A Biographical Sketch of Isaac Henry Rucker

Isaac Henry Rucker Was born 7/6/40 in Amherst County, Virginia, the first of seven children of Benjamin Jennings and Eliza Jane. He may have gone by the name Henry, but all of his subsequent legal and military records confirm that his given name was Isaac.  His father was paying taxes in Amherst in 1850, but the family is not apparent on the census.  In 1860 Isaac H. was 19 years old, at home with his parents and brothers Paul B. (16) and Benjamin L. (13).

In 1861 Amherst County was largely in favor of secession, but Isaac waited to see which way the wind was blowing before committing himself to military service.  On 5/23/61, the Virginia electorate overwhelmingly approved the Ordinance of Secession, and on that day Isaac enlisted in the cavalry at Amherst Courthouse.  Isaac brought a $125 horse (his first of three in the years to come) and $25 in equipment.  Virginians expected a quick Southern victory, and the men enrolled for only one year.  Private Rucker joined "The Amherst Mounted Rangers," a company which was mustered into the 30th Regiment, Virginia Volunteers ("Radford's Regiment ") at Lynchburg.  Their first Large Engagement Was at Manassas That Summer, and by the next Spring it was evident that the war would last longer than one year.

On 2/20/62 Isaac enlisted for another two years at Stone Bridge, and received a 36 day furlough as an inducement.  By December 1 of that year he was appointed fourth corporal of what by then was designated company E, 2nd Virginia cavalry.

On 4/23/63 Isaac was given 19 days to obtain a fresh horse, the campaigns wearing even harder on beast than man.  By that summer he was promoted to third corporal, a rank he held during the Gettysburg battle; for some unknown transgression, he was reduced in rank back to Private by that November.  On 13/1/64 Isaac reenlisted for the war' s duration at Orange Courthouse.  That Spring Brought Some of the Toughest Fighting of the Entire War: Todd's Tavern, Spotsylvania Courthouse, Yellow Tavern, Meadow Bridge and Fort Kennon were some of the more notable engagements.  At Ashland on 5/11/64, Isaac and another trooper simultaneously shot and killed Lieutenant E. P. Hopkins of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry as it charged their position; surely, learning the name of one's target after-the-fact must have made battle even more dreadful.

At Haw's Shop on 5/28/64, Isaac was wounded when company E was isolated in a firefight, the enemy flanking them on both sides, and retreat was effected only by running a gauntlet of enfilading fire.  Almost daily battles continued, and on June 28 Isaac was away from his unit, trying to obtain his third mount of the war.  His wound was apparently not serious enough to keep him out of action.  Indeed, he did not appear on a published list of casualties which included his brother, wounded in the same battle, suggesting that the report of Isaac' s wound was erroneous.

Astride a new horse, Isaac served to the end of the war in 1865.  At Appomattox on 4/8/65, the 2nd Virginia received a Union cavalry charge with a countercharge, in which action Isaac' s mount was killed.  He walked home to Amherst, intending to rejoin the unit, which had maneuvered its way back to Lynchburg rather than surrender with General Lee.  The 2nd Virginia was disbanded there, and Isaac was a civilian, again.

In the 1870 census Isaac is not listed in Amherst; he may have been in Texas for a few years, but by 1880 he was back home in Amherst's Temperance District, a 39 year old single farmer employing three hired hands.  Twenty years later he was engaged as a miller, and owned his own home.  On 8/1/06, tending to his duties at the mill, his right arm was caught in a revolving wheel and torn from his body.  Despite the care of his physician brother, Edwin Timothy Rucker, summoned from Richmond, Isaac expired five days later.  Civilian life had ultimately proved more hazardous to the gallant soldier than four years of arduous service to the Confederacy.

Isaac is buried in the family plot in Amherst's public cemetery, section B., his headstone of later manufacture than those of the family who survived him.  At the grave' s foot is an iron Southern Cross.  Sisters Clara Graves Rucker (died 1914) and Mary Ellen Rucker Theisz (died 1923) are on his right, as are his parents.  His brother, Paul, lies under a recently erected headstone, as well.

Compiled August 29, 1999 by Christopher D. Rucker, M.D.
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