Rufus H. Peck.

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

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ing us around the night before. The whole regiment had fared ja?t as I hdd
for the last two weeks and were broken down completely.

The hottest of the battle was full^ two miles from where I was stationed.
As 1 hadn't had a bite to eat since breakfast Sat. morning and this was Sunday
eve, I told Capt Breckinridge I was going to risk my life and go to a brick
house about 200 yards in front of our skirmish line and try to get something to
eat. I watched and kept the house between mo and the enemy's skirmish line
and went in at the window and down in the basement, I found a boiled shoulder
of bacon, several loaves of bread and all the apple butter and marmalade I
could carry and a lot of dutch cheese. The family had left on account of the
battle, so I took my time to get plenty and made three trips and took enough
back to feed all 35 of the men who had been sent out with me

After emptying the crocks we put them on the fence back of the house
and wrote a.note to the lady of the house and put with the crocks, thanking
her for her kindness. Her provisions had certainly been a friend in time of
need.

The firing of the enemy stopped for a little while and we thought our forces
had gained the victory, but when Pickett made his charge the firing began
anew and as we hadn't been ordered to advance, we soon knew that we had
lost the day. We could not see the hottest ol the battle, only the awful smoKe.
I'll never fo get that. Major Mason took us back to Gen, Lr^e's headquarteis
about nightfall and we slept in the yard that night. About 10 o'clock it began
raining and rained all night Shortly after daybreak Monday morning, Major
Mason gave us something for breakfast and Gen. Lee sent us to Gen. Meade's
headquarters'under a flag of truce to get permission to bury our dead. So 1 had
the privilege of sitting with Gen's Lee and Meade at their respective head-
quarters the morning of July 4th 63 When Major Mason presented the dis-
patch to Gen. Meade, he immediately sent about 30 of his men with a dispatch
back to Lee under a flag of truce.

About 60 of the U. S. Regulars took us all over the battle field and ex-
plained the position of the armits that fought the day before. We went to
the hospitals where th ^y had been amputating limbs and at some of them a
six horse wagon could have been loaded with legs and arms We passed a half
doz. or more of these field hospitals. There were a doz. or more doctors at
each of them. The dead men were every where to be seen, of course. It



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looked more ]ike fields of flax spread out to dry than any thing I'd seen before.
The most of the confederatas had been js:athered up ready for bariil There
were several ten acre fields with men lying just as thick as they could lay.
We saw them ci^^gin^ the graves several feet deep and a blanket was spread
down and four men laid on it, then another blanket spread over them. The
dirt from the next grave was filled on this one and so on until the whole line
was buried. I learned afterward that the hurried dispatch Gen. Meade sent
hack to Gen Lee, was to send men to mark the graves of the dead, but that
he would have tht- m burled. The r gulars did not taKe us over the portion of
the battle field occupied by the Yankees. We could see the fields strewn with
the dead but we didn't ride over the ground like we did among our own men.
I guess they didn't want us to see how many they had lost. The men were
very nice and kind to us though. They explained how the dreadful slaughter
of Pickett's mtn occurred. His columns had been thinned out so much by the ar-
tillery and heavy firing they were subject to in crossing the low ground come-
ing up to the foot of Cemetery Ridga, and he gave the order to close to the left,
expecting Gen. Heath's division to also close to the left a..d support him.
But Heath couldn't see the move Pickett made as his men were in a peice of
timber and the trees being in fuil leaf, the vi..*w was obstructed. They advanc-
ed slowly and when Pickett charged the breastworks, Heath's division was too
far in the rear to aid him. There was a gap of about 700 yds. left between
Pickett's and Heath's division and Gen. Warren, who was in front of Heath's
division saw the gap, marched a part of his men to the front and right
faced and marched in behind Pickett and captured a part of his men, who had
already taken the breastworks.

When Pickett saw Warren's move and knew that Heath couldn't support
him to recapture the breastworks, he was compelled to retreat. Then was
when the terrible slaughter occurred, as Pickett's men retreated under the
heavy fire from the artillery they had once taken, but was unable to hold.

The menhad to march very nearly two miles in the retreat, in full view
of the enemy's artillery, before they reached the timber, which served as a
protection. If Heath had brought his men up as" Pickett expected, it would on-
ly have caused a heavier slaughter, because I saw the tents of anumoer of lines
of battle ihe next day, that the regulars told us were right there to support the
breastworKs, that PicKett couldn't see wheil he was maKing the
charge. He never could have held the position, against such heavy
forces.

