R. H. PECK, 1861.
REMINISCENCIES OF A CONFEDERATE SOLDIER
OF CO. C, 2nd VA. CAVALRY.
After a lapse of half a century, I will try to relate in a commonplace way, the circumstances which came under my observation during the dark days of 1860-1865. Having engaged in 54 battles, some of them the hardest fought ones too, and coming through without being wounded at all, while many of my comrades fell by my side or were maimed for life, I feel that a guardian angel accompanied me and that I have much for which to be thankful.
One might think that at my age, which in a few months will be 74 years, that I only remember the occurrences of the war in a vague way, but to my mind’s eye, it is as vivid as if it had only taken place quite recently. I was only 23 years old when I went into actual warfare, so I was in a way, free from care. But many of the saddest memories of my life hover over the dark days of ’60-65 and the doleful period that followed.
In the year 1859 at Fincastle, Va., I enlisted with a company called “The Botetourt Dragoons.” This company was composed of 106 men, ready and willing to defend their country when called upon. Our officers were as follows: Andrew L. Pitzer, Capt.; Wm. A. Glasgow, 1st Lieut.; Wm. Price, 2nd Lieut.; and Jas. R. Thompson, Orderly Serg. Our first Serg. was Edward Brugh, second Serg. Wm. Garret and third Serg. Thomas McClure. Our first Corporal was William A. McCue, 2nd Corporal Robert Rieley and 3rd Corporal Geo. Peck.
We were called out by our captain for drills and parades usually on Sat. Our uniforms were navy blue with yellow trimmings. We had general musters once each year. We were invited to Buchanan, Salem and other points.
On our march to Salem we lined up in front of Hollins Institute and called on Prof. Cocke for an address, which he gave in his usual pleasant manner and finished it by inviting us to dine with him on our return. Capt. Hupp’s Battery of Salem, and Capt. Dierly’s Infantry of Roanoke, met us there. Col. Robert Preston, of Blacksburg, addressed the companies, also Capt.s Hupp, Pitzer and Dierly. All this was enjoyed, but not so much as the time spent with Prof. Cocke on our return three days later. We received genuine Virginia hospitality, such as we longed for many times in the four years which followed.
As the John Brown raid had already occurred we soon found that our service must be for defence and not only for practice. South Carolina, Mississippi and several other states had already seceded from the Union and when Abraham Lincoln called out 70,000 men to coerce the states, the majority of our men wanted to go to Manassas Junction to protect our capitol, Richmond. We were called first to Lynchburg for drilling and future orders.
FIRST YEAR OF THE WAR.
We left Fincastle on the morning of May 17, 1861, amid the cheers, good wishes, farewells and tears of mothers, wives and sweethearts. The ladies had prepared neat little pin cushions supplied with pins and needles, also bandage cotton and hospital necessities, some of which were needed before we had gotten five miles from Fincastle. Trooper Frasier spied a “frizzly hog” and called the attention of his comrades, which created so much laughter that his horse on seeing the hog and hearing the noise, became unmanageable and threw Frazier, whose head had to be bandaged, there and then in vinegar and brown paper, (in the language of Jack and Jill.)
We marched off gaily uniformed now in gray, following the flag presented to us by the Botetourt ladies and carried by Wm. McCue. This flag was used during the first two years of the war, and after our victory at the first battle of Manassas Junction we were presented with another flag and our first flag was sent to Richmond. It remained there until after the war and was then sent back to Fincastle, where it remained until 1907. It was then sent back to Richmond to the Confederate Museum to be kept as a relic, and I had the honor of presenting it on the 7th day of May 1907, to Mrs. Norman Randolph, manager of the Museum. This was the same day on which the Davis and Steuart monuments were unveiled at Richmond.
Now back to our march from Fincastle to Lynchburg. We were cheered on our way by the waving of kerchiefs and throwing of bouquets as we passed on, following the blue ridge road until we came to Buford’s Station, where we enjoyed the hospitality of Mr. Paschal Buford.
Our next stop was at Liberty, now called Bedford City. Here the kind people of the town took us into their homes and entertained and accommodated us for the night. We were welcomed in every home and invited to stop with them again if we should pass that way, which I did on one of my trips home from Petersburg. We left Liberty on the morning of May the 18th, and took dinner near Forest Depot at Col. Radford’s home. We reached Lynchburg the night of the 18th and as two companies had preceeded us and were enlisted as A and B, we came in as Co. C. We remained here three days, occupying tobacco factories and keeping our horses in Friend’s warehouse. We were furnished with tents and moved out near the fair grounds and were mustered into service on the 23 of May, by Gen. Jubal A. Early. By this time Co. D. from Franklin County had arrived and the remaining six companies came in in a few days. The companies were commanded as follows:
- Company A from Bedford County, Capt. Terry.
- Company B from Lynchburg City, Capt. Langhorn.
- Company C from Botetourt County, Capt. Pitzer.
- Company D from Franklin County, Capt. Hale.
- Company E from Amherst County, Capt. Whitehead.
- Company F from Bedford County, Capt. Wilson.
- Company G from Bedford County, Capt. Winston Radford.
- Company H from Appomattox County, Capt. Joel Flood.
- Company I from Campbell County, Capt. Jack Alexander.
- Company K from Albemarle County, Capt. Davis.
We remained at Lynchburg one month guarding the two magazines and drilling on foot and on horse-back. On June 10th, Capt. Terry with Co’s A and B went on to Manassas Junction, while we of Co. C with Co. D were ordered out June 17th.
Our first stop was at Rockfish Station where we camped for the night, and our second night was spent at New Glasgow. We reached Charlottesville by noon the next day and spent the night near Orange C. H. The next day found us at Culpepper C. H. by noon and night overtook at Warrenton Springs. We reached Manassas Junction by night fall of the next day. We moved on to Fairfax C. H. the following day and found Gen. Bornem commanding the first South Carolina Brigade, stationed there. Here we pitched our tents on Sat. eve and on Sunday a. m. a part of our Co. was sent out on a scout and two of our men, Calvin Garret and Joseph Robinson, were captured by the New York Zouaves. We remained at Fairfax C. H. until the 17th of July, and I was sent with fourteen other men, commanded by Serg. Garret, three miles below Fairfax C. H. on the Falls Church road to stand picket, and at 9 o’clock a. m. we found that McDowell was moving on Manassas Junction by three roads, viz.: Falls Church road, Little River turnpike, and Flint Hill road. Serg. Garret returned to notify the General of McDowell’s movement, but the Gen. had already learned from other pickets, of his advance, so he ordered the army to retreat immediately. As Serg. Garret did not return to us, Corporal McCue sent me back 3 miles to Fairfax C. H., and when I arrived our Adjt. told me of the retreat and from there I could see Col. Kershaw’s regiment already engaged with the enemy, so I had to return to notify the other pickets to join the command, which we could only do by a flank movement and came very near being cut off entirely by the enemy. When I returned I found that two of our pickets on the Flint Hill road, John Mays and William Maller, had been captured. We continued our retreat to Centerville and remained there until night. Gen. Beauregard’s plan was to throw sky rockets to let us know when to retreat further towards Manassas Junction, and when we called in the last pickets, we were fired upon by the enemy and two of our horses were killed from under their riders, Edward Hayth and William Walton.
During the night we marched across Bull Run at Mitchel’s Ford and laid down for the remainder of the night in front of the guns at Manassas Junction. We were awakened next morning by the firing of one of the enemy’s guns called “Long Tom.” As this was the first big gun I had seen fired, I remember well the appearance of that shell to me. It looked more like a gate-post flying through the air than any thing else I could compare it to. After hissing through the air about a mile it exploded and I told the boys I knew it had blown Manassas Junction to “kingdom come” and she would need no more protection. It wasn’t many days after this though, until we became more accustomed to the big guns, so we didn’t jump at such hasty conclusions and the firing wasn’t so exciting or terrifying. I hadn’t seen much of the infantry until that day and when they began double quicking and crossing Bull’s Run at Mitchel’s Ford in order to meet the enemy, I imagined we had men enough to whip the North right there.
At 9 o’clock on the 18th, the two armies met and for two hours a raging battle followed and when the Southerners made a charge all along the line, they drove the enemy back with considerable slaughter, into the timber back of the lowlands, where the battle was fought, and they remained there until Sunday, with “Long Tom” occasionally saluting us. Our line of battle extended from Blackburn’s Ford up nearly to Stone Bridge, a distance of 10 miles.
Sunday morning at about 8 o’clock Long Tom began firing and we all thought the enemy meant to renew the attack, but about 9 o’clock we heard firing at Stone Bridge about six miles above Manassas Junction.
The cavalry was immediately ordered to make a force march to Stone Bridge and when we got there we found that the 8th Georgia Regiment, commanded by Col. Huntington, in trying to hold the ford had lost nearly all their men and their commander. The 2nd Va. Regiment arrived to go to their rescue, but failed on account of the thick pines. About this time Jackson came in and with Gen. Bee and others, turned defeat into victory. Gen. Bee rushed to Jackson and said “General they are beating us back,” and Jackson said “we will give them the bayonet.” Gen. Bee encouraged by Jackson’s response shouted to his men: “Look! there is Jackson and his men standing like a stone wall.” He was ever afterward called “Stonewall Jackson.”
Gen. Bee was killed in a few minutes after making the remark to his men. The enemy, under McDowell’s command, was driven back with dreadful slaughter to Washington.
As we of the 2nd Va. regiment were unable to get to Stone Bridge to aid in the battle there and were in a dangerous position, being between the fires of both armies, Gen. Beauregaurd ordered us to the rear. Just at that time Gen. Jos. E. Johnson, coming in from the valley, rode up to Beauregaurd’s headquarters and took command, he being a senior officer. He immediately sent a courier to Col. Radford to halt the 2nd Va. Cavalry. Col. Radford told the courier to go to the D—— that he was acting under Beauregaurd’s orders. We were not aware of Johnston being near, but as soon as Johnston saw we didn’t halt he galloped down and shouted: “In the name of Jos. E. Johnston I command you to halt.” Of course, it wasn’t any trouble for Col. Radford or his men to halt, then.
He commanded us to cross Bull Run and go toward Cub Run Bridge to intersect the enemy’s line as it passed on retreat, and to shoot all the horses drawing the artillery and wagons. There being 1,000 of us, we held the road for nearly a mile, coming on their right flank and being so near before they knew it that we succeeded in capturing 24 pieces of artillery and the men commanding same. The road was lined with dead horses for nearly a mile, a sight no one would want to witness again, but we were only carrying out orders.
Our captain ordered the fences to be pulled down and 3 other men and I dismounted and tore them down on both sides. When we mounted we happened to look to our left and saw a house with a crowd of men standing around a well. I proposed to these three comrades that we could go up and fill our canteens as it was such a hot day. When we arrived, there were 60 or 70 of the finest looking men I ever saw, about middle-aged and finely dressed. More gold-headed canes, gold glasses and gold teeth than I had ever seen before on that number of men. We asked them to fill our canteens, which they did and just as they filled the last canteen, one of the men said to us that our command was retreating and I rode around the house to where I could see our line and it had passed nearly out of sight. Just then two guns that we hadn’t captured with the other 24 pieces of artillery, and a regiment of infantry also, opened fire on our regiment, and Capt. Radford of 2nd Va. regiment and Serg. Ervin were killed and several others wounded.
Just as we four men arrived to recross the road, a cannister of grape shot passed down the road striking two of our horses. We rode on about a half mile under a heavy fire, but they were over shooting us, just stripping the leaves from the trees, when one of the horses fell dead from his wound and the other one was still running on three legs. I took the saddle from the dead horse and carried it on my horse that was called the “Flying Artillery” and wouldn’t carry two men, and another comrade took the rider of the horse that was killed.
We overtook our regiment just as they were ready to recross Bull Run, and were held in readiness the remainder of the day, but no order for action was given and near night fall marched back to our camp ground of the proceeding night.
Just after dark a heavy rain began and continued all night and about half the next day, so we were thoroughly drenched by this time. Shortly after day break we started toward Centerville and our skirmish line captured several prisoners on the way. We moved very cautiously through the woods in the downpour of rain, thinking the enemy was at Centerville. But instead of the enemy being at Centerville, we found the homes deserted. Tables were set with the most delicious victuals, fine drinks, etc., having been prepared for a general jubilee after the supposed victory. Some of the houses were locked, but the majority were so that we could easily enter and some of the owners soon returned, so we enjoyed a bountiful repast that was intended for the northern soldiers. After the victory at Stone Bridge and the capture of the artillery at Cub Run Bridge, as they were retreating, the enemy rushed on to Washington panic-stricken. Had we realized the condition of the enemy then, as we afterward knew it to be, we could have pursued them and easily captured them, but we didn’t know the conditions.
We remained at Centerville until about 4 o’clock, when we began our march to Fairfax C. H., arriving there about night. The next morning we sent out scouting parties and videttes on all the roads and marched on to Falls Church and put out our pickets, some of them nearly in sight of Washington. We remained here several weeks and enjoyed the fruit of a 300 acre peach orchard. Finally a division of infantry was sent to Mason Heights, which they captured without any great loss, and a few days later Munston’s Heights were taken in the same way. From the Heights the city of Washington could be seen, but the distance was too great for any bombardment. We moved camp about this time and when we got to our new camp a terrible rain and wind storm came up. It was a regular equinoxial storm. We hurriedly put up our tents and our Orderly Serg. cautioned us to tie our horses well as it was so stormy. He cautioned Marcus Ammen especially as he had an old horse called “Roachback” that was in the habit of breaking loose and rooting around the tents to hunt for corn. William Harvey, Henry Payne and McCaga Pitzer couldn’t sleep, as the wind was blowing so dreadfully, so they got out and built a fire and cursed everything and everybody from Jeff. Davis down to Buckie Brugh, one of our company. Kent Stoner was sleeping with me and I told him I’d give him my room and go out and help the boys celebrate around the fire. I reminded Kent of Basil Underwood’s sentence to death at the “Ringing of the Curfew,” and how his sweetheart said the “Curfew shall not ring tonight,” and that my motto for the present was that “Roachback must get loose tonight.” I went and untied Roachback and led him up to Albert Pitzer’s tent. The horse soon began rooting for the corn and the orderly went out and soon recognized the horse as Mr. Ammen’s. He led the horse down and hallowed: “Marcus! Marcus! Mr. Ammen! Mr. Ammen!” And Marcus yelled back “hello!” Then he said “here is your horse that has gotten loose. You must not tie him well. Come and I’ll show you how.” He did, and they both went back to bed.
In a short time I led him up again and he began his search for the corn. Pitzer rushed out and called Marcus again and Marcus said “well d—— that horse.”
He tied him again and I went then and talked to that cursing crowd at the fire and when Marcus and Pitzer got quiet, I led Roach-back up for the third time. Pitzer came out yelling to Marcus that he must keep that horse tied. Then Marcus said curse words thick and fast. I thought I’d had enough fun out of the boys for that night so didn’t untie the horse any more.
Pitzer was always telling us to fall into line quickly, so the boys nicknamed him “Quickly.” Marcus was very quiet for awhile and presently he broke the silence by saying: “D—— old Quickly! If he fools with me any more, I’ll thrash him.” I was afraid to go back into the tents for fear the boys would suspect me of the mischief, so I slept in Capt. Pitzer’s headquarter wagon. It was midnight by the time Roach-back got settled and the boys never knew until I told them, about six months later, that I had caused the fun and trouble that stormy night.
The enemy then began fortifying Arlington Heights and bringing in troops to hold their position, our men began falling back toward Centerville, but keeping our pickets out about twenty miles toward Washington.
About October 1st the northerners began driving in our pickets, and Col. Kershaw, thinking it was a regular advance of the enemy sent me with a dispatch to Gen. Bornem at Fairfax C. H., and he brought four regiments and the Washington artillery to reinforce us. The only man I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting since the war that was with this Washington artillery, from La., was B. T. Walshe, Sr., who still lives in La., but spends a part of his time in Va. with his son.
The enemy did not advance further so the troops just remained together over night. The next morning Gen. Bornem sent an infantry skirmish line out to go to the Heights, near Lunenburg, and try and ascertain the position of the enemy. As I had been a courier for Gen. Bornem several times I got permission to go with the skirmishers and left my horse at his headquarters. The men who had been killed the evening before, when the enemy was driving our pickets, had all been taken away during the night, as we found none of them, but several overcoats were found. Kershaw’s men had seen the dead men the evening before, lying on the fields, but none of our men were killed, as they were considerably above us and were overshooting us all the time. We went as far as Lunenburg Heights and saw no troops ahead of us, so we returned to Bornem’s headquarters and Bornem ordered his brigade back to Fairfax C. H., and left Col. Bacon’s regiment, as picket. In three days I returned to Fairfax also and joined my regiment.
All was quiet for a few days, when a similar raid was made and we were called out at 7 o’clock p. m. and we tore down our tents and loaded the wagons and sent them back to Centerville. We were ordered to march about six miles to a little place called Langley. Here we drew up in line of battle, every man holding his horse, expecting an attack any moment and remained there until day break. After day break scouting parties were sent out in every direction, but no sign of the enemy could be seen.
Bornem returned to Fairfax camp ground again. Co. C. was sent to the Difficult Run Turnpike and we began leaving sentiment’s on every road leading into this Turnpike, from the north. I was left 20 miles out from Langley, just after dark. One other man from our Co. was left at the next road above me, and from there pickets from another regiment guarded the roads nearly to Leesburg.
In a short time after we were stationed a terrible thunder-storm came up and my horse became so unruly that I could hardly control him at all. I soon saw by the lightning that there was a man sitting at the foot of the tree under which my horse was standing. I looked closely when the next flash of lightning came and recognized him, as a man by the name of Underwood who had been our pilot on one of our scouting expeditions. I spoke to him and told him who I was and when and where I had seen him, so he had me to search him to see that he had no arms, thinking he said, that I might think him a fake and shoot him.
We enjoyed each others company all night, and next morning he went to a house nearby and got breakfast for me, also dinner and supper for me and my horse. He certainly proved a friend in need. I was relieved at about 5 o’clock that eve to return to camp 20 miles distant. I soon reached camp, as the horse was tired standing so long, and I got a good rest that night. This I enjoyed you know as I had marched all night and all day and then been put on picket duty for 24 hours, where no one dared to sleep.
I was quiet and had an easy time, for a soldier, until my next turn for picket duty, which was about a week. Ten or twelve of us, commanded by Serg. Brugh, were sent out to a place called Hunter’s Mill and stationed on different roads, but only had to serve four hours until relieved.
At one o’clock the next day one of our men went out in search of food for his horse and he had just bought a new hat the day before and when he passed my post, I told him it was dangerous to go out beyond the picket post. But he said he was going, so I told him I hoped the Yankees would get him and his new hat too. He hadn’t been gone long until I heard the firing of 30 or 40 guns. I, of course, looked immediately in the direction of the firing and here came the trooper, like a winged animal, without a bridle for his horse or that new hat. I could see that the Penn. Bucktails were pursuing him, so I notified Serg. Brugh and he sent me to meet Capt. Whitehead to prepare him for a line of battle, but by the time Capt. got to Serg. Brugh, we could see the line of the enemy extended out of sight to right and left. So we were ordered by Capt. Whitehead to retreat, which we did hastily but not until one of Capt. Whitehead’s men had been killed.
The line of the enemy, we afterward found, extended up to where our next picket stood. William Marks of our Co. was wounded.
This occurred in Fairfax county, and as winter was coming on and we had a great many horses, Gen. J. E. B. Stewart made a raid into Loudon County to find provender for the horses. He took four or five hundred wagons, two brigades of infantry, one of cavalry and a battery of artillery, commanded by Capt. Cults of La. When we made our way as far as Drinsville, we encountered Gen. McCall, of the northern army with a wagon train and about as many soldiers as Stewart had with him making his way into the same county and for the same purpose we were.
Our pickets reported the enemy advancing and Stewart immediately put Capt. Cults’ artillery in position, in a narrow road among heavy pines. The enemy also put their artillery in position near the Thornton house on the main road from Falls Church to Leesburg.
The enemy opened on us with five pieces of artillery and damaged our artillery so much, as we were so hampered only one gun could be used at a time, that Capt. Cults was forced to retreat from his position very soon.
Then the 11th Va. infantry was ordered to the front to drive the enemy’s artillery back, but were unable to do it. The 11th Va. lost several men, one of whom, I remember, was Melvin Gibbs. Both armies remained in position until night fall and were more than glad to get back to quarters with our provender. Neither claimed to have conquered or to have been conquered.
The next day I got permission to ride over the battlefield which was my custom. After viewing the battlefield from “Dan to Beersheba” and was returning, I saw a lady beckoning to me from her home. I went to her yard fence and she told me there was a soldier there who was intoxicated. I dismounted and went in and to my great surprise, found it to be a man of our regiment, from Co. I, of Campbell county, by the name of Johnnie Wooten, (the man who sat back in his whiskers, the boys called him.) I insisted on his going to the camp with me, which he finally agreed to do. The Capt. sent him to the guard house and the officer of the guard made him walk for two hours with the sentinel, as his punishment.
I had received a box from home that day, which was enjoyed heartily by all soldiers you know. After partaking of its contents I was in the best of spirits. Any child could have played with me then. I thought of poor Johnnie Wooten on his two hours tramp and went out to share some of my provision with him. I found him still paying his penalty and gave him a ration. I agreed to walk in his place while he would go a few steps inside the encampment to eat his supper. At this interval, the guard sent the chaplain out to reprimand and advise Johnnie how to conduct himself in the future. When he came up the sentinel halted him. The chaplain remarked that he wanted to talk to Johnnie and as I was acting for Johnnie at that moment, I got the whole reproof and lecture.
After we three walked together about ten minutes, the chaplain asked me if I wouldn’t promise to do better in the future. And with my handkerchief over my face all the time, to keep him from recognizing me, I promised faithfully to try. The chaplain went back very much gratified to know that Johnnie had repented so earnestly.
