A Sketch of Adventure in My Early Life
by Watson, George William
Watson, George William
Middleway, WV 2/1/1924
Digitized for the Middleway Conservancy under grant from WV Humanities Council
A Sketch of Adventure in My Early Life
I, George William Watson, was born in Jefferson County on February 23, 1840 . It is near Middleway. I was raised on a farm and had limited advantages in education. I went for six months to a private school in 1848 . Then the free school system was adopted in Jefferson County. I was sent to the free school, but the levy was only large enough to run it six months out of a year. For several years, I only went three months out of the 12, as I had to work on the farm.
In 1858 I left home and went to clerk in a store for John Wysong, Berkeley County, Virginia, seven miles south of Martinsburg on the Winchester Pike. He had a big stone store room: two floors and basement. He kept a general store, dry goods, notions, grocery store, hardware, queensware, drugs, etc. No boots, shoes, or ready-made clothes were sold in those days.
The Virginia Post Office was in the same store. I was sworn in as Assistant Post Master. Then there were no postage stamps used at all. You paid postage (three cents) when you got your letter from the post office. There were no carriers or delivery -- every letter sent from this office had to have a waybill and a wrapper, addressed to the city or town where sent.
Nearly all the business was credit. Scarcely
any cash passed. The books were kept on the double entry plan: all new to me. I remained there until the latter part of 1859 , when the John Brown Insurrection at Harpers Ferry broke loose. Then I went home.
My brother was called out in the Auxiliary Guards to patrol the country against the invaders, who threatened to release John Brown and his men, who were prisoners in the jail in Charlestown, Virginia. I remained at home until 1860 . Then I was elected 1st Lieutenant of a company in the 55th Regiment of Virginia Militia. In September 1861 we were called out to a Cantonment at Winchester, Virginia, to organize and drill. We remained there at Winchester for several months and were ordered to Berkeley Springs, Morgan County, Virginia, for active service.
I had only been there for a few days, when I was taken ill with typhoid fever. The doctor told me I could leave and go to the Hospital or home. I preferred home. The next day, I started early. Had to cross the North Mountain on horseback and alone, a distance of 40 miles. Our family doctor put me in bed as soon as I landed. Was there over three months; and when able for duty, I enlisted for the war in a Volunteer Company: West Augusta Guards from Staunton, Virginia. This company was on detached service in Artillery. Eight of the men from Jefferson County enlisted at this time in the same Company, thinking it was a regular
The Militia was disbanded and drafted into other Volunteer Companies, while at Winchester, Virginia. Stonewall Jackson was in command of troops. It was a very hot engagement; it lasted over four hours. General Jackson held his lines until dark overtook them. The enemy outnumbered us two to one. They had the position and in trenches. We had to get such as we could find. The loss was heavy on both sides. After firing ceased, General Jackson withdrew to a position that suited him: they never came to it (the enemy).
When the army was recognized in April 1862 , this company that we were enlisted in was put back in the Infantry in its original place. The Jefferson County boys of this company wanted Artillery service. We appealed to the officers of this company. They took it up with General Jackson. He released us from our enlistment. He told us we would be subject to a draft in any company for future service. We would have to remain in the same branch of service we were in 60 days longer, until the army was reorganized at the expiration of 60 days, as I was released.
I re-enlisted in the Cavalry as soon as I was released. Was to report at the expiration of 60 days to the Cavalry Company. The 55th Regiment was encamped at Swift Run Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains east of Harrisonburg, Virginia, at this
time, April 1862 . From this point our Command was ordered to Staunton, Virginia, and then east across the North Mountain. It was so dense with trees and underbrush that we had to cut a road six or eight feet wide to carry the dead and wounded off the mountain. We could get no artillery in position. It was too rough mountainous. Our Brigade by double quick (for two miles) marched to the battlefield and got there at 11 p.m.
About 15 minutes before reaching the crest of the mountain, both armies ceased firing. The Yankees built up bright fires to make us believe they were going into camp. Our forces were still on the mountain. The evening soon began to fall back. Next morning, there was none to be seen. Our forces followed them as far as Monterey. No stand. They set mountains of wood and underbrush on fire, and it made dense smoke to prevent us following them further.
General Jackson then marched from Monterey to Harrisonburg, Virginia. From there his army crossed to Luray Valley, Page County, Virginia. From here he marched to Front Royal, Warren County, Virginia. He attacked the enemy and defeated them: they fell back to Middletown on the Valley Pike, 12 miles south of Winchester, Virginia. We followed them up and opened on them at Middletown about sunset. It lasted a short time. The Yanks fell back to Winchester, where they had a large force.
We marched and skirmished all night and kept it up until dawn the next morning. At daylight we could see the city of Winchester, but Yanks held it and had all the good positions and had them fortified. A little after sunrise, General Jackson in person came around. He told the Colonel of our Regiment 5th Virginia Infantry to form the night resting on the Turnpike. This led us down the main street in Winchester. There were two long stone fences running east and west: a parallel with only a small field between them, and the Johnnies behind one and the Yanks, the other. Artillery shelled each other for a short time.
On the heights the Yanks were in their trenches and on high ground. General Jackson was in the rear of our Company on a kind of natural mound, where he could see all that was going on. He gave the command to charge. Our Brigade went over the fence, and the enemy fired one volley and retreated toward Winchester. Our forces followed in double quick, and got into regular in the
streets of Winchester in the center of the city.
A part of our Company fought down Main and part down Market Street. Two of our Company were killed at the Steam Mill on Market Street. I was on Main Street. The Caissons Artillery ammunition boxes were loaded full with shells and solid shot. They were running so fast that the lids raised, and the shells dropped on the streets. The enemy's rear guard concealed themselves behind houses and other places they could find. This checked our advance. When we got through the city, they were some distance ahead and still going north: the Confederate forces followed them until late in the evening. They were headed for Harpers Ferry.
Our forces went in camp for the night. The next morning we took up march and followed them three miles east of Charlestown, Virginia. Yankees had reached Bolivar Heights, where their reinforcements were trenched. Here they made a stand, had a small Artillery battle. This fighting at long range only lasted a few hours.
General Jackson received a message that a large force of Union troops coming from Romney was headed for Winchester. General Jackson's army was about 20 miles northwest of Winchester at this time. He made a quick march back to Winchester, and our troops passed through the city some time in the night.
General Fremont, the Union Commander, marched in early the next morning. General Fremont placed a chain picket from the North Mountain to the Blue Ridge Mountain. General Jackson went directly to Port Republic and selected his position. General Fremont attacked him from the north. It was one of the hottest battles of the war. Fremont's lines extended to the Shenandoah River. General Jackson fought Fremont first. It was a bloody battle. Jackson won the victory.
General Siegle came to Fremont's rescue, but they were on the east side of the Shenandoah River and had not gotten to the bridge yet. General Jackson managed to get across the bridge with his troops first, and he crossed over and defeated Siegle, the same as Fremont, both on the same day. I was not in either of these engagements and was informed by an eye witness of the battles.
My home was outside the Confederate lines. While our troops were near Harpers Ferry, I got permission to get my horse and equipment and go in Cavalry, as my 60 days had expired in the same branch of service I had served. I got my equipment and horse. When the troops started back to Winchester, Eldridge Barnes and myself were together. We stopped to stay all night at Jordan's Sulphur Springs, a summer resort before the war. General Jackson's army would camp at Winchester.
