Rufus H. Peck.

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

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coat and then put it in Gaboon's haversacK. He said : "Peck, th^t old devil

is looKing right at you.'' I told him that was the funny part of it. The oM
man would hit one lick at his chopping and then look at us, then another lick
and up at us again. Presently another chicken came up and I got it the same
way. so I had my two chickens and was content. When school wa9 out I went
a few steps, down to the branch, and helped the teacher and children across.
I had talked to the old lady some daring the dav and found out that she was a
sister of Peach Wolf, who had been on our circuit at my home and had preach-
ed a funeral in our family. I had called on her brother at Winchester that
same spring. He was a splendid man and I told the old lady how much \
thought of him. I began to get on the right side of her in that way. We left about
sundown and wtnt up to tell them all good-bye. Her daughter was beautiful
and I told her I had fallen completely in love with the young lady, and how sad
it was to think we might never meet again, ; that I might be numbered with
the slain before another day. I quoted the poetry :

"Oh, ever thus from childhood hours,

I've seen my fondest hopes decay,
I never loved a tree or flower.

But what 'twas first to fade away.

"Now is it true that I must go ?

And can I say to thee farewell ?
And are my fondest hopes undone?

And must I frouj the ever dwell ?

I told her I hated to leave. thinKing that she thought me a thief, and she
said: "Oh, I'll take it all back. 1 don't think you Avould take anything. I
am sorry I ever said such a thing, for I believe you are the most honest Con-
federate there is." At this Gaboon burst out laughing and started off. He
couldn't stand it, he said, any longer. I called to him to come back, but he
wouldn't do it. I was going to show her the chickens, after she had thought
me so honest, and pay her for them, but Gaboon wouldn't come back, sol left,
letting her keep her exalted opinion of me.

In a week or so I went back and spent the day with the people who had
helped me to cook the mutton and they treated me as kindly as if I had been
a near relative.

On Monday, following, Lieut. Walton, of Salem, Roanoke Co., detached
me to go to Salem for his horse. I left the command Monday eve and rode
every day and half of each night until 1 reached P^incastle. I stayed at home
from midnight until after breakfast, and started on to Salem. I had a sweet-
heart beyond Salem, in Montgomery Go. in fact, she was the lady I married in
Sept 65, and she has been mv faithful companion ever since ; has helped me

fi^ht the most important battle of all, the battle of life. As I had a ten days
furlough, I thought I must take advantage of this opportunity of seeing her
so spent two days and nights at her home. I came back by my home at Fin-
castle and got my gray mare that I had left at the horse pasture v/ith blood-
poison, wlien Custer was maKing his raid near Trevillian Depot. She had been
sent home some time before that, but I hadn't had an opportunity to get her.
She was now fat and fine and well rested, and in good shape for service

I found our command near Mount JacKson, when I returned to the army.
Shortly after I got there the Yankee cavalry made a raid up to Mt. Jackson.
Our artillery took a position on Rude's Hill and fired across Meam's Bottoms
at the enemy's artillery, stationed on the heights at Mt. Jackson. Levi Wheat
and a young man named Scott, of Co. A., Bedford Co , were killed here. Our
cavalry made a charge 2nd the enemy fled. A few of our men were killed, but
more of the Yankees. Our artillery did the most of the damage.

We remained at Mt. Jackson until after Xmas There was a heavy guard
put around the camp to keep any of the soldiers from going away, but as the
Shenandoah was considerably swollen, no guard was put there, thinking no one
could cross.

Geo. Shaver and I thought it would be a good chance for us to cross th ?
river and go to Lutheran preaching Xmas eve. So just after roll call, we swam
the river on our horses, but got wet above our knees, and went on to preach-
ing. We went to a Mr. Bear's first, who was a connection or acquaintance of
Shaver's and tooK the young ladies to church, staying until after mid-night. It
was a kind of watch service. We took the young ladies home and Mrs. Bear
gave us a fine roasted turkey tied up in a sack. She told us not to open it
until we got back to camp, and you can imagine the delight of all the boys
v/hen that sack was opened. We got back to camp alright and went to bed and
some of the bo.\s of our own mess didn't know we had been out until we show-
ed them our turkey. The next day being Xmas, a number of boxes was sent
to us. by the citizens, which was greatly enjoyed by all.

