ENTRY

Bolling, Stith (1835–1916)

SUMMARY

Stith Bolling was a politician whose fluid party affiliation illustrates the churning coalitions in Virginia after the American Civil War (1861–1865). Bolling began his professional career as a clerk and a few years later joined the Confederate cavalry. Rising to captain, he eventually led the largest cavalry company commander under Confederate general J. E. B. Stuart. In 1869 Bolling won election to the House of Delegates as part of a Conservative Partymoderate Republican coalition and captured a second term as a Conservative. He moved to Petersburg, where he joined William Mahone‘s Readjuster movement, which evolved from a Conservative faction to a short-lived party aligned with the Republicans. Both he and Mahone joined the Republicans after the Readjusters collapsed. Unlike Mahone he retained his popularity among whites and held high positions in the United Confederate Veterans‘ Army of Northern Virginia Department. Bolling died in Petersburg in 1916.

Early Years and Civil War

Bolling was born on February 28, 1835, in Lunenburg County, the son of John Stith Bolling and Mary Thomas Irby Bolling. He grew up on his father’s farm and was educated at Mount Lebanon Academy before moving to Richmond at age nineteen to become a clerk in a store. The following year he and two brothers founded a wholesale grocery and commission business, which they operated until the summer of 1861. On May 9, 1860, Bolling married Cornelia Scott Forrest, of Lunenburg County. They had three daughters and one son.

Major General J. E. B. Stuart

On June 7, 1861, Bolling enlisted as a sergeant in the Lunenburg Light Dragoons, which became Company G of the 9th Virginia Cavalry Regiment. He was commissioned a lieutenant on April 28, 1862, and promoted to captain on January 17, 1863. Later that year he was detailed to Brigadier General William Henry Fitzhugh Lee‘s staff as acting assistant adjutant general, and in 1864 he was detached to brigade headquarters. At one time Bolling led the largest cavalry company in Major General James Ewell Brown Stuart’s command, and at another he commanded the 9th Cavalry’s fourth squadron of sharpshooters. During the war Bolling sustained six wounds, the most serious being a head injury received at Morton’s Ford on October 11, 1863, after which he required three months of convalescence before returning to duty. He refused to surrender with the remainder of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House and led his troops through the lines in a futile attempt to join General Joseph E. Johnston in North Carolina. Soon realizing that further warfare was impossible, however, Bolling surrendered and was paroled on April 15, 1865.

Political Career

Bolling returned to the family farm in Lunenburg County. On July 6, 1869, he was elected to the House of Delegates. He joined a coalition of Conservatives and moderate Republicans in opposition to the Radical Republicans and chaired the Committee on Public Property. Bolling ran for reelection as a Conservative in 1871. He lost by a margin of eighty-two votes to George M. Jennings, an African American and Radical Republican, but the polling was conducted with such flagrant disregard for the law that the House of Delegates refused to seat either candidate and ordered a new election, which Bolling won on February 20, 1872. He served for the remainder of the session in the spring of 1872 and in the regular session in the winter of 1872–1873 but did not receive any standing committee assignments.

William Mahone

In 1870 the governor appointed Bolling a brigadier general of the militia, and in 1875 Bolling became an inspector general of tobacco in Petersburg. He moved to Petersburg and lived there for the remainder of his life. He followed his fellow townsman William Mahone into the Readjuster movement later in the decade and attended the February 1879 convention in Richmond that founded the Readjuster Party. Bolling campaigned for the Readjusters during the 1880s, and in 1882 Governor William E. Cameron, another Petersburg Readjuster, named him to the board of directors of the Central Lunatic Asylum. Bolling served as the board’s first president. After the Readjuster Party collapsed, Bolling became a Republican. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Petersburg in 1888 and as a Republican candidate for presidential elector that same year. For the next two decades he regularly played a prominent role in the party’s state conventions and on the campaign trail. In recognition of his leadership in the party, Republican presidents twice made Bolling postmaster of Petersburg, from 1882 to 1885 and from 1889 to 1913.

