Steward Henderson

StewardHenderson
Steward Henderson is a park ranger/historian with the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.  He has been in this capacity since May 2007, after spending 2 years as a volunteer.  Steward retired from Sun Trust Bank as a Senior Vice President in the Retail Group of the Greater Washington Region in 2005, after a 35 year career in the financial services field.  He attended Howard University, the Institute of Financial Education, the American Bankers Institute, and the Consumer Bankers Association Graduate School of Retail Bank Management.  He has had a life-long interest in the Civil War and is a co-founder of the 23rd Regiment United States Colored Troops, which is affiliated with Friends of the Fredericksburg Area Battlefields and the John J. Wright Educational and Cultural Center Museum in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Steward is also a member of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteers Co. B, the Civil War Trust, and the Central Virginia Battlefield Trust.

10 Responses to Steward Henderson

  1. TOMI RENEAU says:

    “Love Civil War history? Join us on August 3, 2016 at 7 p.m. as National Park Service ranger Steward Henderson explores the roles the church played and the events that shaped the church’s life as “War Comes to the Church.”
    Oh, how I’d love to be able to attend your lecture, but I can’t!! Is there any possible way to view it on my computer?
    Thank you in advance,
    Tomi

    • I am sorry that I did not see this comment until this evening. You may contact St. George’s Episcopal Church to see if they did a recording of the event. You can see my Facebook page for some of the pictures from the event.

  2. Debora says:

    Hi, Mr. Henderson.

    My name is Deborah Porter-Jones and I am a descendant of the Henderson family there in Spotsylvania County. My mother is Lillian Loretta Henderson Porter, her parents were Ruth Taylor Henderson and Roscoe Addison Henderson. I’m in the process of trying to complete our family tree but I’ve gotten as far as my grandfather, Roscoe’s, parents, Addison Henderson and Ellen F. Johnston Henderson. I’d like to know who HIS parents were. I see your name all over the Spotsylvania historical websites so I imagine we’re related in some way. Thought you could help with some of this mystery?

  3. Deb Porter-Jones says:

    Hi, I am a descendant of the Hendersons of Spotsylvania County, Virginia so I imagine we may be related in some way. My mom is Lillian Loretta Henderson Porter, her parents were Ruth Taylor Henderson and Roscoe Addison Henderson. My paternal grandfather’s parents were Addison Henderson and Ellen F. Johnston Henderson. I’ve run into a roadblock though and can’t seem to get any info on my great grandfather Addison’s parentage. Assuming we are related, does any of this info sound familiar, can you help?

  4. Hello Deborah, the fraternal part of my Henderson family is from Greenville, South Carolina and every year the Wilson, Henderson, Whitfield family reunion is in a different part of the country. The family reunion was in Richmond in 1995, I think. The maternal side of my family is from Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, and Stafford, they are Redmonds, Ennis’, Wheelers, and Lawsons. None of the names that you mention are familiar. I have met two other Hendersons, A Bill Henderson from Port Royal and a Ronald from Fredericksburg. It is possible that we could be related, when I talked with Ronald, who is an amateur genealogist, he said that many of us are related to the Henderson family from the United Kingdom.

  5. Deb Porter-Jones says:

    Good morning, Steward!

    If Ronald Henderson is from Fredericksburg, I’m fairly certain he would know some of my aunts and uncles who still live there, Thomas and Winnie Henderson and their children (my cousins) Lena and Helen Henderson. Or my aunt Naomi Henderson who upon retirement went back to Fredericksburg from the Philadelphia area, where most of us now live.

    Any chance you could put me in touch with Ronald? I think he could help me connect the rest of some of these dots, lol…

    BTW, great historical work you’re doing there. I’ve seen the reenactments and some of the talks you’ve given and articles you’ve written on the history of Spotsylvania County. You should be proud. Even if I’m not sure HOW we’re related, I’m claiming you! LOL 🙂

    • Deb Porter-Jones says:

      BTW, I think Ronald Henderson is definitely correct about the origin of the Henderson family. I’ve had my DNA tested and apparently my ancestors originated from a country called Andorra in the UK, located in the eastern Pyrenees mountains and bordered by Spain and France. So I think there’s definitely a connection. Please give Ronald my email address: dpjwrites@yahoo.com. Thank you!! 🙂

      • I guess we will all find out that all of the Hendersons, black and white, are related in one way or another. My oldest daughter had her DNA tested and she had African and Native American ancestry, as well as 21% European ancestry. I am going to have mine tested, so that she will be able to get a medical history of her DNA. I will give Ronald your email address. Thank you.

  6. MM says:

    Mr. Henderson, I just finished watching CSPAN’s rebroadcast of a panel on great attacks of the Civil War. I found your comments, especially regarding the black soldiers’ experience, balanced and insightful, wholly appreciative and at the same time, objective. I especially noted your comment about soldiers fighting in community-based units having friends and family to live up to and to die for. I believe ex-slaves who joined USCT units would not have had the same social pressure which makes their performance even more impressive.