The following morning was Sunday, and it was raining when we got up. We were five or six miles from Winchester. We started out about 8
a.m. to join our command. Before we got to Winchester, we met some parties who told us General Jackson's troops passed through the night before. The enemy was there and had established a chain picket from mountain to mountain in hailing distance from each other. There was no possible chance to get through without being shot or captured.
Barnes and I concluded we would turn back and wait a few days until the picket was called off. We went back to our homes inside of the Union lines. Stayed there until the chain pickets were withdrawn. We had good horses and got through all right.
I must tell how we saved our horses from capture. After we turned back home, we concluded to take a chance with our horses. About six or seven miles from Winchester on our road home lived a man, John Bromley. He was a radical Union man. We went to him and asked him to care for our horses, saddles, and equipment until we could get through the lines to our command. He agreed to do it. He climbed to the top of a stack of wheat and removed some of the sheaves of wheat. He put saddles and equipment underneath them, replaced the sheaves, and turned our horses into pasture with his horses. We were satisfied Union soldiers would not disturb any property belonging to a Union man.
We got through safe. Joined our command in Cavalry. The next day, I was sent out with the company. We were dismounted and sent on the skirmish line 10 paces apart. The Union troops were formed along a rail fence in our front, 200 yards from us. Our troops formed along another fence, running along a rail fence, with 12 acres of field between us.
While we were trying to play each other, a rifle ball passed through my hat. It just drew the blood on top of my head and knocked me down. I soon came to myself. Our Colonel came past; and he examined my head; and he said that a miss was as good as a mile. I was excused from duty the balance of the day and had a violent headache.
This skirmishing fronted on a regular battle, what was known as the Cedar Mountain Battle. It was a severe engagement. Neither side was successful -- kind of a draw on both sides. This was my introduction in the Cavalry service.
The next engagement we had, or regular battle, was at Brandy Station, Culpeper County, Virginia, on the railroad leading to Culpeper County House. This was the severest Cavalry battle I ever saw. It commenced in the morning. Feed for our horses was short. The Brigade was out grazing their horses. Hundreds of acres were open with no fencing. The bugle sounded to arms; the horses were scattered in every direction. We got them
together. We formed our Brigade. Our Regiment 12th Virginia Cavalry was on the right of the road leading to Rapid Ann River. The enemy had crossed the river and moved forwards to a woods. They formed their lines along a fence at the edge of the woods.
Our Squadron, two companies A and D, were ordered to charge down this road and find out what force they had. Only a part of our Squadron had got into the road. It had been graded two feet below the level on each side, so we could not get down this bank too fast. The Yankee battalion of the 7th Pennsylvania Regulars charged our Squadron, when only about half of the Squadron had gotten into the road. We turned out each side of the road and gave it the full road but emptied our revolvers as they passed, from both sides of the road. Our Regiment was in our rear. They closed in on them. I don't think any of them got back -- some killed, wounded, and captured.
The first shot I fired, the key that held the barrel to the handle of the revolver dropped out. This left me with nothing but my saber. I turned and drew my saber. I saw one of them coming toward me, with his revolver aimed at me. I forced my horse at full speed. With my horse at full speed, my horse struck his horse at the same time I struck him with my saber. Both horse and Yankee fell to the ground. I dismounted and picked up his revolver. It had two cartridges in the cylinder. I
don't know why he did not shoot. I struck him on the collar of his coat, where it is double, or it would have been all day with him. I helped him up, and made the horse get up, and then helped him to mount his horse. He told me he belonged to the 7th Pennsylvania Regular Cavalry. This was the only time I used my saber in a fight during the war.
I took him back to the Regiment. The Colonel told me to take him to the hospital, which was about a half mile away. It had been a big farm house in a nice grove of shade trees. The prisoner was slightly wounded and dazed from the fall and the saber.
General J. E. B. Stuart was in command at this time (battle). While I was taking the prisoner to the hospital, the skirmish we had just passed through was only to divert the attention of General Stuart and his troops from what they were after, as it proved later. They were flanking General Stuart's right to a ford in the river, several miles below, with a strong force. They reached this ford and crossed. They came near in Stuart's rear before he was aware of it. Then the fight became general -- such a mix-up hand fight I never saw before or after that day.
I started to return after I turned my prisoner over to the proper officers. It was less than a half hour, when to my surprise, I found the Union Army between me and my command. This fight lasted
from 10 a.m. until late in the afternoon. I never got to join the Regiment until the fight was over. There were quite a number like myself who were away from their Commands. We formed squads and fought the scouting parties that ventured out from their Union forces.
The next move, General Lee sent General Jackson to flank the Union Army that was north of Rapid Ann River. He, Stonewall, took three corps of troops: Infantry, Artillery, and Cavalry, and crossed the Hazel River, a branch of the Rapid Ann. Moved through Fauquier County, Virginia, leaving Warrenton, the County seat, to our right. General Jackson was in Command, with the Cavalry in front.
We passed thoroughfare gap in the mountains. He left General Longstreet and his Corps at this point to guard his rear. The first plan Union General attacked was this point, but General Longstreet was there waiting for him. He had the position, and his corps was considered one of the best in the southern army. I cannot remember the Union General's name.
General Jackson was moving toward Manassas Junction. That was the base of Union army supplies and was well stocked. Our Cavalry led the advance of General Jackson's forces. We arrived there late in the afternoon. We had a small skirmish with the Yankees, the troops that were
guarding these stores. We only fired a few rounds with artillery. We captured a few, and others ran. We took possession of all the stores. It was estimated it was worth over one million dollars. We lived high that night.
That evening, General Jackson selected his position, and General Ewell also selected his, near Sudley Church. The following day, the Yankee General threw his whole force of the Union army against General Jackson. There was severe fighting all day, equal if not worse to July 21st, 1861 .
I found one of the finest double barreled shotguns on the battlefield near Sudley Church. It was silver mounted. I had no way to take care of it, so I took it out to a farm house not far from Sudley Church and saw a young lady at the house. I left it with her until I called for it, but I never called for it and have forgotten her name.
Late in the evening, our Colonel took our Regiment on a flanking expedition. Just at dusk, we lined up for a charge on a battery of three pieces. We had to travel through the woods that hid our movements from them. We were so near to them that we could hear them talking. They had felled trees across the road, and we did not know this until their ambush guards opened on us with their small arms. Then we had to get out, so we retired to a short distance and dismounted. Then we sent out sharpshooters to the front to meet them. It was
getting dark. All guns ceased firing, and the Yankees left their dead and wounded on the field.
The following morning, our Regiment was sent on a scouting party over the battlefield. It happened to be where the heaviest fighting took place, on a ridge. It was high ground, and their batteries were exposed in the open. On this ridge was a well of water, and the Yankees were coming from every direction to the well. Our batteries had gotten the range and distance and made good use of it.
The hill sloped to the east, and the sun was just making its appearance as we got to the ridge. It was literally covered with dead and wounded Union soldiers, and the grass was about three inches high. There were blue uniforms and, now and then, a grave in bright colors and fez caps.
Some that were suffering for water had crawled some 300 or 400 yards to a small stream to quench their thirst. Our Command passed around this scene and left it for the infantry to take charge of.
We only went a short distance, and we found a long string of ambulances coming from Alexandria for the wounded; the report said that there were 100 of their soldiers wounded. The report had gone to Washington that the Yankee troops had won the victory and had possession of
the battlefield. We went on a bit farther, and we ran into 50 or 75 citizens and clerks from Washington that said they wanted to see the battlefield. So we took them as prisoners and marched them through where the hardest fighting took place. They could see the dead and wounded mangled bodies. It made many of them deathly sick, and they asked to be taken some other direction. The ambulances were loaded and sent back to Washington, D.C.
