The Pruiett Family
Quite a few Pittsylvania County Pruitts served in Virginia infantry and artillery units during the Civil War. Thomas S. Prewitt had one son of military age, Thomas M. Pruitt, who joined the 13th Battalion, Virginia Light Artillery, Company B (the Ringgold Battery), at Dublin Depot in southwestern Virginia on March 1, 1863, presumably around the time he turned 18. Several Pittsylvania County Pruitts had joined the Ringgold Battery a year earlier which explains why Thomas M. Pruitt traveled there to enlist. During most of 1863 and early 1864, the Ringgold Battery was attached to several different brigades and moved around southwestern Virginia and eastern Tennessee. The only significant action seen by the battery was at Cloyd's Mountain on May 9, 1864. In early June 1864, the battery was sent east in time to entrench with Lee's army around Richmond and Petersburg. In July 1864, the Ringgold Battery was positioned near the tunnel dug by Union troops where explosives were blown up under the Confederate lines. The battery played a significant role in the resulting Battle of the Crater on July 30, 1864. In early April 1865, the men of the Ringgold Battery took up positions around Ft. Gregg and acted as a rear guard as Lee's army made its escape to the west from the Richmond and Petersburg trenches. In this action the Ringgold Battery lost most of its men. The few who were not killed, wounded or captured set off to catch up with what was left of Lee's army. Although he survived the war, Thomas M. Pruitt's name did not appear on the parole lists after Lee's surrender. He was probably one of the many soldiers who simply went home as Lee's army retreated towards Appomattox Court House.
Several of William C. Pruett's sons served including Nathaniel Prewitt and Robert J. Prewitt in the 1st Battalion, Virginia Infantry, Company B. It appears that Nathaniel Prewitt originally enlisted in 1862 in the 60th Virginia Infantry, Company B, along with several other Pruitts, when that regiment was defending Richmond during McClellan's Peninsular Campaign. At that time, the 60th Virginia was part of A.P. Hill's "Light Division" which saw action at Mechanicsville, Gaines' Mill, Frayser's Farm and Malvern Hill. In August 1863, Nathaniel Prewitt joined the 1st Battalion, Virginia Infantry, and later rose to the rank of 1st Corporal. The 1st Battalion saw some action in central Virginia before joining up with Lee's forces as they engaged Grant's army from the Wilderness to the trenches of Richmond and Petersburg. His service record indicated he was absent without leave (AWOL) from Dec. 24 through Dec. 31, 1864. This may be explained by the fact that Nathaniel Pruett married Laura Lavelette Driskill on Dec. 30, 1864. Robert J. Prewitt enlisted at Petersburg on February 9, 1865, presumably around the time he turned 18. Both Nathaniel Prewitt and Robert J. Prewitt were paroled at Appomattox Court House when Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865.
Other Pittsylvania County Pruitts joined the 53rd Virginia Infantry and the Danville Artillery.
According to the 1870 census, the Thomas and Icyphenia Pruett household had changed as follows:
|Name||Age||Sex||Profession||Real||Personal||Place of Birth||Attend School||Read/Write|
|Thomas S. Pruett||56||M||Farmer||$1,000||$1000||Virginia||No|
|Isefeney Pruett||30||F||Keeping House||Virginia|
|Frances A. Pruett||32||F||Domestic Servant||Virginia|
|Thomas M. Pruett||25||M||Farm Laborer||$150||Virginia|
|William H. Pruett||11||M||At Home||Virginia|
|Bird Pruett||9||M||At Home||Virginia|
|Asa Pruett||5||M||At Home||Virginia|
|Susan F. Pruett||3||M||At Home||Virginia|
|Silas Matell||25||M||Farm Laborer||Virginia|
Thomas Stuart Prewett [Pruett] died on Nov. 2, 1872 according to this Death Record. Thomas M. Prewett [Pruett], his son by his first marriage to Susan Epperson, was the informant. Thomas got his father's age wrong, he would have been 58 years old by most accounts, and his father's mother's name was Tabitha Ferguson, not Nancy. We also understand that Thomas M. Prewitt [Pruett] was the administrator of his father's last will, but we have not seen a copy of that will. Here is the 1880 census showing Icyphenia Pruett as head of household:
|Name||Sex||Age||Relation||Single||Widowed||Profession||Read||Write||Place of Birth|
|Icyphenia B. Pruett||F||40||✓||Farmer||Virginia|
|Ace W. Pruett||M||15||Son||✓||Farm Hand||No||No||Virginia|
|Susan F. Pruett||F||11||Daughter||✓||No Occupation||No||No||Virginia|
|John E. Pruett||M||9||Son||✓||Virginia|
|Sarah E. Pruett||F||7||Daughter||✓||Virginia|
It's interesting to note that Icyphenia Pruett is the only family member, over the age of 10, who did not have the blocks "Cannot read" and "Cannot write" marked. The enumerator marked very few children in this District as having "Attended school within the Census year." Someone, the enumerator presumably, crossed out all the marks for "Cannot read" and "Cannot write" for children below the age of 10. This presumably was based on instructions not to indicate reading and writing ability below that age. Lastly, William Pruett and Bird Pruett, Icyphenia's two oldest sons, were listed as Farm Hands a few households away. They were likely working on John H. Furgerson's farm, given that they were living in the same dwelling as Thomas Furgerson.
Beginning in 1850 and continuing until 1880, Agricultural Schedules were an important part of each census. Below is a summary of each of the four Agricultual Schedules for the Pruitt farm and the separate 1880 Schedule for the property that Thomas M. Pruitt "Rents for shares of products." We've included only the Acreage and the three major crops with links to the Schedules themselves for more detailed information. It's not known why Thomas M. Pruitt went from working the land of his father to working someone else's land (in effect, Sharecropping). This may point to tensions between Thomas S. Pruitt's first family with Susan Epperson and his second family with Icyphenia Ford. Or it may just mean that there wasn't enough work for Thomas and all of Icyphenia's children. After all, even Icyphenia's oldest sons, William and Bird, were living and presumably working on the Furgerson farm at this time.
|Year||Name||Acres Improved||Acres Unimproved||Corn (bushels)||Oats (bushels)||Tobacco (pounds)|
|1850||Thomas S. Prewet||100||15||250||100||3,000|
|1870||Pruett, T.S & T.M.||100||25||100||75||900|
|1880||Thomas M. Pruett||50||25||555||85||5,000|
A few takeaways from the schedules:
- Farm production increased between 1850 and 1860.
- By 1870, after the end of the Civil War, production was much lower than before the war. This was likely a very common theme throughout the South.
- By 1880 the number of Improved acres dropped substantially and overall production was down even from 1870 levels, although tobacco production was up 200 pounds.
- Perhaps due to deteriorating farm conditions or the death of his father, Thomas became a sharecropper in another part of the Dan River District where he was able to produce much more from similar acreage.