As Johnnie, in reality, failed to get this reprimand, as soon as he was released, went in search of his horse which had strayed over to Co. C’s picket rope. He was so provoked, he cut the picket rope, which was against the rules, of course, and was immediately sent back to the guard house.
We were next ordered to prepare winter quarters near Stone Bridge. About this time I was sick and was sent to the hospital near Centerville. After recovering I came back to the camp, having been absent about a month.
As it was near Xmas, now, W. S. Hines, one of our Co., had engaged eggs and cream for making “egg-nogg.” My horse, the “Flying Artillery,” was very restless, pawing continually, and I remarked that I wished I had a long ride to take on him and could give him the exercise he needed.
Hines told me I could ride for the cream and eggs. He went to his tent and brought canteens enough to hold about a gallon and a half. I started off and when I got to the house, the lady remarked, as I gave her the canteens, that “the man must expect to fatten his sick man.” I told her I expected he had several sick men he wanted to give cream to, never hinting at “egg-nogg,” you may know. I soon got back to camp and as the ground was covered with snow, my horse slipped right in a hole made by the picket rope post and turned a complete somersault, falling right on top of me. I whistled to the horse and he sprang up at once. I thought I was smashed up right this time and would certainly get a furlough to go home. My brother-in-law and a neighbor, A. A. Woodson, had come down to take me home from the hospital, but before they arrived I was back on duty. They were still in camp with us when this occurred and my first thought was whether I’d be able to go home. I first tried to move my right arm and it worked alright, then my left and it responded also. Then I tried both legs, thinking some of the limbs were sure to fail to work, but to my utter astonishment, I wasn’t hurt at all, only stunned. My first remark was that any big headed soldier that wouldn’t get hurt by such a fall as that ought never to get a furlough.
When I got into camp and told the joke on myself the boys enjoyed it hugely.
The winter quarters were completed by this time, so we broke camp and occupied them. While we were expecting to enjoy the winter quarters, unlike Geo. Washington’s men at Valley Forge, as there was plenty of every thing to live upon and we were all well clothed, we received orders for half of the regiment and Col. Radford to move on to Leesburg.
Five of the higglers from our mess were ordered out, so it only left John K. Young, Lewis Young and myself. The regimental quarter master, wagon-master and several other men offered to furnish the rations and pay the three left in our mess to cook for them. My job was to notify them when meals were ready and as these men had control of the rations they also had control of the whiskey.
When I went for them the first time they drew the bottle for a social drink, all around. Pharoah’s dream occurred to me that moment, how seven years of plenty must provide for seven years of famine. So while I had that bottle at hand I thought I’d just keep it for a time of need. I accordingly slipped it into my coat pocket, unnoticed by the other men. Every time I went for the men, I played the same prank on their whiskey, as I knew the whiskey was to be blockaded soon and we would need it for the boys when they were sick. After three or four days some of them said to me that some body was taking their whiskey while they were gone to their meals and I told them I was next to a detective to find such fellows and I’d soon locate him for them.
Col. Munford’s tent was next to these fellows and he had a cook, hostler and man servant. This servant was a boy of about sixteen, by the name of Billy. They all called him the Col’s cup-bearer. Well if ever there was a black boy he was the one; so black until he was blue, and charcoal was ashamed of itself by the side of him.
It just occurred to me how funny it would be to put the blame of whiskey stealing on Billy, as I knew the Col. would take care of him. On my next arrival they told me I was right, they could tell that very nigger had gotten their whiskey. I continued like Joseph to lay up for the whiskey famine until the blockade occurred. After I’d gotten all they had and they couldn’t treat me any more I began treating them. There was a moonshiner a couple of miles from camp and a man was going there to get whiskey, so I gave him $5.00 to get a canteen filled for the quarter masters, fearing theirs would run out before the blockade was raised, and the man came back saying he couldn’t get it for less than $10.00 a canteen. I told him he was crazy, that I’d bet I could get a canteen full for nothing and one full of butter milk besides. He said I was a fool and he’d bet me $100. I couldn’t do it. I took the bet and we staked the money.
I had two Yankee canteens exactly alike and I filled one with water and put a little whiskey on top, as you know they won’t unite. We both then went to the moonshiner and I gave him the counter-sign. He knew by this that I wasn’t going to betray him. I gave him the empty canteen and he went into the cellar and filled it. When he came out and gave it to me, I put it in my saddle pockets and gave him $5.00. He held up his ten fingers, signifying that I must give him more. I told him I was buying it for a Co. and they wouldn’t hear to such figures as that, and I’d just have to give him his whiskey back until I could see the men, but gave him my canteen of water with a little bit of whiskey on top instead of the canteen of whiskey. He gave me my $5.00 and took the canteen and emptied it into his barrel. I asked him to tell his wife to please fill the canteen with butter milk, if she could spare it, which she did, so I got my whiskey and butter milk, for which he’d accept no pay, and I won my $100. Of course the moonshiner lost nothing, but some fellow bought water in his whiskey after that. I wouldn’t take the $100. I had won, but we all enjoyed the joke.
Soldiers have to resort to many jokes and pranks, to keep up spirits, that they would never think of in private life.
We each took our turn picketing around Drainsville, a small town on the Loudon and Leesburg Turnpike. We made many friends in this section finding relatives of some of our county people. A whole company was sent out on picket for a three days period and we were given money to buy our ration while out, so we rather enjoyed the outing.
It was a hard winter, but the 8th of March soon rolled around and we were ordered to vacate winter quarters and go to Richmond. The whole army did not go as Ewell was ordered to Washington Junction and half of the 2nd Va. Cavalry was sent to keep up a vidette line from Manassas Junction to Strasburg.
Company C. was among the ones sent and our first order was to burn all the commissaries at Manassas Junction. Then the next was at Haymarket. The next burned supplies at Thoroughfare Gap. At this point a great many hogs were driven every year and butchered and there was a large mill, which had cost $2,000 and was being used as a packing house. The citizens told us that 600,000 lbs of bacon was stored in the building. We were ordered to burn this also, which we did and when the lard ran out into the creek it chilled and formed a dam across Broad Run. There was an acre lot about covered with barrels of flour at the point we had been getting our supplies from, and as it was feared the Yankees would get that also, we were ordered to knock the barrels to pieces and ride over the flour to destroy it. I was bitterly opposed to all this destruction but we had to carry out orders. We also had orders to blow up the big stone bridge, around which the first battle of Manassas was fought. It took 40 kegs of powder to destroy the bridge. It was destroyed in order to prevent the enemy from following us, as it was the main thoroughfare from Washington to the foot of the Blue Ridge.
We burned the depot also, destroying numbers of boxes sent to the soldiers, from home. We opened the boxes and got out any money that was in them, ate what we could of the provision, and took such clothing as we needed. We advanced the money on to the boys. We had to burn Loudon Station also, just on top of the Blue Ridge, and the last was at Front Royal. The boxes at both of these stations were ordered to be opened and, of course, we received some benefit from them but not near so much as if the soldiers in camp could have received them.
SECOND YEAR OF THE WAR.
Ewell then fell back to Orange C. H., and we joined him there for future orders. Capt. Duchene and Capt. White, of Ewell’s division, married two young ladies in Fairfax Co. and brought them in a fine carriage driven by a white man, on up to Orange C. H. They were there at a private residence boarding and would often drive out to the camp and when we were tearing down tents and getting ready to go to the Valley, these ladies asked me if I’d seen the Captains but I hadn’t and we began inquiring and no one had seen them for a few hours, and we learned afterward that they had resigned their positions, put on citizens clothing and had gone to parts unknown. The ladies, of course had nothing to do but to return to their homes.
We crossed the Blue Ridge at Sneeger’s Gap in a down pour of rain and pitched our tents at Elk Run church. The rain ceased that night, so we were ordered to clean up the encampment next day which was Sat. Sun. dawned clear and calm and we all had the privilege of attending the church services. The afternoon was spent in sleep, or rather a part of it. We were aroused by screams from the east end of the encampment and we looked and saw men shooting out from under their tents and capsizing some of them in their mad rush. We inquired for the trouble and some said a snake had crawled over their faces, and others that the devil was in the tent. After a number of tents were overthrown and all the men awakened, nearly, we found that the trouble was a large black snake running over the men while asleep. He ran in a muskrat hole, so no one had the pleasure of killing him for breaking our rest.
We remained here a few days and scouting parties were sent out every day across the mountain, and as far down as Linden Station to see if the enemy was approaching.
The cavalry that was engaged in this vidette line, picketted on the Shenandoah River and were often routed by the enemy. Some of the men didn’t stop until they got clear out of the country.
About this time we had a re-election of officers and Col. Munford was put in command of our whole regiment, where as he had only commanded half, and Col. Watts was elected Lieut. Col.
On the 3rd of May, when the regiment was near Linden Station, 13 of us were left at Flint Hill, several miles distant, to have our horses shod, and as we were going on to overtake the command, we met a man galloping up the road. Serg. Lemon, who had charge of us, met the man first and let him pass, but when he reached me I ordered him to halt, as I saw he was a northerner. But he fell flat on his horse and swiftly made a turn in the road, so we didn’t pursue him. He dropped a nice gum coat in his wild rush, which we didn’t fail to get.
We were in Rappahannock Co., and there were a great many stone fences, and I told Serg. Lemon we had better get out into the open on a high point and see if we could locate any forces of the enemy. We hadn’t gone any distance until we saw Gen. Gary with a division of Inft. and a regiment of cavalry, making his way from Front Royal to Richmond. We soon overtook Col. Munford and notified him of Gen. Gary’s movement and he waited until night fall and passed through Flint Hill, and took another road leading to Madison C. H. We camped and kept watch.
The next day some of Gary’s men came out in sight and Munford sent a couple of companies to cut these men off from the command and capture them, and when we got to a rock fence where we thought we could cut them off, we found the fifth Mich. Inft. lying just behind the fence. They raised up right at us and our horses were stopped so suddenly that six of the men were thrown and captured.
When Major Cary Breckinridge, who was in command of us, saw the trap we were in, he ordered us to “left about wheel,” and just in the act of turning, a bullet that was aimed at me struck C. C. Cahoon, the man next to me in the arm.
We had to retreat about 400 yards in full view of this whole regiment and they were firing at us all the time. But they were excited and overshot us and only the one man was wounded. My horse was struck on the foot and had to make three-fourths of the distance on three feet. The roll was called after we got back, but only the six men of Franklin Co., had been captured.
After awhile three independent scouts came up, Williams, Lamar Fontain, and Farley—S. Carolina and Mississippians. They wanted a dozen sharpshooters to go to where some Yankees were doing a lot of depredating, killing cattle, etc. I was sent among the others to within about 500 yards of where they were and we could see the hill beyond blue with Yankees.
We fired four or five shots each before they had time to protect themselves, and killed and wounded a dozen or more, but then had to retreat for our own safety.
The next morning I was sent with C. C. Cahoon, William Henderson and George Zimmerman, who had been wounded by their horses falling with them, except Cahoon, who was shot, to Madison C. H. I led their horses and took $100. to pay their expenses on the road, but we were so kindly treated by every one that I didn’t have to pay a penny. Mrs. Gen Kemper had charge of the hospital and took care of the men.
I took my horse, which had been wounded, to the horse pasture and got another and returned with the ambulance, in several days.
The command was moving, but Gary reached Richmond and was killed in the first battle around Richmond.
We next went back and joined Ewell in Luray county, and went on toward Front Royal, where there was a U. S. garrison. We joined Jackson at Front Royal, and Col. Ashby, with the first Va. regiment, attacked the enemy here and drove them back with heavy loss. The 2nd Va. regiment was to the right and didn’t receive as heavy firing as the 1st Va.
There were two Maryland companies In the 1st Va. cavalry and they were eager to bring on the attack, as the Maryland infantry held the position.
The cavalry made a charge through a wheat field and the regiment of infantry was lying down in the wheat, and when the cavalry came near the infantry arose and slew a number of our men. Col. Ashby then ordered our men to charge with drawn sabers, which they did, with considerable slaughter. This was our first charge with drawn sabers. The enemy retreated to Winchester, about four miles distant. The remainder of the day was quiet except picket firing.
The next day, which was Sunday. Gen. Ewell advanced from Front Royal with his division of Infantry and Gen. Jackson advanced from Strasburg with a division of Infantry, also. The country was generally fenced with stone fences and both armies made use of the fences as fortifications.
There was a rock fence running parallel with the fences occupied by both armies, and each army was ordered to advance to this middle fence. The Confederates beat the enemy to the fence and opened a deadly fire on them. The enemy was so near the fence that they lost heavily before they could retreat and re-cross the fence used as their fortification.
The Confederates followed them on into the town, and just as we entered the village a lady began ringing a church bell, giving us new zeal, and the cavalry was ordered to charge after they had gotten through the town. This they did with heavy loss to the enemy and considerable loss to us. We could have captured a great many more men, but they lined up a lot of wagons and set fire to them, completely blockading the road. We could not pass the fire, of course, and could not tear down or cross the rock fences rapidly enough to pursue to any advantage. However, we drove the enemy to Harper’s Ferry.
We remained at Harper’s Ferry several days and while we were there Gen. Banks was removed and Gen. Shields appointed in his stead. Gen. Banks had command of the northern forces at Winchester, and the command was given to Shields just after the battle.
While we were at Harper’s Ferry Gen. Jackson received word that Gen. Fremont was advancing on Harrisonburg from the direction of Parkersburg, aiming to pen him. So Jackson made a force march, marching day and night, in order to get to Harrisonburg before Fremont.
Shields rapidly followed us, but our men kept holding him in check. We were sent on at the head of the army, as the cavalry could make much better time. We arrived one day ahead of the infantry and rode two miles beyond Harrisonburg in the direction of Parkersburg, and fortified.
Gen. Ashby maneuvered so wisely, that John C. Fremont, (the old woolly horse), thought he had to fight Jackson’s whole army and was preparing for same. While he was preparing for a general attack, Jackson passed through Harrisonburg and went in the direction of Port Republic.
When Fremont made the attack, we retreated hurriedly through Harrisonburg, and Fremont censured his English General, Percy Windam, for allowing Ashby to deceive him that way.
Windam pursued us and made his brags that he would capture Ashby before the sun went down. He attempted it and Ashby made the same attempt at him. Windam ordered a charge, but his men wouldn’t follow him and he ran into our lines and we captured him. Just as we captured him, Gen. Ashby was killed. A confederate brigade was ordered back to help us and quite a number of our men were killed, but not so many as of the enemy. This is known as the battle of Harrisonburg. Night came on and put a stop to hostilities for a time.
The cavalry pickets were stationed all around, but the next morning just after sun rise, the enemy began to advance again. Gen. Ewell’s division took a stand near a little village called Cross Keys. Gen. Fremont marched against him with a force more than double the number of his. At about 10 o’clock the battle began and raged until about four. Fremont was completely whipped and never made another attack.
Jackson, now thinking his way was clear, continued his march to Port Republic. But when he arrived, to his great surprise, Gen. Shields had come in on the east side and stationed a battery to guard the bridge to prevent Jackson from crossing. Jackson rode up to the men commanding the battery and told them to move the guns back to another position, which would be better, and these men didn’t know who Jackson was and obeyed the order, and Jackson went back and marched his men on over the bridge. He went on down the river with his and Ewell’s divisions to meet Shield’s main army. We, of the 2nd Va. cavalry was left in the rear to hold Fremont in check, and as soon as Ewell’s and Jackson’s men crossed the bridge they burned it. Of course our cavalry could cross without the bridge but they fired it to stop Fremont’s infantry and artillery. The waters of the Shenandoah were especially deep at this time, but we crossed unharmed.
When Jackson reached the Lewis House he found that Shields had taken the very position he was aiming to get. He had stationed 18 pieces of artillery in an apple orchard around the Lewis House. It was on a hill and commanded three ways.
Gen. Branch with his brigade was ordered down the Shenandoah, at the water’s edge. Gen. Trimble was ordered up at the foot of the mountain, his men being concealed by the timber. Jackson’s brigade came down the river about a half mile from Branch’s men, on a road running parallel with the river. Since Gen. Ashby’s death, Gen. Stewart from Maryland, was commanding Ashby’s men. Stewart’s men were ordered up to the right of Jackson’s men and in full view of the Lewis House and Shields’ whole army. Shields had taken his position and of course Jackson had to make the attempt to move him from it.
Jackson had sent a regiment up a ravine about 400 yards from the house and right in front of the battery. They were entirely concealed in a rye field. About 200 yards behind this regiment was another regiment also concealed in the rye. Neither of these regiments knew the other one was in the field, and when the signal guns were fired for all to advance, and the men nearest the battery raised up, the regiment in the rear of the rye field fired on them, not knowing they were our men, and killed about 300 before they found their mistake. Both regiments quit firing and concealed themselves again.
Trimble, Branch and Jackson, advanced a part of the way, but when this confusion occurred between the two regiments in the rye field, Jackson’s whole army seemed demoralized. They thought, probably all those men in the rye field were men supporting and protecting the battery.
The attack ceased for an hour or so, until Jackson could notify his men of the plan, and when the second signal guns were fired, they advanced from the three sides.
Brigadier Dick Taylor had been ordered up nearer the batteries than any one else, and when the signal guns were fired, Taylor’s men marched right up and took the guns. Shields sent reinforcements and took them back from Taylor, and Jackson reinforced Taylor and he took them the second time.
Shields reinforced again and took them back from Taylor the second time, and Jackson ordered reinforcements and Taylor took them the third time and held them.
Trimble’s whole force had come down from the mountain and Branch from the Shenandoah, with Jackson right in front of the battery. The cavalry had been ordered to charge, by this time, and we drove them, with heavy slaughter, ten miles down the river.
By this time Fremont, who was on the west side of the Shenandoah, and the bridge burned, you remember, had gotten a position and fired a few guns, but we had driven Shields so far down the river that he could be of no help to him then.
As we were coming back from driving Shields, Jackson sent out a skirmish line and re-captured all of our men, about 100 in number, who had been taken prisoners, and their guards. Thus ended the battle of Port Republic.
As my horse was wounded at Gains’ Cross Roads, and I wasn’t well myself, I was sent home the 17th of June, after being out 18 months. I was not able to enter the service again until Oct.
The people of the community got me to go as a guide with about ten wagons, to the Salt Works at Kanawa, W. Va., while I was at home. I went ahead of the wagons with several other men from our county, who were going on the same errand.
When we got to the top of Sewell Mountain, we spent the night at a hotel called Locust Lane. When we awoke the next morning we found a six-inch snow on the ground. We regretted the snowfall so much, but to our glad surprise, when we went about six miles beyond and at the foot of the mountain, we found no snow at all.
The next night we stopped at Tyree’s Hotel. The lady of the house was a sister of Mrs. Dr. Williams, of Fincastle, so we felt perfectly at home. Wyatt’s Hotel, near Mauldon, was our next stopping place.
There were thousands of barrels of salt and a number of government wagons, and a large number of oxen for sale. So we planned to buy some of the salt and haul it back to Botetourt and turn the wagons over to government use there. But to our surprise, at mid-night, before we could carry out our plans, we heard wagons rumbling and were told that Gen. Floyd, who had driven the Yankees from the Salt Works to Charlestown, was falling back. While we were still talking Gen. Floyd and his staff came to the Hotel and ordered breakfast.
Gen. Floyd wanted a courier to go to the Hawk’s Nest, a place about 30 miles distant, and hurry all the wagons on to the salt works; but after arriving at the Hawk’s nest, to turn all the wagons back.
I volunteered to act as courier. At first he was afraid to trust me, but after questioning me until he thought he knew me sufficiently, he had a dispatch written and gave me to notify the wagon drivers to hurry on and load the wagons, and they would be put across the Kanawa on the ferry and sent by way of Cotton Hill. The mountain road was so narrow that these teams were sent this way to avoid meeting the other wagons.
I was ordered to shoot any man who wouldn’t obey orders. Floyd knew that he could get the wagons within the 30 miles, loaded and across the river before the Yankees could overtake them, but it would take too long for the wagons to come from beyond the Hawk’s Nest.
I met my teams right at the Hawk’s Nest and ordered them back. The dispatch also stated that all loaded wagons beyond the Hawk’s Nest, were to sell half their load to empty ones. This they all did. Some were heavily loaded and were just creeping along.
After dividing up loads, we continued to carry out orders, which was to travel all night and not stop to feed our teams until we passed two roads, known as the Sat. and Sun. roads, where the Yankees were supposed to pass. We kept turning empty wagons back and overtaking loaded ones and dividing up, until we reached Lewisburg, in Greenbrier Co. We were about two weeks making the trip. This was the only time I had any experience with, or was in the western army.
Every letter that went to the boys in the eastern army, I think, told of my trip to the Salt works, and the boys began to think I ought to be back fighting instead of guiding wagon trains.
The boys showed the letters to Capt. Breckinridge and he ordered me to be brought back by an officer. Sheriff Linkenhoker, when he got the letter from Capt. B—, came to me and told me his orders.
I told him that Xerxes’ 6,000,000 men couldn’t take me back under arrest. I told him I was going back soon, that I wasn’t yet able to ride on horse back, so far and constantly.
The next day I went to the army surgeon, Dr. Mayo, of Buchanan, and showed him the order and he remarked that “they are a set of fools, you are here under a legal certificate.” I had three certificates from the family physician of my inability for service, but in Aug., Gen. Lee had passed an order, that no certificate could be recognized except from an army surgeon, so I had been to him in Aug. and twice since that time, so held three of his certificates in Dec.