Not long after this, General Jackson made a raid into Maryland, and the battle of Antietam was fought. I was in this fight and had gotten a permit to go to the Valley of Virginia to get a fresh horse. I joined my company, but the battle was just over, and I saw the last of the firing after sunset. From all reports it was a very hard fight.
Our company was on detached service, acting as couriers for Major General Armistead in this battle. We camped that night in Sharpsburg, on the battlefield. We expected it to start again early that next morning, but they did not attack our forces until about 8 or 9 o'clock a.m. Then General Jackson moved his forces across the Potomac to the Virginia side, about one mile from the river. Some time after the noon hour, the Yankee general moved his forces down to the river and crossed at the same ford where General Jackson had crossed. After he had made a good strong force on the Virginia soil, General Jackson attacked
him with his full force and defeated them. They had to cross over into Maryland in such a hurry that numbers were drowned in the Potomac.
General Jackson surrounded General Miles on Bolivar Heights near Harpers Ferry, so he surrendered his whole command and supplies of all kinds. Cannons, small arms, horses, and his troops, which were up in the thousands, were also in with these.
Then we had the invasion of Maryland and the Pennsylvania and Gettysburg battle. Our company was right in this engagement: Company D, 12th Virginia Cavalry. All of Company D were from Jefferson County, Virginia. We were detailed to guard the Potomac from Harpers Ferry to Hard Scrabble, Berkeley County, Virginia, while General Lee was in Pennsylvania -- to guard his rear and to see that no scouting forces attacked his supply trains while this was going on.
While General Joe Hooker was going through to Richmond, Virginia, by the way of Fredericksburg, Virginia, General Lee took his position in front of him on high ground. Hooker shelled General Lee's troops for a while from the opposite side of the Rappahannock, and then he threw his pontoons across in the night and marched his forces to attack the Johnnies. One day was enough for him. They fought all day until night. Then they retired to the opposite side of the river and took up their pontoons and fell back, but they left a good many dead and prisoners. They left a full brass band and all equipment lying asleep in the field, so we took them all in the next morning.
Some time after this, the seven days' battle in the Wilderness took place. They would commence early in the morning and fight until it got dark. They did this for seven days and seven nights. Every night, General Grant would find General Lee in front of him and in trenches dug overnight. General Grant would sometimes bring up seven lines of battle, one right behind the other. Sometimes they would break through the Confederates' lines, but the Johnnies would soon route them.
Then came the Cold Harbor Battle. It was something terrible. Our Company were couriers for Major General Anderson. He commanded the Infantry. At this fight the trenches ran through a front yard of the house where he had his headquarters. All boys did have to go into the house to get the messages to be delivered and received and take to any part of the lines. I saw drivers of Artillery horses dig holes in the ground and get down in them to hold their horses while fighting. You might say the bullets rained, because they came so thick.
General Anderson told Captain Kearny of our Company to take his men that were not on duty back to a safe place and go into camp for the night; and if he needed any of them, he would send a messenger for them. We went some distance and went into camp in an orchard and had just settled down for the night, when the firing along the line became very brisk; and we had to hunt another camp in the dark. This very bloody battle had
heavy loss on both sides.
General Grant changed his plans and crossed the James River and went to Petersburg, Virginia, where he commenced his siege. It lasted a long time, and for months they were mining to get under General Lee's trenches to blow them up. This proved a failure, as he succeeded in blowing up the trenches, but the troops were not in them. General Grant forced a large body of Negro troops into the opening where the mine was sprung. General Lee's forces were so placed that the explosion did not affect them but very little. The Confederate forces turned on the Negro troops and nearly destroyed the whole force.
While General Grant was at Petersburg, working his mine, this happened: General Wade Hampton was promoted to General J. E .B. Stuart's place, after his death from a wound received at Yellow Tavern Cavalry Fight. General Hampton took General Rosser's brigade, which was composed of the following regiments: 12th Virginia Cavalry, 11th Virginia Cavalry, 7th Virginia Cavalry, and the Whiles Battalion and two pieces of Artillery from Cheios [Chew's] Battery. He flanked General Grant's left at Petersburg and went to City Point on the James River. Grant's base of supplies was here. We marched two nights and one day before we reached City Point.
The Union army had four companies of
Cavalry guarding a herd of beef cattle, and there were about 2,200 in the herd. We did not reach their commissary stores near the river. They grazed these cattle through the day, and at night they corralled them. The Cavalry guarded over these cattle with 16 shooters rifles. We got to their picket posts before daylight. We charged the picket and went into the camp with them. We found them in bed. We had them surrounded.
Only a few were killed. We had our 3rd Lieutenant killed. The one that killed him jumped behind a tree, and he never did kill anyone else. Some were wounded, and all were taken prisoners, with 16 shooters.
We took two ordinance wagons loaded with ammunition, two four-mule teams, one sutler store and team. We divided the 16 shooters and had plenty of ammunition. We captured between 300 and 400 horses and many guns. We also got 2,200 heads of beef cattle, the finest on the market, first class.
The Union officers sent two Brigades of Cavalry to cut our forces off and recapture what we had taken from them. General Hampton was too wise to be caught in a trap like this. There was a big swamp where the Yanks had to cross before they could get to us, and this was bridged with a corduroy bridge, made of poles. General Hampton sent a large part of his forces to this swamp bridge, as soon as he made the capture. The Cavalry was
dismounted, and horses were sent back out of danger.
The Johnnies were placed on both sides of the bridge, behind trees, rails, and fence rails piled up whenever they could get them. Then they placed two pieces of artillery that just raked this crossing. They were not armed with 16 shooters and fairly well protected. The enemy made a good many charges; but the losses were so heavy, they gave it up. Our forces drove the cattle through the Confederate lines. They needed the beef badly at this time, as their rations were getting low.
Next was Frevillian Station Battle. A large force of Union Cavalry started on a raid in our rear, and I have forgotten the name of the Yankee General in command. The Confederate forces intercepted them before they got to their destination. Both sides were dismounted. It commenced about 10 o'clock and lasted all day, until dark. No artillery or infantry was engaged in this fight. The Yankees got into a deep cut that was made for a railroad, and we could not dislodge them. We could not use artillery, owing to the location of the ground that they were on.
That night, they left their position and retreated the next morning. We followed them for miles but did not overtake them. In their retreat all horses that gave out, they would shoot, so as to prevent them from falling into our hands.
Then we scouted and picketed around Grant's front at Petersburg for several months. In October of 1864 I was sent to Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. Here we got into a number of small fights. This occurred when General Sheridan was burning barns. They also burnt mills and private residences.
On October 9 , it was a great engagement. General Lee was on the road next to the mountain. General Rosser was commanding our brigade and was on the middle road. General Lomax was on Valley Pike. General Sheridan threw his largest force against General Lee and forced him back. General Fitz Lee was in command of all the cavalry in the Valley of Virginia, and he sent a message to General Rosser and General Lomax to fall back and keep on line with him to prevent the enemy from getting in their rear. We were formed and ready to charge the enemy in front of us. A spent ball struck me on the muscle of my right arm just as we started back. It stung, but it did not enter my skin.