We went right over the summit of Cemetery Ridge, by the
Peach Orchard and High Water MarK. It was all a dismal sight
as it was raining steadily until about 12 o'clocK, but the worK of
caring for the wounded and burying the dead was being carried on
as rapidly as it was possible. The regulars tooK us on to our outpost
and we bade them farewell, never to meet again. Major Mason Knew some
of the men personally, so we enjoyed their kindness very much. Major Mason



•5-0

tooK US back to Lee's headquarter's and Gen. Lee released us and sent us on
back to our command.

In going: back to our command, v/e passed by the remnant of FicKett's
gallant division. It didn't looK to be more than a regiment. The first man I
recognized was my brother-in-lav/, Lieut. John Dill, who is btill living, i asK-
ed him how many they had lost and his reply was : "We have lost all." ,He
got in sight of the breastworics, he said, before they had to retreat. He was
wounded by the explosion of a shell.

As all of the Botetourt Infantry was in Pickett's division. I soon found
other men that I knew. The men of the Fincastle Rifles had the same sad story
to tell, of the dreadful loss of their comrades. The descendants of the
Botetourt Infantrymen can always be proud of the charge their ancesters made
and glad they did not see the di.HConsolate, depressed remnant I saw that morn-
ing after the battle. It. ^vas the saddest sight, I think, I ever witnessed You
know the missing men were from my own county, and so many were my
acquaintances. I talked to some of the gallant men of the Blue Ridge liifles.
Buchanan Rifles, also some of the men who composed Capt. Gilmer Breckin-
ridge's company, thf-n commanded by Capt. Kelly.

Capt. BrecKinridge raised this Co. at the begining of the war and his father
furnished uniforms for the men Some of the men of Capt. Spessard'sCo. of
Craig Co., told me of Nat Wilson's death. He was killed just as« he crossed
the breastworks. He was raised in Fincastle and was one of my schoolmates.

We reached our command on the everiing of the 4th. I found the regi-
ment h:id lost heavily, but our compmy had not suffered so much. Six of our
(3o., beside myself, that only numbered 64, when we went to Gettysburg, were
S2nt out on thi^ lookout expedition. The most gloomy- time of my life, I think,
was from that eve until we started bacK to Va. the jiext day. Lee was whip-
ped, but unconquered. Meade*was slow in following us up.

The infantry and artillery moved in front and the extreme rear, was brought
up by the cavalry, as usual.

The business of the cavalry was to fortify behind us and protect our men
in front. We took wheat shocKs and piled them up high and threw dirt on
them and when the advance guards of the enemy would see our fortifications,
they would slack in their movements. They would bnng up their artillery
and open fire on us often and we v/puld retreat to other fortifications built
by cavalry ahead of us and so on. Sometimes we would have to stop in the
open field and fight the enemy. Sam Riley was killed in one of these engage-
ments, while we were still in Penn

George Hayth, 'Flud'" we all called him. was mortally v>^ounded ne.ar
Boonesboro and died at Winchester, about ten days later. Alonzo Rineheart
was shot through the hand at the same time "Flud" was wounded, in one of
these encounters, trying to drive the enemy bacK,

We struck the Potomac near Wiliiamsport and learned there that our
wagon train had been captured and about 15 men from my Co. were captured,
also They were acting as guards for the wagon train.

Some of the cavalry was ordered to go to the front to guard the pontoon



37

bridy:'^. that Lee had used crossing: the Potomac going: into Maryland, but
Lefore we got there we learned that the bridge had been destroyed but we
went on to where the bridge had been.

While th<-re I saw a lot of the wounded m':in, who were able to ride cross-
ing the river. It was very deep and at one time I saw about 30 men go into
the river and the horses got confused and threw their riders and only 15 passed
over tiafely. Some of the horses came back on the Maryland side while others
went across without a rider. These horses were just broken down horses
that the men had picked up along the road and some of the men were riding
without saddle or bridle, just a rope or stap tied around the horses neck. There
v/ere more wounded than we had wagons or ambulances to carry them and
those Icrist wounded were walking on ahead trying to escape the enemy and
get back to Va.. so picked up the horses as they could. The citizens told us
that the wounded men had been crossing like that for a day or more, so no
d.^ubt many a poor fellow had a watery grave, in this last effort to reach his
borne state again.