In a short time we broke camp and crossed one of the Alleghany Ranges
and went into Hardy Co. As Sheridan had burned and destroyed so much in
the Valley, we went out in order to make our own living the best way we could.
Twenty- five days' rations of salt was given to us when we left and that was
all we had. No bread, meat, or anything. Of course, we had to steal every-
thing we ate. for we had no money to buy any thing with. Fitz Lee's whole
division went on this trip. The road Hround the mountain was very winding
and some of the boys set out fire along the road as we went up and as they
reached the foot, on the other side, set that. The tire rushed up from both
sides until it reached the top, and those of us farther back, when we reach-
ed the top, could enjoy the spectacle. It was beautiful, we all thought,
especially as it was doing no one any harm.


We were most of the day in crossing and we found a beautiful little valley
where no one seemed to have been before, to molest the peace and quietude.
We hadn't had anything to eat all day. and shortly after we went into camp, a
sheep ran through, and John Sears xnd I, started after him. He ran down
into a little cut, where the cattle had been going to water, and Wm. and Geo.
Bowyer, two of my mess mates, happened to be coming up this cut, so we
poon hemmed and caught the sheep, in a very short time we had it dressed
and in our frying pans After filling: our pans we divided the rest out among
the other men nearest to us. Directly one of our lieutenants came to our tent
and said he saw a sheep pass a little while ago and he guessed some of us had
better try to get it, that the men ought to have food. I told him to sit down
a few minutes and eat supper with us. He was surprised when I said supper.
He said : "'Where did you get anythmg for supper ?" Then I told him of his
sheep he thought of getting, that we had it in our frying pans and it would
soon be done. We sliced it very thin and beat it a little like steaK. It was very
fat and fried itself nicely. It was very cold weather and before we got to camp
some of us had relieved the citizens of some of their bee gums. They were all
excitement as the army would pass an<l some of us would just dropout of ranks
and get the bee gums, while the citizens were watching the others ride by.
The bees would fl> out at first, but would soon get so chilled that they would
fall to the ground. So we bad honey, mutton and Potomac river water, for
sapper, but no bread. We called it the land of mutton and honey, instead of
the Land of Canaan, that flowed with milk and honey.

We had tents with us and would buiid up big log fires, and sleep with our
feet near the fires, so were very comfortable, despite the freezing cold weath-
er. Each morning some men were sent out to locate another place to camp, as
we only stayed a day and night at one placi. In this way we kept clear of
bush-whackers, and it made it easier on the citizens feeding us. iNo one would
feel the loss, so much, of what >\ e would steal from him.

We went into a beautiful gro^^e the second night and the whole division
camped on a level, so that we could see from one end of the line of tents to the
other. We kept out pickets and camp guards all night, and then a watchman
was kept at a tent called the "guard-house," also. It fell to my lot to stay
at the guard-house this second night. It had gotten warmer in the eve and
some of the men didn't raise their tents, just spread them out and laid on them
and spread their tlankets over them. When daylight came, I called the buglar
and told him to get up and look. A four or five inch snow had fallen and the
whole army was sound asleep and the men covered up with snow. It had kept
them so warm that they were sleeping ur.usudlly well. I told him to blow the
bugle and we'd see a sight similar to the resurrection, when they would rise
from their snowy mounds. When the bugle sounded the men began trying to
get up and as the blanKets were lit ted the snow just poured in their faces.
Well, then you'd think of anything but the resurrection, at hearing the Sunday
School words, we heard It was certamly laughable to see and hear them.
While I was on guard some of the other boys had cooked a lot of pork that we
had gotten the day before, so we had a good breakfast of pork and corn bread.

We had made a miller divide his meal with us and I'll tell you, we relished it
that snowy morning,

We had left the Potomac now and wasn't near any stream, so we needed
water. It had quit snowing by daylight and the wind was coming from the
north and it turned very much colder. I told the boys I would take the can-
teens and thought I'd find water soon, of course, but instead, I went a half
mile or so before I found a little stream in the woods I kicked tho snow away
and fourd about six inches of ice under that, so I had to cut that away with
my pocket knife. I had to get a place large enough to sink the canteen to fill
it. I kept my gloves on and made it alright until I went to fill the 8 canteens.
I tooK my gloves off then, as I had to put my hands in the water and sink the
cantee?n. I started back with the 8 canteens around my necK and shoulders,
and as I had stayed a good while. Henry Ballard started on the hunt for me.
I'd been up all night and hadn't eaten breakfast yet, so I guess that made the
cold effect me more. Just as Henry met me, following my tracks in the snow,
X fell in a dead faint, he said. He called back to the other boys, and Wm.
Bowyer came immediately, but I had revived again by the time he got to me.
I was as sick as I could be, though They carried the canteens and helped me
back to camp and went for Dr. Shackleford. He s[\id to get whiskey, that I
was nearly frozen, but nobody had any. I tried to always Keep some for sick-
ness, but happened not to have any then. He told the boys then to get some
warm lard, and he gave me a cup, nearly a pint, of that warm lard. It was a
dose, but I guess it was what pulled me through. In less than an hour I felt
so much better that I helped the boys eat their pork and corn bread.

