Spirit of Jefferson

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Baylor's Horsemen… by Johnston, Bradley T.

Spirit of Jefferson


Baylor's Horsemen…


Johnston, Bradley T.





Topics Civil War,Military

BAYLOR'S HORSEMEN. Four Years in the Army of Northern Virginia. STIRRING EVENTS OF CONFLICT. An Old Incident -- Harry Beall and General White -- A Very Daring Exploit -- Some Anecdotes of Stonewall Jackson and Others . (General Bradley T. Johnson in Richmond Dispatch.) BULL RUN TO BULL RUN. Four Years in the Army of Northern Virginia, Containing a Detailed Account of the Career and Adventures of the Baylor Light Horse (Company B.) Twelfth Virginia Cavalry, Confederate States Army, With Leaves From My Scrap-Book. By George Baylor, Richmond: B. F. Johnson Publishing Company, 1900 .

The future historian of the war between the States, of North America, in 1861 -65, whom this generation will not see, and probably not the next, will find himself attracted by the sociological conditions and racial causes of that struggle, and will see the far-reaching origin of the impossible conflict, which Lincoln and Seward, among contemporaries, most clearly discerned and understood. The plantation life of the South in eight generations had evolved characteristics which have never been produced by the same environment, whether in the mountains of Bulgaria and Montenegro or the Highlands of Scotland.

When families tent by themselves in isolated mountain valleys, or plantations on the lowlands, the head becomes the leader and chief in ideas and in action. -- His influence becomes controlling, and the sons and grandsons ramifying around him become his clan. The ties of blood are recognized to a remote degree, unknown by a citizen or inhabitant of the towns. The struggle of life becomes so severe in the denser population that the selfishness, the instinct of self-preservation, becomes controlling, and people have no time, much less inclination, to help those who have failed in the fight, not that there is not abundant charity and love in the city, for more is done there to help the poor than in the country -- but in the country the ties of blood and kinship are more recognized and draw men closer.


When people see few strangers, while their association is confined mostly to their own family and kin, neighborhoods grow up, bound together by the ties of intermarriage and a common descent, and they grow into "a clan." The grandson becomes the head of the family and chief of the clan, and makes laws for it. The strongest illustration of it now existing among English-speaking people are the blood feuds of the mountains of West Virginia and Kentucky, or in those of the North Carolina and Tennessee border, where the quarrels of families have lasted since the American revolution, and where few heads of families during that epoch have died in their beds, but have generally passed with their "boots on."

The conditions of life in the South had developed these institutions to an intense degree. The commercial environment of the North and the prodigious infusion of foreignblood and foreign ideas through immigration had eliminated them almost entirely there. And the difference between the two societies was constantly widening, the cleavage was constantly extending, and nothing less than the supreme effort of social life could decide which should prevail.

The industrial civilization did prevail, as it has prevailed for the last four thousand years, and since 1865 there has been a steady progress toward assimilation of the two social organizations, the industrial one absorbing the patriarchal and military one. This "progress" is a fact: it may be doubted whether it will be a benefit. The operation of the feudal clan organization came out clearly at the beginning of the war -- families volunteered: neighborhoods marched together.

Governor Vance, of North Carolina, told, some years before his death, in Baltimore, that in his regiment (the Twenty-sixth North Carolina) there was a company of 110 men, all of the same family and name, of which the grandfather was captain, the sons lieutenants, and the rank and file descendants. The colonel commanding the Maryland line in the Army of Northern Virginia rode into battle at the head of ninety-two blood kin. They had rallied to his flag from ten States, without concert or organization, just drawn together by the mysterious instinct of race and blood.

So the Light Horse was an example of the same influences and social forces -- my father was captain, two sons lieutenants and the troop composed of neighbors, comrades, and boyhood friends. -- In the ranks were William L. Wilson, future Postmaster General of the United States, and president of Washington and Lee University; Charles Broadway Rouss, merchant prince and philanthropist of the future; Charles Henderson, to be vice-president and general manager Reading railroad; W. B. English, member of Congress from California: Thomas D. Ranson, prominent member of the Staunton Bar; William L. Thomson, prominent lawyer of Atlanta: Henry D. Beall, one of the editors of the Baltimore Sun, and others bearing famous names in Virginia History -- Washingtons, Alexander, Mason, Hunter, &c., &c.

Robert W. Baylor , the father, was captain; George Baylor, an author, was second lieutenant, and Milton Rouss, brother of Charles Broadway, was first lieutenant.

It was the story of the doings of this detachment of a clan that this book tells. The members had been a year in the Second Virginia Infantry, and in the spring of 1862 they were organized into a troop of cavalry under the Confederate law, which recognized the State law of enlistments under which the troops were mustered into service for a year, and the Confederate Congress authorized them all to reorganize, elect their own officers, company and regiment, and select their own branch of service, as a conciliation for the conscript law, which held them all for the war. The Second Virginia were a part of the Stonewall Brigade, whose name and fame will live in song and story, will fire the hearts of Virginians, while the Shenandoah flows and Massanutten stands. The story is told in the naivest, most natural way, and the picture is perfect. The First Brigade were standing in ranks at First Manassas July 21, 1861 , taking that fire of shot and shell with the steadiness which drew from Bee the exclamation -- to the world and to history a name for a hero -- "Look at Jackson, standing like a stone wall."


