Rufus H. Peck.

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

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As my hvu'se was wounded at Gains' Cross Roads, and I wasn't well my-
self, I was sent home the 17th of June, a'fter being out 18 months. 1 was not
able to enter the service again until Oct.

The people of the community got me to go as a guide with about ten wag-
ons, to the Salt Works at Kanawa, W. Va., while I was at home. I went ahead
of the wagans with sjveral other man from our county, who were going on the
same errand

When we got to the top of Sewell Mountain, we spent the night at a hotej
called Locust Lane. When we awoke the next morning we found a six-inch



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snow on the ground. We regretted the snowfall so inuch, but to our glad sur-
prise, when we went about six miles beyond and at the foot of th^^ mountain ,
we found no snow at all.

The next night We stopped at Tyree's Hotel. The lady of the house was a
sister of Mrs. Dr. Williams, of Fineastle, so we felt perfectly at home. Wyatt's
Hotel, near Mauldon, was our next stopping place.

There were thousands of barrels of salt and a number of sfovernment wag-
ons, and a large number of oxen for Sile. So we planned to buy some of the
salt Knd haul it back to Rotetourt and turn the wagons over to government
use there. But to our surprise, at mid-nigbt, before we could carry out our
plans, we heard wagons rumbling and were told that Gen. T^loyd. who had
driven the Yankees from the Salt W(»rks to Charlestown, was fa ling back.
While we were still talking G m F oyd and his staff came to the Hotel and
ordered breakfast.

Gen. P'loyd wanted a courier to go to the Hawk's Nest, a place ab:;ut 30
miles distant, and hurry all the wagons on to trtf- salt works; but after arriving
at the Hawk's nest, to turn all the wagons back.

I volunteered to act as courier. At first he was afraid to trust me, but
aftet- questioning me until he thought he knev; me sufiiciently, he had a dis-
patch written and gave me to notify the wagon drivers to hun-y on and load
the wagons, and they would be put across the Kan«.wa on the ferry and sent
by way of Cotton Hill. The mountain road was so narrow that these teams
were sent this way to avoid meeting the other wagons.

I was ordered to shoot any man who v/ouldn't obey order.-;. Fioyd knew
that he could get the wagons within the 30 miles, loaded and acro.^s the river
before the Yankees could overtalve them, bat it would lake too long for the
wagons to come from beyond the Hawk's Nest.

I met my teams right at the Hawk's Nest and ordered them back. The
dispatch also stated that all loaded wagons beyonl the Hawk's No.-t, were to
sell half their load to empty ones Tills they all did. Some v-'ere heavily load -
ed and were just creeping along.

After dividing up loads, we continued to carry out orders, which was to
travel all night and not Stop to feed our teams until we passed two roads,
known as the Sat. and Sun. roads, where the Yankees were supposed to pass.
We kept turning em.pty wagons back and overtaking lo.uled ones and dividing
up, until we reached Lewisburg, in Greenbrier Co. We were about two weeks
makmg the trip. This was the only time I had any experience with, or was
in the western army.

Every letter that went to the boys in the eastern army, I think, told of my
trip to the Salt works, and the boys began to think I ought to be back fighting
mstead of guiding wagon trains.

The boys showed the letters to Capt. Breckinridge and he ordered me to be
brought back by an officer. Sheriff LinkenhoKer, when he got the letter from
Capt. B — , came to me and told me his orders.

I told him that Xerxes 6,000.000 men couldn't taKe me bacK under arrest.



IB

I told him I vviis going back soon, that I wasn't yet able to ride on horse back,
so fai and constantly.

The next day I went to the army surgeon. Dr. Mayo, of Buchanan, and
showed him the order and he remarked that "they are a set of fools, your are
here under a legal certificate." I had three certificates from the family
physician of my inability for service, but in Aug., Gen. Lee had passed an
order, that no certificate could be recognized except from an army surgeon,
so I had been to him in Aug. and twice since that time, so held three of his cer-
tificates in Dec.

Dr. Mayo gave me a recommendation to either be discharged or detailed
for light duty. I'd been suffering from congestion of the liver and was broken
down in general. Dr. Mayo told Capt. Allen, who was at the head of affairs
in Buchanan to give me transportation on the train as I v/asn't able to make
the trip on horse baak. On the 20 of D.-jc I started back to Fredericksburg,
where ray company was stationt^d. I was detained at Lynchburg several days
so didn't get to Gainea Stati )n,near Piv^daric ;^j.irg, until Naw Year's day '63.
I went directly to the Capt's tent and the first thing he said when he saw how
b:id I looked, was, "whac in the world have you come back for?" I showed
him the letter he had written to the sheriif, Lewis Linkenhoker. He said he
had written this on account of what those home letters had said. He said I
was unfit for service, but as they were in winter quarters and no nghtning
much. I'd have an easy time.

