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A History of The Middle
New River Settlements
and Contiguous Territory.

By David E. Johnston (1906).

  
 

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Chapter VII.  1861 - 1865  (Part 13)

 

In November, 1863, a straggling camp follower, or marauding Federal soldier entered the home of Mr. David Creigh near Lewisburg, West Virginia, and attempted by force to enter the room of his daughter, when Mr. Creigh interposed and attempted to eject him;  he sought the life of Mr. Creigh, who believing himself in great danger killed the man.  General Averill in the spring of 1864, on his retreat with Crook from Cloyd's farm, had Mr. Creigh arrested and tried by a drumhead court martial, which sentenced Mr. Creigh to be hanged, which sentence was approved by General Hunter.    See Averill's Report, Vol. 37, Part 1, Rebellion Records, p. 145.  The wife of General  W. H. Smith has beautifully and fully told this story of the martyr Creigh in verse, which is as follows:

"He lived the life of an upright man,
And the people loved him well;
Many a wayfarer came to his door,
His sorrow or need to tell.
A pitying heart and an open hand,
Gave succor ready and free;
For kind and true to his fellowman
And a Christian was David Creigh.

But o'er his threshold a shadow passed,
With a step of a ruffian foe:
While in silent words and brutal threats
A purpose of darkness show;
And a daughter's wild imploring cry
Called her father to her side--
His hand was nerved by the burning wrong,
And there the offender died.

The glory of Autumn had gone from earth,
The winter had passed away.
And the glad springtime was merging fast
Into summer's ardent ray,
When a good man from his home was torn--
Days of toilsome travel to see--
And far from his loved a crown was worn,
And the martyr was David Creigh.

Here where he lived, let the end be told,
Of a tale of bitter wrong;
Here let our famishing thousands learn,
To whom vengeance doth belong.
Short grace was given the dying man,
E'er led to the fatal tree,
And short the grace to our starving hosts,
Since the murder of David Creigh.

The beast of the desert shields its young,
With an instinct fierce and wild,
And lives there a man with the heart of a man
Who would not defend his child?
So woe to those who call evil good--
That woe shall not come to me--
War hath no record of fouler deed
than the murder of David Creigh.

As has already been noted, General Breckenridge with his division had, on the 10th of June, left Richmond to meet Hunter's forces and prevent their passage through the gaps of the Blue Ridge towards Charlottesville and Richmond.  General Breckenridge, finding Hunter's advance directed toward Lynchburg, instead of Eastward of the ridge, therefore pushed his division to the defense of that city, reaching there in advance of Hunter's Army, and holding the Federals at bay by severe fighting until the arrival of General Early with a portion of the 2nd Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, on the 18th.  Hunter ascertaining that Early had arrived, took fright and on the night of the 18th beat a hasty retreat by way of Liberty and Salem, and across the mountains into Western Virginia.  At Hanging Rock, a Gap in the North Mountain, on the Salem and Sweet Springs turnpike, a portion of Early's Cavalry struck the flank of Hunter's retreating army, capturing a portion of his train.  In this encounter George Kahle, a brave young soldier from Mercer County, in a hand to hand conflict with a Federal soldier, was killed, and the latter slain on the spot by James O. Cassady, who was also a Mercer man.  Hunter's Army now sent in disastrous retreat across the mountains to the Kanawha, and the Valley free from the enemy, General Early directed the head of his column on the 23rd day of June towards Staunton, which he reached on the 26th.  With Early was his own corps, to which was added Breckenridge's Division, in which were the New River Valley men, not only in the infantry, but as well in the cavalry and artillery.    Crook's retreat from the New River section had left the Confederate lines along the Western and Southwestern Virginia border free from any considerable body of the enemy, and events in the East and in the Valley required the presence of nearly all the forces that had theretofore operated in Virginia Westward of the Alleghanies.