We had not gotten 100 yards before a horse was shot from under Onnie Higgins, one of our company. The horse fell on him, and George Osborn and I got off our horses and pulled him out from under it. Fortunately, he was not hurt. There was a large patch of sugar cane close by, so he ran into it and hid himself until dark. Then he made his escape and got back to his company safely.
While we were getting him out, we were left in the rear of our company. My horse kept jumping around, so that I couldn't mount him quickly; and Osborn was only a few yards in front of me. Yanks were coming in on the flank, and they were just over the hill. I could not see them until I got over the top of the hill. There was a fence on both sides of the road. The volley fired and shot my horse. I went over his head, and he fell on his knees, and I came over on my hands and feet. When I raised, my horse did not get up while I was there.
I jumped over the fence that was close and hid in the weeds that were about three feet high; from the lay of the land, they could not see me until they got on top of the hill. I remained there until their company had passed; also their artillery, wagons, etc. I began to think my chances were good for escape, as soon as darkness covered the shadows.
A short time after all had passed, I heard shots fired; and then I heard chickens squawking and flying. Sooner, I heard voices close to me, and they kept getting closer and closer. I was afraid to raise and look, as they might see me first. I had my revolver on my side, but I did not know how many there were of them. After I had given them my arms, I wanted them to let me go to my horse and get my traps, but they refused to let me go. One of the party wanted to take my pants from me, but
another one would not let him.
They took me and the rest of the prisoners they had captured, about 20 of us in all, to an open field, where some pumpkins had been left on the field. They surrounded us with guards and left us for the night, with no blankets and nothing to eat. We gathered a few pumpkins, peeled the outside off, cut off pieces of a sharpened stick, and held it over a fire to cook. It was a very poor meal.
The next day, we started for Winchester, Virginia. After we got beyond Strasburg a short distance, we halted and were taken to General Sheridan's headquarters. The General was trying to get some information about one of his soldiers that was court-martialed and shot. They were caught setting fire to a large barn, so they were given a trial and shot. General Sheridan was going to retaliate, if he could find proof that they were shot; but fortunately, most of the men that were called before him were teamsters that knew nothing about it.
We took up march again for a short time; and ladies gave us lunch, which we were certainly glad to get. I asked one of the ladies if she would keep my watch for me until I returned from prison, and she said she surely would. I was certain that the Yanks would take it away from me. On my way home after the war, I passed by the lady's home and stopped and got my watch, all in good shape.
Then we took up march for Winchester, adding our bunch to what they had there, I suppose about 40 or 50 prisoners. They kept us in the Court House and well guarded. I lost my change of clothing and blanket, when I was captured. I sent a note to a distant relative, and she came around to see me, but they would not let me out of the building to talk to her or lady friend. She said that she did not have any heavy blanket but that she could give me a comfort and I was really thankful to get that.
We left early the next morning for Martinsburg. We were guarded by a Regiment of Germans that had just landed in New York from the Old Country. Could not understand a word that they spoke. We had a few prisoners of German origin. These soldiers told them that they were enlisted in Germany and paid a bounty, brought over to this country, and marched to the front.
We halted a few minutes north of Winchester. Some young ladies, while we were standing there, brought us some lunch on a tray for our breakfast. One of the officers hit the tray with his sword and knocked all the lunch to the ground. I certainly did want to hit him.
When we got to Martinsburg, they loaded us in freight boxcars. Then they took us to Harpers Ferry, where they held us for a day or more. While we were there, they issued us three days' rations,
and pickled pork was our meat ration. I had only a few greenbacks; and I knew they would take them away from me, if they were found. I cut a place in my pork and placed my money carefully in there and then closed the opening up again.
Before they sent us away, they called one at a time in a room and made a close search. They went over me three times and only found a German pocket piece that I had carried for years. They emptied my haversack on the floor: pork, bread, etc., on the dirty floor. Before I was called in, I saw a friend standing outside of the guard. I got the sign that I was going to throw my pen knife to him, when the guard turned his back, to take to my home, as he lived near my home.
That evening, they loaded us in boxcars with two guards with bayonets crossed at the door. We landed late that evening at Fort Henry, near Baltimore. From there, we were loaded on a vessel that took us down the Chesapeake Bay to Point Lookout, Maryland. It was pretty enough, and the waves rolled nearly to the top of the vessel. We landed at Point Lookout the same day.
I was assigned to a big bell tent for my quarters. There were about 15 prisoners in there, and it was pretty full. I did not know any of them. We had to lie on the ground, and we did not have any board to keep us from the dampness, as we were only allowed one blanket.
Every Sunday morning we would be called out, and we would line up in two ranks formation with our blankets across our shoulders. Then two officers would send Commissioned Officers around to the tents, where the prisoners would be out on inspection, and gather up all we left in the tents and take it outside the prison enclosure. This was about the fifteenth of October in 1864 . The nights were getting cool, and our rations of wood were only what five men could carry half a mile from the wharf. This was divided among 100 men, only to make a fire on the ground in the middle of the tent. They had no stoves; and at times it would almost put your eyes out, especially when the atmosphere was heavy.
We remained in this place only a few days, and five of us clubbed together. We bought pine poles about like bean poles and paid 20 cents apiece for them. We made a frame about seven or eight feet, and then got some old canvas from a tent and covered the frame. We made two bunks in it, three in the lower bunk and two in the upper. We hardly had room to turn around. We made a stove out of an old camp kettle that had been thrown away. Our stove pipe was made out of old tin cups that had been thrown away in the junk pile. We bought chips from the wood pile at the cook house to burn and paid 20 cents a barrel for them. This was much better than sleeping on the damp ground; and we could warm our victuals, if we wanted to.
We dug a hole in our tent floor and buried a box. Every Sunday morning we would put extra blankets in this box and cover it over with dirt, so that the Yankees would not find them.
My buddy and I occupied the top bunk. We sewed two blankets together and filled them with pine needles for our mattress. It was all okay and a good preventative from cooties.
We were only in this tent a short time, and a friend of mine got me a better position. He was Chief of the Dispensary for the whole prison. It was a very responsible position, and he was only 20 years old. He just had graduated from Medical College, and the Surgeon General in command of this prison was a classmate of his father's. Dr. Maguire of Winchester, Virginia, was a noted surgeon; and his son, Dr. William Maguire, got me a position as clerk for a doctor in the first division with Dr. Daniels from Lynchburg, Virginia. There
were 11 divisions in the prison, with 10 companies of 100 men to a company. This was when it was full.
My position was easy, as I would write prescriptions, as the doctor would examine and prescribe. Then I had to make a report every day of how many were sent to the hospital and how many were under treatment at the camp. I did not get any pay for this. I got a good board shack and also a mattress and plenty of blankets.
I boarded at the hospital and had three meals per day in the hospital dining room. They were much better than they were giving in the prison.
We also had cooks and dishwashers. I had a good stove and all the wood I wanted to burn. From 70 to 100 doctors and clerks ate their meals here at this dining room at the same time. All were Johnnies.
The prison covered 30 acres of land, lying immediately on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay, which was north of the prison. It was 20 miles wide at this place. The Potomac River is on the east of the prison, eight miles wide at this point. The prison was enclosed with board fence about 15 feet high, with a platform four feet from the top and three feet wide with inside railing. The enclosure boards stood on end. On this platform was where the guards paced back and forth in speaking distance of each other.
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This building in Middleway was a hospital during the Civil War.
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Cannonballs used during the Civil War.