1 then went to Col. Munfords tent and he greeted me with the same
question. I replied by showing him the Captain's order to be sent back. The
Col. said I harJ been reported to him as absent without leave. I then showed
him my certificates from both Drs. Col. Munford remarked : "Well, I'll
stop this proceeding right heie, vou shall not go before a court-martial with-
out a cause."

I told him that I preferred going before the court-martial ; that I wouldn't
gratiiy these parties, who had circulated the false reports about me, enough
to show them the certificates, but I wanted a lot of gentlemen to see why
I'd been absent.

The early part of the New Year was taken up very largely to straight-
en up the \.ork of the old year.

In a few days about 75 of us wr-nt to Alassiponix Church, in Spottsyl-
vania County, where the court-martial was in session.

Capt. William Grave.s, of Bedford Co., was there with his company, guard-
ing theprisoners. He had bern commander of the sharpshooters the first year
of the war and I had been one of them He assigned the prisoners to differ-
ent tents and told me to remain v;ith him.

It was a month before our turn came to appear before the court, so he
gave me leave to visit my friends all over the army of Northern Virginia.

When our turn came, I v,-ent before the court and Captain Breckinridge



20

presented the papers to the court. They asked me if I had an attorney and I
told them I hadn't but handed them first my detail and sick furlough, then my
certificates fro-n my home Dr.. Sam Carper, of Fincastle. and then the
certificates from Dr. Mayo, the army surgeon. I then showed them Gen Lee's
Older for all soldiers to be examined by an army surgeon, they could see by the
dates that I'd seen Dr, Mayo on the day following, and when Dr. Carper's
certificate had only half expired. I then showed them the order to the sheriff
to bring me back under arrest.

They asked me if I had any witnesses I told them I had one, Capt. B.
whom rda'sked to please remain until I called for him.

After reading the papers I asked Capt. to please state to the court just
when I'd enlisted and what kind of a soldier I'd been while in service, elc. He
stated that Fd volenteered at 19 when a school boy, and that he had joined the
Co. the 20 of May 1861. He said during the 13 months h ■ had beer, with us he
wouldn't ask for a better soldier than I'd been.

I was dismissed, but didn't h -ar my seatence until a month later. When
the last man of our regiment was examined, we veturnedto camp.

As I couldn't carry Mrms until my sentence was heard, I wasn't Ij ible to
duty. But I volunteered to go into Stafford Co., v/ith a detachment, to try
to capture some of Gen. Averill's pickets. We captured about 25 of them and
as we were returning, the enemy began charging the rtar of our command,
and the sharpshooters of the 1, 2, 3 and 4 regiments, were sent to the rear to
check the advance.

Our skirmish line went back and aimed to get to a little town of vacated
winter quarters, and I saw a soldier riding a beautiful dappled gray horse, so
I made in that direction and was o dertd to dismount and advance on foot.
Not thinking that the man had gotten so near, just as I started around one of
the cabins, the man called to me to halt and surrender. I threw up my hands,
of course, as he had his gun right in my face, but even after doing this he
snapped his gun at rne. It was snowing very hard and the gun failed to fire,
and fearing that my gun would be like his on account of the dampness, I drew
my pistol on him, so he surrendered to me.

As I took him back, I had to pass through the sharpshooters of the 3rd
regiment, and three of thern had seen the man try to shoot rne after throwing
up my hands. They wanted to shoot him right there for the cowardly act. but
I told them two wrongs never made a right, and wouldn't allow them to harm
him. I took him on back to Col. ivyies, v>'ho had charge of the prisoners.

When we crossed the Rappahannock on our return, we v/ere ordered to lie
down for the night. This we did ; we put our gum cloths down on the snow,
then a blanket, and had a blanket for a cover. My prisoner and I shared the
same bed that night, but before we went to sleep, the three men who v/unted
to kill the prisoner, caine and apologized to me and the man, for wanting to
deal death to him for the error he had made. We accepted the apology and
they went back to their men with much relief.

