Chewning Farm Incident

A rather interesting article from my friend Joe Rokus appeared in the Culpeper Star Exponent this weekend – Long-lost Relatives Found after Wilderness Civil War Article.

Joe wrote a larger article (which is not on line apparently) relating the story of the Chewning family a couple weeks earlier.  Those not familiar with the location, the Chewning farm stood on a prominent rise of ground on the Parkers Store Road.  In short, key terrain in the middle of the battlefield.  As with many residents of Spotsylvania County, the Chewnings abandoned their homes while the armies fought that May 1864.  Upon returning the picked up the pieces and started over.  The family finally sold the house in 1947.   (and I am glossing over many good points here, I really wish the article were on line for reference.)

In the original article Joe related a story set at some point before the battle of the Wilderness.  While some information points to a time in the spring of 1864, other pieces indicate an earlier date perhaps nearer the Mine Run campaign.  In brief, a Federal cavalry patrol arrived at the house and took into custody some of the family’s hogs.  Preoccupied preparing the “ham,” the troopers did not notice the arrival of Marcus Chewning  – a cousin, and member of the 9th Virginia Cavalry, and apparently on leave.  Marcus, with what must have been an award winning act of deception, convinced the Federals a large force of Confederates had them surrounded and demanded surrender.  The blue-clad troopers did just that.

After publishing the initial article, Joe was contacted byJo Ann Colvin of Culpeper, Virginia, who indicated she was related to the Chewnings AND had in her possession a watercolor painting titled “The Brave Markus Chewning’s Adventure.”  The watercolor bore the distinctive initials “A.E.” for Alfred Von Erickson.  Erickson is noted for his other work depicting scenes from Northern Virginia and the Shenandoah relating to both Mosby and Custer, but appears to have lived in Fredericksburg during the war.

The “where” in this case is rather easy to determine.  But the “when” may be subject to debate.  Perhaps the other piece to this puzzle is the other half of the “who” –  what unit were those Federal cavalry men from?   And as with any event, I’m sure there are at least two sides to the story.

Regardless, an excellent bit of research.  My hat’s off to Joe!