Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Virginia’s Boy Major

Joseph Latimer
Joseph W. Latimer was born in Brentville in Prince William County, Virginia, in 1843. In 1859, he enrolled in Virginia Military Institute at the age of 16. He studied artillery tactics under Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

When the Civil War broke out Latimer joined the Confederate army first as a drillmaster and later as a first lieutenant. He saw action in the Shenandoah Valley Campaigns.

He fought under the command of Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain and Harpers Ferry.

He was promoted to lead a battalion in 1862 and then to the rank of major in 1863.

He distinguished himself, gaining the reputation as being courageous and gallant under fire. His leadership abilities were also commended.

His commanders began to refer to him as the Young Napoleon, but his peers dubbed him Boy Major because of his youth and his small, slight statue.

During the Battle of Gettysburg, he was wounded when an exploding shell tore up his left arm. His horse was killed and fell on top of him, where he continued to shout orders to his men.

Later his arm was amputated. He then was transported to Harrisburg, Virginia, to the home of Edward T. Warren. This house today is known as the Warren-Sipe House.

Warren House as it appeared
during the Civil War.
Warren, a prominent lawyer, served as a Confederate officer in the 10th Virginia. He died in the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864.

The Boy Major was bought to his house, which served as a Confederate hospital during the Civil War. Soon after arriving at the Warren house, gangrene set in, and Joseph Latimer died in early August of 1863. He was just 19 years old.

House today.
The Warren-Sipe House today is the Virginia Quilt Museum. It contains over 150 historic quilts and one ghost.

Before it was the quilt museum, it was the Harrisburg-Rockingham County Historical Society. During this time, two members reported seeing the apparition of a short man wearing a Confederate uniform.

One saw this ghost standing at the top of the stairs on the second floor. She described him as “peering down” at her.

Another witness stated his ghost appeared frail, very young and wearing a decorated uniform. She watched as he descended the stairs.

Others members during this time, often reported the feeling of being watched.

Virginia Quilt Museum
Joan Knight, a curator at the quilt museum, states this ghostly soldier appeared for the first time in June of 2007, after the quilts were moved in.

She was showing a group around the building, along with another museum curator. When Zenaida Hall, from the local Tourist Office, crossed the space to join the group at the attic door, she stopped abruptly. She asked, “What was that?”

She then joined the group visibly shaken. She stated that a small figure had crossed her path. Her description matched former witness accounts. She had seen a young Confederate soldier.

She showed the group that the hair on her arm was still standing on end.

Since the Boy Major died in the house and all the witness descriptions match his appearance, it is believed he is the soldier that haunts the Warren-Sipe House.

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