester County,
Virginia, on July 31, 1826 (See map of the middle peninsula). He was the
son of Louisa Campbell Stubbs and Dr. William Graham Wiatt. He attended
Newington School located at the present site of Newington Baptist Church
He was baptized on August 7, 1842, and became a member of the Ebenezer
Baptist Church in Gloucester County.
later attended Fleetwood Academy in King and Queen County where he began
his teaching career and was licensed to preach in 1847 by the Olivet
Baptist Church. This portion of the county was a hotbed of Christian
education and the Baptist faith. On December 19, 1846, he married
Catherine Rebecca Spencer whose family was part of the Olivet Church.
Their first child died at birth, and Rebecca died on October 29, 1849,
before their second child was one year old.
At the time of his wife's sickness and death, William accepted a
teaching position in Covington, Kentucky. However, in 1851 he accepted
another teaching position in Lowndes County, Alabama, where he met and
married Charlotte Laura Coleman on September 29, 1852. From his own
testimony, the most profound event in his life occurred in April, 1854,
when he was ordained as a Baptist minister at the request of Hickory Grove
Church in Lowndes County. Teaching became his second priority. Elder
William Wiatt had longed to return home to Gloucester County, and early in
1856, he received calls to become pastor of Union and Providence Churches
in his native Gloucester County. He accepted these calls and moved his
family to Gloucester. He was listed in the 1860 Gloucester census at
#347 with his wife, Charlotte, and three of their children, and his son
from his first marriage. In the Spring of 1861 at the age of 35, he
enlisted in the confederate army at Gloucester Point.
The War Years
Virginia Infantry mustered at Gloucester Point to support the naval
battery there, to defend Gloucester County from invading forces, and to
support Colonel Bohannon in the defense of Mathews County. Although
units of the Union Army remained on the Lower Peninsula south of the York
River at Fort Monroe in Hampton, no military action occurred during the
first year at Gloucester Point. The regiment was re-assigned to locate
south of Richmond, Virginia, along the James River to protect Richmond,
the Confederate Capital. They began their trip north on May 4, 1862. Sad
to say, some of the men that had homes along the coasts of Gloucester and
Mathews deserted and went home instead of following the orders to guard
Richmond. Many of them had fulfilled their commitment of a one-year tour
of duty and chose to stay home and protect their families and
property. The regiment stayed at their position south of Richmond
until September 1863 when they were sent south to Charleston, South
Carolina. In April 1864 the Regiment started back to Virginia and they
joined the fighting at Petersburg, Virginia. Eventually, the 26th
Virginia Infantry and the confederate forces retreated westward and
surrendered at Appomattox on April 12, 1865.
Chaplain Wiatt's diary chronicles his regiment from the perspective
of the soldiers over the period from October 1, 1862, to April 22, 1865,
which included his return to Gloucester after the surrender.
Unfortunately, one major section of the diary covering over three months
beginning in February 1864 is now missing. When the diary began, the
regiment had established itself to guard the southern flank of Richmond.
During the sixteen months of camp life there, Wiatt describes his ministry
among the soldiers. He took advantage of the inactivity to be a
traditional pastor to his men, some of whom he had served in their home
counties. One project was to construct a chapel building adjacent to the
camp in February of 1863. The opportunity for preaching and regular
services diminished when the regiment was ordered to move south to
Charleston, and when they returned the fighting was too intense for such
activity. The latter portion of the diary consisted of listing the
wounded, the captured, and the deaths of his men.
Chaplain Wiatt recorded a number of trips to his home in Gloucester
to visit his family and some of the families of his men. He described
trips in October 1862, February 1863, October 1863, and October 1864. He
referred to his meetings with B. F. Bristow of Shacklefords and Oswald
Kemp, William Chapman, J. C. Crittenden, Augustine W. Robins, Levi P. Corr,
Thomas C. Robins, and Robert A. Stubblefield of Gloucester. He also
visited many of the Baptist ministers of King and Queen, Gloucester, and
Mathews Counties. The purpose of his trip in October 1863 was to arrange
for his family to move back to Alabama to live with his wife's family. He
visited his wife in Alabama in January 1864 and again in April when she
was sick. She died on April 19, 1864, while he was there. His four
children were distributed to family in Alabama, and Chaplain Wiatt
returned to his regiment as they were returning to Virginia.
