Riverdale was site for training military in Civil War

Published 9:05 am Friday, January 28, 2011

by Tommy Simmons

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of local, historic articles written by members of the Urquhart-Gillette Camp No. 1471 Sons Of Confederate Veterans in commemoration of the upcoming 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

With the election of Lincoln on Nov. 8, 1860, the stage was set for future turmoil and complete unrest in this country.

He won as “Republican” by a very narrow margin. The country was deeply divided, with North versus South over greed, money and wealth, and the distribution of it; seemly then to have “government willing to intervene at all risk in the people’s lives.”

Through an excessive unfair tax, and by an attempt at ending generations of Southern lifestyles, the “institution of slavery” and “states’ rights” tested the Constitution with new meaning.

Young men practiced, marched and then drilled on young Joe Gillette’s farm “Cedar Lawn.” Today, this historic site is this county’s newest state-of-the-art elementary school, oddly named Riverdale.

No significance whatsoever to the men that lived, fought in the war and then died. Commander Jon Pyle and myself reflected recently this very fact and believe, indeed, we need to honor this significant historical event.

In the meantime, mark May 7 down on your calendar for our date in history 150 years ago. We believe our camp’s efforts and overall goals will be better served by sharing this event with our neighboring Tom Smith Camp.

There’s something else I’d like to share.

Major Fulgence deBordenave d’Abere was a member of the 1st Louisiana Zouave Battalion, and during the war between the states, he was stationed in Franklin.

Very well liked and comfortable with his newfound friends in Southampton County, the major remained here after the war.

His name can be found numerous times in old issues of The Tidewater News associated with local Confederate veterans in the years after the war.

He lays rest in the historic Poplar Springs Cemetery, where his grave is marked; this alone is an indication of his fondness of the citizens of Southampton and Franklin over his beloved French family left behind in Louisiana.

The major’s picture hangs on the right front wall in Mahone’s Tavern. He was indeed a very dedicated soldier to the cause for Southern Independence here.

TOMMY SIMMONS is a member of the Urquhart-Gillette Camp No. 1471 Sons Of Confederate Veterans and Southampton County Historical Society. He has written numerous articles on local confederate history and family genealogy. He most recently aided Williamsburg author Jeff A. Hines in his works on a historical novel of Southampton’s revolutionary history, “The Revolutionary Spirit.” He can be reached at 653-1465.