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 14 of 15)
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duty, his dismounted men were perfectly secure.

"The 2d Virginia Cavalry, led by Lieut.-Col. J. W. Watts,
now charged the advancing enemy, who had penetrated be-
yond the position of the sharpshooters. The heads of the
columns met in the narrow road in a hand-to-hand sabre fight.


While this was in progress, Capt. Jesse Irving threw down
the fence on the right of the road, and, bringing his squad-
ron to the front, opened fire on the enemy's left flank. Capt.
W. W. Tebbs executed a similar movement on the left of the
road, while the sharpshooters were all the time firing into the
enemy's rear. Their attack was completely broken, and
their leading squadron almost destroyed. Another support
moved up during the confusion, but was met and repulsed
by Colonel Rosser. In this fight lyieutenant-Colonel Watts
was wounded and permanently disabled. The command of
the 2d regiment devolved on Major Cary Breckinridge, who
moved the regiment off to the right to reform, carrying with
him Col. Louis P. De Cesnola and the colors of his regiment,
the 4th New York Cavalry.

"During all this time Captain Boston, of the 5th Virginia
Cavalry, had been holding the haystacks far in advance of
his friends, where Colonel Rosser had placed him wdth such
stringent orders. He was beyond the reach even of a recall,
but had been doing his utmost to aid in the fight. He was now
charged by the 6th Ohio Cavalry, under Lieutenant-Colonel
William Stedman; and after losing three of his officers, in-
cluding his junior captain, and a third of his men killed and
wounded, he surrendered to the odds brought against him.

"The Federal cavalry were determined to carry the position
if possible, and another charge was speedily organized. This
was met by the 3d Virginia Cavalry, led by Col. T. H.
Owens, who took the road, supported on his right by the 2d
regiment and on his left by the 5th. The sabre was the
weapon used, and the enemy was again driven back. Colonel
Munford pronounced this the most spirited charge of the day.
Colonel Owens, however, pressed his success too far. He
drove the enemy almost to the village of Aldie, w^here he was
charged by a fresh regiment and briven back, losing many of
the prisoners he had taken and some of his own men. Major
Henry Carrington, of the 3d regiment, was captured at this
point. Colonel Munford says in his report:

" 'Captain Newton, having rallied his small command and a


good many men from other commands, was again ready to
relieve Colonel Owens as he fell back, and by a timely charge
repelled another effort to flank him. As the enemy came up
again the sharpshooters opened upon him with terrible effect
from the stone wall, which they had regained, and checked him
completely. I do not hesitate to say that I have never seen
as many Yankees killed in the same space of ground in any
fight I have ever seen or on any battlefield in Virginia that I
have been over. We held our ground until ordered by the
major-general commanding to retire, and the Yankees had
been so severely punished that they did not follow. The
sharpshooters of the 5th were mostly captured, this regiment
suffering more than any other. '

"Colonel Munford reported the capture of 138 prisoners.
The number of killed and wounded is unknown. His own
total loss was 119, of which the 5th Virginia Cavalry lost 58,
mostly from Captain Boston's squadron."

Duffie at Middleburg y^

''On this same afternoon (June 17, 1 863) events of con-
siderable importance occurred at Middleburg, where Stuart
had established his headquarters for the day.

* 'Early in the morning Col. A. N. Duffie, with the 1st
Rhode Island Cavalry, had crossed the Bull Run Mountain
at Thoroughfare Gap. His orders directed him to encamp at
Middleburg on the night of the 1 7th and to proceed the next
day toward Noland's Ferry, extending his march-to the west
as far as Snickersville. These orders seem to have contem-
plated a somewhat extended scout by this regiment on the
left flank of General Gregg's division — a hazardous move-
ment in the presence of an enterprising enemy. Colonel Duffie
reached .Thoroughfare Gap at 9.3O a. m. and was somewhat
delayed in crossing the mountain by the picket from Cham-
bliss' command. By 11 o'clock, however, he was fairly on his
way to Middleburg. At 4 o'clock p. m. he struck the pickets

*Life and Campaigns of Maj.-Gen.J. E. B. Stuart.



