Peter Belles Irvine was born in about 1823 in Mercer County, Kentucky, the son of Benjamin Fielding Irvine and Mary (Polly) Belles of Mercer County. Benjamin Fielding Irvine was born in Virginia and migrated with his parents to Madison County, Kentucky about 1809-1810.
Peter immigrated to Texas with his family between October 1837 and December 1839, as proven by B. F. Irvine's headright certificate. Peter himself appeared before the Montgomery County Board of Land Commissioners, proved that he had immigrated "previous to 1 January 1842," and received a fourth class headright certificate. He settled near Danville in Montgomery County, where he married Minerva Angelia (sometimes shown as Angeline) Tabor on 23 November 1847. She was born 29 October 1829 in Holmesville, Pike Co., Mississippi, the daughter of Rev. Isaac Tabor and Susannah Bullock. Peter and Minerva were married at the home of her father.
Minerva was the first cousin of Reuben B. White.
P. B. and Minerva were enumerated in the 1860 census of Montgomery County with three young children and his eighteen-year-old brother, Henry Reid Irvine.
In March of 1861, Peter and Minerva transferred a half acre of land to the Methodist Episcopal Church of Danville for the price of $1.00. This Methodist congregation moved to Willis after the Civil War, five miles to the east.
On May 4, 1861, he joined the Danville Mounted Riflemen under Captain Samuel D. Wooldridge and was one of the thirty men who went to defend the frontier under General Hebert. Peter's brother, Benjamin Franklin Irvine, was also a member of the Riflemen.
Peter later joined Co. B 24th Regiment Texas Cavalry under Captain S. D. Wooldridge as a private, the following year. He enlisted at Danville and was sworn in by John E. George on March 29, 1862. He traveled fifty miles to rendezvous and was mustered in at Camp Carter near Hempstead on the Liendo Plantation grounds. The value of his horse was $75.00 and his equipment was worth $20.00.
After several weeks of training, he went to Arkansas with the other men of his regiment, where he was dismounted at El Dorado along with the rest under orders from the Confederate general. They were sent on foot to Pine Bluff, where they trained as infantrymen. There they were assigned to Garland's Brigade.
The men of Garland's were sent to Ft. Hindman at Arkansas Post and were engaged in building cabins for the winter.
That fall, there was much sickness due to the swampy conditions and unhealthy water. Many of the Ft. Hindman soldiers died of disease. Peter wrote a letter home which has been preserved by his descendants, and is the only letter written by a soldier of this company to have been located to date. The letter not only sheds light on Peter's feelings and his family situation, but also provides us with information on other members of the company.
Peter's letter urges his wife, Minerva, to understand that he cannot come home, and he strives to address her concerns. However, the Arkansas Post defenders were attacked by Union forces and fought a major battle in early January. More than thirty thousand Union troops attacked the six thousand Confederates.
Peter's third great-granddaughter, Karen Lucas, states that Peter Belles Irvine did not come home from Arkansas Post. He was shot in the head and killed on 11 January 1863.
Great-grandson Tom Smith writes: There is a family tradition that his wife, Minerva, awoke one afternoon from a nap in which she had had a dream that Peter had been shot in the head and killed. (*See note below.)
Sure enough, weeks later they got word that he had, indeed, been shot and killed. He was buried on the battleground by Captain Wooldridge, according to the stories passed down in the family.
The other men who were killed in battle that day include Minerva's cousin, Reuben B. White.
You may read Ranger Eric Leonard's answers to questions about the burials at Arkansas Post.
In 1880, Minerva married Augustus Richards. She died 13 August 1915 and is buried with Richards in the Old Danville Cemetery on Shepard Hill Road at the site of old Danville, near present-day Willis. Danville Cemetery is a private cemetery established by the Spiller family.
A memorial stone has been obtained by descendant Karen Lucas and has been placed in the Danville Cemetery and dedicated to the memory of Peter B. Irvine.
You may read about the Marker Dedication here.
MEMORIAL STONE PLACED IN DANVILLE CEMETERY, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, TEXAS
(* At the dedication of a historical marker in Willis on 3 May 1987, Great-grandson Tom Smith spoke. He told of Sam Houston visiting his great-grandparents' house at Danville before Willis was established: "...It was from this same house in 1862 that Betty Irvine watched her father ride off with a troop of Confederate Cavalry. And it was here a year or so later that Betty was playing in the yard when her mother awakened from a customary afternoon nap in an agitated frame of mind and told her that her father had been killed in battle. A shell, she declared, had taken half his head off. She had seen it clearly, and could not be consoled. In due time, word came that Betty's father had, indeed, been killed just as her mother had described it. My grandmother told us that story many times, but, for obvious reasons, I did not take it very seriously. However, when Duke University conducted research on what they called 'extra-sensory perception' and reached some very positive conclusions, I began to think that what we had been told might be more than a 'grandmother's story.'"
The biographical information on Peter B. Irvine was furnished by
You may read about Karen Lucas' Visit to Arkansas Post E-mail me at
Karen McCann Hett
For further information and records of all Confederate soldiers of Montgomery County, Texas, as well as histories of the regiments they served in, see Montgomery County, Texas, CSA by Frank M. Johnson. The book may be purchased by visiting Frank's website at frankmjohnson.net or by contacting Frank at [email protected]
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