Rufus H. Peck.

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

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my teeth, and went down the plank feet- foremost, until near enough to the
ground for the other boys to get it I tooK all the sacks down this way and
when we got hacK to camp and opened our sacks ai^d fed our horses the most
of the corn, we opened the sack of sugar, as we thought, but it proved to be
clover seed. We wanted to get it off of our hands and carried it over to the
3rd Regiment, where they issued their rations and feed.

Next morning everybody wondered where and how it got there and when
it went over. I told them it had been sent by mistake to them, of course, for
sugar, or something. Some of our boys had been helping the old man to shuck
corn and he came over to us the next morning to know what had become of
the guard, and he had missed his clover seed, so found it, of course. He had
not missed his corn, but knew some one had been in the barn, as the planks
w. re still up at the window. He talke>d to me about it and I told him I expected
the feilov/ that helped him shuck had done the mischief, and that it was a
shame. He neyer suspected once that I was the ring leader of the crowd.

A few days later Robt. Stevens and Isaac Hinkle cama down to see their
sons in our company, and Ben thought he would like to send something back to
the folks at home, so he came in one morning with shoes, pants, coats and
SOCKS that he had taken from his own quarter-master and sent home to his
father-in-law. He laughed and told me about it. We had gotten so used to
stealing that we thought it fun to see who could get things in the closest quar-
ters. Ben said, when he was home, that the old man had on sh«ep skin shoes
made with the wool out and looked worse than old h — . and he knew he'd be
proud of those shoes.

After leaving this camp, we made our next stop at Bowling Green, Caro-
line county. We went into winter quarters here, but didn't build log huts, as
we sometimes did. Just lived in our tents as two-thirds or more of the v/in-
ter had already passed.

We found plenty for ourselves and horses to eat. The corn was fine, ear^
averaging about 15 inches. Our rations, as well as that for our horses, was
furnished by the Confederacy, so we didn't have to steal nov/. The place
abounded in wild geese. Thej; were just about as plentiful as the English spar-
rows are here. They ate the growing wheat so badly that a boy v.-ould often
get on a mule and drive them out of the fields until about noon, and then they
would fly back toward the Chesapeake Bay.

As we had no drilling or fighting to do we had a good time. We had to
keep up picket duty, wss about ail, except our cooking, chopping wood and
taking care of our horses. One day, while hery, a rnoonshinei came into camp
and was arrested. We had orders to put a middle-aged man and one that
could be trusted to guard. The Orderly Sergeant appointed Ballard McClaugh-



67
erty, a middle-a;?ed man, alrig-ht, but it seems that Ballard had seen the fel-
low too often and Knew too much about him ; but the Orderly didn't knowthat,
of course. The days of prophets and iudgres were over, but we still had men
to phophesy, at times. Well, I for one, prophesied that the moonshiner would
get away that night. After roll-call and taps were sounded and everybody had
g-one to bed, we were suddenly awakened by the firing of a riiie and some one

yelling "Halt! halt! you d moonshiner," and then a pistol fired three times.

He then yelled "Corporal of the guard, post No. I." The Corporal, hurrying
to the scene, said, "What's \«rong at post No. 1?" McC. 's bed-fellow. Jack
Driskel, said, "Why, Mc.'s moonshiner has gotten away." "Well, where did
he go?" said the Corporal. "Oh, he's gone hellwards, like heli beating tan-
bark," said Driskel. We never heard of him again at camp, but 1 think some
of the boys saw him right often on the sly.

Everything moved on quietly until about the middle of March, when we
were ordered back to Richmond. Early was being pressed pretty closely in
the valley and we expected to be sent on there, but as Grant was preparing
for movement, we were held to help protect Richmond for a couple of weeks.
As soon as we got to Richmond, Gen. Lee issued an order that any one who
had served the four years in the war and wanted to go home to be married,
would be granted a ten days' furlough. These men could take any of the
broken-down horses from the company and bring back good ones. Two men
from each company was all that would be allowed to go at one time. They
left and others put in apphcations for furloughs, but before the first boys got
back Grant kept us so busy that no one could leave. We left Richmond for
Five ForKs, arriving there one Friday eve.

