Unit’s highest military honor to be bestowed posthumously on soldier James Pleasants
BY JIM MASON
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Jun 21, 2004
Only 45 soldiers have been awarded Confederate Medals of Honor in the past three decades. But soon the name of a Goochland County man will be added to the list.
Confederate Pvt. James Pleasants was 19 when, on March 1, 1864, he captured 13 Union soldiers and killed another after Northern officers stole his two cavalry mounts from his Goochland home.
He died after the Civil War at age 28, but years before that, a resolution was entered into Goochland court records that recognized his "cool bravery" and "patriotic ardor" in the fight.
Now the Sons of Confederate Veterans, based in Columbia, Tenn., has decided that his actions warrant the group’s highest military honor. The heritage-preservation group will award its medal to Pleasants posthumously this fall in Goochland.
"I take it [the recognition] as an honor for the family," said Hugh Berkley Pleasants, 72, of Cartersville, a great-grandson of James Pleasants. "I’ve heard that he was home recuperating when Yankees came to the house and stole his two horses."
A 6-foot stone monument in honor of Pleasants stands at the intersection of Cardwell and Genito roads in Goochland. It was here that the young soldier traded shots with two Union cavalrymen, one an officer, who had stopped there at a well near Pleasants’ home and his uncle’s store.
The frame store, with a giant black oak tree in front, still stands.
The Goochland chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy placed the monument in 1929.
Mike Thomas, 57, a member of the General Robert E. Lee Camp No. 1589 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Chesterfield County, researched Pleasants’ actions for the group. He spent four months poring over newspaper accounts and state and local historical records.
Thomas said the Confederate government tried to give medals to all soldiers who had shown "extraordinary courage," but some were left out.
"So in 1976, the Sons of Confederate Veterans came up with this Confederate Medal of Honor, using the same standards as today’s United States Medal of Honor," Thomas said. "It’s the SCV’s rarest award."
According to Thomas, Pleasants was home on furlough when he was "awakened to learn that federal raiders had been to his house and taken his two cavalry mounts in a pre-dawn raid."
After breakfast, "armed with his carbine and wearing a captured Union sack coat to ward off the cold . . . he set out on foot determined to recover his horses," Thomas said.
He said Pleasants never recovered his own horses, but he kept two he took from the captured Union soldiers and turned in the 14 other horses to the Confederate Army quartermaster.
Thomas said researching Pleasants’ actions had been "a labor of love for me."
He said Pleasants’ medal will be kept on permanent display at the historical society in Goochland Courthouse.