Since the 1600s the people of the Northern Neck (NNK)[i] of Virginia and of St. Mary’s County, Maryland have been connected—not separated—by the Potomac.  They have married each other; they have battled common enemies together: the British in 1776 and 1812 and the Yankees in 1861.  Though they were on the same side in The War, in later years, St. Mary’s baseball teams enjoyed a friendly rivalry with the Northern Neck boys.  And as tidewater neighbors, they have engaged in mutually beneficial commerce, St. Mary’s buy boats purchasing the day’s catch of oysters and crabs from the Virginians, and NNK buy boats in turn conducting business with the St. Mary’s watermen.  During Prohibition, St. Mary’s County bootleggers kept the entire Northern Neck supplied with spirits.  Given all of this, when I moved from my now ruined St. Mary’s to the still relatively intact NNK, it was not as one of those “come-heres,” a derogatory term for the newly arrived.  From my few acres of Northern Neck dirt, I will hold the line against the carpetbagger’s vaunted “change” and against what the “rich men” in Richmond are doing to Oliver Anthony’s “sweet Virginia.”  I will also continue to look for my NNK kinfolk, living and dead, hopefully among the latter, a Confederate soldier named Samuel D. Mothershead.

Samuel is someone I came across about a year ago when I noticed his name on a list of POWs in a book entitled Point Lookout Prison Camp for Confederates by Edwin W. Beitzell,[ii] which I highly recommend.  Captured at Falling Waters, Maryland on July 14 of 1863, Samuel eventually found himself at Point Lookout in Union occupied Maryland. The reason the name Mothershead caught my eye is the fact that I am descended from Alice Malinda Mothershead of the Northern Neck.  She was married to William Henry Nash, my great-great-grandfather, who served in the 47 Virginia Infantry, Company C.   Samuel was also from the Northern Neck, according to the Beitzell book, so I thought, at that time, that he might have been kin to my great-great-grandmother, a cousin perhaps.

It didn’t take long before I found Samuel’s death notice in the August 1, 1901 edition of The Baltimore Sun.  He died at the age of seventy-five at the Maryland Line Confederate Soldiers Home in Pikesville near Baltimore.  The facility was established in 1888 by the Maryland branch of the Society of the Army and Navy of the Confederate States with the aid of generous funding from the Maryland legislature.  William Pope, the superintendent of the home, was quoted in The Confederate Veteran of November 1893.

Now a little insight into the way we do things in Maryland: We have no ex-Confederate Societies, but several strong active Confederate Societies. We never mix in any manner with the other side – have no joint reunions, no joint banquets, no decoration, or memorial days in common. In fact, we do not mix at all, we go our own way, they go theirs. We do not belong to that class of Confederates that believe they were right. We knew we were right in 1861. We knew we were right when the war closed, and we know we are right today.

This safe haven for old Confederates has always interested me because it is one more piece of evidence confounding those who would deny Marylanders their Southern history. When I discovered that Samuel had lived there during his final days, I was even more elated at the prospect that he might have been a kinsmen.  After my decamping, as the crow flies, thirteen miles across the river to the NNK last Fall, I took advantage of the resources of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library in Montross.  Though I have spent a lot of time there and at other research centers, I have so far been unsuccessful regarding my connections to Samuel.  While focused on him, however, I found out that I am very likely George Washington’s third cousin many times removed, he and I both direct descendants of a common ancestor.

I knew that my people might have been connected to the Washingtons in some way because of family names that had been handed down—the way people used to do. My paternal great-grandfather was Bushrod Nash. George Washington’s nephew was Bushrod Washington whose mother was Hannah Nash—I have found several Hannahs in the Nash and Mothershead families, not positive proof of anything but certainly clues.

Not too long after that day I learned about Cousin George, I discovered that General Robert E. Lee and I are, it seems, both direct descendants of a certain English knight. Again, I “had heard” that I might be kin to Lee—and there were those family names again—but I just assumed that I had a case of wishful thinking.

For fear that I be accused of affectation, I will state that I would rather be kin to Private Samuel Mothershead than to Cousin George, much as I admire George for his rye whiskey making.  General Lee is another matter.  It would be an unimagined honour to be his cousin.  My priority will remain, however, solving the mystery of Samuel because he survived the hellish place that was Point Lookout, and because, even though my Mothershead ancestors, at first glance, seem to have been poor and illiterate, I am still proud of them, proud of my great-great grandmother, Alice Malinda.  There are those who may suggest, considering all the dangers of the crazy and coercive regime just up the Potomac from my rural retreat, that matters of lineage seem quaint and of little consequence, that my genealogical research is frivolous escapism. And they may be right.  But being the keepers of the family history is what Virginia ladies of a certain age do, the current state of affairs notwithstanding.

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[i] This acronym includes the K in Neck.

[ii] Edwin Warfield Beitzell was born in St. Mary’s County in 1905.  One of the few historians who have told the truth about Maryland’s ordeal during the Union occupation and about the conditions at Point Lookout Prison, he is accused, predictably, of having a “Southern bias.”


J.L. Bennett

J.L. Bennett is an independent historian living in Maryland and the author of Maryland, My Maryland: The Cultural Cleansing of a Small Southern State.

14 Comments

  • William Quinton Platt III says:

    Men such as Robert E. Lee were not wrong. They were men of a moral code… grant, lincoln, sherman…they were lesser men…slavery in the British colonies of the New World was a blessing to Africans…and to all of those sent here against their will.

    The northern States and fedgov refused to enforce Dred Scott…refused to follow the Constitution…that was the reason for the war…besides fedgov’s refusal to prosecute those who funded the invasion of Virginia.

