James W. (James William) Head.

History and comprehensive description of Loudoun County, Virginia [electronic resource] online

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Online LibraryJames W. (James William) HeadHistory and comprehensive description of Loudoun County, Virginia [electronic resource] → online text (page 12 of 15)
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stimulated, and the resources of the County were being daily

Following the resolute lead of the other southern States,
the legislature of Virginia, on January 14, 1861, authorized
a State convention to consider the advisability of secession,
and the members elected in pursuance thereof met in the
capitol, at Richmond, at 12 o'clock m., on Wednesday, the
13 th day of the February following. They constituted what was
perhaps the ablest body of men that ever assembled in the
State, and the friends and foes of secession were alike repre-
sented. The delegates from Loudoun were John Janney and
John A. Carter, both of whom had represented her in the con-
stitutional convention of 1850,51.

Roll call was followed by the election of a permanent chair-
man, Mr. Janney, of Loudoun, receiving a majority of the
whole number of votes cast. Two of the members were then
designated a committee to wait upon the president of the con-
vention to inform him of his election and conduct him to his
seat. Whereupon he addressed the convention as follows:*

'■'Gentlemen of the Convention: I tender you my sincere and cordial
thanks for the honor you have bestowed upon me by calling me to pre-
side over the deUberations of the most important convention that has
assembled in this State since the year 1776.

*The unabridged publication in this work of Mr. Janney 's speech of
acceptance has seemed specially appropriate. It is the plea of a Loudoun
man for conservative action boldly put forth at a time when men's pas-
sions were inflamed almost beyond human credulity, and while he him-
self was the presiding officer of a body which had met to decide the
destiny of the Old Dominion and whose deliberations were to be watched
with breathless interest by the people of both hemispheres.


"I am without experience in the performance of the duties to which
you have assigned me, with but little knowledge of parliamentary law
and the rules which are to govern our proceedings, and I have nothing
to promise you but fidelity and impartiality. Errors I know I shall
commit, but these will be excused by your kindness, and promptly cor-
rected by your wisdom.

"Gentlemen, it is now almost seventy-three years since a convention
of the people of Virginia was assembled in this hall to ratify the Con-
stitution of the United States, one of the chief objects of which was to
consolidate, not the Government, but the Union of the States.

"Causes which have passed, and are daily passing, into history,
which will set its seal upon them, but which I do not mean to review,
have brought the Constitution and the Union into imminent peril, and
Virginia has come to the rescue. It is what the whole country ex-
pected of her. Her pride as well as her patriotism — her interest as well
as her honor, called upon her with an emphasis which she could not
disregard, to save the monuments of her own glory. Her honored son
who sleeps at Mount Vernon, the political mecca of all future ages, pre-
sided over the body which framed the Constitution; and another of her
honored sons, whose brow was adorned with a civic wreath which will
never fade, and who now reposes in Orange county, was its principal
architect, and one of its ablest expounders — and, in the administration
of the government, five of her citizens have been elected to the chief
magistracy of the Republic.

"It can not be that a Government thus founded and administered can
fail, without the hazard of bringing reproach, either upon the wisdom
of our fathers, or upon the intelligence, patriotism, and virtue of their
descendants. It is not my purpose to indicate the course which this
body will probably pursue, or the measures it may be proper to adopt.
The opinions of today may all be changed tomorrow. Events are
thronging upon us, and we must deal with them as they preseut

"Gentlemen, there is 4, flag which for nearly a century has been
borne in triumph through the battle and the breeze, and which now
floats over this capitol, on which there is a star representing this ancient
Commonwealth, and my earnest prayer, in which I know every member
of this body will cordially unite, is that it may remain there forever,
provided always that its lustre is untarnished. We demand for our own
citizens perfect equality of rights with those of the empire States of
New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, but we ask for nothing that we
will not cheerfully concede to those of Delaware and Rhode Island.

"The amount of responsibility which rests upon this body can not
be exaggerated. When my constituents asked me if I would consent
to serve them here if elected, I answered in the affirmative, but I did so
with fear and trembling. The people of Virginia have, it is true,


reserved to themselves, in a certain contingency, the right to review our
action, but still the measures which we adopt may be fraught with good
or evil to the whole country.

