Thomas Saunders Gholson

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Thomas Saunders Gholson
Member of the Second Confederate Congress from Prince George, Virginia
In office
May 1864 March, 1855
Preceded by [[]]],
Judge of the Virginia Circuit Court in Brunswick County, Virginia
In office
Personal details
Born(1808-12-09)9 December 1808
Brunswick County, Virginia
Died 12 December 1868(1868-12-12) (aged 60)
Savannah, Georgia
Resting place Blandford Cemetery, Petersburg, Virginia
Nationality American
Spouse(s) Cary Ann Gholson
Occupation lawyer, politician, judge

Thomas Saunders Gholson (December 9, 1808 – December 12, 1868) was a Virginia lawyer, judge and Confederate politician. [1]

Confederate States of America (de facto) federal republic in North America from 1861 to 1865

The Confederate States of America, commonly referred to as the Confederacy and the South, was an unrecognized country in North America that existed from 1861 to 1865. The Confederacy was originally formed by seven secessionist slave-holding states—South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas—in the Lower South region of the United States, whose economy was heavily dependent upon agriculture, particularly cotton, and a plantation system that relied upon the labor of African-American slaves.


Early and family life

He was born in Gholsonville, Brunswick County, Virginia to Major William Gholson (1775-1831) and his wife Mary Saunders (1776-1842), and was the younger brother of James H. Gholson (1798-1848). Their uncle Thomas Gholson, Jr. (1780-1816) had served in the Virginia General Assembly and as U.S. Congressman, before dying in Brunswick County, Virginia of the lingering effects of a wound received during the defense of Washington D.C. during the War of 1812. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1827. [2]

Gholsonville is an unincorporated community located in Brunswick County, in the U.S. state of Virginia. It is the birthplace of former United States Representative James Gholson.

Brunswick County, Virginia County in the United States

Brunswick County is a United States county located on the southern border of the Commonwealth of Virginia. This rural county is known as one the claimants to be the namesake of Brunswick stew.

War of 1812 32-month military conflict between the United States and the British Empire

The War of 1812 was a conflict fought between the United States, the United Kingdom, and their respective allies from June 1812 to February 1815. Historians in Britain often see it as a minor theater of the Napoleonic Wars; in the United States and Canada, it is seen as a war in its own right.

On May 14, 1829 Thomas Gholson married his cousin, the congressman's daughter Cary Ann Gholson (1808-1896), and they would have two daughters and a son. Rev. John Yates Gholson (1830-1886) would marry in New Orleans and later move to Alabama, and Georgiana F. Gholson Walker (1833-1904) would marry and move to New York City. [3]


After reading law and being admitted to the Virginia bar, around 1836, Thomas Gholson also invested in the Brunswick Land Company, as did his elder and politically active brother and several other prominent local men (including Rev. Richard Kidder Meade). Each bought $1000 shares of the company, which bought, traded and speculated in lands in Texas. [4] In 1847, the Virginia House of Delegates received a complaint against his brother Judge James H. Gholson, alleging favoritism towards Thomas Gholson, among others. When the complainant, R. H. Collier, who had also publicly assaulted one of the Gholsons, refused to testify under oath before the appointed committee, the legislative investigation was dropped, but his brother died the following year. [5] Thomas Gholson was a legal and possibly legislative mentor to Hugh White Sheffey who served in the legislature and also became Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates during the American Civil War, and later a judge.

Virginia House of Delegates lower house of U.S. state legislature

The Virginia House of Delegates is one of two parts in the Virginia General Assembly, the other being the Senate of Virginia. It has 100 members elected for terms of two years; unlike most states, these elections take place during odd-numbered years. The House is presided over by the Speaker of the House, who is elected from among the House membership by the Delegates. The Speaker is usually a member of the majority party and, as Speaker, becomes the most powerful member of the House. The House shares legislative power with the Senate of Virginia, the upper house of the Virginia General Assembly. The House of Delegates is the modern-day successor to the Virginia House of Burgesses, which first met at Jamestown in 1619. The House is divided into Democratic and Republican caucuses. In addition to the Speaker, there is a majority leader, majority caucus chair, minority leader, minority caucus chair, and the chairs of the several committees of the House.

Hugh W. Sheffey was a Virginia politician, lawyer and judge. He represented Augusta County in both houses of the Virginia General Assembly before and during the American Civil War, and served as the Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1863 until 1865, when he was elected a judge. Removed from office during Congressional Reconstruction because he could not sign a required loyalty oath, Sheffey returned to his legal practice and became an adjunct professor at Washington & Lee University School of Law from 1875 to 1885.

