Anderson Clay Toms

(Pasquotank County)

Featured Character – 1864 Confederate Decline

Charge of the VMI Cadets at the Battle of New Market

Courtesy of Benjamin West Clinedinst, 1880, Virginia Military Institute Museum

Anderson Clay Toms’s father grew up in Perquimans County, North Carolina.  By 1840, he owned a farm and twenty-seven slaves.  However, he eventually moved to Norfolk and became a merchant.  On March 12, 1848, Mary Eliza Toms gave birth to her second son, Anderson Clay Toms.  Unfortunately, Toms’s father died before the Civil War.  Mary Eliza Toms and her children moved to Baltimore and lived with her married daughter.  With the outbreak of war, the family returned to Virginia.  On April 21, 1864, Mary Eliza Toms enrolled her son as a cadet private at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI).  During the Battle of New Market, Toms guarded the institute’s grounds in Lexington, Virginia.  The closure of the institute in April 1865 prevented him from graduating.  After the war, Toms studied medicine with Dr. J.J. Shannonhouse near Elizabeth City, but he felt that he should provide for his mother and sister, who were left destitute from the war. Therefore, he left for Galveston, Texas, where he was involved in the transportation service. Unfortunately, Toms contracted yellow fever there and died in August 1867 at the age of 19.