We moved through the snow and cold again that day, to a nice hickory
grove, near the Potomac again, so we'd have no scarcity of water, the small
streams all being frozen. Some of the boys began cutting down trees for our
fires and others to foraging for food. I remembered of seeing a big iron kettle
about a mile behind us, that I thought would be so good to scald hogs and cook
a whole one in. So Chas. Gaboon, John Sears and myself, went back to get the
kettle, but found it filled with ice. We carried it a very short distance from
the house and raKed the snow away and made a fire in a lot of leaves and melt-
ed the ice, so that it would slip out of the kettle, and took it on to camp. Aft-
er going a short distance. I told the boys we'd better try to get a hog, too, for
fear the other boys hadn't found one. I noticed a path, that evening, in pass-
ing along the road, where hogs had been going to water in the snow, and when
we got to it, we followed it right to their bed. It was right dark and we
couldn't see them very well, especially the white ones. But there was one old
black fellow and I shot him, but he just squeeled and ran down this path to the
river. We followed him and h« ran out on the ice a little way and we heard
him scuffling and followed on after him and found he was about dead. We cut


his throat and Cahoon carried him bacK to camp and Sears and I carried the

Directly after we }?ot into camp, our honey battallion came. Geo. Nining-
er, James Brownlee, Peter Burger, Thomas Carper and Abraham Moody,
formed this crowd. They brought in five gums and I helped to unload it. When
I got to the fourth man, I thought he had an extra good gum of honey and to
our amazement, we found it was nearly filled with ashes. We teased the boys
good for their mistake. We soon prised the tops off and it was the finest lot
of honey 1 ever saw, I believe. I told the boys we must try to invent some
w*y to carry some of it to our next camp, and as I had six new home-made
towels with me, that mother had given me the last time I was at home, we
decided to sew them up and strain the honey out of the comb and put it in our
canteens. We soon had nearly a dozen canteens filled with strained honey. It
strained nicely by the hot log fires. Wm. Bowyer had assorted the honey and
we only strained the nice white comb. The boys ate a lot of the dark comb
while we were working with it, and Chas. Cahoon, especially. There was a
lot of bee bread in the dark comb, of course, and Charles said his father told
him honey wouldn't make you sick at all, if you ate plenty of that bee bread.
But Charles hadn't been through eating long until he began getting sick and
drunk, and said to some of us, that he was going to walk out away from the
fire and see if he wouldn't feel better. Well, he got up and walked right
through the fire. He went so rapidly that his clothing didn't catch, but his
eye-brows and whiskers were well scorched. I told the bo>s that either Shad-
rack, Meshac or Abednago, were with us, I knew, for they were the only
persons who ever went through fire unharmed. We all had to laugh, of course,
and all he said was : "Boys, I'd give a thousand dollars if Bowyer would just
get sick." We had .some dressed pork on hand when we went into camp, and
some of the boys put it on to cook and by the time we got through straining
our honey, the porK was done, so we ate supper about mid-night or 2 o'clock
in the morning. Some of the other boys had dressed the hog we had brought
in and as soon as we ate, we put it on to have ready for breakfast.

We heard there was a garrison of men at Moore Field, about 30 miles
from where we were, and some of our boys were sent over to capture them.
They were paroled, when captured, and allowed to return home until ex-

Whe)i we moved camp next, we stopped in a nice piece of level land, just
where a creek ran into the Potomac. We were near the head of the Potomac,
so it wasn't a very large stream. The man who owned the land, lived near in
a fine dwelling and had plenty of everything around him. Col. Munford sent
Capt. Cary Breckinridge, the ordinance Serg., Morris Guggenheimer, and
Beverly Whittle and myself, down to the house to protect the house and its
inmates. This was always done, if the citizens asK-d for protection.