    We have nothing to apologize for…had the yankees not forced the 14th Amendment down our throats at gunpoint, White Southern Males would have not been disenfranchised, and the KKK and other groups would never have come into existence. Race relations in the South would have been the envy of all “mixed” societies…our ancestors funded black colleges and universities DESPITE our former family-members supporting fedgov in those unfortunate RECONSTRUCTION years.

  • James Persons says:

    Thank you, Mr. Bennett. Columns like yours are why I love this site so much. Every day I learn new info about our shared past as Southerners and the personal experiences shared by the writers makes the history come alive for me. Best of luck in finding out more info on Samuel.

    Very respectfully,

    Jim P.

  • Joyce Bennett says:

    Thank you so much, Sir, for your kind words.

  • John Braund says:

    Joyce,

    I’ve been a reader of Daily Dose of Dixie since the mid-aughts, but this is the first time I’ve had anyone mention my family in a posting. May I assure you that your connection to the Nash Family, my family, does indeed connect you to the Washington Family. While I suspect that you may be descended from a different line than mine, as you didn’t mention the illustrious Eskridege Family or its connection to Thomas Graves of Jamestown, my great-grandfather was also a William Henry Nash, descended from Thomas Lewis Nash and Varina Jane (Bryant) Nash, and from there back to Thomas Washington, who was George Washington’s third cousin, our most recent common ancestors being Laurance Washington and Amphyllis Twigden of Sulgrave Manor in England.

    Thanks for making my day!

    John Braund
    Summerville, South Carolina

  • Barbara says:

    If Abbeville Institute should get money from Amazon or abebooks if possible because I sure buy a lot of books that I see on this site.

    • Joyce says:

      Barbara, Beitzell’s book is very good. There are several POW accounts about conditions at Point Lookout. Hope you find it interesting. Joyce

  • John Braund says:

    Joyce,

    I’ve reviewed my family tree this lovely, sunny morning in South Carolina and can report from documented evidence that a William Henry Nash was the younger brother of Thomas Lewis Nash of Westmoreland County, born in 1837 in Cople Parish , who first married Martha Ann Nash (~1853-9 September 1873), the daughter of “Lewis” Nash and “Jane” Gutridge, on 2 March 1871, and who later married Lucy Virginia Gutridge (16 March 1854-18 May 1928), the daughter of “Lewis T.” Nash and “Malissa Jane” Gutridge (and thus possibly Martha’s younger sister), and died after 15 April 1910 (based on his appearance in the Census of 1910 in an entry that states he was, on that date, 72 years of age, in his second marriage, to Lucy Nash, and with whom he apparently had 2 children, one of whom was living, Frank Nash). If this is your William Henry Nash, then you and I are most likely contemporaries (as my William Henry is my great-grandfather and yours is your “great-great-grandfather,” and would be the brother of my William Henry’s father). In any event, I suggest that your third-great-grandfather was one Thomas Nash, who was the husband of Harriet (Hinson) Nash, and that you and I may, in fact, be fourth cousins!

    John B.

  • Thank you for this article. My ancestral roots stretch from St. Mary’s to Portsmouth, VA, so this story resonated with my own family history. Although I was raised in Pennsylvania, my sympathies have always been with the South, especially after exploring history with a critical eye. Mainstream history has always reflected the views of those who publish it. Thank you, again.

  • Joyce says:

    I am so glad you enjoyed the article, Mark.

  • Mann Page Ciesemier says:

    Frivolous escapism by no means! Thank you.
    I was very close to my cousin Mary Claycomb of Maryland who ran our family society for many years…yes keeping our histories. I hung on her every word. My first trip from Chicago to Virginia was to Christ Church in the Northern Neck, where I met Mary first. It had this remote and in tact feel, the Northern Neck. Ill never forget. The lecture there at the church to us Pages included a mention that Robert Carter was cruel slave driver. All my cousins

    there bowed their heads, except me. It was new, and I thought “there should be no shame here, regret possibly but no guilt.

    Here in Chicago we had this nice place called Camp Douglas. Heard re: your Point Lookout kin 🙂

  • John Braund says:

    Quoting the Encyclopedia of Virginia:

    “Robert Carter III‘s Deed of Gift was a legal document, signed on August 1, 1791, and presented in Northumberland District Court on September 5, that set out provisions to free 452 enslaved men and woman. By the time those provisions were fulfilled, more than three decades later, between 500 and 600 were freed, probably the largest emancipation by an individual in the United States before 1860. Carter was a member of one of the wealthiest families in Virginia and inherited hundreds of enslaved people. Perhaps because of a religious conversion, he turned against slavery during and after the American Revolution (1775–1783). His plan to free his own enslaved population was carefully designed to conform to state law and to be gradual. Adults would be freed in small groups each year based on their age, children would be freed when they became adults, and the elderly would be allowed to independently farm on Carter’s Nomony Hall estate for the remainder of their lives. In 1793, Carter moved to Baltimore, leaving the process in the hands of the Baptist minister Benjamin Dawson. He later sold his remaining enslaved people to Dawson. After Carter’s death in 1804, Carter’s heirs sued the minister to stop the manumissions but lost an 1808 ruling by the Virginia Court of Appeals. The scholar Andrew Levy has noted that Carter’s Deed of Gift has not simply been forgotten but actively ignored. Perhaps in response to his complaint, a roadside marker dedicated to the deed was erected in Northumberland County in 2016.” [Source: Encyclopedia of Virginia (https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/carter-robert-1728-1804/); Accessed: 13 May 2024.]

    John B.

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