Beverly in the 1860's
BEVERLY IN THE SIXTIES
By Thomas J. Arnold
Editor’s Note: From The United Daughters of the Confederacy Magazine, November 1967. Used by permission. The author, Mr. Thomas J. Arnold, was a nephew of General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. General Jackson frequently visited the Arnold home at Beverly prior to the War Between the States.
Prior to the Civil War there was a volunteer company in Beverly, composed of the young men of the town and vicinity. They were armed with flintlock muskets; I suppose they had been supplied by the State. The uniform in part was of red, a cut-away coat with black stripes across the breast; a formidable looking, very high, stiff, black cap of patent leather with visor and strap, surmounted with a short stiff plume, somewhat like a miner’s lamp, except it was ornamental — a bright red.
I think all of this had been virtually discarded sometime before war talk had developed: But all young men were enrolled in the militia, organized in companies throughout the country – had company drills locally a given number of times annually, as required by law; and probably twice a year, regimental drill at the county seat. This regimental business will explain the numerous titles of Colonel, Major & c. that prevailed, An incumbent might be re-elected once, but after that some other citizen had to have the title – the title occasionally being too big for the man – a very perceptible misfit.
Beverly was very different in a business way from what it is today. For instance, there was a hat factory, where you could have any kind of a hat made to order by Wm. Rowan. There were two boot and shoe shops that did good work. Most men wore boots in those days. There were two tailor shops, each having two, sometimes three men making men’s and boys’ clothes. There were three saddlery shops, making excellent saddles, bridles and saddle pockets, two blacksmith shops, two gunsmith shops, making excellent and beautiful guns, many of them ornamented with silver mountings, beautifully engraved, two carpenter shops-also making furniture, wagons & c. – neat, good work. A toy factory-toys and ornaments made of Plaster of Paris by two Italians and peddled over the country. It may be stated that later these two Italians were among the first local volunteers in the Confederate army. Two Hotels, some half dozen stores carrying general merchandise.
Tri-weekly stage coaches – drawn by four horses, (ran) from Staunton, from Weston and from Fairmont; making good time, horses being changed every 10 or 12 miles, going night and day; their approach to the town, being heralded by the blowing of a trumpet, carried by the driver. Such notice enabling the citizens to gather at the hotels to see the arrival of guests, and get the latest news; and to have the hostler out with fresh horses, and the postmaster to have his mail bags ready. These coaches could carry nine passengers inside, and could take two on the top seat with the driver – a big leather-covered boot at the back to hold baggage.
Aside from the stage coaches, persons frequently traveled in private conveyances-there being much intercourse with Richmond and other sections of Eastern Virginia. Also much travel in season, to the many mineral springs in Greenbrier, Bath and Rockbridge Counties.
For amusement, the boys, young men, and a number of the middle-aged, late in the afternoon, would gather at the Courthouse – to the windows, of which, on the west side, where the Beverly Bank now stands, they had by public contribution placed shutters, and have a game of ball – different from any ballgame I have ever seen. It was called ball-alley, usually played by two or four to each side, the ball made of yarn wound over a small piece of rubber and covered with pig skin. The leader of one side would throw the ball against the side of the Courthouse – his opponents had to knock it back against the wall with open hand, either before it touched the ground or at the first bound from the ground, and hit the wall above the foundation, next play by opponent and so on, alternating. Failure to get the ball against the wall above the foundation scored. It was a good game and gave plenty of exercise. I don’t know how many times the Court entered orders prohibiting the playing of ball against the Courthouse but the boys invariably over-ruled the Court – the latter finally quit making orders in disgust.
The most important occasions in Beverly were the terms of the Superior or Circuit Court. The presiding Judge was invariably an able and prominent lawyer – who justly commanded and received the utmost respect. It was very unusual for a case decided by him to be appealed to a higher court. Of those, within my memory, were Judge Duncan – later President of the General Court of Virginia – Judge George H. Lee, later of the Supreme Court, Judge G. D. Camden, later member of the Confederate Congress. These Courts were attended by prominent lawyers from Staunton, Clarksburg, Weston, and elsewhere. Aside from jurors and witnesses, many people gathered from all sections of the county, many of them remaining as long as Court lasted, meeting with old friends and relatives, keeping up old acquaintanceship – a custom that seems to have passed with that generation.