American Civil War Civil war in the United States from 1861 to 1865

The American Civil War was a war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North and the South. The Civil War is the most studied and written about episode in U.S. history. Primarily as a result of the long-standing controversy over the enslavement of black people, war broke out in April 1861 when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina shortly after Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated as the President of the United States. The loyalists of the Union in the North proclaimed support for the Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States in the South, who advocated for states' rights to uphold slavery.

Around 1850, after his brother's death, Thomas moved his family to Blandford, which is closer to (and now part of) Petersburg. Although owning only $7500 in property in 1850 (shortly after his brother's death), by 1860 Thomas Saunders Gholson owned $100,000 in real estate and $120,000 in personal property. [6] Petersburg became a railroad hub in this era; Judge Gholson was president of several railroads, and also worked to support a public library in Petersburg. [7]

Virginia's legislators confirmed Thomas Gholson as a state court judge, and he served from 1859 to 1863, when he resigned to serve in the House of Representatives of the Second Confederate Congress. He represented Prince George County, Virginia(which adjoins Petersburg) as well as Nottaway, Amelia, Powhatan and Cumberland Counties from 1864 until the war's end in 1865. On February 1, 1865, Gholson delivered a speech concerning the possibility of using Negro troops, which was published. [8] Thomas Gholson received a pardon from President Andrew Johnson on September 6, 1865. [9]

Prince George County, Virginia County in the United States

Prince George County is a county located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 35,725. Its county seat is Prince George.

Nottoway County, Virginia County in the United States

Nottoway County is a county located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 15,853. Its county seat is Nottoway. It is situated south of the James River, thus making it a part of the Southside Virginia Region.

Amelia County, Virginia County in the United States

Amelia County is a United States county located just west of Richmond in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The county is included in the Greater Richmond Region, and its county seat is Amelia Courthouse.

Death and legacy

Gholson died in 1868 in Savannah, Georgia, and his remains were returned to Virginia for burial at Blandford Cemetery. His son, who became an Episcopal priest, would name his son born in Marengo County, Alabama in 1870 after his grandfather.

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  2. Virginia Biographical Encyclopedia, available online
  3. does not include the marriage record, nor baptismal or death records for the children, but all are listed on findagrave and a family genealogy and supported by the 1850 U.S. census available online; no record exists of what happened to their daughter Cary (b. 1848) beyond her mention as 17 years old in the 1860 census.
  4. Gay Neale, Brunswick County, Virginia: 1720-1975 (revised to 2000) (Lawrenceville, Brunswick County Bicentennial Committee 1999) p. 141
  6. 1860 U.S. Federal Census Slave schedule Dinwiddie, Petersburg West Ward. The federal slave schedule shows him as owning 15 enslaved persons, including 5 children, which seems low for the property valuation, but may include only slaves in Petersburg. The corresponding Virginia schedules for 1850 and 1860 are not available online. The 1840 U.S. Federal Census for Brunswick not stated shows T.S. Gholson owning 13 enslaved persons. He only owned $7500 in real estate according to the 1850 U.S. Federal Census for Petersburg (independent city), and may have been supporting his brother's widow Charlotte and daughter Mary as well; that federal slave schedule is missing or misindexed.
  7. The source, Biographies of Notable Americans (1904), vol. IV, p. 272, available online at, does not indicate whether that railroad involvemewnt occurred before or after the war, or both.
  8. Virginia at War, 1865 p. 123 n7 available at googlebooks, but need better cite--pamphlet not in Library of Virginia catalog tho should be archived, may be at VHS. Neale history of Brunswick County, at pp. 134-135 and 207 variously indicates this Thomas or his brother delivered one of the main spokesmen against allowing black troops to fight on the Southern side. The book inaccurately lists both Gholson brothers as moving to Petersburg in 1850. It also indicates a lawyer kinsman, William Yates Gholson, moved to Mississippi, freed his slaves and moved to Ohio because it was a free state, but not that W.Y. Gholson became a Republican, law partner of Salmon P. Chase and won election to the Ohio Supreme Court in 1858.
  9. U.S. Pardons under Amnesty Proclamations, Vol. 16 August thru October 1865; unlike other instances, the underlying documents are not available at Petersburg became the political stronghold of former Confederate General turned Republican, William Mahone, so it is unclear whether Gholson was part of Mahone's postwar railroad reorganization efforts.