November 27, 1863
was now 2 o'clock of the morning of 27th November. The fog was not
so heavy, while the moon, scarcely perceptible, was struggling through
masses of scud overhead. I awoke up all hands in the next room,
explained what I had seen, and my reasons for quitting the house
at once under cover of the fog, and gain our construction train.
None were inclined to move from their comfortable beds of blankets.
So I returned to the large room again. About 3 a.m., I went out
and around the house saw but three guards, two of whom were very
sleepy, and noticed that all the small fires which I had seen were
now extinguished. I laid down on my blankets fully dressed with
exception of overcoat, hat and boots. My satchel, containing clothing,
razors, mathematical instruments, and several large roast beef sandwiches,
put between two new tin plates, hung on the wall near me. My field
glass [was] on the door knob, pistol under my blanket pillow . .
. in its holster. I kept my belt on as my prismatic compass was
attached to it. Colvin and Rhinehart laid down in another corner
of the room, and soon were sound asleep. Walsh dozed over the fire
which was now very low, seated in an old broken chair, with pipe
to console him.
I was very nervous and could not sleep
for a long while. I dozed off in a cat nap at 3:45 a.m., and knew
nothing more until awakened by a rough tap on the head with a pistol
barrel. I was instantly awake, and was amazed to find a soldier
kneeling beside me who wore blue clothes, and who cocked his pistol
at once and pressing the muzzle to my head ordered me to "be silent
or he would blow a hole through me." Then, in an undertone he told
me to "get into my clothes right smart" as Mosby wanted me. At the
same instant five or six other soldiers came in and immediately
covered Walsh and Rhinehart with pistols demanding silence, then
greenbacks. As they were all dressed in our army cavalry overcoats,
I thought it was a huge joke at first played on us by our own cavalry,
but was soon convinced that the enemy were upon us in reality. I
got on my boots and coat the quickest I ever did, while one Rebel
seized my pistol from under my pillow which he found fully loaded.
Mosby himself interrogated me at once.
He wanted to know where our cavalry were! And how many of them.
He opened his blue cavalry overcoat, showing a Rebel uniform underneath.
Of course I knew nothing about our cavalry and told him so, which
he did not believe. After some hard words, he said, "it would be
an easy thing for him to hang me up to one of the trees in front
of the house." I said that it only showed a coward to treat unarmed
men so. One of his officers (a lieutenant [Periere?]) hearing me
say that I would not give any information as to our forces, struck
me with his pistol barrel over the right eye which stunned me for
a minute. Then others rushed into the room and ordered me out with
the rest advising haste, and I was hustled out by the gang to the
front of the house.
Mosby was an undersized, thin visaged
looking fellow, with a sickly looking yellow mustache. He wore an
United States officer's blue overcoat over a uniform of gray, had
on fine silk stitched top boots worth $18, which he had probably
relieved some sutler's wagon of in some of his raids. On the outside
of the house, I found the line of stationary cavalrymen, while eight
or ten others were riding around the prisoners some partly dressed
or bareheaded, pointing their pistols, swearing, and demanding greenbacks.
The fog was quite thick yet. The scud
was flying low and the air was quite cold and damp. Some of the
prisoners handed up to the Rebels all they had. They did not get
any of mine, as I dodged around in the crowd without being seen
distinctly in the fog by the Rebel horsemen. I had only $8, as I
did not see our paymaster when he was at headquarters some days
before. Walsh, and several other clerks had been paid and he had
to surrender his $86 quickly or be shot. I noticed that all the
Rebel cavalry wore U.S. blue army overcoats over their grey uniforms
underneath, and that they had two pistols in each holster beside
those worn in their belts. These were without doubt the cavalry
which we all had seen filing into the woods in rear of the house
while we were pitching at quoits at sundown. The capture was made
so easily that it maddened me beyond conception and I bitterly regretted
not going to the train alone.
The enemy were in a bad humor, as
they had ridden some miles to capture us and got no valuable plunder.
There was much officers' baggage in another room in the house, blankets,
valises, etc., but in the darkness they were not discovered. There
were piles of oats, and provisions, out of doors, some in the log
houses near the house. These were not seen either by the enemy on
account of darkness and fog. The Rebel troopers only came into the
large room to capture three of us. As there were no blinds to the
windows [they had] walked their horses up to them, and of course
could look right in as the fire lit up everything plainly in it.
I thought at one time that I heard a horse's step, and laid it to
one of the wounded horses which were lying near the front door.
. . . The Rebels had counted us and had heard the songs, but were
now in a hurry to get away to attack the construction train, which
was still parked across the railroad while all were yet asleep.
