The Hall House
Joseph Hall purchased of land from the Caldwell Tract, plots 38 and 39, http://wp.me/p4c9T6-4j a total of 1.7 acres. His property had access to roads on three sides; Telegraph, Frederick and Willis. Between 1856 and 1859 he constructed a home with several dependencies or out-buildings on parcel 39 on the upper end of his property. The house was two stories tall and built of wood. It had three out-buildings; a barn, a stable and a corn crib. He also planted a small orchard close to the house. The alignment of the gable roof, parallel with Frederick St, (today known as Lafayette Blvd) allowed him to look out of his windows towards the city. Due to the elevation of the property, he must have had a good view of the open farm land between himself and the city, particularly from the second story window.
Joseph Hall is listed as a carpenter, age 40, in the 1860 Census. At that time, living with him in the house was Jane, his wife, age 40; and his children Emmet, age 12; Ella, age nine; William, age four; and Lilly, age three.
Hall’s house is one of those curiosities in the battle narrative. It is known from the public record that he made improvements to his property, but his home, tucked in up against the Sunken Road, is not clearly mentioned in narratives, if at all. The soldiers of the time barely mention it. His property was certainly in the thick of it all, both during and following the war.
To date, I have found four civil war era photographs which contain images of the Hall house. In all instances, these photos were taken for other purposes. Lurking in the background, are important details, in this case, the Hall house. The first photograph is taken by Timothy O’Sullivan in April 1863. The main subjects in the photo are a group of Secesh Women and Confederate soldiers standing adjacent to the Marye’s Mill at the railroad bridge, according to the title on the print. Secesh was a less than polite term used by Northerners for persons of the South, who favored secession from the Union.
The second photograph was taken by Andrew J. Russell on 3 May, 1863 during the Second Battle of Fredericksburg, prior to his crossing the Rappahannock River. Its original title was Fredericksburg, from near Lacy House. You may consider this to be the closest thing to an ‘action’ shot by a civil war photographer. In this shot, you can see the smoke of battle rising in the middle distance. In the far distance, you can make out Marye’s Heights and the Hall house. The original photo appears rough along the top where the sky was blotted out.
The third photograph was also taken by Andrew J. Russell on 3 May, 1863. This was a subset of the larger Battle of Chancellorsville. This is the much printed shot titled Stone wall, Rear of Fredericksburg with Rebel Dead, taken shortly after the capture of the Sunken Road with Willis Hill behind. Most people when looking at this photo do not notice the house in the background. This is the Hall house. It is seen looking at its side, unlike the previous photos which capture it from the front. Both images shown here demonstrate the difficulty of working with glass plates. Note the broken edges, the apparent crack in the center which allowed light to penetrate, and the scratches in the sky area.
The last photograph I used in my first blog and as my header. It was taken by an unidentified photographer in 1864, probably in May during the Battles of Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House. During this time, Fredericksburg was again occupied by the Union Army. Fredericksburg functioned as a hospital for Union casualties, as well as a supply hub. In this photograph, the Hall house, which had evaded destruction during both battles of Fredericksburg, has been destroyed by fire. You can see the white ash that indicates where the house stood, as well as the small orchard. The Fredericksburg city tax records of 1865 mistakenly show that the house was burnt in 1862. Clearly, it was there in May, 1863 when Russell made his photograph. How or why it was burnt in the time between the two photographs is open to conjecture. For tax purposes, it clearly was not there in 1865. So who would quibble? The 1865 tax record attempted to clear the books. A number of properties within the city were annotated as; shelled and destroyed, shelled and burnt, pulled down and burnt. I think you get the picture. There were no taxes collected in 1863 or 1864. Maybe Joseph just wanted to make sure he did not have any back taxes for a house he could or did not occupy during the intervening period.
Attempts at Compensation of Losses to his Property
Joseph Hall attempted to recoup his losses from both the Confederate government and the Federal government.
In an 1864 affidavit, neighbor Henry Ebert described the losses sustained by “claimant” Joseph Hall during the December 1862 battle:
“The lot of the claimant was well enclosed with a plank fence. While…[Confederate] troops were there…in line of battle I witnessed the use of this fencing as fuel. The troops had no other wood and were compelled to burn the fencing, of which was consumed one hundred and sixty panels. This fence was horizontal and had five planks per panel. The claimant had a quantity of clover hay[–]a large stack[–]and some in his stable…In the stack there was three or four two-horse wagon loads, and he had in his barn two or three loads of sheaf oats and he had from six to seven barrels of corn. From Thursday morning [December 11] to Friday morning [December 13,] when I left[,] all the hay and oats had disappeared and the corn crib had been broken open[,] the plank nearly all off[,] and no corn in it.”