Later Years

Letter to Governor James Taylor Ellyson

Bolling was a proprietor of the Oaks Tobacco Company in Petersburg. He belonged to the Tobacco Exchange, and he served for eight years as president of the Petersburg Tobacco Association and for several years as vice president of the Petersburg Chamber of Commerce. He also presided over Petersburg’s school board and was active in several fraternal organizations. Bolling’s special interest in Confederate veterans’ groups extended to command in Petersburg of the A. P. Hill Camp of the United Confederate Veterans, service for several years as commander of the 1st Brigade, Virginia Division, of the UCV’s Army of Northern Virginia Department, election as grand commander of the Virginia Division on October 12, 1899, and a stint as major general of the Virginia Division from 1907 to 1913. His sustained popularity among Confederate veterans was all the more remarkable considering his active role in the Republican Party. Bolling died of bronchitis and nephritis at his home in Petersburg on the evening of November 1, 1916, and was buried two days later in Blandford Cemetery.

MAP
TIMELINE
February 28, 1835
Stith Bolling is born in Lunenburg County, the son of John Stith Bolling and Mary Thomas Irby Bolling.
May 9, 1860
Stith Bolling marries Cornelia Scott Forrest, of Lunenburg County.
June 7, 1861
Stith Bolling enlists as a sergeant in the Lunenburg Light Dragoons, which becomes Company G of the 9th Virginia Cavalry Regiment.
April 28, 1862
Stith Bolling is commissioned a lieutenant in the 9th Virginia Cavalry Regiment.
January 17, 1863
Stith Bolling, of the 9th Virginia Cavalry Regiment, is promoted to captain.
October 11, 1863
Stith Bolling, of the 9th Virginia Cavalry Regiment, sustains a head injury at the Battle of Morton's Ford.
April 15, 1865
After initially refusing to surrender with Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, Stith Bolling, of the 9th Virginia Cavalry, surrenders and is paroled.
July 6, 1869
Stith Bolling is elected to the House of Delegates. There he joins a coalition of Conservatives and moderate Republicans in opposition to the Radical Republicans. He chairs the Committee on Property.
1870
The governor appoints Stith Bolling a brigadier general of the Virginia militia.
1871
Stith Bolling runs for reelection to the House of Delegates and loses by a narrow margin to George M. Jennings, an African American and Radical Republican. Due to election irregularities, the House of Delegates refuses to seat either candidate.
February 20, 1872
After election irregularities the year before, a new election is held and Stith Bolling defeats George M. Jennings, an African American and Radical Republican, for a seat in the House of Delegates.
1875
Stith Bolling becomes an inspector general of tobacco in Petersburg.
February 25—26 1879
Stith Bolling attends the convention in Richmond that founds the Readjuster Party.
1882
Governor William E. Cameron appoints Stith Bolling to the board of directors of the Central Lunatic Asylum. Bolling serves as the board's first president.
1882—1885
Stith Bolling serves as postmaster of Petersburg.
1888
Stith Bolling runs unsuccessfully for mayor of Petersburg.
1889—1913
Stith Bolling serves a second stint as postmaster of Petersburg.
October 12, 1899
Stith Bolling is elected grand commander of the Virginia Division of the United Confederate Veterans.
1907—1913
Stith Bolling serves as major general of the Virginia Division of the United Confederate Veterans.
November 1, 1916
Stith Bolling dies of bronchitis and nephritis at his home in Petersburg.
November 3, 1916
Stith Bolling is buried in Blandford Cemetery in Petersburg.
FURTHER READING
  • Gunter, Donald W. “Stith, Bolling.” In the Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Vol. 2, edited by Sara B. Bearss, et al., 71–72. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 2001.
  • Henderson, William D. Gilded Age City: Politics, Life and Labor in Petersburg, Virginia, 1874–1889. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1980.
  • Krick, Robert K. 9th Virginia Cavalry. Lynchburg, Virginia: H. E. Howard, 1982.
  • Moore, James Tice. Two Paths to the New South: The Virginia Debt Controversy, 1870–1883. [Lexington]: University Press of Kentucky, 1974.
  • Levin, Kevin M. “William Mahone, the Lost Cause, and Civil War History.” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 113, no. 4 (2005): 379–412.
CITE THIS ENTRY
APA Citation:
Gunter, Donald & Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Bolling, Stith (1835–1916). (2021, February 12). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/bolling-stith-1835-1916.
MLA Citation:
Gunter, Donald, and Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Bolling, Stith (1835–1916)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (12 Feb. 2021). Web. 27 Nov. 2021
Feedback
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Sponsors  |  View all