Dr. Mayo gave me a recommendation to either be discharged or detailed for light duty. I’d been suffering from congestion of the liver and was broken down in general. Dr. Mayo told Capt. Allen, who was at the head of affairs in Buchanan to give me transportation on the train as I wasn’t able to make the trip on horse back. On the 20th of Dec. I started back to Fredericksburg, where my company was stationed. I was detained at Lynchburg several days so didn’t get to Guinea Station, near Fredericksburg, until New Year’s day ’63. I went directly to the Capt’s tent and the first thing he said when he saw how bad I looked, was, “what in the world have you come back for?” I showed him the letter he had written to the sheriff, Lewis Linkenhoker. He said he had written this on account of what those home letters had said. He said I was unfit for service, but as they were in winter quarters and not fighting much, I’d have an easy time.
I then went to Col. Munford’s tent and he greeted me with the same question. I replied by showing him the Captain’s order to be sent back. The Col. said I had been reported to him as absent without leave. I then showed him my certificates from both Drs. Col. Munford remarked: “Well, I’ll stop this proceeding right here, you shall not go before a court-martial without a cause.”
I told him that I preferred going before the court-martial; that I wouldn’t gratify these parties, who had circulated the false reports about me, enough to show them the certificates, but I wanted a lot of gentlemen to see why I’d been absent.
The early part of the New Year was taken up very largely to straighten up the work of the old year.
In a few days about 75 of us went to Massiponix Church, in Spottsylvania County, where the court-martial was in session.
Capt. William Graves, of Bedford Co., was there with his company, guarding the prisoners. He had been commander of the sharpshooters the first year of the war and I had been one of them. He assigned the prisoners to different tents and told me to remain with him.
It was a month before our turn came to appear before the court, so he gave me leave to visit my friends all over the army of Northern Virginia.
When our turn came, I went before the court and Captain Breckinridge presented the papers to the court. They asked me if I had an attorney and I told them I hadn’t but handed them first my detail and sick furlough, then my certificates from my home Dr., Sam Carper, of Fincastle, and then the certificates from Dr. Mayo, the army surgeon. I then showed them Gen. Lee’s order for all soldiers to be examined by an army surgeon, they could see by the dates that I’d seen Dr. Mayo on the day following, and when Dr. Carper’s certificate had only half expired. I then showed them the order to the sheriff to bring me back under arrest.
They asked me if I had any witnesses. I told them I had one, Capt. B. whom I’d asked to please remain until I called for him.
After reading the papers I asked Capt. to please state to the court just when I’d enlisted and what kind of a soldier I’d been while in service, etc. He stated that I’d volunteered at 19 when a school boy, and that he had joined the Co. the 20 of May 1861. He said during the 13 months he had been with us he wouldn’t ask for a better soldier than I’d been.
I was dismissed, but didn’t hear my sentence until a month later. When the last man of our regiment was examined, we returned to camp.
As I couldn’t carry arms until my sentence was heard, I wasn’t liable to duty. But I volunteered to go into Stafford Co., with a detachment, to try to capture some of Gen. Averill’s pickets. We captured about 25 of them and as we were returning, the enemy began charging the rear of our command, and the sharpshooters of the 1, 2, 3 and 4 regiments, were sent to the rear to check the advance.
Our skirmish line went back and aimed to get to a little town of vacated winter quarters, and I saw a soldier riding a beautiful dappled gray horse, so I made in that direction and was ordered to dismount and advance on foot. Not thinking that the man had gotten so near, just as I started around one of the cabins, the man called to me to halt and surrender. I threw up my hands, of course, as he had his gun right in my face, but even after doing this he snapped his gun at me. It was snowing very hard and the gun failed to fire, and fearing that my gun would be like his on account of the dampness, I drew my pistol on him, so he surrendered to me.
As I took him back, I had to pass through the sharpshooters of the 3rd regiment, and three of them had seen the man try to shoot me after throwing up my hands. They wanted to shoot him right there for the cowardly act, but I told them two wrongs never made a right, and wouldn’t allow them to harm him. I took him on back to Col. Ryles, who had charge of the prisoners.
When we crossed the Rappahannock on our return, we were ordered to lie down for the night. This we did; we put our gum cloths down on the snow, then a blanket, and had a blanket for a cover. My prisoner and I shared the same bed that night, but before we went to sleep, the three men who wanted to kill the prisoner, came and apologized to me and the man, for wanting to deal death to him for the error he had made. We accepted the apology and they went back to their men with much relief.
The next day, the 17th of Feb ’63, we went to Stewart’s headquarters and turned the prisoners over to him and they were sent on to Richmond immediately. Gen. Stewart made me a present of the beautiful horse I’d captured and she was my faithful companion for the remainder of the war. I brought her home with me after the war closed.
We all returned to the camp ground and remained about ten days, when we were called out for a dress parade.
After all the orders were read out for the next day’s proceeding, the results of the court-martial were read next. One man who was found asleep on picket duty, was sentenced to be shot. As he was so young and a good soldier Col. Munford reprieved him and gave him a good, fatherly lecture, and the man was a faithful soldier for the remainder of the war.
Finally they came to my sentence. I was charged with being absent without leave, but was found innocent of the charge and honorably acquitted. As is usually the case, the first men to come and congratulate me on my honorable acquittal, were the very ones who had caused the false reports to be started. I thanked all alike, but knew all the time who caused the disturbance.
As the weather was bad and no drilling or fighting going on much, the main thing to break the monotony of camp life, was picketing on the grand old river, Rappahannock.
On the night of the 16th of March, I had a dream of being in a battle and of having to retreat, and while doing so, mired in the mud and was captured. I told the dream at breakfast the next morning and they all laughed at such a dream.
While we were still at breakfast, the orderly sergeant came around and notified us to get ready immediately to go down to Kelly’s Ford on picket.
We expected a good time for three days out on the outpost, but was kept at the village of Kellyville, all that day. There were about 40 of us scattered around, but in hearing distance of each other. Some of us were in hay mows, some in outbuildings and some in a mill, to spend the night.
A load of guns and 40 rounds of ammunition was sent us, about the time we were fixing for sleep. Those who had no guns got one from the lot and we were ordered to clean up the others, ready for use.
After we had them all cleaned the Capt. inspected them and if any of our guns were not good, they were sent back and a good one taken from the new lot. We were eager to get to sleep, but instead of that at 4 o’clock we were ordered to go down to the ford of the river.
We rolled our blankets up and tied them on the horses and were ordered to mount and fall into columns of four. No. 3 of each column, was to hold the horses. After Nos. 1, 2 and 4, gave their bridle reins to No. 3—Nos. 1, 2 and 4, were ordered to dismount. This being done, we formed into columns of four again, and were ordered to march on to the river bank, about four hundred yards.
There had been a heavy rain just before this which finished up with a snow about five inches deep. This was still on the ground, but the river was swollen from the rain until it was deep fording on horse back.
The wind was blowing from the north and the thermometer suddenly fell to about zero. When we reached the breast works at the river, some of the rifle pits were filled with snow and ice, and those that were not, were soon filled with men, but some of the men had to just stand and get the best position they could.
At about an hour before daybreak we saw a light that we first thought was the morning star rising, but the light increased and we almost instantly found it was the camp fire of the enemy, being kindled, making ready for an early breakfast to come and attack us.
At daybreak they were coming in sight of the ford. Gen. Averill with a division of cavalry and 15 pieces of artillery soon stationed themselves on the heights commanding the ford and commenced a heavy fire on us.
In about ten minutes Averill ordered his men to advance. They came right to the ford, not knowing that we were there, and we opened fire on them from behind the breast works and drove them back with considerable slaughter.
Then Averill charged with another regiment, but we drove them back also. He then charged a third time, just about sun-rise, and by that time three companies of the 3rd regiment, commanded by Capt. Moss, had reinforced us, and Capt. Breckinridge, thinking we had enough men to hold them back, ordered us not to fire until they got into the middle of the river.
Gen. Duffe, commanding a French brigade, had the majority of his men in and near the river before we opened fire. Several men were shot from their horses and the horses rushed right out of the river and over our breast works. Some of them killed themselves on the stockades. When Gen. Duffe got within about ten feet of the bank, his horse was shot and the Gen. came very near being drowned. When his men rescued him he was unconscious.
By this time so many of his men had crossed the river that Capt. Breckinridge saw they would over-power us, so ordered us to fall back. Some of our men didn’t hear the order and remained in the breast works and were captured.
We fell straight back from the river under a heavy fire all the time and the men with the horses couldn’t well get to us on account of a fence and the heavy firing. Those on the extreme left had so much farther to go than the others, that they couldn’t get the horses to them at all. I was with the dozen or so, that was on the extreme left, and just as I saw the man with my horse coming toward me, I noticed a little piece of ground fenced off right between us, which to go around would take some little time longer to get to my horse, so I just kicked off a pole and jumped over, to save distance, you understand, and to my utter amazement, I found I had jumped into a bed of quicksand.
Four Yanks were pursuing us as rapidly as they could and when they saw I had been caught in the sand, they rushed right on around the fence and drew their pistols on me. I had managed to get out of the sand by the time they got to me, but in doing so, had nearly dislocated one of my hips, so couldn’t run. The man with my horse saw that if he stopped to help me, he and the horses too would be captured, so had gone on knowing I’d be captured—the realization of my dream—only caught in quicksand instead of mud. I immediately surrendered, of course, but found that three of the men to whom I had surrendered were beastly drunk.
By that time our line of battle was coming in sight and the three drunken men rushed on for fear of being captured by our men. I held to the mane of the horse that my captor was riding and as we went back several Yanks shot at me. The man told me to get on the opposite side so they could not see me so well. One man shot at my hand as I held the horse’s mane and missed my hand and shot the horse in the neck. They were drunk and enraged because we had shot their General’s horse and he came so near being drowned. They were saying d— you, you killed our General! Some of them thought he was killed.
When we got right to the river, I saw a lot of men standing around a Gen. who was lying on the ground, and I told the man who had captured me that if he would take me over there, they certainly wouldn’t fire among them. It proved to be Gen. Duffe who had been resuscitated and was just able to stand up as we got to him.
The man told the Gen. that there was a man he had captured and asked him what he must do with me, and the Gen. just reached out and hit me over the head with the gauntlet of his glove.
He asked me why we dared to fire on his command with our picket? I told him we were ordered to hold the ford and would have fired on Hooker’s whole army if it had advanced. Then he hit me again.
I told him I hadn’t any idea of receiving such treatment from a U. S. Gen. Just then one of his aids said to me to come with him and he took me down the river a little ways, where about 20 more of our men were who had been captured this same day, March 17.
As we went down the river the aid apologized for the General’s conduct; said he was drunk and would never have acted that way when sober. The aid was an American, while Duffe and the majority of his men were French.
The man who captured me was from the 1st R. I. regiment and I told him about the man and fine horse from that regiment that I’d captured just a month before, and he said the man was from his Company.
Just then I was ordered to fall into line with the other prisoners, but I took time to thank the two men for their kindness to me before falling in.
There was a company of cavalry on either side of us when we started across the river, marching in columns of four.
We halted a little when we got to the water’s edge, but were soon ordered to “forward march,” and we knew that meant we must go through that water if it was full of mush-ice and deep fording. As I was a small man I was ordered to get between two large men, and we held to each other and marched through. A Mr. Powell and Mr. Shepperson, from near Charlotte C. H. marched on either side of me.
Matt Linkenhoker and I had made such an effort to escape being captured and to get to our horses that we were about as hot as a “ginger mill in August.” But strange to say, wading that river didn’t make us sick in the least. The water was just over our shoulders. I remember how the mush-ice and water ran down my coat collar. You can imagine how pleasant that would be, in March and zero weather.
It looked hard but some of our men had made the Yankees wade the river about a month before; but it wasn’t more than knee-deep where they waded. I guess they thought it no more than right to retaliate. All is said to be fair in love and war.
As soon as we crossed, one company went back to join the command and the other company took us about four miles to a hotel where Gen. Ryles had been ordered to hold the Yankee prisoners about a month before. We remained here a few hours awaiting future orders. Our clothing had dried while we were marching. We stopped and poured the water from our boots soon after crossing the river, so we were very comfortable by this time.
The lady of the house and her three pretty daughters came out to look at the prisoners, as they had a month before, and one of them recognized me. She came to me and asked me if the Yankees got my pretty gray horse, too. I told her she had escaped and how I came to be captured.
We soon heard the firing of the artillery back at Kelly’s Ford. Gen. Lee had taken a position on the heights above the ford and Averill made an attack on him. Gen. Stewart had been ordered from Fredericksburg up to Culpepper C. H., to attend a court-martial, and went with Lee as a spectator and not as a commander. He and Major John Pellam rode in front of Lee’s lines and the Yankees seeing him thought his whole corps was there and began to fall back at once, under fire from our forces, and lost a great many men in the retreat, and a few were captured. Some of our men were captured also, and among them the gallant Major Cary Breckinridge.
The couriers ordered the guards to hurry us on to Falmouth, then Hooker’s headquarters. We arrived at about an hour before sun-set, and about 9 o’clock the whole army returned.
We remained here three days and on March 21, ’63, were paroled and sent on the Fredericksburg & Aquia Creek Road, to a station called Aquia Creek. There was a boat landing here and we took a boat called “The State of Maine,” for Washington. Here we were put in the city prison on the second floor in the basement.
There were 75 of us and all put in one room. There were bunks on the walls and benches for seats, but still our quarters were not comfortable, as the men above us had bored holes in the water pipes and didn’t have them sufficiently stopped, and water was running down the walls and over all the floor except a little place in the centre large enough to spread a blanket.
We were kept here until the next day when they sent us to the Old Capitol prison. We were all put in the same room again, but the quarters were comfortable and alright. We had pork and beans, coffee and baker’s bread, good enough for any one.
As I was disabled by being caught in the quicksand, and was still very lame, the guard allowed me to go all over the barracks. I had to see the Dr. often, so I had a very pleasant time going around. Dr. had given me a pass, also, to go any where inside the barracks. The barracks was a Park of 3 or 4 acres and was said to contain 10,000 men. Rebels and Yankees together.
We had a full view of the street and often saw the Congressmen and President Lincoln pass by. The sentinel would often tell us when different important persons passed, which was a pleasure to us, to help pass time. We were given quite a lot of good literature to read, and altogether, we had a much better time than when in service. It paid to be a prisoner that time, certainly.
While we were there a lot of Yankees were raiding in the Valley of Va. and a lot of Confederates were raiding also, and the two forces met and a good number of the Yankees were killed. There was quite a lot of talk about it, and it seems that the Yankees thought the citizens had gotten the soldiers to attack them in some unfair way. So a lot of citizens from the valley, were summoned to come to Washington as witnesses in the case. They were brought to the barracks and put in with us. The Johnnie Rebs were all glad to see them. We called them fresh fish, and had to initiate them, of course.
One of us would go to a citizen and get him to talking and telling us about the affair, and the other boys would begin crowding around close by to hear, and we’d say “boys don’t push,” which meant to push and crowd more, until we got our fresh fish in such close quarters that some of them would get fighting mad. When he would laugh and enjoy it with the rest, that was a signal to give way.
Dr. Lucas, from Frederick Co., was a large fellow; weighed more than two hundred, and he got the maddest of all until he understood the joke, and then he was the best fellow we had to help initiate.
We all enjoyed playing pranks on each other. I named myself the “limpy lame dog,” and they all treated me about as considerately.
Some of the boys sighed and worried over having to stay in prison, but situated as I was, I enjoyed it. We only remained 16 days. There was a boat load of soldiers from Johnson’s Island to be exchanged and as it wasn’t a full load, they telegraphed to the Old Capitol that they could take about 75 more men while making the trip. Straws were drawn to see which room would be sent to exchange, and our room got the “lucky straw.”
The boat that carried us was called the “Prairie Flower.” A beautiful boat it was too. We had fine sailing until we got within about six hours ride of Fortress Monroe. Here a heavy snowstorm overtook us and the boat was compelled to anchor.
After the storm ceased and we could see the light-house, we made the rest of our journey in safety. We couldn’t see at night, of course, but when morning came we found ourselves in sight of the guns of Fortress Monroe. We remained here three days and nights, as the wind was still blowing such a gale that the ship had to remain anchored.
When we arrived at City Point, our exchange point, as we marched out, another boat load of Yanks were marched in to be taken home, and we were sent on to Petersburg by rail.
Here we were put in a big tobacco ware house, which was hardly suitable for mules or billy goats, but there wasn’t any other convenient place near by. There were several very large barrels in the building and I told the boys that mother said I was always her best child to find out what was in anything sitting around. So I took my pocket knife and began dissecting. To my great pleasure I found they contained sugar and we soon ate all of the sugar that tasted good in that barrel.
I talked to a citizen through the cracks of the building and told him that he’d better help to hunt a place for me for some of the boys had cut a hole in a barrel in there and had eaten lots of his sugar. The man left and soon came back with the information that there was a barracks about a half mile distant that we could occupy that night, so we went over, and such a place as it was. We had to stay all night as it was so late when we got there, but it was only a good place for bats and hoot owls. He consoled us by telling us that supplies would be sent in from Richmond and they were, early in the night.
When we got our supplies it proved about like the surroundings. Well, we didn’t know what to call it even. Couldn’t think of a name in the English Language to call it. It had been bread and meat once, but had been sent from “God knows where,” as the old woman said about the rail road, and was just poured into a corner of a box car and was of course, about like hog feed.
We had been locked in the barracks and we just said if we were not taken out we’d break the old shack down and go on to Richmond, so we were soon notified that a train was ready and we gladly got on board for Richmond.
The cars that took us were cattle cars and the engine must certainly have had a genuine case of tuberculosis, because it tried faithfully to whistle, but couldn’t make a sound. We would gladly have gone on, or in anything, to get back though.
Well, we arrived in Richmond in grand style, of course, and the next morning took a train for Culpepper C. H. When we got to Culpepper C. H., Col. Munford had orders to make a raid toward Manassas Junction, but we couldn’t go on the raid as our exchange papers hadn’t arrived and therefore Col. Munford had no control of us. He told us to go home for our horses and he would send our furloughs as soon as he could.
We took the train next morning for Lynchburg and when we were found to have no furloughs, we were stopped there for further orders. We wrote Col. Munford that we were under arrest, and to send the furloughs on. I happened to have a cousin by the name of Linkus keeping the Washington Hotel, and he went my security, and in that way I, with two other boys, got to spend our time with him.
Before I heard from Col. Munford, Gen. Devon sent for us to come back to the soldiers home, that he wanted to send us as guards for some deserters and Yankees that had been captured in the Western army.
He gave each of us a pistol and when we arrived at Richmond, the man who had charge of us handed the papers to Gen. Winder, and we took the Yankees to the Libby Prison and put them in charge of the officials there. When we went back to Gen. Winder’s headquarters, with our deserters, he told the Serg. to take us all to Castle Thunder. As the deserters had the same uniforms we had, he naturally supposed we were all deserters, but four of us were the guards for the others. As I was the oldest of the guards, I, of course, had to try to explain the case. But when I tried to do so, he told me to hush, that he wouldn’t talk to a deserter, and ordered the Sergeant to take us on.
This the Sergeant refused to do and a general racket followed. General Winder told another sergeant to take all of us, even our sergeant, because he wouldn’t obey him, to Castle Thunder. But he went to a Lieut., who was there on detached service, and who knew some of us, and had him to come and explain the whole affair to Gen. Winder.
He accepted the Lieutenant’s account, of course, and gave us four guards, transportation back to Culpepper C. H. He told the sergeant to take the real deserters on to prison, Castle Thunder, and in the stampede he had caused by trying to send us all, the deserters had every one gotten away.
When we got back to camp at Culpepper C. H., our exchange papers had arrived and Col. Munford gave us furloughs, so we made a second attempt to get home for the horses.
When we got to Lynchburg we learned that Gen. Devon had been removed from office and Gen. Colston put in his stead.
We went on to Bonsacks the next day and left the train and took dinner with Geo. Riley, who had three sons in our command. Mr. Riley was not at home, but Mrs. Riley sent us to Fincastle on horses.
When our furloughs expired, I took my valuable gray horse back, that I had captured, about 2 months before I had been captured. Alonza Rinehart, John Young and William Henderson, were my companions back to camp.
THIRD YEAR OF THE WAR.
When we left home we thought our command had gone across the Blue Ridge and were in the valley of Va. But when we got to Port Republic we learned they were moving in the direction of Chancellorsville, so we had to recross the Blue Ridge.
Just about sun down of the day we recrossed, we arrived at a Mrs. Woolfork’s. There were about 24 other soldiers stopping there for supper, also. Mrs. Woolfork’s son-in-law, Mr. Poindexter, had been in prison with us at Washington, just about a month before. He knew the country well and we decided to march all night in order to join the command. Just as supper was ready a citizen who lived nearby and knew we were all there, came in and said there was a lot of cavalrymen on the Louisa Spring road, but he could not just tell which way they were aiming to go.
While we were eating supper, some of the family stayed on the front porch to see if the cavalrymen would come that way and just when we were about half through supper, the young lady who stood guard rushed in and said the cavalrymen had come near enough for her to see they were yankees and a couple of them where already dismounting.
The dining room was in the basement and we all went out at an east door while the Yankees were coming in on the west side of the house on the upper floor. We ran and got our horses as rapidly as possible and rode about a mile, and then Mr. Poindexter and I went to a cross road to see if we could hear anything of them coming and to our surprise there was a whole division of cavalry coming. We had left our two horses with the other 28 men and we just stayed in the heavy pine timber, where we knew the Yankees couldn’t see us, until Stoneman’s whole division passed.
It was fortunate for us that this all took place after dark, for had it been a couple of hours earlier, the Yankees would have undoubtedly captured us all. We stayed all night in this pine timber about a mile from Poindexter’s home and kept on the alert all the time for fear other Yankees were following.
After day-break we started on in the direction of Chancellorsville, but soon found there were troops moving in front of us. Poindexter and I went in ahead of the other 28, to see if we could find out who they were and soon found they were Confederates.
I left Poindexter and went to them as soon as they halted and found it was Gen. William Henry Lee’s Division. Poindexter went back and told the other men to come on and we joined Lee’s men. He had no rations for his men and as we had only had a half supper the night before and no breakfast, he told us to go to a farm house near by and try and get something.