Resuming his march on the 28th General Early, with his troops, reached and passed through Winchester on July 3rd.  General McCausland, with his brigade of cavalry, attacked on July 4th, North Mountain depot on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, capturing 200 prisoners.  A portion of Early's infantry under General Gordon, having crossed the Potomac on the 5th, McCausland's Cavalry Brigade advanced to Shepherdstown, and on the 6th to the Antietam, in front of Sharpsburg, and on the 9th advanced to Frederick City, where he had a skirmish with the enemy.  General Early's troops being fully up on the 9th, he attacked and defeated, after a fierce and bloody battle, a Federal Army of 10,000 men at the Monocacy under General Lew Wallace.  In this bloody engagement General McCausland's Cavalry Brigade performed prodigies of valor and suffered severe loss.  The Confederate loss was about 700;  that of the Federals reported at 1968.  In the 17th Virginia Cavalry were three companies from Mercer County, commanded by Captains Graybeal, Gore, and Straley, respectively.  This regiment, as already heretofore stated, belonged to McCausland's Brigade and was in the thickest of the fight at the Monocacy and suffered severe loss, Lieutenant Colonel Tavener of the 17th Virginia being mortally wounded.

Mr. Floyd A. Bolen has furnished to the author an itinerary of Company A of the 17th Regiment, as well as of that regiment from the earliest organization of said company and regiment, down to the close of the battle at Monocacy, where Mr. Bolen was wounded so severely as to disable him from further service in the army.  This itinerary is as follows:  "Field officers of the regiment, William H. French, Colonel;  W. C. Tavener, Lieutenant Colonel;  Fred Smith, Major;  H. B. Barbor, Adjutant;  with Doctor Isaiah Bee for a while as Regimental Surgeon, but afterwards promoted to Brigade Surgeon.  Three companies from Mercer County belonged to this regiment:   Companies A, which was the first company of cavalry organized in Mercer County, had as its first officer William H. French, Captain;    Philip Thompson,  Robert Gore  and William B. Crump, Lieutenants.   At the reorganization of the company J. W. Graybeal was elected Captain and LaFayette Gore and Albert Austin Lieutenants.  When Captain William H. French was promoted to the rank of Colonel, Captain J. W. Graybeal became Captain of Company A and Judson Ellison and W. A. Reed became Lieutenants, together with Edward McClaugherty, in the place of Ellison resigned.  The officers of Company D were Robert Gore, Captain;   Erastus Meador, Albert White, and William R. Carr, Lieutenants.  The officers of Company E were Jacob C. Straley, Captain;  William L. Bridges, Kinzie Rowland, and Ambrose Oney, Lieutenants.  Company A was organized and entered the Confederate service about the 1st of June, 1861, and remained in the Counties of  Mercer and Giles until about the 1st of the following October, when it marched with other troops to Guyandotte.  This march was conducted through the Counties of Raleigh, Wyoming, Logan and Cabell.  On the return of the company from this expedition it went into camp on Flat Top Mountain on the Miller farm, where it remained two or three weeks, then marched by way of Princeton and Jeffersonville into Russell County, going into camp near Lebanon, where it remained two or three weeks, and then moved over to the Holstein and went into camp.  Here it remained about one month, and then moved Southwestward through Abingdon, Bristol and into Tennessee as far as Union Station, and then returned to Mercer County, going into camp at Princeton, where it spent the winter.  Early in the spring of 1862, the company , in connection with other troops, met the enemy at Clark's house, on the Flat Top, in which a severe skirmish ensued, resulting in the repulse of the Confederates, and in a loss to said company of Cornelius Brown and G. H. Bryson, killed, and several wounded.  The retreat continued by way of Princeton to Bland Court House, where the company remained for a few days and then was sent back to Rocky Gap, and a few days thereafter to the Cross Roads in Mercer County.  A few days after reaching Cross Roads this company led the advance of Wharton's command against the enemy at Princeton, and on the 17th of May was engaged in the battle of Pigeon Roost Hill, with Wharton's command.  