Rufus H. Peck.

Reminiscences of a Confederate soldier of Co. C, 2nd Va. Cavalry online

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Confederate Soldier


Co. C. 2nd Va. Cavalry.

' BY R. H. PECK,
Fincastle. \'a.



*r fTQtJMOtiT^Q'Ntt I

R. H PECK, 1861,


After a lapse of half a century, I will try to relate in a commonplace way,
the circumstances which came under my observation during the dark days of
1860—1865. Having engaged in 54 battles, some of them the hardest fought
ones too, and coming through without being wounded at all, while many of my
comrades fell by my side or were mained for life. I feel that a guardian angel
accompanied me and that I have much for which to be thankful.

One might think that at my age, which in a few months will be 74 years,
that I only remember the occurrances of the war in a vague way, but to my
mind's eye, it is as vivid as if it had only taken place quite recently. I was
only 23 years old when I went into actual warfare, so I was in a way, free
from care. But many of the saddest memories of my life hover over the dark
days of '60-65 and the doleful period that followed.





In the year 1859 at Fincastle, Va., I enlisted with a company called 'The
Botetourt Dragoons." This company was composed of 106 men, ready and
willing to defend their country when called upon. Our officers v/ere as follows:
Andrew L. Pitzer, Capt. ; Wm. A. Glasgow, 1st Lieut. ; Wm. Price, 2nd Lieut. ;
and Jas. R. Thompson, Orderly Serg. Our first Serg. was Edward Brugh,
second Serg. Wm. Garret and third Serg, Thomas McClure. Our first Ccrporal
was William A. McCue, 2nd Corporal Robert Rieley and 3rd Corporal Geo. Peck.

We were called out by our captain for drills and parades usually on Sat.
Our uniforms were navy blue with yellow trimmings. We had general musters
once each year. We were invited to Buchanan, Salem and other points.

On our march to Salem we lined up in front of Hollins institute and called
on Prof. Cocke for an address, which he gave in his usual pleasant manner and
finished it by inviting us to dine with him on our return. Capt. Hupp's Battery
of; Salem, and Capt. Dierly's Infantry of Roanoke, met us there. Col. Robert
Preiston, of Blacksburg, addressed the companies, also Capts Hupp, Pitzer
and Dierly. All this was enjoyed, but not so much as the time spent withProf.
Cocke'on our return three days later. We received genuine Virginia hospitali-
ty,- auch._as we long.ed for many times in the four years which followed.

: As the John Brown raid had already occurred we soon found that our ser-
vice must be for defence and not only for practice. South Carolina, Mississippi
and several other states had already seceded from the Union and when Abra-
ham Lincoln called out 70,000 men to coerce the states, the majority of our men
wanted to go to Manassas Junction to protect ourcapitol, Richmond. We were
called first to Lynchburg for drilling and future orders.


We left Fincastle on the morning of May 17, 1861, amid the cheers, good,
wishes, farewells and tears of mothers, wives and sweethearts. The ladies had
prepared neat little pin cushions supplied with pins and needles, also bandage
cotton and hospital necessities, some of which were needed before we had
gotten five miles from Fincastle. Trooper Frasier spied a -'frizzly hog" and
called the attention of his comrades, which created so much laughter that his
horse on seeing the hog and hearing the noise, became unmanageable and threw
Frazier, whose head had to be bandaged, there and then in vinegar and brown
paper, (in the language of Jack and Jill.)


We marched off ^^aily uniformed now in gray, following the flag presented
to us by the Botetourt ladies and carried by Wm. McCue. This flag was used
during the first two years of the war, and after our victory at the first battle
of Manassas Junction we were presented W-ith another flag and our first flag
was sent to Richmond. It remained there until after the war and was then
sent back to Fincastle, where it remained until 1907. it was then sent back to
Richmond to the Confederate Museum to be kept as a relic, and I had the honor
of presenting it on the 7th day of May 1907, to Mrs. Norman Randolph, manag-
er of the Museum. This v/as the same day on which the Davis and Steuart
monuments were unveiled at Richmond.

Now back to our m.arch from Fincastle to Lynchburg. We were cheered
on our way by the waving of kerchiefs and throwing of -bouquets as we passed
on, following the blue ridge road until we came to Buford's Station, where we
enjoyed the hospitality of Mr. Paschal Buford.

