Commander of the famed "Sussex Light Dragoons" of Virginia
7 1/4 x 9 3/4, in ink, written to Captain Belsches on imprinted letter sheet, and signed by Washington Lafayette Riddick, who was the Assistant Adjutant General of General Albert G. Blanchard at this time.
Head Quarters Military Division. The words "Military Division" have been crossed out with slanted pen strokes, and written in above is "3d Brigade." The imprint continues Portsmouth, Va., with the month and day written in ink, "Sept. 16th" and the year 1861 imprinted on the letter sheet.
The content of the letter is as follows:
Capt. B.W. Belsches
In answer to your communication of this date, asking extension of leave of absence on account of your health, I am directed to say that the request is granted, and until such time as the condition of your health will prevent you to return to active duty.
You will however make weekly reports of your condition to these Head Quarters, accompanied by the certificate of your attending physician.
Respty. Yr. Obt. Sevt.
A. Adjt. Genl.
Sent by mail to Waverly Station [Virginia]
Light staining along the left edge of the paper, and some minor overall wear. Bold and neatly written. Very desirable and scarce document regarding the elite "Sussex Light Dragoons" of Virginia, and its commander Captain Benjamin W. Belsches.
WBTS Trivia: During The War Between the States, Sussex Country, Virginia was the site of much military activity. The "Sussex Light Dragoons" adopted their name from an American Revolutionary War unit that also hailed from Sussex County, Virginia. The "Sussex Light Dragoons" were known as a wealthy organization and it is said that each member of the company had his own servant with him.
The "Sussex Light Dragoons" wore a most distinctive uniform, their kepi being of such a height as to almost qualify it as a "shako," made of blue cloth with yellow braid, it bore a brass badge of the letters "S.L.D." over crossed sabres. Officers wore a variation of the regulation frock coat, but considerably longer than usual. Other ranks wore shirts with "plastron" style front panels, which may have been reversible to show a yellow panel for full dress. They were also known as bib-fronted battle shirts. Trousers for all ranks were dark blue. They were armed with the usual weapons of the sabre and revolver. [Source: Mine Creek Battlefield; American Uniforms].
Benjamin W. Belsches, was 43 years old when he enlisted on April 24, 1861, at Waverly, Virginia, as a captain. He was the commander of the famed "Sussex Light Dragoons." He also had service in Co. C, 5th Virginia Cavalry, and either the 13th Virginia Cavalry [see page 364 of Units of the Confederate States Army] or 15th Virginia Cavalry [see The Historical Data Systems, Inc.]. He was promoted to major on June 26, 1862. His date and method of discharge are unknown. He did however survive the war and died on October 13, 1872, and is buried in the Family Cemetery, in Sussex County, Virginia.
Washington Lafayette Riddick, was a 36 year old resident of Suffolk, Va., when he enlisted on June 24, 1861, at Suffolk, as a 2nd lieutenant, and was commissioned into Co. G, 5th Virginia Cavalry. On August 15, 1861, he was commissioned as a Confederate States Staff Officer, and assigned to the headquarters staff of General Albert G. Blanchard, as 1st lieutenant and adjutant. He was promoted to the rank of captain in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States of America, on October 5, 1861. He was wounded on June 1, 1862, at the battle of Seven Pines, Va.; he was assigned to Camp Lee, Richmond, Va., as Captain and Assistant Adjutant General, on August 15, 1863; assigned to the staff of General James L. Kemper as Assistant Adjutant General, on January 15, 1865; assigned to R.H. Anderson's Artillery, as Assistant Adjutant General, on January 28, 1865; and was paroled on May 2, 1865, at Richmond, Va. He died on February 3, 1871, in New Orleans, Louisiana.