We found the man of the house as kind as any one could be. He was the father of our present Judge, William A. Anderson. He fed all 30 of us and our horses also.
We went back to Lee’s division after our late breakfast and after a short march, overtook Stoneman’s division and began fighting his rear men.
He checked the whole division, of course, to protect the rear and we thus checked his raid. I was in the rear line of the battle and didn’t see the hottest of the fight.
We were right at a house and as some one brought some prisoners by taking them to the rear, an old lady came out and saw the blue uniforms and began crying, and said: “Don’t kill any of them blues!” One fellow said: “I’m going to kill every d——n rascal I can.” She just fell down on the ground and said: “I’ve got a boy in the blues and I don’t want you to kill him.” I felt sorry for her and went to her and told her I was sorry she had a son in the yankee army. “Oh! he is not a yankee,” she said, “he is with Mr. Wiser’s folks.” They were called the Louisa Blues and the old lady thought any one having on blue clothes might be her boy.
About one o’clock the artillery began firing near Chancellorsville, about three or four miles from us, but Wm. Henry Lee held his position to keep Stoneman in check.
Shortly after nightfall Jackson was reconnoitering between his men and Hooker’s army, and had given orders to his outposts to fire on the first sound or man they saw or heard, and they not knowing he was out there, fired on him and mortally wounded him.
The next morning Gen. J. E. B. Stewart took command of Jackson’s division. Stewart began his march that morning and ordered the band to play his favorite: “The Old Gray Horse Jumped Over the Elephant.” He and one of his aids sang the tune, to other words, though. They were: “Old Joe Hooker Get Out of the Wilderness.”
Stewart followed Hooker and drove him across the Rappahannock. We 30 fellows, who hadn’t gotten to our company yet, got supper and breakfast among the citizens, and Wm. H. Lee sent us on to Orange, C. H. Here we found some more boys, who like ourselves, hadn’t found the command they belonged to yet. There were about 70 of us by this time. Some of them new men coming in, prisoners returning with their horses, like I was, and some coming back who had been on sick furloughs, etc.
We got rations here and laid down in the woods where the infantry had been camping and the next morning when we awoke the snow was falling in flakes more like biscuits, than snow flakes. If it had been biscuits it would have had to snow some, or we would have eaten it just as fast it fell.
I was about the first one to wake and I jumped up and shouted “Hurrah for Jeff. Davis.” Campbell, of Co. G. Bedford County, shouted back “Hurrah for H—.” Several fellows had to smile, when Campbell made his reply. I told Campbell I had always heard a bad beginning made a good ending, and when March came in like a lion it went out like a lamb. He said “yes, but this is the first of May and it is coming in like the devil, and I reckon it will go out like h—.” This caused laughter generally, and everybody was soon up and our fires started for breakfast.
We went into town after breakfast and orders had come to send all the men on to Culpepper C. H. Here we joined our command and found that none of our Co., had been killed at Chancellorsville. It had been about six weeks since I’d been with the Co., only the one night, before I started for my horse, after being captured.
Norman Hayth was our cook at this time and when the other members of mess got back from picket duty one day he had a lot of beef cooked, that was highly flavored with garlic. Not one of the boys in the mess could eat it, but me, so I traded each of them some other part of my supper for their beef and ate all eight of the rations. They all said I’d die before morning. I told them I’d come nearer dying from not getting enough beef than too much. Joe Shaver was sick and we put him in a tent near by and John Q. H. Thrasher was taking care of him. Well in the night I woke up and the garlic had gotten in my head so that I was sneezing and gaging and John heard me and hallooed to the boys to see what was the matter with that man. They soon found I was the fellow in trouble, but they all laughed and said that’s the man with the 8 rations of beef. He’ll come. Such a time as I had with that garlic for a while, I told them I’d invented a separator to separate the garlic from the meat. By this time a lot of boys was awake and shouting and laughing, soldier like, and the Capt. had to call us to order before the fun stopped. I didn’t get sick at all but the garlic just filled my head almost like an overdose of snuff would I imagine.
The next thing that happened to me of any note was one day another boy and I decided to go to see some young ladies, and we went down to a pond to wash and the water was low, so we had dug basins around the edge so the water would clear up by the time we needed it, and just as we were about washed and dressed in our very best, a stray bullet came whizzing along and went right into the muddiest part of the pond and threw mud all over us. Well, now if ever boys felt like saying Sunday school words, we did then. We had to give up our trip for that day any way.
We had fine pasture for our horses and they soon fattened and looked so nice, that we could hardly realize they were the same animals we’d brought through the winter. We were in camp here until the 20th of June, when the grand review of the whole army took place at Culpepper C. H.
The fences had all been torn away and the infantry, cavalry and artillery were all stationed, so that Gen. Lee and his aids could review them. After he had gone around and seen them all, he took a position and ordered all to march by him in battallions. The cavalry passed first, then infantry, then artillery. The artillery took a position on the heights and fired all the cannons as Gen. Lee passed by again.
Gen. Lee had ordered all the cavalry and wagon horses to be shod, but we didn’t know what was to follow. The night after the review a grand ball was given in the town. When Gens. Kilpatrick and Buford of the U. S. army heard the firing of the artillery, they sent out scouting parties on all the roads to see what it meant.
Just at the height of the ball our pickets came in and reported that the Yankees were coming in on all the roads, which put a sudden stop to gaities and every man hastened to his post of duty. The cavalry was sent to guard all the fords on the Rappahannock. Our command was sent to McLean’s Ford to throw up fortifications, which we did until daybreak. At daybreak we found there was a squadron of cavalry near us, which we could see over our fortifications.
Two of the men came down to the ford and watered their horses and I talked to them across the river as it was a narrow ford. They continued coming down, by two’s until about 8 o’clock.
At about 9 o’clock Gen. Kilpatrick aimed to cross at Kelley’s Ford and was met by Gen. Wade Hampton. A desperate battle was fought and finally Hampton succeeded in driving them back across the river.
We were near enough to hear the firing but not near enough to engage in it. Gen. Stoneman did not attempt to cross where we were, so we just stood guard all day. While this was going on Gen. Lee, with the remainder of the army, was moving on toward Harpers Ferry.
We were ordered from the ford late in the evening and started in the direction of Manassas Junction. We were there on the same side of the river with Stoneman and marching on roads parallel to each other, but neither General knew the other’s course until after the camp fires were started.
We went into camp in the rear of Stoneman’s men, and later in the night, Gen. Kilpatrick’s forces camped in a skirt of woods just behind us, and a little later Gen. Wade Hampton, following on, got a message from Gen. Stewart that Stoneman was in front of us and Kilpatrick behind us, and for him to camp in the woods just behind Kilpatrick and at daybreak to open fire on Kilpatrick’s men and he, Stewart, would have us fire on Kilpatrick’s and Stoneman’s men also. This we carried out and completely routed both commands. They didn’t know the other’s position and we surprised them so, that all they could do was to try to get away. We killed and captured a good many, but they didn’t resist us. It was just a running fight.
We drove them all that day on toward Washington, not stopping to get food, and went into camp at nightfall.
Stewart and Hampton crossed the Potomac with their men at Seneca Falls in the night. When Gen. Hooker learned that Lee was going on toward Maryland, he took his men and tried to get in front of him, which he did. Eight packet boats had been sent up with provisions for Hooker’s army, and when they came into the locks not knowing we were there, we turned the wickets and let the water out and burned the boats. We had been marching four days without any provisions at all, so we took what we could in our haversacks, before burning the boats. We took the mules, 24 in number, on with us. We helped the woman and children from the boats and took their furniture out, as we didn’t want to destroy private property. It was hard to do then, with them all crying like they did, but such is war.
In a short distance from where we crossed the river, we came on a garrison of yankees at a place called West Minster and captured them all, without the loss of a man. We so completely surprised them that they surrendered without resistance. We went on to Hanover to capture a garrison there, but they learned of our coming and resisted us with right heavy loss to both sides. One of our young men, Walter Gilmore, was shot in the shoulder, as he was riding between Chas. Price and myself, as we were trying to get him to the rear, he was shot in the left eye, but we finally got to a house and asked the lady of the house to take care of him, while we went on and took the garrison. I never knew anything more of young Gilmore until the summer of 1911. I met him at New Port News at a reunion. He told me he was sent to a hospital in Baltimore by the Yankees and received the kindest of treatment and the best of medical aid and soon recovered.
We took our West Minster and Hanover prisoners on with us and our next stop was at Carlisle, Penn. All the provisions we had on this march, except what some of us got from the boats, was what we could beg from the citizens. Some of us nearly starved. Here we destroyed some of the public buildings in which food for the Yankees was stored. We threw hot shot a mile or so and wherever these hot balls would strike, they would set fire. Some of our men who were marching ahead of our Co. had set fire to Thad Stevens’ Iron Works in Penn. and as we passed and saw it burning I told the boys that was a bad move, that the Yankees would soon retaliate and do us more damage than we could do them, as so much of the fighting was done on southern ground.
We did this shelling with hot shot at night and continued marching all night. We still marched all the next day stopping occasionally for a little while to let our horses graze.
About noon we heard cannonading about Gettysburg. Gen. Lee had arrived Friday July 1st, with his whole army except Pickett’s division, which was coming from Chambersburg and Hampton’s and Stewart’s divisions of cavalry with which I made the trip. Lee had engaged the enemy Saturday and drove them back, but could not make a general charge, as these three divisions hadn’t arrived. Had these divisions been full numbered there would have been about 48,000 men. But of course a great many of different companies had been killed or disabled. For instance Co. C. the one to which I belonged, only had 64 men bearing arms when we left Va. a Co. was supposed to have 100 men, of course, and they were recruited at different times, but I remember we only had 64 then and other companies may have been cut down, also, so it would be hard to determine just how many men were in these three divisions. However there were so many that Lee waited until they arrived to bring on the general charge. We arrived Saturday evening July 2. As we had been marching so much and had so little rest since June 20, we all laid down in a stubble field and were soon fast asleep. I tied my horse’s halter strap to my gun sling and just left saddle and all on, and when I awoke the next morning, I was about 30 yds. farther down in the field than where I went to sleep. She had just dragged me on as she ate, but I was too dead asleep to know it. Before we got to sleep the enemy was firing a cannon every little while and every thing would be as visible as in day time. But it was a dark night and illuminations made it seem darker, of course, after disappearing, the shells would some time burst over us, but didn’t do us any harm.
Some of the boys heard the cannon all night at intervals, but I was too exhausted to hear a great deal.
At daylight the bugle sounded and we mounted our horses and went out to join the line of battle before having any breakfast. As our wagon train wasn’t with us, we hadn’t had any rations issued since the 20th of June and all we had was what citizens gave us. There were too many of us, for any one man to get much, so we thought of breakfast the first thing, when we awoke.
We were halted before reaching the line of battle, by Major Mason, one of Gen. Lee’s staff officers, and he called for one Capt. two Serg’s two Corporals and 30 private soldiers.
I was one of the private soldiers called out and Capt. Jas. Breckinridge was the commissioned officer called out. Major Mason took us then three or four miles out in the direction of Harrisburg, Penn. Major Mason then told Capt. Breckinridge to send a reliable soldier to an elevated point near by that overlooked the Harrisburg road for about a mile.
Capt. Breckinridge told me to go and gave me paper and pencil to keep an account of the enemy’s regimental flags, and pieces of artillery that passed the road. There were lookouts stationed on my right and left to guard me as I was lying flat and watching the enemy’s movement, so could not watch myself.
I began my watching about 9 o’clock and was to leave my post at noon. It was a sweltering day, a real type of July and you may imagine how sleepy I got lying flat in that clover field and the rays of the sun just pouring on me. You see, I’d only had one night’s sleep since June 20, and had been marching day and night and this was July 3. My same old watch that I’d carried when I waded the Rappahannock, was still keeping good time and you may know I was glad when it indicated 12 o’clock.
When I went back to the Capt. and gave him the account of what I’d seen he sent it by a courier right on to Gen. Lee. I remember I counted 100 regimental flags and 70 pieces of artillery. Lee had men put on all the roads like this, so he’d have a knowledge of the size of the army he’d have to fight.
When I got back to the Capt. and gave him the paper, I was as wet with perspiration, as if I’d been dipped in the creek. I was so exhausted from hunger and general fatigue that I soon fell asleep and slept for an hour or so, the cannons firing all the time. At one when the general charge was made, I awoke though.
Soon we saw a skirmish line coming and they began firing on us, but we showed a bold front and they not knowing how many there were of us, as there were some buildings near and we were scattered around and they soon stopped firing on us. Looking south, we could see the smoke from the artillery and musketry, boiling up like a volcano. This elevated position gave us a fine view of the surrounding country. The roar of artillery was like a continuous peal of thunder. Our regiment was about a mile from where I was with the few men who had been sent out with me and in fact our skirmish extended on to us, but the main part of our regiment was heavily engaged, but were driven back by Kilpatrick’s regiment. They were fighting, without having had any food all day and the day before and the horses the same, only what they ate dragging us around the night before. The whole regiment had fared just as I had for the last two weeks and were broken down completely.
The hottest of the battle was fully two miles from where I was stationed. As I hadn’t had a bite to eat since breakfast Sat. morning and this was Sunday eve, I told Capt. Breckinridge I was going to risk my life and go to a brick house about 200 yards in front of our skirmish line and try to get something to eat. I watched and kept the house between me and the enemy’s skirmish line and went in at the window and down in the basement, I found a boiled shoulder of bacon, several loaves of bread and all the apple butter and marmalade I could carry and a lot of dutch cheese. The family had left on account of the battle, so I took my time to get plenty and made three trips and took enough back to feed all 35 of the men who had been sent out with me.
After emptying the crocks we put them on the fence back of the house and wrote a note to the lady of the house and put with the crocks, thanking her for her kindness. Her provisions had certainly been a friend in time of need.
The firing of the enemy stopped for a little while and we thought our forces had gained the victory, but when Pickett made his charge the firing began anew and as we hadn’t been ordered to advance, we soon knew that we had lost the day. We could not see the hottest of the battle, only the awful smoke. I’ll never forget that. Major Mason took us back to Gen. Lee’s headquarters about nightfall and we slept in the yard that night. About 10 o’clock it began raining and rained all night. Shortly after daybreak Monday morning, Major Mason gave us something for breakfast and Gen. Lee sent us to Gen. Meade’s headquarters under a flag of truce to get permission to bury our dead. So I had the privilege of sitting with Gen’s Lee and Meade at their respective headquarters the morning of July 4th 63. When Major Mason presented the dispatch to Gen. Meade, he immediately sent about 30 of his men with a dispatch back to Lee under a flag of truce.
About 60 of the U. S. Regulars took us all over the battle field and explained the position of the armies that fought the day before. We went to the hospitals where they had been amputating limbs and at some of them a six horse wagon could have been loaded with legs and arms. We passed a half doz. or more of these field hospitals. There were a doz. or more doctors at each of them. The dead men were every where to be seen, of course. It looked more like fields of flax spread out to dry than any thing I’d seen before. The most of the confederates had been gathered up ready for burial. There were several ten acre fields with men lying just as thick as they could lay. We saw them digging the graves several feet deep and a blanket was spread down and four men laid on it, then another blanket spread over them. The dirt from the next grave was filled on this one and so on until the whole line was buried. I learned afterward that the hurried dispatch Gen. Meade sent back to Gen. Lee, was to send men to mark the graves of the dead, but that he would have them buried. The regulars did not take us over the portion of the battle field occupied by the Yankees. We could see the fields strewn with the dead but we didn’t ride over the ground like we did among our own men. I guess they didn’t want us to see how many they had lost. The men were very nice and kind to us though. They explained how the dreadful slaughter of Pickett’s men occurred. His columns had been thinned out so much by the artillery and heavy firing they were subject to in crossing the low ground coming up to the foot of Cemetery Ridge, and he gave the order to close to the left, expecting Gen. Heath’s division to also close to the left and support him. But Heath couldn’t see the move Pickett made as his men were in a piece of timber and the trees being in full leaf, the view was obstructed. They advanced slowly and when Pickett charged the breastworks, Heath’s division was too far in the rear to aid him. There was a gap of about 700 yds. left between Pickett’s and Heath’s division and Gen. Warren, who was in front of Heath’s division saw the gap, marched a part of his men to the front and right faced and marched in behind Pickett and captured a part of his men, who had already taken the breastworks.
When Pickett saw Warren’s move and knew that Heath couldn’t support him to recapture the breastworks, he was compelled to retreat. Then was when the terrible slaughter occurred, as Pickett’s men retreated under the heavy fire from the artillery they had once taken, but was unable to hold.
The men had to march very nearly two miles in the retreat, in full view of the enemy’s artillery, before they reached the timber, which served as a protection. If Heath had brought his men up as Pickett expected, it would only have caused a heavier slaughter, because I saw the tents of a number of lines of battle the next day, that the regulars told us were right there to support the breastworks, that Pickett couldn’t see when he was making the charge. He never could have held the position, against such heavy forces.
We went right over the summit of Cemetery Ridge, by the Peach Orchard and High Water Mark. It was all a dismal sight as it was raining steadily until about 12 o’clock, but the work of caring for the wounded and burying the dead was being carried on as rapidly as it was possible. The regulars took us on to our outpost and we bade them farewell, never to meet again. Major Mason knew some of the men personally, so we enjoyed their kindness very much. Major Mason took us back to Lee’s headquarters and Gen. Lee released us and sent us on back to our command.
In going back to our command, we passed by the remnant of Pickett’s gallant division. It didn’t look to be more than a regiment. The first man I recognized was my brother-in-law, Lieut. John Dill, who is still living. I asked him how many they had lost and his reply was: “We have lost all.” He got in sight of the breastworks, he said, before they had to retreat. He was wounded by the explosion of a shell.
As all of the Botetourt Infantry was in Pickett’s division, I soon found other men that I knew. The men of the Fincastle Rifles had the same sad story to tell, of the dreadful loss of their comrades. The descendants of the Botetourt Infantrymen can always be proud of the charge their ancestors made and glad they did not see the disconsolate, depressed remnant I saw that morning after the battle. It was the saddest sight, I think, I ever witnessed. You know the missing men were from my own county, and so many were my acquaintances. I talked to some of the gallant men of the Blue Ridge Rifles, Buchanan Rifles, also some of the men who composed Capt. Gilmer Breckinridge’s company, then commanded by Capt. Kelly.
Capt. Breckinridge raised this Co. at the beginning of the war and his father furnished uniforms for the men. Some of the men of Capt. Spessard’s Co. of Craig Co., told me of Nat Wilson’s death. He was killed just as he crossed the breastworks. He was raised in Fincastle and was one of my schoolmates.
We reached our command on the evening of the 4th. I found the regiment had lost heavily, but our company had not suffered so much. Six of our Co., beside myself, that only numbered 64, when we went to Gettysburg, were sent out on this lookout expedition. The most gloomy time of my life, I think, was from that eve until we started back to Va. the next day. Lee was whipped, but unconquered. Meade was slow in following us up.
The infantry and artillery moved in front and the extreme rear, was brought up by the cavalry, as usual.
The business of the cavalry was to fortify behind us and protect our men in front. We took wheat shocks and piled them up high and threw dirt on them and when the advance guards of the enemy would see our fortifications, they would slack in their movements. They would bring up their artillery and open fire on us often and we would retreat to other fortifications built by cavalry ahead of us and so on. Sometimes we would have to stop in the open field and fight the enemy. Sam Riley was killed in one of these engagements, while we were still in Penn.
George Hayth, “Flud” we all called him, was mortally wounded near Boonesboro and died at Winchester, about ten days later. Alonzo Rineheart was shot through the hand at the same time “Flud” was wounded, in one of these encounters, trying to drive the enemy back.
We struck the Potomac near Williamsport and learned there that our wagon train had been captured and about 15 men from my Co. were captured, also. They were acting as guards for the wagon train.
Some of the cavalry was ordered to go to the front to guard the pontoon bridge, that Lee had used crossing the Potomac going into Maryland, but before we got there we learned that the bridge had been destroyed but we went on to where the bridge had been.
While there I saw a lot of the wounded men, who were able to ride crossing the river. It was very deep and at one time I saw about 30 men go into the river and the horses got confused and threw their riders and only 15 passed over safely. Some of the horses came back on the Maryland side while others went across without a rider. These horses were just broken down horses that the men had picked up along the road and some of the men were riding without saddle or bridle, just a rope or strap tied around the horses neck. There were more wounded than we had wagons or ambulances to carry them and those least wounded were walking on ahead trying to escape the enemy and get back to Va., so picked up the horses as they could. The citizens told us that the wounded men had been crossing like that for a day or more, so no doubt many a poor fellow had a watery grave, in this last effort to reach his home state again.
We remained at Williamsport, until the whole army arrived. We had been sent ahead to guard the fords, which we did and fortified at several places. When they arrived, the river had run down considerably and the infantry and artillery passed over first and we again brought up the rear. After we had crossed we found that Gen. Pettigrew with his division had been left. I never knew why. And the enemy attacked him and he was killed, but not many of his men were lost. Our batteries opened fire from the Va. side and protected Pettigrew’s men and held the enemy in check until they could cross the river and get with us.
We continued to retreat until we reached Winchester where we went into camp for a few days and got a little much needed rest. A good many supplies had been shipped to the army and we found them when we arrived. A great many were not present to receive the boxes from home. They had answered the last roll call and were numbered with the slain.
Some of the Yankees had crossed the Potomac between Harper’s Ferry and Winchester and attacked us at Sheppherdstown. When we went into the battle, Co. C. had only 13 men left of our 64 that went into Penn. Some had been killed and the others captured. The pickets were driven in about 12 o’clock by Gen. Kilpatrick’s men and a skirmish line was sent out to bring on the attack. There were a hundred or more of us in the skirmish line and the 13 men, who composed Co. C, 2nd Va. Cavalry were among them.
