Famous neighbor

19 July 2006

After living in the neighborhood for more than 15 years, I finally visited the old St. James Cemetery just over a block from our house. It’s fairly small, maybe 200 yards square, and is tucked in among the homes in a quiet residential area. Established in 1873, it was company to a chapel of that name, which moved to a large, new, impressive church on the other side of our little town in 1902.

One of the most prominent stones is also accompanied by a Confederate flag and “Cross of Honor”. It marks the graves of Fountain Beattie (1840-1923) and his wife Annie (1846-1911). It’s in a family row ending with a burial in the 1960s. The dog and I returned last weekend to get some photos.

Beattie Stone

Fountain is probably one of “my guys”. I’m not absolutely certain he was at Sharpsburg in September 1862, but it is likely.

He is perhaps best known to students of John Singleton Mosby – the Gray Ghost – who operated as a “partisan ranger” across Northern Virginia for most of the War. Beattie and Mosby were privates and tentmates in the Washington Mounted Rifles, which became Company D of the 1st Virginia Cavalry in July 1861. By July 1862 Mosby was a Lieutenant and scout on JEB Stuart’s staff; Beattie was still a private with the 1st Virginia.

I’ve read an interesting story, purporting to show how serious these two were about soldiering, that they were the only two privates in the Regiment who would wear the new prison-made uniform when it was first issued. The uniforms (eventually) sported distinctive black bars across the front of the jacket, unique, I believe to the 1st Virginia Cavalry. Hard to believe any young Virginian would refuse that splendid coat.

Mosby, Stuart, and the 1st Virginia Cavalry were all on the Maryland Campaign of 1862. Alfred Waud caught the Regiment at rest early in September – or did they catch him? I expect “Fount” was with the Regiment there.

Mosby was first authorized to raid independently, with a party of nine troopers from the First Virginia, soon after Sharpsburg – in December 1862 or January 1863. One of these original 9 was Beattie. In the Mosby mythology, this is the equvalent of coming over on the Mayflower or being a Signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Fountain Beattie served through the rest of the War with Mosby. He was twice captured in 1863 and imprisoned in the Old Capitol Prison in Washington, but was paroled fairly quickly each time. He was promoted to Sergeant in mid-1863 about the same time as Mosby’s 43rd Virginia Cavalry Battalion was officially formed, and was wounded in action at Loudoun Heights in January 1864. In July of that year he was appointed Lieutenant, Company E of the 43rd Battalion. He served in the actions of that command for the duration.

F. Beattie, C. 1890
F. Beattie, c. 1890*

After the War he farmed and, in 1875, was appointed Deputy Collector of Internal Revenue. He held that position until he retired in 1914. Mosby’s political connections with President Grant may have been a factor in the appointment.

More about Fountain Beattie:

* “Photograph of Fount Beattie taken at Phillips Photography in Alexandria, Virginia. Fount appears to be around 50 years old at the time”. From Beattie Family site, photo collection.

8 Responses to “Famous neighbor”

  1. Bernie Becker says:

    Brian – Nicely done -Fount would be proud.

    Bernie Becker (greatgrandson)

  2. Brian Downey says:

    Thanks very much Mr Becker! You’re a part of quite a family. Best regards to you.

  3. Jinnie Beattie Raney,greatgranddaughter says:

    You really make him seem so real. I live not far from Annie’s house. It hasn’t changed much. Thank you.

  4. Brian Downey says:

    Thanks for the message, Ms Raney. I’m honored you’ve come by. Good to hear about the house, too – sounds like someone’s keeping our history alive.

  5. Charles W. Beattie says:

    Hi Brian,

    A very good narrative on Fountain, father of my grandfather Charles W. Beattie, one of Fountain’s many children. It’s always nice to visit Green Springs Farm and try to imagine the large family that lived there.

  6. Kay Kulesher says:

    I too appreciated receiving this information, & printed it off for my mother, Marian Beattie Ralph, Fount’s granddaughter.

    Mom is 95yrs. old & is living in Harrisonburg, Va. in the nursing home where I work.

    I grew up hearing the “family history” & delighted in the realization that we have such a rich & colorful heritage. Mom’s family has always been a great source of pride, comfort & support to her, & is one of the many values she has graciously passed on to us.

    Thank you!

  7. John McGrath says:

    Thank you – great narrative. I am also a relative of Fount Beattie.

  8. Brian says:

    Thanks for coming by, John – I’m glad you found the post. I see Fount’s stone nearly every day. Keeps him and his compatriots in the forefront for me.

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