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Junius Hempstead

1842 - 1920

Author, Sculptor, Soldier


Compiled and contributed by Ron Seymour


He was an award-winning sculptor, working with the finest marble from Italy; he wrote poetry, a romance book and a detective novel; his father was Governor of the State of Iowa; but he is most remembered, especially in the South, for being one of “the Immortal 600” Confederate officers who were held on Morris Island, South Carolina by Union forces during the Civil War.

His name was Junius Lackland Hempstead who was born on Nov. 14, 1842 in Dubuque, Iowa the son of Stephen and Lavina (Lackland) Hempstead.

Stephen Hempstead was born in 1812 in the state of Connecticut. Junius Hempstead’s grandfather Joseph Hempstead was a partner in the boot and shoe business. When the business had prospered for a while the other member of the partnership contracted debts and then absconded with all available funds, leaving the elder Hempstead to suffer insolvency and to be thrown into prison for the payment of partnership debts. After his release from prison, he moved his family to St. Louis.

Junius’ father, Stephen Hempstead did not remain long in St. Louis and soon left for Galena, Illinois, then known as the “Eldorado of the North.” Stephen took part in the Black Hawk War and at the close of the war, he attended college at Jacksonville, Illinois. After college he returned to St. Louis where he studied law. Later he continued his studies in his uncle’s office in Galena. In the spring of 1836 he moved to Dubuque, becoming the first attorney to enter the practice of law. The following year he married Lavina Lackland and two years after that a daughter, Olivia was born followed in another two years by Junius.

At the age of eight Junius’ father was elected Governor of the State of Iowa. Three years later Junius was sent to Fieldings College in St. Charles, Missouri. There the boy showed considerable promise as an artist and won first prize and a $75 award at the St. Louis fair for “Best Original Statuette in Marble.” The marble he used was from Vermont and was donated by a St. Louis firm owned and completed in their yard. He called his work “the Gladiator.” He also won the award again the following year this (time it was worth $100) using Carrara marble and titled it “a Highlander.” Carrara marble is a white or blue grey marble from near Florence, Italy that has been used since the time of ancient Rome. Michelangelo’s statue of David is made from it.

The award’s benefactor, a Dr. Van Zant, offered to pay all expenses to send Junius to Paris and Italy for six years to further his education. However it was his father’s wish that Junius attend Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia. Why his father chose VMI or what his father’s objections were to Junius going to Europe is not known. However, two years earlier on July 17, 1858 the Hempstead’s ten year-old daughter, Celinda died just a couple months after their youngest daughter had also died. The loss of these two young children may have had an influence on the Hempsteads in their decision not to let Junius go abroad.

Later Junius would describe his father, Stephen Hempstead, as a “Douglas Democrat” and a “states rights man” and believed that this philosophy was a major factor in his father’s decision to send him to a “Southern” school for an education. At the time of Junius’ enrollment the school’s president, Francis H. Smith declared the mission of the school was to train teachers of science and mathematics and he did not regard the military aspect of the school as an essential feature.

Seventeen year-old Junius Hempstead arrived at VMI August 18, 1860. One of Junius’ instructors was Thomas Jonathan Jackson, a Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy and Instructor of Artillery. Jackson's teachings are still used at VMI today because they are military essentials that are timeless, to wit: discipline, mobility, assessing the enemy's strength and intentions while attempting to conceal your own, and the efficiency of artillery combined with an infantry assault.

However, despite the high quality of his work, he was not popular as a teacher. He memorized his lectures and then recited them to the class; any students who came to ask for help were only given the same explanation as before. And if students came to ask again, Jackson viewed this as insubordination and likewise punished them. The students mocked his apparently stern, religious nature and his eccentric traits calling him “Tom Fool” among other derisive nicknames.

Just eight months after Hempstead’s arrival at VMI Virginia voted to secede from the Union on April 17, 1861 and Jackson offered his services to the Confederate cause. When he did, despite their previous mockery of him, all his pupils rose en masse to volunteer with him.

Ten days later Virginia Governor John Letcher appointed Jackson a Colonel in the Provisional Army and ordered him take command of the armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia.

Eighteen-year-old Junius could have returned to his family in Dubuque, but he explained in a letter from his father’s home in Dubuque shortly after the war why he chose to stay in the south.

