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Port Haywood home’s role in Civil War raid subject of tour

A tour group from Lee Hall Mansion in Newport News visited Willow Grove at Port Haywood on Saturday, along with other sites associated with the raid of Union troops into Mathews led by Brig. Gen. Isaac J. Wistar.

Wistar’s raid in October 1863 was an effort to throttle the Confederate Volunteer Coast Guard, which was led by John Yates Beall and operated out of Horn Harbor.

Mary Ann Gilman, owner of Willow Grove, said Wistar’s troops visited the home on Smith Creek several times, going through the yard and all the rooms to search for people aiding the Confederate cause.

“One time they came to the house and my great-grandmother (Ann Foster Brooks Smith, called ‘Nancy’) came out with an oil lamp on the porch. They jostled her and almost knocked the lamp out of her hand and she said, ‘Is there a gentleman among you?’” An officer came and calmed the men, she said.

Another time the troops, raiding the house, went up the stairs to the attic, ...

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