We remained at Wiiliamsport, until the whole army arrived. We had been
sent ahead to guard the fords, which we did and fortified at several places.
When they arrived, the river had run down considerably and the infantry and
anuieiy passed ov^r first and we again brought up the rear After we had
cmssed we found that Gen. Pettigrew with his division had b en left. I never
knew why. And the enemy attacked h'm and he was killed, but' not many of
his men were lost. Our batteries opened rire from the Va. side and protected
Petc.grew's men and held the enemy in check untfl they could cross the river
and gv^t With us.

We continued to retreat until we reached Winchester where we went into
camp lor a few days and got a little much needed rest. A good many supplies
had been shipped to the army and we found them when we arrived. A great
many were nut present to receive the boxes from home. They had answered
the last roll call and were numbered with the .«]ain.

ooirm oi" the Yankees had crossed the Potomac between Harper's Ferry and
Winche.st^r and attacked us at Sheppherdstown When we wentinto the battle,
Co G- had only 13 men left of our 64 that went into Penn. Some had been kill-
ed and the others captured Ihe picket's were driven in about 12 o'clock by
Gen Kilpatr.ck's men and aftk.rmiih line was se .t out to bring on the attack,
'ihere uere a hundred or more t;f us in the skirmish line and the 13 men. who
composed Co. C, 2nd Va. Cavalry were among them.

In marching toward the enemy a Urge sink hole Was right in our pathway
and iri.stead of going through the hole and keeping 8 ft apart which was our
usaai aistance in skirmish lines, some of the ooys vvent around the hole and
G or 8 of them were huddled right together. The enemy was behind a rocK
fence on the summit of a hill, which was a grave yard and when they saw
these men together, they fired among them and wounded five, two of them
mortally.

We couldn't get nearer than about 500 yds, to the rocK fence, as the
enemy was firing grape and cannister among us so we had to lie down behind



38
a rail fence to protect ourselves I was lying in a fence corner and a cannoi
ball hit the fence staKe on the opposite side of the fence from me and cut the
staKe off and tore it out of the ground and took it whizzing over me. It shook
me up, 111 tell you, but didn't wound me. Had it struck the stake my head
was against I would not have been left to tell the tale.

We couldn't damage them much from where We were so we were ordered
to the left into a piece of timber and remained there 10 or 15 minutes and were
then ordered to charge in another direction and went through an old Held and
came across five pieces of artillery, that our men had abandoned on account of
the heavy firing from behind that stone fence. Several of the gunners were
lying there dead and after we passed the guns our gunners came bacK and
opened heavy fire over our herds, at the men on the top of the hiil.

As Gen. Young had gottt-n in position on our right. We were ordered to ad-
vance and came by a house that we ft>und to be full of YanKee soldiers. We
came across several men behind a corn crib and they laid down and shot under
the crib at our feet, but missed us. and before they could reload their guns, we
ran around the crib and they ran to the house and into the basement We
followed at theii- heels, and to our great surprise, thei e were about 5 J men in
the basement, ins-tead of our 3 or 4 We ordered them to stirrender. which
they did at once. Our line of battle h^d gotten up by that time and We sent
the prisoners to the rear.

We crossed a little ravine up a slope into a wheat field and the enemy
opened such a heavy fire, that We were compelled to take refuge behind rocks.
Wheat shocKs, or anything we could. Every man, though, that got behind a
wheat shock, was killed. Capt Graves and I fell down behind a large lime
stone rock and a shell struck in the ground about 20 feet from us and ploughed
right along to our rock and exploded. It threw dirt all over us, but didn't
hurt us at all.

Just at that time. I looked to the rear and?aw J. E. Stewart, Wade Hamp-
ton and P"^itz Hugn Lee coming right up the ravine and would soon have been
in full view of the men at the rock fence and grave yard. 1 ran down and ex-
p dill d ih.j sitiJ-ation to them. They remained there a few minutes planning
whcit to >U). and Hampton decided to have Gen. Young'.-^ men come up in line
wiih Fitz Lee's men, and make a desperate effort to take the grave yard.