“When the war broke out I was a cadet in the Virginia Military Institute, which is a state school and arsenal. Upon my entrance I enlisted in the Virginia Service, took the usual oath to support Va. against all her enemies, and became subject to the order of the Governor of that state. When President Lincoln unconstitutionally called out seventy five thousand men, and required Virginia to furnish her quota, she was compelled to choose, and of course as all of her interests were with the South, she seceded from the old Federal Union, and even if my feeling had not prompted me I should have been compelled to go or be considered a deserter. I should have gone in any event, for I believed in State Rights to the fullest extent and every state is a sovereign power capable of governing her own internal affairs and privileged to withdraw at will. Virginia with reluctance entered into the compact and all know the position Patrick Henry took in regard to the question and we all know the conditions upon entering, that she could withdraw, (and) when she felt herself aggrieved, she did withdraw. Her enemies became mine. The Corp’s was ordered into service and with a willing heart, I served from the time Virginia seceded until my capture in the Battle of the Wilderness on the fifth of May 1864. And at the time of my capture was a Captain in the Confederate State’s Army and had the honor of service under general Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. As I served in the army for three years, it is very natural to suppose that I drew my regular pay as an officer. I was a prisoner until my release upon the President’s Amnesty proclamation and took the oath. I am a cosmophile and am here upon the authority of an American Citizen of the best Government the world ever saw.”

Initially among the forty-seven cadets left to guard the small arsenal at VMI, Junius and these cadets were objects of pity to the other cadets. One cadet said they “were in tears that they cannot share danger and glory.” However shortly after the cadets left Hempstead helped haul gunpowder to Jackson’s command at Harper’s Ferry. Junius later recalled the almost 150 mile march “When the Civil War commenced I was one of the Virginia Institute cadets, who, with nine other cadets, under command of Col. Ross, guarded the five wagon loads of gunpowder from Lexington (where VMI was located) to Harper’s Ferry. We marched all the way on foot, and were dusty enough, and tired enough when we reached our destination. We had a soldier’s welcome from the VMI graduates, and also a royal welcome, from the volunteers there assembled.”

“Generals Harper and Harmon were in command, by general orders we (cadets) were made 1st Lieutenants in the Provisional Army of Virginia.” Soon General Joseph Johnson of the Regular Army arrived to take command of Harper’s ferry and Jackson was put in charge of the 1st Brigade that included Hempstead’s regiment.

Jackson was known for his relentless drilling of his troops; he believed discipline was vital to success on the battlefield and so he appointed the ten VMI cadets who had brought the gunpowder to Harper’s Ferry as Drill Masters. Hempstead was assigned to Co. F of the 5th Va. Infantry and later remembered “drill, drill, drill was the order of the day. Drilling volunteers, guard mounting and the instruction of sentinels were our duties, until Harper’s Ferry was evacuated” on June 14th.

Five days later, Jackson was given orders to destroy the equipment of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad at Martinsburg, Virginia about fifteen miles north of Harper’s ferry. Hempstead remembered, “I was ordered on much extra, hazardous and rough duty. At Martinsburg we burned the railroad bridge and made steam on a number of locomotives, that we sent crashing over the deep chasm, and piled them one on another.” They burned the roundhouse and several other buildings and destroyed 42 locomotives and 305 railcars mostly loaded with coal.

Again Jackson’s Brigade moved north and Hempstead recalled, “Brigadier T. J. Jackson was bivouacking at Falling Waters. His brigade, that afterwards became so famous, was the advance guard of General Joseph E. Johnson’s Army. General Patterson (Federal) was encamped at Williamsport across the Potomac. My detail, with one from another regiment, was ordered to destroy a massive stone bridge just north of Gen. Patterson’s Army, and the camp in plain view. We were very successful, the immense structure fell with a crash, and we hurried across the river to hear the zip of bullets patter around us. While the brigade was at Falling Waters General Patterson’s Army surprised us; we were cooking breakfast. All was confusion. The 5th VA Regiment to which I was attached by general orders, was advanced, and deployed as skirmishers, and coolly and bravely held General Patterson’s line in check, until the camp equipage was removed and we fell back in good order and joined our main battle line several miles in the rear, but Gen. Patterson did not advance.”

Unfortunately Hempstead did not give a lot of detail about the other battles he fought in and there are no official records of Hempstead’s service in the 5th Virginia Infantry. When describing the first large battle of the war on July 21st Hempstead’s comments were brief: “The next move was over the mountains to Manassas Junction where a great battle was fought. The ten VMI cadets gave a good account of themselves.” It was at this battle that Jackson earned his nickname “Stonewall” and his brigade became ever after the Stonewall Brigade.

On Aug 12, 1861 at Camp Harman near Centerville, Virginia almost all of the officers of the 5th Virginia, including Col. Kenton Harper, wrote to Pres. Jeff Davis asking that Hempstead be given a commission in the Regular Confederate State’s Army.