"Is it too much to hope that we, and others who are engaged in the
work of peace and conciliation, may so solve the problems which now
perplex us, as to win back our sisters of the South, who, for what they
d^em sufficient cause, have wandered from their old orbits? May we
not expect that our old sister, Massachusetts, will retrace her steps?
Will she not follow the noble example of Rhode Island, the little State
with a heart large enough for a whole continent? "Will she not, when
she remembers who it was who first drew his sword from the scabbard
on her own soil at Cambridge, and never finally returned it, until her
liberty and independence were achieved, and whence he came, repeal
her obnoxious laws, which many of her wisest and best citizens regard
as a stain upon her legislative records ?

"Gentlemen, this is no party convention. It is our duty on an occa-
sion like this to elevate ourselves into an atmosphere, in which party
passion and prejudice can not exist — to conduct all our deliberations
with calmness and wisdom, and to maintain, with inflexible firmness,
whatever position we may find it necessary to assume."

The proceedings were dignified, solemn, and, at times,
even sad. During the entire session good feelings prevailed
to a remarkable degree. For these harmonious relations credit
is principally due the secessionists. Very often their actions
were regarded with suspicion by their opponents who, at such
times, pursued a policy of obstruction when nothing was to
be gained thereby. But they were given every privilege and
shown every consideration.

On April 17, I86I, the convention, in secret session, passed
the ordinance of secession by a vote of 88 to 5 5 on condition
that it should be submitted to the people for their approval
or rejection at an election to be held the 23d of May for that
purpose. Loudoun's delegates voted solidly against the

In the convention opinions varied as to whether peace or
war would follow secession. The great majority of the mem-
bers, as of the people, believed that peaceful relations would
continue. All truly wished for peace. A number expressed
themselves as fearing war, but this was when opposing seces-
sion. Yet in nearly all the speeches made in the convention


there seemed to be distinguishable a feeling of fear and dread
lest war should follow. However, had war been a certainty-
secession would not have been delayed or defeated.

There was warm discussion on the question of submitting
the ordinance to the people for ratification or rejection.
Many, both before and after the passage of the ordinance,
favored its reference to the people in the vainjhope that the
measure would in this way be frustrated. They declared that,
in a matter of such vital importance, involving the lives and
liberties of a whole people, the ordinance should be submitted
to them for their discussion, and that secession should be at-
tempted only after ratification by a direct vote of the people
on that single issue.

Affecting and exciting scenes followed the passage of the
ordinance. One by one the strong members of the minority
arose and, for the sake of unity at home, surrendered the
opinions of a lifetime and forgot the prejudices of years. This
was done with no feeling of humiliation. To the last they
were treated with distinguished consideration by their

Shortly after the convention began its deliberations a mass
meeting was held in I^eesburg, where the secession sentiment
was practically unanimous, for the purpose of adopting reso-
lutions to be sent to that important body recommending the
immediate passage of the ordinance of secession. The citizens
were addressed by Col. J. M. Kilgore and others.

The vote in Loudoun for the ratification or rejection of the
ordinance of secession, while not close, was somewhat spirited
and marked by slight disturbances at the polls. In practically
every precinct outside the German and Quaker settlements a
majority vote was cast in favor of secession.

No county in the State eclipsed Loudoun in devotion to the
principles on which Virginia's withdrawal from the Union
was based, and the courage displayed by her in maintaining
these principles made her the acknowledged equal of any
community in the Southland.


LoudourCs Participation in the War.

A discussion in this volume of the great Civil War and its
causes has at no time been contemplated, and vain appeals
addressed to surviving Confederate soldiers and Government
record keepers long ago demonstrated the impracticability of
a thorough account of the part borne by Loudoun soldiers in
that grand, uneven struggle of l86l-'65. Their exact num-
bers even can not be ascertained as the original enlistment
records were either lost or destroyed and duplicates never

It may with truth be said that the extent of the service
rendered by Loudoun in this, as well as preceding wars, will
never be fully known or adequately appreciated. However,
certain it is that thousands of her sons espoused the cause of
the Confederacy, hundreds died in its defense, and not a few,
by their valor and devotion, won enduring fame and meritor-
ious mention in the annals of their government.