It was now near daybreak, and the
fog was yet dense in the low grounds. All the rebel troopers mounted,
and ordered us prisoners to march towards the railroad without noise
or we would be instantly sabred. There were eleven of us and we
started off in a line in front of the Rebel horsemen. We came to
the high bank near the culveret on the track, clambered over it,
and gained the level plain beyond. The faint glimmer of two or three
camp fires through the fog showed where the train was parked. Some
of us had left coats, hats, and shoes behind. There were five only
who had overcoats. We were now crowded into a mass, and the dim
outline of the wagons could be seen about 200 feet away.
The Rebel horsemen formed a long single
line, when some one of them said to us "get in thar quick and loose
them ar mules or get cut down where you are." There was no help
for it, as we knew the Rebels would not scruple to murder us at
once. So everyone made a rush for the wagons and mules while I heard
Mosby give orders, "draw sabre, forward, charge." They came on at
a sharp trot, driving us before them on the train like sheep. Not
a sound came from the sleeping guard as we ran in upon the unsuspecting
line of wagons. These were parked in three or four long lines, about
twenty feet apart, about 200 wagons with the mules unharnessed,
and all tied to the wagon poles with short ropes or halters. The
guard on the train were in front about 200 feet distant. We struck
the wagons in the rear and flank. The guard were all asleep. So
were the teamsters, most of whom were Negroes and who were snoozing
away inside the wagons.
As we struck the train, the Rebels
yelled, and charged at full gallop between the wagons shooting into
them: Everything now was uproar and confusion. The mules kicked
and brayed. Pistol shots, yells, and curses were heard on all sides,
all at once. Our guard on the wagons began firing right into the
wagon train, while two or three wagon tops caught fire and the blaze
soon made everything visible, while the Rebels yelled to the mules
and shot at every teamster who showed himself. This continued for
some minutes. I jumped in among four mules who were hitched with
snap halters, [and] let two of them loose. They ran off into the
fog to join many others who were running to the ditch at the foot
of the railroad bank for water. They followed the "bell mule" as
was their habit.
The firing from our guard now increased.
A bullet whizzed past my right ear [and] struck the mule which I
was trying to loosen from the pole, who let both hind legs go high
in the air just missing me. I let go, and dodged under the wagon.
The ground was level, and the bullets struck and whizzed past me,
or hit the wheels. My eye was now so swollen that I could hardly
see, while the blood covered my face, neck, and clothes. In the
excitement I had taken little notice of the wound before. The pistol
barrel had cut clear to the cheek bone. I had a white pocket handkerchief
and bound it around my head.
The wagon tops were now burning, as
was hay and fodder inside. The Rebels were driving off all the mules
in sight, while pistol firing and musketry from our wagon guard
made it lively enough. I got under another wagon, when hearing a
rumbling overhead, was somewhat surprised to see a large fat Negro
drop from it to the ground, all in a heap quite close to me. He
rolled his eyes, and seeing me, yelled "Lor gor amighty Massa don't
burn my wagon."
At the same moment a Rebel horseman
rode up, and pointing a pistol through the spokes of the wagon wheels,
yelled to me "get out from under thar an ketch them mules." I got
out quick, grabbed a mule at the wagon pole but he had tangled up
his rope so that I could not unfasten him. I tried another, who
broke his rope and dragged me off twenty feet or so. When he let
go his hind feet, his hoofs fanned my face with the wind made by
them. I had been covered with the Rebel's pistol until the mule
got away with me tugging at the halter. He now rode on, and as I
was in the fog now and out of the range of our rear guard musketry
thought only of escape. The mules were yet in frantic fright braying,
kicking, and streaming all over the ground in the fog on the gallop.
I struck off towards the culveret in the railroad embankment where
I knew there was a chance to get through, and good cover. This culveret
was built of masonry, about fifteen feet wide and eight to ten high
with a shallow stream running through it. I caught one of the runaway
mules but could not mount him as he was so restless.
Just then a mounted Rebel came up
and ordered me to mount or be shot. I asked him to "give me a foot,"
which to my surprise he did, having first dismounted himself to
do so. He followed me up however and drove my mule clean over the
embankment, with the flat of his sabre, where I found myself among
a hundred or more mules, with Rebel horsemen guarding them, while
upon some of the mules sat all my late companions who had been captured
with me all looking woe begone and "tuckered out." Munson had escaped
on muleback, however, but there were several new men who had just
been captured from the train guard, five in number, also seven or
eight Negro teamsters also captured. These were holding the mules,
and all in mortal terror.
