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The Parkes Project - part 4

This post is part of a series. To read parts 1 - 3, go here.

I was still trying to wrap my head around the fact that the family whose pictures I found in an antique shop were related to the Van Rensselaers when I found another prominent family in the Parkes family tree. Rev. Cortland Van Rensselaer's daughter, Elizabeth Wadsworth Van Rensselaer married Edward Burd Grubb jr. (E. Burd Grubb jr. married Elizabeth Van Rensselaer. Their daughter, Euphemia Grubb married Charles Thompson Day Halsey. Charles and Euphemia Halsey were the grandparents of Cortland Van Rensselaer Halsey who married Jessie Imogene Parkes.)

Grubb enlisted in the Civil War as a 1st Sergeant at the age of 19. He was wounded in action and by the end of the war obtained the rank of Brigadier General.

General Edward Burd Grubb Jr., picture accessed at

General E. Burd Grubb Jr. fought valiantly in the Civil War. During the peninsula campaign Grubb dashed not once, but twice on horseback while being shot at to get orders to relay to the men. At Bull Run he saved General Taylor, who was mortally wounded, from falling into enemy hands. At Chancellorsville Grubb had his horse shot from under him. At Fredericksburg, he lost another horse, which was shot from beneath him, so he advanced on foot, reportedly being first out in front as he led the men into battle. He was last to leave the field in the charge on Salem Church.

From a history of the 23rd infantry regiment of New Jersey, accessed at

General Grubb served in three regiments and although wounded, survived the war. Later, he was appointed by President Harrison as the U.S. Ambassador to Spain. A unique interaction between General E. Burd Grubb Jr. and Hillary Abner Herbert, Secretary to the Navy at the time, occurred years after the war.

A monument had been set up in Virginia to honor Grubb's 23rd infantry regiment from New Jersey, who lost thousands there in the battle of Salem Church. Hillary Abner Herbert had served the south during the war and fought during that battle, on the opposing side of General Grubb. He went to the spot where so many of his comrades died and saw the monument to the northern Union soldiers. What he saw on the monument prompted him to write to General Grubb forty-four years after the two met as enemies on the battlefield.

The monument had the following inscription:

To the memory of our heroic dead comrades who gave their lives for their country's honor on the battlefield, this tablet is dedicated.

But it also had a plaque that said the following:

To the brave Alabama boys, our opponents on this field of battle, whose memory we honor, this tablet is dedicated.

Herbert thanked General Grubb for remembering the lives lost on the confederate side. He wrote the following:

"I was with my regiment, the 8th Alabama, and was its Lieutenant Colonel in the bloody fight which you and your brave soldiers have so fittingly commemorated. Indeed, the 8th Alabama was on the south side of the plank road, and therefore almost immediately confronted your gallant regiment. Being the oldest surviving field officer of the five Alabama regiments that participated in the memorable struggle, I feel that I may appropriately assume, on behalf of the Alabama boys whose memory you and your brave soldiers so chivalrously extol, to extend to you and the other survivors of the 23rd New Jersey, as I do hereby, the heartfelt thanks of the living Alabamians who participated in that battle... In conclusion, permit me to personally testify, as I well may, to the superb courage of the gallant boys whom you so nobly led in that bloody battle at Salem Church. Expressing the hope that at some time in the future I may have the gratification of meeting you in person, I am, sir, with the sincerest admiration and respect, Yours very truly Hilary A Herbert last Colonel 8th Ala Vols "

Grubb wrote back the following:

Edgewater Park, N.J. May 23, 1907

Col. the Honorable Hilary A Herbert Washington, D.C.

Dear Colonel Herbert, It has surely fallen to the lot of but very few men in this world, ever to have received, from a brave and gallant foeman, forty-four years after a battle, such a splendid letter as I have the honour to acknowledge from you, and moreover, to have received it unawares from one, who after the war was over, served a re-united country in one of its highest offices with such signal ability and distinction.

I beg, sir, on behalf of myself, and my comrades, the survivors of the Twenty-third New Jersey Volunteers, their descendants, relations, and friends, whose name is legion in this State, to tender our most sincere thanks for your letter, to reciprocate most heartily all the noble sentiments contained therein, and to assure you that we congratulate ourselves, that by good fortune, we happened to be the first to mark in enduring bronze, the sentiments which we are sure are uppermost in the hearts of every Northern soldier, for the men who evinced the courage of their convictions by such heroic bravery in the days gone by.

I may add that while we knew that Gen Cadmus Wilcox had noted in his report of the Battle of Salem Church how gallantly Lieut. Colonel Hilary A. Herbert had rallied and fought the 8th Alabama after a disabling wound to Colonel Royston, we certainly did not know that our country was indebted for distinguished services as Secretary of the Navy to the officer whose final line of battle we could not break through.

I hope, sir, I may have the pleasure of meeting you personally, and I shall have the honor of calling upon you when I am in your vicinity. With great respect, I am, Very sincerely yours, E. Burd Grubb

(Letters transcribed from the original, seen via the digital archives of the Alabama Department of Archives and History accessed at

General Grub and Col Ayers did meet in 1909. The New York Times reported that the men met during one of Grubb's military reunions for the 23rd volunteer infantry regiment, called the "Yahoo Boys" that he held annually at his Grassmere estate.

Grubb came from a long line of courageous abolitionists from Burlington New Jersey. The Grubb mansion there had tunnels built beneath it to help slaves escape to freedom. The family originally hailed from Lancaster county Pennsylvania where Grubb's great grandfather had made a fortune in iron. The Grubb men were iron masters and when Grubb returned from the war, he went on to work in the family iron dynasty.

His first wife died, and Grubb remarried Miss Virgina Sopwith. They had three children together and settled in Edgewater Park, NJ on Grubb's Grassmere estate.

Postcard image of the Grubb family estate in Edgewater, New Jersey. Accessed online at

As I tied in these two families together, the prominent Parkes family with their history in the military, politics and philanthropy and the Grubb and Van Rensselaer families, I knew these pictures I had of the Parkes family were important. How had they come to be at the antique shop?

Then I remembered something. There was a whole box of pictures. I had only taken the ones that had writing on the back. I found the number of the shop and called and asked the owner if the pictures in the box had all come from the same house.

"Yes, I believe so," he told me. "There may be a few in there that weren't from the same estate, but I think I know which ones they are."

From my original visit, I knew the owner valued his customer's privacy and wouldn't tell me too much about the person who he got the box of pictures from. But I was willing to bet that more pictures in the box belonged with the Parkes family photographs I had in my possession.

I was at the shop within 24 hours with a friend I pulled into the adventure with me. (Thank you Ashley!) On a beautiful day, we made our way back down a Pennsylvania country road and took a trip back in time as well.

Be sure to watch for my post next week about what we found!

In the meantime, here are some extra's about General Edward Burd Grubb:

Image of General Grubb (2nd from left) accessed on

Published in the Philadelphia Enquirer, May 4, 1904, p 3. Accessed at

General Edward Burd Grubb Jr. passed away in Newark, NJ in 1913. This photo of his grave was accessed at

To read part 5, go here.

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