At home or in the ranks, throughout this trying period of
civil strife, her people, with no notable exceptions, remained
liberal and brave and constant, albeit they probably suffered
more real hardships and deprivations than any other com-
munity of like size in the Southland. There were few Con-
federate troops for its defense, and the Federals held each
neighborhood responsible for all attacks made in its vicinity,
often destroying private property as a punishment.

Both armies, prompted either by fancied military necessity
or malice, burned or confiscated valuable forage crops and
other stores, and nearly every locality, at one time or another,
witnessed depredation, robbery, murder, arson, and rapine.
Several towns were shelled, sacked, and burned, but the
worst damage was done the country districts by raiding parties
of Federals. Much of the destruction is now seen to have been
unnecessary from a military point of view.

Whole armies were subsisted on the products of Loudoun's
fruitful acres. Opposing forces, sometimes only detachments
and roving bands, but quite as often battalions, regiments,
brigades, and even whole divisions were never absent from


the County and the clash of swords and fire of musketry were
an ever-present clamor and one to which Loudoun ears early
became accustomed.

Also, there were times when the main bodies of one or .the
other of both armies were encamped wholly or in part within
her limits, as in September, 1862, when the triumphant army
of Lee, on the eve of the first Maryland campaign, was halted
at Leesburg and stripped of all superfluous transportation,
broken-down horses, and wagons and batteries not supplied
with good horses being left behind;* again, in June, I863,
when Hooker was being held in bounds with his great army
stretched from Manassas, near Bull Run, to Leesburg, near
the Potomac; and yet again, in July, I863, when Lee's army,
falling back from Maryland after the battle of Gettysburg,
was followed by the Federal forces under General Meade, who
crossed the Potomac and advanced through Loudoun.

General Early, after the short and bloody battle of Monoc-
acy, and following his invasion of Maryland and demonstra-
tion against Washington, recrossed the Potomac at White's
Ford, July 14, I864, and, resting near Leesburg, on the l6th
marched to the Shenandoah valley by way of Leesburg and
Purcellville, through Snicker's Gap of the Blue Ridge, with
Jackson's Cavalry in advance.

Pitched battles and lesser engagements were fought at Ed-
wards' Ferry, Balls Bluff, Snickersville (now Bluemont),
Leesburg, Middleburg, Aldie, Hamilton, Waterford, Union,
Ashby's Gap, and other points in the County.

During Stonewall Jackson's investment of Harper's Ferry
in September, 1862, guns were put in position on Loudoun
Heights, supported by two regiments of infantry, and a por-
tion of Jackson's own immediate command was placed with
artillery on a bluffy shoulder of that mountain.

*On the 5th day of September, to the martial strains of " Maryland,
My Maryland " from every band in the army, and with his men cheer-
ing and shouting with delight, Jackson forded the Potomac at Edwards'
Ferry (Ivoudoun County), where the river was broad but shallow, near
the scene of Evan's victory over the Federals in the previous October,
and where Wayne had crossed his Pennsylvania brigade in marching to
the field of Yorktown, in 1781.


The following military organizations were recruited wholly
or in part in I^oudoun County and mustered into the Confed-
erate service: 8th Virginia Regiment (a part of Pickett's
famous fighting division), Loudoun Guard (Company C, 17th
Virginia Regiment), Loudoun Cavalry ("Laurel Brigade"),
and White's Battalion of Cavalry (the "Comanches," 25th
Virginia Battalion). Mosby's command, the "Partisan
Rangers," also attracted several score of her patriotic

The sons of Loudoun, serving in these and other organiza-
tions, bore a distinguished part on every crimsoned field from
Pennsylvania to the coast of Florida.

Garnett's Brigade, to which the 8th Virginia regiment
was attached, was led into action during the memorable charge
on the third day of the battle of Gettysburg. The brigade
moved forward in the front line, and gained the enemy's
strongest position, where the fighting became hand to hand
and of the most desperate character. It went into action with
1,287 men and 140 officers, and after the struggle, of this
number, only about 300 came back slowly and sadly from the
scene of carnage. General Garnett, himself, was shot from
his horse while near the center of the advancing brigade,
within about twenty -five paces of the "stone fence," from
behind which the Federals poured forth their murderous fire.