Although the full and varied ministry of Chaplain Wiatt covered the entire
span of the war, the spiritual climax occurred in the summer months of
1863, toward the end of the two relatively idle encampments of his
regiment. On June 26, 1863, A. Broaddus began preaching daily until
August 3. He was described as a Baptist, army evangelist from Kentucky.
Previously, Chaplain Wiatt had preached at regular Sunday services and had
been teaching Sunday School lessons from the Gospel of Matthew. When
Preacher Broaddus arrived, services were held twice a day, seven days a
week. Elder George F. Bagby and other preachers assisted by sharing some
of the preaching duties. The response of the men as recorded by Chaplain
Wiatt was remarkable. Typical responses were that they were restored,
converted, professed faith, came to Christ, requested baptism, etc. Many
were baptized; he estimated at one point that he had baptized one hundred
men. One of the earliest responses was to be restored. These were
probably men that had previously been baptized and confirmed by their
churches. Chaplain Wiatt mentioned in his diary that Methodist
respondents were referred to Joshua A. Garrett. He wrote many letters to
Baptist pastors to inform them of the men who wished to be added to their
The names of the men listed in the diary as they responded to the
preaching of the Gospel are also listed in the tables for the various
units. Although these lists do not tell the whole story, they do give us
a general understanding of their spiritual experiences. In general, the
men of Companies A and B were from Upper Gloucester County and the men in
Companies E and F were from the Lower portion of Gloucester.
consisted of men from Mathews County. Chaplain Wiatt's diary also gives
the names of men for Companies C, G, H, and I that were from King and
Queen County, where he was first licensed to preach, but these are not
presented in this article.
After the Summer meetings of 1863, Chaplain Wiatt wrote letters to
Elder Council of Mathews Baptist Church informing him of the men who
wished to become members of that church. His letter on July 30th
included: John Lloyd Minter, Peter W. Jarvis, Hugh K. Hudgins, and John T.
Hughes. Later, on September 9th, he added Leonard Smith and Alexander
Davis. Before the war Mathews had only one Baptist church.
Nine years after the war, three additional Baptist churches were started in
Mathews County indicating the real effects of the spiritual experience
during the war. Similar effects were demonstrated in the Methodist,
Episcopal, and Disciples of Christ Churches of the county. Chaplain Wiatt
also sent names to pastors of many other churches across the state of
Virginia and to some in King and Queen County.
However, he sent none to pastors in Gloucester County; he evidently passed
the names of Gloucester men by hand or by word of mouth when he traveled
It is clear that many of the men who were converted or
renewed spiritually made great contributions to the work of the county
churches. However, at least fourteen of those from Gloucester
and Mathews were soon to die in action and in prison camps.
John William Robins was married to Mary M. Moore and enlisted in
Co. A on April 20, 1861, at the age of 38. He "returned to faith" on
September 13, 1863, and was captured on June 15, 1864, near Petersburg.
He died from diarrhea on March 15, 1865, in the prison camp at Elmira,
Peter W. Bristow enlisted in Co. B on October 24, 1861, at the age of
35. He "came to Christ" on July 21, 1863, and was wounded and died on
September 24, 1864.
James T. Bristow enlisted in Co. B on April 23, 1862 at the age of
21. He "came to Christ" on July 25, 1863, and was captured a year later.
He died of chronic diarrhea on October 10, 1864, in Elmira, NY.
Edward C. Brushwood enlisted in Co. B on April 23, 1861, at the age
of 31. He was "converted" on July 17, 1863 and he died on June 28, 1864,
in the hospital in Richmond, VA.
Richard Dutton enlisted in Co. B on April 23, 1861, at the age of
34. He "came to Christ" on July 21, 1863, and was killed in action on
June 2, 1864 in Chesterfield, VA.
John Baylor Foster was married to Lucy Ann Corr and enlisted in Co. B
on October 19, 1861, at the age of 33. He was "converted" on July 17,
1863, and was captured on June 15, 1864, near Petersburg, VA. He died
from pneumonia on December 7, 1864, in Elmira, NY.
Mathew B. Kemp enlisted in Co. B on April 23, 1861, at the age of
18. He "came to Christ" on July 21, 1863, and was killed in action on
June 15, 1864, in Petersburg, VA.