The presidential campaign in the fall of 1860 was carried on with the usual excitement attending such elections -Whigs vs. Democrats. The Republican party was unknown in Randolph County at that date – Lincoln not receiving a single vote. As the Democrats were split between Breckinridge and Douglass, the Whigs, of which party my father was an active member, carried the day locally for Bell and Everett; that ticket receiving some twenty majority in Randolph County, but falling woefully short elsewhere, and greatly to the surprise and disgust of our people, resulting in the election of Lincoln, not by a majority of the popular vote, but far below a majority; revealing the unwisdom of his opponents, in not having formed a combination.
The intense excitement that prevailed throughout the Southern States in the early months of 1861 in consequence, was probably as much in evidence in Beverly as in any other section. A decided majority of the inhabitants were southern in sentiment, many of whom were opposed to secession; but there were a sufficient number holding opposite views to keep up warm discussions. There was too much drinking and entirely too much talking. It was observable later that of those who did the most talking, but few of them did any fighting; their principal work consisting in urging the other fellow to buckle on the armor of battle.
A very exciting election was held in February to choose a Delegate to the State Convention to be held in Richmond. Those that favored secession named Bushrod W. Crawford, a highly respected merchant, as their candidate. Those who opposed secession named John N. Hughes, an able lawyer – both residents of Beverly. Hughes was elected. This convention later passed an ordinance of secession, but to be submitted to a vote of the people for ratification, or rejection. This was voted on May 23rd. In the meantime, quite a change in sentiment had taken place in Randolph County, which gave a small majority, I think nineteen (19), for ratification of the ordinance of secession. It may be mentioned that Mr. Hughes had changed in his views and had become a warm advocate of secession. Barbour County had likewise elected a Union Delegate, Judge Samuel Woods; and who also followed Mr. Hughes’ course in undergoing a change of views. Both of these gentlemen were natives of Pennsylvania – had been living but a few years in Virginia. From early in May, excitement became intensified by the arrival every few days of organized companies of volunteers – Infantry and Cavalry – and this continued up to July 11th, the date of the Battle of Rich Mountain, They came from Pocahontas, Greenbrier, Bath, Highland, Pendleton, Augusta, Rockbridge, Hardy, Braxton, Upshur, Barbour, Taylor, Harrison, and possibly elsewhere.
There was a Company of college boys from Hampden-Sydney, under the command of the Rev. Dr. Atkinson, the dignified and worthy president of that well-known institution of learning, a splendid set of young fellows. The distinguishing feature of this company was the appearance of their Commander, armed with a huge Bowie knife, by far the largest I ever saw; he wore it strapped to a belt encircling his waist; naturally attracting attention as he walked about the streets. He came to our house soon after his arrival, and was a frequent caller there afterwards. It wasn’t a great while until he discarded his formidable looking instrument of war, leaving it at our house. Unfortunately, it disappeared along with many other articles. It would be quite an object of interest today to the students of that college, could they gaze upon it, and know its history.
There was much speech-making to these companies upon their arrival, by Mr. Hughes and others. There being several good local speakers; much cheering; and the young ladies would gather at some convenient place and sing “Dixie,” Exciting times, and not much encouragement for the Union element. Along with all this, there were some right amusing incidents. Memory recalls the following The “Hardy Blues” commanded by Captain Mullen – very hefty and elderly, weight about three hundred (300) pounds. He traveled in a buggy and from that seat gave his commands to his company. He was the proprietor of the leading hotel in Moorefield. The company arrived in Beverly a few days before the Battle of Rich Mountain. When the Confederates, under Major Pegram, retreated from their fortifications west of Rich Mountain at night after the battle, through the woods, Captain Mullen was incapacitated for such a journey on foot; so, as the only alternative he had to remain in camp, and was captured – quite a curiosity and subject to many good-humored jibes and comments from his captors. Among other, “Boys, this is old ‘Secesh’ himself.”
About the same period there arrived in Beverly a company from Pendleton County, commanded by Captain Moomau. The distinguishing feature of this company was its music – most organized companies of this period had for music a bass drum, a stringed drum, usually designated a tenor, one, and sometimes two fifes. This company had the drums, but were short on fifes, but had a remarkable substitute in the person of a big black Negro man, who gave out the shrillest whistle I ever heard and such an exact imitation of the fife, that if one didn’t see the Negro, he would never know the substitute from the genuine. It was a fine looking company, keeping in good step to the excellent music.
