Remembering the Jackson Greys

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By DENISSE LANE

Monument in memory of the Jackson Greys, located at 1423 St. Brides Rd. W

Monument in memory of the Jackson Greys, located at 1423 St. Brides Rd. W

Though Pleasant Grove Baptist Church no longer exists in Chesapeake, its cemetery remains along with its place in Civil War history. A granite obelisk stands in memory of the Jackson Greys, Company A of  the 61st Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment, on the very grounds they were formed on by Colonel William H. Stewart.

The Jackson Greys were recruited from St. Brides Parish of Norfolk County, receiving their name from the hotel proprietor James W. Jackson. On May 24, 1861, Colonel Elmer Ellsworth saw the Confederate flag flying over Jackson’s Inn and sought to retrieve it with his men as a trophy for Lincoln. Jackson defended the flag by shooting Ellsworth in the chest as he came down the stairs, marking the first notable death in the Civil War. Jackson was then immediately killed by Corporal Francis E. Brownell, becoming a “martyr” for the Confederate cause.

In December of 1861 the Jackson Greys moved to Sewell’s Point at their request, the location where the first, although minor, skirmish on Virginian soil occurred during May of that year. Sewell’s Point proved to be a very strategic location during the Civil War and the Greys set up the most advanced artillery battery in the area, often trading fire with Fort Wool.

The unit also played a part in the most important naval battle of the Civil War, The Battle of Hampton Roads, in which the CSS Virginia (formerly the USS Merrimack), defeated both the USS Congress and USS Cumberland on March 8, 1862. The following day the famous battle of the ironclads, the Monitor and the Virginia (Merrimack), took place.

The war trophies and belongings of William H. Stewart, founder of the Jackson Greys

The war trophies and belongings of William H. Stewart, founder of the
Jackson Greys

In May of 1862, 6,000 Union troops arrived with John E. Wool, and Norfolk was evacuated along with Sewell’s Point. Following this evacuation, the Jackson Greys relocated to Bermuda Hundred near Petersburg. There, they took part in the Seven Days Battles, a series of six major battles over seven days, exchanging fire with Union gunboats at Port Walthall.

In October of 1862 the Jackson Greys, along with the rest of Virginia’s 61st Regiment, were reassigned to Mahone’s Brigade. They then became a part of the Army of Northern Virginia.

The company saw battle in other places, including Gettysburg, Salem Church, Spotsylvania Court House, the Wilderness, Cold Harbor, Wilcox Farm, the Crater, Weldon Rail Road, Hatcher’s Run, and Burgess Mill. The Greys fought with valor until the surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9th, 1865.

You can see the monument dedicated to the Jackson Greys located at 1423 Saint Brides Road West. The war trophies and belongings of William H. Stewart, founder of the Greys, are also on display in the History Room of the Chesapeake Central Library.

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