Sunday, June 14, 2015

Old Soldiers' Home Confederate Veteran Profile -- Richard Elam

The Virginia Flaggers are pleased to announce the latest release in a series of profiles of Confederate Veterans with connections to the Old Soldiers' Home, on the grounds of Confederate Memorial Park in Richmond, VA.

For over nearly four years, the Virginia Flaggers have forwarded the colors, twice a week, on the sidewalk outside of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) after museum officials forced the removal of Confederate Battle Flags from the portico of the Confederate Memorial Chapel.

One cannot truly appreciate the history and significance of the Chapel, nor the degree of desecration committed when museum leadership, driven by their own misguided prejudice and ignorance, removed the flags, without knowing the (personal) stories of the men who built the Chapel, worshiped in it every Sunday, and gathered each time the bell tolled, to pay their respects to and honor their comrades, as one by one, the Veterans passed over to eternity.

For many of our Flaggers, this fight is about more than just defending our Heritage against yet another unwarranted and unprovoked attack. For those whose veins course with the blood of the men who actually had a connection to the Old Soldiers'Home, it is personal:

Richard J. Elam was born in 1848 in Chesterfield County, Virginia, and grew up on the family plantation in the Skinquarter section of that county. On May 24, 1861, at the tender age of 12 years old, he joined the Confederate Army along with his older cousin Joseph A. Elam. He was mustered into the 6th Virginia Infantry's Co. K (the "Alstadt Grays," "Alstadt" being German for "Old Town"). Richard's muster roll cards say he was 18 at the time, but, like many other recruits before and since the War Between the States, he likely lied about his age so he could join. It is worth noting that since the Elams were neighbors of the family of 6th VA Captain E.H. Flournoy, Richard's fellow soldiers probably knew about his age.

Young Richard would see a lot of action during this great conflict. He was there on edge of the Crater with the rest of Co. K, 6th VA on July 30,1864 when the Union Army attempted to break the Confederate line in Petersburg, Virginia. On October 28, 1864 he was captured by the Union Army at Petersburg. His Prisoner of War card reads, "Got lost in the woods and ran into our lines."

He was transported to City Point and, from there, to the infamous prison at Point Lookout, Maryland, where he remained until he was paroled March 28, 1865 at Aikens Landing, Virginia, in a rather rare late-war prisoner exchange.

Being just 12 years old at the beginning of the war and just 16 when it ended, Richard was never educated. He would never see the inside of the school building. He would never marry, and 1874-1881 records show that he was a bed keeper/manager of a boarding house at 612 Byrd Street in the former Confederate capital city of Richmond.

The discrepancies that followed Richard through the war seem to have continued into his later life. He was accepted into the Soldiers' Home of R.E. Lee Camp No. 1, Confederate Veterans, on January 12, 1903 at age 62. He stated at the time that he'd enlisted in the Confederate army at the age of 48”or, at least, that's what his Soldiers' Home papers say. It is more likely that, given his lack of education, he didn't understand the difference between his age and the year he was born (1848) when being interviewed.

Richard was dismissed from the home on August 14, 1903, possibly because they thought he was lying about his service. However, he was readmitted on August 8, 1905 at age 68. By that time, he was partially blind. He lived on the property for 18 years and died on May 8, 1924 at 8:30 p.m. He is buried in Hollywood Cemetery.

Over 150 years after a 12 year old boy went off to war to defend the Commonwealth, his cousin , TriPp Lewis, is determined that his sacrifice, courage and devotion to God and country will not be forgotten, as he forwards the Colors in his memory, and in protest of those who have desecrated the Confederate Memorial Chapel and the hallowed ground on which it rests, and dishonored our gallant Confederate Veterans.

RETURN the flags!
RESTORE the honor!

Grayson Jennings
Virginia Flaggers
P.O. Box 547
Sandston VA 23150

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