The Loudoun Rangers (^Federal) .

This volunteer organization consisted of two companies of
disaffected Virginians, all of whom were recruited in the
German settlements northwest of Leesburg. Company A, at
the outset, was commanded by Captain Daniel M. Keyes, of
Lovettsville, who later resigned on account of wounds received
in action. He was succeeded by Captain Samuel C. Means,
of Waterford. Company B's commander was Captain James
W. Grubb. The total enlistment of each company was 120 and
67 J respectively. All the officers and privates were of either
German, Quaker, or Scotch-Irish lineage, the first-named class


The command was mustered into the Federal service at
Lovettsville, the 20th day of June, 1862. Its historian, Briscoe
Goodhart, a member of Company A, in his History of the
Loudoun (Virginia) Rangers, has said that it ''was an inde-
pendent command, organized in obedience to a special order
of the Honorable Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, and
was at first subject to his orders only, but subsequently merged
into the Eighth Corps, commanded at that time by the vener-
able Major General John Ellis Wool. . . ."

The ** Rangers," as the name implies, were scouts and, in
this highly useful capacity, served the enemies of their State
with shameless ardor. But, as a body, they fought few en-
gagements and none of a decisive nature. Their first and,
perhaps, sharpest encounter happened in and around the old
Baptist Church at Waterford.

The following absolution or justification is offered in the
preface to the above-quoted work:

"As the name of their organization indicates, they came from a State
which was arrayed in arms against the authority of the National Govern-
ment. No Governor, or Senator, or Member of Congress guarded their
interests; nor was any State or local bounty held forth to them as an
allurement. Their enlistment in the Union Army — their country's
army — was the spontaneous outgrowth of a spirit of lofty patriotism.

"As they saw their duty they were not lacking in moral courage to
perform that duty; and with no lapse of years shall we ever fail to insist
that the principles for which the Rangers contended were eternally
right, and that their opponents were eternally wrong."

Far from being a well-ordered command with a clearly de-
fined modus operandi, the two companies were poorly drilled,
imperfectly accoutred, only aimlessly and periodically active,
and, moreover, were on the point of dissolution at the outset.

Operating, for the most part, independently and in detached
parties the command offered no serious menace to citizens or
soldiery, though the latter were sometimes harassed and
annoyed by them.

Mosby, who had greatly desired and often essayed their
capture, was finally given the opportunity for which he had
eagerly waited. Learning that the Rangers were encamped


near Millville, W. Va. (Keyes' Switch, as it was then called),
he dispatched Captain Baylor with a detachment of horse to
that point.

Major Scott who, in I867, wrote Partisan Life With Mosby,
has this to say of the fight which followed: "He (Baylor)
took the precaution to pass in between Halltown (where there
was a brigade of infantry) and the camp. When within fifty
yards of the Loudoun Rangers the order to charge was given.
Two of them were killed, four wounded, and 65 taken
prisoners, together with 81 horses with their equipments.
The rest of the command sought refuge in the bushes. The
only loss which Baylor sustained was Frank Helm, of War-
renton, who was wounded as he charged among the foremost
into the camp."

The day of the capture General Stevenson, commanding at
Harper's Ferry, and under whose orders the Rangers had
been acting, sent the following message to General Hancock
at Winchester:

Harper's Ferry, April 6, 186^.

Mosby surprised the camp of the Loudoun Rangers near Keyes'
Ford and cleaned ihetn out. He made the attack about 10 a. m. . . .

John D. Stevenson,

Brigadier- General.

When Major-General Hancock, so distinguished in the Fed-
eral Army, heard of Baylor's exploit he laughed heartily and
exclaimed: "Well, that is the last of the Loudoun Rangers."

As indeed it proved to be!

Mosby^s Command in its Relationship to Loudoun County.

From January, I863, until the close of the war Colonel
Mosby' s partisan operations were mostly confined to the
counties of Loudoun and Fauquier, this rich, pastoral coun-
try affording subsistence for his command and the Blue Ridge
a haven to which to retreat when hard pressed by the superior
numbers that, from time to time, were sent against him.