which Scaart had established Jf or his own safety outside the
town and drove them in so quickly that Stuart and his staff
were compelled to make a retreat more rapid than was con-
sistent with dignity and comfort. Having with him no force
adequate to contest the ground with Duffle's regiment, Stuart
retired toward Rector's Cross Roads. Munford was notified
of his danger, and directed to withdraw from Aldie and Rob-
ertson and Chambliss were ordered to move immediately upon

"The only hope for Duffle's regiment now lay in an imme-
diate advance upon Aldie, where he might have created con-
siderable commotion by attacking the rear of the 1st Virginia
Cavalry on the Middleburg road. But he did not know this
and his orders were positive, requiring him to encamp for the
night at Middleburg. He therefore made the best of his situa-
tion by dismounting one-half of his regiment behind stone
walls and barricades, hoping that he might be able to hold his
position until reinforced from Aldie, whither he sent Capt.
Frank Allen to make known his situation at brigade head-
quarters. Captain Allen reached Aldie, after encountering
many difflculties, at 9 o'clock p. m. He says in his report:

" 'General Kilpatrick informed me that his brigade was so
worn out that he could not send any reinforcements to Mid-
dleburg, but that he would report the situation of our regi-
ment to General Gregg. Returning, he said that General
Gregg had gone to state the facts to General Pleasonton, and
directed me to remain at Aldie until he heard from General
Pleasonton. I remained, but received no further orders.' "

*'Thus Colonel Duffle was left to meet his fate. At 7
o'clock in the evening he was attacked by Robertson's brigade.
His men fought bravely and repelled more than one charge
before they were driven from the town, retiring by the same
road upon which they had advanced. Unfortunately for Duffle
this road was now closed by Chambliss' brigade, which sur-
rounded him during the night and captured, early the next
morning, the greater part of those who had escaped from


Robertson on the previous evening. Colonel DuflSe himself
escaped capture and reached Centreville early in the after-
noon with four of his ofl&cers and twenty-seven men. He re-
ports the loss in his regiment at 20 officers and 248 men.
This, however, was an exaggeration of the calamity, for
other officers besides himself had taken to the woods and suc-
ceeded in making their way back to the Federal lines, on the
I8th and l9th."

The Sacking of Loudoun.


Mosby's unrelenting aggressiveness caused the Northern
generals much annoyance and perplexity. Consequently
many ingenious traps were laid for him, but to no purpose.
Into some he walked with unsuspecting boldness, though
contriving to fight his way to safety again, and usually, in
so doing, inflicting greater loss on the enemy than would be
sustained by his own command.

These reiterated and, at times, disastrous failures having
demonstrated the futility of all covert attempts. General
Grant, and later, General Sheridan, felt driven to the adop-
tion of measures that were destined to entail much suffering
and loss on the guiltless and non-combatant element of Lou-
doun's population. Under date of August l6, l864, Grant
despatched the following arbitrary order to General Sheridan:

"If yo'J can possibly spare a division of cavalry, send them through
Loudoun County to destroy and carry off the crops, animals, negroes,
and all men under fifty years of age capable of bearing arms. In this
way you will get many of Mosby's men. All male citizens under fifty
can fairly be held as prisoners of war, and not as citizen prisoners. If
not already soldiers, they will be made so the moment the rebel army
gets hold of them."

Sheridan straightway ordered all the cavalry of the Eighth
Illinois, then the best regiment of its kind in the Army of the
Potomac, to concentrate at Muddy Branch, preparatory to
beginning operations against Mosby in Loudoun County. In
his orders to General Auger he told that officer to extermi-
nate as many as he could of ** Mosby's gang."


The command broke camp at Muddy Branch August 20,
and crossed the Potomac with 650 men, the special object of
the scout being, as stated in orders to Major Waite, "to break
up and exterminate any bands or parties of Mosby's, White's,
or other guerillas -which may be met."

Viewed in the light of a communication from Sheridan to
Halleck, dated November 26, 1864, this expedition seems
not to have been even moderately successful. In it he said:
"I will soon commence work on Mosby. Heretofore I have
made no attempt to break him up, as I would have employed
ten men to his one, and for the reason that I have made a
scape-goat of him for the destruction of private rights. Now
there is going to be an intense hatred of him in that portion
of this Valley, which is nearly a desert. I will soon com-
mence on I^oudoun County, and let them know there is a God
in Israel. ..."