In marching toward the enemy a large sink hole was right in our pathway and instead of going through the hole and keeping 8 ft. apart which was our usual distance in skirmish lines, some of the boys went around the hole and 6 or 8 of them were huddled right together. The enemy was behind a rock fence on the summit of a hill, which was a grave yard and when they saw these men together, they fired among them and wounded five, two of them mortally.
We couldn’t get nearer than about 500 yds. to the rock fence, as the enemy was firing grape and cannister among us so we had to lie down behind a rail fence to protect ourselves. I was lying in a fence corner and a cannon ball hit the fence stake on the opposite side of the fence from me and cut the stake off and tore it out of the ground and took it whizzing over me. It shook me up, I’ll tell you, but didn’t wound me. Had it struck the stake my head was against I would not have been left to tell the tale.
We couldn’t damage them much from where we were so we were ordered to the left into a piece of timber and remained there 10 or 15 minutes and were then ordered to charge in another direction and went through an old field and came across five pieces of artillery, that our men had abandoned on account of the heavy firing from behind that stone fence. Several of the gunners were lying there dead and after we passed the guns our gunners came back and opened heavy fire over our heads, at the men on the top of the hill.
As Gen. Young had gotten in position on our right, We were ordered to advance and came by a house that we found to be full of Yankee soldiers. We came across several men behind a corn crib and they laid down and shot under the crib at our feet, but missed us, and before they could reload their guns, we ran around the crib and they ran to the house and into the basement. We followed at their heels, and to our great surprise, there were about 50 men in the basement, instead of our 3 or 4. We ordered them to surrender, which they did at once. Our line of battle had gotten up by that time and we sent the prisoners to the rear.
We crossed a little ravine up a slope into a wheat field and the enemy opened such a heavy fire, that we were compelled to take refuge behind rocks, wheat shocks, or anything we could. Every man, though, that got behind a wheat shock, was killed. Capt. Graves and I fell down behind a large lime stone rock and a shell struck in the ground about 20 feet from us and ploughed right along to our rock and exploded. It threw dirt all over us, but didn’t hurt us at all.
Just at that time, I looked to the rear and saw J. E. Stewart, Wade Hampton and Fitz Hugh Lee coming right up the ravine and would soon have been in full view of the men at the rock fence and grave yard. I ran down and explained the situation to them. They remained there a few minutes planning what to do, and Hampton decided to have Gen. Young’s men come up in line with Fitz Lee’s men, and make a desperate effort to take the grave yard.
Hampton sent a courier to Young, and in a few minutes his men did charge, but they were mowed down so rapidly that they didn’t get near up to our line until they were compelled to fall back. We had to keep our hidden positions until night-fall and then retreat.
When we got back I found that only six of our 13 in my company remained unharmed. Ben Peck, a cousin of mine, was mortally wounded, only lived a few days. John Deisher also died in a few days. The other 5 recovered, but were unfit for service for awhile.
We spent the night in camp and the next morning our pickets found that Kilpatrick had withdrawn his forces in the night and gone back toward the Potomac. We remained at this encampment until the next eve, when we had a dress parade in an oats field nearby.
Dress parades were held every eve in each regiment. The orders for the next day were always read out and each orderly Sergeant had to report if any of his men were absent “without leave.” When the dress parade was over the regiment was turned over to the quarter master, and he gave orders for each man to get four bundles of oats to feed our horses that night and the next morning.
Our Co. was on the extreme right and Co. K. was on the extreme left of regiment. Each Co. had one of the contrariest men the world ever knew. We had all said if either of them ever drowned we would fish up the stream for them. Instead of getting the oats near by, these men started off in a sweeping gallop to the opposite sides of the field and ran together about the center of the field. We heard a report like that of a gun and immediately, another; the first proved to be the horses heads coming together and then the men’s. All four fell over dead, as we all thought, at first. We rushed to them and not a sign of life could be seen. Some one hastened for Dr. Shackleford and as he had no restoratives with him, except hartshorn, he used that, and we soon found we had two live men alright. They felt up for the ground though. They then used the hartshorn on the horses and they soon revived also. The crowd had gathered by that time and all had a hearty laugh and gave them three cheers for the bay windows they carried on their heads.
After going into camp that night in a piece of woods, we hitched our horses and some of the boys went in search of water back in the open field. A fellow by the name of Bob Luckadoo, had gone off about 30 or 40 yards from the majority of us and laid down, and these boys coming back from hunting water, accidently stepped on the man. He got very mad and cursed and the boys apologized and told him they could not see him in the dark. He finally accepted their apology, but the boys found out what a “touch-me-not” he was, so told it as soon as they got into camp. We decided to pass by and stumble over him again in going for water. The next boys did so, and he shouted and cursed them and they pretended to be so surprised at his being there and began to apologize. He said: “What in the hell is the use to apologize, when you’ve killed me?” He laid down again, though, and presently another boy stumbled over him and he jumped up and called to the bugler as loud as he could yell: “Casey! Casey! Just turn out the whole damned bloody 2nd Cavalry and let them march over me and maybe they will be satisfied.” The regiment enjoyed the prank greatly and we often laugh about it yet.
We moved camp the next day and his horse got lame and as we would pass every boy would ask him what was the matter with it. He got so mad he told us it was none of our d——d business. Sometimes 3 or 4 would be asking him at once. He finally got so mad he cursed us until you could have heard him a mile, I think. We camped the next night in a dewberry field.
As soon as day broke I got up and ate a good breakfast of dewberries. We soon found that there were about a dozen Yankees on the hill, just above us and they fired on us a few times, but over shot us. Col. Munford ordered the bugle to be blown, which was a signal for us to mount. We were formed in line and by that time the fog had raised so that we could see the men on the hill. He wanted some one to try to ascertain who they were and why they were there. I told him I’d go on the hill just opposite, where we could see better, if some one would go with me. Another man volunteered and I told him to come up from one side and I’d go up from the other and we could meet on the top. When I went around on my side of the hill and got to the top the other volunteer wasn’t there. I was in sight of the men on the other hill and about 200 yards from them I could see that there were 8 men on horseback and there were two horses with out riders. I was riding my horse that I’d captured in the spring. I shouted to them and bade them “Good Morning” and asked them to whose command they belonged and they answered “Gen. Rosser’s”.
They asked me to come up to where they were, but I told two of them to come down to me. They insisted on my coming but I told them there were more of them and for two of them to come to me. Just then two men in some sassafras bushes about 50 yds. from me fired at me and my horse whurled so suddenly, that I heard the whiz of both bullets right by my head. I fell over on my horse to keep her between me and the men. She almost flew back in the direction from which we had come. The man who started with me never went to the top of the hill, for he could see the Yankees before I could and he soon started back, but saw me fall over on my horse and reported me killed before I could get back. The Col. then with drew the men and made preparation for an attack; but it never was brought on. There were a few stray shots all day, but didn’t amount to any thing among our men. Each side seemed afraid to attack the other, as they couldn’t ascertain the strength of the opposing forces.
While we were recuperating and maneuvering around one evening at dress parade an invitation was read out, that a Mrs. Lucas in the neighborhood had given an invitation to all the Burdens, Sheppards and Pecks to attend a dining at her home. The invitation was read all through Lee’s army. A Lieutenant by the name of Burten from Bedford Co. and I were the only ones who went. We had to go about six miles. She lived at a fine farm house and the porch was crowded with guests. Mrs. Lucas and her daughter came out to meet us and told us not to tell our names until she guessed who we were. She looked at the Lieut. first and said she couldn’t see the favor of any of the Burdens, Sheppards or Pecks. I told her how he spelled his name and we soon found it was different from the name she was hunting. She told us to get down and come in anyway; she was glad we had come, etc., if the name was a little different. I told her she had slighted me, that she hadn’t guessed who I was yet. She said: “Oh! Come on, I know you by the favor. I’ll show you pictures of your relations for two generations.”
She introduced the Lieut. to the ladies and said she would introduce me a little later. She took me in and showed me a life-size portrait of her grandfather Jacob Peck, who was born and raised near Fincastle, and was my great uncle. She knew me by the picture, she said. She then took me back and introduced me to the guests. Her husband came in, and to my astonishment, I recognized him as the same Dr. Lucas that we had so much fun over when we were in prison at Washington about four months before. I laughed and called him the fresh fish and he enjoyed anew our initiating we had for these witnesses that were sent to Washington. He said he recognized me on first sight. Lieut. Burten went back that eve, but as I had a three days’ furlough, I stayed until the next evening. Dr Lucas sent regards to the other seven men who spent the time with us at Washington.
After a few days we crossed the Blue Ridge and went back into Culpepper Co., near the same place from which we had made our start to Gettysburg. We rested and recuperated at this place a few days and the first disturbance was one day when half of our division of cavalry was out letting the horses graze, when the pickets came in and said that Kilpatrick was crossing the Rappahannock. The bugle sounded, a signal to saddle and make ready for movement. Our horses all being out and half of the men, naturally we had a considerable stampede before the men could get back and we could all make ready. By our delay Kilpatrick succeeded in getting about all of his men over.
We formed our line of battle and aimed to make a cavalry charge, but could not on account of the timber and underbrush. Just as we were dismounting a young man by the name of Preston, who had come to our regiment the day before, was shot in the neck and fell dead. We charged them on foot and drove them across the river, capturing a few of their men and having a few wounded and killed. Some of our slow fellows who didn’t get up with us in time for the pursuit, hitched their horses at a straw stack and were smoking and set the stack on fire, and burned it and one of the horses.
A few days later while out on a scouting expedition, and some of our men were left behind the majority of the command, having their horses shod, Kilpatrick’s men came on them and would have captured them all, but for Lieut. Ed. Hayth. He hurriedly formed them in line, as soon as he saw the enemy approaching and charged them and drove them back. Hayth then hurried on and overtook us and informed us of the enemy’s advance, so we took our position behind a rock fence. When Kilpatrick’s men advanced they came up through a corn field, so we had to shoot considerably at random and their firing on us was about the same way. One of our men by the name of Chas. Cross, from Lynchburg, was accidently killed by one of our pieces of artillery, and Capt. Breckinridge sent word back to the gunners that they must aim higher, and just as the messenger, William Craddock, got to where young Cross was killed, he was shot by the Yankees and died that night.
These were the only two men we lost. We left the fence and charged the enemy and drove them back, but didn’t capture any of them.
The next we heard of the enemy was that Gen. Meade was concentrating his forces in Culpepper Co., preparing to advance on Richmond. Gen. Lee then moved with his army toward Culpepper, C. H., to check Meade. He sent Stewart’s cavalry to cross the Rapidan river at Raccoon Ford, to drive the enemy back.
When we crossed the river the enemy opened fire on us with three or four pieces of artillery and the first ball that was fired cut Sergeant McCabe’s leg off and the ball went on through his horse and killed it instantly. We soon saw that our only chance was to dismount and charge the enemy on foot. When we got near the artillery they began to fall back and never halted until they got to Stevensburg, about two miles distant. Here they opened fire on us again and we laid down in a mill race, to get out of range and sight of the enemy. I was very warm, having walked the two miles in double quick time and had to lie in that spring water for about three hours until reinforcements arrived. When the infantry got within about 200 yards we were ordered to charge the artillery, which we did, but when they saw our reinforcements coming they began retreating again to Brandy Station. We followed them expecting them to make a stand again but they did not. They continued to retreat until they joined the main army. We camped near Brandy Station that night, and the next morning I was unable for service. My rest in that spring water had given me a case of congestion of the liver. K. B. Stoner was sent to take me back to Orange C. H., I wasn’t able to go alone.
After going a couple of miles a citizen told us of a near way by going through his corn field and on out in a cross road, that led to the main road. Just after getting into the corn field I was riding a little ahead while Stoner laid up the fence and to my great surprise one of Gen. Pleasenton’s couriers came galloping up. I drew my pistol and ordered him to surrender, which he did without a word. When we got through the field and to the next house, the man of the house told us it wasn’t safe to go farther because he had seen a scouting party go that way. He told us another near route back to Lee’s headquarters.
We arrived there in due time and stayed all night and they told us where to find the command. We at last reached them and turned our prisoner over to the provost guard, and made a second start for Orange C. H. I hadn’t eaten anything for a couple of days and would get so sick every few miles that I’d have to get off and lie on the ground awhile and try it again. After two days riding and resting along, we reached camp and you may know I was glad to get back. I was sick for a week or so and every thing remained quiet for some time.
This was nearing fall and we soon began fixing up winter quarters. We tented in a heavy piece of timber and built a wind brake back of the encampment. We had built log huts for winter quarters before this, but just lived in our tents the winter of ’63, as we were expecting to have to move at any time. Nothing occurred during the winter to break our rest. We kept up picket duty, of course, and had fairly good rations, principally corn bread and pork with some beef. The country had been so over-run that we couldn’t expect to fare as well as we had previously.
We broke camp the early part of march and moved to Fredericksburg. The evening we started, after we had saddled up, we were waiting for further orders and about half of the boys lay down by the wind brake and went to sleep. The horses were all hitched around, just where we had kept them all winter. Some of the boys thought things were too quiet, so they slipped around and set fire to the dry pine brush of the wind brake, and such a scare as the fellows had when they waked up. The men jumped and some ran off without their guns or pistols, and every little while the fire would burn over one and it would fire away. The horses then got scared and we had a general awakening. Some of the boys used Sunday School words, lavishly, I’ll tell you. If they could only catch the fellow who set the brush, was the cry; but catching him was the thing. Every fellow was perfectly innocent, of course.
At about 8 o’clock at night we had orders to march toward Fredericksburg. As the roads were bad, the wagons made poor time, so we didn’t get there until the next day.
As soon as we arrived a detail was made from all the companies to send men down to help draw a seine. I got permission to ride about some and took one of the roads made by the infantry the year before, when the battle was fought there. I heard a man cursing at the top of his voice and I went to him and his wagon had upset with a load of fish. I helped him turn his wagon back and to reload his fish and he was very grateful for my help, so much so, that he gave me a dozen fine hickory shad. I strung my fish up and hung them to my saddle and started on toward the fishing, and directly I heard my man yelling and cursing and I rode back to find his wagon upset again and every fish on the ground. I helped him load up again and he gave me another doz. My hands and clothes were considerably soiled by this time, so I decided to go on back with him. He was going to the camp with the fish, so I helped him on out of the woods. Every time the wagon would strike the roots of the trees the fish would slip first to one side of the bed and then the other and by both of holding and watching we kept them from upsetting the wagon again. When I got back our quarter-master had issued fish to the men, so with my extra 2 dozen, we had a fish feast.
FOURTH YEAR OF THE WAR.
We remained at that camp until the morning of the 4th of May, when we tore down our tents and started to Spottsylvania C. H. When we got there we were ordered out to take a place near Todd’s Tavern, where we were ordered to fortify.
In a few hours Gen. Sedgwick, with the 19th army corps marched against us. A desperate fight ensued. We fought from behind our log fortifications; he charged again and again during the whole day, but we continued driving him back. Our loss was light, as we were well fortified, but the ground over which they charged was left blue with their slain. Gen. Ulysses Grant had already been appointed commander-in-chief of the Yankee forces and was now in Spottsylvania Co. His motto was “never to give up,” so he reinforced Sedgwick the next day with another army corps, which meant 30,000 or 40,000 men. The first day I receipted for 100 rounds of ammunition and shot it all and the next day for 115 and used all that the 2nd day. The others all did about the same. They had removed the dead during the night and charged over the same ground all of the second day. We held our same position behind the fortifications and lost very few men, but the ground in front of us was blue with the poor boys in blue, again by night fall. We left a strong force at the fortifications during the night, but a part of us went into camp near by.
We went back to our position in the morning of the 3rd day and the Yankees had moved their dead, but were reinforced and ready to charge us again and continued until about the middle of the day. One of our Bedford boys “Lil” Johnson, looked over the fortifications and was shot through the head and killed instantly. Another fellow Creed Hubbard was killed by a bullet passing through the fortifications. Chas. Price, Newt. Shaver and I were side by side as we had been for three days firing at the enemy, when another bullet came through the fortifications and struck Newt. in the breast and he fell dead, as we thought. I put my hand into his bosom to see if we could stop the bullet wound from bleeding and found there wasn’t a particle of blood. He had just been stunned so we soon revived him with water, and just then one of our couriers came in sight and was killed. Some one ran up to him and found a dispatch in his hand ordering us to fall back. Our breastworks had caught on fire at the extreme ends of our line and our men had already been ordered back, but we were the last to receive the order.
The enemy was pressing harder, of course, and just as we started back, after our breastworks had caught on fire, Chas. Price took Newt’s gun to carry and I took his arm to help him, as he was still weak from the shock and a bullet struck him in the arm, that was locked in mine. We had to leave our dead men at the breastworks to burn. I only saw the two right near me, in fact they were about 3rd or 4th man from me, but of course, there were others all along the line. Still our loss was very meager, compared to the enemy. We fell back until we reached Gen. Lomax’s breastworks. When we crossed over and laid down, I told Newt I wanted to find out why that first ball that struck him didn’t enter his body and I asked him what he had in his pocket. He said he had the bible that his mother gave him, when he left home. I looked and found the bullet more than half way through the little bible. So it had saved his life.
I turned him over to the ambulance corps to be cared for. The enemy’s whole line of battle followed us, but only the sharpshooters came in sight. We waited for the line to appear to open fire, but as they didn’t, Col. Munford ordered our sharpshooters to re-cross the breastworks and charge the enemy who was hiding behind trees and firing occasionally.
Edward Brugh, of Co. C., 2nd Va. Cavalry, who was commanding us, ordered us to advance and try to keep the trees between us and the enemy as much as possible. Just as I got to a large tree a man behind it fired at Brugh who was behind another tree to my right, and shot him through the lung. I ran around the tree expecting to get him, but he had dodged behind another tree and I didn’t get a shot at him. Lieut. Hayth was put in Brugh’s stead and we followed on and drove them nearly to our breastworks that had been burned. I was in the front line and just as we were ordered to halt, I saw a Yankee officer lying dead, as I thought, with his head between two small shrubs. I went to him and saw that he was shot through the head and thought from his appearance that he might have money, so I examined his pockets and found none, but found a splendid silver watch. One of Co. K’s men was with me and he said: “Peck, I am going to take his boots, he’ll never need them again.” Just as he aimed to pull one off, the man kicked him and sent him a couple of somersaults. I looked and saw that our men had gotten some distance back toward our breastworks, so we started back in double quick time, I’ll tell you.
The enemy’s skirmish line began firing on us and we ran at full speed. I carried the watch in my hand, so if I was shot I could throw it away. I didn’t want them to kill or capture me with a dead Yankee’s property on my person. We didn’t overtake our men until we crossed the breastworks, and we crossed right where Capt. James Breckinridge was and laid down by his side. He said to me: “The boys thought you were either killed or captured as you didn’t get back with them.” I then showed him the watch and told him of my hunting for money and finding it. Capt. B. took the watch and looked at it and saw that it belonged to Col. E. L. Sindler, of the 1st Va. U. S. Cavalry. Col. Munford said he knew the man well; had gone to school with him at West Point, and had been his class-mate and graduated with him. Capt. B. wanted to trade me a gold watch for it, and I sent the gold watch home, and he carried Col. Sindler’s watch until he was killed at the battle of Five Forks.
It wasn’t long until night-fall, so the enemy let us remain in camp until morning. We arose early and the infantry had arrived by this time, and we fortified, expecting them to do the fighting and we could look on. The infantry had been in camp nearer Richmond and didn’t get to us in time to share our three days fight.
Gen. Lee ordered us out near where our breastworks had been burned, to bring on the fight, but before we got that far the enemy, hiding in the timber, fired on us and killed Capt. Breckinridge’s horse, known to us as “Bull Locust.” We retreated so they would come out in the field and follow us nearer to the breastworks where we could have a chance at them and the infantry opened fire on them. Just at this time Col. Munford received a dispatch from Gen. J. E. B. Stewart, that Sheridan, who had been fighting in the southwest was advancing on Richmond with 15,000 men and 90 pieces of artillery, principally parot guns. Munford ordered us to follow him in a gallop, which we did.
We halted after galloping about twelve miles, when we were nearing Sheridan’s rear. He was in a country where a great deal of broom sage grew and to keep us from overtaking him he had fired the country for miles. We rushed right through the fire, singing our eye-brows and our horses manes and tails, but succeeded in coming on his rear and also getting a portion of our army in front of him at a place near Beaver Dam.
As Sheridan had so much larger force of men and equipments than Stewart, we had to give way at several points, to protect ourselves, but when we got to Yellow Tavern, about 9 miles from Richmond, Stewart determined to make a stand and save Richmond. Stewart rode in front of his line and told us that Richmond’s destiny lay at our hands; that in three more miles Sheridan could reach the Heights from which he could throw Greek fire from the parot guns and shell the town. Richmond houses were principally covered with shingle roofing at that time and not so many brick buildings, and as the parot guns could throw a shell 6 miles, and when it struck it would explode and throw fire in every direction, it would have been an easy and short take to have set it all on fire. We had had some experience with Greek fire and knew what it was to extinguish it. It was a very dry time, too, but a cloud arose and just as the battle began the cloud reached us and a dreadful storm followed. The lightning and cannonading were so terrific, that sometimes we couldn’t tell the flash of one from the other. The rain was just pouring and often the ammunition would get so wet, as we were loading our guns, that they wouldn’t fire.
The Penn. cavalry made a desperate charge and took three of Stewart’s artillery guns. Stewart, with his 1st Va. regiment, the one that he had gone out with, aimed to retake the guns, and one of the Penn. cavalry, who had gotten out into our lines before falling back and saw Stewart and recognized him, I suppose, fired and mortally wounded him. We didn’t get the guns but we held Sheridan back and saved Richmond. The battle only lasted something more than an hour, but in that short time we had lost one of our bravest and best men, Gen. J. E. Stewart.
We fought nearly the whole time in a down-pour of rain and the loss was heavy on both sides, but we felt the loss of our leader more than all of the privates, at this time, when the enemy was doubling in on us from all sides.
