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Ceremony Honors Soldier Who Died At Ball's Bluff

Nancy Jennis Olds

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(January 2007) LOUDOUN COUNTY, VA. - A young soldier was recently honored on the 145th anniversary of his death. Thomas Clinton Lovett Hatcher, selected as the color sergeant to carry the first national flag for the 8th Virginia Infantry, the Blue Ridge Boys, was fatally shot at the Battle of Ball's Bluff on Oct. 21, 1861. He was just 21 years old.

A tall young man with bright red hair, Clinton Hatcher had discontinued his studies and joined the 8th Virginia shortly before his first taste of battle at Manassas. He was the only child of a Quaker farm family; however, he was a strong supporter of secession.

He seemed to take to soldiering according to his letters to Mary Anna Sibert of Mt. Solon, Va., a young lady he met while visiting friends in Washington.

His letters to Sibert became more passionate and familiar as the months passed despite the fact that he had known her briefly. In his last letter, dated Oct. 8, he wrote: "If I could only hold your hand and look into those eyes which have lit the darkest hours of our separation you could then no longer doubt with what feelings I regard you, you would then know how much I love."

Commander Kenneth M. Fleming and members and associates of Clinton Hatcher Camp 21, Sons of Confederate Veterans, honored Hatcher with a formal memorial service including full military honors at the Ketoctin Baptist Church Cemetery near Purcellville.

During the commemoration three ladies in period attire bowed in respect at the flag-covered headstone and placed a rose on Hatcher's grave as Mary Sibert had requested.

The Maryland Honor Guard displayed the colors under the command of Color Sgt. Roy Rooks. The 1st Virginia Cavalry led by Capt. Doug Nalls and the 35th Battalion Virginia Cavalry commanded by Col. K.C. Wilt remained in their saddles. Members of the 8th Virginia Infantry joined with the 58th Virginia Infantry and the 2nd Maryland Infantry to salute the fallen soldier.

Knibbs Battery, the 4th Maryland Light Artillery, commanded by Capt. James H. Cochrane Jr., provided a cannon salute. James A. Morgan II, who wrote A Little Short of Boats ɐǬɬǨǬ" The Fights at Ball's Bluff and Edwards Ferry, described the battle that took Hatcher's life.

Fleming spoke about Hatcher. He was physically impressive at 6 feet 7 inches tall. Before the Civil War he briefly studied in Washington at Columbian College, later to become George Washington University.


Hatcher and some friends visited the White House. He avoided meeting with President Abraham Lincoln during the public reception. However, as recorded in the Sunday Star, Lincoln noticed the tall young man in the room exclaiming, "Whenever I see a man taller than me I make it a point to shake hands with him." There is no record that they shook hands.

According to Fleming, Clinton Hatcher and his friends secretly raised the first national Confederate flag on the college's steeple tower where it remained for three days. Shortly afterward, Hatcher left college and joined the Confederate Army.

His letters to Mary Sibert reveal an intellectual young man who could be very passionate about his patriotic beliefs while simultaneously revealing his growing affection for his female friend.

Referring to his company's participation in the Battle of First Manassas, Hatcher described being unable to wait until he could bayonet a Yankee. "I never felt the whole day as if there were a possibility of a ball's striking me. I had a pre-sentiment that I would not be killed."

Noting Sibert's work as a volunteer nurse of the wounded at Mossy Creek Hospital near her home, Hatcher wrote: "I would not mind having a slight wound if I could only be taken to the Mossy Creek Hospital. I am sure I should never think of pain if I could have your kind and tender attentions. I envy those soldiers who will be near you and hear your sweet voice speak words of comfort."

Subsequent letters reveal more of his romantic side as he dreams about seeing her again and going on horseback rides, paddling a canoe and sailing on a lake with her.

Just two months before his death, Hatcher wrote to Mary Sibert: "An ambrotypist came to Leesburg [Va.] last week and I was able to get a picture to leave with Ma if I am killed. I have been wishing for some time to get a good one for her and although this is not very good it will serve to recall to her mind how I looked as a soldier."

Mary Sibert never saw him again. On Dec. 24, 1861, she received a letter from Clinton Hatcher's cousin, Thaddeus A. Hatcher, regarding Clinton Hatcher's last moments:

"The fight was closing and Clinton going on the river bank, when within thirty yards of the bluffs the enemy discharged one more and the last volley when Clinton fell with a ball shot through the heart.

"His last words were ɐǬɬǨǬɒļ֒Come on Boys, let's give them one more charge.' He fought fearlessly and well, but poor fellow, I fear that he was too rash. I sometimes think if he had have had less courage he would not have been killed. He thought it his duty to defend to the uttermost his native country and in so doing sacrificed his life."

Becky Fleming, Kenneth Fleming's wife and president of the Lee Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, found mention of Sibert in the 1870 Augusta County (Va.) census. She was 28. She and her 29-year-old husband David lived with her parents and siblings.

Becky Fleming also found for sale the envelope that Thaddeus Hatcher sent to Mary Sibert about Clinton Hatcher's death. The apparent stain on it raises speculation that Clinton Hatcher carried the envelope when he was killed and Thaddeus Hatcher used whatever materials were on hand since everything was in short supply. Fleming said this envelope is the only known Confederate patriotic envelope mailed from Hamilton, Va., during the Civil War.

For additional information contact the Flemings at CWRCOLLECTER@aol.com. Clinton Hatcher's letters are on line at The Valley of the Shadow - The War Years: Letters of the Evans-Sibert Family, 1861-1865, at http://valley.vcdh.virginia.edu/cwletters.html

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