We had saved the leaf fat from the fat sheep and cattle, until we had
nearly a 2-bushel sack full. I thought this would be a good time to render
it into tallow, so I tooK it down to the house and got one of the ladies to help
me, and in a little while I had more than a bushel of tallow, moulded in maple
sugar moulds. We were in a regular maple sugar country. All the people had
big kettles and regular equipments for making it. We were too early for the
season, but we got some that was left from the year before. We kept our
tallow to use about making gravy or putting in our bread, and I ate it some-
times, if I got too awfully hungry. The other boys couldn't stand to eat it,
but I could eat anything then, rather than starve.

When we left this camp, thirty of us were sent to Buck Horn Mill, to hold
any meal or flour they might have, until the command came. There were
dozens of pairs of bucK horns tacked on the mill. The country abounded in
deer. We found very little in the mill, and we hadn't been there long, until
one of our companies came after us, to get what was in the mill, and brought
a dispatch telling us to go to the top of Droop Mountain and go on picket duty
on the Parkersburg and Harrisonburg road.

We got there about sun-down, and asked a man living there, if he could
give us provision and keep the men, while not on duty. He was in sympathy
with the South and did all he could for our comfort. I went out on the first
watch and when my 2 hours were out, I came back and asked the man why,
did he suppose, my horse was so restless when I was out, that I didn't see any-
thing. He said it was deer that she saw or smelt. He said they were there
by the dozens. One of our men shot one, while up there. We saw the
tracks everywhere the next morning, but they had all gone back to the

The next day we went on farther toward Highland Co. Our next stop was
near a place called Franklin and some of the officers had some Confederate
money and they bought a few of the beautiful cattle and sent them home.

We passed a stillhouse on our next move and all the boys got some
whisKey. That night, after the majority of us were asleep, we heard some
one coming along shouting and singing, and it proved to be Col. Breckin-
ridge's colored waiting boy. Griffin Hawkins, just drunk enough to be
"mouthy." I said, Griff, is that you? He said: "Yes Sir. Hurrah for
you." Then he began calling the roll: "Ammen, Marcus ; Bowyer, G. F,;
Bowyer, Wm. ; Cahoon, C C," and on until he called us all. Then he said :
"Geneman, you is de bravest men we is got. We's goin' to drive dem d— d
Yankees clear away, presently, and den Ps gwine home to see my Hannah
Jane. I's gwine to tell her :

'Roses is red,

Violets is blue.
Sugar am sweet
And so is you.'
Den she'll love and I knows it." We told him he was drunk and to go o


to bed, but he said : "No sir, I's as sober as a judge. I knows every grene-
man in dat tent." Then he would call the roll again. Chas. Gaboon had a
nice horse, but it had a crooked tail and Chas. would get very mad when we
teased him about it. Abe Moody had just been put on the ambulance corps and
we teased him and told him he wanted to shun fighting, Griff knew all these
jokes and remembered them when drunk. He said then : "I knows you all
and de kind of horse you rides. Dar'g Peck R. H., did ride de flying artillery,
until he flew so fast he got wounded, and now he rides de grizzly gray. Am-
men Marcus, rides de roach-back, wid a hump on his back like a camel. Ga-
boon Ghas. , rides de fine bay mare, Rhody, but watch dat crooked tail. Dat
horse Dr. said to tie the tail to the saddle gurf, and she'd tote it straight. But
I say, tie a big rocK to de tail for a sinKer and I bet she'd tote it straight den. ' '
By this time all the boys were awaKe and everybody roaring and laughing.
He finished his foolishness by saying : "I's gwine to git on de colonel's horse
and blow dat bugle and call out the 2nd Va. Cavalry and run dem d — d yan-
kees clean acre ss de Potomac. If dey don't git out it dey's lookout, and no-
body cares, cause it aint our fault. 1 Knows we'll run 'em off, if the ambu-
lance corps will jes' keep up. (Then we had the laugh on Moody.) Geneman
dis niggar is jes' as stout as Sampson. I could pull one of des trees up by de
root, but 'taint no use. Sampson pulled up dem gate posts and carried 'em on
de hill. Well, I jes' believes I could carry dat tree on de hill, but 'taint no
use." He carried on like this for a half hour or more, and it was about equal
to a circus. He kept saying how sober he was and laughing occasionally, say-
ing if Rhody would just keep her tail straight and the ambulance corps must
keep up.