A company arrived one day from Braxton County, commanded by Captain Elam Mitchell. The Captain was long and lank. He was said to be a Methodist preacher. He wore a tall stovepipe hat and a long-tail black coat. Of course, that kind of uniform for a captain attracted attention, coupled with many comments from the numerous soldiers already assembled, and others arriving almost daily. It was interesting to see him drilling his company.
The morning of June 3rd, about daylight, we were awakened by the distinct reports of artillery fire. I was familiar with this sound, having heard so much of it when the Cadets at V.M.I. had artillery drill, I having recently attended school in Lexington. As it later was learned, the firing was at Philippi, some thirty (30) miles distant by road or twenty-five (25) miles air line. It was astonishing how distinct was the sound, seemingly as though but three or four miles distant. Of course, this meant great excitement in Beverly. About 11 A.M. retreating Confederates, who had been under the command of Colonel Porterfield at Philippi began arriving, bringing word of the surprise and defeat at that town, and that the Federals were in hot pursuit. Captain Poe of Taylor County company writes, that “they arrived in Beverly in time for breakfast,” marching or running for infantry.
As there was every indication that the Federal Army would arrive at any moment, and that there would be fighting through the streets, and probably a battle, the citizens gathered their families, and hurriedly left town, most of them going to nearby friends in the vicinity. There were probably not more than half a dozen persons that remained in the town. Among these were my father and myself. My mother, I presume at my father’s instance, had taken the other children and the Negro servants to the Whites’, who resided west of the river, distant some two miles. Several families who had, or could hire conveyances, continued southward with the retreating Confederates.
In the course of a day or two, it becoming evident that the Federal Army was not advancing, the citizens who were quartered nearby returned to their homes. Those who had traveled southward with the Army did not return for some ten or twelve days.
About that time the Confederates returned, considerably reinforced, under the command of General Robert Garnett, who proceeded to Laurel Hill and placed his troops with some artillery at the northwestern slope, at the same time placing a force with some artillery at the western base of Rich Mountain some seven miles west of Beverly under command of Major (later General) Pegram. Of the troops then arriving, some came from the far south; for instance the First Georgia regiment, infantry; some from East Virginia. The day before the battle of Rich Mountain, the 44th Virginia Infantry, Colonel Scott commanding, and an artillery company from Richmond, the “Richmond Blues,” arrived in Beverly.
The battle was fought July 11, 1861 – commencing about three (3) o’clock P.M. and continuing till about 6:30. The firing of both artillery and musketry was continuous during this period, except for an interval of some thirty minutes, due to the Federals being repulsed, and later advancing with reinforcements. As a full account of this battle has been heretofore published, it is unnecessary to discuss it, except to call attention to a small discrepancy between that account and the report of Lt. C. W. Statham of the Lynchburg Artillery, who handled the one gun in the engagement. He mentions incidentally in the midst If the action – “the Infantry not yet in action” – the reports of all other eyewitnesses and participants, were that the infantry were actively and continuously engaged throughout the battle – the incessant musketry fire being distinctly heard in Beverly. The only explanation that can be offered for Lt. Statham’s statement is, that as his one gun was fired 164 times in the 180 minutes of actual fighting, his attention necessarily was completely occupied with that duty – cutting the fuse and sighting his gun; and he would quite naturally be unaware of what the infantry was doing. The infantry engaged gave a far different account, and which was fully confirmed by the officers of both contestants.
There was naturally great excitement in Beverly at this sudden and continuous fire of artillery and musketry, as distinct as though not more than a mile distant. All knew that a battle was on. Then there was the hurry and rush of the citizens to get out of the way. Not so many left the town as did following the Philippi affair, but so many left to return only after the lapse of years. Some, never to return. The families who went south were Colonel David Goff, Claude Goff, lawyers; Rev. Enoch Thomas, the Presbyterian pastor; Absalom and Bushwood Crawford, leading merchants; Bernard L. Brown, Clerk of the Circuit Court; Adam C. Rowan, Wm. Hamilton, and Philip Keesey. Late in the evening many Confederates, who had been in the battle, arrived in Beverly, got supper as houses were freely opened to them, and towards morning resumed their retreat southward. They brought word of the accidental killing of Mr. John N. Hughes, previously mentioned herein.