These three Mercer companies accompanied General Loring on his march to the Kanawha Valley, in September, 1862.  On reaching Charleston this company, with Gore's Company D and the Bland Rangers, were thrown together, forming a battalion, and placed under the command of Major Saliers.  This battalion was then detached from Loring's troops and sent through Jackson County, driving the enemy across the Ohio.  Returning from this expedition this battalion marched through the Kanawha Valley to Blue Sulphur Springs in Greenbrier, where the 17th Regiment was finally gotten together with the field officers hereinbefore stated.  Shortly after its organization the regiment marched to Salem, where it spent the winter of 1862-3.  About the 1st of May, 1863, the regiment broke camp and boarded the cars for Lynchburg, and from thence to Staunton, where it went into camp and remained waiting for its horses to be brought forward.  As soon as mounted the regiment marched down the Valley to Berryville, Virginia, where it joined and became a part of the Cavalry Brigade of Jenkins, which led the advance of General Lee's Army into Pennsylvania.  On this march into Pennsylvania, at a point northeast of Gettysburg, this brigade of Jenkins encountered a regiment of the enemy, capturing 200 or more prisoners and a train of wagons.  On the first day at Gettysburg, after the Federal line had been broken, Captain Robert Gore, of Company D, distinguished himself by dashing in front of the Federal lines alone, and capturing 150 of the retreating enemy.    After the first day's fight was over the 17th Regiment took charge of and guarded the 5,000 prisoners captured on that day.  On the retreat from Pennsylvania this brigade of Jenkins had quite a lively fight with the enemy near Boonesboro, in which Joseph H. McClaughterty of Company A, was wounded.  Jenkins' Brigade of Cavalry covered the retreat of General Lee's Army southward after it crossed the Potomac on its way from Gettysburg, and in the skirmishes with the enemy, without any serious loss.    Near Sperryville, in Rappahannock County, a part of the 17th Regiment had a skirmish with a force of the enemy, in which John R. Newkirk and Jackson Anderson, of Company A, were captured.  Shortly after this the brigade moved back into the Valley and marched by way of Staunton into the Greenbrier section, where it remained for a short while, when the 17th Regiment marched into Abb's Valley, and then remarched to Red Sulphur Springs and subsequently a part of the regiment marched into Mercer County and went into camp near Spanishburg, where it wintered in 1863-4.   On the approach of the Federal Army from the Kanawha, in the spring of 1864, the whole of Jenkins' Brigade took post at the Narrows.  While the battle of Cloyd's farm was about to be, or was being fought, this cavalry brigade, now under command of Colonel William H. French, crossed New River at Snidow's Ferry and marched to Gap Mountain, with the view of cutting off General Crook's retreat; failing in this it succeeded in cutting off General Averill's command off from that of Crook's, compelling Averill to escape by the mountain paths.  Shortly after this General McCausland took command of the brigade, and marched it into the Valley of Virginia, where it skirmished from near Staunton, with Hunter's advance, until it reached Lynchburg.  In a skirmish with the enemy near Lynchburg, Jack Hatcher, of Company A, was killed.  On Hunter's retreat from Lynchburg, McCausland's Brigade followed closely upon his rear, charging into his wagon train at Hanging Rock, capturing a number of prisoners and two pieces of artillery.  From here the brigade marched in advance of Early's command to Staunton, and from thence to the Monocacy, where it engaged in that battle, in which Company A of the 17th Regiment lost William French, Thomas Thornley, and A. J. Fanning, killed, and several wounded, among them Mr. Bolen.  In the same company with Mr. Bolen was John H. Robinson, who is now an eminent dentist of Mercer County, and who was wounded in the battle of Monocacy and captured and removed to Baltimore to the West Building Hospital, from which he escaped and finally made his way through Maryland into Virginia.  The thrilling story of the escape of this brave soldier and his sufferings, is worth relating, but the manuscript furnished by him came too late to be inserted at length in this volume; but something further will be said in regard to it in the appendix to this work.