The firing of the wagon guard now
died away. One or two balls came towards hitting some of the mules,
and scaring the others, and at one time it looked like a general
stampede. The Rebels now made haste to get away, as it was getting
quite light, and their small numbers would soon be discovered to
our men. The mules were driven loose, with the bell mule ahead as
usual. There were over a hundred of them, all fat and in prime condition,
for they only had to draw wagons filled with picks, shovels, ropes,
etc., and made short marches with plenty of time for frequent rests.
Part of the Rebel cavalry rode to the front. Some on each side,
others in the rear to drive the mules up. All us prisoners were
mounted on mules. The Negro teamsters had to walk or run, and keep
up or be shot in their tracks. There were twenty-three of us prisoners
now, all told. Streaks of light appeared in the east but a thin
fog was in all the low grounds. The cavalcade headed straight for
our late headquarters at Miller's house on the hill where we had
left an hour or so before.
We passed within one hundred feet
of Miller's house. All was dark and quiet within. The rest of the
clerks were not with us, and we wondered how they had been overlooked
by Mosby, and were glad that they had time to hide or escape. I
had left my horse in one of the log houses used for a stable. I
did not say anything of this of course. Mosby did not know of it.
Some of our fellows would get him instead. We crossed the field
and woods at the rear of the house at a walk and took the wood road
towards Hazel River.
We had to ride the mules bareback,
without halters. Some had broken their halters, others had a small
piece of rope tied around the head. This was looped by us over the
noses of the animal which served in a measure to hold him in, but
they would very frequently slip off, and the army mule would have
his own sweet will, and dash off sideways, endways and all kinds
of way, while the luckless rider had to regain the dangling rope
as best he may. To dismount or fall off was sure death from a Rebel
pistol. The large drove of mules were driven in a herd loosely.
They would break away on a gallop and a general stampede was had
every few minutes while we had to follow suit. The Rebels cut long
switches in the woods to drive up the stragglers.
My wounded face had now become very
painful and swollen so that I could not see but with the other eye.
The mule I rode was not a fat one, and the chafing was irksome.
I was terribly thirsty too which was enhanced by my chewing up several
small plans while it was yet dark. They were very important sketches
of the routes to be followed by the III and V Corps now on the march
to Mine Run.
Mosby was very anxious to get away,
as he feared a cavalry pursuit. He hurried us up for several miles,
as fast as the mules could be driven. I noticed when it got to be
light that Mosby or any of his gang had not been hit or wounded
at all, by the continuous firing of thirty or forty of our wagon
guard indiscriminately in among, mules, wagons, and mounted rebels
numbering 200 or more. It was wonderful bad shooting.
The Rebels were nearly all young men.
Some looking not more than 18 years old. They were dressed in home
made jeans or wool, had very fine light-built horses, good arms,
and made long marches mostly at night, while a few ears of shelled
corn was fed to the horses on the march. All the Rebels had on good
top boots, the plunder of some unfortunate sutler's shop or wagon.
There was little or no discipline in Mosby's gang. Captains and
lieutenants were called Bill, Sam or Jim as the case might be, by
the privates who seemed to be independent of the officers. Nothing
but plunder kept them together. They seldom showed fight when attacked
by our cavalry, and as they knew every bye road and short cuts through
the woods from Loudoun County to Warrenton Junction managed to get
away, when surprised or pursued. Their general rendezvous was at
Aldie's Gap, in the Blue Ridge mountains. . . .
One young horseman paid particular
attention to me as we rode together conversing freely. He said that
Mosby had been down to the construction train after sundown and
in the dense fog then prevailing was taken for a Union officer.
(He wore a U.S. blue overcoat.) He learned from the officer in charge
of the train that it would hitch up and move at daylight. He rode
through the camp, counted the wagons and guard and made up his mind
to have most of them by attacking. He, unfortunately for us, scooped
our party in at the same time.
After leaving our late headquarters
at Miller's House the cavalcade of horsemen and about 117 loose
mules went due westward three or four miles when we struck Hazel
River, a small stream branching from the Rappahannock.
The sun was just above the hill tops
when we reached Woodville, a collection of a dozen houses, weatherbeaten
and depopulated except at one or two houses where several women
and Negroes were gathered to see us come up. Mosby had been here
for a week or more only a short distance in our rear where he had
made the place his headquarters. I noticed now that the mules were
all very fine ones, all fat, and many were spotted light yellow,
while others were all cream colored or dark red. The light colored
ones were the most valuable. The Rebels were in high glee at the
capture of so fine a lot. They were afraid that our cavalry would
pursue them at daybreak or during the day and hurried both the mules
and prisoners by roads only known to themselves. We waded the Hazel
River, here only about 200 feet wide. The Negro teamsters who were
prisoners like ourselves had to wade through it holding on to the
mules. The water was breast high and cold, of course, as ice had
made some days before.
