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The oldest officer in Marshall’s army and one of General Lee’s oldest colonels at the start of the war, Alfred Cleon Moore, the first to dwell in the Historic Locust Hill Manor, was a prominent Wythe County attorney and gentleman farmer, while his wife was a descendant of several wealthy Wythe County pioneer families.
Born in Patrick County, Virginia in 1805 to William Moore and Jane Dalton Hanby, and grandson of Rodeham and Elizabeth Gallahue Moore, Alfred was orphaned at the age of fourteen and raised by his paternal uncle, Gallahue Moore, who lived just across the state line in Surry County, North Carolina. He attended Madison Academy and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, studying law under the respected North Carolina attorney, Powell Hughes. Alfred was popular with his peers and earned his law license from the North Carolina Supreme Court in 1829. During the 1828-1830 period, at the young age of 23, he served three consecutive terms in the North Carolina State Legislature, which typically met for the last three months of each year. In early 1831 he established permanent residence in Wythe County, Virginia, where he had married and started a family in 1830.
In March, 1830 Alfred married Ann Frances “Nancy” Kent, daughter of pioneer landowner Joseph Kent of Wythe County, Virginia, and co-heir of the Kent lands, upon which Alfred and Nancy later built their “Locust Hill” home. Built in 1850 in the rolling hills of the New River Valley, it was one of Wythe County’s larger farms. Kent’s holdings included several large tracts of land. The main Kent homestead, “Kentlands,” was located on Reed Creek and included some of the finest farmland in the county.
Their first child was born in December, 1830, while the North Carolina legislature was in session, so in early 1831 Alfred gave up his legislative seat in North Carolina and established permanent residence in Wythe County. Sadly, his wife Nancy died in 1852 after bearing eight children, but her unmarried sister, “Eliza” Kent, helped Alfred raise the surviving six children in the Locust Hill farmhouse which had been erected on the old Kent farm. Eliza and Nancy had inherited the lands from their late father, Joseph Kent. Census data in 1860 shows Eliza living there with Alfred and the children in the tall but narrow red brick house, where she most likely remained until her death in 1863.
Alfred was very active in the local militia, and in 1839 was appointed Colonel of the 35th Virginia Militia Infantry, 19th Brigade, 5th Division. In 1851 he was promoted to Brigadier General of the 25th Brigade, 5th Division. During those years, Alfred earned the respect and admiration of his men, and when the Civil War began in 1861, he was commissioned Colonel in the Confederate Army. Upon his return to Wythe County in 1863, he became a Captain in the home guard and may have been involved in the defensive actions at Wytheville, Saltville, and other places. His tombstone reads "Gen. Alfred C. Moore", in honor of his militia rank before the war.
On May 25, 1861, Governor Letcher offered Moore a colonel’s commission and nominated him to command the 29th Virginia Infantry, a volunteer regiment requiring nearly 1,000 men. Moore postponed formally accepting the commission until General Humphrey Marshall came to Wytheville in November, 1861, although he was actively recruiting and training companies in the Summer of 1861.
The Battle of Middle Creek took place on January 10, 1862. Col. Moore and his 29th Virginia Infantry were positioned along a ridge next to Col. Williams' 5th Kentucky Infantry. The Confederates were poorly supplied and suffered from exposure and the lack of ammunition. Despite these handicaps, they held their ground against Colonel Garfield’s better-equipped Union troops. In his report, Col. Moore stated that his regiment was in the "forefront" of the battle and lost "five killed, twelve wounded." After the battle, the Confederates returned to their base in Southwestern Virginia. Several months later, Moore and his regiment were transferred to Richmond, Virginia and attached to General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.
On March 30th, 1863, Moore resigned from the Confederate Army, citing his “advanced age” and “failing health.” However, he survived the war and lived another twenty-seven years, all of which were spent in the Wytheville area. His resignation, dated March 30, 1863, was sent from his headquarters in Southhampton County in Eastern Virginia.
His decision to resign was probably influenced by the following factors: first, the regiment’s redeployment to Richmond, so far from home; second, the death of his oldest son, Algernon due to “camp disease” in early 1862; third, the 1863 illness and subsequent death of his sister-in-law Eliza Kent. During Alfred’s absence, Eliza and Alfred’s youngest son, Jacob Melvin, operated his Locust Hill farm.
