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Descendants donate document to battle foundation

On, Aug. 2, delegates of the Historic Staunton River Foundation — a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion, development, and preservation of the Staunton River Battlefield — met with Leslie Carter of Shepherdstown, W.Va., to accept a donation of an original document, the minutes of the Employees of the Danville Arsenal, dated 1864.

These rare “minutes” from Captain W. H. Otey’s Company taken on July 1, 1864 accentuated her great-great-great-grandfather, William Henry Dillon’s participation in the defense of the Staunton River Bridge. 

Of the ten known fatalities during the engagement, this document honors two by name: William Henry Dillon and Thomas H. Dickerson.  Dillon and Dickerson were from Danville and employees of the Danville Arsenal, which, at the start of the war, became part of Captain Walter Hays Otey’s Company Virginia Light Artillery. 

Subsequently, men of the Danville Arsenal journeyed 55 miles via rail to answer the urgent plea sent out by Capt. Benjamin Farinholt, commander of the forces stationed at the Staunton River Bridge, to defend the bridge against an approaching Union cavalry force of 5,000 men under the command of Generals Kautz and Wilson. 

Following the Battle on that hot 25th day of June in 1864, the confederates suffered approximately 10 fatalities and 24 wounded, and it was reported that the Union left 30 dead. 

The information obtained from this hand-written document, a “called meeting of the employees of the Danville Arsenal (Cap. W. H. Otey’s Company  held on the 1st day of July 1864,” states that “Whereas it hath pleased Almighty God to remove William H. Dillon and Thomas H. Wilkerson members of our company (who were killed on the 25th ultimately in the late engagement at Staunton River Bridge) from among out numbers.” The document will be a key element in telling the story of the Battle of Staunton River Bridge and its impact on the lives of families in Southside Virginia.

Carter and her father, Terrence, contacted the Historic Staunton River Foundation in December 2009 and inquired about the battle and their ancestor’s role.

Research by and between the Carter family and the foundation ensued.  By June of this year during the annual commemoration of the battle, Carter and her father where honored by the foundation and the Staunton River Battlefield State Park as descendants and presented with medallions. 

Not long after, the father and daughter agreed that the foundation and battleground would be the “perfect fit” to ensure the document’s longevity, preservation, and educational premise. 

A photostat of the original has been made and it can be viewed at the Clover Visitors Center at the Staunton River Battlefield State Park. 

For more information about the Foundation, the battle, and descendants of the battle, visit www.stauntonriverbattlefield.org; follow the foundation on Facebook, or call (434) 454-4312.