The next day, Sheridan made a charge on cur infantry and killed and
captured a great many. We were ordered to re-inforce and protect the in-
fantry and ws drove the enemy bacK a considerable distance. As vre fell
back to oue line, a skirmish lin - was formed, so we could priss over a wider
scope and see if there were any wounded that We could help. I came across
a splendid looking fellow, who didn't looK to be more than 15 years old, lying
across a large clump of rock liliies. His head and feet were on the ground,
but his body was up on the liliies. I jumped from my horse, thinking he
was only stunned, but found he was dead. I never see the beautiful waxy
bloom of the rock lily, that I don't think of the fate of that fine looking boy,
almost a child. I laid him flat on the ground, but could do no more.

We overtook the 57th Va. Regiment of infantry as they were going back
to the breastworks. My brother-in-law, Lieut. John Dill, told me that they
had suffered a great lost, but not near so great as at Gettysburg. He said
that before we got there to re-inl'orce them, that Gen. Picket had ordered
them to cross the breastworks and drive Sheridan's cavalry back. They suc-
ceeded in driving them a short distance, but Sheridan re-inforced his men and
drove the infantry back with considerable slaughter, but when he found we were



68

reinforcing: the infantry, his men began to fall bacK, also. We w( nt into
camp just back of the roads. The place took its name from the five roads
leading from that point. Everything was quiet Sunday morning, until after
twelve o'clock. I visited around among the Botetourt boys in the infantry
during the time, and after dinner the pickets came in and said the
enemy was advancing, and I looked and saw the enemy advancing in a few
minutes, in five columns one right after the other. I'd left my horse just be-
hind the breastworKs and I ran back and got her. We had orders to fall into
line and for No. 3 to hold horses and to dismount. It fell to my lot to hold
horses, but the man next to me wasn't a good runner, and I would rather go
into the battle and he said he had rather hold horses, so we just exchanged
places and I went on with the Co. We formed into line again and counted off
with fours as No. 3 had dropped out to hold horses. Capt. James B. walKed
right down in front of us and asked for me. and some one told hun I was right
in the front. He came to me and said I thought you were out of ranks, I
want to get your rifle and you go back and get your horse and bring up am-
munition. Guggenheimer isn't here, «o you bring it. By the time I got a-
bout 300 yds from the men of my Co . the firing had commenced Just then I
met Gen. Picket and his staff, and he asked me, what was advancing. I told
him it was infantry. He said : "how strong." I told him 1 had seen five
lines in succession and I didn't know what was behind them, of course. He
immediately wrote a dispatch and gave it to a courier and sent it to th« next
officer in command. He sent a part of his staff with the courier. He turned
back and went on just in front of me across Hatchers Run. I could hear the
firing all the time. It was terrific There was a man with me from Co. K
and we had some little trouble in finding the ordinance wagon but were not
gone longer than an hour. When we started back with the ammunition, I saw
that our forces were retreating. I soon came up to the infantry, artillery and
the whole army, retreating toward Lynchburg, They told me that they had
lost heavily. The enemy rushed right up and took the breastworKs, capturing
a good portion of the llth regiment of infantry. Just about the time the in-
fantry began to give away Capt. Jas. BrecKinridge was killed. Poor brave
fellow. He had taken m.v rifle and sent me out of the battle, when I had gone
in after being drawn off to hold horses. After his death Lieut. Hayth wa."
appointed. Capt. Grant's army was then advancing on ail the roads and we
were trying to defend on the same. We traveled on until abc^ut nightrall,
when Sheridan's cavalry attacted our wagon train - nd at first we repulsed
them, but they were too strong for us and they succeeded in capturing some
of our wagons and men. We of the 2nd Va. cavalry were guarding the wagon
train and several of our men were killed Capt. Strother of the 4th regiment
was with us and he went back to see if any of our men were left that we could
help and to see if the enemy was following. He didn't come back foi some
time and we called to him and the enemy had captured him and answered;
"Here is your Capt. Strother come down and get him." We kept marching in
the njght, without food for ourselves or horses. Wiienday broke when we
could have mayb« found a little provisions, the enemy was pressing on so that



GO
we had to continue marchin.tc- Gen. K. E. Lee had ordered a lot of provisions
to be sent to Amelia Springs and as we did not g:et there when the train ar-
rived, it was sent bacK, so our nearest source of supplies was at Lynchburg,
which was a long way off.

