Howell, Henry

Death of Henry Howell  "Henry One-Eye"

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    Henry "One-Eye" Howell

    Henry “One-Eye” Howell His name was Henry Howell, but those who knew him called him “One-Eye.” Henry went about life without the use of one of his eyes. How he lost his eye is not known. Accidents do happen. He could have lost an eye in childhood play or along life’s way. It could have been a work-related accident or possibly even lost it in service to his country during the Civil War. He may well have worn a patch over this missing or disabled eye. As a result he came to be known as Henry “One-Eye” Howell.

    Henry Howell was a resident of Charlotte County, Virginia. Henry was born sometime around the year 1831. His mother’s name was Judy Howell. She was a Black woman who was born free. Census records show Judy born in 1800; however, she was recorded as six years younger, age forty-four, when she was registered in the Book of Registers of Free Negroes in 1851. All that is known about Henry’s father is that he was a native-born Virginian. Henry lived in the county’s eastern Walton District. A wheelwright by trade, he was a skilled craftsmen. He worked in Smithville [Charlotte Court House], as an employee of James Morrison, in his wheelwright shop. Wheelwrights constructed and repaired carriage, cart, and wagon wheels. Wheelwrights were known for their ingenuity and skill. Wagon wheels needed to be formed and shaped into perfect circles. Skilled in both carpentry and blacksmithing, Henry was a true craftsman.

    Known and respected by many, folks in the community liked to refer to him as “old issue.” “Old issue” was a term used to describe black Americans who were free before the Civil War. Henry Howell was loyal to the Confederacy. Yes, loyal to the Confederacy–but more significantly loyal to the people whom he knew. For him, his military service was very personal. The rebel army was seeking the kind of help that Henry could give, and he offered it. Henry Howell served in the Confederate army.

    Howell was no ordinary soldier; he was a skilled wheelwright, a company cook, and quite possibly a body servant. Wheelwrights were needed to maintain and repair the army’s many utility wagons and wheeled artillery pieces. It is said that an army marches on its stomach. Soldiers have to eat! As a cook, he needed to forage for foods, come up with creative meals and then deliver them to the soldiers in the field. Field-grade officers were usually accompanied by personal assistants. In some instances Henry may have taken on special duties and offered personal assistance to his commander. Wheelwrights, cooks, and personal assistants in the rebel army typically wore the standard Confederate grey.

    Howell served under the command of Colonel Eppa Hunton. Never far from the field of battle, Henry came to see and know war. He was assigned to the Eight Virginia Regiment in the Headquarters Company. Confederate infantry regiments generally averaged approximately 1,000 men. The Eight’s many battles included First and Second Bull Run (Manassas Junction, July 21, 1861 & August 29-30, 1863); Balls Bluff (Leesburg), in Northern Virginia on October 21, 1861; Sharpsburg (Antietam) on September 17, 1862) and Gettysburg on July 1-3, 1863. This acclaimed regiment came to be known as “The Bloody Eighth.”

    After Gettysburg Col. Hunton was promoted to Brigadier General and became the commander of Virginia’s First Brigade. Brigades generally consisted of four to six regiments. However, it could have as few as two and later in the war, when consolidation of Confederate regiments became common, some brigades contained remnants of as many as fifteen regiments. General Hunton’s First Brigade went on to take on the federals in the battles of the Wilderness ( May 5-7, 1864), Cold Harbor (June 3, 1864), White Oak Road (March 31, 1865), Five Forks (April 1-2, 1865) and Saylor’s Creek (April 6, 1865).

    After the war, Henry “One-Eye” Howell returned home to Charlotte and resumed working as a wheelwright though now he worked for Finny J. Berry in his wagon shop. He married a woman named Angeline. The 1880 Federal Census shows Henry to have been forty-nine years old, while Angeline was thirty-five. At that time, the two were the parents of : Alice, age ten; James, eight and Lillie, two. Howell was a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. At the time the A.M.E. church was located in the eastern part of town (Smithville), behind Finny J. Berry’s Shop.

    Henry Howell died on Saturday, January 9, 1897. He was about sixty-six years old. A memorial service was held by his fellow Civil War veterans. Henry’s funeral service was held under the direction of the Organization of Confederate Veterans and the Sons of Veterans. Some of those in attendance were: Col. Henry A. Carrington the former Charlotte County Clerk; Capt. William H. Smith, town councilmen and owner of Smithville’s Eagle Hotel; Col. John B. Faris, the Mayor, a Post Master and bar-room owner. Howell’s pallbearers were: Capt. William H. Smith; Monroe Wilson Dickerson, owner of the Stockdale Mill residence in Phenix; John T. Lowery, James C. Thompson, R. W. Jones; and W.B. Williams. Henry Howell contributed to the Confederate war effort. He gave support in any way he could, as a cook, a wheelwright, and possibly as a personal assistant. He served under Gen. Eppa Hunton and with the men of Virginia’s Eight Regiment and the First Brigade. The men of these and other units recognized Henry’s military service, and in return, gave him the honor and respect they believed he was owed.