Our next stop was at'Liberty, now called Bedford City. Here the kind
people of the town took us into their homes and entertained and accommodated
us for the night. We were welcomed in every hQme and invited to stop with
them again if we sliould pass that way, which I did on one of my trips hom.e
from Petersburg. We left Liberty on the morning of May the 18th, and took
dinner near Forest Depot at Col. Radford's home. We reached Lynchburg the
night of the 18th and as two companies had preceeded us and were enlisted as
A and B, we came in as Co. C. We remained here three days, occupying
tobacco factories and keeping our horses in Friend's warehouse. We were
furnished wish tents and moved out near the fair grounds and, were mustered
into service on the 23 of May, by Gen. Jubal A. Early. By this time Co. D.
from Frankhn County had arrived and the remaining six companies came in
in a few days. The companies were commanded as follows :.
Company A from^ Bedford County, Capt. Terry.

B " Lynchburg City, " Langhorn.

C " Botetourt County, *' PiLzer.

D " Franklin " '* Hale.

E " Amherst " " Whitehead.

F " Bedford " " Wilson.

G " " " •' Winston Radford.

H *' Appomattox " " Joel Flood.

I '• Campbell " " Jack Alexander.

K " Albemarle " " Davis. •

We remained at Lynchburg one month guarding the two magazines and
drilling on foot and on horse-back- On June 10th, Capt. Terry with Go's A
^ and B went on to Manasses Junction, while we of Co. C with Co. D were
S^ordered out June 17th.

Our first stop was at Rockfish Station where we camped for the night, and

our second night was spent at new Glasgow. We reached Charlottesville by

noon the next day and spent the night near Orange C. H The next day found

us at Culpepper C H. by noon and night overtook at Warrenton Springs. We

^ reached Manasses Junction by night fall of the next day. We moved on to

Fairfax C. H. the following day and found Gen. Bornem commandinf,^ the firi-t
South Carolina Brigade, stationed there. Here we pitched our tents on Sat.
eve and on Sunday a. m. a part of our Co. was sent out. on a scout and two of
our men, Calvin Garret and Joseph. Robinson, were captured by the New York-
Zouaves. We remained at Fairfax C. H. until the 17th of July, and- I was
sent with fourteen other men, commanded by Serg. Garret, three miles below
Fairfax C H. on the Falls Church road to stand picket, and at 9 o'clock a. m.
we found that McDov/ell v^as moving on Manassas Junction by three roads,
viz,: Falls Church road, Little River turnpike, and Flint Hill road Serg.
Garret returned to notify the General of McDowell's movement, but the Gen.
had already learned from other pickets, of his advance, so he ordered the army
to retreat immediately. As Serg. Garret-did not return to us, Corporal McCue
sent me back 3 miles to Fairfax C. H., and v/hen I arrived our Adjt. told me
of the retreat and from there I could see Col. Kershaw's regiment already
engaged with the enemy, so 1 had to return to notify the other pickets. to join
the command, which we could only do by a liank movement and came very
near being cut off entirely by the enemy. When I returned I found that two
of our pickets on the Flint Hill road, John Mays and William Mailer had been
captured. We continued our retreat to Centtrville and remained there until
night. Gen. Beauregard's plan was to throw sky rockets to let us know when
to retreat further towards Manassas Junction, and when we called in the last
pickets, we were, fired upon by the enemy and two of our horses were killed
from under their riders, Edward Hayth and WilHam Walton.

Durning the night we marched across Bull Run at Mitchel's Ford and laid
down for the remainder of the night in front of the guns at Manasses Junction.
We were a'Aakened next morning by the fireing of one of the enemy's guns
called ''Long Tom." As this was the first big gun I had seen fired, I remem-
ber well the appearance of that shell to me. It looked more like a gate-post
flying through the air than any thing else I could compare it to. After hissing
through the air about a mile it exploded and I told the boys I knew it had
blown Manassas Junction to '-kingdom come" and she would need no more
protection. It wasn't many days after this though, until Vv^-e became more ac-
customed to the big guns, so we didn't jump at such hasty conclusions and the
fireing wasn't so exciting or terrifying. I hadn't seen much of the infrantry
until that day and when they began double quicking and crossing Bull s Run
at Mitchel's Ford in order to meet the enemy, I imagined we had men enough
to whip the North right there.

At 9 o'clock on the 18th, the two armies met and^for two hours a raging
battle flollowed and when the Southerners made a charge '"all along the line,
they drove the enemy back with considerable slaughter, into the timber back
of the lowlands, where the battle was fought, and they remained there until
Sunday, with ''Long Tom" occasionally saluting us. Our line of battle extend-
ed from Blackburn's Ford up nearly to Stone Bridge, a distance of, 10 miles.