In the midst of the infernal fire Beauregard and staff rode down in front of the line, and the boys cheered, "Sam Wright broke ranks, ran forward, and shook his hand." Did ever such an incident occur at any time in any other war? What would Julius Caesar have said to one of the Tenth Legion, or the Little Corporal to one of the Old Guard, or the Iron Duke to one of the Enniskillens, who in the very crisis of battle had rushed out of ranks to embrace his knees as he rode by? But it was that individuality and that feeling of hot loyalty which held the Second Brigade "like a stone wall" that day, and carried them over Burnsides's battery an hour afterward like a storm-driven wave.

As at the battle of Kernstown, between Shields and Stonewall, March 23d , a battery was hurling shot and shell into the advancing line of the brigade, when Jackson sent an order at once to Ashby commanding his cavalry on his flank, for twenty volunteers to take the battery. The six guns of the battery were in plain sight, beyond a few intervening stone walls, and post and rail fences, and the sight was not agreeable to look at. There was a natural pause for a moment, when Charlie Crane, a youth, then about 16, rode out of ranks and said: "Come on, boys; we have but one time to die," and the detachment was made up in a minute. Upon reporting to Jackson, however, they were posted in advance of the left, to watch any attempt to flank.

Is this our Baltimore bank president? The Baylor Light Horse draws interest to Maryland people, because it was its good fortune to have been pitted against "Cole's Cavalry," a body of fighters which, beyond doubt, won more laurels than any body of fighters from Maryland on the Union side. Colonel Cole and Lieutenant -- Colonel Vernon would have done honor to any service, anywhere, at any time. Their operations were always in their enemy's country, except during the short episode of Lee's invasion of Maryland in 1862 , when they showed their capacity for guerilla war, in their own country, where they knew the roads and the country people, and could get help and information at every farm-house. They came within an ace of capturing Stonewall Jackson near Boonsboro', on his march from Frederick up the National road. Jackson had the habit of poking ahead of his column, accompanied by a single courier, in Virginia, and he did the same way when he passed into Frederick county, Maryland. Cole and Vernon found that out, and they hung on the flanks of his marching column watching it from woods and behind barns, as it toiled up the pike. Just before getting to Boonsboro' they saw Jackson and his map moving leisurely a quarter of a mile ahead of his troops, and made a dart out of a side road. Jackson woke up at once and went flying down the main street of the town with Cole's Battalion yelling and shooting after him like Commanche Indians.

They had nearly got old Jackson, when Kyd Douglass, who was, as usual, with the staff, foraging ahead, came flying up the road at the head of a score of straggling cavalrymen, whom he had rallied in a second at the sound of the shots and the yells, and stopped Cole and Vernon in their wild careers. It was a narrow shave, though, for the Confederate general.


Company B, the Baylor Light Horse, soon distinguished itself by its incessant activity and extraordinary and reckless gallantry. Thoroughly familiar with every wood, road, and every hog-path in Jefferson county, it circulated around the Union camps at pleasure, and was so omnipresent that the commanding officer at Winchester, General Julius White, reported that three brigades of rebel cavalry had come down into the lower Valley and were pervading all the roads out of Winchester. The troop attacked Front Royal and captured four times as many prisoners as the captors had men. Returning from this charge, Henry Beall saw a comrade sitting on his horse on the side of the road.

"What are you doing here. Don't you feel ashamed of yourself staying here, while your people were fighting?"

"I went as far as I thought it was prudent," was the cool reply, and he told the exact truth. It was not cowardice at all. The man was a good, brave soldier; but he didn't agree with his captain. -- He thought it imprudent to go further, and he pulled up. The captain went ahead and captured 300 prisoners.

Sometimes sitting near the roof in the Sun building, with the roar of the machines in his ears, Beall's soul yearns for the gallop, the rush, the pot-pot-pot of revolvers and he wishes he was on a horse again, "riding of a raid" -- when the blood was red and heart was hot, and one's main aspiration was to get something to eat, and when one slept under the light of the stars with his bridle rein over his arm. That respectable, gray-haired citizen don't look like it, but he's done all these things, and he'd like to do them again.

The Twelfth-Virginia became one of Rosser's brigades -- "the Laurel Brigade," they called themselves. After Sheridan had beat Early at Winchester and routed him at Fisher's Hill, two days afterwards, and Custer and Merritt had run the cavalry all over the Valley, Lee sent Rosser up there to help get things in order. Rosser was as game a man as ever drew sabre, and the brigade as gallant soldiers as ever rode horse. He, with "Lije" White's Commanches and the First Maryland Cavalry, saved Hampton at Trevillian's on June 12th, when Custer rode through the gap between Hampton and Fitz Lee and dispersed the horses of the dismounted men.


After this the Baylor Light Horse made their mark in the campaign by a series of exploits within the Union lines, that thrilled Early's army like the call of the bugle. They cut the telegraph and captured a train with Union pickets; then captured one of the pickets, much exceeding them in numbers. They became exceedingly intimate with Cole's Cavalry, and there were few days in which they did not exchange salutations of the warmest kind.

In one of their frays the captain was badly wounded, captured, and kept prisoner until the end of the war. Rouss, the first lieutenant, made a first-rate commander, and the ardor and activity of the Light Horse was only increased by their misfortune, and they surrendered at Appomattox.

The book must be read to appreciate the graphic pictures of service on the picket line and within the enemy's line. The typography, like all the work of the B. F. Johnson Company, is of the highest class paper, type, and binding, all except the portraits of the troopers of the Light Horse. They are fearful, but I'm afraid they are good likenesses at the time.