“To his Excellency, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America.

“The undersigned respectfully represent to your excellency that Junius L. Hempstead who desires a commission in the Confederate states army, is a most worthy young gentleman and capable of discharging the duties incumbent upon the office which he asks at your hands.

“Mr. Hempstead has had the advantage of eighteen months education at the Virginia Military Institute, and since the commencement of the present war has been acting as drillmaster of one of the companies attached to 5th Reg’t of Virginia Volunteers and has shown himself to be entirely proficient as such. He has been in two battles with his Regiment and acquitted himself with coolness and bravery.

“Mr. Hempstead’s father and friends are residents of the State of Iowa and though Southern in their feelings are unable to give him fiduciary assistance and as it would be unsafe for him to visit them, he is entirely dependent upon himself for support. He therefore asks that you confer upon him the commission of 2nd Lieutenant in the Confederate States Army and we believe he would make an efficient officer should it please your Excellency to give him the appointment. Respectfully…” (28 officers signed)

In the early spring of 1862 Hempstead received a letter from his mother telling him she was trying to visit him and he recalled, “Before I was wounded,” in August 1862, “my mother and young brother came to Charlestown. Stonewall Jackson gave me permission to go, and with Perry Foreman, one of Gen’l Mosby’s scouts, I went into the town which was filled with federal soldiers.

“My mother was gone. Aunt Charlotte hid me in a closet; after a number of hair breath escapes, I returned and reported to Stonewall.”

Later, Hempstead wrote in greater detail about the incident.

“My mother, and my brother who is now living, came to Charlestown, Virginia during the war hoping to see me. If I had received the letter in time, I could have met them, but how the letter reached me, I do not know, but it was a month old when I received it. I knew if I asked for a furlough through the regular channel I would be turned down so I took my letter to Stonewall and stated my case. He wrote me a pass and said wear your uniform and report to me how many soldiers (are) in Charlestown and Harper’s Ferry. I thanked him and started.

“I had an annoying time with the provost guards. I was questioned and delayed but I kept my counsel and pressed on to Harrisonburg which was the advanced post. I had a hundred questions asked me: ‘Say ain’t you going in the wrong direction-the Yankees are just below here.’ I did not travel on the main road but kept same in sight and reached Woodstock without seeing a bluecoat. There I had the good fortune to meet some of Mosby’s men-you say Gilmore’s. I at once tried to interest them to go with me. Some of them lived in or near Charlestown. I was in big luck, four of us started when we come to Newtown (I think this is the name; Mrs. Shryock lived there) all but Perry Foreman backed out. He knew where the Federal pickets were stationed so we made good time. I had some letters to deliver (and) as day was breaking he went down the road a short distance-the road we were to travel-where some friends hid him away. I went to the front door just as the sun was rising. The young ladies who came to the door were certainly surprised and doubted my being a Confederate. When I presented the letters they were overjoyed because they had not heard from their loved ones for months.

“They gave me a fine breakfast but would not hide me away because of the Negro servants. I saw a piece of woods off to the right of our road. There was a cornfield between it and the road where the corn was shocked in large shocks. I selected one nearest to the woods and crawled in where I was thoroughly concealed and waited for darkness. It was well I selected this line of shocks. I dozed along until I was startled by the clanking of sabers and the pounding of horse’s feet. The Bluecoats were pulling down the fence and loading a wagon with corn, fortunately they filled the wagon before they came to my row.

“When night came I moved along the road. Perry Foreman was waiting for me and we pushed on. Perry several times lost the trail. Once we came up to a Federal picket post (and) we could see the light through the trees; the soldiers were asleep. We lost so much time it was daylight when we reached Charlestown. I saw Aunt Charlotte’s house across the field and made a beeline for it as it was on the edge of town. I reached it safely. Fortunately my Aunt came to the door and exclaimed ‘My God Junius what are you doing here?’

“‘I came to see mother’ I replied.

“’How fortunate I came to the door instead of the negros’

“She hid me in a closet in her room. My mother had been gone three weeks but left a trunk full of clothing. Perry Foreman told me where to meet him. Tom Sublett secured a long mill sack open in the middle. I put the contents of the trunk and Cousin Tom piloted me to the spot where I was to meet Perry Foreman and we plodded along back to Newtown which we safely reached.

“He hid away at one house and I hid away at Mrs. Shryocks. I was congratulating myself on being so lucky when I heard shooting in the direction of Charlestown and the Blue Coats charged pell mell through the long street. I change my suit for one of Mr. Shryocks as it was dinner time. They cleaned up the well cooked meal and I helped them eat it.

