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220-year-old court-order book taken by a New York captain during the Civil War comes back to Stafford for a brief visit, will be preserved for posterity by the Library of Virginia

 The 1791 ledger, found at the Jersey City Free Public Library, was given to the Library of Virginia in October. It's one of the few Stafford records known to survive the Civil War.
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Date published: 12/2/2011


Some papers blamed it on the men of a notorious Union general, Daniel Sickles, said Conner, who tells the tale in her book "Sinners, Saints, and Soldiers in Civil War Stafford."

"We have it on pretty good authority while at Stafford C.H. the enemy destroyed [and] mutilated the records of the county," The Richmond Daily Enquirer reported. "It is said that Sickles drunk, and that among other excesses they dressed themselves in nightcaps and gowns, taken from private houses, and danced through the streets."

Other records were taken as spoils of war by souvenir-hunting troops.

The commonwealth's original Ordinance of Secession was taken by a Union soldier, Treadway noted. The parchment was later sold to a collector, and it wasn't until the late 1920s that, miraculously, it was repatriated to Richmond, she said. The fragile document was recently displayed in the Library of Virginia's "Union or Secession" exhibition.

"Now, when we tell that story, we're going to tell this one, as well," said Treadway, who does double duty as the state archivist.


In the ledger's case, its Northern owner didn't try to conceal his deed.

Capt. William Augustus Treadwell of the 4th New York Infantry Regiment took the volume on March 30, 1863, and sent it to Boston, according to notations on the court-order book.

A university-educated native of Salem, Mass., Treadwell was then drilling U.S. Colored Troops in Washington. Later, he led Company G of the 14th New York Heavy Artillery in the Overland Campaign. After the war, Treadwell was military editor of the New York Press for 16 years, then moved to San Francisco and New Orleans, where he died in 1908.

Treadwell's red-and-white shipping label is still affixed to the Stafford ledger's cover. Inside is an inscription from when the captain gave the book to a friend. It changed hands several times before being given to the Hudson County, N.J., Historical Society, whose holdings were eventually acquired by the Jersey City library.


Barbara Decatur, clerk of Stafford Circuit Court, warmly greeted the state officials and expressed the county's thanks to them and their New Jersey colleagues.

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The "Adopt Virginia History" program of the Library of Virginia Foundation, a tax-deductible nonprofit, seeks donations to conserve the state's collective memory. To contribute, contact the foundation and reference the Stafford County Order Book, 1749-1755. On the Web, see lva.virginia.gov/involved/adopt.asp.