Charles Scott Venable

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C. S. Venable
Southall-Venable House, ca. 1918 (demolished)

Colonel Charles Scott Venable (March 19, 1827 – August 11, 1900) was a mathematician and Confederate officer during the Civil War. In mathematics, he is noted for authoring a series of primary school textbooks as a University of Virginia professor (1865-1896). Venable was an aide-de-camp to General Robert E. Lee from 1862 to 1865.

Venable Elementary School is named for him.

College Student and Professor (1827-1861)

Born at Longwood, the country home of his family, near Farmville, Virginia, April 19, 1827. He matriculated in Hampden-Sidney College as a sophomore in 1839, graduated in 1842, and served as tutor in Mathematics until 1845. In the fall of 1845 he entered the University of Virginia for post-graduate study, spending two years there under Edward Courtenay (1803-1853) [1]and his colleagues, and later one year at Berlin and Bonn under Encke, Argelander, Lejeune Dirichlet and Dove. Venable held chairs of Mathematics successively at Hampden-Sidney College (1846-1855); at the University of Georgia (1855-1856); and at the University of South Carolina (1856-1861).[2]

From the Sketch of COLONEL CHARLES SCOTT VENABLE BY Professor William M. Thornton

Soldier and Staff Officer (1861-1865)

The outbreak of the Civil War found Venable at Columbia, South Carolina, in the very focus of that great political and military movement. He volunteered at once, and as Second Lieutenant of the Congaree Rifles was present at the fall of Fort Sumter (April 13th, 1861). The summer of that year found him in Virginia, fighting as a private at first Manassas (July 21st, 1861) in the South Carolina Governor's Guards, and then patrolling the Potomac as a volunteer aide on the staff of General Wade Hampton. Promoted to be Lieutenant of Artillery, he was ordered to Louisiana, and there shared in the ineffectual defense of New Orleans. Later he was under General M. L. Smith in organizing the fortifications of Vicksburg. During the winter of 1862 the Confederate Congress created the office of "Military Adviser to the President." General Robert E. Lee was selected to fill the position and entered at once upon his duties (March 13th, 1862). The staff allowed him was a military secretary with the rank of colonel (Armistead L. Long) and four aides each with the rank of major (Randolph Talcott, Walter H. Taylor, Charles S. Venable and Charles Marshall). Venable was promoted Lieutenant Colonel November 4th, 1864. He served continuously on Lee's staff from 1862 until the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox, April 9th, 1865, brought the war to its heroic close. From the Sketch of COLONEL CHARLES SCOTT VENABLE BY Professor William M. Thornton [3]

Local legacy

Leander McCormick Observatory

Col. Venable acted as the primary correspondent with Leander J. McCormick from 1870 through to the dedication of the observatory in 1885. Col. Venable served on the committee appointed by the Board of Visitors to obtain information about the proposed telescope and to suggest a possible site for the observatory. Venable also spear-headed the fund-raising efforts, particularly from friends and alumni of the University.[4]

Namesakes

The historic Venable neighborhood is named for Venable, as is Venable Elementary School. Colonel Venable made considerable contributions to the University community and has been honored with the University dormitory, Venable Hall, named for him. [5]

Venable's home was located in downtown Charlottesville at 101 East Market Street. Originally known as the "Venable property", city native and philanthropist Paul Goodloe McIntire purchased the property, knocked down the existing buildings while preserving some of Venable's original landscaping, and then deeded the land to be known as "Lee Park" to the city in 1917 in memory of his parents. McIntire intended that the land be used as a public park and specifically to erect a large equestrian monument of Robert Edward Lee mounted on his horse Traveler as the exclusive centerpiece of the park. McIntire donated the completed statue seven years later in 1924.[6]

Selections about Col. Charles S. Venable

From Mary Chesnut’s Civil War[7]:

Whiling away long hours conversing with States Rights Gist, James and Mary Chesnut, and other notables, Venable often expressed both his disgust at the northerners who were waging war against “Christian” slavery and those who sought commissions in the Confederate army behind the lines."