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The Opequon Creek Valley was the scene of many military engagements during the Civil War. Turkey Spring, which runs through Middleway, is a tributary of Opequon Creek.
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This monument is a reminder of the fighting that took place in Middleway during the Civil War. It is on "School House Hill" in Middleway.
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The Grace Protestant Episcopal Church in Middleway still has a Civil War mini ball lodged over a back door.
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Mary Ann Cain is placing a flag on the grave of Lt. W. James Kencheleo, who was killed in Middleway on August 29, 1864 , during the Civil War. Lt. Kencheleo is buried in the Old English Cemetery in Middleway. Other soldiers who died in Middleway, including some who died at the hospital, include Boone Dew and Captain Johnson, who are buried near the entrance of the Episcopal Church, and nine soldiers who are buried in the Masonic Cemetery: W. W. Henningan, Robert Pagmore, Major B. J. Boggin, Julius Cox, Sgt. Robert Barber, Redin English, William M. Harris, Josiah Leath, and Peter M. Geriner.
For the first few weeks we were guarded by New Hampshire troops, and they treated us very nicely. They were taken away, and Negro troops were put in their places, and their treatment was something terrible. It would take too much time and space to tell all the dirty and mean tricks that they did.
On the east side of the prison was the hospital. On my way to our dining room I passed the hospital dead house, where there would be from 25 to 30 dead every morning. When I first landed, there were about 7,000 prisoners there. After the fall of Petersburg and Richmond and the surrender at Appomattox, the prison was crowded to its full capacity.
The entrance of the prison was from the east side into a broad street, running west the full length of the enclosure. On the right were the divisions of the camp and a street between each division. These streets ran north and south. On the left was the entrance to the first building, the commissary stores, where they kept supplies for the prisoners. On this same row were 10 or 11 cook houses about 40 by 100 feet.
The dining room was over 100 feet long. The dining room table was about three feet high and about the same length as the dining room. We were formed in companies of two ranks. When we
reached the table, we divided: one rank on each side of the table. Our allowances of bread and meat were laid on this table about 18 inches apart. This was done just before we entered. Then an employee of the cook house would meet them, and the result was that hundreds were brought to a premature death. This copper would eat the inside lining of the intestines, and they would commence a sluffing off, and then this would run into chronic diarrhea. I have seen many suffering from scurvy; holes would eat right through the flesh to the bone. A few vegetables in many cases would have relieved them.
I have seen prisoners who had only one blanket, and this was all they were allowed, with their feet frozen and their legs black to their knees. Smallpox was not feared at all, as there were only a few deaths from it.
I must go back to an incident that happened when we first landed at Point Lookout. They formed in two lines, and then an officer made a little speech before the search began. He advised all who had valuables, such as rings, watches, or money, to turn them over to the officials; and they would keep a record of them and return them, when their owners were released. I gave them over 200 dollars in Confederate scrip. My greenbacks I hid in my comfort and saved them. The first thing they did was to empty our rations out on the ground and commenced pulling the pickled pork apart to see if anything was hidden in there.
I had two friends that used to spend a good deal of their time in my shack. They were both captured on vessels running the blockade, bringing in supplies from England to the South. One was the Purser of the vessel and a native of England; and the other was a signal officer on the same vessel, but he was from Virginia. An order was received to exchange 200 prisoners for soldiers. They were both Free Masons. All of the high officials were Masons, and both of these gentlemen got off on this exchange. I have never heard from them since. This was in the winter of 1864 , just before the Spring Campaign opened, after the surrender of General Lee.
We were held until the fourth of June in 1865 . I got off on the first vessel that left the prison. The majority of them were convalescents from the hospital. The vessel took us up the James River, and it was the first steamer after the war.
We were a little bit afraid of some torpedoes that had been left and that we might find them. We got through safely to Richmond. There they furnished all the transportation going to Staunton, Virginia. When we got to Charlottesville, we found that the bridge across the river had been destroyed. We were transferred to the opposite bank in shifts. From there they conveyed us on flat cars to Staunton.
When we arrived, the railroad in the
Shenandoah Valley had been destroyed. Our only chance was the stage or foot it. Ben Holiday and I decided to take the Valley pike and walk, as neither of us had any money. Ben's home was at Winchester, 100 miles, and mine was 115. We marched about 20 to 25 miles a day. We stayed at farm houses every night, and they gave us a good bed and our supper and breakfast and would not take a penny pay. Two counties that we passed through each had a company in our regiment, and nothing was too good for us.
I went from Winchester alone to my home and was glad to get back after being away for nearly four years. It was only a few days until they commenced cutting the harvest. I worked on the farm, helping to save the crop, until August.
My aunt from Missouri made a visit to her old home. She insisted on me going back with her to see the country, and I finally concluded to go. Father gave transportation there and back and spending money while I was there. I only expected to stay two weeks, but I made so many pleasant acquaintances and was having such a good time that nearly three months passed by. My finances were getting low. I would have to do something, but I was too proud to ask Father for any more money, as I knew that he had lost heavily during the war. I was determined not to ask for any more.
The next day I took a steamboat and dropped
down the Missouri River about 40 miles to Miami on the Missouri River. I had my trunk taken to the hotel. I had my supper and breakfast and paid for my lodging. Then I had 25 cents left, and I was over a thousand miles from home and did not know a living soul in the town. I looked around for a short time after breakfast, but I did not see any prospect of employment. I concluded to go out into the country and get a job at some farm. I went back to the hotel and asked the clerk to take care of my trunk until I called for it.
I walked out into the country about seven miles and inquired if they needed any help at a certain farm house. The first place I inquired I found an old bachelor, and the Civil War had bankrupted him. He was doing a large milling business before the war destroyed all that he had. I knew of him but was not personally acquainted.
His brother had married my aunt. He knew my family, and so I told him that I was looking for a job on a farm. He inquired if I could handle a saw and hatchet, and I told him that I had learned on a farm. He was doing carpenter work. He was putting in some presses and shelving at the house where he was boarding, and so he said that he would give me a job. He said that I could go to work at noon.
The next week he had a house to move, and he needed help. He told me what he would pay, so I went to work on Friday at noon. Saturday, Mr. Fry went to town and left me to finish the presses.
When he left, he said, "Probably I can find something better for you." When he came home, he had good news. On Monday a merchant from town would come to see me. He arrived about 10 a.m., and after a short time he told me that he wanted a clerk. He made me an offer of a liberal salary, which I accepted. I was to commence work on the following morning. I helped my friend until Monday night.
After I had been there a little over two weeks, Archie Simms, the owner of the store, asked me if I would like to buy his store. It was a nice brick store room and had a general stock. They had dry goods, notions, groceries; and he had about eight or 10 thousand dollars' worth of stock. I told him that I had no money. He asked me, if I had the money, if I would buy it. Then he told me how he was situated. He said that he was endorser for some St. Louis wholesale merchants, and they were on the edge of bankruptcy and that he did not feel able to assume their debts. Then he offered to give me the money and said that he would give me a bill of sale to make it legal. He transferred his insurance policy, and it was run as my store for over six months.
In the last spring two young brothers came along and wanted to buy the store. I told Mr. Simms that I would prefer going to St. Louis, as I would have a better chance there. In the meantime he had made a compromise with these people whose
paper he had endorsed. At a small price he took the store off my hands and sold it to these young men that made the first bid on it. I had boarded with the Simms' family and all expenses paid. I saved about 50 dollars a month net from my salary.
