Rufus H. Peck.

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

. (page 6 of 10)
Online LibraryRufus H. PeckReminiscences of a Confederate soldier of Co. C, 2nd Va. Cavalry → online text (page 6 of 10)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

enemy and drove them back, but didn't capture any of them..

The next we heard of the enemy was that Gen. Meade was concentrating
his forces in Culpepper Co., preparing to advar ce on Richmond. Gen. Lee
then moved with hisarmy toward Culpepper, C. H., to check Meade. .He sent
Stewart's cavalry to cross the Kapidan river at Raccoon Ford, to drive the
enemv back.


When we crossed the river the enemy opened fire on us with three or four
pieces of artillery and the first ball that was fired cut Sergeant McCabe's leg
off and the ball went on through his horse and killed it instantly. We soon saw
that our only chance was to dismount and charge the enemy on foot. When we
got near the artillery they began to fall back and never halted until they got
to Stevensburg, about two miles distant. Here they opened fire on us again
and we laid down in a mill race, to get out of range and sight of the enemy.
I was very warm, having walked the two fniles in double quick time and had
to lie in that spring water for about three hours until reinforcements arrived.
When the infantry got within about 200 yards we were ordered to charge the
artillery, which we did, but when they saw our reinforcements cpming they
began retreating again to Brandy Station. We follov^^ed them expecting them
to make a stand again but they did not. They continued to retreat until they
joined the main army. We camped near Brandy Station that night, and the
next morning I was unable for service. My rest in that spring water fead given
me a case of congestion of the liver. K. B. Stoner was sent to take me back
to Orange C H. , I wasn't able to go alone.

After going a couple of miles a citizen told us of a near way by going
through his corn field and on out in a cross road, that led to the main road. Just
after getting into the corn field I was riding a little ahead while Stoner laid up
the fence and to my great surprise one of Gen. Pleasenton's couriers came
galloping up. I drew my pistol and ordered him to surrender, which he did
without a word. When we got through the field and to the next house, the
man of the house told us it wasn't safe to go farther because he had seen a
scouting party go that way. He told us another near route back to Lee's

We arrived there in due time and stayed all night and they told us where
to find the command. We at last reached them and turned our prisoner over
to the provost guard, and made a second start for Orange C. H. I hadn't eaten
anything for a couple of days and would get so sicK every few miles that I'd
have to get off and lie on the ground awhile and try it again. After two days
riding and resting along, we reached camp and you may know 1 was glad to
get back. I was sick for a week or so and every thing remained quiet for
some time.

This was nearing fall and we soon began fixing up winter quarters. We
tented in a heavy peice of timber and built a wind brake back of the encamp-
ment. We had built log huts for winter quarters before this, but just lived in
our tents the winter of '63, as we were expecting to have to move at any time.
Nothing occurred during the winter to breaK our rest. We kept up picket
duty, of course, and had fairly good rations, principally corn bread and pork
with some beef. The country had been so over-run that we couldn't expect
to fare as well as we had previously.

We broke camp the early part of march and moved to Fredericksburg.
The evening we started, after we had saddled up, we were waiting for further
orders and about half of the boys lay down by the wind brake and went to
sleep. The horses were all hitched around, just where we had kept them all


winter. Some of the boys thought things were too quiet, so they slipped around
and set fire to the dry pine brush of the wind braiie, and such a scare as the
fellov^s had when they waked up. The men jumped and some ran off without
their guns or pistols, and every little while the fire would burn over one and it
would fire away. The horses then got scared and we had a general awakening.
Some of the boys used Sunday School words, lavishly, Fll tell you. If they
could only catch the fellov/ who set the brush, was the cry ; but catching him
was the thing. Every fellow was perfectly innocent,, of course.

At about 8 o'clocK at night we had orders to march toward Fredericksburg.
As the roads were bad, the wagons made poor time, so we didn't get there
until the next day.