“I was blue as indigo for my furlough was almost gone. No telling how long the cavalry raid would be up the valley but Gen’l Imboden’s troopers repulsed them and they came back hotly pursued.

“Without further adventure I reported to my command. I was ordered under arrest and my sword was taken from me. I reported to Stonewall and gave him the information he desired. He simply said ‘Very good! Very good!’ and dismissed me. My sword was returned and I never heard any more of the charges.”

Hempstead makes no mention of any activities of the 5th Virginia for the next year, not even General “Stonewall” Jackson’s death at Chancellorsville in May of 1862.

It would take a year before Hempstead’s commission was granted, “I was with the 5th VA. Regiment until the Battle of Cedar Run” that occurred on August 9, 1862. “I was transferred to the 25th Va. Regiment and elected Lieutenant of Co. F on the battlefield…” Hempstead noted. The effective date of his appointment to 3rd Lieutenant was August 14th and just two weeks later “I was dangerously wounded at the Second Battle of Manassas.” Official records note that he was “badly wounded in shoulder” but the exact date of his injury differs. He is then shown as absent on the regimental rolls until March of 1863: “When I was able to get about, I was ordered to McDowell, Highland County, Va. With headquarters at McDowell as conscript officer where I remained a short time, and was ordered back to my regiment.”

The next great battle Hempstead participated in was at Gettysburg and as usual he described it with little detail, “When my cadet comrade Capt. Blankenship lost his leg at Gettysburg I was made Captain.” However there are no official records to denote this promotion. The records only indicate that he was “Acting Commander” of the company.

From Oct 19 to Nov. 7, 1863 the 25th was in camp near Brandy Station. The Regiment was continuing to dismantle the Orange and Alexandria RR, sending the iron to Richmond. On Oct. 23, one of Hempstead’s men wrote that “Lieut. J. L. Hempstead is going to start away in the morning on furlough of twenty days so our company will be left without an officer until he returns.” It is not known why Hempstead requested a furlough or where he went. However his furlough apparently ran much longer than twenty days-rolls show him still “absent-on furlough of indulgence” in Feb. 1864. Curiously he is shown as “present” on the December 1863 rolls. Hempstead does not mention this furlough or any other battles until he was captured at the Wilderness. Again his description was minimal, “The General’s flanking movement around Gen’l Pope’s rear commenced. I was in all of the great campaigns of the war up to the Battle of the Wilderness where I was wounded and captured on the 5th of May 1864. Our regiment charged into Gen’l Sedgwick’s Corp, and was captured.”

After his capture he was taken to Ft. Delaware arriving on May 17th. A month later on August 20th twenty-year-old Hempstead was taken from his Fort Delaware prison, along with 599 other captive Rebel officers, and shipped to a desolate, hastily constructed stockade on Morris Island, South Carolina. On the mainland, in Charleston, a number of Federal prisoners of war had been dragged into the line of Union artillery fire, in the hope that their presence there would force Yankee cannoneers to stop the rain of shells that had been falling intermittently on the city since July 3. To revenge this violation of “the rules of war,” Hempstead and his companions were set down on Morris Island on September 7; the captured Confederates would have to face the fire of their own army’s batteries.
Hempstead noted, “I was a prisoner of war at Fort Delaware, and with six hundred officers, was placed on Morris Island, at Charleston, under fire of our own forts.”

When they disembarked, the men were startled to discover they were being guarded by the 54th Massachusetts a black regiment commanded by white officers. The Confederate Officers were marched two miles to the “pen,” an area about two acres square between batteries Gregg and Wagner. They were confined, four men to a tent, within range of both Union and Confederate guns for forty-two days. The men complained they were given meager provisions, occasionally augmented by boxes of food, clothing, and tobacco sent from Charleston. “Life upon the island” one later recalled, “consisted of starving and watching the mortar shells from [Confederate Fort} Moultrie.”

Hempstead kept a diary, recorded between the lines of a book of rhetoric on Morris Island. He found eight other VMI men among the Six Hundred, and they would share many memories and conversations about the “Institute” over the next few months. Hempstead believed his training as a “rat” (as first year plebes at VMI were called) helped him endure the hardships. He reportedly enjoyed listening to the sea, when it was not drowned out by the sound of guns from Batteries Gregg and Wagner, which were in turn answered by Fort Moultrie, Battery Simkins, and the Confederate artillery on James’ Island.