Shortly following the end of hostilities in 1865, the Federal Government became interested in the land on Willis Hill as the site for the National Cemetery. During the period of construction, the Hall property was used by those involved in that project. The following is a letter regarding a claim submitted by Joseph Hall for damages incurred.
Quartermaster General’s Office
Washington, D.C., January 13, 1870
Bv’t. Brig. General J. C. McFerran
Acting Quartermaster General,
I have the honor to submit herewith, with report, all the papers in the claim of Joseph Hall of Fredericksburg, Va., and to state:
That the original claim of Mr. Hall was for removing and using a stone fence $25, for removing and using foundation and chimney of an old house $25, for taking out the brick wall and filling up his well $25, for cutting off and using the turf or sod of two acres of his land for sodding graves in the cemetery $200, and for rent of ground occupied by the burial corps for 18 months @$5 per month, $90, making a total claim of $365.
The claim being stated in very vague terms, Colonel Chandler was directed December 8, 1869, to advise Mr. Hall to state [in a?] more explicit account, before the claim could favorable be considered, and to furnish all dates, evidence of loyalty, &c.
On December 19, 1869, Mr Hall returns the claim with the amount somewhat altered, reducing the claim for sod from $200 to 150 and enlarging the claim for stone from $25 to $87.50, and for brick from $25 to $49; thus altering the total amount from $365 to $382.
Mr. Hall furnishes the various dates; but does not support his statement thereof in any manner. He does not think it incumbent on him to prove his loyalty during or after the rebellion, as the property belonged to him, and could not, in time of peace, be taken away from him by the Government with being paid for.
The Qur. Mr’s [Quarter Master] employee in charge of the laborers on the cemetery makes a statement relative to the claim for sod, stone & rent, that it is just and correct; but knows nothing about the brick, nor by whom the well was filled up.
The present superintendent also makes a statement relative to the claim for rent, sod & stone,
These latter two statements, however, are unsupported by affidavits.
Mr. Wills Mills makes affidavit that Captain Green employed him to build fourteen chimneys, the brick for which were taken from Mr. Hall’s lot.
John T Inness & E.M. Moore, Q.M.USA., in charge of the work on the Fredericksburg national cemetery for the whole period for which rent is charged, and when the materials charged for were taken and used, states October 9, 1869, that he has no knowledge whatever of the claim of Joseph hall, none having been presented to him.
The land for which rent is charged is not reported by Colonel Moore on his Report, form No 2, from September 1st, 1867 to March 31, 1869the period charged for.
I have the honor to further report that Mr. Jas. H Bradley of Fredericksburg, Va., in October 1868, claimed $56.25 per acre for sod taken for the national cemetery at that place, which claim was allowed.
I therefore recommend that Mr. Hall be allowed $56.25, per acre, for two acres of sod taken & used by the U.S., amounting to $112.
I further recommend that the claim for rent, stone, brick, &c., be referred to Barracks & Quarters’ branch of this office for consideration of the officer in charge of that branch.
Your obedient Servant,
Alex J. Perry
Bvt Brig Genl & Qr. Mr. USA.
It is unknown whether or not Joseph Hall received further correspondence or remuneration from either Government on his claims. Joseph Hall stands as one of many whose lives were dramatically altered by the war. By 1864, Joseph Hall purchased two additional adjoining parcels, 36 and 37 of the Caldwell Tract. This action effectively doubled his land to almost 4 acres. He or his heir’s retained title of these up to the 1900’s. In reading Joseph’s claim on the Confederate government, it is possible that he might have leased or made an agreement with the owners of those plots prior to their purchase, given the quantity of crop loss he claimed to have suffered at the hands of the Confederate Army. According to the 1870 census, his personal and property wealth was less than half of the previous census in 1860. An interesting side note, Mr. Edward McMahon, listed as the Superintendent of National Cemetery, was listed as a part of Joseph Hall’s household in the 1870 census. At this point in time, exactly where Joseph Hall’s house stood is a mystery. Did he rebuild the one burnt out? Did he build another close by? Or? One would think that Superintendent McMahon would need to be close to his work site. A mystery.
Sources: Harrison, Noel, Fredericksburg Civil War Sites, Volume 2, Pg 123; Western Reserve Historical Society, Archives Library, Cleveland OH; National Archives photography; Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park bound volume 448 on file at FSNMP; 1860 and 1870 US Census online.