As soon as we arrived a detail was made from all the companies to send
men down to help draw a seine. I got permission to ride about some and took
one of the roads made by the infantry the year before, when the battle was
fought there. I heard a man cursing at the top of his voice and I went to him
and his wagon had upset with a load of fish. I helped him turn his wagon bacK
and to reload his fish and he was very grateful for my help, so much so, that
he gave me a dozen fine hickory shad. I strung my fish up and hung them
to my saddle and started on toward the fishing, and directly I heard my man
yelling and cursing and I rode back to find his wagon upset again and every
fish on the ground. 1 helped him load up again and he gave me another doz*
My hands and clothes were considerably soiled by this time, so I decided to go
on back with him. He was going to the camp with the fish, so I helped him
on out of the woods. Every time the wagon would strike the roots of the
trees the fish would slip first to one side of the bed and then the other and by
both of holding and watching we kept them from upsetting the wagon again.
When I got back our quarter-master had issued fish to the men, so with my
extra 2 dozen, we had a fish feast.




We remained at that camp until the morning of the 4th of May, when we
tore down our tents and started to Spottsylvania C. H. When we got there
We were ordered out to take a place near Todd's Tavern, where we were or-
dered to fortify.

In a few hours Gen. Sedgwick, with the 19th army corps marched against
us. A desperate fight ensued- We fought from behind our log fortifications ;
he charged again and again during the whole day, but we continued driving
him back. Our loss v/as light, as we were well fortified, but the ground over
which they charged was left blue with their slain. Gen. Ulysees Grant had
already been appointed commander-in-chief of the Yankee forces and was now
in Spottsylvania Co. His motto was "never to give up," so he reinforced
Sedgwick the next day with another army corps, which meant 30,000 or 40,000
men. The first day I receipted for 100 rounds of ammunition and shot it all and
the next day for 115 and used all that the 2nd day. The others all did about
the same. They had removed the dead during the night and charged over the
same ground all of the second day . We held our same position behind the
fortifications and lost very few men, but the ground in front of us was blue
with the poor boys in blue, again by night fall. We left a strong force at
the fortifications during the night, but a part of us went into camp near


We went back to our position in the morning of the 3rd day and the Yan-
kee's had moved their dead, but were reinforced and ready to charge us
again and continued until about the middle of the day. One of our Bedford
boys "Lil'' Johnson, looKed over the fortifications and was shot through the
head and killed instantly. Another fellow Creed Hubbard was killed by a bul-
let passing through the fortifications. Chas. Price, Newt. Shaver and I were
side by side as we had been forthiee days firing at the enemy, when another
bullet came through the fortifications and struck Newt, in the breast and he
fell dead, as we thought. I put my hand into his bosom to see if we could
stop the bullet wound from bleeding and found there wasn't a particle of
blood. He had just been stuned so we soon revived him with water, and jus^t
then one of our couriers came in sight and was killed. Some, one ran up to

him and found a dispatch in his hand ordering us to fall back. Our breast-
\7orks had caught on fire at the extreme ends of our line and our men had al-
ready been ordered back, but we were the last to receive the order.

The enemy was pressing harder, of course, and just as we started back,
after our breastworks had caught on fire, Chas. Price took Newt's gun to
carry and I took his arm to help him, as he was still weaK from the shock and
a bullet strucK him in the arm, that was locked in mine. We had to leave
our dead men at the breastworks to burn. I only saw the two right near me,
in fact they were about 3rd or 4th man from me, but of course, there were
others all along the Ime. Still our loss was very meager, compared to the
enemy. We fell bacK untill we reached Gen. Lomax's breastworks. When
we crossed over and laid down, I told Newt I wanted to find out why that first
ball that struck him didn't enter his body and I asked him what he had in his
pocket. He said he had the bible that his mother gave him, when he left
home. I loolicd and found the bullet more than half way through the little
bible So it had saved his life.

I turned him over to the ambulance corps to be cared for. The enemy's
whole line of baLtle followed us, but only the sharpshooters came in sight. We
waited for the line to appear to open fire, but as they didn't, Col. Munford
ordered our sharpshooters to re-cross the breastworks and charge the enemy
who was hiding behind trees and firing occasionally.