Sheridan was not easily defeated, we only spoiled one plan for him to make another to reach Richmond; that was to go down and cross the Chickahominy at Meadow Bridge. He began that movement as he fell back from Yellow Tavern.
Our pickets that evening and night found that he was moving in that direction, so we were ordered to move down and form a line of battle south of Meadow Bridge. The Chickahominy was very much swollen by the rain the day before and it was out over the swamps about waist deep on a man.
We were right at the bank of the river and saw so many large turtles, watching for bugs or anything that might be floated. We soon looked out across the river that had spread a mile or more over the swamp, and saw a number of objects that looked no larger than many of the turtles, advancing in regular line.
I told the boys that I believed that was Yankees wading in the water and trying to make us believe they were turtles. The other boys all thought they were turtles, though.
I was right in the road that crossed the bridge and had a good view, and felt sure they were men we saw and not turtles. So I called to Lieut. McGruder to come down and investigate the matter. He hadn’t much more than reached me, before these men in the water opened fire on us and killed McGruder while talking to me.
The Yankees were armed with Spencer rifles and it made no difference how wet they got the water couldn’t penetrate the powder. They had stooped down until only their heads were above water, where it wasn’t deep enough to hide them, and when they were yet about fifty yards out from the river in the swamp timber, they fired on us, killing several men of our skirmish line and the Lieut.
We were ordered to fall back over the crest of a little hill south of us, in double quick time. We had a very brave Irish Sergeant, who said he’d never run, and as we were going back in double quick time, the Capt. said to him:
“Paddy, I thought you’d never run.”
He said: “Ah, Capt. It is shust this way. Those d——d rascals have played turtle on us and it is better for a fellow to be a coward for a few minutes, than a corpse for the rest of his life. Let the d——d rascals come out of the water loike min, and I’ll foight them until hell freezes over and thin I’ll foight thim on the ice.”
We fell back to our regular line of battle and artillery and when they came out of the water we rushed up to the top of the hill with our artillery and charged them, driving them back through the river with heavy slaughter.
Gen. Stewart, who had been taken to his brother-in-law’s home in Richmond, and was gradually growing worse, heard the cannonading and asked what it meant. They told him that Sheridan was aiming to cross at Meadow Bridge, and that Fitz Lee and Wade Hampton were holding the ford. Stewart’s reply was: “If Fitz Lee is there with the Va. cavalry, Richmond is safe.” These were the last words he spoke, that any one could understand. I’ll tell you it did our sad hearts good to know that the man we had fought with that long, had that confidence in us and that we could be among his last thoughts.
At about two o’clock the water had run down considerably, and some of us crossed to see if we could locate Sheridan’s movements. Scouting parties were sent in every direction and we soon found that he had retreated in the direction of the White House, on the York River.
While we were fighting Sheridan, R. E. Lee was having some of the hardest fighting they had ever had. He was opposing Grant at Bloody Angle and other points near. It was at Bloody Angle that Lee’s men ordered him to the rear and they would go to the front. This he did, and they did go to the front and straightened the line of the angle.
We were out scouting for several days and finding that Sheridan was moving toward Washington, we returned and joined the command and went to protect R. E. Lee’s right flank, when Grant was making his left flank movement to get between Lee and Richmond. We met the enemy at a place called Jack’s Shop and as we had no fortifications, began to prepare immediately. Capt. James Breckinridge sent Wash Conode and myself to the wagon train, that was a few miles in the rear, to get ammunition for the regiment. When we got back, they had decided not to fortify at that place, but had moved to another piece of woods and had left a man to tell us where to go. For some reason, he wasn’t there and we went up within thirty or forty yards of what we thought was our regiment, but found it was the Yankee infantry. When I found we’d struck the Yankees I told Conode to fall flat on his horse and follow me. I started out of the woods and the Yankees began firing on us and Conode surrendered right there, with his ammunition. I kept riding as hard as I could go down a ravine below the infantry and I thought they would be apt to over shoot me, as I was going down a hill. They fired on me fearfully for a half mile or more, but as usual not a bullet struck me or my horse. When I got to the end of the ravine and out of the range of the line of Yankees, I found the man that had been left to tell us where to go with the ammunition. I told him I’d lost the man and sack of ammunition, by his not staying at his post and had run one of the narrowest risks of my life. I guess fully a thousand shots was fired at me, but it is hard to shoot a man galloping down hill.
When I got to the command, they had commenced fortifying at a place that one of R. E. Lee’s engineers had located. We held this position and kept the Yankee infantry back, until our infantry arrived that eve and the next day a big battle occurred between the two forces of infantry.
We, of the cavalry had been sent still farther on Lee’s right to prevent Grant’s movement again. About that time Gen. Custer was making a raid toward the James River to destroy the canal, thereby cutting off a large source of supplies. Gen. Wade Hampton was sent to check him and we rode all night and just before day light some of us were detached to get corn for our horses. We went to a corn crib and each man put two bushels of corn on his horse, as ordered and we expected to feed as soon as we got back to the road. But instead of that, we found a man waiting to tell us that new orders had been received and that the rest of the command had gone in double quick time and for us to follow likewise.
We overtook them between daylight and sunrise near Travillian Depot. All the other fellows had let half of their corn out of their sacks, but I carried all of mine, for the horses hadn’t had anything to eat since the morning before. I didn’t think about it hurting my horse, but we all unsaddled to feed and when I went to saddle up again my horse’s back was so swollen that I couldn’t get the saddle on. She and two other horses were condemned as unfit for service and I was detached to take all three of them to the horse pasture, in Albemarle.
I started for the horse pasture at once, which was about a day’s ride. I hoped to get something to eat from citizens, as I had not eaten anything since the morning before. I soon came to a lot of led horses in a field of about ten acres. There was one man to every four horses, and other men were out fortifying and preparing to repel Custer, when he would advance. These were confederate horses belonging to Gen. Young. The man who had charge of the horses, told me it wasn’t safe for me to go farther, that no telling at just what point Custer’s men would appear. He told me to come and eat breakfast with him and remain until we could see farther. As I needed food, I of course, took his advise. We went into a house right then to get breakfast, that had already been ordered and we had just begun to eat when one of the ladies of the house came in saying there was a disturbance among the horses out there and she thought there were some men in blue among them. When we got out we saw a regiment of Yankee cavalry coming to the horses and surrounding them, and some of the Yankees were opening the fence and taking out the horses and men in the direction of where Custer’s army was stationed. They came right on to the house and captured all of us. They got out about 500 horses and one man to every four horses, of course.
Gen. Rosser, whose men hadn’t been dismounted, heard the firing and rushed down and recaptured about two thirds of us and our horses and captured some of the Yankees also. I was free then to start on my journey to the horse pasture. I hadn’t gone more than a half mile when I met a nice sorrel horse, galloping saddled and bridled, but no rider. I didn’t know what to make of it, but I caught him and took him on with me. I could hear the firing up at the depot, so I thought the Yankees would all be needed there and went on, but somewhat cautiously.
I got to the horse pasture that eve and found every thing in confusion, as they thought Custer was coming that way on his raid. I had learned before I got very far from the command that Custer had been repulsed with heavy slaughter. Julius Buford, who was our veterinary surgeon at the horse pasture, had taken all the horses to the mountain and the citizens had also, thinking Custer was coming. A Mr. Poindexter of Franklin Co. had charge of the pasture but not a horse was there.
My horse was badly swollen under the body as well as on the back, when I got there and Mr. Poindexter sent for Buford yet that night and bled the horse by lantern light. I wanted to stay with Poindexter but Mr. and Mrs. Machen insisted on my going to the house and staying with them. I did so and the next morning when I went to see about my horse, Buford had bled him again. I rode the horse that I had found and caught in the road back to the command and I found that an application had been made for a furlough for me to go home and get a good horse that I had there. The sorrel was pretty well broken down and I didn’t want to risk him, when I had a better one at home.
The day after I got back to the command the Yankees aimed to make a flank movement at Cold Harber and go up the Mechanicsville road to Richmond, only a short distance. We were ordered to meet them at Cold Harber and we had a desperate encounter. When we got there the bullets were fast raining on us, but the air was blowing from us and we couldn’t hear a sound. We couldn’t see them, but they could tell where we were moving as it was a very dry time and a cloud of dust arose as we marched. Several of our men were wounded before we dismounted. A fellow by the name of Moore was holding his head up listening and I saw him as a bullet hit him in the neck and passed between his swallow and windpipe. Caneer of Lynchburg was shot in the arm, but both recovered. We began fortifying and just as the enemy came in sight, the 57th Va. regiment came to reinforce us and they took our position and we moved farther down, to the right, still fortifying. After a while the 60th Va. relieved the 57th and they came and took our place, completing the fortifying we had started. We moved still farther to the right. We dug and shoveled dirt all night finishing our fortifications. Some would work while others slept and then they would wake up the sleepers and they’d go to work while the others slept.
The next morning the 60th regiment passed down the line and I recognized two of my nearest neighbors, at home, Harrington Jones and Albert Curd. I said hello, Albert, and he stopped very suddenly and a lantern jawed fellow, with his mouth wide open, who was walking right behind him, swallowed about six inches of Albert’s gun. He had tremendous teeth and I could hear the teeth scraping over the gun barrel. The fellow yelled out at Albert “what in the hell did you stop for?” Albert said: “Pshaw, what are you eating my gun for, didn’t you have any breakfast?” In a few hours we were ordered out to intimidate the Yankee cavalry and be ready if they made an attack, and directly we saw a horse kicking and rearing around and he came dashing across the field, right to our regiment and one of our men ran out and met him and captured horse and rider.
There was an old white rooster tied on the saddle just flopping away, so his prospective chicken roast had caused his capture. We sent him on to Richmond and ate the chicken. The very next day the treacherous horse became frightened and carried one of our men into the enemy’s lines. We cheered both men as they came and went.
We didn’t do any fighting that day but the infantry fought all day, but our men still held their position. There were thousands of men released on both sides. The Yankees charged all night as well as day for two or 3 days. The north lost, I guess, ten men to our one though, as we were well fortified and they were not. Grant seemed determined to force through our breastworks but he failed. Sheridan COULDN’T and Grant thought he WOULD. We still held our post to keep any of the enemy from getting around and a strong force of cavalry was on the left of our infantry to prevent Grant from sending any troops around that way. He was known as the old left flanker. The cavalry was not in any of the hottest of this battle, as we occupied the extreme ends of the line.
This was in July and the next March, I passed over the ground, across which the Yankees had charged and I could hardly step without tramping on the bones still in the uniforms of the blue. They had buried some in very deep gullies, just piled them and cut brush and threw some dirt over them but the rains, had by this time, washed out the bones and the land was strewn with skulls for a half mile, or more. A lot of rushes grew down in the low lands below the end of the gulley and I saw a pile of something that looked like snow. I went down to see what it was and found it was skulls piled against the rushes. I found a dentist from Appomattox Co. there getting teeth that were filled with gold. He had his haversack about full.
Just after the battle of Cold Harber, my furlough came and I started home for a horse. While I was at home Wilson made a raid toward Petersburg and Fitz Lee and Hampton met him and drove him back and captured some men and about 100 horses. As I went back to the war I passed through Bedford City and stayed all night at the same place I stayed when I first went to the war.
I found our command near Ream’s Station, not far from Petersburg. In a short time after I got there, we were called out to go to the White House on the York River. We crossed the James River on pontoon bridges, below Richmond and rode all day and night, arriving there just before day. At daylight we saw three ironclad boats in the river and as the fog cleared away one boat moved up the river and one down and turned broadside and opened fire on us, firing three or four guns at once. We moved back out of sight before they got our range, so we didn’t lose any one just then. Then we dismounted and were marched by fours up above the White House and down to the river, where we could see the enemy drilling in a piece of meadow land just below the town, called the White House. We were not ordered to charge at all, but were marched back to our horses and mounted and went a couple of miles back in the direction of Charles City C. H. and went into camp, remaining there all night.
The next morning, after eating breakfast we were ordered to mount and just then a courier came with a dispatch to Fitz Lee and he sent it on to Col. Munford who was commanding our brigade. Col. Munford sent Co. C. and D. to form a skirmish line and we were ordered to forward march. The other 8 companies followed in regular line of battle. When we had gone a short distance we came to a lot of pines about as high as a man’s head and a fence that had been through this pine field, had been torn down and the rails piled, forming a fortification. The Yankee skirmish line was lying behind this, but broke and ran, before we shot at them at all. We pursued them and when we got out of the pines, we saw them going to several buildings around a farm house.
We followed them and they took refuge in a log barn and shot at us through the cracks, but over shot us, not even wounding a man. We swung around the barn and when they saw we were going to get them, about 25 of them ran out and aimed to escape through a solid plank gate, and rushed against the gate thinking it opened out, I suppose, but it opened back against them. The foremost man couldn’t get the others back to open it, of course, and we ordered them to surrender, but they wouldn’t and began firing at us, so we had to fire at them. We killed or wounded every man. They were supporting six pieces of artillery on the hill above us, which was firing at us all the time, but overshooting us. We went up the hill to take the artillery, but before we got there, they had retreated. The only loss we sustained was by a bumshell hanging in the limbs of a tall, slender, sweet gum tree, and its weight and force took the tree right to the ground bursting the shell and striking Capt. Tibbs of Co. K. from Albermarle Co., cutting his head clear off. The first and third regiments followed the retreating artillery awhile and put a couple of negro regiments to flight, but could not overtake the artillery. We drew in all our pickets and started back toward Richmond. We traveled about 15 miles and made up fires and camped until morning, then continued our march back to Petersburg. We had left our weak horses and a few of the men at the old camp.
Everything was quiet for a few days. One evening late, we heard a terrible report and didn’t know just what to make of it, so we went down to Petersburg and stayed all night in the streets. Some remained mounted, while others dismounted, awaiting future orders. We learned when we got there that Grant had undermined our breastworks below Petersburg and had blown them up, sustaining a very heavy loss of his men. We went back to camp the next day and remained for a week or so. We had a fine time there catching eels. We practically lived on them.
We next had orders to prepare three days’ rations and march toward Richmond. We passed through Richmond and crossed the Blue Ridge at Brown’s Gap and into the Valley of Virginia. Here we found fine hay stacks, big barns, nice houses, and we thought we had struck a bonanza. Gen. John C. Breckinridge, commanding a large division of infantry and cavalry, came into the Valley just after we did. We knew something was coming off soon, but didn’t know just what.
A few days after that our pickets came in and said that Sheridan was coming up the Valley with a still larger force than we had. Our troops made a stand near Winchester, but were unable to hold it. We had no fortifications and word came to Fitz Lee’s cavalry that the 60th Va. Regiment had been captured and we were ordered out to try to recapture it. We hurried to the scene and succeeded in getting about half of them, but a Yankee cavalry Gen. marched the others off prisoners at the same time. We were placed at different positions to let the enemy know that our cavalry was present, and the infantry was left at the temporary breastworks, fighting hard. The enemy often shelled us so that we’d have to get out of sight.
We lost eight or ten commissioned officers and a number of men, but none of my company was killed that day. One of our General’s horses, a beautiful dun, had one leg shot and broken above the knee and we were ordered about that time to hurry up to the forts above Winchester and hold the enemy in check. We galloped the two or three miles and this beautiful horse kept right with the others, all the way, galloping on three legs, the broken leg would swing in and out as he galloped, but he never offered to halt. It was certainly a pitiful sight to see his courage when we knew his pain. The officer wanted some of us to shoot him, but no one had the heart to do it, so we had to leave him and I never knew what became of him. We remained at the forts until about night and the enemy not putting in its appearance, we retreated up the back road, it was called, parallel to the mountain and passed through a beautiful village, called Darksville. We camped a few miles above the town that night and continued our retreat the next day until we came to Fishers Hill. The infantry began its retreat when we did, and made a stop also. We had a considerable fight, Sheridan succeeding in driving us up the Valley.
We next halted at Columbia Furnace, but Sheridan drove us about six miles farther. In this encounter Lieut. Ed. Hayth, my cousin, was wounded and he and a lot of other men got cut off from us in some way and went up in a mountain valley. They couldn’t get back on account of Sheridan’s men being at the mouth of the valley. Tim Stevens and I got permission from Col. Munford to go across the first ridge above where Sheridan’s men were and try to find Ed. Hayth and one of Stevens relatives, who had been wounded, also. Here we learned from the citizens that the men’s wounds had been dressed and that they had left and went out after Sheridan’s men moved beyond the mouth of the valley.
They told us of a near way to get back to our command and just at the top of the ridge we stopped for dinner at a farm house. I remember two dishes they had was peach family pie and honey. Both were always very pleasing to my taste and especially so then. I bought some of the honey from the lady and took it on back to camp with me. Some of the boys detected the taste of laurel on the honey, but the lady had sweet milk to drink at her table, so I hadn’t noticed it. I wanted the boys to eat all the honey so I could take the box back with me that day to another farm house and buy more. I had a two days’ detachment and had only used one, so I thought I’d use that day foraging. The boys didn’t care to eat it all and I told them I would finish it if it killed me. Of course, I just said it jokingly, but it came very near ending very seriously. I saddled my horse and was ready to start, but began to get so sick and in a few minutes was perfectly unconscious. The boys ran for Dr. Shackleford and he sent for the doctors, from the 1-3-4-5 regiments and all pronounced my case fatal, from poison, except Dr. Drew from the 4th regiment. In my imagination, I remember, I fought the battle at Columbia Furnace, now called Bridgewater, I believe, and thought I was captured, and once that the artillery ran over me. I suffered dreadfully for hours, but regained conciousness after the middle of the day. One of my “mess mates,” Wm. B. Bowyer, who was chief of the blacksmiths of our regiment, came and stayed with me, as soon as he heard I was sick and he was the first one I recognized.
At about 2 o’clock we were ordered to move and the ambulance was sent to haul me but I wouldn’t go in it. I told them to put me on my horse and I could go better that way. Two men put me on the horse and wanted to tie me, but I told them I believed I could sit on, and to let me try it for a while any way. We started off, and strange to say, I rode the ten miles with the others alright and felt perfectly well when we reached our destination. I’ve always been fond of honey, but I’ll tell you I’m very careful to notice if there is any bitter taste about it before eating any, ever since that day.
Sheridan was called back to Winchester and Gen. Gordon suggested to Gen. Jubal A. Early that if he would give him control of the army from mid-night until mid-day he would surprise Sheridan’s army in his absence and make a big capture. Sheridan’s men were in camp at Cedar Creek and we were a few miles above them. So Gen. Gordon called out the whole army and had them ready just before daybreak. We went down to the outposts and waited for daylight to make the attack.
We attacked them and then soon began to retreat. Some of them just rushed out without shoes and in their night clothes, without guns. It was a perfect stampede, and very few guns were fired at first. After a while the artillery took a position and began firing on us and we on them, and Sheridan hearing the noise, knew his men had been attacked, and hurried to the scene. I was in the skirmish line, as usual, and saw him galloping up on his fine black horse, “Rienza.” I said to some of the boys its over with now, for yonder comes Sheridan and he’ll change things around here. I sent a courier immediately to Col. Munford, telling him and he said: “Peck must be crazy. Sheridan is at Winchester.” I told the courier, alright, Munford would soon see who was crazy. In less than 15 minutes a cheer passed all along the enemy’s lines: “Three cheers for Philip Sheridan.” Sheridan wheeled his men around and told them to charge us and they did so, recapturing all we had taken from them and capturing a great many of our men and equipments. We had to fall back up the Valley and went into camp a few miles above there. Sheridan was gradually driving us at his will, in most cases, now.
At the Massamit Mountain, he succeeded in getting his army around in front of our infantry. Gen. Fitz Lee, with the cavalry, went through a colon on the west side of the Blue Ridge Mountain and struck the road leading from Charlottesville to Waynesboro.
When we struck the road, we found that the citizens had fortified and there were about 100 armed men and boys, some of the boys only large enough to carry a gun. They were at the fortifications aiming to stop any raiding parties or the enemy from passing and going to Charlottesville.
Fitz Lee ordered us to dismount and every fourth man to hold horses and the others form into line. We advanced down toward Waynesboro, and the little boys begged so to get in line that they and the citizens also were allowed to go on in the line of battle. The enemy didn’t open fire on us until we were real near the town and then they only used artillery. Our artillery came around on the west side, by this time, and fired back at them, but they retreated through the town and formed a line farther west. We only lost five men, and that was from a shell fired by our own artillery that struck in a tree near us and exploded, killing five of our men.
We went through the town and in sight of the fortifications, but were ordered back into the village and the artillery came and did all the firing. To get out of range of the guns, while we were not firing, about 75 of us lay down in a basement where a house had been burned a year or so before, and our artillery and that of the enemy was firing over us for a while and the roar nearly deafened us. I have never yet heard out of my left ear as well as I did before. The firing stopped about nightfall and we remained there until the next morning.
When we went up to Gettysburg and burned the commissaries at Carlisle, Penn., and Thad Stevens Iron Works, and the packet boats at Seneca Falls, I told them I was bitterly opposed to setting the torch to the enemy’s property, for it meant greater loss for us when they would retaliate. Since that, our men, Early and McCoslin, had burned Chambersburg, so I guess Sheridan thought he was in a good position to retaliate now. The morning we left Waynesboro, I counted 100 barns, granaries, mills and wheat ricks, burning. We were on an elevation and could see a long distance. We knew it was the beginning of a dreadful disaster to the Confederacy.
Sheridan passed on, burning as he went, only leaving dwellings and one mill in every ten miles. He was like a spoilt child. Drove well, as long as we followed at a distance, but as soon as we would press him, he would halt and fight us. As his forces out-numbered ours so much, all we could do was to keep our distance and let him go on. Every night we camped and rested and so did he.