I went to St. Louis from Miami and struck the time of the Panic, and all business was at a stand-still there. I went from there to Danville, Illinois. I stayed there for a few days with some old school mates of mine. The Panic had reached this city, and all business was dull. From there I came back to West Virginia, my old home. I found Mother and Father in very poor health, as both were getting old.
I concluded, as I had to wait, that I would run up to Wheeling; and there I met accidently S. B. Crawford. He was an entire stranger to me, but his wife was an old school mate of mine. He was Master Mechanic at the Wheeling B&O shops. After talking to him for a while, he asked me if I had anything in view in Danville. He had not moved his family to Wheeling yet. He offered me a job in the railroad car shop with fairly good wages.
The men they put me with got 10 cents more a day than I was to get, as they had had experience. When payday came, the foreman reported me doing the same work as the men I was working with.
Then they raised my pay to the same as the rest were
getting. I worked there until March, 1874 . Mr. Crawford was sent to Parkersburg to take charge of the shops, and he offered me 15 cents more than I was getting in Wheeling. This is the way that I came to locate in Parkersburg. I worked in the shops for B&O and ORR for 30 years.
I resigned my position in 1903 , when I went into a grocery store on St. Mary's Avenue with J. T. Ringer. I was in this store for about 14 months, and we had a good business. We were getting too much on books and too much credit, so I offered to sell or buy. I sold and got out of the grocery business.
I had left the railroad shops just one year before they had adopted the Insurance and Pension System. This would have given me a pension and a pass over all their system of railroads.
I was foreman in the ORR car shops for 10 or 12 years; but before I was made foreman, I was sent to Lima, Ohio, and Lafayette, Indiana, to inspect the building of 200 new cars and oil tanks. I was there nearly six months. The cars were for the Monongahela railroad, and I was sent there by Senator Camden. When I came back to the shops, the Master Mechanic asked me to take the position of foreman. I declined the position, as I did not want the responsibility. Then he asked me if I would serve in that position until he could get someone to fill it. I consented to this, and he never
I will give a few of my adventures that I omitted in 1863 -64. I have concluded to write them. This occurred just before the raid into Maryland and Antietam Battle. Our command was sent out on a scout to intercept a Yankee raiding party already inside of our lines. Our forces overtook them about noon hour, as they were dismounted and hidden behind trees and bushes. Our forces were in open space.
We charged up to the fires. My horse was killed from under me, and it was close enough that I could feel the heat from the fire. She fell right on my right leg and pinned me fast to the ground. Frank Licklider, one of my Company, was on my left; and I asked him to help me out. He said, "Both of us will be killed or captured; don't you see they are right on us now?" The officers had rallied their men, and bullets were flying thick.
Fortunately, when my horse fell, there was a small tree that I put my shoulder against and put my left foot against the top of the saddle and pulled my right foot from under the horse. One of their horses was standing about 15 feet away from my horse with a saddle and bridle on. The bridle was hanging on the saddle, and the horse was tied to a tree by the halter strap and had a nose bag on feeding oats. I gave the strap a jerk and mounted
the Yankee horse without bridle and put the spurs to him and joined my command.
The bullets were flying fast after my escape. When I got a safe distance away, I put the bridle on. He was a good work horse but not fit for the Cavalry. My horse that was killed was of Kentucky blooded stock. It was well trained in jumping fences and swimming rivers. It was above the average.
Another adventure happened around October 1, 1864 , soon after we left Petersburg, Virginia, for the Shenandoah Valley, at the same time Sheridan was burning mills, barns, and private homes and property. Our regiment on this day was in the rear of our brigade. The regiments in front of us were skirmishing a little but no regular fight.
I was riding close to our Captain and was acting as Orderly Sergeant at this time. I was looking south and saw a picket on a high point, thinly shaded by trees. I called the Captain's attention to him. The picket was from half to three-quarters of a mile from us. It turned out to be a Yankee picket post. I asked the Captain's permission to let me take him, and he gave his consent.
When I got close enough to demand surrender, he threw up his hands; and before I could get his arms, another Yankee came riding up. He
surrendered as the first did; before I could take their arms, a Non-Commissioned Officer and two more privates had joined the two that had surrendered. They never fired a gun. They were Germans and could not understand a word.
I got them in front of me. I had my revolver in hand, and all had their arms. I marched them back to our brigade and took them to General Rosser. He gave me a little lecture and told me never to arrest prisoners without taking their arms.
I told him that I could not carry them, and they were too valuable to throw away. There were five carbines, five revolvers, five sabers, and five good horses. I asked the General if I could have one of their horses, as my horse needed a rest, and he said that I might have one. I took the best one.
I volunteered about the first of May in 1862 in Cavalry Company 12th Virginia Cavalry. I was under Captain John L. Knott. He was promoted to Major of our Regiment and was killed the day of General Lee's surrender. Our Brigade was General Turner Ashby's old command that he organized in 1861 . He was a brave and gallant officer. He was killed leading a charge of Infantry on foot near Harrisonburg, Virginia, and was killed by Pennsylvania troops who called themselves Buck Tails.
A few weeks after I joined the company, I was elected Third Sergeant and served in this
capacity the greater part of my soldiering, except the six months that I acted as Orderly Sergeant. The Orderly Sergeant was wounded in 1861 and was never able for duty afterwards. The Second Sergeant was a brother-in-law to our new Captain Kearney. He was sent away on a soft snap detached service. This threw me in the Orderly Sergeant place, a position which I despised. The duties are so heavy; it's all work, small pay, and no credit.
From May 1866 to 1869 I worked on the farm to help Father to get straightened out from his losses during the Civil War, as they were very heavy; and it takes a long time to recover. I demanded no wages and did not receive any for this time.
After I left home to work for myself, I resolved that I would economize in every way that I could to get a start in business. I saved 25 dollars a month until I got $1,500. Then I loaned this out and took individual notes for it. I wanted to add a little more to it. Ill health and sickness came in a party's family that I loaned to. It overtook him, and his creditors became impatient and forced him to sell his property. He sacrificed it at less than half of its value. I lost all and had to start at the bottom again.
In 1862 or 1863 the Yankee troops occupied Winchester, Virginia, Martinsburg, Harpers Ferry, and Charles Town. They were sending scouting parties of 25 or 30 Cavalry nearly every day to Middleway and vicinity, and they were annoying the residents a good bit by taking feed for their horses and other things that did not belong to them to satisfy their own appetites.
I suggested to our Captain Kearney to get permission from the General of our Brigade to take a small scouting party and go after them. He got leave to go and took about 15 men. Captain was in camp. Some miles south of Winchester this was. Fifteen men were selected. I was to act as pilot, as I had had the rum blockade several times and knew the route well.
We started in the afternoon; and we aimed to cross all main thoroughfares after dark to keep it a secret as long as possible, so that they would not be ready for us. We traveled until after midnight before we reached our destination in Tom Watson's woods, adjoining old Priest farm, north of Middleway. We went into camp and slept until sunrise. We fed our horses and ate a cold lunch, as we could not make a fire, as it would give us away. We placed a picket where he could see Scollay Hall on Charles Town turnpike. They usually came along about nine o'clock a.m. We saddled up, ready at a moment's warning to go.
A few minutes before nine o'clock, the picket reported that they were coming, so we mounted. We had to go right past Aunt Rebecca Watson's home. They were very much surprised, because they did not know that there were any Johnnies within miles of their place; but we were in too big a hurry to explain at that time. We entered the village from the north end and from the back street. Captain Kearney took 12 men and crossed over the main street and told me to keep three men with me and for us to charge down the back street and head them off, if they started for Bunker Hill.