Edward Biugh, of Co. C, 2ad Va Cavalry, who was comm^anding us, or-
dered us to advance and try to keep the trees between us and the enemy as
much as possible. Just as I got to a large tree a man behijid it fired at Brugh
who was behind another tree to my right, and shot him through the lung. I
ran around the tree expecting to get him, but he had dodged behind another
tree and I didn't get a shot at him Lieut. Hayth was put in Brugh's stead
and we followed on and drove them nearly to our breastworks that had been
burned. 1 was in the front hne and just as we were ordered to halt, I saw a
Yankee officer lying dead, as I thought, with his head between two small shrubs.
1 went to him and saw that he was shot through the head and thought from
his appearance that be might have money, so I examined his pockets and found
none, but found a splendid silver watch. One of Co. K's men was with me
and he said : "Peck, I am going totaKehis boots, he'll never need them again."
Just as he aimed to pull one off, the man kicked him and sent him a couple of
somersaults. 1 looked and saw that our men had gotten some distance back
toward our breastworks, so we started back in double quick time, I'll tell you.

The enemy's skirmish line began firing on us and Vv-e ran at full speed. I
carried the watch ia my hand, so if I was shot I c )uld throw it away. I didn't
want them to kill or capture me with a dead Yankees property on my person.
We didn't overtake our men until we crossed the breastworks, and we crossed
right where Capt. James Breckuuidge was and laid down by his side. He said
to me : "The boys thought you were either killed or captured as you didn't
get bacK with them." I then showed him the watch and told him of r/iy hunt-
ing for money and finding it. Capt. B. took the watch and looKed at it and
saw that it Lelon:^ed to Col. E. L. Sindler, of the 1st Va. U. S. Cavalry. Col

Munford said he knew the man well ; had gone to school with him at West
Point, and had been his class-mate and graduated with him. Capt. B. wanted
to trade me a gold watch for it, and 1 sent the gold watch home, and he car-
ried Col. Sindler's watch until he was killed at the battle of Five ForKs.

It wasn't long until night-fall, so the enemy let us remain in camp
until morning. We arose early and the infantry had arrived by this time, and
we fortified, expecting them to do the fighting and we could looK on. The in-
fantry had been in camp near-r Richmond and didn't get to us in time to share
our three days fight.

Gen. Lee ordered us out near where our breastworKs had been burned, to
bring on the fight, but before we got that far the enemy, hiding in the timber,
fired on us and killed Capt. Breckinridge's horse, known to us as "Bull Locust."
We retreated so they would come out in the field and follow us nearer to the
breastworks where we could have a chance at them and the infantry opened
fire on them Just at this time C'ol. Munford received a dispatch from Gen. J.
E- B. Stewart, that Sheridan, who had been fighting in the southwest was ad-
vancing on Richmond with 15.000 men and 90 pieces of artillery, principally
parot guns. Munford ordered us to follow him in a gallop, which we did.

We halted after galloping about twelve miles, when we were nearir.g
Sheridan's rear. He was in a country where a great deal of broom sage grew
and to keep us from overtaxing him he had fired the country for miles. We
rushed right through the fire, singing our eye- brows and our horses manes and
tails, but succeeded in coming on his rear and also getting a portion of our army
in front of him at a place near Beaver Dam.

As Sheridan had so much larger force of men and equipments than Stewart,
we had to give way at several points, to protect ourselves, but when we got to
Yellow Tavern, about 9 miles from Richmond, Stewart determined to make a
stand and save Richmond. Stewart rode in front of his line and told us that
Richmond's destiny lay at our hands ; that in three more miles Sheridan could
reach the Heights from which he could throw Greek fire from the parot guns
and shell the town. Richmond houses were principally covered with shingle
roofing at that time and not so many brick buildings, and as the parot guns
could throw a shell 6 miles, and when it stiucK it would explode and throw fire
in every direction, it would have bwen an easy and short take to hav3 sstit all
on fire. We had had some experience with Greek fire and knew what it was to
extinguish it. It was a very dry time, too, but a cloud arose and just as the
battle began the cloud reached us and a dreadful storm followed. The lightn-
ing and cannonading were so terrific, that sometimes we couldn't tell the flash
of one from the other. The rain was just pouring and often the ammuni-
tion would get so wet, as we were loading our guns, that they wouldn't

The Penn. cavalry made a desperate charge and took three of Stewart's
artillery guns. Stewart, with his 1st Va. regiment, the one that he had gone
out with, aimed to retake the guns, and one of the Penn. cavalry, who had
gotten out into our lines before falling back and saw Stewart and recogniz-
ed him, I suppose, fired and mortally wounded him We didn't get the guns

hut we held Sheridan back and saved Richmond. The battle only lasted some-
thing more than an hour, but in that short time we had lost one of our bravest
and best men, Gen. J. E. Stewart.