Recruits were coming in occasionally, and one young fellow, Dick Oliver, from Orange Co., came to us on this march toward Harper’s Ferry. We were scarce of men for picket duty about that time, in our company, and some one suggested to send this new man, and an old picket guard with him, as it was his first service. So the Orderly Serg. introduced me to young Oliver as Bro. Peck and told him I would accompany him.
We got the countersign and watchword and started for our picket post. He was a very intelligent young man and highly educated. We were standing guard on the Shenandoah river and after being out awhile, he said it reminded him of the children of Israel going from Egypt back to the Land of Canaan. He made a mistake in relating some of the narrative and I called his attention to it and he remembered then, that I was right. He talked on a while and soon made another error. He then said that he didn’t remember the Bible as he did other things and for me to take the subject and we’d talk it over together, as it was very interesting to him. I told him, I thought to make the topic more interesting, it was better to start with the baby, Moses, and how Miriam had watched him in his little basket in the rushes, and I came on up to his manhood when he was Pharoah’s adopted son; then how God had spoken to him from the burning bush. Then I talked on of how Moses tried to get Pharoah to let the children of Israel go back to their own land and of his crossing the Red Sea with them; how the 12 spies were sent to explore the Land of Canaan and ten reported a bad land and only two, Joshua and Caleb, said it was a good land. The report of the ten spies so discouraged the children of Israel that they rebelled, and God punished them by keeping them wandering in the wilderness 40 years. And by the time I got through with it all, and Moses on Mount Nebo, and fought two or three battles over in Canaan with Joshua and Caleb, I heard an old rooster crow at a farm house, near. We went back into camp after daybreak, and Oliver went to the Serg. and said: “What in the world did you send the Chaplain out there with me for? I had two canteens of whiskey and wanted some so bad all night, but hated to ask the parson to drink with me or drink in his presence.” The Serg. said: “You are crazy, I never sent the Chaplain with you.” Oliver said: “Oh yes, you did. I was spouting some of the Bible and he corrected me twice and commenced at the birth of Moses and talked on for more than 50 years. Why he knows the Bible by heart, I believe!” The Serg. had a hearty laugh and when the other boys found it out, I was called “Parson” for a long time. I regretted his mistake, of course, as I missed several drinks that would have helped me over the night very much.
We marched all that day and at night we needed rations and Capt. James Breckinridge told me to butcher some sheep that some of our men had captured from Sheridan. Sheridan was driving off all the cattle, sheep, hogs and horses, that he could get to starve us out, but we captured sheep and cattle from him occasionally and these had been put in a tobacco house near. I went to the house and butchered two of the sheep in the dark, and got them dressed by about one o’clock. I then went to the nearest house to get vessels to cook the mutton in, and no one answered me when I called. Of course, at that time of night they were all asleep. But finally a lady called down from an upper window and I told her I had orders to press their cooking utensils into service, and I’d like for her to get them for me. She came down and helped me to get the mutton to cooking, and was as kind as any one could be. By the time the army came along the next morning, I had the mutton ready and each man’s bread and mutton cut off, and handed it out as they passed. When young Oliver passed with Sandy White, Sandy told Oliver that he ought to feel complimented to have the chaplain serving him, and we had a laugh over the joke and they rode on. Capt. Breckinridge was among the last coming by and told me I had better butcher a couple more of the sheep and cook them at this same place that day, and have it ready for the next day’s rations, and he would send and get it. So I went to work and got it ready, but by the time I got the meat to boiling, word came to me that Oliver had been killed and Sandy White mortally wounded and captured. Such is life in warfare. Oliver had only been with us two days and nights until he was killed.
As soon as the meat had been cooked, the wagon came for it and I went on with the wagon and joined the command about 10 miles farther on, where they had encamped. We remained here until ordered back to Petersburg.
Chas. Cahoon and I were sent out on picket one day and there was a nice brick house near where we thought we had to stand guard, so I went up and called and asked the lady of the house if this wasn’t the place the pickets usually stood. She said, in a very gruff way: “No, it is where the thieves stand, you are every one a set of nasty thieves.” I said, is it possible that you would call such gentlemen as we are, thieves? Now, what would my mother say if she knew her son had been called a thief? I’m certainly sorry to know that you have such an opinion of us. She said: “Well that is all you are and I’ll never believe anything else until you prove it.” I told her, now since she had branded me as a thief I was going to take something. She said: “No you won’t, for I’m going to watch you.” She sat on the porch and watched us a part of the time and her daughter watched when she left. She had the school children, about 60 yards away, watching, and the old man was watching, also. She told the school teacher to watch us, so they’d be sure that we wouldn’t get anything.
I fed the horses before the school children got out for dinner and held some corn in my hand to bait the chickens. I helloed, “shew!” and pretended to try to drive the chickens away, but was showing them the corn and calling so the old lady couldn’t hear me. Directly one came and ate from my hand and I just closed my hand on it and twisted its head off, and slipped it under my overcoat and then put it in Cahoon’s haversack. He said: “Peck, that old devil is looking right at you.” I told him that was the funny part of it. The old man would hit one lick at his chopping and then look at us, then another lick and up at us again. Presently another chicken came up and I got it the same way, so I had my two chickens and was content. When school was out I went a few steps, down to the branch, and helped the teacher and children across. I had talked to the old lady some during the day and found out that she was a sister of Peach Wolf, who had been on our circuit at my home and had preached a funeral in our family. I had called on her brother at Winchester that same spring. He was a splendid man and I told the old lady how much I thought of him. I began to get on the right side of her in that way. We left about sundown and went up to tell them all good-bye. Her daughter was beautiful and I told her I had fallen completely in love with the young lady, and how sad it was to think we might never meet again, that I might be numbered with the slain before another day. I quoted the poetry:
I told her I hated to leave, thinking that she thought me a thief, and she said: “Oh, I’ll take it all back, I don’t think you would take anything. I am sorry I ever said such a thing, for I believe you are the most honest Confederate there is.” At this Cahoon burst out laughing and started off. He couldn’t stand it, he said, any longer. I called to him to come back, but he wouldn’t do it. I was going to show her the chickens, after she had thought me so honest, and pay her for them, but Cahoon wouldn’t come back, so I left, letting her keep her exalted opinion of me.
In a week or so I went back and spent the day with the people who had helped me to cook the mutton and they treated me as kindly as if I had been a near relative.
On Monday, following, Lieut. Walton, of Salem, Roanoke Co., detached me to go to Salem for his horse. I left the command Monday eve and rode every day and half of each night until I reached Fincastle. I stayed at home from midnight until after breakfast, and started on to Salem. I had a sweetheart beyond Salem, in Montgomery Co. in fact, she was the lady I married in Sept ’65, and she has been my faithful companion ever since; has helped me fight the most important battle of all, the battle of life. As I had a ten days furlough, I thought I must take advantage of this opportunity of seeing her so spent two days and nights at her home. I came back by my home at Fincastle and got my gray mare that I had left at the horse pasture with blood-poison, when Custer was making his raid near Trevillian Depot. She had been sent home some time before that, but I hadn’t had an opportunity to get her. She was now fat and fine and well rested, and in good shape for service.
I found our command near Mount Jackson, when I returned to the army. Shortly after I got there the Yankee cavalry made a raid up to Mt. Jackson. Our artillery took a position on Rude’s Hill and fired across Meam’s Bottoms at the enemy’s artillery, stationed on the heights at Mt. Jackson. Levi Wheat and a young man named Scott, of Co. A., Bedford Co., were killed here. Our cavalry made a charge and the enemy fled. A few of our men were killed, but more of the Yankees. Our artillery did the most of the damage.
We remained at Mt. Jackson until after Xmas. There was a heavy guard put around the camp to keep any of the soldiers from going away, but as the Shenandoah was considerably swollen, no guard was put there, thinking no one could cross.
Geo. Shaver and I thought it would be a good chance for us to cross the river and go to Lutheran preaching Xmas eve. So just after roll call, we swam the river on our horses, but got wet above our knees, and went on to preaching. We went to a Mr. Bear’s first, who was a connection or acquaintance of Shaver’s and took the young ladies to church, staying until after mid-night. It was a kind of watch service. We took the young ladies home and Mrs. Bear gave us a fine roasted turkey tied up in a sack. She told us not to open it until we got back to camp, and you can imagine the delight of all the boys when that sack was opened. We got back to camp alright and went to bed and some of the boys of our own mess didn’t know we had been out until we showed them our turkey. The next day being Xmas, a number of boxes was sent to us by the citizens, which was greatly enjoyed by all.
In a short time we broke camp and crossed one of the Alleghany Ranges and went into Hardy Co. As Sheridan had burned and destroyed so much in the Valley, we went out in order to make our own living the best way we could. Twenty-five days’ rations of salt was given to us when we left and that was all we had. No bread, meat, or anything. Of course, we had to steal everything we ate, for we had no money to buy any thing with. Fitz Lee’s whole division went on this trip. The road around the mountain was very winding and some of the boys set out fire along the road as we went up and as they reached the foot, on the other side, set that. The fire rushed up from both sides until it reached the top, and those of us farther back, when we reached the top, could enjoy the spectacle. It was beautiful, we all thought, especially as it was doing no one any harm.
We were most of the day in crossing and we found a beautiful little valley where no one seemed to have been before, to molest the peace and quietude. We hadn’t had anything to eat all day, and shortly after we went into camp, a sheep ran through, and John Sears and I, started after him. He ran down into a little cut, where the cattle had been going to water, and Wm. and Geo. Bowyer, two of my mess mates, happened to be coming up this cut, so we soon hemmed and caught the sheep. In a very short time we had it dressed and in our frying pans. After filling our pans we divided the rest out among the other men nearest to us. Directly one of our lieutenants came to our tent and said he saw a sheep pass a little while ago and he guessed some of us had better try to get it, that the men ought to have food. I told him to sit down a few minutes and eat supper with us. He was surprised when I said supper. He said: “Where did you get anything for supper?” Then I told him of his sheep he thought of getting, that we had it in our frying pans and it would soon be done. We sliced it very thin and beat it a little like steak. It was very fat and fried itself nicely. It was very cold weather and before we got to camp some of us had relieved the citizens of some of their bee gums. They were all excitement as the army would pass and some of us would just drop out of ranks and get the bee gums, while the citizens were watching the others ride by. The bees would fly out at first, but would soon get so chilled that they would fall to the ground. So we had honey, mutton and Potomac river water, for supper, but no bread. We called it the land of mutton and honey, instead of the Land of Canaan, that flowed with milk and honey.
We had tents with us and would build up big log fires, and sleep with our feet near the fires, so were very comfortable, despite the freezing cold weather. Each morning some men were sent out to locate another place to camp, as we only stayed a day and night at one place. In this way we kept clear of bush-whackers, and it made it easier on the citizens feeding us. No one would feel the loss, so much, of what we would steal from him.
We went into a beautiful grove the second night and the whole division camped on a level, so that we could see from one end of the line of tents to the other. We kept out pickets and camp guards all night, and then a watchman was kept at a tent called the “guard-house,” also. It fell to my lot to stay at the guard-house this second night. It had gotten warmer in the eve and some of the men didn’t raise their tents, just spread them out and laid on them and spread their blankets over them. When daylight came, I called the bugler and told him to get up and look. A four or five inch snow had fallen and the whole army was sound asleep and the men covered up with snow. It had kept them so warm that they were sleeping unusually well. I told him to blow the bugle and we’d see a sight similar to the resurrection, when they would rise from their snowy mounds. When the bugle sounded the men began trying to get up and as the blankets were lifted the snow just poured in their faces. Well, then you’d think of anything but the resurrection, at hearing the Sunday School words, we heard. It was certainly laughable to see and hear them. While I was on guard some of the other boys had cooked a lot of pork that we had gotten the day before, so we had a good breakfast of pork and corn bread. We had made a miller divide his meal with us and I’ll tell you, we relished it that snowy morning.
We had left the Potomac now and wasn’t near any stream, so we needed water. It had quit snowing by daylight and the wind was coming from the north and it turned very much colder. I told the boys I would take the canteens and thought I’d find water soon, of course, but instead, I went a half mile or so before I found a little stream in the woods. I kicked the snow away and found about six inches of ice under that, so I had to cut that away with my pocket knife. I had to get a place large enough to sink the canteen to fill it. I kept my gloves on and made it alright until I went to fill the 8 canteens. I took my gloves off then, as I had to put my hands in the water and sink the canteen. I started back with the 8 canteens around my neck and shoulders, and as I had stayed a good while, Henry Ballard started on the hunt for me. I’d been up all night and hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, so I guess that made the cold effect me more. Just as Henry met me, following my tracks in the snow, I fell in a dead faint, he said. He called back to the other boys, and Wm. Bowyer came immediately, but I had revived again by the time he got to me. I was as sick as I could be, though. They carried the canteens and helped me back to camp and went for Dr. Shackleford. He said to get whiskey, that I was nearly frozen, but nobody had any. I tried to always keep some for sickness, but happened not to have any then. He told the boys then to get some warm lard, and he gave me a cup, nearly a pint, of that warm lard. It was a dose, but I guess it was what pulled me through. In less than an hour I felt so much better that I helped the boys eat their pork and corn bread.
We moved through the snow and cold again that day, to a nice hickory grove, near the Potomac again, so we’d have no scarcity of water, the small streams all being frozen. Some of the boys began cutting down trees for our fires and others to foraging for food. I remembered of seeing a big iron kettle about a mile behind us, that I thought would be so good to scald hogs and cook a whole one in. So Chas. Cahoon, John Sears and myself, went back to get the kettle, but found it filled with ice. We carried it a very short distance from the house and raked the snow away and made a fire in a lot of leaves and melted the ice, so that it would slip out of the kettle, and took it on to camp. After going a short distance, I told the boys we’d better try to get a hog, too, for fear the other boys hadn’t found one. I noticed a path, that evening, in passing along the road, where hogs had been going to water in the snow, and when we got to it, we followed it right to their bed. It was right dark and we couldn’t see them very well, especially the white ones. But there was one old black fellow and I shot him, but he just squealed and ran down this path to the river. We followed him and he ran out on the ice a little way and we heard him scuffling and followed on after him and found he was about dead. We cut his throat and Cahoon carried him back to camp and Sears and I carried the kettle.
Directly after we got into camp, our honey battallion came. Geo. Nininger, James Brownlee, Peter Burger, Thomas Carper and Abraham Moody, formed this crowd. They brought in five gums and I helped to unload it. When I got to the fourth man, I thought he had an extra good gum of honey and to our amazement, we found it was nearly filled with ashes. We teased the boys good for their mistake. We soon prised the tops off and it was the finest lot of honey I ever saw, I believe. I told the boys we must try to invent some way to carry some of it to our next camp, and as I had six new home-made towels with me, that mother had given me the last time I was at home, we decided to sew them up and strain the honey out of the comb and put it in our canteens. We soon had nearly a dozen canteens filled with strained honey. It strained nicely by the hot log fires. Wm. Bowyer had assorted the honey and we only strained the nice white comb. The boys ate a lot of the dark comb while we were working with it, and Chas. Cahoon, especially. There was a lot of bee bread in the dark comb, of course, and Charles said his father told him honey wouldn’t make you sick at all, if you ate plenty of that bee bread. But Charles hadn’t been through eating long until he began getting sick and drunk, and said to some of us, that he was going to walk out away from the fire and see if he wouldn’t feel better. Well, he got up and walked right through the fire. He went so rapidly that his clothing didn’t catch, but his eye-brows and whiskers were well scorched. I told the boys that either Shadrack, Meshac or Abednago, were with us, I knew, for they were the only persons who ever went through fire unharmed. We all had to laugh, of course, and all he said was: “Boys, I’d give a thousand dollars if Bowyer would just get sick.” We had some dressed pork on hand when we went into camp, and some of the boys put it on to cook and by the time we got through straining our honey, the pork was done, so we ate supper about mid-night or 2 o’clock in the morning. Some of the other boys had dressed the hog we had brought in and as soon as we ate, we put it on to have ready for breakfast.
We heard there was a garrison of men at Moore Field, about 30 miles from where we were, and some of our boys were sent over to capture them. They were paroled, when captured, and allowed to return home until exchanged.
When we moved camp next, we stopped in a nice piece of level land, just where a creek ran into the Potomac. We were near the head of the Potomac, so it wasn’t a very large stream. The man who owned the land, lived near in a fine dwelling and had plenty of everything around him. Col. Munford sent Capt. Cary Breckinridge, the ordinance Serg., Morris Guggenheimer, and Beverly Whittle and myself, down to the house to protect the house and its inmates. This was always done, if the citizens asked for protection.
We had saved the leaf fat from the fat sheep and cattle, until we had nearly a 2-bushel sack full. I thought this would be a good time to render it into tallow, so I took it down to the house and got one of the ladies to help me, and in a little while I had more than a bushel of tallow, moulded in maple sugar moulds. We were in a regular maple sugar country. All the people had big kettles and regular equipments for making it. We were too early for the season, but we got some that was left from the year before. We kept our tallow to use about making gravy or putting in our bread, and I ate it sometimes, if I got too awfully hungry. The other boys couldn’t stand to eat it, but I could eat anything then, rather than starve.
When we left this camp, thirty of us were sent to Buck Horn Mill, to hold any meal or flour they might have, until the command came. There were dozens of pairs of buck horns tacked on the mill. The country abounded in deer. We found very little in the mill, and we hadn’t been there long, until one of our companies came after us, to get what was in the mill, and brought a dispatch telling us to go to the top of Droop Mountain and go on picket duty on the Parkersburg and Harrisonburg road.
We got there about sun-down, and asked a man living there, if he could give us provision and keep the men, while not on duty. He was in sympathy with the South and did all he could for our comfort. I went out on the first watch and when my 2 hours were out, I came back and asked the man why, did he suppose, my horse was so restless when I was out, that I didn’t see anything. He said it was deer that she saw or smelt. He said they were there by the dozens. One of our men shot one, while up there. We saw the tracks everywhere the next morning, but they had all gone back to the woods.
The next day we went on farther toward Highland Co. Our next stop was near a place called Franklin and some of the officers had some Confederate money and they bought a few of the beautiful cattle and sent them home.
We passed a stillhouse on our next move and all the boys got some whiskey. That night, after the majority of us were asleep, we heard some one coming along shouting and singing, and it proved to be Col. Breckinridge’s colored waiting boy, Griffin Hawkins, just drunk enough to be “mouthy.” I said, Griff, is that you? He said: “Yes Sir. Hurrah for you.” Then he began calling the roll: “Ammen, Marcus; Bowyer, G. F.; Bowyer, Wm.; Cahoon, C. C.,” and on until he called us all. Then he said: “Geneman, you is de bravest men we is got. We’s goin’ to drive dem d—d Yankees clear away, presently, and den I’s gwine home to see my Hannah Jane. I’s gwine to tell her:
Den she’ll love and I knows it.” We told him he was drunk and to go on to bed, but he said: “No sir, I’s as sober as a judge. I knows every geneman in dat tent.” Then he would call the roll again. Chas. Cahoon had a nice horse, but it had a crooked tail and Chas. Would get very mad when we teased him about it. Abe Moody had just been put on the ambulance corps and we teased him and told him he wanted to shun fighting, Griff knew all these jokes and remembered them when drunk. He said then: “I knows you all and de kind of horse you rides. Dar’s Peck R. H., did ride de flying artillery, until he flew so fast he got wounded, and now he rides de grizzly gray. Ammen Marcus, rides de roach-back, wid a hump on his back like a camel. Cahoon Chas., rides de fine bay mare, Rhody, but watch dat crooked tail. Dat horse Dr. said to tie the tail to the saddle gurf, and she’d tote it straight. But I say, tie a big rock to de tail for a sinker and I bet she’d tote it straight den.” By this time all the boys were awake and everybody roaring and laughing. He finished his foolishness by saying: “I’s gwine to git on de colonel’s horse and blow dat bugle and call out the 2nd Va. Cavalry and run dem d——d yankees clean across de Potomac. If dey don’t git out it dey’s lookout, and nobody cares, cause it aint our fault. I knows we’ll run ’em off, if the ambulance corps will jes’ keep up. (Then we had the laugh on Moody.) Geneman dis niggar is jes’ as stout as Sampson. I could pull one of des trees up by de root, but ’taint no use. Sampson pulled up dem gate posts and carried ’em on de hill. Well, I jes’ believes I could carry dat tree on de hill, but ’taint no use.” He carried on like this for a half hour or more, and it was about equal to a circus. He kept saying how sober he was and laughing occasionally, saying if Rhody would just keep her tail straight and the ambulance corps must keep up.
We crossed a very high range of the Alleghanies, as we went into Highland county, and made our first encampment near where the Cow Pasture and Bull Pasture rivers head and flow south. The southern tributaries of the Potomac rise on the same elevation and flow north. We could look both north and south, so far that nothing was discernible; it just seemed that we were looking into space, or beyond the briny deep.
While there one of our scouts captured a man butchering a beef, and as he couldn’t give any account of what he was going to do with it, or anything, they decided he was a Swamp Dragoon. These Swamp Dragoons were men who were opposed to the war and dodged both sides. We kept him several days and as we were soon going to leave for Staunton, we decided to let him get away. So some of us told him, when he saw that all of us were asleep, to just step away cautiously and go home. After he left some of us pretended to be very much alarmed and saddled and started after him, calling halt! But we saw by his tracks the next morning, that he hadn’t only run, but had bounded like a deer. He took about 11 feet at a jump. When we reported to the officer of the guard, he said let him go to the devil. We don’t need him and can’t prove he is a dragoon, anyway.