We crossed a very high range of the Alleghanies. as we went into High-
land county, and made our first encampment near where the Cow Pasture and
Bull Pasture rivers head and flow south. The southern tributaries of the
Potomac rise on the same elevation and flow north. We could looK both north
and south, so far that nothing was discernibk ; it just seemed that we were
looking into space, or beyond the briny deep.

While there one of our scouts captured a man butchering a beef, and as
he couldn't give any account of what he was going to do with it, or anything,
they decided he was a Swamp Dragoon. These Swamp Dragoons were men
who were opposed to the war and dodged both sides. We kept him several
days and as we were soon going to leave for Staunton, we decided to let him
get away. So some of us told him, when he saw that all of us were asleep,
to ju?t step away cautiously and go home. After he left some of us pretend-
ed to be very much alarmed and saddled and started after him, calling halt !
But we sav/ by his tracks the next morning, that he hadn't only run, but had
bounded like a deer- He took about 11 feet at a jump. When we reported
to the officer of the guard, he said let him go to the devil. We don't need him
and can't prove he is a dragoon, anyway.

The next morning we started toward Staunton and camped near there the
first night. The next day we crossed the mountain at Rock Fish Gap and went
into Albemarle county. On our way we passed a large two story mill. I noticed

thpre was a road or. both the Ifft and rigrht of the mill and I just dropped out
of ranks and went in at the lower door by the left hand road and to'k ihe sack
at the meal chest that was T^^rtly filled with meal and hung my empty one in
its place. The miller, I knew, would be on the upper floor watching the com-
mand P4SS. I hastened a little and by the time my part of the command got
t(» where the roads met, I was tl'-ere with meal enough for several days. I
stopped at the next house to buy some buttermilk and eggs to make into bat-
ter-brtiid with my meal. The lady of the house would not charge me a cent,
as I was a soldier, and I learn<-d afteiward that the mill belonged to those
very people. There were several young ladies at the house, nearly grown,
and in a few years a neighbor of mine, Chas. Utz. married and when I went
to the reception, I recognized his bride as one of the young ladies I'd met at
that house. She was Miss Jennie Hansbrough. and it was from her father,
('apt. Hiram Hansbrough, that I'd taken the me%l. it was steal or starve
those days, though, and I told the boys that Pharoah's dream -had taught me
that in time of plenty to always prepare for famine, I baked the meal into
batter-cakes that night, and as no one else had gotten any provision, I had to
bake it all for supper and divide among the hungry boys I didn't even get a
good ration for myself, much less my mess-mates. We all always made it a
rule to try to get enough for our mess-mates, as well as ourselves, when

We stopped at North Garden and stayed a few days and rested our horses
and got supplies. The 1-2-3 and 4 regiments camped right together here, and
while there, in maneuvering around we found a moonshiner, who had put a
substitute in the war and had made thousands of dollars, I guess. He had a
fine four story brick barn and dwelling house. He was bringing sugar, coffee,
etc.. into the conrederate lines and selling at a great big profit. He kept two
stories of the barn locKed all the time and we were anxious to know what he
kept in there and the boys wanted me to try to find out. So I told him one
day that he ought to have a guard at that barn, that it wasn't safe to leave
It He asked me if I wouldn't guard for him, but I was busy, so sent Ben
Foster, a very shrewd fellow. He help the men to shuck corn and watched
around, and I told him to get in one of those upper stories and uiilocK a win-
dow, and there were some boat "gunwales" in the barn yard that would just
about reach to the window. We couid put them up at night and climb up and
pull the vvindov/ op^^n and help ourselves. Eight of us went and ordered the
guard, Ben Foster, to leave at the point of pistols, which was sham work, of
course, but he left. I climbed up and filled a sack of corn and rolled it down on
the plank, and one of the boys aimed to catch it, to keep it from bursting,and
when it hit him it nearly killed him for awhile. We all had a laugh over it,

when we saw he wasn't hurt, and I told one of the boys to come up and help
me to explore and see what we could find. One boy came and found what he
thoug-ht was a sacK of sugar. I got out the window and caught the sack with

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Online LibraryRufus H. PeckReminiscences of a Confederate soldier of Co. C, 2nd Va. Cavalry → online text (page 8 of 10)