He had hardly started, and I just happened to look towards Scollay Hall, and I saw a Regiment of Yankees coming down towards our little band of 16 men. I signaled to the Captain and pointed to the Regiment. He charged the advance guard, about 25 men, and most of them dismounted and surrendered. Five or six were mounted, and they would not halt when they were ordered to, and they started to run away. Captain Kearney and his gang killed one and wounded several, which they took prisoners.
Their regiment was so close on us that we could not get to those dismounted. One Yankee held up his hands as soon as the front passed him, and he jumped behind a shade tree and fired and wounded the rear man (mortally). David Hoffman had to leave him at a farm house, and he died in a few hours. We took his horse with us, and the prisoners we captured, and got back safely to Dixie
Land. There must have been 600 or 800 Yankees that followed us. We could see them. They never got so close that they could fire on us. We had good horses and knew the country well, and that is all that saved us from being captured.
I will name a few of my father's losses during the Civil War: Our farm was located on the border of the little town of Middleway, West Virginia, only a fence between two of our fields on the back street. The finest stream of water in the country flows from Turkey Spring through two of our fields. It is large enough to furnish water to run a saw mill half a mile from the spring and a flour and grist mill one half a mile from the spring.
There are three macadamized roads to this village. Our territory was between the lines of both armies. The Yankees had possession of it most of the time.
We were 15 miles north of Winchester, and this place changed troops many times during the war. The Confederates first occupied Harpers Ferry early in the spring of 1861 . This is 15 miles north of our home. The U.S. Armory was located there. They manufactured most of their small arms for the U.S. Government before the war. The Confederates captured it, as soon as Abraham Lincoln issued his proclamation calling on Virginia for 75,000 troops to put down the rebellion in South Carolina.
Confederates moved this manufacturing
plant to Richmond, Virginia. It required a large body of troops to guard it, while moving it. They had to have supplies for their troops hauled to them by teams. They sent officers all over the county getting teams to haul these supplies to the men. The officers told Father that they only needed them for 10 days or a week or so, and then they would return them. They kept them and said that they would not release them at that time. The horses were losing flesh fast from the exposure and hard work. I reported them to Father, and he told me to sell them to the Confederate Government. I had them appraised and sold them. They paid in checks good on Virginia banks. Four young horses and harness complete; also, wagon and bed.
Our home at this time was inside of the Southern lines. They soon fell back and left us outside of the lines. Then Father could pay no debts with his Virginia money. He kept it for a while and then invested it in Confederate bonds and lost all when the Confederacy went under.
Then old General Mulligan, Yankee Commander, turned his Brigade of Cavalry in our field of wheat, just ready to harvest. It would have yielded from 350 to 400 bushels of wheat, but they destroyed the whole crop; and we did not get a bushel out of it. They took 19 four-horse-loads of hay from our barn and too many bushels of corn from our corn crib. They killed hogs, sheep, cattle, and over 100 chickens. They took 14 stands of
bees from our yard. My sister went to the door and asked a soldier to leave them (it was in the daytime). The Yankee soldier drew his revolver and told her to get back and shut the door, or he would shoot her.
They burned all the fencing on the farm. We did not have a field without a fence on our 250 acres. To show how dirty and low they could be, they went in a shop where we repaired our farming implements (these same soldiers), took the saw, and sawed off our plough handles and destroyed other things. Father asked the officers to give a bill for what they had destroyed, and they would not give him a scratch of a pen. He never got one dollar from the U.S. for any damages or what was destroyed.
He neither planted nor sowed any crops in 1862 , 1863 , or 1864 . He had no fencing to protect them. And no stock to cultivate. He could only gather what might be left after the soldiers were satisfied. I could name many other small losses, but I will let this suffice. The loss of crops for three years was a considerable amount. He had all this, besides the interest on deferred payment on a farm of 300 acres he had just bought in 1858 .
In conclusion, I will say that I have lost eight years of my best part of life, as I was in the Confederate army for four years less two months,
excepting eight months I was a prisoner of war at Point Lookout, Maryland. I was released on June 4, 1865 . Until 1869 I was assisting Father to recover from his extensive, heavy losses during the Civil War. What my parents had accumulated and saved in 35 years was destroyed in less than four years in the Civil War. My parents' advanced age, ill health, and worry wrecked all their future prospects; and I am satisfied that it brought them both to a premature grave, only three months between their deaths.
I will bring this dried sketch of the past to a close. My eyesight is failing fast. My memory is not dependable, and I am dull of hearing -- the partial loss of all makes it embarrassing for me. I am truly thankful it is no worse. I am delighted to have good health and a clear conscience. Thanks to givers of all good gifts.
In 1862 or 1863 I was soldiering in eastern Virginia. This was near the Wilderness. General Hooker of the Union army was moving his troops west from Fredericksburg, Virginia, towards Culpeper Court House, over what used to be called Plank Road. At this time there were no signs that there ever had been planks on it. At the present time they call it the Cat Hopping Road. I do not know from what source the name is derived.
The Wilderness is a large stretch of timber, which extends for miles. The undergrowth, wild
vines, and swamps make it so that it is almost impossible to get through them. General Hooker was passing through. The roads from the south leading to the main thoroughfare were all picketed. Our Squadron A & D Companies were on the road.
Hooker had a heavy body of troops in the advance, then followed the Artillery, next the wagon train, and following this a rear guard of one corp. Our vedette had been placed by our officers, so that he could see their troops and give our Squadron the signal. After they had passed the road we were picketing, our Squadron charged on them. The first teamster refused to turn in on our road, so they shot him. The Cavalry man got on the team but could not make the turn and ran into a tree. The wagon was loaded with shells, so they cut the mules loose and left the wagon. We had no trouble with the other drivers.
We captured 25 wagons with four mules to each team. The rear guard had come up by this time, and we had to get out. Charles Wiltshire, Company A of our Squadron, captured the paymaster and all of his greenbacks. I got General Bartlett's Headquarters wagon, and all of his personal belongings, which consisted of many useful articles. Among them was a buffalo robe; buck gauntlets; a new silver-mounted revolver; three nice, new cassimere shirts; and several boxes of paper collars. There was also a fine uniform with two rows of staff buttons, which were nearly
new. This was of no account to me, as it was not the right color. I also got all of his correspondence.
When the rear guard commenced firing on us, we had only 50 or 75 Cavalry men, so we set fire to a load of shells and saved all of the teams that we had captured. The explosion of these shells held up Hooker, as the rear guard could not pass until they were destroyed.
In Wheeling, West Virginia, we were unloading car sills from a flat car. As the sills were as long as the cars, we had to stand on a footboard to work. The fellow at the opposite end moved his end, and it caught my fingers. I let go and lost my balance and fell backward. My head struck the coupling. It knocked me out for a few minutes and cut the back of my head. The foreman sent a man with me to the doctor, who lived close by. After he dressed it and put a few stitches in it, I went back to work.
In Parkersburg, West Virginia, we were building new freight cars and fitting the carlines for the roof. We often sat on the carlines to force them into place. As I was hammering this brash piece of new timber, I had my feet on the outside of the plate while I hammered. The board snapped, and I fell
backwards about seven feet onto the floor of the car. I fell on my head and shoulders. It knocked me insensible for some time. When I came to, I was lying on the work bench; and they were throwing water in my face. I came around okay.