The next day, about 11 A.M., the Federals advanced, followed by numerous regiments in handsome uniform with banners flying, keeping exact step to the music of the fine Regimental Bands, playing the beautiful March from the Opera, “Norma.” Many of them were well drilled, crack regiments – many Germans, having had their military training abroad – some regulars, aggregating, it was claimed, some 12,000 men all under the command of General George B. McClellan and W. S. Rosecrans. The several regiments went into camp in the vicinity of town. Late that afternoon, I saw a soldier at our high paling fence, back of the chicken lot, equipped with line and bait, standing in the street, fishing for our chickens. My presence caused him to leave, not in the least abashed – seemingly reluctant. Anyway, the chicken crop didn’t last long after that. Sometime afterwards, I heard of a soldier presenting himself at the door of a house in the country – the housewife was asked if her husband was at home. She replied he was out on the farm. The soldier informed her he had a log chain he was anxious to dispose of-that he would let it go at quite a bargain. The wife, being thrifty and alert for a bargain became interested, and was soon the purchaser of the log chain, at much below its value, parting with her good cash therefore. When the husband returned, the good wife surprised him with her fine bargain. After a casual inspection, she was informed she had purchased their own log chain.
The day of the arrival of the Federal Army was accompanied with some rather unusual excitement in our family. In the first place my parents had me take a Confederate soldier of the 1st Georgia Regiment, who was just recovering from typhoid fever, on a horse, to the Whites, living on the west side of the river, to avoid capture. By going the near way through the fields, it was but little more than a mile, but I concluded to follow the road returning, as I might pick up some news. When I arrived at the intersection with the main road, instead of keeping on the road to Beverly as I should, curiosity got the better of me, and I concluded I was fully justified in riding to our farm in the opposite direction. I had not proceeded more than two or three hundred yards, when reaching a turn in the road, was face to face with the Federal advance guard. They very quietly halted me and took charge of me. After questioning by some of the officials as to conditions in Beverly, numbers of Confederates, etc., I was placed under the charge of one of General McClellan’s mounted bodyguards which then led the advance. As we neared the bridge at Beverly, a Confederate (as I later learned Captain Richards of a Greenbrier Cavalry Company) rode up to the east end of the bridge and fired both barrels of his shot gun at the advancing Federals, without effect. They charged after him, but he made his escape.
As I rode into town with the advance, under guard, passing immediately by our house, my parents were much surprised, if not excited. My father at once got busy and through the aid of a friend, a resident of the County who had gone forward sometime previously to meet the Federals and had acted as a guide in their advance to Beverly, secured an order from General McClellan for my release. This occurred about three o’clock in the afternoon, to the relief of myself and the guard, it having become tiresome for both of us. Not long after my appearance in town, my father had another surprise, in seeing his finest horse pass by, doing duty, hitched to an army wagon. He had to get busy again and finally succeeded in regaining his horse. It had been caught up and taken out of our pasture. These two events, coupled with my experience later with the chickens, made what might be termed a strenuous day for a beginning.
From the date mentioned, for the period of four years, with two brief intervals, one at the time of the Imboden raid in the spring of 1863, and the other following the Rosser fight in 1865, Beverly was paralyzed or blighted – the inhabitants virtually prisoners – guards constantly stationed night and day on each of the four roads leading from town; soldiers on the streets all day, daily; patrols on the streets at night; citizens not permitted to pass the guards on the roads leading from town without a written pass from Headquarters bearing the signature of the Adjutant, countersigned by the Commander of the Post. The pass could be obtained only upon a satisfactory explanation of one’s business. Ordinarily a pass was good for one day only; and if one’s loyalty was much under par, it was deemed advisable to keep away from headquarters, as no one knew just what questions might have to be answered. The result was that a number of inhabitants, men and women, were not outside of Beverly during those four years, save in the two brief intervals mentioned. As for the boys; with the streets, stores, shops, etc., monopolized by soldiers, there could be no more ball games, no loafing on the street corners or elsewhere, no privacy, no more going to the swimming holes, no more fishing, nor hunting, nor going nut gathering – tough on the boys – for four years. There were no more terms of Court, the Judge and Clerk having gone south. The civil authority, as was quite evident, was superseded by the military.
There was a lamentable occurrence the day of the arrival of the Army, that later in the war and under a different Commander than McClellan, might have been attended with serious consequence. A Bandmaster of one of the Regiments, decorated in all the paraphernalia pertaining to that office, was shot and killed from ambush, a few miles north of Beverly on the turnpike. An ignorant man, not of the neighborhood, judging the man by his decorations to be a prominent Federal officer, fired the shot and made his escape. Not a citizen was molested in consequence, in fact, all were sorry that it occurred.