    I’m writing to offer for your consideration my suggestion of one of the most overlooked battles of the Civil War. But as background, I’d like to point out that I am not a historian, although one of my sons is majoring in it. I’ve walked the field at Gettysburg and while it’s well preserved and exquisitely presented, I’ve often wondered how it became “the” emblematic battle of that war. It’s atypical in that the South was invading, and attacked Northern defensive positions. Its importance as a “high water mark” or a major defeat of Lee is overblown. It seems as if Lee moved North for food and to divert the summer fighting away from Virginia’s breadbasket. As far as being a victory, Lee would have gone home shortly and the loss of men was broadly equal. I don’t think a battle of attrition is something to celebrate. I suppose Lee’s invasion may have been cast as a major gambit in newspapers on both sides and so viewed as a major reversal at the time, but what is that? Finally, as far as being a battle that offers insight for today’s Americans, Gettysburg seems only to show the futility of combat. Some town was fought over, then abandoned. For African Americans, Gettysburg is less meaningful than other battles; few black troops were involved. In a way, the choice of Gettysburg as “the” battle suggests that Southern belligerence, not slavery was the cause of the war, and that Blacks were bystanders rather than participants in their emancipation.

    I’d like to suggest that the less known battle of Olustee, or Ocean Pond, is worth including in the top ten battles of that war. The fact that it is tallied as a Southern victory is not the point, it was another battle of attrition for a South that could not afford any more. It was one of the worst battles of the war as far as the casualty percentage. My point is that Olustee offers today’s students real insight into the nature of race in America. It is a resounding rejection of the notion that Blacks haven’t earned every freedom America offers. It suggests cruel, less noble motives to the North’s use of USCT soldiers and at the same time shows how nobly they rose to the their challenges. It shows what a nightmare the Civil War could have become.

    But first, I have to share that I came upon this battle while helping my 6th-grader complete a genealogy assignment. After realizing I had two ancestors who fought there, I made a point of stopping at the battle site during a trip to Florida. The land is nearly the same as 140 years ago, pine trees over scrubby palmettos, with the same RR track that figure so heavily in the battle. As we walked around, I notice men in prison clothes picking something up. They were all black. I asked one what they were doing and he said they had to pick up the prickly pears because the reenactors didn’t want to fall on them. I joked that that didn’t seem like a realistic reenactment. He narrowed his eyes and said “Yeah. That’s why the South lost. Too soft.”

    Back home, I looked up more info on the battle and learned that an almost entirely black column was made to march across the top of Florida several times, reaching an important RR bridge and abandoning it to march back to Jacksonville before being ordered to go back to destroy it. After weeks of this predictable maneuvering they were ambushed by home guard and regular units from Florida and Georgia. The Southerners targeted the white officers, leaving the troops without regular leadership. A Union artillery unit came up but could not hold the field. It was turning into a rout.

    But at the first sound of fire, the 54th Mass, miles back in the column had began to run forward. Arriving at the most critical moment, they formed a line behind which the ambushed leaderless units could retreat and regroup. Retiring in good order at dusk, they soon found that the supply train on which their wounded had been placed had had its engine spiked by Southern cavalry. These men took ropes and man-hauled the train for some ten miles to prevent possible capture and looting. They had to walk the rest of the night.

    I’m only a civilian but I understand that what a man does in his first fight is the result of his training. What he does in his second fight, when he knows the danger he’s facing, is the product of something much deeper.

    After the battle, the generals exchanged letters and noted the lack of wounded union soldiers for possible exchange because of their being murdered in the field. Florida units blamed the Georgia units, and I imagine Georgia did the same. Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.

    I think Olustee testifies to the clever if not cynical strategy of forcing black Southerners to kill white ones and vice versa. It suggests the degree of enmity between blacks and whites after the war, some of which might have been lessened if the Lincoln had not used freed slaves to full strategic advantage. Without training USCT soldiers fought despite even worse odds, relying on bravery more than skill.

    I later went to the annual reenactment there and was disappointed by the absurdly partisan presentation and crowd response. I chalked it up to ignorance, especially after someone left a neo-secessionist flyer on my windshield. Olustee’s reenactment is a low budget local production. I have to say though that I was more disappointed by Gettysburg’s museum that touted that some three out of four “families” in the south had slaves. Considering that at any given census no more than one in 20 households owned slaves, it seems misleading and inflammatory to “big up” the charges to three out of four by counting everyone’s relatives as part of one family so that if anybody in your family tree owned slaves, then everyone related is part of a slave-owning family.

    As you’ve probably realized, Mr Henderson, I’m a white man. In my son’s scout troop we had a little tension between our lone black scout and some of the other boys. I told them the story of the 54th Mass at Olustee, and finished by saying that if anyone thinks black people don’t belong in America or haven’t earned their place here, then he’s full of crap. They were very quiet after that.

