"Let me see generation times, will we hear children singing rhymes? Sweet memories gone by..."

02 May 2013

Statesman, Lawyer & Soldier

I know in my bones, I've been here before
The ground feels the same though the land's been torn 
I've a long way to go, the stars tell me so 
On this road that will take me home
--"Going Home" by Mary Fahl

Today marks the 168th birthday of my 3rd-great-grand-uncle Henry Aaron Atkinson, born on May 2, 1845 in Richmond, Virginia, three days before his father's 30th birthday.  Henry was the third child of my 4th-great-grandparents, Henry Allen and Grace Elizabeth Atkinson, and used "Junior" to distinguish himself from his father, even though their middle names were different.

On March 14, 1862, just a few weeks shy of his 17th birthday, Henry enlisted in Captain Parker's Company of the Virginia Light Artillery - with his parents' consent, according to his muster-in roll.  He was discharged in October of that year "by reason of ordinary disability," and received $63.20 in payment for his service.

Capt. Parker's Company
Light Artillery

Company Muster-in Roll

"with parents consent"
Henry then enrolled at the University of Virginia for two years, before dropping out and reenlisting on March 1, 1864 - this time in Company F of Virginia's Third Cavalry Regiment.  Two months later, at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, he was shot in the left thigh and captured by Union forces.  He was first sent to the Old Capitol Prison in Washington, DC, and transferred to the federal prison in Elmira, NY in July of 1864.  He was held there until being paroled in February of 1865.

3 Cav. Va.

Company Muster Roll


"In hands of enemy since May 8th 64"
Henry returned home and resumed his studies at the University of Virginia law school, where he was a member of the debate club and the president of the Jefferson Society.  He graduated in 1866, and first worked in a partnership with B. H. Berry.  About two years later, their practice was dissolved, and Henry began to practice law on his own.

On November 4, 1868, Henry married Belle Virginia Dobson (possibly his second cousin) at Waterview Plantation in Gloucester County, VA.  The couple had five children:  Margaret Belle, Henry Dobson, Lucy Clair, Ethel Walker, and Marmaduke.  His youngest son was likely named for well-known defense attorney Marmaduke Johnson, with whom Henry worked on several cases, including the murder trial of James Jeter Philips.

In 1870, Henry was elected Commonwealth's attorney for Henrico County, a position he held for four years.  One interesting tidbit from the Richmond newspapers in 1872:

Difficulties at the County Court-House. - On yesterday, as we are informed, a personal difficulty took place at the county court-house between Messrs. Henry A. Atkinson, Commonwealth's attorney, and W. F. G. Garnett, Esq., a lawyer.  From the best information we can obtain, Mr. Garnett approached Mr. Atkinson and spat upon him, telling him at the same time that he meant it as an insult.  Both gentlemen retired to the court-house yard, and were preparing for a fight, when the sheriff interposed and prevented hostilities.  Subsequently, as we are informed, Mr. Atkinson visited Mr. Garnett at his room, and producing a cowhide, inflicted upon the latter several severe blows.

The next paragraph in the article relates how Mr. Garnett also got into a fight with the Henrico County sheriff.

In 1880, Henry was elected to the Virginia State Senate, where he served for two terms.  During his tenure, he was Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and of the Yorktown Centennial Committee.  Along with William Mayo, Henry represented Virginia when establishing the Potomac River's dividing line with Maryland.

In 1884, Henry established a new law practice with S. D. Davies.

He was also involved with several fraternal societies for a time, including the Masons, the Royal Arcanum, and the Knights of Pythias, of which he was a Grand Chancellor.  Eventually, he left the Masons when he converted to Catholicism.

His son Henry Dobson Atkinson became a dentist, and Marmaduke became a doctor, serving as a surgeon with the British Royal Navy during World War I.  His daughter Lucy was a writer for various newspapers, and was Richmond's first woman reporter.  She was also a regent for the Old Dominion Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the oldest chapter in Virginia.

Henry Dobson Atkinson married Mary Goodwin on May 29, 1901, but tragically, both contracted typhoid fever, and passed away within days of each other in November of 1902.  Their 7-month-old daughter, Mary L. Virginia Atkinson, was then adopted and raised by her paternal grandparents Henry and Belle.

Henry passed away on May 29, 1914 at the age of 69.  His wife Belle survived him by four years, passing away on March 2, 1918.  They were interred in the historic Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, marked by a beautiful angel monument.  The Atkinsons' family plot faces the grave of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and both share a lovely view of the city of Richmond over the James River.

We have loved them during life, let us not abandon them until we have conducted them by our prayers into the house of the Lord.

Statesman, Lawyer & Soldier

1 comment:

  1. Happy Blogiversary!!

    Regards, Grant