General McClellan, during his brief stay, in Beverly, called at our house on at least two occasions to see my parents, my mother’s brother having been a classmate of his at West Point. Also to see Major Pegram, who had been permitted to stay at our home under parole, awaiting orders from Washington as to disposition of his case. Principally due to the reputation gained by McClellan and Rosecrans from the victory at the Battle of Rich Mountain, the former was a little later called to take command of the Army of the Potomac; Rosecrans to the command of an army in the southwest, and where he commanded in the great battle of Chickamauga. It may be mentioned that McClellan later gave Lee two of the hardest fought battles of the Civil War – “Malvern Hill” and “Sharpsburg,” or “Antietam.” And Lee, just after the war, stated that in his opinion McClellan was the ablest general the Federals had in the Civil War – certainly, no higher authority. Another distinguished visitor to Beverly was Whitelaw Reid, who also acted as correspondent for the Cincinnati Gazette, later Editor of the New York Tribune-later Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Also a little later with the 6th Ohio Regiment, “Guthrie Grays,” Cincinnati’s swell regiment was Don Piatt, an acting correspondent of the Cincinnati Commercial – a brilliant, spicy writer, who later helped to found the “New York Sun” and later established and owned the “Washington Capitol” for many years, a weekly of such brilliance, that every number was read and quoted from by the press far and wide. Another noted character with this regiment was the well-known comedian, Alf Burnett, claimed to be the only man who could laugh on one side of his face and cry on the other at the same time. I witnessed him perform some years later, and I can’t say the claim was exaggerated. There were many fine fellows in this regiment and they were uniformly kind to the inhabitants. They were stationed in Beverly quite a while. During their stay (was also present) Major Rutherford B. Hayes, of the 23rd Ohio regiment, afterwards President of the United States. There was an epidemic of typhoid fever, measles, and a light epidemic of smallpox in Beverly and vicinity in the winter of 1861-1862. I can recall only one fatality to a citizen of the town from the smallpox.
Referring to the necessity of getting a pass to go out of town; personally, I experienced a little difficulty, usually it was to go to my father’s farm, west of the river. Sometimes the pass was only good for one day, but frequently for ten days in that direction, going in any other direction was for one day. I possibly on one or two occasions got a pass “until further orders,” or for thirty days to go to the farm.
We generally had in the house some sick Federal officer, as did a number of other families in the town. They were supplied with a male orderly or nurse from the hospital, who got his meals – the invalid’s meals being supplied by the family. Aside from a natural feeling of humanity to aid the sick, there was some advantage in this. It saved a family from being annoyed with soldiers. Then again officers were entitled to draw several rations in proportion to their rank. They could draw all this in flour, meats, etc., from the United States Commissary, at wholesale cost. Families could in that way obtain supplies that were sometimes difficult to get. As other officers would visit the sick, members of the family would naturally get acquainted, and that aided in getting a pass.
During the four years there were frequent transfers of troops, generally accompanied by a change in Commanders of the Post. Some of these men were considerate gentlemen – some were not. Some too willingly listened to the tales of the vicious and disreputable, who imagined they gained importance to themselves by pouring into the ears of such officials misrepresentations and falsehoods about those whom they disliked. Much of this came from the undercurrent. Some of these officials seemed incapable of distinguishing between them and the worthwhile. The result being that honorable worthy citizens, conducting themselves in a strictly neutral manner, were arrested and hurried off to some military prison, without any opportunity to be heard.
Of those who were in command in Beverly while I was there (I was absent the principal part of two years at school) I can recall the following: General McClellan for a few days; then General Rosecrans for a brief period; then General Reynolds; following him, General Milroy; the last two named were not long in Beverly, as they went forward to Huttonsville and beyond – the main army then being stationed at Elkwater and the top of Cheat Mountain. Then Colonel Bosely of the 6th Ohio Regiment (and then) Colonel Hewes of a Virginia Federal Regiment. This gentleman had just a short time prior to the war organized and conducted a dancing class in Beverly. I had been one of the youngest members of his class. He was certainly proficient in teaching the young how to dance, whether equally expert as to how to shoot, I never learned. I thought my past acquaintance might be helpful in getting a pass. So I felt quite hopeful in applying to the new Commander, with the result that I got my pass all right, but with the thought in mind as I was leaving Headquarters, that it was given to get rid of me, as my former instructor in dancing didn’t evince any great enthusiasm over renewing our acquaintance. Of course his Adjutant and other Officials were present during our interview.