The next day, the 17th of Feb '63, we went to Stewart's headquarters
and turned the prisoners over to him and they were sent on to Richmtnd im-



21
mediately. Gen. Stewart* made me a present of the beautiful horse I'd captur-
ed and she was my faithful companion for the remainder of the war. I brought
her home with me after the war closed.

We all returned to the camp ground and remained about ten days, when we
were called out for a dress parade.

Aftei all the orders were read out for the next day's proceeding, the re-
sults of the court-martial v/ere read next. One man who was found asleep on
picket duty, was sentenced to be shot. As he was so j^ung and a good soldier
Col Mimford reprieved him and gave him a good, fatherly lecture, and the
man v>ts a faithful soldier for the remainder of the war.

Finally they came to my sentence. I was charged with being absent with-
out leave, but was found innocent of the charge and honorably acquitted. As
is usually the case, the first men to come and congratulate me on my honorable
acquittal, were the very ones who had caused the false reports to be started.
I thanked all alike, but Knew all the time who caused the disturbance.

As the weather was bad and no drilling or fighting going on much, the main
thing to break the monotony of camp life, was picketing on the grand old
river, RappahannocK.

On the night of the 16th of March, I had a dream of being in a battle and
o' 1 aving to retreat, and while doing so, mired in the mud and was captured.
I told the dream at breakfast the next morning and they all laughed at such
a dream.

While we were still at breakfast, the orderly sergeant came around and
notified us* to j-et ready immediately to go down to Kelly's Ford on picket.

We expected a good time for three days out cii the outpost, but was kept
at the village of Kelly ville, all that day. There v/ere about 40 of us scattered
around, but in hearing distance of each other. Some of us Were in hay mows,
some in outhuikiings and some in a mill, to spend the night.

A load of guns and 40 rounds of ammunition was sent us, about the time
we were fixing for sleep. Those who had no guns got one from the lot and we
were ordered to clean up the others, ready for use.

After we had tham all cleaned the Capt. inspected them and if any of our
guns were not gocd, they w-ere sent back and a good one taken from the new
lot. We were eager to get to sleep, but instead of that at 4 o'clock we were
ordered to go down to the ford of the river.

We rolled our blankets up and tied them on the horses and were ordered to
mount and fall into columns of four. No. 3 of each column, was to hold the
horses. After Nos. 1, 2 and 4, gave their bridle reins to No. 3 — Nos. 1, 2 and
4, were ordered to dismount. This being done, we formed into columns of four
again, and were ordered to march on to the river bank, about four hundred
yards.

There had been a heavy rain just before this which finished up with a snow
about five inches deep. This was still on the ground, but the river was swollen
from the rain until it was deep fording on horse back.

The wind was blowing from the north and the thermometer suddenly fell
to about zero. When we reached the breast Works at the river, some of the



22

rifle pits Were filled with snow and ice, and those that were not, were soon fill-
td with men, but some of the men had to just stand and g-et the best position
tht'y could.

At about an hour before daybreak we saw a light that we first thou.(?ht was
the morning- star rising, but the light increased and we almost instantly found
it was the camp fire of the enemy, being kindled, making ready for an early
breakfast to come and attack us.

At daybreak they were coming in sight of the ford. Gen. Averiil with a
division of cavalry and 15 pieces of artillery soon stationed themselves on the
heights commandin*gthe ford and commenced a heavy fire onus.

In about ten minutes Averiil ordered his men to advance. They came right
to the ford, not knowing that we were there, and we opened fire on them from
behind the breast works and drove them back with considerable sh.iughter

Then Averiil charged with another regiment, but we drove them back
also. He then charged a third time, just about sun-rise, and by that time three
companies of the 3rd regiment, commandt^d by Capt. Moss, had reinforced us,
and Capt. Breckinridge, thinking We had enough men to hold them back, order-
ed us not to fire until they got into the middle of the river.

Gen. Duffe, commanding a French brigade, had the majority of his men in
and near the river before we opened fire. Several men were shot from their
horses and the horses rushed right out of the river and over our breast works.
Some of them killed themselves on the stockades. When Gen. Duffe got within
about ten feet of the bank, hi.s horse was shot and the Gen. came very near be-
ing drowned. When his men rescued him he was unconscious?

B.y this time so many of his men had crossed the river that Capt. Breck-
inridge saw they would over-power us, so ordered us to fall back. Some of our
men didn't hear the order and remained in the breast works and were cap-
tured.

