This post rides off the research and coattails of Tom McMillan’s newest book, Armistead and Hancock: Behind the Gettysburg Legend of Two Friends at the Turning Point of the Civil War. Tom’s book, which I picked up in Gettysburg during the battle anniversary and cannot suggest highly enough, and the excellent talk he gave about this topic at the Tenth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium sparked a particular interest in one aspect of the life of Lewis Addison Armistead for me.
While reading the book, I nearly fell out of my seat to learn that Armistead grew up at a farm called Ben Lomond (the same name of the farm where I work) in Fauquier County (where I used to work). Immediately, I had to investigate. As it turns out, the Armistead farm was a 323-acre property outside Upperville (so, not the one where I work). Unfortunately, the home burned to the ground in 1852. Lewis, though born in North Carolina, spent his childhood days here. When he left it as a soldier of the United States Army and then as a soldier of the Confederate States Army, he had a family legacy to live up to—an uncomfortable one to be sure.
Military service ran thick in the veins of the Armistead family. Lewis’ father, Walker Keith, was one of the first four graduates from the United States Military Academy and spent four decades in the army. Lewis Addison’s namesakes likewise served but paid the ultimate sacrifice for their service. Lewis Gustavus Adolphus Armistead fell at Fort Erie during the War of 1812 while Addison Bowles Armistead died in Savannah, Georgia. Thus, when Armistead received his mortal wound at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863, he was the latest Armistead leader to fall.
Though none of the fallen Armisteads are buried at Ben Lomond, my interest in the family and in locating their family farm aroused me to go for a drive along the back roads of Fauquier County and find the farm site. Unfortunately, the 1852 fire did a thorough job, leaving no remnant of the home. However, on a knoll shaded by a cluster of trees overlooking Gap Run off Carr Lane, the Armistead family burial ground can still be seen (but not visited—it is on private property). Lewis’ father and mother rest there today, along with members of the Carr family. Lewis rests in Baltimore, thanks to the efforts of his cousin, the son of Fort McHenry’s defender in September 1814, Maj. George Armistead.
On the dirt roads of Fauquier County, one can find the landscape where the fallen Armistead was raised.