Hainpion sent a courier to Young, and in a few minutes his men did charge,
but they were mowed down so rapidly that tiiey didn't get near up to our line
until they Were compelled to fall back. We had to keep our hidden positions
uiiiil niKJ;t-fall and then retreat. ««^

When we got back I found that only six of our 13 in my company remain,
ed unharmed. Ben PecK, a cousm of mine, was mortally wounded, only lived
a few days. John Deisher also died in a few days. The other 5 lecovered, but
were unfit for service for awhile.

We spent the night in camp and the next morning our pickets found that
Kilpatrick had withdrawn his forces in the night and gone back toward the
Potomac. We remained at this encampment until the next eve, when we had
a dress parade in an oats field nearby.



39

Dress parades were held every eve in each regiment. The orders for the
next day were always read out and each orderly Sergeant had to report if
any of his men were absent "without leave." When the dress parade was over
the regiment was turned over to the quarter master, and he gave orders for
each man to get four bundles of oats to feed our horses that night and the next
morning.

Our Co. was on the extreme right and Co. K, was on the extreme left of
reg-iment. Each Co. had one of the contrariest men the world ever knew. We
had all said if either of them ever drowned we would fish up the stream for
them. Instead of getting the oats near by, these men started off in a sweep-
ing gallop to the opposite sides of the field and ran together about the center
of the field. We heard a report like that of a gun and immediately, another;
the first proved to be the horses heads coming together and then the men's.
All four fell over dead, as we all thought, at first. We rushed to them and
not a sign of life could be seen. Some one hastened for Dr. Shackleford and
as he had no restoratives with him, except hartshorn, he used that, and v.'e
soon found we had two live men alright. They felt up for the ground though.
Th.-y th.Mi used the hartshorn on the horses and they soon revived also. The
crowd had gather^-d by that time and all had a hearty laugh and gave them
three cheers for the bay windows they carried on their heads.

After going into camp that night in a peice of woods, we hitched our horses
and some of the boys went in search of water back in the open field. A
fellow by the name of Bob Luckadoo. had gone off about 30 or 40 yards from
the majority of us and laid down, and these boys coming back from hunting
water, accidently stepped on the man. He got very mad and cursed and
the boys apologized and told him they could not see him in the dark. He
finally accepted their apology, but the boys found out what a "touch-me-not"
he was, so told it as soon as they got into camp. We decided to pass by
and stumble over him again in going for water. The next boys did so, and
he shouted and cursed them and they pretended to be so surprised at his being
there and began to apologize He said : "What in the hell is the use to apolo-
gize, when you've killed me ?" He laid down again, though, and presently
another boy stumbled over him and he jumped up and called to the bugler as
loud as he could yell : "Casey ! Casey ! Just turn out the whole damned
bloody 2nd Cavalry and let them march over me and maybe they will be
satisfied." The regiment enjoyed the prank greatly and we often laugh
about it yet.

We moved camp the next day and his horse got lame and as we would
pass every boy would ask him what was the matter with it. He got so mad

he told us it was none of our d d business. Sometimes 3 or 4 would be

asking him at once. He finally got so mad he cursed us until you could
have heard him a mile, I thinK- We camped the next night in a dewberry
field.



40

As soon as day broKe I got up and ate a good breakfast of dewberries.
We soon found that there were about a dozen Yankees on ihe hill, just above
us and they fired on us a few times, but over shot us. Col. Munford ordered
the bugle to be blown, which Was a signal for us to mount. We Were formed
in line and by that time the fog h-.id raised so that we couid see th ■• men on
the hill. He wanted some one to try to ast-ertain who they were and why they
were there. 1 told him I'd go on the hill just opposite, where we could see
better, if some one would go with me Another man volenteered and I told
him to come up from one side and 1 d go up from the other and v.'e could meet
on the top. When I went around on my side of the hill and got to the top the
other volunteer wasn't there. I v/as in sight of the men on the other bill and
about 200 yards from them I could see that there v/ere 8 men on horseback and
there were two horses with out riders. I was riding my horse that I'd captur-
ed in the spring. I shouted to them and bade them "Good Moaning" and asked
them to whose command they belonged ar.d they answered *'Gen itosser's".