Despite some initial misunderstandings with General Marshall, Moore was highly regarded by his fellow officers, who several times recommended that he be promoted to brigadier general. On September 16th, 1862, they sent a letter to President Davis recommending his advancement. Their sector was in need of another general, they said, and Col. Moore had the strongest claim to the position, being the senior colonel. They mentioned his gallant conduct at Middle Creek and praised him in other ways.
One indication of Moore’s Virginia and southern patriotism is the fact that he and all four of his sons saw action in the Confederate Army. His oldest son, Algernon Sidney Moore, enlisted with the Wythe Grays 4th Virginia Infantry, and then transferred to serve as Adjutant of his father’s 29th Virginia Infantry until April, 1862, when he died of camp disease. Another son, William Orville Moore, began the war as a lieutenant in the 45th Virginia, but also transferred into the 29th Virginia. Algernon and William enlisted early, and were probably motivated by John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry. “Wythe Grays” were noted for this, and at the start of the war they were numbered among the Confederacy’s best-trained infantry.
Following his father’s resignation in March, 1863, William left the 29th Infantry to become Captain of Company G of the 22nd Virginia Cavalry. The unit was subsequently assigned to McCausland’s brigade of Gen. Jubal Early’s Army of The Shenandoah Valley. William participated in almost all of the 22nd Cavalry’s campaigns from August 1863 until April 1865. He saw action in thirty-seven battles, and during the last year of the war served as an acting colonel of the 22nd Virginia Cavalry.
A third son, Dr. Robert Emmett Moore, began the war as Assistant Surgeon of the 29th Virginia and finished the war as Post Surgeon of the Wytheville Camp. When Alfred returned to Locust Hill in 1863, his fourth son, Robert’s twin, Jacob Melvin Moore, went off to join his brother William as a Lieutenant in the 22nd Cavalry. They remained with Lee’s Army until its surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9th, 1865. Following that event, both men rode back to Wythe County, managing to keep their Company G battle flag out of Union hands. Years later, many veterans of the company would be buried with the flag draped across their coffins. William and Robert are both buried in East End Cemetery in Wytheville, while Jacob is buried in Denver, Colorado, where he migrated with his family in the 1870’s.
At the start of the war, according to the 1860 U. S. Census, Moore’s real estate property was valued at $15,000 and his personal estate property at $8,000. His fifteen slaves, ranging in age from five to sixty, along with three slave houses, made up the bulk of his personal estate. The same census shows that Eliza Kent, Alfred’s spinster sister-in-law, owned thirty-five slaves. This made her an even larger property owner than Alfred. It is probable that Alfred and Eliza employed their slaves jointly as field hands to work the 2,347-acre farm.
As indicated by a date inscribed at the top of one of the chimneys, A.C Moore probably built the present house in 1850. Almost certainly there was not an architect employed, and there is no known information about a building contractor. A local builder probably supervised the slave labor used to build the Moore house.
The bricks came from the red-clay found near the house, and the lumber from the surrounding woodland. The pattern of brick is an American bond of four courses of stretchers between courses of headers. As far as can be told, only hardwoods were used in the house. The interior flooring is oak, while the door frames, window frames, and shouldered lintels are of yellow locust .
SELLING LOCUST HILL
In 1868, with his five surviving children all grown and married, he remarried to a widow, Susan E. Nuckolls-Wellington, and they lived in town until he died in 1890. His son, William Orville, worked and occupied the Locust Hill farm from 1865 until 1890. Moore may have never technically owned the farm, since Nancy and Eliza had inherited it. Following Eliza’s death in 1863, the estate was ultimately divided among Alfred and Nancy’s five surviving children.
When the war ended, like so many other Virginians, Colonel Moore and his family began a new war, a war to survive the economic and political evils the war had brought in its train. Like many other Confederate families, they lost much of their property during the conflict, and they were ultimately forced to sell their farm and their lovely Locust Hill residence in order to survive.
When he died in 1890, Moore had lived 85 years, and like most people, had been less a shaper of events than one who was shaped by them. Still, he repeatedly answered his community’s call for leadership and served in many distinguished capacities during his long life. He was an early member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Wytheville, and much of his family was baptized, married, and memorialized there as late as the 1950’s. He and his first wife, Ann Frances “Nancy” Kent, are buried side by side in the McGavock-Kent Cemetery near Ft. Chiswell, Virginia, next to their children Algernon and Ann “Izy” Elizabeth .