In his determination to rid himself of his troublesome
enemy, Sheridan, the next day, issued the following orders
to Major-General Merritt, commanding the First Cavalry
Division :

'•You are hereby directed to proceed to-morfow morning at 7 o'clock
with the two brigades of your division now in camp to the east side of
the Blue Ridge via Ashby's Gap, and operate against the guerillas in
the district of country bounded on the south by the line of the Manassas
Gap Railroad as far east as White Plains, on the east by the Bull Run
range, on the west by the Shenandoah River, and on the north by the
Potomac. This section has been the hot-bed of lawless bands, who have,
from time to time, depredated upon small parties on the line of army
communications, on safeguards left at houses, and on all small parties
of our troops. Their real object is plunder and highway robbery. To
clear the country of these parties that are bringing destruction upon
the innocent as well as their guilty supporters by their cowardly acts,
you will consume and destroy all forage and subsistence, burn all barns
and mills and their contents, and drive off all stock in the region the
boundaries of which are above described. This order must be literally
executed, bearing in mind, however, that no dwellings are to be burned
and that no personal violence be offered to the citizens. The ultimate
results of the guerilla system of warfare is the total destruction of all
private rights in the country occupied by such parties. This destruc-
tion may as well commence at once, and the responsibility of it must


rest upon the authorities at Richmond, who have acknowledged the
legitimacy of guerilla bands. The injury done this army by them is
very slight. The injury they have indirectly inflicted upon the people
and upon the rebel army may be counted by millions. The Reserve
Brigade of your division will move to Snickersville on the 29th.
Snickersville should be your point of concentration, and the point from
which you should operate in destroying toward the Potomac. Four
days' subsistence will be taken by the command. Forage can be
gathered from the country through which you pass. You will return
to your present camp, via Snicker's Gap, on the 5th day."

In addition to Merritt's three brigades, Colonel Stagg was
ordered to send out four regiments.

* *'The Federals separated into three parties, one of which
went along the Bloomfield road and down Loudoun in the
direction of the Potomac; another passed along the Piedmont
pike to Rectortown, Salem, and around to Middleburg, while
the main body kept along the turnpike to Aldie, where they
struck the Snickersville pike. Thus they scoured the country
completely from the Blue Ridge to the Bull Run Mountains.

''From Monday afternoon, November 28th, until Friday
morning, December 2nd, they ranged through the beautiful
Valley of Loudoun and a portion of Fauquier county, burn-
ing and laying waste. They robbed the people of everything
they could destroy or carry off — horses, cows, cattle, sheep,
hogs, etc. ; killing poultry, insulting women, pillaging houses,
and in many cases robbing even the poor negroes.

''They burned all the mills and factories, as well as hay,
wheat, corn, straw, and every description of forage. Barns
and stables, whether full or empty, were burned.

"At Mrs. Fletcher's (a widow), where the hogs had been
killed for her winter's supply of meat, the soldiers made a
pile of rails upon which the hogs were placed and burned.
They even went to the Poor House and burned and destroyed
the supplies provided for the helpless and dependent paupers.
On various previous occasions, however, the Alms House had
been visited by raiding parties, so that at this time there was

* Mosby's Rangers, by James J. Williamson.


but little left, but of that little the larger portion was taken.
"Colonel Mosby did not call the command together, there-
fore there was no organized resistance, but Rangers managed
to save a great deal of live stock for the farmers by driving
it off to places of safety. ' '

Home Life During the War.

In Loudoun, as everywhere in every age, the seriousness
of war was not fully realized until the volunteer soldiery, fol-
lowing a short season of feverish social gayety, interspersed
with dress parades and exhibition drills, had departed for
their respective posts. Immediately and with one accord
those left behind settled themselves to watch and wait and
work and pray for the absent ones and the cause they had so
readily championed.