He began the account on the day the men landed and continued it until October 8, two weeks before the prisoners’ removal. Sometime later, while being held captive at Fort Pulaski, Georgia, the young captain lost this account. It was found many years later by an ancestor of Mr. Wade Synder of Sanford, Florida, and turned over to Hempstead’s family. The diary was published in the February 1981 issue of Civil War Times Illustrated.
Where space was available he practiced writing French, compiled a vocabulary list, drew, and figured such things as his brother’s and sister’s ages. But even here the prisoner’s preoccupation with food was evident. One of his pictures was of a table laden with food.

Here are some excerpts from his diary:
Sept 7, 1864: We stayed on the steamer Crescent…18 days. On the morning of the 7th the weather looked squally and in the morning we steamed off and soon reached the warf of the pier of Morris Island. Looked out one of the little round windows and what a sight I beheld soldiers as black as the ace of spades and dress furnished by the “best Government the world ever saw.” They have a very military appearance and go through the manual very well indeed. The gang plank was pushed ashore and we disembarked and were received with high military honors; two lines of the colored soldiers drawn up on each side of the road. We were marched two miles along a sandy beach; rain coming down quite lively and we quite wet. Water very scarce, caught the drippings off of my hat and obtained enough to help me along. They halted us near battery Waggoner and searched us then marched us by detachments to the pen where we found tents put up in regular order. I am in Comp. “D” No. 3. Saw some huge guns, one was eighteen feet long and three feet diameter at the breech. We are on the site of the battle…

Saturday Sept. 17th 1864: Still on the Island, No firing today…had coffee for breakfast Capt. Moore one of my tent mates brought some coffee with him and we borrowed an old can and made a fire in it inside of our tent. Made some splendid coffee in about 20 minutes; against orders to build a fire outside; fooled the Yanks that time.

Sunday Sept. 18th 1864: It was a quiet Sunday, pleasant in the morning but some rain in the afternoon and throughout the night…heard the church bells in Charleston; made my heart ache, to think of it; within sight of liberty and still not there. Like Moses running to the Promised land…one of our guns kept up a continual fire upon battery Gregg but Gregg treated him with silent contempt…how long will this misery continue; God grant not long. We suffer seven deaths .I hope Father in heaven will give me patience under (tribulation)
Monday September 19th 1864: Just finished making coffee, took four nails and drove them into the barrel stave and covered the stave with sand and set the Coffee Pot on the nails and built a fire under it as usual, clouds of smoke, my eyes are running with tears...gave each of us a little pamphlet; want us to take the oath I suppose; read in my bible; played ten games (of chess)

Tuesday September 20th 1864… a shell went flying over us just now; hope our battery will not return the fire; did not return the fire am glad to say and all is quiet. Shaved today.

Wednesday September 21st 1864: Sun rose in a clear skie and looked beautiful coming out of sea making the face of nature shine… Read in my bible this morning, rained hard last night… they are starving us by degrees. Oh how long will this misery continue

Thursday September 22nd 1864: Rained hard last night. Sun shines brightly this morning… Read in my bible. The surf sounds lonesome this morning for I am sad; how long will I be compelled to hear its ceaseless murmur. I hope not long. About ten o’clock much to our surprise we were ordered to pack up…we thought we were going to be exchanged; marched down the beach to the pier and were put on board the steamer Gen’l Hooker and from there transferred to the schooner Jennie Morton and put down in a deep dark hold with very little air to breathe; 275 packed in that small space did not have room to lie down and when you did get to sleep the rats would run over you; one ran across my face and the place was so close and stifling I could scarcely breathe; was so glad when morning came-was in hopes of being day; slept once about ten feet under

Friday Sept 23rd 1864: Went on deck and the cool breeze fanned my feverish brow so! so! welcome…the flag of truce boats met could see them distinctly the white flag flying (hope they will make some arrangement to get us out of this suffering) they stayed together four hours and then parted; we were soon put on shore and marched back; when we landed they marched us two or three hundred yards and halted to feed us…the next half were then landed and as soon as they fed we all started our return; halted at the Col quarters for him to get his dinner and about sunset reached our old quarters where I enjoyed a good night sleep on my sand bed.

Saturday Sept 24th 1864: Still the sad murmur of the sea, and clear skie, brilliant. 0h God how long will the misery continue - mercy deliver us from the hands of our enemies… brought in some seven men that tried to escape; poor fellows I am sorry for them indeed… battery kept up a fire all night; slept sound not withstanding; awoke quite late had dreams of home last night. 0h if they were only true.

Sunday Sept 25th 1864: Awoke quite late… made some tea this morning; went fine. This makes one think of home and its comforts; if I were only there how I would enjoy myself. Shall read my Bible this morning; God pardon me for my sins of the past-week…Beautiful day; read the N.Y. Herald. One would think the Confederacy had “gone up” to hear him speak. Hope I shall not see another Sunday here.

