Sergeant John Henry Beeton
Born on August 20, 1831 in Lexington, Virginia, Sergeant John Henry Beeton was a member of the Virginia Militia known as the Rockbridge Rifles. Virginia Governor Letcher established the Rockbridge Rifles on November 17, 1859. The Rockbridge Rifles were raised by the Governor after the raid on Harper's Ferry by John Brown. Brown's raid sent shockwaves throughout the Commonwealth during that time immediately preceding the secession.
On April 17, 1861 the Virginia Legislature voted for secession from the Union. The Rockbridge Rifles were ordered to report to Harper's Ferry and on April 18, 1861 at about 1:00pm the Rockbridge Rifles left Lexington, Virginia for Harper's Ferry.
John Henry Beeton and his brother, Robert Elison Beeton, became members of the 27th Virginia Infantry Company H, according to court records in Lexington, Virginia. John Henry Beeton is listed as the Second Sergeant. The 27th Virginia Infantry along with the 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 33rd Virginia Infantry regiments were organized into a brigade at the outset of the war under the command of Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson. These five regiments became known as the "Stonewall Brigade", the only official "nickname" recognized by the Confederate government. The 27th was the smallest of the five regiments, yet the 27th was unsurpassed in battlefield valor.
At First Manassas, a burst of canister brought down 1/3 of its members. Regrouping, the ambulatory remnants charged downhill, led by a 50-year old captain into the guns of Rickett's and Griffin's artillery batteries. When the Federal guns fell into Confederate hands it was the flag of the 27th Virginia that fluttered overhead. From its meager ranks, the 27th lost 122 members killed, wounded and missing, a total unmatched by any other regiment in the Stonewall Brigade.
After the First Battle of Manassas, Sergeant Beeton was ordered by the Governor of Virginia, John Letcher, to report to the Virginia Military Institute and assume the duties of Institute's Ordinance Officer. John Henry Beeton and Robert Elison Beeton, John's brother, were gunsmiths in Lexington, Virginia before the war. Their father, John Beeton, had been a gunsmith in Lexington as well from about 1815 till his death in 1848.
Sergeant Beeton performed those duties throughout most of the war. However, during 1864 Federal General Hunter attacked the Virginia Military Institute, burned the Governor's home in Lexington and destroyed the Virginia Military Institute's barracks, the Institute and a portion of the town of Lexington.
An eyewitness account was handed down of these events from John Henry Beeton's son, William Rolison Beeton, born in 1858 in Lexington. William Rolison Beeton reported as follows:
"When I was a boy about 5 or 6 years old my, which makes this about 1864, we received word from a courier that Federal General Hunter was enroute. Townspeople left the area by carts, horseback, mules and walking as the sound of the Federal artillery could be heard shelling the town and the barracks of the Virginia Military Institute. We fled into the mountains and felt some easier as we put distant between us and the Federal bombardment. I saw shells and cannon balls exploding in the surrounding fields where the present V. M. I. Alumni Stadium is located. Of course, we were terrified, but in a short time when we were a few miles along our way and we felt safer. We stayed in the hills for several days which gave the Yankees time to loot the town, burn the V.M.I. barracks and Governor Letcher's home before moving on to Lynchburg."
John Henry Beeton decided to get back into active duty in the war, and left Lexington on foot to rejoin the Confederate Army. His objective was Danville, Virginia, but the railroads were in the hands of the Yankees so he walked the entire distance of more than 200 miles, and entered on duty with Captain Otey's battery of Artillery in which he served until the final surrender at Appomattox. He was foreman in the artillery battery according to the records of the National Archives.
His wife, Anna, died in 1883 and is buried in Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery along with their son, George, who died in 1895 in a rock quarry accident.
Finally on February 4, 1904 John Henry Beeton passed away and he was buried, along with many of his comrades, about thirty paces from the tomb of Stonewall Jackson, his old Commander.
(Provided by Dennis and Brenda Beeton, Dixie Outfitters of Madison Heights)
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