John Bell Rankin Junior

by Danella Dickson

John Bell Rankin Jr. was born January 4, 1841 in Augusta County, Virginia, the son of John Bell Senior and Elizabeth (Sheets) Rankin. On April 17, 1861 Virginia voted to leave the union causing a flurry of military enlistment in Staunton where the Rankin’s lived. A flyer circulating in the area warned of the invasion of Abolition forces and called for volunteers. (Valley of the Shadow Rosters Discussion – Virginia). John Jr. enlisted April 17th as a private in Captain Robert L. Doyle’s Company (Mountain Guards), Company C, 5th Virginia Infantry Regiment. His sixty year old father, John Bell Rankin Senior, enlisted as a drummer in the same regiment on the same date. The men were transported by train to Harpers Ferry, a distance of 125 miles, where they were mustered into service on May 1st. Soon after the 5th Virginia Infantry was placed under the command of Col. Thomas J. Jackson, later known as Stonewall Jackson.

Camp life did not agree with John Jr., official military records list his death on July 25, 1861. The cause of death was inflammation of the brain, today the diagnosis might be meningitis which can be caused by bacteria or a virus.

John Bell Rankin Junior was buried in cemetery located on his father’s farm, now known as the Burnett-Rankin Family Cemetery near the village of Spring Hill, Augusta County. The inscription on his grave marker was recorded by a family member who visited the cemetery on November 9, 1949 and described the stone as about three feet tall, it read “ In Memory of John B. Rankin A Member of the Mountain Guards – Capt’n Doyle – Commanding, Died July 18, 1861, aged 20 years, 6 months, 14 days. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord & they shall rest from their labor’s. The last recorded visit to the cemetery was September 2003 and at that time his stone was still standing. The cemetery was described at that time as a fairly typical family cemetery; it was fenced with a locking gate but had only 2 or 3 headstones.

Courtesy of J.B. and Ramona Roberts