A Biographical Sketch of Valentine H. Rucker
Valentine H. Rucker was born 7/11/31 at "The Orchards" in Amherst County, Virginia, the eldest of seven children of Edwin Sorrell Rucker and his first wife, Lucy Hylton . In 1850 he was a 19 year-old student, at home with his parents, and siblings Ambrose, Hylton G., Washington Irving and Lucy E.; a sister, Elizabeth P., had died in infancy. Lucy Hylton died 10/28/52, and Edwin Sorrell remarried 5/8/54 to Emily Jane Clark; they had two children, Cora G. and Mary Margaret. Edwin lived only until 5/6/59.
In the summer of 1860 Valentine was farming with his brothers Ambrose and Washington, supporting sister Lucy, brother. "William F." (Wilber), half-sisters Cora and Mary, and Ambrose's son, Edwin Samuel. Hylton G. died of typhoid fever 8/1/16 while a medical student in New York. Emily Jane was not at home, likely being nursed elsewhere with typhoid fever, from which she died 10/11/60.
With so many youngsters, the arrival of war in 1861 presented a problem. Who would leave to protect the new nation and garner laurels, and who would stay to protect and rear the children? On 5/23/61, Washington and Valentine enlisted at the courthouse for one year, perhaps mollifying Ambrose by repeating the common belief that the war would be short, and they would be back to help, soon. The brothers rode the 8 miles to Lynchburg and mustered in May 29. Valentine brought two horses, the first valued at $175 and the second unvalued; his other equipment was worth $25. His unit was "The Amherst Rangers," a cavalry company which became attached to the 30th Regiment, Virginia Volunteers. They drilled in Lynchburg several weeks, then proceeded to northern Virginia, arriving at Fairfax July 1. Valentine was appointed 2nd Lieutenant the same day.
Two untested armies confronted one another at Manassas, where the Amherst Rangers were attached to Bonham's Brigade of infantry. The Union advance on the 17th forced the retreat of the Confederate pickets; a strong one under Lt. "Brocker" was on the roads occupied by the enemy. This was certainly Valentine, whose name his colonel remembered incorrectly. During the day of the 21st, the cavalry patiently endured the Federal artillery fire, but joined the action by pursuing the defeated Union troops as they fled back in the direction of Washington, ceasing pursuit only when so encumbered by prisoners and captured stores that further advance was impractical. Scouting, picketing and skirmishing occupied Valentine and his comrades for the rest of the Fall and Winter, the last action occurring December 20 at Dranesville.
Valentine spent Winter in camp with the Amherst Rangers. Scouting and picketing continued in the spring of 1862. Confederate units were reorganized in April, and the Rangers were designated company E, 2nd Virginia Cavalry. In a nod to democratic sentiment, and perhaps to keep the one-year volunteers in uniform, the troops were allowed to elect their officers. Maybe Valentine had been too harsh on his men, but for whatever reason, he was not reelected as lieutenant, he retired from company E., and received his last pay 4/30/62 ($80 for the previous two months of duty). Evidently, he was in no mood to return to duty as a private with men who failed to return him to office, and he likely went home to Amherst. In his one year of service with the Rangers, he earned accolades enough to sustain him well into old age: "in a hand-to-hand saber fight, he saved the life of Col. [sic] (actually Captain, later Major) Thomas Whitehead, by being quicker with his saber than the enemy". At 6 feet in height, Valentine must have been a physically powerful man, and he may have had a temper to match.
Back in Amherst, he ran afoul of the law. He was arrested for the shooting of a William A. Dearing 12/30/62, and was charged with murder when Dearing expired the next day. Details of the tragedy do not appear in the Lynchburg newspaper, and in May "the prisoner appeared in court, and after the examination of witnesses and the arguments of counsel it is decided that prisoner is not guilty and that he be discharged". With civilian life as stimulating as that in the military, Valentine may have felt no need to return to uniform.
Now subject to the Confederacy's draft, Valentine evidently had no desire to return to military duty, and attempted to obtain a draft exemption with an unsuccessful $150 bid to carry the mail. Refusing to be thwarted, he bid forty cents for another route (the next lowest competitor bid $150), which he won; the four-year contract began 7/1/63 for weekly round-trip service between New Glasgow and Lexington. He complied with the Commonwealth's requirement of one slave to help with work on the "public defenses" 9/ 11/63. He found a military market for his farm's produce: he sold $9,814.55 of potatoes, and some wheat, to three of the Lynchburg General Hospitals in October and November. His draft exemption kept him at home, and he does not appear to have served in the artillery as claimed by one postwar source.
On 2/8/64, Valentine wed Arianna M. West, born in Appomattox and then of Bedford, at her father's home. By 1870, the couple were the only Ruckers at home, and employed a farm hand and a domestic servant. Still in Elon Township 10 years later, no children had blessed the marriage, and by 1900 Valentine and "Arie” were joined by her sister, Sally West. That year, he fell ill and went to John's Hopkins Hospital for treatment, evidently being a man of some means. He died there July 12 and is buried in his wife's family plot at spring Hill Cemetery in Lynchburg, Virginia. His will is dated 6/2/99; Arianna's, who survived until 2/3/18, provided for foot stones for both their graves.
Compiled by Christopher D. Rucker, M.D., August 21, 1998