James W. Lawson enlisted in Co. B on April 23, 1861, at the age of
34. He "came to Christ" on July 21, 1863, and was assumed by Wiatt to be
killed in action on June 15, 1864 ,in Petersburg, VA.
Fairborn Wilbur Mason enlisted in Co. B on July 25, 1861, at the age
of 19. He "returned to faith" on July 17, 1863, and died on May 21, 1864,
in Petersburg, VA.
William Davis enlisted in Co. D on July 29, 1861, in Mathews, VA. He
was "converted" on July 16, 1863, and was baptized later. His name was
sent to Mathews Baptist Church for membership. He died on September 11,
1863, in King and Queen Co., VA.
Thomas J. James enlisted in Co. D on May 28, 1861, at the age of 22.
He was "restored to faith" on July 16, 1863, and died on November 18,
1863, in Savannah, GA.
John J. Cooper enlisted in Co. F on April 29, 1861, at the age of
20. He "trusted in Christ" on August 29, 1863, and was baptized later.
He was killed in action on May 31, 1865.
David West was married to Mary Susan Sparrow and enlisted in Co. F on
April 20, 1861, at the age of 29. He returned to faith on July 17, 1863.
He was killed in the trenches near Petersburg, VA on October 11, 1864.
Ambrose West (brother to David) enlisted in Co. F on April 20, 1861,
at the age of 30. He was baptized on July 22, 1863, and was killed in
action on July 11, 1864, in Petersburg, VA.
Other men that responded to the religious meetings returned to
Gloucester and Mathews to make important contributions to their churches
George Washington Horsley was married to Lucy Jane Sheppard and
enlisted in Co. A about the age of 28. In the 1850 census he and his
family was listed next to the Robert C. Selden farm where he probably
labored. Wiatt wrote that he "came to Christ" on July 27, 1863. After
the war he settled in the Petsworth District of Gloucester County.
Richard Allen Fitzhugh enlisted in Co. B on April 23, 1861, at the
age of 16. His father, Patrick Fitzhugh, was captain of Co. B. He "came
to Christ" on July 21, 1863, and was baptized later. He married Matilda
Elizabeth Johnston and settled in Gloucester. He was buried in the
John D. Hall was married to Mary Susan Browne and enlisted in Co.
B at the age of 31. Evidently, John and his brother ,William Foster Hall,
could not write because Chaplain Wiatt wrote many letters for them, as he
did for many of the soldiers. John "came to Christ" on July 21, 1863. He
was captured on June 15, 1864, near Petersburg, VA and taken to the prison
camp in Elmira, NY. He was released on July 3, 1865, and returned to
Gloucester. John and his large family are listed consistently in each
census indicating their stability in community residence.
Thomas Jefferson Ash, Jr. enlisted in Co. F on February 21, 1861, at
the age of 20. He was "restored to faith" on July 15, 1863. After the
war he settled in Gloucester and married Mary Elizabeth Minor, daughter of
Deacon John W. Minor, Jr., and granddaughter of Elder Henry Mouring, one
of the earliest pastors of Union Baptist Church in Gloucester.
Thomas Jefferson Rowe enlisted in Co. F on April 20, 1861, at the age
of 19. His brother, Achilles Rowe, was in the same company. Thomas was
"converted" on July 16, 1863, and was baptized later. He and Achilles
were buried in the Union Baptist Church cemetery.
Revivals of religion during the war were well documented and occurred
throughout the military camps of the South and the North. Also, the
Christian faith of many of the officers of both armies are well known.
Consistent with this established history, the climax of religious
experience for the 26th Virginia Infantry occurred in the summer of 1863.
Chaplain Wiatt's diary identifies many of those men affected who then
returned home to affect their churches and communities.
Chaplain Wiatt recorded the Bible texts of each of his sermons and the
sermons of the visiting preachers. The texts used by the preachers during
a two week portion of the special meetings held for July 12-26, 1863, are
presented in the
table at the end of the article.
