The final days leading up to the surrender at Appomattox Court House involved a stopover by the Union forces at Prince Edward Court House and Hampden-Sydney. This visit is chronicled in detail in Bad Friday, a new book by the Reverend William E. Thompson, retired chaplain at Hampden-Sydney College.
“Bad Friday,” as the Union visit on April 7, 1865, was known to locals at the time, was the follow-up to the battle at Sailor’s Creek and the precursor to the Confederate’s last gasp days later. Thompson examines the effect on Hampden-Sydney College by the encampment of General Philip Sheridan’s Union cavalry and General Charles Griffin’s corps of infantry as the Union Army’s left flank moved west from Richmond.
Of his title, Thompson says, “I fully recognize that what I am calling Bad Friday … certainly turned out to be ‘as good as it could possibly be,’ because in the wake of the onward-marching Union Army’s Friday activities both the Confederate surrender at Appomattox became virtually inevitable and the liberation of African-American people of enforced servitude became possible … although their freedom from bondage would not officially become a “law-of-the-land” reality until the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified on December 18, 1865.”
Thompson’s career as a Presbyterian minister spanned 50 years, including 14 years at College Church (1988-2002). In 2010, he published Her Walls Before Thee Stand, a 235-year history of College Church. He is writing a history of The Hampden-Sydney Boys, the first college-boy military company to exchange battle fire during the Civil War.