Microsoft Word - Chapter 11 - The Chinn Family
Hanging Rock Rebel, Lt. John Blue’s War in West Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley,
edited by Dan Oates and published by Burd Street Press, 1994 details the memoirs of Lt. Blue’s Civil War experiences. When he was captured, Lt. Blue was transferred to the Federal POW camp at Point Lookout on Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, where he shared quarters with Major Bolling Chinn.
Lt. Blue wrote his memoirs some 35 years after the end of the Civil War and while some of the detail concerning Bolling Chinn appears inaccurate, he does flesh out a little of the character and personality of the man.
Ten men were quartered in each tent. In our tent were Maj. Chinn, of Louisiana, Capt. Wheeler, Capt Bullock, of Tennessee ... and myself. Capt. [sic] Chinn, if I remember right, was captured at Port Hudson. By the terms of capitulation the field officers were allowed to retain all their private baggage. The Major had two large trunks, one containing his wardrobe and bedding; the bedding consisted of a single hair mattress, pillow, sheets, blankets, &c. The Major was wealthy at the commencement of the war. He owned a fine sugar plantation, owned over five hundred slaves. He said he had built a fine house two years before the war on a bluff near the Mississippi river, above Baton Rouge, that cost him $25,000. Major Chinn raised and equipped a battalion of 500 men at his own expense, and marched them to Port Hudson, Louisiana. On the fall of Vicksburg, Port Hudson was surrendered, conditionally, the field officers being allowed the above named privileges of carrying with them their private baggage. These officers were sent to Johnson’s Island, where I met Major Chinn for the first time. He seemed to take a great liking for me from our first meeting. When we moved into our new quarters the Major insisted that I must take up my abode in the same tent that he did. A few days after we had moved from the Hospital (at Point Lookout, Maryland) the Major received the unwelcome news through a prisoner and a neighbor of his, recently captured, that his elegant house had been burned, and
Chapter 11 THE CHINN FAMILY
that his wife and daughter, an only child, were living in a negro cabin on the farm and cared for by some of her aged Slaves, who refused to leave them. The Major was made up of American, French and Creole; the language used was of about the same complexion. When this unwelcome news reached the Major his language was far more emphatic than elegant ... . The officer in command had ordered the house set on fire to give them light to work by. For several days it seemed as though the Major would lose his mind. One morning he (Major Chinn) called me to where he lay and said, “this is sad news for me; I care nothing for my house and slaves, but the thought of what my wife and daughter may have to endure, is almost more than I can bear. They, who have from early infancy had every known wish gratified, may be in want of bread.”
Lt. Blue's recollections of Major Chinn are somewhat inaccurate. Bolling Chinn had numerous children including at least five daughters and two sons, several born prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. His ethnic background was English-Scottish, not French, although growing up in the Baton Rouge-New Orleans area, he probably spoke passable French which might have influenced his American accent, particularly to the ear of a Virginian.