The preachers included are Evangelist A. Broaddus from Kentucky, Elder
George F. Bagby and Elder Isaac Diggs from King and Queen County,
Elder Leyburn from Bedford County, T. A. Haynes from Loudon County, and
Chaplain William E. Wiatt. As shown earlier, the diary contains names of
men and their response to the preaching. Typically during this summer,
Chaplain Wiatt recorded a few responses each day, but during the
concentrated schedule of meetings the response increased greatly. There
were 25 men (17 from Gloucester units) and 29 men (18 from Gloucester
units) recorded on July 17 and 21, respectively. The texts used in the
preaching during these days are presented to give some understanding of
the message content to which the men were responding. It is clear that
the selection of Scripture was broad in scope and a good representation of
the overall message of the Bible. The typical text contained phrases of
invitation and challenges to commitment and holiness of character. I
believe those sermons would be well received by congregations of any
generation. Within these texts one can see the language of commitment
contained in the diary, such as repentance, faith, belief, coming to
Christ, and following him. It is easy to imagine that these experiences
combined with the overall disaster of the war could motivate the survivors
to do the work of the Church with greater energy in the years that
Chaplain Wiatt seems to have assumed a supporting roll during these
special preaching meetings, but he preached faithfully before and after
them. He recorded for himself 226 sermons from November 1862 until April
1865. This included the teaching of the Gospel of Matthew in
chronological fashion beginning in May 1863. Judging from the varied
selection of texts, he was very balanced in his pastoral preaching
ministry. This was most evident during the many months of preaching when
the men were encamped south of Richmond, Virginia, in relative idleness,
waiting expectantly for action. First of all, there was some repetition
which was no surprise, especially considering that his congregation
probably varied as he moved among the units. Also, the variety suggests
that he preached from texts that arose from his own private daily study
and reading of the Scriptures. He recorded 176 sermons using New
Testament text and 50 using the Old Testament. In the New Testament, he
used the four gospels 106 times and the remainder was distributed between
the books of Acts, the Epistles, and Revelation. In the Old Testament, he
included the books of law, the Psalms, and the books of the prophets.
Overall, his selection would please all modern Christians with a high view
of Scripture and its message. His preaching ministry seems to reflect the
strong Baptist leadership in central King and Queen County where Chaplain
Wiatt was educated and began his ministry.
Having lost his second wife during the war, his children were
scattered and the youngest ones remained with his wife's family in
Alabama. He first returned to Gloucester County, and his last entry in
his diary on Saturday, April 22, 1865 expressed his true emotions.
Crossed over to Cappahosic in the morning; I felt thankful to my Heavenly
Father for permitting me to return to my native county once more; but it
is with a heavy heart that I come back; my beloved County is subjugated; I
have lost nearly all of my property; I am far away from my dear little
ones; know not when or how I shall go to them; I am about to begin life
anew with many & great responsibilities weighing upon me; Oh! my beloved
Country; has God cast thy people off? hath He forgotten them Why so much
blood shed, so many wounds inflicted, so many noble lives lost, so many
hearts crushed, so much devastation & ruin in the land? is it all for
naught, Oh! God have all of our prayers, faith, hope & love of liberty and
privations & sacrifices been in vain, Oh! God? has God closed His ears to
our cries & His eyes to our suffering and is His heart unfeeling toward
us? will God, can God forget His people?
God has humbled us, that we may be blessed; all of His works are in Wisdom
& Love, as well as in Power & Righteousness; all is right, because He does
it, Oh! Lord, our Father . . . rode up to Belle Roi and walked to Mt
as I passed my place, my troubles pressed heavily upon me; here I lived
for several years, happy in my family relations & blessed much of God; now
I look upon my once fine home with a stricken heart; my home is desolate,
my heart is more so; I feel that there is little, very little earthly
happiness in store for me;
He continued by expressing his faith and commitment to the Lord.
Then, he finished his journal by writing:
Here my journal ends for the present, it may never be resumed by me as
Chaplain in the Confederate Army, which position I was commissioned to
hold on the 4th of October, 1861; may the blessing of God be upon all of
my labours as such; may I have some "Crowns of rejoicing" in the great day
as chaplain in the army of my beloved country; this journal was begun on
the 1st day of Jan'y 1862 and has continued till the present without
interruption; I regret the ending of it.
