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What Does Brunswick Mineral Springs Bed and Breakfast and the Book, Johnny Reb and Billy Yank Have in Common?

December 17, 2018


What does Brunswick Mineral Springs Bed and Breakfast and the book, Johnny Reb And Billy Yank, have in common?



Johnny Reb And Billy Yank was published in 1905 and was written by Alexander Hunter, a Confederate soldier who served in General Robert E. Lee's army from 1861-1865.


Widely considered to be one of the most historically informative accounts of the Civil War, the book provides detailed, first-hand accounts of most of the major events in the four-year conflict through the eyes of its author.


"This work," it declares on the back of the book, "has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it."



The mansion of Brunswick Mineral Springs Bed and Breakfast in Lawrenceville, Virginia was built in 1785 on what is now called Western Mill Road, which was the main trade and travel route between Petersburg and Richmond during this time period. 


What makes the property so historically significant is that, not only is the mansion one of the oldest surviving structures in Brunswick County, its many outbuildings -- the hospitality cabin, a tobacco barn and a smokehouse, to name a few -- are still standing and many are still in use.



What does Brunswick Mineral Springs Bed and Breakfast and the book, Johnny Reb And Billy Yank, have in common?


The answer can be found in Chapter 41, beginning on page 699.


"After a night spent in Tarboro our squad separated and I returned by the same road I had come, and reached Mr. Ravenscroft Jones's house without meeting any further adventure."


Ravenscroft Jones was one of the original owners of the mansion, now known as the Brunswick Mineral Springs Bed and Breakfast.


Although it had previously -- and quite unsuccessfully -- been used as a school, the sprawling estate was being promoted by Mr. Ravenscroft Jones as a health spa during the time of Hunter's visit and it was used primarily by Confederate Soldiers as a place to rest and to take advantage of the medicinal properties of the mineral spring water that flows beneath the property.


Most likely, Hunter was invited to stay in the hospitality cabin, shown in the photo to the left (and in the photo above, to the right of the main house).


At the time, the wealthier owners of such grand plantations to build hospitality cabins on their property and -- like Innkeepers of the time -- they would post signs by the road with a pineapple on it to let travelers know there was a place available for them to rest.


"My host was profoundly grieved by Lee's surrender," Hunter wrote of Mr. Jones, "but his daughter was almost distraught. I am sure she will never love a man as she loved her fair Southland."


John Ravenscroft Jones -- August 21, 1818 - August 2, 1901 -- and his wife, Mary Rice Jones, had two daughters, Mary Armstead Jones (Oct 10, 1847 — April 7, 1856) and Margaret Williamson Jones (April 27, 1844 — May 21, 1913). 


"Mr. Jones agreed with me that a guerrilla warfare would be inaugurated, and that was the opinion of every one. with one exception, I had met." None dreamed of an instantaneous peace. Miss Jones alone bade me never to yield; she actually got her brother's double-barreled gun, dropped in twenty buckshot with her own fair hands, and gave it to me as a parting gift."


While Hunter did not identify her by name, it was most likely to have been Margaret, who -- in a fashion I can imagine would be reminiscent of Scarlet in one of her most passionate Gone With The Wind moments -- had given him the weapon.


Margaret lived to the glorious age of 69.  Mary, on the other hand, died when she was only nine years old.


While their graves have yet to be formally marked, the National Genealogical Society suspects that both Mary and Margaret are buried in the family cemetery.


Although not mentioned in Hunter's book, John Ravenscroft and Mary Rice also had three sons, Captain William Rice Jones (Nov. 21, 1840 - Nov. 12, 1849), Thomas Williamson Goode Jones (July 25, 1842 — Sept. 4, 1846) and Ravenscroft Jones (Nov. 16, 1849 - Oct. 17, 1925).


As reported by Sylvia Allen for the South Hill Enterprise, Captain William Rice Jones — a West Point Cadet — also served in the Civil War as Assistant Chief of Artillery for Major General John B. Magruder and later to Brigadier James Edwin Slaughter. 


On September 29, 2018, a ceremony was held on the property of Brunswick Mineral Springs Bed and Breakfast at which a tombstone was erected to mark his grave in the family cemetery. But I will save that story for another day.


"Mr. Jones, more politic," Hunter wrote further, after having received the gift of a double-barrel, "made me promise not to be induced to use it near his house. 'For,' said he, 'my place is so well known as the resort for Southern soldiers, that if any of the enemy are hurt in this vicinity they will charge me with being accessory before the fact and burn my buildings.'"


"I promised, of course, and neither he nor I imagined how much hung upon that little incident," Hunter reflected.


Imagine my surprise when I -- after coming to call this property "home" some 213 years later -- came to realize "how much hung upon that little incident." 


I was first introduced to Johnny Reb And Billy Yank while learning about the Civil War in grade school in Virginia. However, I was too young and too disinterested in learning about our nation's history to grasp the significance of Hunter's book. 


Now, while reading Johnny Reb And Billy Yank again, I cannot help but picture Alexander Hunter at the B&B. I cannot look at the grounds and not imagine him walking along, seeing the pineapple on the sign beside the road. I can picture him turning to walk between the two stone posts that mark the entrance to the property and walking the length of the long drive. I can see him ascending the slate steps of the main house and knocking on the front door. 


Was it in the parlor, where he stood in conversation with Ravenscroft Jones and received the double-barrel from Margaret? Did he share a meal with the family in the formal dining room and impart to them a few of the same stories, which he would later describe in his book?


Did he sit on the front porch of the hospitality cabin at days end, deep in thought, smoking his pipe as he looked across the moon-lit property? Was he recalling in his mind the things he had seen before he arrived and wonder what "further adventure" awaited him once he returned to the road that brought him there? 


"There were thousands of soldiers on both sides during the Civil War, who, at the beginning, started to keep a diary of daily events," Hunter wrote in the preface of the book, "but those who kept a record from start to finish can be counted on the fingers of one hand. I was so fortunate as to save most of my notes made during the four years of conflict, and in 1865, having no fixed pursuit in life, I spent most of the time in arranging and writing up these incidents of camp life while fresh in my memory."


Thank you, Mr. Hunter.

Because you kept a record and saved most of your notes and "having no fixed pursuit in life" would take the time to write this book, I was fortunate enough to read them -- twice -- and to eventually realize how significant your story would be in my own life.




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