A Biographical Sketch of William Richard Rucker
William Richard Rucker was born in January of 1838 or 1840 in Amherst County, Virginia, the sixth of seven children of Alexander Marr and Mary Toler. The children all appear on the 1850 census: Margaret (21); Ann (20); Godfrey (18); Sarah (14); Isaac (13); Richard (11); and Ellen (9). The family history does not list Ellen as a daughter, but she was on an equal footing with the other children judging from her appearance with them during the sale of Alexander Marr's estate. By the next census, a widowed Alexander Marr had remarried to Elizabeth J. Camden, and Ellen M. was still at home, but William Richard was not.
William was a 23 year-old farmer when he enrolled at Lynchburg 6/12/61 for one year as a private in "The Amherst Mounted Rangers". His brother Godfrey enlisted the same day. This company of cavalry joined the 30th Regiment, Virginia Volunteers, and rode off to war, seeing its first large engagement at Manassas; subsequent service is well documented in the regimental history. William fell ill to one of the many maladies inherent to camp life, and on 2/4/62 began a 15 day "sick furlough". He was nearing the end of his enlistment in April of 1862 when the unit reorganized as Company E, 2nd Virginia Cavalry. At this time, when the Confederacy began a draft and bound all men then in service to an additional term of duty, William was conscripted for another two years.
William may have received the first of two wounds 6/9/63 at Brandy Station (Beverly Ford), although no mention of it appears in the company's muster rolls. He was subsequently detailed to the Brigade Commisary, in the fall and winter of 1863, through at least 4/1/64, a position which would not be inappropriate for one of the convalescent " walking wounded".
On 13/1/64 William reenlisted at Orange Courthouse for the war's duration, and was back on active duty 5/24/64 at Fort Kennon, one of 10 of the best mounted men of his company in a force ordered to capture its federal garrison. It was defended by three regiments of Black infantry, an artillery battery, and two gunboats on the James River. The Confederates carried carbines, pistols, and sabers, the latter because they were ordered to take no prisoners. The fort was protected by abatis of sharpened sticks and a water-filled moat, and after three dismounted charges, only a few Southerners reached the parapet, where they were repulsed by musket fire directed through portholes. William and his comrades had no use for sabers that day. He was wounded at some point in the action, likely having a finger shot off, considered a "slight wound" back home, but no doubt painful and debilitating.
The nine-fingered cavalryman was likely given a furlough to recuperate at home, for he was arrested 6/13/64 at Amherst Courthouse by troops of Union Brigadier General William Averell (2nd U.S. Cavalry), 200 of whom had ridden from Lexington to Liberty (Bedford) via Amherst, prior to the battle of Lynchburg. He was described as a 5 foot, 8 inch fair complected farmer with dark hair and eyes when he arrived at Atheneum prison in Wheeling, West Virginia. He was sentenced to Camp Chase, Ohio 7/2/64, and was transferred to City Point, Virginia 3/2/65 for parole and exchange. Only eight days later, the 2nd Virginia disbanded at Lynchburg, after cutting its way out of Appomattox after R.E. Lee's surrender.
William's postwar years were marked by health problems. He was not listed on the 1870 census in Amherst, but 10 years later was residing with his sister Margaret Rucker Smith and her husband Joseph, her daughters Annie and Margaret Davis from her first marriage, and Ellen Rucker (35). William was still living at his now-widowed sister's house in 1900, with Ellen M. Rucker (born January 1844; either her age was recorded incorrectly in the 1850 census, or she was shaving five years) and Annie Davis. William's age was 60, but his birthdate was listed as January 1838. He apparently had developed an alcohol problem, which is likely why he never married, and he must have become insupportable at home, for on 9/19/01 he was certified insane and committed to Western State Hospital for alcohol abuse, tobacco use and delusions of grandeur. The commitment papers mention a "neurotic sister", likely Ellen M., and possibly explain why the decorous family historian failed to mention her. Whether from family guilt or a desperate promise of sobriety, William seems to have escaped institutionalization; no record of his admission to Western State Hospital can be found.
In 1910, William was still at his faithful and long-suffering sister's home. His pension applications of 5/2/11 and 7/1/12 testify to his total disability from age, shortness of breath, rheumatism and mental impairment. On 8/3/12 he was awarded a $36 pension. William died before the 1920 census. His brother Isaac purchased the family Bible from their father's estate, and perhaps it would list the exact date, since Isaac did not die until 1921. Two small markers without dates, "William Rucker" and "Ellen Rucker", lie side-by-side in Isaac's plot at El Bethel Church in Amherst County. Their modern appearance suggests that they were placed well after the deaths of these two black sheep of the family.