Papers of Joel Leftwich, 1786-1890
The Leftwich Papers consist of approximately 2500 items that reflect the military, business and personal activities of Joel Leftwich (November 22,1760 to October 20,1846). The collection contains correspondence, financial and legal papers, and other printed material. Whereas personal correspondence and business papers comprise the bulk of the collection there is also a significant amount of material relating to the operations of the Twelfth Virginia Militia Brigade from 1790 to 1842.
Born in Bedford County, Virginia, Leftwich was the great grandson of Ralph Leftwich who emigrated from England to New Kent County, Virginia (in what is now Caroline County) in or before 1658 and the son of Augustine Leftwich, Sr. (b. cir. 1712-1715 -1795) and brother to William, Thomas, Augustine, Jr., Uriah, John, Littleberry, Jabez, Frances, Mary, Nancy and Rebecca. The family correspondance, much of which concern local and family events, mentions his own son and only child, “Jack” (John) Leftwich (1783-1833) , as well as five of his grandchildren: Joel Breckinridge Leftwich (June 29, 1816 to January 6, 1890), Sarah A. Leftwich, Mary L. Leftwich (Fuqua), Ann Leftwich (Goode) and Ethelinda Leftwich. These includes papers from Joel Breckinridge Leftwich’s days as a student at Randolph Macon College and his subsequent career as an attorney in Campbell County and his service in the Virginia House of Delegates where he served 1860 to 1861 and 1884 to 1887 and his service as a Lt. Colonel in the Civil War. .
In 1806 begins his correspondence concerning Virginia politics in Richmond. The subjects of these letters range from the Marquis de Lafayette’s visit in 1824 to Leftwich’s recommendation in 1841 of William Norvellas to then President John Tyler as U.S. Consul at Rio de Janeiro. Additionally the collection includes documents from his own legislative career in the Virginia General Assembly where he served in the House of Delegates from 1792 to 1793.
Joel Leftwich enlisted in the Virginia Militia on January 1, 1777 and fought through the Revolutionay War including service at the Battles of Brandywine, Germantown and Guilford Courthouse as well as being stationed at Fort Mifflin and Valley Forge. On January 19, 1809 he was elected Brigadier General of the Twelfth Brigade of Virginia Militia upon the death of General Joseph Martin and led this force to Fort Meigs in Ohio during the War of 1812. He was elected Major General on January 10, 1822 to lead the First Division of the Virginia Militia.
From his membership in a debating society the collection benefits from several writings and speeches on temperance, good memory, the Revolutionary War and the need to convert Native Americans to Christianity. Of special interest are manuscript notes on the Virginia Convention consisting of remarks made by such participants as Patrick Henry and James Madison.
Leftwich enjoyed two major occupations in his lifetime: that of gentleman farmer, and of justice of the peace for Bedford County. Tax statements for the year 1802 depict him as the owner of seven slaves. Additional records describe their purchase, and their eventual legal dispensations for the payment of debts. Wills, indentures, subpoenas, arrest warrants and other related materials comprise the bulk of this grouping of papers while the remaining items principally concern Leftwich’s duties as a justice of the peace.
Several groupings of documents such as militia returns, muster rolls, and courts-martial papers provide insight into his military career which began during the Revolutionary War as an ensign and continued through the War of 1812. Notable correspondents include William Henry Harrison, William Barbour, Claiborne W. Gooch, and Richard Crooks.
Communications from the 1820’s and 1830’s, which include numerous invitations requesting his presence at military dinners, barbecues, and honorary functions, illustrate well his personal life. General Leftwich died on April 20, 1846, in Bedford County.
Additional information on Joel Leftwich and his family can be found in “Leftwich-Turner Families of Virginia and Their Connections” by Walter Lee Hopkins, originally published in 1931 and reprinted in 1980 by the C.J. Carrier Company of Harrisonburg, Va. There is also a collection of Joel Leftwich papers in the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina Library in Chapel Hill, N.C.
MSS 38 – 32