Immediately upon the close of the battle at Monocacy General Early continued his advance on Washington, McCausland with his Cavalry leading this advance, and having many severe combats with the enemy's cavalry, driving it before him.  The enemy by this time had become thoroughly alarmed for the safety of the Capital, and poured into and around the city large bodies of troops, which induced General Early, on the night of the 12th, to retire toward the upper Potomac, crossing at White's Ford on  the morning of the 14th of July, and camping on the Virginia shore.  By the 17th, Early's Army had reached and crossed the Shenandoah, and went into camp near Castleman's Ferry.    On the 18th the enemy crossed the Blue Ridge at Snicker's Gap and made a heavy attack on the Confederates, attempting to cross the river at Cool Springs, but were driven back with loss by the Divisions of Rodes and Wharton.  On the 19th, in a further attempt to cross the river at Berry's Ferry, they were defeated with loss by the cavalry brigades of McCausland and Imboden.  On the afternoon of the 20th Early again marched, taking the route up the Valley toward Newtown, and during the night Breckenridge's Corps, made up of the Divisions of Gordon and Wharton, followed by McCausland, marched by way of Millwood and the Valley turnpike to Middletown.  The whole army marched to the vicinity of Strasburg and went into camp.  On the 24th General Early turned back to meet the pursuing enemy, which he met at Kernstown and quickly defeated;  the principal fighting being done by Gordon and Wharton's Divisions of Breckenridge's Corps.  General Early pressed on the Bunker's Hill and Martinsburg.

It was on July 27th that General McCausland started on his raid to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.  He had with him his own and Bradley T. Johnson's Brigades, and acting under and in obedience to the orders of Lieutenant General Early, to demand of the citizens of Chambersburg a named sum of money as an indemnity for the wanton burning of private dwelling houses in the Valley of Virginia by the Federal soldiers, and upon refusal to pay the money to burn the town.  Reaching the town on the 30th of July, General McCausland made demand for the money, which was refused, and thereupon the buildings were fired.  Adjutant A. C. Bailey, of the 8th Cavalry, was killed in Chambersburg by some infuriated citizens.  McCausland, on his retreat into Virginia, halted at Moorefield, where before daylight on the 6th day of August his command was surprised by that of the Federal General Averill and defeated with a loss of many killed and wounded;  three flags, four pieces of artillery, and 400 captured.

From the 10th of August to the 19th day of September, General Early's command marched and counter-marched repeatedly over  the territory between Winchester and the Potomac, with scarcely a day passing without a skirmish or small engagement of some kind.  No army was better exercised, or inured to more active service.

The Federal General Sheridan, with an army of more than 40,000 men, on September 19th at Winchester, attacked General Early's troops, numbering not exceeding 12,000, and after an all-day close and bloody battle, the enemy's  large body of cavalry turned the Confederate left flank, and compelled a rapid retreat of the Army of General Early, with a loss to him of 1707 in killed and wounded;  more than 2,000 captured, and the loss of five pieces of artillery and nine flags.  The loss of the enemy was 5018.  Among those killed on the Confederate side was Major General Rodes, and the brave and magnificent Colonel George S. Patton, mortally wounded;  while Lieutenant Colonels Edgar and Derrick were captured.  The Federals lost General Russel, killed;  and Generals Upton, McIntosh and Chapman wounded.  Among the New River Valley men, and those of adjacent territory, killed in this battle, were Captain George Bierne Chapman, commanding Chapman's Battery;  and Clinton Bailey, of the 8th Virginia Cavalry, mortally wounded;  and among the captured, were Captain Henry Bowen, and Private William H. Thompson, of the 8th Cavalry;  Captain James B. Peck of Edgar's Battalion;  Lieutenant John A. Douglass, of the 30th Virginia Battalion;    Lieutenant J. N. Shanklin of Monroe County, and Captain Andrew Gott, of Mercer, who though wounded, succeeded in escaping a few days after his capture.

