Edmund Berkeley was born on February 29, 1824.
When six months old he was taken up in the arms of Marquis de Lafayette,
who was then on his last visit to America. Later he was a playmate
in the White House of Mary Donelson, a relative of President Andrew
Jackson. Edmund Berkeley attended William and Mary College and
inherited the Evergreen plantation from his father Lewis Berkeley.
Edmund was guilty of marrying outside of the Tidewater aristocracy
and married Mary Lawson Williams of Tennessee. Her father was a
wealthy landowner and at her marriage gave her her choice of slaves
or real estate and she choose the former. The slaves made the trip
here with the bride and groom, the women and children in wagons,
the men walking.The Berkeley’s raised 13 children at Evergreen.
Some years before the start of the Civil War the chief industry
on the plantation was a spoke mill. It was the first mill in Prince
William County run by steam. Spokes were shipped to New York and
New Orleans extensively, and at the time that it burned (shortly
before the start of the Civil War) there were several thousand spokes
ready for shipment. It was operated by white labor, with twelve
houses for these families located close by the mill; the grouped
houses had the appearance of a small village. The workers were all
nearly from the North, and had no ties to the area; they went back
after the mill was destroyed, as the times were too uncertain to
rebuild them. In 1862, when the town of Haymarket was destroyed
by fire by Union troops, Edmund’s wife, Mary Lawson Berkeley, offered
these houses to the homeless townsfolk, and they were soon filled
The 8th Virginia Volunteer Infantry
Before the start of the Civil War Edmund received his commission
as captain of militia from Gov. John Letcher. He formed Company
C of the 8th Virginia Volunteer Infantry. Company C was
called “The Evergreen Guards.” The regiment was under the command
of General Eppa Hunton of Warrenton.
Three of Edmund’s brothers also were officers of the 8th
William N. Berkeley (1826-1907) Major: William formed Company
D and was called “Champe Rifles.” He was wounded and captured at
Gettysburg; he was later captured at the battle of Sayler’s Creek.
Norborne Berkeley (1828-1911) Colonel: VMI Class of 1848.
Norborne was Major of the regiment at the start of the war and responsible
for much of the early training. He was wounded and captured at Gettysburg.
Charles F. Berkeley (1833-1871) Captain, Company D. Charles
was captured at Gettysburg; and later was captured at the battle
of Sayler’s Creek.
Possibly no Confederate unit was so influenced by one family as
was influenced by the Berkeley brothers. Historians refer to the
8th Virginia Infantry as the “Berkeley Regiment.”
Prince William County furnished four infantry companies and two
cavalry companies. From an article from the Manassas Journal published
on June 17, 1904:
It is highly probable that a Prince William farm is entitled
to the record of furnishing a larger number of men than any farm
in the Confederacy, the Evergreen farm of Capt. Edmund Berkeley
having furnished twelve as follows: Capt. Edmund Berkeley, his
son, Edmund who was wounded in the battle of New Market, George
Mayhugh, Nimrod Mayhugh, Thos. Sidmonds, Greenberry Belt, George
A. Belt, James Belt, William Fair, John Osborne, Uriah Fletcher
and Andrew Fletcher. The last two were Pennsylvanians who were
working for Capt. Berkeley at the time he raised his Company and
were among the first to volunteer. Urish was elected 2nd
Sergeant and was killed at Seven Pines while his brother Andrew
was wounded and got back to Prince William and died.
The 8th Virginia Infantry fought in all the principal
battles in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The regiment was
almost annihilated at Gettysburg where after the famous charge of
Pickett’s men there were only 10 men left of the 200 who made the
charge. Edmund was wounded but was not captured.
Edmund’s son, Edmund Jr., was one of the wounded Virginia Military
Institute cadets at New Market, VA when fifty-three out of two hundred
and twenty five of the boys were killed and wounded.
After the war Col. Edmund Berkeley returned to farming and took
a great interest in the promotion of peace. In 1911, fifty years
to the date of the First Battle of Manassas, he delivered an opening
poem at the Manassas National Jubilee of Peace. Confederate and
Union veterans formed lines on the site of the battle and came together
shaking hands. Later that day President Taft addressed the crowds.
At this time Edmund was the ranking Confederate of Prince William
County and was frequently called upon as a representative of the
“Lost Cause” for dedications and ceremonies.
In 1906 the New York Monuments were dedicated on land located in
what is the Manassas Battlefield National Park. During this time
Edmund Berkeley was Vice-President of “The Bull Run Battle Park
Association.” According to an article published on May 19th,
1911 in the Manassas Journal:
This organization, after consultation with the committee
of the Grand Army of the Republic and with Confederate Veterans,
gave their approval to the bill now pending before Congress, known
as House Bill 1330. This Bill appropriates $50,000.00 to be used
in the discretion of the Secretary of War who is directed to purchase
so much of the land surrounding said monuments as shall in his
judgment be sufficient for the protection of the same and to enable
the citizens of the United States to visit the same…
Colonel Berkeley was the “gentleman bountiful” of the neighboring
farms, greatly loved by the children because of the merry jokes
at his command and his pockets full of candy.
Col. Edmund Berkeley passed away at his home Evergreen at the age