There was another (commander?) of a Virginia Federal Regiment stationed at Beverly quite a while. The better class of citizens were afraid of him – military prisons were too convenient.’ He inspired neither confidence nor respect. I think it was during his rule that some young ladies were arrested, charged with disloyalty, but finally secured their release by taking the oath and promising to be more discreet, not to wave Confederate flags, and possibly not to sing “Dixie.” I was absent from Beverly at the time.
Then there was Lt. Colonel Hall of the 10th West Virginia regiment, rough spoken, but sensible, just and kindhearted. I have only pleasant recollections of him; and there were many excellent men in his regiment. But there was.another of that same regiment, probably the most dreaded Ruler during the whole period of the war – probably sent off more innocent citizens from the community, without their being given an opportunity for a hearing, to the several military prisons, many of whom never lived to return to their homes. This was the same T. M. Harris, who later, as General Harris was a member of the infamous military court that tried and convicted Mrs. Surratt and sent her to the scaffold.
Then we had General Averell, well thought of by many, a West Point man, of some ability, but capable of closing his eyes, rather than to be troubled with investigating the innocence or guilt of one under arrest.
Then we had General B. F. Kelly, who had been desperately wounded in the engagement at Philippi, a most kindly gentleman, sensible and just. What a blessing it would have been to our people could he have been in command at Beverly all of the time.
One day there appeared on the streets, entering Beverly a well-mounted group of officers, which proved to be General Sullivan and his staff. Some hour or two later, there appeared at our front entrance a strange officer who upon being met at the front door by one of my parents, informed the parent that General Sullivan directed that the house be vacated, that he wished to occupy it for his Headquarters. Just think of what it was to be under Yankee rule. Well, fortunately, the Federal Army had a telegraph line extending to Beverly and beyond, and civilians were permitted to send telegrams, when the line was not otherwise in use. Still more fortunately for us, only a short time previously, we had entertained at our home, for the day, the General commanding the District of Northern Western Virginia with Headquarters at Clarksburg. A telegram at once went to him from my father acquainting him (General Kelly) with the situation, the unexpected demand; with the result the house was not vacated and nothing further was heard from General Sullivan. He had his headquarters elsewhere.
Then we had for quite a while a Colonel Moore of the 9tb Ohio Regiment – Infantry, all Germans from Cincinnati. And after that, through the fall of 1864, to the time of the Rosser (Rossiter?) raid, Colonel Youart of the 8th Ohio; kindly and just to everyone: and many sensible good men in his regiment; they seemed to be of the better class. From the time of the return of the Federal Army, following the Rossier fight, to the final evacuation of Beverly, I am unable to recall who was in command of the post, except for a while a Colonel Enochs.
During these four years, quite a number of buildings in Beverly, that had been vacated when their occupants had refugeed south, and vacant public buildings, had been completely destroyed by the soldiers; the material being taken and used in the construction of their winter quarters. For instance, the citizens had just completed an academy, a substantial brick building, standing a short distance north of the cemetery. The academy had never been occupied. This building soon disappeared, I presume to build chimneys with the brick; later the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches and the two parsonages went; the residences of Absolom Crawford, Bernard L. Brown, William Hamilton, Phillip Keesey, Parkison Collett, and Rev. Thomas Collett. I don’t recall any others.
Aside from the excitement when the several fights occurred, it was not uncommon for a report to be started that the “Rebels” were coming; this would usually last for two or three days and cause considerable excitement and help to keep alive or renew suspicion against such citizens as were not considered any too loyal – they being suspected of being over-wise about any such movements of the Confederates.
During the big battles in the Valley and eastern Virginia, we could, seemingly, always hear, distinctly, the artillery, it was wonderfully distinct, and although there was the telegraph line, if the battle was favorable to the Confederates, the news leaked out very slowly, when otherwise, we got it quick. This was so generally the case, that when the news was not given out promptly, we knew the Confederates had won, and in a few days, when the newspapers arrived, our conjecture would be verified, of course, much colored.