Monday 26th 1864: Clear day very cool in the morning hot at noon; have no blanket - slept on the sand; quite a soft-bed but cold I tell you; hope they will issue some blankets to us for we need them badly; they have promised us some but I have found the Yankees promises pie crust made to be broken; they tell us so! so! many lies; never trust a word they say…getting cool wish I had a blanket; played chess today beat all.

Tuesday 27th 1864: Cloudy day; sun shown early in the morning… made some tea and then play seven games of chess; beat me 6 out of the seven; will write a letter home today; hope they will get it soon.

Wednesday 28th 1864: Sun rose in a clear skie… read in my bible two chapters

Thursday 29th 1864: Sun rose in a clear sky; going to be a pretty day…am getting so tired of retaliation; it is a mean thing; dishonorable in both governments to treat prisoners of war (we are so helpless) in the way they do; we fight and die for them and this is the way they treat us. I will never be a military man again as long as I live if I get out of this. I am home sick and want to get home so bad. I have been away from home some long years and would give anything most to see them all

Friday 30th 1864: Looks cloudy; hope it will not rain; feel blue enough already; the sandflies and gnats bite savagely this morning and are quite troublesome…

Saturday October 1st 1864: Rained very hard last night; sun in the clouds by afternoon; it will be a clear day… some 20 shots exchanged by the sides…a shell exploded and killed a yankee; a couple of shells exploded very near; all quiet…the artillery fire was quite heavy; shells flew thick and fast; came too near for comfort; the rebs must shoot higher.

Sunday Oct-2d 1864: Sun rose in a clear skie; going to be a pretty day and also very (hot) last night…This is Holy Sabbath of the Lord; I pray for strength to keep it properly. I hoped I would not see another Sunday of the Island but alas we are destined to see many from the turn of affairs… wrote a letter to Dixie today… it has been a beautiful Sunday

Monday October 3 1864: It has been rainy all morning; look like a settled rain; hope it is not for it gives me the blues and I don’t want to get them…the flag of truce boats are in sight and have been all day hope they are making some exchanges

Tuesday October 4th: A clear day…Was awakened by a shot passing over me this morning… finished my cross and smoked a little.

Wednesday October 5th 1864: Sun in a clear skie; hope it will be a pretty day. This is the fifth anniversary of my capture; have been a prisoner five long and weary months; hope the time of my imprisonment is drawing to a close. Rose early this morning the air feels quite fresh…As number of boxes and bags for us from Charleston we will get a bite around, I suppose. Our officers are more like hogs they grab every thing and act shamefully; will be distributed this afternoon; am awfully hungry; the things have been issued and I got my share - three loaves of bread and lots of smoking and chewing tobacco. I have taken to smoking

Thursday October 6 1864: Sun in a clear skie; have a splendid and contented feeling; have had enough to eat for once and have 2 small sweet potatoes; am going to try to cook them today; had some blackberry wine yesterday, also two biscuits and butter…feel very happy, indeed there is no feeling like contentment; the Yanks are taking advantage of the generosity of the C.E.S. and don’t issue any rations - just like a Yank for the world

Friday October 7th 1864: Rained last night, very hard indeed; stopped around 10 o’clock and the sun is struggling through the clouds… mail came to day still no mail for me I am getting discouraged; I will hope on for a little while

Saturday October 8th 1864: Have been feeling unwell all morning… Feel worse and worse; have a fever and my pulse is up to a hundred; hope I am not going to be sick feel very much like it [took] last night a [full] pill hope it will do me some good; some many letters were called out but none for me I shall wait and trust…

On October 21, apparently in response to the removal of Federal prisoners in Charleston, the Southern officers were taken from Morris Island to Fort Pulaski in Savannah, Georgia.

Yet again Hempstead summarizes his last year in the war in just two sentences “From there we were taken to Ft. Pulaski at the mouth of the Savannah River where we were fed (in retaliation for Andersonville) on rotten corn meal and pickle for forty-two days. We were then returned to Fort Delaware and the war ended.” Years later he claimed the “Strong pickle… must have come from Noah’s ark”

All the prisoners knew the one way out of their plight was to take the oath of allegiance but among the Six Hundred existed an unspoken stubbornness to suffer rather than surrender principles and duty.