Sunday morning at about 8 o'clock Long Tom began fireing and we ail
thought the enemy m.eant to renew the attack, but about 9 o'clock we heard
fireing at Stone Bridge about six miles above Manassas Junction.


The cavalry was immediately ordered to make a force marcri to Stone
Bridge an<|^when we got their we found that the 8th Georgia Regiment, com-
manded by Col. Huntington, in trying to hold the ford had lost nearly all their
m^ and their commander. The 2nd Va. Regiment arrived to go to their res-
cue, but failed on account of the thick pines. About this time Jackson came
in and with Gen. Bee and others, turned defeat into victory. Gen. Bee rushed
to Jackson and said 'General they are beating us back," and Jackson said
"we will give them the bayonet." Gen. Bee encouraged by Jacks«>ns response
shouted to his men : Look ! there is Jackson and his men standing like a stone
wall." He was ever afterward called "Stonewall Jackson."

Gen. Bee was killed in a few minutes after making the remark to his men.
The enemy, under McDowell's command, was driven back with dreadful slaugh-
ter to Washington.

As we of the 2nd Va. regim.ent were unable to get to Stone Bridge to aid
in the battle there and were in a dangerous position, being between the fires of
both armies. Gen. Beauregaurd ordered us to the rear. Just at that time Gen.
Jos. E. Johnson, coming in from the valley, rode up to Beauregaurd's head-
quarters and took command, he bcirg a stnicr officer. He immediately stnt a
courier to Col. Radford to halt the 2nd Va Cavalry. Col. Radford told the

courier to go to the U that he was acting under Beauregaurd's orders.

We were not aware of Johnston being near, but as soon as Johnston saw we
didn't halt he galloped down and shouted : "In the name of Jos. E. Johnston
I command you to halt." Of course, it wasn't any trouble for Col. Radford
or his men to halt, then.

He commanded us to cross Bull Run and go toward Cub Run Bridge to in-
tersect the enemy's line as it passed on retreat, and to shoot all the horses
drawing the artillery and wagons. There being 1,000 of us. we held the road
for nearly a mile, commg on their right flank and being so near before they
knew jL that we succeeded in capturmg 24 pieces of artillery and the men com-
manding same. The road was Imed with dead horses for nearly a mile, a sight
no one would want to witness again, but we were only carrying out orders

Our captain ordered the fences to be pulled down and 3 other men an 1 I dis-
mounted and tore them down on l)oth sides. When we mounted we happened
to look to our left and saw a house with a crowd of men standing around a W-^U.
I proposed to these three comrades that we could go up and fill our canteens
as it was such a hot day. When we arrived, there were 60 or 70 of the finest
looking men I ever saw. about middle-aged and finely dressed. More gold-
headed canes, gohi glasses and gold teeth than I had ever seen before on that
number uf men. We asked them to fill our canteens, which they did and just
as they filled the last canteen, one of the men said to us that our command was
retreatiner and I road around the house to where I could see our line and it had
passed nearly out of sight. Just then two guns that we hadn't captured with
the other 24 pieces of artillery, and a regimant of infantry also, opcsned fire on
our regiment, and Capt. Radford of 2nd Va. regiment and Serg. Ervin were
killed and several others wounded
Just as we four men arrived to recross the road, a cannister of grape shot

passed down the road striking two of our horses. We rode on a'~out a half
mile under a heavy fire, but the^ were over shooting us, jusj .^ripping the
jeaves from the trees, when one of the horses fell dead from his wound* and
the other one was still running on three legs. I took the saddle from theraead
horse and carried it on my horse that was called the "Flying Artillery" f rd
wouldn't carry two men, and another comrade took the rider of the horse that
was killed.

We overtook our regiment just as they v/ere ready to recross Bull Run,
and were held in readiness the remainder of the day, but no order for action
was given and near night fall marched back to our camp ground of the pro-
ceeding night.

Just after dark a heavy rain began and continued all night and about half
the next day, so we were thoroughly drenched by this time. Shortly after day
break we started toward Centerville and our skirmish line captured several
prisoners on the way. We moved very cautiously through the woods in the
downpour of rain, thinking the enemy was at Centerville. But insteai or the
enemy being at Centerville, we found the homes deserted. Tables were set
with the most delicious victuals, fine drinks, etc , having been prepared for a
general jubilee after the supposed victory. Some of the houses were locked,
but the majority were so that we could easily enter and some of the owners
soon returned, so we enjoyed a bountiful repast that was intended for the
northern soldiers. After the victory at Stone Bridge and the capture of the
artillery at Cub Run Bridge, as they were retreating, the ene ny rushed on to
Washington panic-stricken. Had we realized the condition of the enemy then,
as we afterward knew it to be, we could have pursued them and easily captur-
ed them, but we didn't know the conditions.

