Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sunday Search: Three Months In Norfolk


In September 1814, as the first draft of the Star Spangle Banner was being drafted by Francis Scott Key in Baltimore Harbor, my 4th great grandfather, Jacob Teaford, was standing guard at Fort Norfolk over 200 miles away. During his time at Fort Norfolk, much of the combat was taking place elsewhere as, having been soundly defended in June of the previous year during the Battle of Craney Island, the British had turned their attention to other ports in the Chesapeake Bay. However, there was much with which Jacob had to cope during his service which frequently fails to gain mention in the history books.

Born around 1790 in Augusta County, Virginia, Jacob Teaford enlisted in the 6th Regiment of the Virginia Militia on July 14, 1814 for a term of 6 months and served in Captain Joseph Larew’s Company of Infantry under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Henry E. Coleman. When he first was assigned to Fort Norfolk, Captain Samuel Thayer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had just begun work on improving the defenses which would continue through the summer and early autumn of 1814. There is little doubt that many of the men assigned to the Fort at that time participated in the completion of the necessary improvements.

However, by the fall of that year, the soldiers at Fort Norfolk faced a new challenge as disease ran rampant through the ranks of the militia. As the weather continued to get colder, the casualties continued to mount to the point that mass graves were dug in what is now the city of Norfolk. While there is little evidence to substantiate this claim, it is likely that Jacob fell ill during late September or early October of 1814 as he was discharged from service on October 14, 1814, exactly three months since he first enlisted.

Following the war, Jacob Teaford married Sophia Catherine Snider on May 4, 1820, had ten children, and supported his family by continuing in the “family business” as a farmer in Augusta County, Virginia. Having lived through two wars and being predeceased by over half of his children, Jacob passed away on April 19. 1877 in Mount Solon, Virginia. While he received a pension for his brief service later in his life, as did his widow following his death, there is little known about those three months of his life during the war beyond that which has been reconstructed above.