Then four days after Christmas 1864, a steamer docked at the Fort Pulaski wharf, and disembarked its important visitors one of whom was the newly elected Governor of Iowa, William M. Stone accompanied by a correspondent from the Dubuque Daily Times. Stone and his entourage had taken time from his eastern journey to review Iowa troops at Hilton Head, and pay a visit to Hempstead. The visit was a special request from a fellow Iowan, concerned about the former governor’s son. The journalist reported his mission to readers in Dubuque as follows:
“After eight days’ visiting among the Iowa troops in Gen. Sherman’s grand army, I left Savannah, this morning at 4 o’clock…The immense Fort which Gilmore so splendidly reduced is in full view, being not more than a mile distant, I should guess. On going up quite a party of us staid over night at the Fort. Governor Stone was along, and having been so requested asked to see Lt. Hempstead of the Rebel Army, now a prisoner of war... He is as many of your readers know a son of Ex-Governor Hempstead of your city, where he received ‘a bringing up’ which must have been somehow vicious, or he would not be in his present predicament. He was comfortably clothed and in good health. He talked an hour or so with the governor and other gentlemen who had been in the Army, and was very communicative about Rebel affairs. He has refused to take the oath of allegiance to the United States. He is quite young…but seems to have good sense enough. The Company blamed rather his education, than himself for the fact of his having taken up arms against his country, therefore ruining himself in the estimation of all right thinking men.”

A comrade of Hempstead’s Capt. Henry Dickenson later wrote, “Still very cold, men coughing terribly. Yanks signaling from the fort. Governor Stone of Iowa arrives. Sent for Lieutenant Hempstead, Twenty-fifth Virginia, son of ex-governor of Iowa, and begged him to take the oath. Brown (the prison commandant) added his persuasions and told him we were to be fed on corn meal and pickles. Hempstead nobly refused.

“Upon his return to the casemate prison, Junius Hempstead received a rousing applause. The strict vow not to take the oath under any circumstances remained a cohesive factor, and each loyal officer found strength in his companions’ support. During their whole imprisonment as the Six-Hundred, only 17 men took the oath before the end of the war.”

Then in March 1865, the prisoners were returned to Fort Delaware, where they were released on June16th after taking the oath of allegiance. Hempstead was still listed as 2nd Lt, 25th Regiment Va. He was described as being 5’11” (fairly tall for that time period) and having dark hair and dark eyes with a light complexion.

After his discharge, Junius returned to Dubuque, Iowa a twenty two year old veteran, and spent several months recovering his health. In November 1865, he wrote to Captain John Cantwell, “I am doing nothing at present but loaf at home.”

In the same letter to Cantwell he speaks of a book he wrote about the Six Hundred and their prison experience After reading sensationalized Northern accounts of Andersonville, Hempstead was particularly outraged, and he wrote in November 1865, “I am so much obliged to you for the list of names and it is done up in your usual neat hand I have some three hundred and fifty pages and with the list will make four hundred.” He decided “not to publish immediately for it is rather strong for the times and I would be run from the country…I have not written it for any other purpose than to show the other side of the question. I cannot sit by and hear of Andersonville and other Southern prisons and hear them run down our brave South, when they themselves have acted a hundred times more brutally.”

After the war the survivors of the “600” formed the Society of the Immortal Six Hundred. Hempstead was elected president serving for over five years in that office. The members tried to collect enough money to erect a monument to the six hundred but that did not come to fruition. They also tried to get a law passed to compensate them for their treatment but that too failed.

While Hempstead’s book was never published, four decades after the war ended, one of Hempstead’s comrades, J. Odgen Murray, did publish “The Immortal Six Hundred” describing the men and conditions they experienced. In it he wrote of Hempstead, “Then comes Capt. J. L. Hempstead, once during the war drill master of the 5th Va. Inft., Stonewall’s Brigade; gentle as a woman, brave as the lion, a courtly knight of the old school, his heart went out in sympathy to his suffering comrades, his generous hand relieved their wants from his scanty ration. Captain Hempstead was born in Iowa, of Virginian (sic) parentage. When the war tocsin sounded he gave up home, loved ones, and comfort to help in the defense of Virginia’s honor.”

While Junius was still home in Dubuque his sister, Olivia married Capt. B. M. Richmond two days after Christmas, 1865.

Thirty-years old at the time of his wedding Capt. Richmond had enlisted in the 6th Iowa Volunteer Cavalry on Oct. 27, 1862 and rose through the ranks until his promotion as Captain, Company C of 3rd Reg. U. S. Vol. Inf. on March 1, 1865. This regiment was one of several raised from Confederate POW’s who took the Oath of Allegiance to the U. S. Government and were sent out west to fight the Indians. The Confederate soldiers became know as “Galvanized Yanks” and were scorned throughout the South. Richmond’s company spent their time protecting overland mail routes from marauding Indians in Colorado. His regiment was mustered out a month before his wedding.