We fell straight back from the river under a h^avy fire all the time and the
men with the horses couldn't well get to us on account of a fence and the heavy
firing. Those on the extretne left had so much farther to go than the others,
that they couldn't get the horses to them at all. I was with the dozen or so,
that was on the extreme left, and just as I saw the man with my horse coming
toward me. I noticed a little niece of ground fenced off right between us, which
to go around would take some little time longer to get to m.y horse, so I just
kicked off a pole and jumped over, to save distance, you understand, and to rny
utter amazement, I found I had jumped into a bed of quicksand.

Four Yanks were pursuing us as rapidly as they could and when they saw
I had been caught in the sand, they rushed right on around the fence and drew
their pistols on me. 1 had managed to get out of the sand by the time they got
to me, but in doing so, had nearly dislocated one of my hips, so couldn't run.
The man with my horse saw that if he stopped to help me, he and the horses
too would be captured, so had gone on knowing I'd be captured— the realization
of my dream — only caught in quicl:sand instead of miud. I immediately surrend-
ered, of course, but found that three of the men to whom i had surrendered
were beastly drunk.



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By that time our line of battle was coming in sight and the three drunken
men rushed on for fear of being captured by our men, I held to the mane of
the horse that my captor was riding and as we went back several Yanks shot
at me. The man told me to get on the opposite side so they could not see me
so well. One m,an shot at my hand as I held the horses mane and missed my
hand and shot the horse in the neck. They were drunk and enraged because
we had shot their General's horse and he came so near being drov/ned. They
were saying d- you, you killt-d our General ! Some of them thought he was
killed.

When we got right to the river, I saw a lot of men standing around a Gen.
who was lying on the ground, and I told the man who had captured me that if
he would take me over there, they certainly wouldn't fire among them. It
proved to be Gen Duffe who had been resuscitated and was just able to stand
up as v/e got to him.

The man told the Gen. that there was a man he had captured and asked
him what he must do with me, and the Gen. just reached out and hit me over
the head with the gauntlet of his glove.

He asked me why we dared to fire on his command with our picket ? I told'
him we vvere ordered to hold the ford and would have fired on Hooker's whole
army if it had advanced. Then he hit me again.

I told him I hadn't any idea of receiving such treatment from a U. S. Gen.
Just then one of his aids said to me to come with him and he took me down
the river a little ways. v.^here about 20 more of our men were who had been
captured this same day, March 17.

As we went down the river th aid apologized for the General's conduct ;
said he was drunk and wculd never have acted that way when sober. The aid
was an American, while Duffe and the majority of his men were French.

The man \vh > captured me was from the 1st R. I. regiment and I told him
about the man and fine horse from that regiment that I'd captured justa month
before, and he said the man was from his Company.

Jist then I was ordered to fall into line with the other prisoners, but I took
time to thank the tW-> men for their kindness to me before falling in.

There was a company of cavalry on either side of us when we started
across the river, marching in columns of four.

We halted a little when we got to the water's edge, but were soon order-
ed to "forward march," and we knew that meant v/e must go through that
water if it was full of mush-ice and deep fording. As I was a small man I
was ordered to get between two large men, and we held to each other and
marched through A Mr. Powell and Mr. Shepperson, from near Charlotte C.
H. marched on either side of me.

Matt. Linkenhoker and I had made such an effort to escape being captur-
ed and to get to ojr horses that we were about as hot as a "ginger
mill in August." But strange to say, wading that river didn't make us sick in
the least. The water was just over our shoulders. I remember how the mush-
ice and water ran down rriy coat collar. You can imagine how pleasant that
would be. in March and zero weather.



24

It ioo'c.?d xhard but some of our men had made the Yankees wade the river
about a month bef(*re ; but it wasn't more than knee-deep where they waded.
I acuess the2/ thought it no more than right to retahate. All is said to be fair
in love and war.

As soon as we crossed, one company went back to join the command and
the other company took us about four miles to a hotel where Gen. Ryles had
been ordered to hold the Yankee prisoners about a month before. We remain-
ed here a few hours awaiting future order?. Our clothing had dried while v.-e
were marching. We stopped and poured the water from our boots soon after
crossing the river, so we were very comfortable by this time.

The lady of the house and her three pretty daughters came out to look at
the prisoners, as they had a month before, and ^ne of them recognized me.
She came to me and asked me if the Yankees got my pretty gray horse, too. I
told hersshe had escaped and how I came to be captured.