A young Rebel rode alongside
me all the way. He was not over seventeen. We conversed freely on
the situation. He admired my waistcoat and sleeve buttons so much
that I cut them off and gave them to him. They were staff buttons
double gilt. He could sell them to the Rebel officers for $10 apiece
in Confederate money. I reserved only two on my waistcoat, so he
got ten. In return he kept the rest of the Rebels away from annoyance,
saying that I was his prisoner. I had only $8 in greenbacks. My
Rebel companion said that they were worthless in Richmond and offered
me $10 in Confederate bills for them, knowing that I would be robbed
by some of the gang at the first place we stopped at. I exchanged
money with him. (When I did get to Richmond I found out that it
took $25 of Confederate money to equal one of ours!) We arrived
at Woodville about five a.m. and halted to count mules and prisoners.
The Rebel cavalrymen yelled and threw
up their slouch hats, while the mules kicked, brayed and plunged
in all sorts of ways. Mosby went into the best looking house and
brought out a lot of women and Negro servants or slaves to look
at us. We were a hard looking crowd, some without shoes or hats,
jaded and hungry. Walsh had no hat, so he had tied his blanket over
his head, [which, with] his white hair and moustache, gave him the
appearance of a mounted Arab. He scared the Negroes, who got away
in the rear, especially when one of the Rebels yelled out, "say
Yank where's your horns?" I must have made a sorry appearance, with
eye all swollen up and the dried blood all over my face and neck.
Mosby sent one of the gang to say that a "doctor would fix up my
face" if I wanted him to do so. I declined his services however.
With a wet handkerchief I now washed off most of the blood. [I]
got a piece of rock salt from one of them. This I put in the wet
handkerchief and bound it over the eye.
After staying a few minutes in which
we were not allowed to dismount, the drove of mules were driven
off ahead while we took another road, crossed fields and bye roads
and went at a sharp trot. About sixty Rebels guarded us. The rear
Rebel was a brutal looking fellow dressed in Zouave uniform, and
a deserter from our army. He kept his pistol pointed at us, swearing
he would shoot the first one of us who should get off, or be thrown
by the mules we rode. Before reaching Hazel River, during the darkness,
I had stealthily managed to tear up all my papers, letters, and
small plans, which I always carried, and had strewed the route with
the pieces for a mile or more.
I also managed to unbuckle my belt,
and throw it into some bushes while the mules were stampeding. This
was to give a clue to any of our fellows who might come after us
in pursuit. None came at this time. We all clung to our mules and
went at a hard gallop two or three miles, when the pace was slackened.
A Rebel lieutenant was in charge of the party and I rode next to
him for some miles. He said that they had made a good haul and had
been scouting along the Rappahannock at Kelly's Ford and above for
over a week. When it was known that our army had marched they came
in on our rear as was usual to pick up all they could get.
He said that he was going to take
us to Madison Court House. I told him that our army would be there
before we could get there. Mosby was not with us now or perhaps
the line of march would be changed. Having made several maps of
this region I was conversant with the situation of the towns in
the vicinity but not the topography. I now told the lieutenant what
he had missed in stores, private baggage, etc., left at Miller's
house, which riled him much, and he was inclined to return there
only that our fellows would now be waiting for him.
He informed me that all the headquarters
clerks in the Rebel army had horses and carried either pistols or
muskets. It was customary in our army for all soldiers who were
detailed from their regiments to serve as clerks at headquarters
to turn over all their arms and accoutrements to the quartermasters
before leaving camp. And none were allowed horses but march and
keep up with the headquarters trains. So the Rebel custom was better
than ours. For had we horses or arms, we would have all gotten away
from Millers house to the train before capture.
We were now approaching the high hills
near Rappahannock Court House. The Blue Ridge Mountains were in
plain view for miles on right and left of us. Dense woods came up
close to the road and the sun shone warm and brightly. We still
kept hurrying on however, much to our discomfort, for we were now
hungry, tired and chafed badly by riding bare-backed mules. We got
a drink or two from the brooks which ran across the road, but had
nothing to eat. The rest of the Rebels with the mules joined us
while going through a large field about noon. They followed on behind
for a mile. When they would stampede and come rushing on at full
gallop we could not hold in our mules and the whole were on a dead
run for a mile before we could hold up. The sun came out hot, which
made us perspire freely, and we were thirsty too but could not stop
for water. At 1:30 p.m. our pace was quickened to a gallop and we
went several miles without holding up.