From Memoir by Francis. P. Venable (C.S. Venable's son), Barbour Family Papers, and Charles S. Venable Papers[7]:

[By 1867], he proposed a curriculum change to make the mathematics program more flexible, and staunchly opposed any attempt to open the university [of Virginia] to black students

From Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution by Eric Foner[7]:

He derided the idea of giving freedmen the vote, expressing thanks that Virginia had escaped the “black dominion” of military Reconstruction, and derided the idea of blacks attending the University of South Carolina as “the Fetish of abolitionists.” Finally, he summarized Reconstruction itself as “the cruel crotchets of a sentimental philanthropy.”

From the Charles Venable Papers (UNC)[7]:

Similarly, although Charles Venable felt the necessity of preserving heroic memories of the Confederacy, he was too preoccupied with personal and professional matters to participate in most public efforts to promote the “Lost Cause.” He continued to correspond with other former Confederate officers... and joined local historical associations to promote Confederate memory, writing that “I esteem highly the work of such societies in collecting and preserving the materials for local and state histories.” Because of his Confederate sympathies, Wade Hampton offered him the presidency of the University of South Carolina in 1882.

Publications

  • "An Address Delivered Before the Society of Alumni, of the University of Virginia, at its annual meeting held in the Public Hall, July 26, 1858" (1859)
  • "Report of Prof. C. S. Venable on the Total Eclipse of July 18, 1860 in Report of the Superintendent of the Coast Survey … 1860" (1861)
  • Arithmetic, Pure and Commercial (1868)
  • First Lessons in Numbers—A Primary Arithmetic: Combining Mental and Slate Exercises (1870)
  • Higher Arithmetic for Advanced Students (1871)
  • An Elementary Algebra (1872)
  • "The Campaign from the Wilderness to Petersburg. Address of Col. C. S. Venable, (Formerly of Gen. R. E. Lee's Staff,), of the University of Virginia, Before the Virginia Division of the Army of Northern Virginia, At their Annual Meeting, held in the Virginia State Capitol, at Richmond, Thursday Evening, Oct. 30th, 1873" (1879)
  • Teacher's Manual of Venable's New Practical Arithmetic (1892)
  • A Key Containing Solutions of the More Difficult Examples in Venable's Practical and Mental Arithmetic (1893)
  • Mental Arithmetic Containing Oral Exercises in Abstract and Commercial Arithmetic (1894)
  • An Easy Algebra for Beginners; Being a Simple, Plain Presentation of the Essentials of Elementary Algebra (1895)
  • Elementary Arithmetic (1896)
  • Practical Arithmetic (1902)
  • High School Algebra (1904)

Family life

Children

  • Francis Preston Venable (1856-1934) was born November 17, 1856 in Farmville, Virginia. In 1893 F. P. Venable identified calcium carbide, thereby laying the foundation for the success of the Union Carbide Corporation--but was never financially rewarded for this discovery. From 1900-1914 he served as president of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 1930 F. P. Venable retired from teaching and four years later on March 17, 1934, F. P. Venable died.

References

  • Inventory of the Charles S. Venable Papers, 1862-1894, in the Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  • "Charles Scott Venable", Leander McOrmick Observatory Museum, Department of Astronomy, University of Virginia.
  • Johnson, Francis W., A History of Texas and Texans: Volume III, The American Historical Society, Chicago and New York, 1914. p 1235, 1236.
  • Sifakis, Stewart. Who Was Who in the Confederacy, Facts on File (November 1989). ISBN 0816022046.


  1. https://math.virginia.edu/history/History/1800s.htm
  2. Web. Memorial History of The John Bowie Strange Camp, United Confederate Veterans, Edited by Homer Richey, Adjutant R. T. W. Duke Camp, S. C. V., The Michie Company, Charlottesville, Virginia, 1920, retrieved September 23, 2019.
  3. Web. Memorial History of The John Bowie Strange Camp, United Confederate Veterans, Edited by Homer Richey, Adjutant R. T. W. Duke Camp, S. C. V., The Michie Company, Charlottesville, Virginia, 1920, retrieved September 23, 2019.
  4. http://faculty.virginia.edu/mccormick-observatory/venable.html
  5. http://faculty.virginia.edu/mccormick-observatory/venable.html
  6. Robert Kuhlthau, Preliminary Notes on the Robert E. Lee Statue, 20 September 1995, (on deposit Albemarle Historical Society, Monuments file).
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Sidwell, R. (2018). Sacrificing for the Lost Cause: General Robert E. Lee's Personal Staff. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from https://etd.ohiolink.edu/