A Biographical Sketch of William Ambrose Rucker

   William Ambrose Rucker was born 8/20/40 in Amherst County, Virginia, the third of four children of William Ballenger Rucker and Mary Ann Dawson Rucker. In 1850 he was living at home with his parents, older siblings Daniel and Susan, and younger brother, Addison. [l] By the time of the next census, in 1860, Daniel and Susan had spouses, and only William and Addison were living in their parents' home.[2]
Unlike some of her southern neighbor states, Virginia's sentiments were divided on the subject of secession, which ultimately led to her partition and the creation of West Virginia. Amherst County residents, however, were practically uniform in their opposition to what were seen as threats to their way of life. When Virginia seceded 5/23/61, Willliam joined many others and enlisted that same day in a company of cavalry familiarly known as the Amherst Mounted Rangers. He enlisted as a private, for one year, sharing the expectation that the war would be brief.[3] He was mustered in at Lynchburg 5/29/61, and the horse which he took to war was valued at $175, the remainder of his equipment, at $25.[4] His company was attached to the 30th Virginia Regiment of cavalry, known as "Radford's Regiment" after its colonel, Richard Radford. The unit would subsequently be reorganized and transferred into the service of the Confederate States of America, the Amherst troop designated as Company E of the 2nd Virginia Cavalry.[5] 
   After a period of drilling, William and his compatriots left Lynchburg 6/1/61 for picket duty at Fairfax [6] and soon found themselves supporting infantry attached to Beauregard's Army of the Potomac at the first battle of Manassas.[7] (the unit may also have had a role in artillery support [8]). William would later claim that he had the good fortune to be the courier who delivered the news of the victory to President Jefferson Davis, who was present on the battlefield.[9] By 9/1/61 William was in the hospital,[10] possibly with typhoid fever. His father nursed him there, and after returning to Amherst, died 12/28/62 of the same disease. [11] William recovered, reenlisted toward the end of his one year hitch, and began a thirty-six day furlough which probably was offered as an inducement to reenlistment; a $50 bonus may also have encouraged him to "re-up" rather than be conscripted under the first such law passed by the Confederate Congress. [12]
     The details of William's subsequent military service appear in a summary he narrated sixty years after the fact[13] and thus may be abbreviated or embellished by time. The Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1862 saw the 2nd Virginia in some desperate fighting and exhausting marches. Cedarville, Martinsburg, Harpers Ferry, Winchester, Strasburg, New Market, Harrisonburg, Cross Keys and Port Republic were the places he remembered, but one gets the sense that his strongest memories were of the famous people he encountered. "Stonewall" Jackson and the storied spy, Belle Boyd, figure prominently. [14] At some point during the Valley campaign William was cited for bravery as a scout,[15] but by the end of the summer he apparently had had enough of war. George W. Dennison enlisted 8/1/62 as his substitute, for the war's duration, but apparently had other plans and promptly deserted eight days later. [16] The second battle of Manassas occurred over August 29 and 30, so it is unlikely that William fought there, as stated by his daughter, Sudie Wood [17] He may have ended this campaign as an orderly sergeant [18] although this is not substantiated in the muster rolls of Company E. 
    For the next year and a half, William was exempt from the draft and was able to turn to domestic matters. [19] He returned to the Amherst homestead, and married Annie Chappelear of Fauquier County 11/3/62, [20] their meeting probably a happy interlude in the previous summer's campaign. His mother died 3/11/63. [21] William was working his acreage with slaves, and Lincoln's signature on the Emancipation Proclamation 1/1/63 must have made it even more difficult to keep them on the plantation. [22] He was required to furnish one slave to the Commonwealth 9/11/63 for work on the public defenses, so must have had some at least through that date. [23] His first child, William Ballenger, was born 11/3/63. [24]  The 4th session of the first Confederate Congress passed a bill to remove the exemption for all those who had previously provided a substitute, and President Davis signed it 1/5/64. [25] William was drafted, and was a conscript at Fort Lee 2/12/64. [26] He obtained a thirty day furlough 3/3/64 [27] and went back to Amherst where he was on a grand jury in April. [28] Thinking about his unwilling return to the military, William may have seen a glimmer of hope: an amendment to the aforementioned bill allowed an exemption to continue if the farmer, previously excused by having furnished a substitute, would give an additional ten percent of his pork production to the Army. [29] However, William's substitute had deserted, and the amendment specified that he must be presently enrolled, been discharged, or died in service. [30]
William meant to avoid further service, and turned to the "fifteen Negro clause" passed 2/17/64, [31] also known as the "agriculturist exemption". Meant to keep the Confederacy's food supply intact, this amendment exempted overseers of at least fifteen slaves. It was repealed by the 2nd Congress [32] but was the inspiration for a letter William wrote to the Secretary of War 9/20/64 from Pedlar Mills, in which he claimed the exemption and sought clarification of its application to the loss of his wheat crop at the hands of the enemy. [33] Union forces had marched on Amherst prior to the battle of Lynchburg in June, 1864, and likely destroyed his crop as it ripened in the fields. [34] William was subsequently detailed as an "agriculturist", [35] apparently since the Secretary of War had always reserved his power to decide each exemption request on a case-by-case basis.
   William moved his family from Amherst several years after the end of the war for unknown reasons. Perhaps the land was no longer productive, or the loss of his slaves had made it unprofitable. By 1868 he was in Fauquier County, his wife's home. [36] In January, 1869, her parents sold 317 acres near Piedmont Station, called "Ridgeville", to her younger brother, George Warren Chappelear, with the understanding that the oustanding debt of $3065 on the land was to be paid by William Ambrose. [37] Ridgeville was to be for the "use of Annie and her children," the profits therefrom to be "free from the debts and liabilities of her said husband," [38] a stipulation which suggests the state of business affairs back in Amherst before the family moved to Fauquier.
   Ten years later, William was a solid citizen involved in local politics and a Masonic Lodge, and was still farming Chappelear land. [39] Annie's father released them from debt, but excluded them from any share in the final division of his estate, since he had already given them over three thousand dollars more than any of his other children. [40] There were now nine children at Ridgeville, and they must have been encouraged in athletic pursuits, including baseball and riding. [41] The location of the farm can be found on an 1876 map of Fauquier County on the wall of the courthouse; it was on the east side of Gap Run, bounded by the present Routes 712, 710 and 623.
   The family was still on the farm in 1900, [42] but William moved them into Warrenton at some point. He was employed by his son-in-law as a representative of his seed business, T.W. Wood & Sons. [43] He remained active in the Baptist church, and was a member of the Joe Kendall Camp of Confederate Veterans. [44] Annie died 5/16/22 at her daughter's home in Richmond. [45] William survived until November 7, dying in Richmond at his son's house after a five week illness. [46] His will, dated 10/28/16 and on file at the courthouse, is hand-written on his business stationary. He and Annie are buried in Ivy Hill Cemetery, on Route 50 in Upperville, an iron Southern Cross on his grave. Son Bayard (7/28/77 to 8/5/51), daughter-in-law Minnie Varner (9/17/79 to 12/9/60), and grand-daughter Margaret Rucker Fadely [(3/17/11 to 4/16/95) are in the same plot. [47]

Compiled by Christopher D. Rucker, M.D., August 15, 1998
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