The road up the hills was narrow and
full of stones. We could only go slow, and walked the mules all
the way to the summit. This was a great relief, as by friction many
of us had chafed off the skin on our legs from which blood had soaked
through to the mules hide. The road wound up to the steep summit
when all held up to give men and animals a breathing spell. The
summit was nearly level for hundreds of acres, covered with a short
grass yet quite green, which the horses and mules ate voraciously.
The sun had gone down and the air grew chilly. Out of the grassy
surface grew hundreds of small hillocks covered with pine trees,
light green in color. They looked like so many islands in a lake.
The view was for many miles in extent, but the dark shadows were
in the deep ravines below, and slight wreaths of fog were forming
in them. The Blue Ridge stood up against the sky like a black wall.
I was sorry that we could not have got here during the earlier part
of the day so as to have a better view.
We had passed only three or four tumble
down half ruined houses since leaving Woodville, and had not met
a single human being or animal thus far. After the mules and horses
had eaten of the grass for twenty minutes or so, without dismounting
we started off in single file to descend into the lowlands. Mosby,
and most of his men with the loose mules had left us, but the twenty
three Rebel cavalry with the lieutenant guarded us closely. The
Negroes captured rode on mules since leaving Woodville. They, knowing
the country, were liable to get away, or drop off their mules while
going through the woods. They were eight in number, and two cavalrymen
rode close to them all the time, pistol in hand ready to shoot them
instantly if they fell off their mule or tried to run away. These
Negroes were in mortal terror all the time, rolled their eyes, but
said nothing. The Rebels questioned them closely but could get no
information of the Union army. They were all contrabands however
and had run away from their masters in Culpeper and vicinity, and
had just been put at work driving teams when captured. A mule will
travel faster and do more pulling when a Negro yells or talks to
them, than any white man ever was known could make do.
We now filed down through a deep mountain
gorge with ragged sides covered with trees and huge boulders. .
. . We found a good hard road at the bottom of the hills, and after
many turnings came upon large level fields which were cut up into
wide ditches eight or ten feet wide, and full of water. There was
nothing left but to jump these on our mules. The Rebel cavalry horses
went over easily, but our mules balked of course, pitching us over
their heads, and running every way but the right one. The Rebels
covered us with their pistols, and we had to catch the mules again
and mount. My mule cleared three or four of these ditches in good
style, so I had no trouble. It was now 9:30 p.m. starlight and quite
cold fog in the low grounds. We came up to a farm house with several
outbuildings and log houses around it.
After a short halt in which the Rebel
lieutenant consulted with the snuff colored proprietor about keeping
and feeding us overnight, we moved on to the next farm house to
try there. The party were too much for this old farmer to feed so
he recommended us farther on. This farmer had good reasons for not
entertaining us, as his payment would be made in a promissary note
charged to the Confederate government payable "After the War" he
did not "see it" in this light. So we had to gull the next farmer
to board us at the bogus government's expense. After a ride of a
mile or more, we came to another farm house. He, hearing the tramp
of horses, was at his front gate. We halted 150 feet away while
he and the lieutenant signalled by motions of arms. Everything was
all right here. So we all dismounted, led our respective mules to
a fenced-in enclosure or corral, and left them for the night.
It was now ll p.m. and we were all
fagged out, sore, hungry and thirsty. A large log house near the
dwelling which had been used as a kitchen was assigned to us. We
were marched in and left to ourselves for a while. A large fire
was built of large logs in the huge fireplace. Buckets of well water
were brought with gourds to drink out of. Then those who had pipes
and tobacco smoked, passing the pipes to those who had none. I had
a good stock of tobacco, and shared it all with my companions in
misery. The Negro prisoners were taken somewhere else. There were
two or three long benches in the room, and pine table. The windows
were covered with solid board shutters tightly closed and nailed
from the outside. There were five or six Rebel guard kept on the
outside all night. The place was very clean anyhow.
About midnight there came two
Negroes bringing a large wooden trencher of fresh boiled beef cut
into small junks, with several large loaves or "pones" of hot cornbread.
No knives or forks were had so we used our fingers as old Adam had
to do. The rations were divided as equally as could be guessed and
we ate like wild animals as long as the food lasted. Then five Rebel
guards came in not armed as far as we could see and said that "we
must sleep on the flo" and that they would sleep with us. Those
who had overcoats or blankets soon lay down on the clean floor and
being thoroughly exhausted were all asleep in a little while. I
could not sleep for hours and as I listened to the pacing up and
down of the Rebel guard outside, thought over all the things which
had happened since the night before.