Master of the Mountain Launch Event — “Sold Out”

As of August 30 all seats are taken for the October 18 launch event for “Master of the Mountain” at the Jefferson Library. Some seats may become available the week before the event if there are cancellations. Check the “special events” page on during the week prior to October 18.

I will give a talk and sign copies of “Master of the Mountain” at New Dominion Bookshop in downtown Charlottesville on Thursday, Nov. 1, at 5:30 pm. At this time, no other events are scheduled in Charlottesville until the Festival of the Book in March. The previously announced Nov. 8 panel discussion at UVA will NOT take place.

A recent historical discovery

Recently I got a Facebook message from a woman in California who came across the Civil War impressment document for a Hairston slave named Ben, who was requisitioned as a laborer for Robert E. Lee’s army on October 17, 1864. Ben’s value was set at $5,000.

According to my correspondent, some 30 years ago she bought an antique stationery box containing the document. She writes — “I can’t remember exactly where I purchased this.  It was in 1980 or ’81 and I was living in Maryland at the time, so it is quite possible that I did buy it in Virginia.  However, I hit just about every swap meet and rummage sale I could find throughout the eastern states, primarily the New England area, so I’d just be guessing.” While researching the document, she came across my book about the Hairston family and contacted me.

The owner was Major S. H. Hairston–Samuel Harden Hairston of Chatmoss plantation in Henry County. The transaction was handled by B. J. Hawthorne, the Captain of the Enrollment Office in Henry County. Ben was very likely sent to work on the defenses around Richmond and Petersburg, where Lee was besieged by Grant.

I don’t know Ben’s fate. Samuel Harden Hairston survived the war but he was killed in 1870 when a ceiling in the state capitol collapsed. A slave descendant described him as a very cruel master, as I recount in my book.

The bottom of the box bears the label “Pickfords”–presumably the seller or the manufacturer.

American History Magazine

American History Magazine

My article “Thomas Jefferson, Slave Master,” is the cover story in the October 2012 issue of American History, available on newsstands in August.

Jefferson’s Labyrinth

Monticello stairs Holsinger

Interior of Monticello, by Rufus Holsinger

Jefferson by Thaddeus Kosciuszko

Jefferson by Thaddeus Kosciuszko