The next morning we started toward Staunton and camped near there the first night. The next day we crossed the mountain at Rock Fish Gap and went into Albemarle county. On our way we passed a large two story mill. I noticed there was a road on both the left and right of the mill and I just dropped out of ranks and went in at the lower door by the left hand road and took the sack at the meal chest that was partly filled with meal and hung my empty one in its place. The miller, I knew, would be on the upper floor watching the command pass. I hastened a little and by the time my part of the command got to where the roads met, I was there with meal enough for several days. I stopped at the next house to buy some buttermilk and eggs to make into batter-bread with my meal. The lady of the house would not charge me a cent, as I was a soldier, and I learned afterward that the mill belonged to those very people. There were several young ladies at the house, nearly grown, and in a few years a neighbor of mine, Chas. Utz, married and when I went to the reception, I recognized his bride as one of the young ladies I’d met at that house. She was Miss Jennie Hansbrough, and it was from her father, Capt. Hiram Hansbrough, that I’d taken the meal. It was steal or starve those days, though, and I told the boys that Pharoah’s dream had taught me that in time of plenty to always prepare for famine. I baked the meal into batter-cakes that night, and as no one else had gotten any provision, I had to bake it all for supper and divide among the hungry boys. I didn’t even get a good ration for myself, much less my mess-mates. We all always made it a rule to try to get enough for our mess-mates, as well as ourselves, when foraging.
We stopped at North Garden and stayed a few days and rested our horses and got supplies. The 1-2-3 and 4 regiments camped right together here, and while there, in maneuvering around we found a moonshiner, who had put a substitute in the war and had made thousands of dollars, I guess. He had a fine four story brick barn and dwelling house. He was bringing sugar, coffee, etc., into the confederate lines and selling at a great big profit. He kept two stories of the barn locked all the time and we were anxious to know what he kept in there and the boys wanted me to try to find out. So I told him one day that he ought to have a guard at that barn, that it wasn’t safe to leave it. He asked me if I wouldn’t guard for him, but I was busy, so sent Ben Foster, a very shrewd fellow. He helped the men to shuck corn and watched around, and I told him to get in one of those upper stories and unlock a window, and there were some boat “gunwales” in the barn yard that would just about reach to the window. We could put them up at night and climb up and pull the window open and help ourselves. Eight of us went and ordered the guard, Ben Foster, to leave at the point of pistols, which was sham work, of course, but he left. I climbed up and filled a sack of corn and rolled it down on the plank, and one of the boys aimed to catch it, to keep it from bursting, and when it hit him it nearly killed him for awhile. We all had a laugh over it, when we saw he wasn’t hurt, and I told one of the boys to come up and help me to explore and see what we could find. One boy came and found what he thought was a sack of sugar. I got out the window and caught the sack with my teeth, and went down the plank feet-foremost, until near enough to the ground for the other boys to get it I took all the sacks down this way and when we got back to camp and opened our sacks and fed our horses the most of the corn, we opened the sack of sugar, as we thought, but it proved to be clover seed. We wanted to get it off of our hands and carried it over to the 3rd Regiment, where they issued their rations and feed.
Next morning everybody wondered where and how it got there and when it went over. I told them it had been sent by mistake to them, of course, for sugar, or something. Some of our boys had been helping the old man to shuck corn and he came over to us the next morning to know what had become of the guard, and he had missed his clover seed, so found it, of course. He had not missed his corn, but knew some one had been in the barn, as the planks were still up at the window. He talked to me about it and I told him I expected the fellow that helped him shuck had done the mischief, and that it was a shame. He never suspected once that I was the ring leader of the crowd.
A few days later Robt. Stevens and Isaac Hinkle came down to see their sons in our company, and Ben thought he would like to send something back to the folks at home, so he came in one morning with shoes, pants, coats and socks that he had taken from his own quarter-master and sent home to his father-in-law. He laughed and told me about it. We had gotten so used to stealing that we thought it fun to see who could get things in the closest quarters. Ben said, when he was home, that the old man had on sheep skin shoes made with the wool out and looked worse than old h——, and he knew he’d be proud of those shoes.
After leaving this camp, we made our next stop at Bowling Green, Caroline county. We went into winter quarters here, but didn’t build log huts, as we sometimes did. Just lived in our tents as two-thirds or more of the winter had already passed.
We found plenty for ourselves and horses to eat. The corn was fine, ears averaging about 15 inches. Our rations, as well as that for our horses, was furnished by the Confederacy, so we didn’t have to steal now. The place abounded in wild geese. They were just about as plentiful as the English sparrows are here. They ate the growing wheat so badly that a boy would often get on a mule and drive them out of the fields until about noon, and then they would fly back toward the Chesapeake Bay.
As we had no drilling or fighting to do we had a good time. We had to keep up picket duty, was about all, except our cooking, chopping wood and taking care of our horses. One day, while here, a moonshiner came into camp and was arrested. We had orders to put a middle-aged man and one that could be trusted to guard. The Orderly Sergeant appointed Ballard McClaugherty, a middle-aged man, alright, but it seems that Ballard had seen the fellow too often and knew too much about him; but the Orderly didn’t know that, of course. The days of prophets and judges were over, but we still had men to prophesy, at times. Well, I for one, prophesied that the moonshiner would get away that night. After roll-call and taps were sounded and everybody had gone to bed, we were suddenly awakened by the firing of a rifle and some one yelling “Halt! halt! you d—— moonshiner,” and then a pistol fired three times. He then yelled “Corporal of the guard, post No. 1.” The Corporal, hurrying to the scene, said, “What’s wrong at post No. 1?” McC.’s bed-fellow, Jack Driskel, said, “Why, Mc.’s moonshiner has gotten away.” “Well, where did he go?” said the Corporal. “Oh, he’s gone hellwards, like hell beating tan-bark,” said Driskel. We never heard of him again at camp, but I think some of the boys saw him right often on the sly.
Everything moved on quietly until about the middle of March, when we were ordered back to Richmond. Early was being pressed pretty closely in the valley and we expected to be sent on there, but as Grant was preparing for movement, we were held to help protect Richmond for a couple of weeks. As soon as we got to Richmond, Gen. Lee issued an order that any one who had served the four years in the war and wanted to go home to be married, would be granted a ten days’ furlough. These men could take any of the broken-down horses from the company and bring back good ones. Two men from each company was all that would be allowed to go at one time. They left and others put in applications for furloughs, but before the first boys got back Grant kept us so busy that no one could leave. We left Richmond for Five Forks, arriving there one Friday eve.
The next day, Sheridan made a charge on our infantry and killed and captured a great many. We were ordered to re-inforce and protect the infantry and we drove the enemy back a considerable distance. As we fell back to our line, a skirmish line was formed, so we could pass over a wider scope and see if there were any wounded that we could help. I came across a splendid looking fellow, who didn’t look to be more than 15 years old, lying across a large clump of rock lillies. His head and feet were on the ground, but his body was up on the lillies. I jumped from my horse, thinking he was only stunned, but found he was dead. I never see the beautiful waxy bloom of the rock lily, that I don’t think of the fate of that fine looking boy, almost a child. I laid him flat on the ground, but could do no more.
We overtook the 57th Va. Regiment of infantry as they were going back to the breastworks. My brother-in-law, Lieut. John Dill, told me that they had suffered a great lost, but not near so great as at Gettysburg. He said that before we got there to re-inforce them, that Gen. Picket had ordered them to cross the breastworks and drive Sheridan’s cavalry back. They succeeded in driving them a short distance, but Sheridan re-inforced his men and drove the infantry back with considerable slaughter, but when he found we were reinforcing the infantry, his men began to fall back, also. We went into camp just back of the roads. The place took its name from the five roads leading from that point. Everything was quiet Sunday morning, until after twelve o’clock. I visited around among the Botetourt boys in the infantry during the time, and after dinner the pickets came in and said the enemy was advancing, and I looked and saw the enemy advancing in a few minutes, in five columns one right after the other. I’d left my horse just behind the breastworks and I ran back and got her. We had orders to fall into line and for No. 3 to hold horses and to dismount. It fell to my lot to hold horses, but the man next to me wasn’t a good runner, and I would rather go into the battle and he said he had rather hold horses, so we just exchanged places and I went on with the Co. We formed into line again and counted off with fours as No. 3 had dropped out to hold horses. Capt. James B. walked right down in front of us and asked for me, and some one told him I was right in the front. He came to me and said I thought you were out of ranks, I want to get your rifle and you go back and get your horse and bring up ammunition. Guggenheimer isn’t here, so you bring it. By the time I got about 300 yds. from the men of my Co., the firing had commenced. Just then I met Gen. Picket and his staff, and he asked me, what was advancing. I told him it was infantry. He said: “how strong?” I told him I had seen five lines in succession and I didn’t know what was behind them, of course. He immediately wrote a dispatch and gave it to a courier and sent it to the next officer in command. He sent a part of his staff with the courier. He turned back and went on just in front of me across Hatchers Run. I could hear the firing all the time. It was terrific. There was a man with me from Co. K. and we had some little trouble in finding the ordinance wagon nut were not gone longer than an hour. When we started back with the ammunition, I saw that our forces were retreating. I soon came up to the infantry, artillery and the whole army, retreating toward Lynchburg. They told me that they had lost heavily. The enemy rushed right up and took the breastworks, capturing a good portion of the 11th regiment of infantry. Just about the time the infantry began to give away Capt. Jas. Breckinridge was killed. Poor brave fellow. He had taken my rifle and sent me out of the battle, when I had gone in after being drawn off to hold horses. After his death Lieut. Hayth was appointed. Capt. Grant’s army was then advancing on all the roads and we were trying to defend on the same. We traveled on until about nightfall, when Sheridan’s cavalry attacked our wagon train and at first we repulsed them, but they were too strong for us and they succeeded in capturing some of our wagons and men. We of the 2nd Va. cavalry were guarding the wagon train and several of our men were killed. Capt. Strother of the 4th regiment was with us and he went back to see if any of our men were left that we could help and to see if the enemy was following. He didn’t come back for some time and we called to him and the enemy had captured him and answered: “Here is your Capt. Strother; come down and get him.” We kept marching in the night, without food for ourselves or horses. When day broke when we could have maybe found a little provisions, the enemy was pressing on so that we had to continue marching. Gen. R. E. Lee had ordered a lot of provisions to be sent to Amelia Springs and as we did not get there when the train arrived, it was sent back, so our nearest source of supplies was at Lynchburg, which was a long way off.
The next day the wagon train was attacked by a lot of colored cavalry, but we succeeded in driving them off. I went into a stable to get some feed for my horse and in getting the hay, found a black man shot in the mouth, but not dead. I told the people of the house, to tell the Yankees when they passed to care for him, that we couldn’t. The horses were so worn out, not having food or rest, that they could hardly pull what few wagons we had left. Some of the wagons were loaded with a lot of books, statistics of the war, etc., and we came across such a muddy place, that the horses couldn’t get the wagons through, so we threw a lot of the books in, but that wouldn’t fill up the hole so we could cross. There were no rails or timber near, so some of the men shot some of the poor old worn out horses and dragged them into the mud hole and then drove the teams and wagons across on their bodies. I couldn’t and wouldn’t do that. I would have left the old wagons stand there forever, and turned the horses loose, first. I knew, and the majority of us had known for sometime, that we were whipped and the sooner we would surrender the more lives would be saved and the less we’d have to suffer.
The next day the enemy pressed us closely at Wilson’s Creek, and Gen. Pickett’s few men that were left, tried to hold the position, but nearly all of them were captured. We were all engaged in the fight, but not a great many were killed. That night, I saw Col. Munford, who was commanding Gen. Wickham’s brigade, and his staff officers, stopping at a farm house to get supper, and we had orders to stop, also. I had noticed a double crib with some corn in it, and there was a “provost guard” guarding the crib. We tried to get him to let us have some corn for our horses, but he wouldn’t. I told him the next day the Yankees would come and take it all and we had just as well have it. He had a gun and I noticed he would let loose of the gun every few minutes and put his hands in his bosom, as it was very cold. I just went away and sharpened a tobacco stick and slipped his gun away and set the tobacco stick by, instead. I hid the gun and then eight of us went up and told him we wanted the corn. We had asked him two or three times, but got the same reply each time. We told him we were going to take it now, no matter what he said, and started into the crib. He reached for his gun, as he supposed, and raised it at us, when he found he had nothing but a tobacco stick. I said: “Now you see you’ve let some one steal your gun, so we’ll get the corn.” He just had to laugh and let us take it. We got about 8 bushels and divided it out as far as it would go. That was the first good, full feed my horse had had since we left Carolina Co., a week or ten days before.
Every few hours a courier would come with orders for us to ride back a few miles to protect the rear and then we would have to come back and rush to the front or on ahead for some purpose. We surely had a hard time then and so little food or rest; none practically, you might say, and then we had that feeling of working with no prospect for better times. We didn’t get any food for ourselves again that night, but was glad to get corn for the horses, as they had a worse time yet, than we.
The next morning, after marching all night, Capt. Trent, our regimental quarter-master, sent me on ahead of the army about thirty miles, to a Mr. Gill’s farm. He told me to go to a farm house on the right hand road and get breakfast and my horse fed, which I did, and then take a road parallel to the road the army was moving on.
I got there about night and told Mr. Gill the circumstances. He had been getting the tenth part of all the crops and provisions in that section of the county and sending it to the army. So Capt. Trent sent me ahead, thinking he might probably have something for the starving men and horses. He said he had sent everything he could get to the army and could only feed me and my horse. He told me that men had been passing for three days and nights and he thought the whole thing was over and the soldiers going home. I told him who I’d left just behind and how we’d been fighting and marching day and night and what hardships we had undergone. He had me to register and stay all night with him, of course. I knew the army couldn’t get there before the next day, even if the enemy didn’t attack them, for we were a poor, wornout set of men and horses, and moved very slowly. The next morning we went out to the road and the stragglers were still passing. These were men going on home. After awhile our men came on and when they found Mr. Gill had no provisions, we just had to go on until night. The enemy was not pressing so we lay down to sleep, but didn’t get to sleep long, for orders came in the night for us to move on.
We went slowly, and at daybreak we were ordered to dismount and went down a little slope and found a lot of Yankee infantry guarding the Farmville Bridge. We fired on them and they on us, but we soon captured Gen. Curtiss and his whole brigade. The infantry, at first, ran and left a lot of knapsacks, and we ransacked them to find something to eat, but found nothing. General Curtiss surrendered without much resistance, so not a great many were killed. We left a young fellow by the name of William Fields at Sailor’s Creek dead, as we thought, and at Farmville we lost another fellow, Luck, and I never knew anything of either of them again until the summer of 1911, when I met both at a reunion at New Port News.
The attack was just at daybreak and Luck told me that the Yankees captured him at Farmville and then we recaptured them all and we thought he had been killed, but he was sent on with Gen. Curtiss’ men. The bridge was 300 feet, and as soon as we captured the men and took the obstruction from the railroad track, the waiting trains moved on. As the fog rose, and the trains whistled, we looked up and saw them moving so high above us, that I told the boys there was Gabriel coming in the clouds blowing his bugle.
We marched Gen. Curtiss and his men on toward Lynchburg, and he and the Yankees were all just as nice as they could be. They had to go on, just like we did, without provisions. The provost guard soon took charge of them and went on toward Lynchburg, but may have disbanded before getting there as the surrender took place the next day.
Gen. R. E. Lee, with the remainder of the army, had been forced to leave Richmond before this and was moving on toward Lynchburg, and got with us the same day of our capture at Farmville Bridge.
At night we laid down to rest, but still without food. I had fared a little better than some of them, as I was sent out to Mr. Gill’s and got three meals on that trip. All of the men Lee had with him had fared just like us. If they got anything to eat at all, they begged it from citizens in passing by or stole it, and the great trouble was there was so little left to steal. The country was stripped.
The next morning Fitz Lee’s cavalry was ordered to charge the enemy’s left flank as they had gotten in front of us to cut us off from Lynchburg. We charged them and drove them back toward Appomattox C. H. When we got around on the road leading from Appomattox to Lynchburg, we met some of the boys who had gotten furloughs, 10 days before, to go home to be married, and were then on their way back to the army. We congratulated them and they fell into line with us. Just then a charge was ordered and we charged right down toward Appomattox C. H., and the first volley that was fired on us killed Lieut. Parker of Co. G, who had joined us just about five minutes before and we had just congratulated.
Jas. Godwin, of Co. C., who had fought through the whole time unharmed was wounded then. The ambulance corps took him to the rear and on to Lynchburg, and we hadn’t gone but a few hundred yards, when we saw a flag of truce coming up the road. The bearers of the flag came on to Fitz Lee and told him that Robt. E. Lee had surrendered. Fitz Lee received orders to disband his whole division right then. Col. Munford disbanded the 1-3-4 and 5 regiments on the grounds, but as we of the second had been mustered into service at Lynchburg and it was right on our way home, he took us there to disband us. We went out to the fair grounds, just where we had drilled and had been mustered in, four years before. There is a nice park at this place now, and the U. S. government presented Col. Munford and the 2nd Va. cavalry with two pieces of artillery and placed them in this park with two pyramids of cannon balls, to mark the place where his men were mustered into service and disbanded.
As we passed through Lynchburg, some one told us that one of our men who had been wounded wanted to go home with us and was able to ride on horse back. It proved to be Jas. Godwin. He had been shot in the foot, but had it dressed and was anxious to get home, so we started with him. When we got to a bridge on the outskirts of the town we found an Irish sentinel guarding the city. When we got in sight he yelled at us like a steam engine and we halted. He said: “Dismount and advance one and give the countersign.” I did so and told him I had no countersign or pass word, but that Gen. Lee’s army had surrendered at Appomattox that day and we were on our way home. He said: “Surrindered! Hill and damnation! you know Gen. Lee wouldn’t surrinder to such a d—— rascal as Ulysses Grant. You are both d—— deserters.” I told him we were not. He then said we couldn’t get by without a pass from Gen. Colston who was Mayor of the town and had charge of the army post and hospitals etc. I got on my horse and told him I had fought four years in this war and had been in 54 battles, the last one that day at Appomattox in which the man with me had been wounded and I was taking him home and that I was going over that bridge if he or I one had to die. At that I leveled my pistol on him and told him to fire if he wanted to. He said: “Damned if I don’t believe something is in the wind boys, and you can go on.” Then he told us he was from Louisianna and had been wounded and sent to the hospital and was sent out there, and if he got near our place in going back home, he’d like to stay all night with me. I told him I’d do any thing in my power to help a fellow soldier and with that we passed over the bridge.
Night overtook us at William Henry Kyle’s, a few miles above Lynchburg, so we spent a very pleasant night with him, as he had visited his brother, Haslet Kyle, who was in our Co., several times during the war.
We journeyed on up the “tow path” and passed a good many of the infantry coming on home. In many places the road was lined for some distance with them. Just after 12 o’clock we came to Dr. Watson’s and we ate dinner and spent several hours with him. He dressed Jim’s foot and treated us very kindly. One of his daughters married one of our countrymen, Richard Hayden, deceased.
We passed the home of Dick Burks that evening. He had served as our adjutant the first year of the war. He insisted on us spending the night with him, but we were so anxious to get home that we went on several miles farther and spent the night with a Mr. Arnold who lived near Natural Bridge. They were very kind indeed to us, not charging a cent for us or our horses. The next morning, which was the 11th, we started on our last day’s ride for home. We got to Springwood just after the middle of the day and good old hospitable aunt Katie Hayth, whose door was never closed on the wayfarer, made us eat dinner with her. After resting awhile we made a start for Fincastle, arriving there about 3 o’clock.
I turned Jim over to his mother at his home. He stood the trip very well and soon recovered from his wound. We had left amid the cheers and tears of an excellent throng, feeling that we would soon be victorious and return, but none felt joyous now, only to see the few who were left returning.
R. H. PECK, 1913.
When I got to the Court House several had heard I was coming and met me there. I told the boys I’d left home the 17th of May ’61 to fight Yankees and at the first battle of Manassas, we fought full fledged American Yankees and they were gentlemen, but after that we fought every nationality, I think, unless it was Esquimos. They had been hired by the Yankees, of course, and some of them were tough customers I tell you.
I reached home that eve with my dappled gray that I captured in Stafford Co., near Kelley’s Ford in ’63 and which Gen. Stewart had given me. I also had the gun with me, that I had to take from the provost guard to get corn for our starving horses, on the horrible retreat, just a few days before the surrender. I still have it among my war relics.
Mother met me at the gate and I told her I hadn’t a single regret. I felt I had answered my country’s call and discharged my duty, but all the time I was fighting for what my state thought best and against my own convictions.
My father was offered $8,000 for his slaves just before the war and I begged him to take it and not own slaves. I never thought slavery was right, although my father treated his slaves as kindly as any one possibly could and they were good and obedient.
The many happy days that our old black mammy took us children out to gather hickorynuts, pick beans or do any kind of light work or play, are still fresh in my memory to day. And the many coon, and opossum and rabbit hunts, that her boy Jack who was just a few years older than I, and myself have had together. He was always so thoughtful of our wellfare and protected me and my brothers, more like an older brother than a slave.
I told mother how I’d been in 54 engagements, some hard fought and others not, but in nearly every one, some of my relatives, friends or acquaintances, were killed or wounded. We had left them buried or on the field in Md., Penn., all through the Valley of Va., at Manassas Junction, through the Wilderness of Spottsylvania, over the battle fields holding Sheridan back from Richmond, holding Grant back from Spottsylvania, on around to Petersburg and then to Appomattox C. H. None of father’s slaves left him for a year or more but he paid them some wages, of course, and they seemed as sad and disconsolate as we were when they did leave. My father was getting old, and as he had been security for a number of men who had lost their wealth in slaves, just as he had, he was placed in straightened circumstances. So we had to soon forget for a time, the sorrows we had passed through and turn our minds to caring for those around us. None of our property had been stolen or burned by raiders, so we were better off than the thousands of households and farms we had passed by, during the war and from whom we were obliged to steal some times or starve. While I often thought of four of the best years of my youth being wasted, as it was, in a lost cause, I didn’t regret it as it was obeying my country’s call, whether it was right or wrong. I had much to be thankful for and especially as I had gone through the whole war and hadn’t gotten a scar. God has blessed me with health and strength and while I’ve never had any of the luxuries of life, I’ve been, and am still, at my advanced age, able to enjoy its comforts.