We fouj;'ht nearly the whole time in a down-pour of rain and the loss was
heavy on both sides, but we felt the loss of our leader more than all of the
privates, at this time, when the enemy was doubling in on us from all

Sheridan was not easily defeated, we only spoiled one plan for him tomaKe
another to reach Richmond ; that was to go down and cross the Chichahominy
at Meadow Bridge. He began that movement as he fell back from Yellow

Our pickets that evening and night found that he was moving in that dir-
ection, so we weie ordered to move down and form a line of battle south of
Meadow Bridge. The Chickahominy was very much swollen by the rain the
day Defore and it was out over the swamps about waist deep on a man.

We were right at the bank of the river and saw so many large turtles,
watching for bugs or ariything that might be floated. We soon looked out
across the river that had spread a mile or more over the swamp, and saw a
number of objects that looked no larger than many of the turtles, advancing in
regular line.

1 told the boys that I believed that was Yankees wading in the water and
trying to m ke us believe they were turtles. The other boys all thought they
were turtles, though.

I was right in the road that crossed the bridge and had a good view, and felt
sure they were men we saw and not turtles. So I called to Lieut. McGruder
to come down and investigate the matter. He hadn't much more than reach-
ed me, before these men in the water opened fire on us and killed McGruder
while talking to me.

The Yankees were ?'rmed with Spencer rifles and it made no difference
how wet they got the water couldn't penetrate the powder. They had stooped
down until only their heads were above water, where it wasn't deep enough to
hide them, and when they were yet about fifty yards out from the river in the
swamp timber, they fired on us, killing several men of our skirmish line and
the Lieut.

We were ordered to fall back over the crest of a little hill south of us, in
double quick time. We had a very brave Irish Sergeant, who said he'd never
run, and as we were going bacK in double quick time, the Capt. said to him :

"Paddy, I thought you'd never run."

He said : '*Ah, t^apt. It is shust this way. Those d — d rascals have
played turtle on us and it is better for a fellow to be a coward for a few

minutes, than a corpse for the rest of his life. Let the d d rascals come

out of the water loike min, and I'll foight them until hell freezes over and
and thin Til foight thim on the ice."


We fell back to our regular line of battle and artillery and when they came
out of the watvr. we rushed up to the top of the hill v;ith oar artillery and
charged them,, driving them back through the river with heavy slaughter

Gen. Stewart, who had been taken to his brother- in-Iavv's home in Rich-
mond, and was gradually g owing worse, heard the cannonading and asked
v.hat it naeant. They told him that Sheridan was aiming to cross at Meadow
Bridge, and that FitzLee and Wade Hampton were holding the furd- Stew-
art's reply Vv'as : "If Fitz Lee is there with the Va. cavalry, Richmond is safe."
These were the last v-/ords he spoke, that any one could understand. I'll tell
you it did our sad hearts good to know that th -' man we had fought with that
long, had that confide .ce in us and thnt we could be among his last thoughcs.

At about two o'clocK the water had run down considerably, and some of us
crossed to see if Vv'e could locate Sheridan's movements. Scouting parties were
sent in every direction and we soon found that he had retreated in the direction
of the White House, on the York River.

While we were fighting Sheridan, R. E. Lee was having some of the hard-
est fightinii they had ever had. He was opposing Grant at Bloody Angle an]
other points near. It was at Bloody Angle that Lee's men ordered him to the
rear and they would go to the front This he did, and they did go to tiie front
and straightened the iine of the angle

We were out scouting for several days and finding that Sheridan was mov-
ing toward Vv'ashington, we returned and joined the command and went to pro-
tect R. E. Lee's right flank, when Grant was maicing his left flank movement
to get between Lee and Richmond. We met the enemy at a place called Jack's
Shop and as we had no fortiiications, began to prepare immediately. Capt.
James Breckinridge sent Wash Conode and myself to the wagon train, that
was a few miles in the rear, to get ammunition for the regiment. When we
got back, they had decided not to fortify at that place, but had moved to an-
other piece of woods and had left a to tell us where to go. For some
reason, he wasn't there and we went up within thirty or forty yards of what
we thought was our regiment, but found it was the Yankee infantry. When
I found we'd struck the YanKees I told Conode to fall flat on his horse and
ioLow me. I started out of the woods and the YanKees began firing on us and
Conode surrendered right there, with his ammunition. I kept riding as hard
as I could go down a ravine below the infantry and I thought they would be
apt to over shoot me, as I was going down a hill. They fired on me fearfully
for a half mile or more, but as usual not a bullet struck me or my horse. When
I got to the end of the ravine and out of the range of the line of Yankees. 1
found the man that had been left to tell us where to go wtth the ammaniton
I told him I'd lost the man and sack of ammunit'on, by his not staying at his
post i nd had run one of the narrow'est risks of my life. I guess fully a thou-
sand shots was fired at me, but it is hard to shoot a man galloping down hill.