I was helping my brother to harvest his crop, when a thunder and lightning storm came up, so we went to his house for shelter. All of the hands were sitting on the front porch, and I was sitting in the doorway, when a bolt of lightning struck the chimney and ran down the end of the timber of the gable and then ran down the chimney to a press. In the clothes press there was a pair of lady's steel hoops stored. The wrapping on these steel hoops was set afire. There was a keg of powder in the clothes press, too, but it did not reach it. It stunned all of us, and I was the first to come to myself. I ran upstairs to see if anything was on fire, but luckily there was not much damage done, except that the rooms were dense with dust and smoke.
While I was working at the B&O depot shop on Depot Street in Parkersburg, a bolt of lightning struck the stove pipe that extended above the roof. It ran down the pipe to the stove and then jumped off and set the shavings on the work bench afire. Then it passed out the opposite direction. A few of the men were slightly shocked.
The last escape that I had was at home, while I was turning water into the cistern. I was doing this during a storm, and I had my left arm against the down spout, fixing the trough to carry the water to the cistern. The lightning came down the spout and struck my elbow. It just paralyzed my arm clear to the end of my fingers, and there was no more feeling in it than as though it had been a piece of wood. This lasted for only a minute, and
there were no bad effects afterwards.
Grandfather Thomas Watson Sr. was born in Pennsylvania in 1777 . His parents were born in England, near the line between Scotland and England. I cannot remember my Grandmother's first name, but her maiden name was Hyatt. She was also born in Pennsylvania.
My sister, Mrs. Kate R. Bowers, the eldest of the children, passed away first, well advanced in
John B. Watson, my only brother, passed away when he was 83 years of age. He was two years my senior.
I am the only one left of our family. I have climbed the hill and crossed over the top. I am on the downward slope, near the river. I am truly thankful that I have been spared with health and a comfortable home.
Did you ever see an old chap like this?
I have lived in cities and towns for nearly 60 years. I have always aimed to be honest and trustworthy. I have never served on a jury or was witness on any court trial. I have never had a lawsuit. I have never asked any person to endorse a Promissory Note or a Negotiable Note, as I adopted the cash system in 1866 . I always pay as I go. If I cannot pay for an article, I wait until I have the money. I have asked for only three jobs, and I got those. All the rest of my jobs and positions have come to me. I was never arrested for any offense against the law. I was never intoxicated on whiskey, beer, or wine. I learned to play cards
when I was 16 years of age but not at home. I resolved that I would never play for a penny's value, and I have kept it up to 1924 . I do not use profane language, chew or smoke tobacco. I have made many mistakes. I am delighted to have good health and a clear conscience. Thanks to the good Lord.
The following things happened to me during the Civil War: I had two horses shot from under me; was slightly wounded on the top of the head; and was struck by a rifle ball over the heart, but as I had a Testament in the pocket of my shirt, it stuck to it. If it had not, it would have been all up with me. I was struck on the muscle of the right arm, but it only stung and did not go through my coat.
I was almost drowned twice; the first was during the flood in 1913 . The railroad company had hired Shine Murray to ferry us from the ORR shops to Murdock Avenue in a John boat. It had been caulked with cotton waste. Six or eight of us got in, and most of them were big men. When we got to the deepest place, the weight was so great that the water pushed the caulking up into the boat, and the water flowed in. We had nothing to bail it out with. Three or four of the men jumped out on a pile of drift that had lodged against some small trees. They hung to the limbs until Murray could row to Murdock Avenue. There he got a skiff and
went back and got them. All of us had our overcoats and rubber boots on. Our chances would have been very slim in 15 feet of water.
Another escape from being drowned was also during a flood. We had to walk on the railroad track from the ORR depot to the shops, as this was the only dry ground. The high water had floated the bridge across Pond Run off of its piers. When I got there, the bridge men were working to get it back in place. They had thrown telegraph poles in the water and a board to get on the pole. I saw several of them walk this pole to get on the opposite side, and I thought that I could cross over. I had my dinner basket and umbrella in my hands.
When I got about halfway over, where it was very deep, I imagine about 20 or 30 feet, the telegraph pole was not fastened at either end, and it commenced turning in the water. I dropped my basket and umbrella. Then I tried to hold on to the pole, and it kept on turning. I was in the water up to my shoulders, and it was ice cold. This was in February. I had my overcoat and rubber boots on, and so I could not swim. If I had had a chance, I gave it up now.
One of the bridge men saw the fix that I was in, and he hurried and got a plank and stuck it in the telegraph pole. This kept it from turning. Then I climbed to the top of it and got out of the water safely. I fished my umbrella and basket out of the
water. Then, being frozen nearly through, I had to return to my boarding house and change clothes. I went to work again, not feeling any bad effects. I was boarding on Ninth Street at the time. Most of the time during high water, we had to walk to the ORR depot and then walk the railroad track to get to the shops.
My best appointments from 1872 to 1874 : The best and largest proposition that I ever had offered me was by my friend, Mr. J. W. Grantham, of Middleway, West Virginia. His son and I were in partnership in a store from three years contract. His son died of typhoid fever about 18 months after we entered business. At the expiration of three years, I sold my interest to Mr. Grantham. It was then that he made me the best offer I ever had. He offered me his stock of goods; a fine large, brick store room and full basement, which was as good as any in the county. The stock I estimated to be worth about twenty thousand dollars.
He offered me my own time to pay it off. He said that he was getting along in years and wanted to retire from business. The responsibility was too great on the credit system. Mr. Grantham was President of a bank, and he told me that he would let me have all the money that was needed in the business and use his influence for my advancement and success. I was afraid to venture
too deep. I did not like the credit business, so I turned it down.
The next good offer was from an old school mate in Danville, Illinois. He was W. H. H. Harley, formerly of Middleway, West Virginia. He secured me a position in a large dry goods store as manager. He wired me and said that he would hold it open for three days for an answer. I declined this, as I had a fair job at this time, and it did not pay as much by several hundred dollars as the new job.
The next offer was made from another school mate, a Mr. W. M. Smith, formerly from Middleway, West Virginia. He had located in Mississippi after the Civil War. He secured me a good position in a department store, with an increased salary of twelve hundred dollars a year, but I also turned this down. I have regretted it many times since, but such is life. Opportunity seldom came more than one time.
Soon after these opportunities had passed, there was a reduction in wages over the whole B&O system. The first reduction in our department was 75 cents a day. The next was 15 cents; and then some weeks, there were only four working days in a week. This was cutting very close to the edge. Then I made up my mind to not let opportunities pass without weighing them well before passing them on.
Battles that I took a part in during the Civil War from March, 1862 , to October 9, 1864 , when my horse was shot from under me; and I was taken a prisoner and held at Point Lookout, Maryland, until June 4, 1865 , after General Lee's surrender:
1. Kernstown, a few miles south of Winchester, Virginia.
2. Front Royal, Page Valley, Warren County, Virginia.
3. Middletown, 12 miles south of Winchester, Virginia.
4. General Banks' retreat from Winchester, Virginia.
5. Charles Town, Jefferson County, Virginia.
6. Cedar Mountain, eastern part of Virginia.
7. Brandy Station, eastern part of Virginia, Culpeper County.
8. Seven days' battle in the Wilderness, eastern Virginia.
9. Cold Harbor, eastern Virginia.
10. Second battle of Manassas, eastern Virginia.