when the dust clears

Words about and images of matters political, social, and military

Dateline: Hampton, VA, December 29, 2012

with 3 comments

After coffee at Lamplighter Roasting Company—go if you’re within 50 miles of South Addison Street in Richmond—we found our way to Chop Suey Books (thanks, Toby!), where we seized the opportunity to feed our bulging Civil War library. The rest of the morning we spent rooting through dirt and tangled ivy for the grave of A. Maben Hobson, Brian’s great-grandfather’s probable owner.

BP @ Lamplighter Roasting Co., Richmond, VA, December 28, 2012 (Beverage: Black Eye)

BP @ Lamplighter Roasting Co., Richmond, VA, December 28, 2012 (Beverage: Black Eye)

Erin at Chop Suey Books, Richmond, VA, December 28, 2012

Erin at Chop Suey Books, Richmond, VA, December 28, 2012

FindAGrave.com told us Hobson is buried at Hollywood Cemetery, eternal home to thousands of dead Confederate soldiers and their president, Jefferson Davis. Ah, the Internet!

“Major Alexander Maben Hobson” appears in the cemetery’s records, complete with the location of his grave, but he is not in the ledger of interments kept at the main office. The assistant general manager pointed us toward Hobson’s probable plot and wished us luck.

Members of interlocking families—Hobsons, Mabens, Pembertons, Cullens—are packed into a small parcel of land in Section P. Many of the headstones are remarkably well preserved, including those of AMH’s parents, John Cannon (born in 1791 in Cumberland Co., VA; died 1873) and Mary Shaw Maben (“born at Dumfries, Scotland, April 10, 1795,” died 1871). Two of AMH’s children, both of whom died as infants, are there, too.

Hobson grave, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA, December 28, 2012

John C. Hobson grave, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA, December 28, 2012

We hunted, we pecked, but we saw no headstone for AMH. Erin felt a hard spot beneath the thick ground cover through her boots. Tugging back the ivy, we found the headstone of John Maben Cullen, son of James and Jane. Still no AMH. So close… (“The exact location of the grave is unknown,” the cemetery’s historian writes, “although it is possible he lies in an unmarked grave in the Hobson family plot.”)

On our way back to the main office, we spotted Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart’s grave—the bright red battle flags flapping in the winter pallor kind of gave it away. Moving to some white Southerners, perhaps, deeply saddening and kind of grotesque to us. Wounded at the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthourse in 1864, Stuart reportedly told his men, “I’d rather die than be whipped.” He got his wish.

Grave of James Ewell Brown Stuart, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA, December 28, 2012

Grave of James Ewell Brown Stuart, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA, December 28, 2012

Joyce and Lankford Blair welcomed us to the Magnolia House, their lovely Hampton inn (no, not the Hampton Inn, though we did stay at one in Richmond), with big hugs and half a dozen warm chocolate chip cookies. And here we are.

—BP. Additional reporting by EHP.

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3 Responses

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  1. Jeez, you’re good Brian. We’re right there with you and Erin. Keep ’em coming.

    barigeorge

    2012/12/29 at 16:00

  2. There is nothing quite like the kind of American who views as “grotesque” the burial place of an American hero who demonstrated great courage and ingenuity in confounding superior numbers and defending his homeland from cruel invaders for three arduous years, finally to be mortally wounded in action at the Battle of Brandy Station. May God bless and keep safely in his care the soul of General J. E. B. Stuart, and may that same God illumine your hearts and minds.

    T W Conerly

    2013/05/06 at 13:47

    • Thank you for taking the time to write.

      Our views on the Civil War—and the United States—differ profoundly. I value the lives and freedoms of all Americans, including ones of African descent. The “homeland” Stuart sought to defend was an exploitative, violent, and barbarous realm where wealth and prosperity for a tiny class of rich, white planters, was built on the backs of African American slaves—and poor whites. My great grandfather, a formerly enslaved man, fought with Union forces, who you call “cruel invaders.” Recall who seceded, who rebelled.

      Stuart is credited with some innovations in warfare, particularly his formation of “deep-strike” raiding forces. But one can be a good strategist and warfighter in the service of an odious cause. This was Stuart. One can be a fine general without being a fine human. I reserve the latter designation for those who rebel against what is wrong and inhuman, not against their own country when it is fighting for the rights of all its citizens.

      bxpnyc

      2013/05/06 at 20:17


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