We were not allowed to receive through the mail, within the border of Western Virginia, such Democratic papers, as the New York “Day Book,” the Cincinnati “Inquirer” and similar papers from which one could have gotten the war news less colored. An uncle of mine residing on an island in the Ohio River, and whose post office was on the Virginia side, had to have his copy of the Cincinnati “Inquirer” mailed to him to an Ohio post office, and send specially over there to get it. I suppose had this been made known to the military authorities, he would have gotten into trouble.
I will not attempt to give an account of the several fights that took place in Beverly, as they have been described in articles heretofore published. I was not there at the time of the Imboden raid, late in April 1863, but very soon afterwards, when I returned from school, had all particulars from my father who was present.
Then early in July was the Wm. L. Jackson fight that lasted part of two days. The Federals and Confederates were on opposite sides of the town, with Beverly in between. The only casualties that occurred in the town, as I now recall, was a cannon ball passed through a chimney of the Leonard Hotel; another passed through the chimney of Henry Suiter’s residence, causing sufficient fright, that they removed the sick wife of Judson Suiter to a neighboring residence. Of course, occasional shot might and did drop any place. The second day General Averell arrived with reinforcements and Jackson had to get out, but his retreat was managed with such skill that his loss was negligible.
Immediately, following the fight, Col. T. M. Harris, mad at allowing himself to be surprised by Jackson, and, who at the time of the Imboden raid, had remarked he was coming back to Beverly to spend the 4th of July, sent armed guards out for several miles north of Beverly and gathered all the citizens they could find and marched them into town. They were lined up on the street. I was present and saw and heard everything that was said. Harris walked along the line and questioned each man as to whether he was a Union man. Whenever the answer was “my sympathy is with the South,” or “I am a constitutional Union man,” the order came “take two steps to the front.” There were thirteen that stepped to the front. Without any opportunity whatever to be heard, or explanation given, they were rushed off to Fort Delaware, a military prison, from whence but few of them returned alive. One of these prisoners, whose answer was that he was a “constitutional Union man,” was a Republican, lived to get back, and continued to be a Republican the rest of his days.
A few days after the Wm. L. Jackson fight, the commander of the post sent an officer with a guard through the town and gathered up citizens and marched them west of Beverly Foothills on the Yokum Farm and compelled them to work, digging trenches for fortifications . By accident, I escaped being taken along with the others. This resulted in some of the young men soon thereafter going south and enlisting in the Confederate army. In the late war the Germans were severely censured for subjecting French citizens to similar labor.
There was no other fight in Beverly, until the Captain Ben. Hill raid, the last of October, 1864. This was a desperate fight, right in town, much of it hand to hand, so I was informed by participants from both sides. I was absent at the time. The Confederates were outnumbered; but attributed their defeat to the fact that Captain Hill was shot down, supposed to be killed in the heat of the engagement. The Confederates retreated fighting across the bridge, leading West. The battle was near the Wilbur Strader house, extending towards Mt. Iser.
The next and last fight in Beverly was when General Rosser arrived the morning of January 11, 1865, with a force of 310 men, attacking the Federals in camp at or before daybreak, just where the fight with Captain Ben. Hill took place. The Federals composed of parts of the 8th and 34th Ohio regiments were under the command of Col. Youart. Rosser captured about everything. How many prisoners, no one knows; many escaped after capture, including Col. Youart. Rosser, a few days later, turned over to the authorities at Staunton 580. The battle was fought in zero weather, which continued for a number of days. I remember seeing five dead Federal soldiers lying in the road between where the Presbyterian Church stands and the Wilbur Strader residence.
As before stated, there were no courts held in Beverly. The formation of the new state of West Virginia, however, brought about a change – new officials. A very large majority of the citizens of Randolph County were strongly opposed to the formation of a new state. With but very few exceptions, they were afraid to vote their sentiments at the polls, as the Federal authorities classed all those opposed to such formation as “Rebels” – This meant danger of being sent to prison, consequently very few voted. The new state officials were very much afraid of falling into the hands of the Confederates. They didn’t know what punishment might be meted out to those regarded as traitors to their state. So any time a report was circulated that the “Rebels” were coming, it would result in a hurried scurrying of these officials in the direction of supposed safety. And some persons having nothing much else to do in the way of amusement were not averse to occasionally originating and encouraging the circulation of such report.