We remained at Centerville until about 4 o'clock, when we began our march
to Fairfax C. H., arriving there about night. The next morning we sent out
scouting parties and videttes on all the roads and marched on to Falls Church
and put out our pickets, some of them nearly in sight of Washington. We
remained here several weeks and enjoyed the fruit of a 300 acre peach orchard.
Finally a division of infantry was sent to Mason Heights, which tuey captured
without any great loss, and a few days later Munston's Heights v/ere taken in
the same way. From the Heights the city of Washington could be seen, but
the distance was too great for any bombardment. We moved camp about this
time and when we got to our new camp a terrible rain and wind storm came
up. It was a regular equinoxial storm. We hurridly put up our tents and
our Orderly Serg. cautioned us to tie our horses well as it was so stormy. He
cautioned Marcus Ammen especially as he had an old horse called "Koachback"
that \N as in the habit of breaking loose and rooting around the tents to hunt
for corn. William Harvey. Henry Payne and McCaga Pitzer couldn't sleep, as
the wind was blowing so dreadfully, so they got out and built a Hre and cursed
everything and everybody from Jeff. D vis down to Buckie Brugh, one of our
company. Kent Stoner was sleeping with me and 1 told him I'd give him my
room and go out and help the boys celebrate around the fire. I reminded Kent
of Basil Underwood's sentence to death at the "Ringing of the Curfew, "and

how his sweatheart said the "Curfew shall not ring tonight," and that luy
motto for the present was that "Roachback must get loose tonight. " I went
and untied Roachback and led him up to Albert Pitzers tent. The horse soon
began rooting for the corn and the orderly went out and soon recognized the
horse as Mr. Ammen's. He led the horse down and hallowed : "Marcus ! Mar-
cus ! Mr. Ammen ! Mr. Ammen !" And Marcus yelled back "hello !" Then he
said "here is your horse that has gotten loose. You must not tie him well.
Come and I'll show you how." He did, and they both went back to bed.

In a short time I led him up again and he began his search for the corn.

Pitzer rushed out and called Marcus again and Marcus said "well d that


He tied him again and I went then and talked to that cursing crowd at the
fire and when Marcus and Pitzer got quiet, I led Roach-back up for the third
time. Pitzer came out yelling to Marcus that he must keep that horse tied.
Then Marcus said curse words thick and fast. I thought I'd had enough fun
out of the boys for that night so didn't untie the horse any more.

Pitzer was always telling us to fall into line quickly, so the boys nick-
named him ' Quickly." Marcus was very quiet for awhile and presently he
broke the silence by saying : "D — old Quickly ! If he fools with me any
more, I'll thrash him." I was afraid to go back into the tents for fear the
boys would suspect me of the mischief, so I slept in Capt. Pitzer's headquar-
ter wagon. It was midnight by the time Roach-back got settled and the boys
never knew until I told them, about six months later, that I had caused the
fun and trouble that stormy night.

The enemy then began fortifying Arlington Height's and bringing in troops
to hold their position, our men began falling back toward Centerville, but keep-
ing our pickets out about twenty miles toward Washington.

About October 1st the northerners began driving in our pickets, and Col.
Kershaw, thinking it was a regular advance of the enemy sent me with a
dispatch to Gen. Bornem at Fairfax C. H., and he brought four regiments
and the Washington artillery to reinforce us The only man I've ever had the
pleasure of meeting since the war that was with this Washington artillery
from La., was B. T. Walshe, Sr. , who still lives in La., but spends a part of
his time in Va. with his son.

The enemy did not advance further so the troops just remained together
over night. The next morning Gen. Bornem sent an infantry skirmish line out
to go to the Heights, near Lunenburg, and try and ascertain the position of
the enemy. As I had been a courier for Gen. Bornem several times I got per-
mission to go with the skirmishers and left my horse at his headquarters. The
men who had been killed the evening before, when the enemy was driving our
pickets, had all been taken away during the night, as we found none of them,
but several overcoats were found. Kershaw's men had seen the dead men the
evening before, lying on the fields, but none of our men were killed, as they were
considerably above us and were overshooting us all the time. We went as far
as Lunenburg Heights and saw no troops ahead of us, so we returned to Bor-
nem's headquarter'sand Bornem ordered his brigade back to Fairfax C. H.,

and left Col. Bacon's regiment, as picket. In three days I returned to Fair-
fax also and joined my regiment.