When 1 got to the command, they had commenced fortifying at a place
that one of R. E. Lee's engineers had located. We held this position and kept
the Yankee infantry back, until our infantry arrived that eve and the next
day a big battle occurred between the two forces of infantry.


We, of the cavalry hai be^a sent still farth9r on Lee's right to prevent
Grants movement again. About that time Gen. wuster was making a raid to-
ward the Jamas River to destroy the canal, thereby cutting off a large source
of supplies. Gen. Wade Hampton was sent to check him and we rode all night
and just before day light some of us were detatched to get corn for our horses.
We uent to a corn crib and each man put two bushels of corn on his horse, as
ordered and we. expected to feed as soon as we got back to the road. But
instead of that, we found a man waiting to tell us that new orders had been
received and that the rest of the command had gone in double quick time and
for us to follow likewise.

We overtook them between daylight and sunrise near Travillian Depot.
All the other fellows had let half of their corn out of their sacks, but I carried
all of mine, for the horses hadn't had anything to eat since the morning be-
fore. I didn't think about it hurting my horse, but we all unsaddled to feed
and when I went to saddle up again my horse's back was so swollen that I
couldn't get tha saddle on. She and two other horses were condemned as un-
fit for serviee and I was detatched to take all three of them to the horse pas-
ture, in Albermarle.

I started for the horse pasture at once, which was about a day's ride. I
hoped to get something to eat from citizens, as I had not eaten anything since
the morning before. I soon came to a lot of led horses in a field of about
ten acres. There was one man to every four horses, and other men were out
fortifying and preparing to repel Custer. Vv^hen he v/ould advance. These
were confederate horses belonging to Gen. Young. The man who had charge
of the horses, told me it wasn't safe for me to go farther, that no telling at
just wh t point Custer's men would appear. He told me to come and eat
breakfast with him and remain until we could see farther. As I needed food,
1 of course, took his advise. We went into a house right then to get break-
fast, that had already been ordered and we had just begun to eat when one of
the lad e.s of the house came in saying there was a disturbance among the hor5es
out there and she thought there were some men in blue among them.. When
we got out we saw a regiment of Yankee cavalry coming to the horses and
surrounding them, and some of the YanKees were opening the fence and taking
out the horses and men in the direction of where Custer's army was station-
ed, i'hey came right on to the house and captured all of us. They got out
aoout 500 horses and one man to every four horses, of course.

Gen. Kosser, whose men hadn't been dismounted, heard the firing and
rushed down and recaptured about two thirds of us and our horses and cap-
taj-ed some of tlie Yankees ?Jso. I was free then to start on my journey to
the horse pasture. I hadn't gone more than a half mile when I met a nice
sorrel horse, galloping saddled and bridled, but no rider. I didn't know what
to make of it, but I caught him and took him on with me. I could hear the
firing up at the depot, so I thought the Yankees would all be needed there and
went on, but somewhat cautiously.


I got to the horse pasture that eve and found every thinx in confusion,* as
they thoug-ht Custer was coming thnt v/ay on his raid. I had learned before
I got very far from the command that Cus'ter had been repulsed with heavy
slaughter. Julius Buford, who was our yet rinary surgeon at the horse pas-
ture, had taken ail the horses to the mountain and the citizens had. also, think-
ing Custer was coming. A Mr. Poindexter of Franklin Co. had charge of the
pasture but not a horse was there. •

My horse was badly swollen under the body as wall as on the bacK, v/hen
I got there and Mr. Poindexter sent for Buford yet that night and bled the

1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10

Online LibraryRufus H. PeckReminiscences of a Confederate soldier of Co. C, 2nd Va. Cavalry → online text (page 6 of 10)