30 August 2008 by Published in: Confederate Cavalry 7 comments

Since I’ve profiled a Union cavalry officer who was an alumnus of Dickinson College, fairness requires that I similarly profile a Confederate Dickinsonian.

BealeRichard Lee Turberville Beale was born into a prominent Virginia family on May 22, 1819. Young Beale attended private schools in Westmoreland County, Northumberland Academy and Rappahannock Academy, Virginia. He enrolled in Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania with the class of 1838 and was elected to the Union Philosophical Society. He later left Dickinson and then completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Virginia in 1837. He was admitted to the bar in 1839 and opened a private a practice in his hometown of Hague.

Beale also entered politics. Active in the Democratic Party, he was elected to a serve in the Thirtieth United States Congress in 1847, was a member of the 1851 Virginia constitutional convention, and served as a Virginia state senator from 1858 to 1860. He was married to the former Lucy Brown, and had several children.

Soon after the outbreak of the Civil War, in May, 1861, he was commissioned a lieutenant of cavalry in Lee’s Light Horse, a provisional unit which was later organized into the 9th Varginia Cavalry, known as “Lee’s Legion.” The unit was named for its first colonel, William H.F. Lee, the second son of Robert E. Lee. He was soon promoted captain and then major, was put in command at Camp Lee, near Hague, on the lower Potomac, where his intelligence and excellent judgment were of much value. Beale had achieved the rank of major by October 1861.

In 1862, he was named lieutenant colonel of the 9th Virginia. When Lee was promoted to colonel in the fall of 1862, Beale was promoted to colonel of the 9th Virginia. In December, 1862, he attracted attention and much favorable comment by a bold expedition into Rappahannock county, in which the Federal garrison at Leeds was captured, without loss. He served in all the cavalry battles of the Army of Northern Virginia including Fredericksburg. On April 16, 1863, he won the praise of J. E. B. Stuart for his heroic service in meeting and repelling the threatened raid of Stoneman’s cavalry division, and during the renewed movement by Stoneman at the close of the month, he was for a week in almost constant fighting, his regiment everywhere behaving valorously and capturing many prisoners. At the Battle of Brandy Station, he led the 9th in a brilliant charge in which Gen. W. H. F. Lee was wounded and Col. Solomon Williams of the 2nd North Carolina Cavalry was killed.

Beale also played a significant role in Jeb Stuart’s ride during the Gettysburg Campaign. Late in life, when he wrote a history of the 9th Virginia Cavalry, he recalled with affection seeing his alma mater during J.E.B. Stuart’s brief occupation of Carlisle on July 1-2, 1863. His son George W. Beale served as an officer in the regiment.

He was wounded in a skirmish at Culpeper Court House on September 13, 1863 and spent three months on convalescent leave. He returned to duty in January 1864, assuming command of his brigade and was eventually named a brigadier general. In March, 1864, having been stationed on the Northern Neck, he made a forced march to intercept Col. Ulric Dahlgren and his Union raiders, and a detachment of his regiment under First Lieut. James Pollard, Company H, successfully ambushed the Federals. Pollard, aided by other detachments, captured about 175 men and killed Dahlgren. The papers found upon Dahlgren’s person, revealing a design to burn Richmond and kill President Davis and cabinet, were forwarded by Colonel Beale, through Fitz Lee, to the government. A correspondence with the Federal authorities followed, in which they disavowed all knowledge of such a design. He participated in command of his regiment in the campaign from the Rapidan to the James, was distinguished in the fighting at Stony Creek, and toward Reams’ Station, in July, capturing two Federal standards; and in August, upon the death of Gen. John R. Chambliss, Jr., was given command of Chambliss’s brigade. February 6, 1865, he was promoted to brigadier general, and in this rank he served during the remainder of the struggle. Official confirmation of his rank came in January, 1865.

Ironically, Beale was a reluctant soldier who chafed against the pettiness and administration of regular army life and who regularly threatened resignation. He offered once to command guerillas or even revert to the rank of private. His superiors always persuaded him to remain at his post. By the end of the war, he had become an outstanding commander of cavalry.

Following the war he went home to Hague, Virginia to practice law and involving himself in editing and local politics. He decided to run for Congress again and was elected as a Democrat to finish the term of fellow Virginia cavalryman, Beverly B. Douglas, who had died in office. He was reelected to a full term in the next Congress and served from 1879 to 1881. After leaving Congress again, he returned to his practice and the writing of a history of the Ninth Virginia, which was posthumously published by his son George.

Richard Lee Turberville Beale died in Westmoreland County on April 18, 1893 and was buried in the family plot at Hickory Hill. He was seventy-three years old.

Here’s to forgotten Confederate cavalry and Dickinson College alum Richard L. T. Beale.

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Comments

  1. Kent
    Sun 31st Aug 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Eric,
    I suppose that Bealeton, Virginia is named after this family. I know Bealeton baceause it’s home to the Flying Circus Airshow.

  2. Larry Freiheit
    Mon 01st Sep 2008 at 9:59 am

    Eric,

    I have R.L.T. Beale’s book about the history of the 9th Virginia and have been looking at “A Lieutenant of Cavalry in Lee’s Army” by George Beale. Can you comment on the latter book if you have it?

    Larry F.

  3. Mon 01st Sep 2008 at 8:08 pm

    Larry,

    It’s an excellent memoir, well worth having.

    George published his father’s history of the 9th VA after the general’s death.

    Eric

  4. Anne Marie Whittaker
    Thu 05th Feb 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Here! Here!

    Thank you for this posting concerning my ancestor.
    Interestingly enough, my father and other deceased family members are buried across from him – where I expect to be!

  5. Wed 29th Apr 2009 at 6:49 am

    I publish both “A Lieutenant of Cavalry” and “The History of the Ninth Virginia Cavalry” along with another thousand Civil War books and CD-ROMS.

  6. Barbara Ashton
    Tue 13th Oct 2009 at 9:05 pm

    Hello everyone,
    I live in Westmoreland Co., VA and I am closely related to Richard Lee Turberville Beale on my mother’s father’s side. I would love to get a complete family tree for as far back as I could go.

  7. Char & John Stanley
    Fri 29th May 2015 at 12:00 pm

    Hey, Eric, hope this finds you and Susan well! John found a mention of George W. Beale in ‘Last Chance for Victory’ by Scott Bowden and Bill Ward. There is a quote from one of his letters to his mother plus the info that he served in Col. Chambliss’ Brigade. Doing a search on his name (would love to get my hands on published copies of his letters) brought up this article. Can you tell me any sources for material on the Beale’s? My great-grandfather served with the 13th VA Cavalry as Chambliss’ orderly and the writings of these gentlemen are the only ones we’ve found from the men in the brigade. Thanks! Char

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