When few slaves were owned by a family the white boys,
too young for service in the army, worked with them in the
fields, while the girls busied themselves with household
duties, though, at times, they, too, labored in the open. In
families owning no slaves the old men, cripples, women, and
children were forced to shoulder the arduous labors of the

Stern necessity had leveled sexual and worldly distinc-
tions, and manual labor was, at times, performed by all who
were in the least physically fitted for it. All classes early be-
came inured to makeshifts and privations, though they man-
aged in some unselfish manner to send, from time to time,
great quantities of clothing, meats, and other supplies to the
soldiers in the field and their wounded comrades in the army

The intense devotion of lyoudoun women to the Confederate
cause was most irritating to a certain class of Federal officers
in the armies that invaded Northern Virginia. They seemed
to think that through their military prowess they had con-
quered entrance into Southern society, but the women


repulsed them at every turn and quite effectually checked their
presumptuous advances.

The women of all classes played and sang Confederate airs
on every occasion, and, though ordered by the military au-
thorities to desist, with consummate daring they usually per-
sisted until a guard of soldiers had been detailed to enforce
the order. The Federal officers who acted in a gentlemanly
manner toward the non-combatants were accused by their
rude fellows and by ruder newspaper correspondents of being
''wound round the fingers of the rebel women," who, they
were sure, had some cherished object in view.

The women, without question, had much the harder task.
The men, in active service in the field, were reasonably sure
that their families were safe at home and, in the feverish ex-
citement of war, felt no concern for themselves, while, on the
other hand, the women lived in hourly dread of direful news
from the front, and, moreover, were burdened with labors
and cares more irksome and harassing than had ever been
borne by the absent males.

The music and songs that were popular just before and
during the war attest the vacillating temper of the people.
Joyous airs were at first heard, these growing contemptuous
and defiant as the struggle approached, then stirring war
songs and hymns of encouragement. But as sorrow followed
sorrow until all were stricken; as wounds, sickness, impris-
onment, and death of friends and relatives cast an ever-
lengthening shadow over the spirits of the people; as hopes
were dashed by defeat, and the consciousness came that, per-
haps, after all the cause was losing, the iron entered into the
souls of the people. The songs became sadder, while in the
churches, where the doctrines of faith and good works were
earnestly propounded, little else was heard than the soul-
comforting hymns and the militant songs of the older church-
men. The promises were, perhaps, more emphasized and a
deeply religious feeling prevailed among the home-workers
for the cause.


PierponVs Pretentious Administration.

On December 7, I863, the legislature of the "Restored
Government of Virginia" held its first meeting in the
chambers of the city council at Alexandria, which munici-
pality became the seat of a Union administration in the Old
Dominion, after Governor Pierpont's removal from Wheeling,
W. Va., where, by unqualified political trickery, he and his
unauthorized following had effected the establishment of a
new Union commonwealth out of the ruins of Confederate
Virginia . Six senators were present , representing the counties
of Norfolk, Accomac, Fairfax, Alexandria, and Loudoun, and
the city of Norfolk. Prince William, Northampton, Alexan-
dria, Loudoun, and Norfolk counties were represented by
seven delegates. J. Madison Downey, of Loudoun, was elected
speaker of the house of delegates.

This tiny mouth-piece of Virginia Unionists had naturally
few important, or even ordinary, questions of legislation to
decide. The most important was a provision for the amend-
ment of the State constitution with relation to its bearing on
the slavery question. *' Everybody," said Governor Pier-
pont in his message, "loyal or disloyal, concedes that slavery
in the State is doomed. Then acting upon this concession,
call a convention of loyal delegates, to alter the State consti-
tution in this particular, and declare slavery and involuntary
servitude, except for crime, to be forever abolished in the

A new constitution which should supercede that of I851
and express the Union sentiments of the Potomac legislators,
was accordingly drafted. Nominations of delegates to the
constitutional convention were made in January, 1864. By
the terms of the act relative thereto, any voter in the State
who had not adhered by word or act to the Confederacy since
September 1, 186I, might be chosen a member of the conven-
tion; all "loyal" citizens, who had not given aid or comfort
to the Confederacy since January 1, I863, possessed the right
to vote.


Elections were held January 22, I864. Very little interest
was manifested by the people, as was evidenced by the ridicu-
lously small vote everywhere polled. LoudoufV s nominees,
Dr. J. J. Henshaw, J. Madison Downey, and E. R Giver,
were elected by a mere handful of voters.