He sold his home to pay off his debts and accepted the pastorate at
Union Baptist Church. At the same time he taught school near Bena Post
Office in Guinea. In 1866 he was appointed County Surveyor, a position
which he filled for eleven years. In 1870 he was appointed the first
Superintendent of Schools in Gloucester County, and he served for seven
years. In the 1870 census he was listed in the Abington district at
#165. He married Nannie B. Heywood on July 18, 1871, and eventually, they
had four children. In 1874 he was called to the pastorate of Providence
Baptist Church, where he served until 1880. According to the church
history of Newington Baptist Church, he also accepted the pastorate of
Newington Baptist Church in 1874. He left Newington in 1887 when he was
appointed State Missionary in the Mountains of Virginia. He moved to
Giles County, where he preached for seventeen months. He returned to
Gloucester and accepted the pastorate of Newington, Beulah, and Petsworth
Churches, where he served until 1910.
Elder Wiatt grew up in a society where negro slavery was accepted.
He owned slaves until he had to sell them when he closed his home in
Gloucester and sent his wife and children to Alabama. He wrote in his
diary of his sorrow and sympathy for the "coloureds" who were being used
by the "Yankees." However, the county records show that he, like the
other white ministers, performed great numbers of marriage ceremonies for
the negroes. It is interesting that Elder Wiatt is included in the
history of Bethel Baptist Church in Sassafras, Gloucester County,
Virginia. John William Booth (1847 - 1923) was their first pastor. He
was born a slave to William Jones, but he had been taught to read. In the
early years of his pastorate, Elder Wiatt helped him with his religious
education and they would study together. Within and without the evil
system of slavery, Elder Wiatt showed himself to be a friend of the negro.
On March 28, 1905, he wrote . . . "to sum up my labors in the
ministry for fifty years, I will say I have preached, I suppose 2,500
sermons, baptized 600 persons, married 360 couples, traveled 50,000 to
75,000 miles, been instrumental in building six houses of worship,
organized many temperance societies and distributed many thousands of
religious papers and tracts." Elder Wiatt died Feb. 14, 1918, in his 92nd
year, and was buried at Newington Baptist Church, Gloucester County.
A common question about those who survived the Civil War is, "How were
they affected by their experiences?" From my study of Elder Wiatt's life,
my answer is that he affected the war and the soldiers that fought in it.
He seemed to maintain an even tempo throughout his life. After the war,
he did much to shape the modern Gloucester County with his leadership in
general education and in the shaping of its Baptist churches. He had a
long association with Levi Corr and must have influenced greatly his son,
Harry. Harry Corr was the next home-educated and -trained preacher that
served many of the Baptist churches of Gloucester County in the subsequent
generation. Therefore, much of the present Baptist loyalty of Gloucester
natives can be traced to Elder William E. Wiatt.
1 Wiatt, Alexander Lloyd,
Confederate Chaplain William Edward Wiatt, An Annotated Diary,
H. E. Howard, Lynchburg, VA, 1994.
2 Wiatt, Alexander Lloyd,
26th Virginia Infantry,
H. E. Howard, Lynchburg, VA, 1984.
3 Wiatt, Alexander Lloyd,
The Wiatt Family of Virginia,
McClure Printing Company, Inc., Verona, Virginia, 1980.
4 William Wiatt was listed next to Claiborne Coleman, who may
have been an uncle of his wife, Charlotte
5 Wiatt, Alexander Lloyd,
26th Virginia Infantry,
H. E. Howard, Lynchburg, VA, 1984, Pg. 2.
6. Ibid. Pg. 4.
7. Bagby, Alfred F.,
King and Queen County, Virginia,
Neale Publishing Co., New York, NY, 1908. Pg. ??. (Historical Address
by J. Ryland, Sr.).
9. He was a grandfather to Frank Alford Robins of Gloucester
10. The present author has identified each of the men that responded
in the meetings of revival in his personal research. He would be
pleased to share his information with other researchers.
11. He was the father of Calvin Horsley of Gloucester County.
12. He was a grandfather to Decator Lee Belvin of Gloucester County.
13. He followed Elder Wiatt to Goucester County; he accepted a call to
be pastor of Providence Baptist Church and he was buried in the church
14. Wiatt, Alexander Lloyd,
Confederate Chaplain William Edward Wiatt, An Annotated Diary,
H. E. Howard,
Lynchburg, VA, 1994., Pg. 241-242
15. Ibid. Pg. 242.
16. The History of Bethel Baptist Church in Sassafras, Gloucester
office subject files of
17. Wiatt, Alexander Lloyd,
The Wiatt Family of Virginia,