They asKed me to come up to where they were, but i told two of the-m to
come down to me. They insisted on my coming but I told them there were
more of them and for two of them to come to me. Just then two mtn in
some sassafras bushes about 50yds. from me tired at me and my hori>e whuiled
so suddenly, that 1 heard the whiz of both bullets light by my head. I fell
over on my horse to Keep her between me and the men, She almost flev. back
in the direction from which we had couie. The man who started with me
never went to the top of the hill, lor he could see the Yankees before I couid
and he soon started back, but saw me fall over on my horse and reported me
killed before I could get back. The Col. then with drew the men and marie
pr>parati(m for an attack; but it never was brought on There were a few
stray shots all day, but didn't amount to any thing among our men. Kach
side seemed afraid to attack theotht^r, as they couldn't ascertain the strength
oi the opposing forces.

While we were recuperating and maneuvering around one evening at dress
parade an invatation was read out, that a Mrs Lucas in the neighborhood had
given an invitation to all ti e Burden , -heppards and PecK's to attend a dining
at her home. The mvitation was read all thiuugh Lee's army A Lieutenant
by the name of Burten from Bedford Co. and i were tiie Only ones who went
We had to go about six iiiiles. She lived at a fine; farm house and the porch
was crowded with guests. Mrs. Lucas and her daughter came out to meet us
and told us not to tell our names until she guessed who we were. She looked
at the Lieut, first and said she couldn't see the iavor of any of the Burdens.
Sheppards or Pecks, I told her how he spelled his name and we S'^on found it
was different from the name she was hunting. She told us to get down and
come in anyway ; she was glad we had come, etc., if the name was a little
different. I told her she had slighted me. that she hadn't guessed who I was
yet. She said : "Oh ! Come on, I knov/ you by the favor. I'll show yon
pictures of your relations for two generations."

She introduced the Lieut, to the ladies and said she would introduce mo a
little later. She took me in and showed me a life-size portrait of her grand-



\\i



41
father Jacob Peck, who was born and raised near Fincastle, and was my great
uncle. She knew me by the picture, she said. She then took me back and in-
troduced me to, the guests. Her husband came in, and to m.v astonishment, I
recognized him as the same L)r. Lucas that we had so much fun over when we
were in prison at Washington about four months before. I laughed and called
him the fresh fish and he enjoyed anew our initiating we had for these witness-
es that were sent to Washington. He said he recognized me on first sight.
Lieut. Burten went back ti-at eve. but as i had a three day's furlough, I stay-
ed until the next evening. Dr Lucas sent regards to the other seven men who
spent the time with us at Washington.

After a few days we crossed the Blue Ridge and went back into Culpepper
Co , near the same place from which we had made our start to Gettysburg. We
rested and recuperated at this place a few days and the first disturbance was
one day when half of our division of cavalry was out letting the horses graze,
when the pickets came in and said that Kilpatrick was crossing the Rappahan-
nock. The bugle sounded, a signal to saddle and make ready for movement
Our horses all being out and half of the men, naturally we had a considerable
stampede before the men could get nack and we could nil make ready. By our
delay Kilpatrick succeeded in getting alsout all of his men over.

We formed our line of battle and j-imed to maKe a cavalry charge, but
could not on account of the timber and underbrush. Just as we were dismount-
ing a young man by the name of Preston, who had come to our regiment the
day before, was shot in the neck and fell dead. We charged them on foot and
drove them across the river, capturing a few of their men and having a few
wounded and killed. Some of our slow fellows who didn't get up with us in
time for the pursuit, hitched their horses at a straw stack and were smocKing
and set the stack on fire, and burned it and one of the horses.

A few days later while out On a scouting expedition, and some of our men
were left behind the majority of the command, having their horses shod, Kil-
patrick's men came on them and would have captured them all, but for Lieut.
Ed. Hayth. He hurriedly formed them in line, as soon as he saw the enemy
approaching and charged them and diovethem back. Hayth then hurried on
and overtook us and informed us of the enemy's advance, so we took our posi-
tion behind a rock fence. When Kilpatrick's men advanced they came up
through a corn field, so we had to shoot considerably at random and their fir-
ing on us was about the same way. One of our men by the name of Chas.
Cross, from Lynchburg, was accidently killed by one of our pieces of artillery,
and Capt. BrecKinridge sept word bacK to the gunners that they must aim
higher, and just as the messenger, William Craddock, got to where young
Cross was Killed, he was shot by the YanKees and died that night.

These were the only two men we lost. We left the fence and charged the


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Online LibraryRufus H. PeckReminiscences of a Confederate soldier of Co. C, 2nd Va. Cavalry → online text (page 5 of 10)