We soon heard the firing of the artillery back at Kelly's Ford. Gen. Lee
had taken a position on the heights above the ford and Averill made an attack
on him. Gen. Stewart had beea orde.^-ed from Fredericksburg up to Culpepper
C. H., to attend a court-martial, and went with Lee as a spectator and not as
a commander. He and Major John Pellam rode in frorst of Lee's lines and the
Yankees seeing him thought his whole corps was there and bfgan to fall back
at once, under fire from our f jrces, and lost a great many men in the retreat,
and a few were captured Some of our men Vv'ete captured also, and among
them the gallant Major Cary Breckinridge.

The couriers ordered the guards to hurry us on to Falmouth, then Hooker's
headquarters. We arrived at about an hour before sun-set, andabout9 o'clock
the whole army returned.

We remained here three days and on March 21, '63, were paroled and sent
on the Fredericksburg & .Aquia Creek Road, to a station called Aquia Creek.
There was a boat landing here and we took a boat called "The State of Maine,"
for Washington. Here we were put in the city prison on tlie second floor in
the basement

There wer;.w5 of us and all put in one room. There wei-e bunks on the
walls and benches for seats, but still our quarters were not comfortable, as the
men above us had bored holes in the water pipes and didn't have them suffi-
ciently stepped, and water was running down the walls and over all the floor
except a little place in the centre large enough to spread a blanket.

We were kept here until the next day when they sent us to the Old Capitol
prison. We were all put in the same room again, but the quarters were com-
fortable and alright. Wc had pork and bean.^, coffee and baker's bread, good
enough for any one.

As I was disabled by being caught in thequicksand, and was still very lame,
the guard allowed me to. go all over the barracks, i had to see the Dr. often,
so I had a very pleasant time going around. Dr. had given me a pass. also,
to go any where inside the barracks. The barracks was a Park of 3 or 4 acres
and was said to contain 10,000 men. Rebels and Yankees together.

We had a full view of the street and often saw the Congressmen and Presi-



dent Lincoln pass by. The sentinel would often tell us when different import-
ant persons passed, which was a pleasure to us, to help pass time. We were
ji:iven quite a lot of good literature to read, and altoccether, we had a much
better time than when in service. It paid to be a prisoner that time, certainly.

While we were there a lot o: Yankees were raidin,o: in the Valley of Va '
and a lot of Confederates were raiding also, and the two forces met and a good
number of the Yankees v/ere killed. There was quite a lot of talk about it,
nd it seems that the Yankee.'^ thought the citizens had gotten the soldiers to
tttaokthem in some unfair way. So a lot of citizens from the valley, \vere
summon-^^'d to come to Washin.aton, as witnesses in the case. They v/ere brought
t ) the barracks and pat in with us. The Johnnie Rebs were allglad to see them.
V/e c^.lled them fresh fish, ;ind had to initiate them, of course.

One of us would go to a citizen and get him to talking and telling us about
the affair, and the other boys woujd begin crowding around close bj^ to hear,
and v/e'd say, "boys don't push." which meant to push and crowd rnore, until
wc got our fresh fish in such close quarters that som? of them would get fight-
ing mad. When he would laugh and enjoy it v/ith the rest, that was a signal
to give way.

Dr. Lucas, from Frederick Co., was a large fellow; weighed more than two
hundred, and he got the maddest of all until he understood the joke, and then
he Vv-as the best fellow v.-e had to help initiate.

We all enj.)>ed playing pranks on each other. Lnamed myself the "limpy
lame d -g," and they all treated me about as considerately.

S.;n'ieof the boy.« sighed and worried over having to stay in prison, but
- ituated as I was, 1 enjoyed it. We only remained 16 days. There was a boat
load of soldiers from Johnson's Island to be exchanged and as it wasn't a full
load, they telegraphed to the Old Capitol that they could take about 75 more
men while making the trip. Straws were drawn to see v/hinh room would be
s'-'nt to exchange, and our room got the "lucky straw."

The Djat ch.io cairied u.s was cd lied the "Prairie Flov/er."' A beautiful
boat it was, too. We had fine sailing until we got within about six hours ride
of Fortress Mtm.oe. Here a heavy snowstorm overtoox us and the boat was


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Online LibraryRufus H. PeckReminiscences of a Confederate soldier of Co. C, 2nd Va. Cavalry → online text (page 3 of 10)