General Early retired with his Army to Fisher's Hill, where on the 22nd of September he was again attacked and defeated by General Sheridan;  and only saved by the firm and brave resistance of a portion of Wharton's Division, and some of the Artillery Brigade which continued the fighting until General Early ordered them to desist.    General Early reports his loss in this engagement at 30 killed, 210 wounded, and 995 missing, and 12 pieces of artillery.  General Sheridan reports his loss at 528.

Getting his troops together and giving them a few days for rest and recuperation.  General Early, on October 1st, again advanced down the Valley to the vicinity of Cedar Creek, skirmishing all the way.  An examination of the enemy's position satisfied the Confederate command that a successful attack could be made, although his army did not number above 10,000 men, while that of the enemy was close to 50,000.  A more daring enterprise, under the circumstances, with such disparity of numbers, was never conceived or attempted in modern warfare.  It was plain that if he did not succeed the chances were that he would loose his whole army.  Notwithstanding the difficulties that wee presented, as the movement began on the early morning of the 19th day of October, the obstacles which seemed insurmountable disappeared, and by a movement of a part of his troops on the flank of the enemy under the gallant Gordon, and with Wharton's Division on the main turnpike, General Early threw his troops with a bold rush upon the enemy, who were largely asleep in their tents, and in an incredibly short space of time the enemy's 8th and 19th Army Corps were in utter route and confusion, with a large number thereof  prisoners, together with many pieces of artillery and camp equipage.  By noon the entire infantry force of the enemy had been routed and driven for several miles.  Unfortunately, however, General Early halted his men when in the full tide of a most brilliant success, thus giving the enemy time to get themselves together again, which they did, and later turning upon the broken and scattered Confederate Battalions, with his immense Cavalry Corps come 10,000 strong, drove Early's troops from the field with serious loss;  although he had succeeded in getting off 1500 Federal prisoners, he lost most of the artillery he had captured and some of his own by the breaking down of the bridge over Cedar Creek.  The Confederates    retreated to New Market and there went into bivouac.  The Confederate loss in this battle, including prisoners, is put down at about 2500;  while that of the Federal Army is officially reported at 5665.  The Confederates lost Major General Ramseur, killed;  the Federal General Bidwell was killed, and General Wright, Grover, and Ricketts wounded.  It is to be regretted that the casualties in Wharton's Division, and McCausland's Cavalry Brigade cannot be given for want of official or other information.

Between August the 10th and November 16th, 1864, General Sheridan had so completely devastated the country in which his Army operated, that it was made most manifest that his orders to destroy the Valley, "So that even a crow traversing it would have to carry a haversack," were almost literally complied with;  about the only thing which he did not burn, destroy or carry away, being the stone fences.    Scarce any such wholesale pillage and wanton destruction ever followed in the wake of any army.  To the people the losses amounted to millions of dollars.

From the time of the battle of Cedar Creek, on the 19th day of October, to the 14th day of December, when Early's 2nd Corps of the Army, under General John B. Gordon, returned to the trenches around Richmond, there was a succession of marches and countermarches by General Early's troops, and many spirited skirmishes, and some pretty severe combats between the Cavalry forces of the two Armies, one of which was an attack on General McCausland's Brigade, on the 12th day of November, near Cedarville, in which the enemy was several times repulsed, but finally drove McCausland  back towards Front Royal, with a loss of two pieces of artillery, 10 killed, 60 wounded, and 100 captured.    It is stated upon authority, that up to the 15th day of November, General Early's troops had marched since the opening of the campaign on the13th day of June, 1670 miles, and fought 75 battles and skirmishes.  On the 24th day of November McCausland's Brigade, with those of Jackson and Imboden, had a sharp contention with Torbett's two divisions of Federal Cavalry at Liberty Mills, northwest of Gordonville.   The troops became very much mixed up with the enemy in the dark night.  The enemy's reported loss in this encounter was 258.

 

 

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