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A Life of Prominence and Varied Roles: the Multifaceted Legacy of General Robert Young

Introduction: A Life of Prominence and Varied Roles

Robert Young, a notable figure born on December 27, 1768, left an indelible mark on his community through his multifaceted life. Engaging in various roles and contributions, he became a respected member of his society. From his involvement in trade circles to his service as a soldier and commemorator of significant events, Young’s life story is one of rich diversity.

A Multifaceted Life

Merchant, Soldier, and Consultant

As a merchant, Robert Young was deeply entrenched in trade circles. His connections and expertise made him an influential player in his community. Additionally, he carried the distinguished title of a soldier, having served valiantly during the Revolutionary War. But it was not just on the battlefield where his influence was felt.

During the time of Thomas Jefferson, Young’s knowledge and insights were sought after as a consultant for the Port of Havana. This demonstrated his ability to navigate intricate matters beyond his immediate surroundings and contribute to broader discussions and decisions.

Commemorating Passing Figures

Cavalry Leader at Washington’s Funeral

One of Robert Young’s notable roles was leading the Cavalry during the funeral procession of none other than George Washington himself. This significant task underscored his position as a respected individual capable of shouldering responsibilities during solemn moments of national importance.

Commander of Alexandria Militia

Young’s involvement extended to more than just commemorations. He also commanded the Alexandria Militia during the Battle of the White House. This exemplified his dedication to safeguarding his community and the principles it held dear.

Above the White House Battery flew a flag emblazoned with “FREE TRADE & SAILOR’S RIGHTS.” Sketch by William Bainbridge Hoff, Naval Historical Center. The Battle of the White House took place from September 1 to 15, 1814, and stands as a significant engagement between the District of Columbia and Virginia Militia against the Potomac Squadron—a fleet composed of British warships. The British forces compelled the surrender of Alexandria on August 28, 1814. This battle is often seen as a precursor to the British assault on Baltimore in September, a pivotal event that ultimately led to the creation of the United States national anthem.

Residences Reflecting a Journey

From 312 Queen Street to 1315 Duke Street

Robert Young’s residences encapsulated his journey through life. Beginning at 312 Queen Street, he eventually constructed 1315 Duke Street. It was at this address that he lived with his family from 1820 to 1824, until his passing. However, financial struggles befell his estate, leading to the Mechanic’s Bank of Alexandria taking possession of his home.

A Dark Turn in History

Conversion into a Notorious Slave Pen

Tragically, the history of the property took a dark turn following Young’s demise. In 1828, the notorious slave traders Isaac Franklin and John Armfield entered the scene. They rented and eventually purchased 1315 Duke Street, transforming it into a hub for their heinous slave trade operations in Alexandria, Virginia. This somber transformation of Young’s once-residence serves as a stark reminder of the atrocities that occurred.

Photograph from the Library of Congress depicting a Union army guard and other individuals gathered in front of a building identified as Price, Birch & Co., a business engaged in the trade of enslaved people, situated at 1315 Duke St., Alexandria, VA. Before that, the premises were owned by the slave-trading firm Franklin & Armfield. The Union Army repurposed this former slave-holding facility to accommodate Confederate prisoners.

Legacy and Family

Freedom House Museum and Personal Life

Today, 1315 Duke Street stands as a poignant reminder of its checkered past, now housing the Freedom House Museum under the management of the City of Alexandria. Robert Young’s legacy lives on, although marred by the events that followed his passing.

In his personal life, Young was a father to two daughters. His daughter Elizabeth Mary Young married Phillip Richard Fendall II on March 31, 1827. Together, they were laid to rest alongside Young in the family plot.

Roberta Eugenia Young Brown: Carrying the Legacy Forward

An Impactful Offspring

Another daughter, Roberta Eugenia Young Brown, born on February 11, 1817, and passing away on February 23, 1886, made her own mark in history. She married Albert Gallatin Brown, who would serve as the Governor of Mississippi and later become a United States Senator. Their final resting place is in Greenwood Cemetery in Jackson, Mississippi, a testament to the enduring impact of the Young family’s legacy.