Judge Robert Irvine, an elderly bachelor lawyer of Weston, was our new West Virginia Circuit Judge – had practiced law in Weston for many years. He, as was the case with quite a number of persons from Eastern Virginia who had settled in the western part of the state, became ultra-unionists, and were decidedly partisan in their feelings. My recollection of this gentleman is that he did not try to hold court in Beverly more than once or twice during the period of hostilities, and then, a report being started that the “Rebels” were coming, he adjourned Court hastily, hurriedly mounted his horse, and in the language common of the day “skedaddled.” On several occasions when time for a term of Court would come, a message would be sent, that due to information of an approaching “Rebel” raid, Court would not be held. He was quite timid and the public was aware of it. He continued to hold Court at Beverly for sometime after the war. The Court House had become so dilapidated by the soldiers having access of it, that it could not be used; so court was held in the vacant Blackman Storehouse, diagonally across the street – now the Bosworth building. Some years after the war, Judge Irvine died. Judge Henry Brannon, who had been named his Executor, told me that among the old Judge’s effects, he found a Negro wig, that had evidently been sent to him by some anonymous hot, southern partisan, who detested his extreme radicalism.
Sometime after the close of the war, I was visiting in a town at some distance from home. A gentleman I was with had occasion to visit a law office, to which I accompanied him. While he was engaged in conversation with one of the lawyers present, I put in my time examining the large fine library. I discovered the name had been scratched off of a great many of the books where it had been written on the back with pen and ink. The scratching had not been thorough, as I was able to decipher on a number of the books the name of D. Goff. I then took occasion to estimate the number of volumes so erased. Upon my return to Beverly, I gave this information to my father’s fast friend, Col. Goff. The Colonel at once addressed a note to the lawyer, who had at one time been, Commander of the Post at Beverly, informing him that unless his law library was returned to him at once, he would institute proceedings for their recovery and prosecute him. Needless to say, more than 100 volumes, a valuable selection of law books, came to the Colonel promptly from the former Commander of the Post.
Not long after the war, Mr. Joseph Hart, who lived at the top of Rich Mountain on the battlefield, expressed the wish that the Confederate dead, who had been buried in the trenches not far from his residence, could be removed. In consequence, arrangements were made by a few of the citizens for their removal. Calvin Collett contributed the necessary ground on top of Mount Iser. Col. Goff, Dr. Yokum, Mr. Cresap, George Leonard, and myself contributed the funds necessary for the removal, for which we employed Moses Phillips. The work was carefully done, the bodies being removed from the two trenches and interred in individual graves, accompanied with the discovery, that instead of there being 135 dead as stated in the official report of General George B. McClellan, there were but 23 dead and which included the remains of Mr. John N. Hughes, which were recognized from his clothing, there being no trouble experienced in segregating the individual remains.
After the Rich Mountain Battle, the Federals used the house of Col. David Goff for a hospital for the Federal wounded and sick and the house of Parkison Collett for a hospital for the Confederate wounded and sick; some eleven of the latter died, and were buried immediately back of the house. The remains of those so interred, were also removed under the contract with Phillips and buried with their comrades on Mt. Iser. The Collett house when vacated was soon after destroyed. The Goff house continued to be used throughout the war, which accounted for its escaping destruction.
An incident, which affected only one poor fellow, as far as I am aware, (I knew nothing of his family) I feel should be related. I was on the west side of the river one day and in returning home through the fields, passed a Regiment lined up near their camp. Being interested to see what was on hand, I stopped to take it in. Soon a corporal or sergeant with a guard of probably four men with bayonets fixed, with a young soldier, a prisoner in their center, appeared at one end of the line: From which point they marched in front of, and the entire length of the line, preceded by the regimental band playing “The Rogue’s March.” When they reached the far end of the line, the guard was halted, the young man proceeded on alone – drummed out of camp, supposed to be the deepest disgrace that could be heaped upon him. The offense was having exercised his right of suffrage, and voting against the formation of the State of West Virginia. His regiment being a Virginia Federal Regiment, and which act, in the opinion of the Colonel of the regiment, constituted disloyalty. I later learned from those who knew him that he was an unusually bright fellow of seemingly good character and had voted in accordance with his conscientious convictions. I think he was from Wheeling or vicinity.
In closing this article, it may not seem amiss to refer to letters from General McClellan and later from President Hayes, to their respective wives, written from Beverly, describing the beauties and grandeur of scenery in our Tygarts Valley and the surrounding mountains. The letters of each have since been published. McClellan wrote “that the scenery was such as the old ‘Masters’ dreamed of, but never realized,” President Hayes’ description not being much short of this.