All was quiet for a few days, when a similar raid was made and we were
called out at 7 o'clock p. m. and we tore down our tents and loaded the wagons
and sent them back to Centerville. We were ordered to march about six mile?
to a little place called Langley. Here We drew up in line of battle, every
man holding his horse, expecting an attack any moment and remained there
until day break. After day break scouting parties were sent out in every
direction, but no sign of the enemy could be seen.

Bormem returned to Fairfax camp ground again. Co. C. was sent to the
Difficult Run Turnpike and we began leaving sentiment's on every road lead
ing into this Turnpike, from the north. I was left 20 miles out from Langley.
just after dark. One other man from our Co. was loft at the next road above
me, and from there pickets from another regiment guarded the roads nearly
to Leesburg.

In a short time after we were stationed a terrible thunder-storm came up
tind my horse became so unruly that I could hardly control him at all. I .soon
saw by the lightning that there was a man sitting at the foot of the tree under
which my horse was standing. I looked closely when the next flash of light-
ning came and recognized him, as a man by the name of Underwood who had
been our pilot on one of our scouting expiditions. I spoke to him and told him
who I was and when and where I had seen him, .so he had me to search him to
see that he had no arms, thinking he said, that I might think him a fake and
shoot him.

We enjoyed each others company all night, and next morning he went to
a house nearby and got breakfast for me, also dinner and supper for me and
my horse. He certainly proved a friend in need. I was relieved at about 5
o'clock that eve to return to camp 20 miles distant. I soon reached camp, a.s
the horse was tired standing so long, and 1 got a good rest that night. This I
enjoyed you know as I had marched all night and all day and then been put on
picket duty for 24 hours, where no one dared to sleep.

1 was quiet and had an easy time, for a soldier, until my next turn for
picket duty, which was about a week. Ten or twelve of us, commanded by
Serg. Brugh, were sent out to a place called Hunter's Mill and stationed on
different roads, but only had to serve four hours until reheved.

At one o'clock the next day one of our men went out in search of food for
his horse and he had just bought a new hat the day before and when he pass-
ed my post, I told him it was dangerous to go out beyond the picket post. But
he said he was going, so 1 told him I hoped the Yankees would get him and his
new hat too. He hadn't been ^one long until 1 heard the firing of HO or 40
guns. I, of course, looked immediately in the direction of the firing and here
came the trooper, like a winged animal, without a bridle for his horse or that
new hat I could see that the Penn. Bucktails were pursuing him, so I notified
Serg. Brugh and he sent me to meet Capt. Whitehead to prepare him for a line
of battle, but by the time Capt. got to Serg. Brugh, we could see the line of
the enemy extended out of sight to right and left. So we were ordered by

Capt. Whitehead to retreat, which we did hastily but not until one of Capt,
Whitehead's men had been killed.

The line of the enemy, we afterward found, extended up to where our
next picket stood. Willliam Marks of our Co. was wounded.

This occurred in Fairfax county, and as winter was coming on and we had
a great many horses, Gen. J. E. B. Stewart made a raid into Loudon County
to find provender for the horses. He took four or five hundred wagons, two
brigades of infantry, one of cavalry and a battery of artillery, commanded by
Capt. Cults of La. When we made our way as far as Drinsville, we encounter-
ed Gen. McCall, of the northern army with a wagon train and about as many
soldiers as Stewart had with him making his way into the same county and fo!
the same purpose, we were.

Our pickets reported the enemy advancing and Stewart immediately put
Capt, Cults' artillery in position, in a narrow road among heavy pines. The
enemy also put their artillery in position near the Thornton house on the main
road from Falls Church to Lees'ourg.

The enemy opened on us v;ith five pieces of artillery and damanged our
artillery so much, as we were so hampered only one gun could be used at a
time, that ('apt i.'ults was forced to retreat from his position very soon.

Then the Uth Va. . infantry was ordered to the front to drive the enemy's
artillery back, but were unable to do it. The 11th Va. lost several men, one

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Online LibraryRufus H. PeckReminiscences of a Confederate soldier of Co. C, 2nd Va. Cavalry → online text (page 1 of 10)