The convention met at Alexandria February I3, I864, with
fifteen* delegates present from twelve counties. Le Roy G.
Edwards, of Portsmouth, was elected president and W. J.
Cowing, secretary. A number of radical changes in the old
constitution, framed by legitimate authority in ante-bellum
days, were consummated during the two months' session of
this convention.

The Alexandria government held sway very nearly two
years. The legislature met for its second session December 5 ,
1864, and re-elected J. Madison Downey, of Loudoun County,
speaker of the house of delegates.

The Pierpont government was not in itself of great impor-
tance. Its influence extended to only a dozen counties and
three cities and, "under the shadow of bayonets, it was the
rule of a few aliens in the midst of a generally hostile popu-
lation. Men at the time and since have laughed at its legiti-
mist pretenses." It would have been summarily dismissed by
the people but for the protection afforded it by the Federal
armies. Thus it appears that the "Restored Government of
Virginia" was not based upon the consent and approval of
the governed. Yet, suited to a policy of expediency and
aggression, it was, with quivering and unseemly eagerness,
recognized as the legal government of the State hy the
Lincoln administration.


A significant event of the war was the issuance by Presi-
dent Lincoln of his celebrated emancipation proclamation.
This highly important measure, promulgated on New Year's
day, 1863, sounded the death-knell of slavery, an institution
that, in the South, had seemed commercially indispensable.

*It should be noted that Loudoun County furnished three of this


The tidings spread rapidly through Loudoun producing,
however, no change in the amicable relations existing be-
tween the white and colored races. In all sections of the
South some apprehension was at first felt lest the negroes be
tempted by Federal rewards to insurrection and the state
militias be required to suppress outbreaks.

The people of Loudoun, of course, shared in these early
misgivings, but here, as elsewhere, the negroes, as a whole,
manifested no outward signs of disaffection. History must
record to their credit and praise that while actual warfare
was being waged on the soil of Loudoun they quietly awaited
the final issue of the fiery struggle.

Entire communities of women and children were left in
their charge, while all able-bodied white men were away on
the battlefield, and the trust was faithfully kept. Instances
of criminal acts were so rare that at this period none are
recalled, and while this fidelity is proof of the peaceable
character of the negro, it is also evidence for their owners
that slavery had produced no personal hostilities between the
two races in Loudoun County, and that the treatment of the
negro by his owner under the law had been such as to main-
tain between them personal attachment and mutual confidence.
Many negroes accompanied their owners to the seat of war,
not to take part in battle, but to serve in semi-military duties
without exposure to danger. Some of them marched in
Maryland and Pennsylvania with the armies of Lee, volun-
tarily returning, although they might have remained in the
free States without hindrance. They are still proud of the
conduct of their race in those days of anxiety and peril.

The proclamation of President Lincoln was regarded in
Virginia as a strictly political war measure, designed to place
the cause of war distinctly upon the sole question of slavery
for an effect to be produced upon foreign countries and with
the purpose of making use of negroes as soldiers in the Fed-
eral army. The issue of negro freedom had not been distinctly
made until this proclamation created it. Hitherto it had been
understood that, at the furthest, the Federal authorities would


insist onlj' on restriction of slavery to the limits where it
already existed and a gradual emancipation upon payment of
the value of slaves held at the beginning of the war. But now
it was settled that the United States proposed to enforce by
arms an instantaneous emancipation without compensation.

Close of the War.

The half-clad and impoverished southern armies, after four
years of valiant fighting, were no longer able to withstand
the superior numbers that had confronted them with merci-
less regularity in every important conflict of the war, and, in
April, 1865, the struggle ceased with the complete subjuga-
tion of the Southland.

All that the States-rights supporters had prophesied would
be accomplished if unresisted; all that the Unionists had in-
dignantly denied to be the objects of the war was accom-
plished: the South was conquered, State sovereignty repudi-
ated, the slaves were freed, and the recognition of negro
political equality forced upon the nation.

Neighborhood strifes and animosities had been engendered
in every village and hamlet, and in nearly every household

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Online LibraryJames W. (James William) HeadHistory and comprehensive description of Loudoun County, Virginia [electronic resource] → online text (page 14 of 15)