Edmund Ruffin Jr. journal, 1851-1862, 1866-1873.

Creator: Ruffin, Edmund, Jr., fl. 1823-1873.
Collection number: 639-z
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Abstract: Edmund Ruffin Jr. was a wheat, tobacco, and cotton planter of Prince George, Hanover, and Amelia counties, Va. Ruffin, the son of Edmund, Sr., and Susan (Travis) Ruffin, owned two James River plantations, Beechwood and Evelynton, in Prince George County, and Redmoor Plantation in Amelia County. After his father’s death in 1865, he inherited part of the latter’s estate, Marlbourne, in Hanover County. Ruffin had at least three children: George, Thomas, and Nancy (d. 1863). George and Thomas both served as privates in the Confederate Army. Ruffin himself served briefly at Camp Lookout between May 1861 and August 1862, when he was released for poor health. The journal documents activities at Beechwood Plantation, Prince George County, Va., between 1851 and 1862 (with occasional mention of Evelynton Plantation), and at Marlbourne Plantation, Hanover County, Va., between 1866 and 1873 (with occasional mention of Beechwood and Evelynton). Only a few entries, mostly retrospective, appear on Redmoor. The journal gives extensive detail on scientific farming methods used on Ruffin’s plantations and on their financial management. Limited information appears on slave health, births, and deaths before the war, and on the political actvities of African Americans in Hanover County during the postwar period. The journal also briefly describes the Ruffin family’s experiences during the Union occupation of Virginia.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: Several entries in the journal appearing before the Civil War provide information on slaves at Beechwood. Included are those for 24 November 1855, 8 December 1856, 6 March 1857, 1 July 1858, and 11 March 1861. The 1856 entry mentions the death of “Aunt Polly,” a woman who in 1836 had 51 descendants in Virginia and the Southwest.

Scattered entries in May and June 1862 concern mostly the escape of a large portion of the slave forces at Beechwood, Evelynton, and Marlbourne. Of note are an entry for 26 May 1862, mentioning slaves being sent to help build fortifications at Richmond, and entries for 9, 24, and 25 June, documenting departures of slaves. On 24 June, he reported that he had sold 29 slaves in Petersburg to avoid having them escape.

Ruffin frequently complained about the freedmen throughout the period 1866 to 1873, charging that they worked slowly, feigned illness, and took holidays without regard to his needs. He also bitterly resented their new political power. Of note are his references in October 1867 to the choosing of delegates to frame a new state constitution as the “nigger election,” and his comments on 5 July 1868 concerning the “infamous Yankee regime” and the election of state officers. Other entries of note pertaining to the freedmen are 6 July 1868; 8 July 1872; 2, 5, and 22 July 1873; and 15 November 1873.