Conclusion: Remembering Robert Young’s Varied Legacy

The life of Robert Young reflects the intricate tapestry of a man who wore many hats. From merchant to soldier, from commemorator to resident, his story is one of resilience, significance, and even tragedy. While his name is tied to both moments of national importance and dark chapters in history, Robert Young’s legacy continues to be remembered, preserved, and examined by generations to come.

Sacred
to the memory of
Gen’l ROBERT YOUNG
born 27 December 1768
died 27 October 1824
Frank, upright and generous, liberal
in prosperity;
patient in adversity and
sickness; a tender husband and parent
a faithful friend and accomplished
Gentleman and a sincere Christian
42:53, obelisk

Sources of Information

Pippenger, W. E. (1992). Tombstone Inscriptions of Alexandria, Virginia: Volume 1. Family Line Publications & Heritage Books, Inc.

Powell, M. G. (2000). The History of Old Alexandria, VA, from July 13, 1749 – May 24, 1861. Index by Pippenger, W. E. Willow Bend Books.

Madison, R. L. (2005). Walking with Washington. Second Printing. Gateway Press, Inc.

O’Neill, P. L. (2014). “To Annoy or Destroy the Enemy”: The Battle of the White House after the Burning of Washington. Privately published by Patrick L. O’Neill.

Dahmann, D. C. (2002). The Roster of Historic Congregational Members of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House. Unpublished.

Rothman, J. D. (2021). The Ledger and the Chain: How Domestic Slave Traders Shaped America. Basic Books.

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By David

Hello! My name is David Heiby, and I am a passionate public historian dedicated to preserving and sharing the rich history of Alexandria, Virginia, and the surrounding region. With a deep love for bringing the past to life, I am honored to serve my community in this meaningful role.

Before starting this journey, I enjoyed a fulfilling career as a businessman and entrepreneur. Now retired, I have found a new sense of purpose in my work as a public historian. My passion for history was ignited at a young age growing up in the congregation of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House in Alexandria, VA, where many historic figures are buried in its 18th-century burial ground. I still attend to this day.

Since 2015, I have also had the privilege of serving as the Superintendent of the historic Presbyterian Cemetery and Columbarium, located within the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex in Alexandria. This cemetery holds a special place in my family's history, as it was started in the early 1800s by the Old Presbyterian Meeting House, a historic congregation dating back to 1772 that is situated one mile east in the heart of Old Town. The cemetery is the final resting place of my parents, and the Meeting House is where I have worshipped for over 60 years.

As a public historian, I am thrilled to lead tours of the Wilkes Street Cemetery, which has thirteen cemeteries in a complex with over 35,000 interments. It is considered the most historic cluster of cemeteries in the United States. These sacred grounds offer a fascinating glimpse into the story of Alexandria and its people. I also enjoy guiding tours of nearby Civil War battlefields, combining my passion for history with the compelling narratives of those who fought and fell on these hallowed grounds, bringing their stories to life. I primarily lead tours of Harpers Ferry, South Mountain, and the Antietam Battlefields, along with tracing the footsteps of those involved in the Assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in April 1865. I am also a licensed tour guide in Washington, D.C.

To further engage the community, I manage a comprehensive website dedicated to Alexandria's cemeteries, where the stories of the many souls buried across the city are shared, and their lives are commemorated. This platform serves as a valuable resource for those interested in exploring the rich history of Alexandria through its final resting places. I am also an active Board Member of the Alexandria Historical Society and the Lee-Fendall House Museum.

Whether you are a resident or a visitor to the area, I invite you to explore Alexandria's rich history by joining one of my cemetery or battlefield tours, visiting my website to research the stories of those who have shaped our city, or connecting with me on social media. My website is a comprehensive resource for those seeking to uncover the fascinating tales and histories intertwined with Alexandria's cemeteries. Please don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or would like to schedule a tour. I am pleased to bring the city's captivating past to life and serve my community meaningfully.

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