A short drive down the peninsula brought us across the Chickahominy river and down the James to Shirley, just a few miles upstream from Harrison’s Landing.
Shirley Plantation, still in the Carter family, continues as a working farm as well as a tourist destination. The house described by Sanford, pictured above, offers tours of the first floor while family members dwell on the levels above. The grounds still contain several outbuildings open to the public, including the kitchens, a tool shed, the smokehouse and a dovecote. It is a beautiful place, and hopefully my pictures do it justice.

Tour guides are very knowledgeable about the history of the family and the property. When I mentioned the material that I had found to our tour guide, he knew exactly the timeframe that I was talking about. The family still owns the safe passage written by General McClellan following Sanford’s visit, and it is on display on the first floor of the house. He also informed me that the Carter family received a similar pass from General Butler and his Army of the James in 1864. Interesting, considering Butler’s reputation for civil dealings with civilians in areas that his forces occupied.

The guide, Francis Carpenter, informed me that he had copious notes on the time period at home, as well as access to Hill Carter’s diary if necessary. He said the young Confederate officer was most likely one of two family members serving in the army at that time. He couldn’t remember which of them would have been in the area at that time, but took my contact information and promised to contact me as soon as he found the material.

So the mystery remains for at least a few more days. The trip wasn’t wasted, however, for it was a beautiful day for a drive. A bald eagle was even kind of enough to stop by for a brief visit as we were touring the grounds. Hopefully I’ll have another post solving the mystery here soon.

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