Here he planned and executed most of the daring coups that


were to win for him international fame.* Here also his men
were dispersed and reassembled with marvelous facility — one
of countless manifestations of his great original genius.
"They would scatter for safety, and gather at my call like
the Children of the Mist," was what he wrote in after years.
Of all his methods this has been the least clearly understood.
The explanation that he has offered in his War Reminiscences
can be only partially complete; for he could not, with pro-
priety, point to his personal magnetism and daring as the
dominant influences, though he must have known that to an
extraordinary extent they were responsible for this almost
unparalleled devotion. ''The true secret," he says, "was
that it was a fascinating life, and its attractions far more than
counterbalanced its hardships and dangers. They had no
camp duty to do, which, however necessary, is disgusting to
soldiers of high spirit. To put them to such routine work is
pretty much like hitching a race horse to a plow."

Many of his followers were recruited in Loudoun County.
A few before the advent of Mosby had pursued peaceable voca-
tions; but the command consisted in the main of men who
had seen active service in the cavalry and infantry regiments,
but tiring of the routine and discipline of the camp had re-
turned to their homes in Loudoun and adjoining counties.
At times he had with him dauntless spirits who had been
incapacitated for infantry duty by reason of wounds received
in action, some of these carrying crutches along with them
tied to their saddle bows. At another time he enrolled several

*In alluding to the famous " greenback raid " (October 14, 1864), in
which a party of Rangers entered a train of the Baltimore and Ohio Rail-
road, near Kearneysville, capturing, among other officers, Majors Moore
and Ruggles, Federal paymasters, with their funds, Lieutenant Grogan,
of the Rangers, has said that the command, the next day, "met at
Bloomfield, in Loudoun County, and examined into the condition of our
sub-U. S. Treasury, and finding there a net surplus of $168,000, the
same was divided among our stockholders (;^2,000 each) and circulated
so freely in Loudoun that never afterwards was there a pie or blooded
horse sold in that section for Confederate money."


experienced fighters who had been absent from their regi-
ments without leave ever since the first battle of Bull Run —
a period of nearly two years.

With this promiscuous following, which at no time ex-
ceeded one hundred men, he instituted a long unbroken series
of successful strategems, surprises, and night attacks, harass-
ing the communications of the Federal armies, confusing their
plans by capturing dispatches, destroying supply trains,
subjecting their outposts to the wear and tear of a per-
petual skirmish, in short, inflicting all the mischief possi-
ble for a small body of cavalry moving rapidly from point to
point on the communications of an army.

He believed that by incessant attacks he could compel the
enemy either greatly to contract his lines or to reinforce them,
both of which would have been of great advantage to the
Southern cause. By assuming the aggressive, a rule from
which he not once departed, he could force the enemy to
guard a hundred points, leaving himself free to select any
one of them for attack.

But the theories, purposes, and methods of this peer of
partisan leaders is best explained by himself. Simply and un-
ostentatiously, but withal convincingly, expressed, they give
to the man and his deeds the unmistakable semblance of fair-
ness and legitimacy. These, together with his masterly de-
fense of partisan warfare, follow in modified and disconnected

"The military value of a partisan's work is not measured by the
amount of property destroyed, or the number of men killed or captured,
but by the number he keeps watching. Every soldier withdrawn from
the front to guard the rear of an army is so much taken from its fight-
ing strength.

"I endeavored, as far as I was able, to diminish this aggressive power
of the army of the Potomac, by compelling it to keep a large force on
the defensive. I assailed its rear, for there was its most vulnerable
point. My men had no camps. If they had gone into camp, they
would soon have all been captured. ... A blow would be struck at
a weak or unguarded point, and then a quick retreat. The alarm would
spread through the sleeping camp, the long roll would be beaten or the


bugles would sound to horse, there would be mounting in hot haste and
a rapid pursuit. But the partisans generally got off with their prey.
Their pursuers were striking at an invisible foe. I often sent small
squads at night to attack and run in the pickets along a line of several
miles. Of course, these alarms were very annoying, for no human being

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Online LibraryJames W. (James William) HeadHistory and comprehensive description of Loudoun County, Virginia [electronic resource] → online text (page 12 of 15)