    I like the way Bob Dole said it in his acceptance speech back in 1996.

    “The notion that we are and should be one people rather than “peoples” of the United States seems so self-evident and obvious that it’s hard for me to imagine that I must defend it. When I was growing up in Russell, Kansas, it was clear to me that my pride and my home were in America, not in any faction, and not in any division.

    In this I was heeding, even as I do unto this day, Washington’s eloquent rejection of factionalism. I was honoring, even as I do unto this day, Lincoln’s word, his life and his sacrifice. The principle of unity has been with us in all our successes.

    The 10th Mountain Division, in which I served in Italy, and the Black troops of the 92nd Division who fought nearby were the proof for me once again of the truth I’m here trying to convey.

    The war was fought just a generation after America’s greatest and most intense period of immigration. And yet when the blood of the sons of immigrants and the grandsons of slaves fell on foreign fields, it was American blood. In it you could not read the ethnic particulars of the soldier who died next to you. He was an American.

    And when I think how we learned this lesson I wonder how we could have unlearned it. Is the principle of unity, so hard-fought and at the cost of so many lives, having been contested again and again in our history, and at such a terrible price, to be casually abandoned to the urge to divide?

    The answer is no.”

    Anyway, thank you, Mr. Henderson, for reading this long post. Look into Olustee, if you get a chance. And keep up the good work on Cspan and at Fredericksburg.

  7. First of all, thank you for your long and very interesting post. I do not look at my author’s page very much, so I am sorry of the delay in responding.

    I have many friends in the 54th Mass. that go to the Olustee reenactment, some will be going next month. That reenactment will be held on February 17 – 19, 2017. I have talked about that battle in some of my talks because of Lt. Col. William N. Reed, who commanded the 1st North Carolina Colored Infantry (35th USCT) in that battle. He is now recognized as the highest ranking African American officer in the Civil War and was killed leading his troops in that battle.

    Gettysburg is still my favorite Civil War battlefield and one that I have visited over 20 times since I was a child. General Lee had a more important reason than going north for food, which is still an important reason, he wanted the armies out of Virginia so that they could start raising food crops for the Confederate army and civilians. However, his plan was to defeat the Union army on a Northern battlefield, presumably Harrisburg, PA, then propose a peace treaty with the North. Vice President Alexander Stephens was supposed to bring the treaty with him after the Confederate victory. Lee wanted to position his army, so that he could attack either Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD, or Philadelphia, PA.

    Another reason was political, he went to fight in Pennsylvania because he thought that he could better use General Longstreet’s Corp than General Pemberton in Vicksburg. There was talk in the Confederate Capital about sending Longstreet to Vicksburg, but the government would not go against Lee. Thus he was approved to go to the North.

    Gettysburg was important to African Americans, not because of the few black militia that fought to defend Harrisburg, but because of the many free blacks and escaped slaves who were taken into slavery by Lee’s army. Also, because the Gettysburg area blacks who escaped Lee’s army had to leave the area where many had property and a better life. The farm on the battlefield on Cemetery Ridge was owned by a black man, it was destroyed during the battle.

    As far as the new museum, only about 25% of the Southern white and black population owned slaves. However, many non-slaveholders were related to those who owned slaves. The fact that Southern blacks were used in the Union army to fight white Southerners, would have happened regardless. White Northerners were no longer readily volunteering to fight in the war, so in the last two years of the war, the Union had to depend on approximately 200,000 black soldiers. Black men wanted to fight in this war, in fact, at the beginning blacks wanted to fight on both sides. Both governments denied blacks to join their armies – as soldiers. Both armies used blacks in labor positions throughout the war. The North started using black soldiers in 1862 and the South did not authorize black soldiers until late March of 1865. Black men wanted to prove that they were equal to white men, fighting in the war as soldiers, would prove that they were men. After the war, black men and women were persecuted by whites in the South and discriminated against by whites in the North.

    Even though Lee’s army was belligerent, the war was still fought over slavery. The soldiers had various reasons for fighting, but their governments fought over slavery. If there were no slaves the war would not have been fought. I often give lectures and explain that the North would not have fought over slavery, if slavery remained in the Southern states where it already existed. The war was fought over the expansion of slavery into the western territories. The North wanted that land settled by free white men, they did not want to compete against slave labor – which would drive down the wages of white men. Four million slaves were worth three billion dollars in the Southern economy. Cotton used up the vast plantation fields and planters needed more land for cotton. of course, some planters used crop rotation to save their fields but most did not. If they could not expand into other areas, their investment in slaves and cotton would soon become a serious impediment to their economy.

    I agree with you, we should be one united people. Other than Native Americans, our families were all immigrants to this country. In over 240 years, we still have not learned that lesson – we should all be just Americans!

    Thank you for writing to me and I again apologize for the delay in responding.

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