It would be interesting to know exactly what Junius thought of his brother-in-law’s former command, but given his almost obstinate resistance to taking the oath, Junius must have had a certain amount of contempt for them.

Hempstead was at first bitter toward his old school, the Virginia Military Institute. In correspondence with Murray, he shared his feelings that the Institute had ignored the contributions of those who would have been the graduating classes during the war, and excluding them from the school directory as alumni. “They state I was at the V.M.I. so short a time. The word alumnus means a graduate. I am sure it was not my fault. I would have taken the four years course had the war not commenced. I was fitting myself for a Civil and topographical engineer…The fourth class suffered by far (in dead and wounded) and fighting qualities more than the other three classes that went from the VMI.”

The point was argued before the Alumni Association, and eventually the school directory included all students who attended the Institute, even for a day. After this Hempstead became an ardent supporter of VMI.

After Hempstead returned to Dubuque he seemed at a loss as to what to do with his life. Returning to school did not seem to be an option at his age and with everything he had been through he reportedly moved to Chicago and entered into the profession of bookkeeping.

It is not known exactly how long he remained in Chicago but at the time of his mother’s death on Jan. 4, 1871 he was living in Memphis and involved in “the Cotton business.” Also it is believed that about that time he began writing poetry and some fiction.

Several of his poems dealt with the war, and in one of his last works, a novel called The Deschanos, about the early years of the war, a character reflects upon an individual’s impact on the scheme of things with these words: I am alone in the world—a man here and there that drops out of existence does not count in the reckoning of numbers. He is here, he is there, and then he is gone—just a ripple in life—nothing more.

The main character also makes a statement near the end of the story that undoubtedly reflected Hempstead’s feelings: “In the years to come, when the responsibility of life comes to you, and you are thrown upon the country to work or starve, you will learn that the Southern man will be your best friend in all of the world, because he understands helplessness.”

Junius’ brother-in-law, Capt. Richmond died on April 10, 1878 from lung disease, probably tuberculosis. The former Governor, Stephen Hempstead, had been living with his daughter and son-in-law and a couple years after Richmond’s death he decided to move to Memphis and live with Junius. It is believed that at some point Junius had married and reportedly had four children. A daughter called Sunbeam was born in Memphis but little is known of the rest of the family. Whatever the situation was with Junius and his family at that period of his life (and whether or not it had any influence) his father decided to return to Dubuque after just a few months. The Governor died on Feb. 16, 1883.

It has been reported that sometime in the 1880’s, Junius became estranged from his wife and children and moved to Louisiana, where he resided part of the year at a boarding house in New Orleans. He spent summers with his bachelor brother and his sister, who by then had remarried (to E. R. Shankland in Dubuque) in Jennings, Louisiana. People there remembered Junius as a lonely, reclusive man whose life was centered around veterans associations and the “600 Society.”

One of Hempstead’s neighbors in Jennings later remembered “Junius came here in 1884, took out a homestead just west of his sister’s…It will be remembered that Mrs. Shankland, Olivia Hempstead, had come with her husband in 1883 and had built their home just west of the…football stadium…Highway 90 through town follows an east-west course to the north which traverses…their homesteads and hence the thoroughfare is called both Davies and Shankland. It was natural that the brother Junius took up his homestead just to the west of his sister’s.

“The other brother, E. S. became a justice of the peace, notary and insurance agent, and lived in a small house…a bachelor who had a pear orchard and strawberry patch near his house and added to his meagre income with sales of garden products and fruit.”

Olivia’s second husband, “Col.” Shankland died in 1895 leaving the three Hempstead siblings to finish out the remainder of their lives in close proximity to each other in Louisiana. Junius was the only one of the three to have children and since he was estranged from them there was no family to mourn their passing. It is believed all three died within a span of three years, E. S. in 1919, Junius in Sept. 1920 and Olivia a year later, but this cannot be verified since no grave markers have been found. It is believed that all three had lost their land and were reportedly penniless when they died.

It seems a rather sad ending to what was once such a proud and prominent Iowa family, but perhaps that is the way the poet, Junius would have written it.


The most widely known works by Junius L Hempstead:

The Conspirator - a tragedy in five acts 1880
The Mill of the Gods - a tragedy in four acts 1882
Parnassian Niches   1892
After Many Days - and other stories 1897
Musings of Morn   1898
Thompson, the Detective - a thrilling story of adventure 1902
The Deschanos - a thrilling romance ( 1905
A Chequered Destiny - 1905
Brain Rambles - (Poems) 1905

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