Churchill Jones Crittenden

Churchill Jones Crittenden

Texas, USA
Death 5 Oct 1864 (aged 24)
Page County, Virginia, USA
Burial Richmond, Richmond City, Virginia, USA
Memorial ID 48022078 · View Source
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A son of Alexander Parker Crittenden, grandson of Judge Thomas Turpin Crittenden (1788-1832) and nephew of Gen. Thomas Turpin Crittenden. Grand nephew of John Jordan Crittenden, of Crittenden Compromise fame. Churchill's mother, Clara Churchill Jones (1820-1881), was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the daughter of Rev. Alexander (1796-1874) and Ann Northey Churchill Jones.

In 1851, the Crittenden family moved from Texas to California. From 1858 to 1860, Churchill attended Hobart College in Madison, Indiana. When the Civil War began, Churchill contacted his father in San Francisco to ask for permission to enlist in the Confederate Army. By June 1862, he was serving as a volunteer aide-de-camp on the staff of Gen. John J. Archer. On August 4, 1862, he enlisted in Co. C, 1st Maryland Cavalry, CSA.

In October, 1864, he and Pvt. James J. Hartigan were engaged in foraging in Page County, Virginia when the two encountered a small force of Union cavalry. A running fight soon after ensued, with the Union troopers in pursuit. A postwar account states that Churchill emptied every load in his pistol and wounded "a Yankee lieutenant very severely" before being captured. Crittenden was also wounded in the fray.

Taken before Col. William H. Powell, Crittenden and Hartigan were given a trial and ordered executed in retaliation for some of Powell's men being bushwhacked (Powell had issued orders declaring that for every Union soldier shot by bushwhackers, he would hang or shoot two Confederate soldiers held by him as prisoners). A description of the execution was given in a family newsletter:

"At noon Crittenden and Hartigan were set before a firing party of twenty-five and told to run for their lives. Hartigan ran and fell, pierced by many bullets. Crittenden stood with folded arms, facing his executioners. Again the order to fire was given, but not a trigger was pulled. The Union officer in command then addressed his men saying he would repeat the order once more; they were soldiers and must obey, and should any man fail to respect the command, he should suffer the penalty of death himself for disobedience." During the harangue, Crittenden seated himself on a rock, calmly looking at the squad and awaiting his end. Then he rose. 'Ready! Aim! Fire!' rang out the third command. A line of leveled rifles greeted him as he rose and faced them. Down dropped twenty-four silent rifles, their owners unwilling to harm the quiet man before them. One alone of the twenty-five pressed a trigger. A single flash, a little smoke, a sharp report, and Churchill Crittenden's life blood flowed for the cause he loved."

The execution took place on Forge Hill, just outside Luray, Virginia.

"They were buried [initially in Page County] by the last farmer who had given them supplies, and he notified the command. When the graves were opened by the men of Co. C, and circumstances of the manner of their deaths verified, 'vows were uttered over the dead bodies of their comrades to avenge their deaths - and they were avenged, though Powell escaped.'"

According to a family historian, Lt. Col. Lawrence Kip (serving then as a captain on the staff of Gen. Phil Sheridan) heard of the "tragic death of his boyhood friend, visited the spot and caused notice to be telegraphed Churchill's father. Relatives secured the body and sent it to Richmond, where it now lies in Shockoe Hill Cemetery." Cemetery records list the plot owner as "John G. Williams for Frances Johnson." Oddly, he's buried perpendicular to the way the remains are normally interred there.

See this link, from the University Libraries, University of Washington, for letters relating to Churchill Crittenden.

Bio by Robert H. Moore, II (aka "Cenantua")


Plan a visit to Shockoe Hill Cemetery?



  • Created by: Cenantua
  • Added: 12 Feb 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 48022078
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Churchill Jones Crittenden (17 May 1840–5 Oct 1864), Find A Grave Memorial no. 48022078, citing Shockoe Hill Cemetery, Richmond, Richmond City, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Cenantua (contributor 46953050) .