The next day the Wagon train was attacted by a lot of colored cavalry, but
we succeeded in driving them off. I went into a stable to get some feed for
my horse and in getting the hay. found a black man shot in the mouth, but not
dead. I told the people of the house, to tell the YanKees when they passed to
care for him, that we couldn't. The horses were so worn out, n^t having food
or rest, that they could hardly pull what few wagons we had left. Some of the
wagons were loaded with a lot of books^ statistics of the war, etc , and we
came across such a muddy place, that the horses couldn't get the wagons
through, so we threw a lot of the books in, but that wouldn't fill up the hole
so we could cross. There were no rails or timber near, so some of the men
shot s(^me of the poor old worn out horses and dragged them into the mud
hole and then drove Ihe teams and wagons across on their bodies. I couldn't
and wouldn't do that. I would have left the old wagons stand there forever,
and turned the horses loose, first. I knew, and the majority of us had known
for sometime, that we were whipped and the sooner we would susrender the
more lives would be saved and the less we'd have to suffer.

The next day the enemy pressed us closely at Wilson's Creek, and Gen.
Pickett's few men that were left, tried to hold the position, but nearly all of
of them were captured. We were all engaged in the fight, but not a great
many wtre killed. That night, I saw Col. Munford, who was commanding Gen.
Wickham's brigade, and his staff officers, stopping at a farm house to get sup-
per, and we had orders to stop, also, I had noticed a double crib with some
coin in it, and there was a "provost guard" guarding the crib. We tried to
get him to let us have some corn for our horses, but he wouldn't. I told him
the next day the Yankees would come and take it all and we had just as well
have it. He had a gun and I noticed he would let loose of the gun every few
minutes and put his hands in his bosom, as it was very cold. I just went away
and sharpened a tobacco sticK and slipped his gun away and set the tobacco
stick by, instead. I hid the gun and then eight of us went up and told him we
wanted the corn. We had asked him two or three times, but got the same
reply each time. We told him we were going to take it now, no matter what
he said, and started into the crib. He reached for his gun, as he supposed,
and raised it at us, when he found he had nothing but a tobacco stick. I said:
"Now you see you've let some one steal your gun, so we'll get the corn." He
just had to laugh and let us take it. We got about 8 bushel and divided it out
as far as it would go. That was the first good, full feed my horse had had
since we left Carolina Co., a week or ten days before.

Every few hours a couiier would come with orders for us to ride back
a few miles to protect the rear and then we would have to come back and
rush to the front or on ahead for some purpose. We surely had a hard time



70
en and so little food or rest ; none practically, you mi^ht say. and then we
had that feeling of working with no prospect for better times. We didn't
get any food for ourselves again that night, but was glad to get corn for the
horses, as they had a worse time yet. than we.

The next morning, after marching all night, Capt. Trent, our regimental
quarter-master, sent me on ahead of the army about thirty miles, to a Mr.
Gill's farm. He told me to go to a farm house on the right hand road and get
breakfast and my horse fed, which I did, and then take a road parallel to the
road the army was moving on

I got there about night and told Mr. Gill the circumstances He had been
getting the tenth part of all the crops and provisions in that section of the
county and sending it to the army. So Capt. Trent sent me ahead, thinking
he might probably have something for the starving men and horses He said
he had sent everything he could get to the army and could only ft-ed me and
my horse. He told me that men had been passing for three day* and nights
and he thought the whole thing was over and the soldiers going home. 1 told
him who Id left just behind and how we'd been lighting and matching day
and night and what hardships we had undergone. He had me to rt-gister and
stay all night with him. of course. I knew the army couldn't get there before
the next day, even if the enemy didn't attacK them, for we wt;ie a poor,
wornout set of men and horses, ;ind moved very slowly. The next morning we
went out to the road and the stragglers were still passing. These were men
going on home. After awhile our men came on and when they found Mr. Gill
had no provisions, we just had to go on until night. The enen)y was not press-
ing so we lay down to sleep, hut didn't get ta sleep long, f<»r o der.s came in
the night for us to move on.

We went slowly, and at daybreak we were ordered to dismount and went
down a little slope and found a lot of YanKee infantry guarding the Farmville
Bridge. We fired on them and th^y on us. but we soon captured Gen. Curtiss
and his whole brigade. The infantry, at first, ran and left a lot of knapsacks,
and we ransacked them to find st»rnething to eat, but found nothing. General
Curtiss surrendered without much resistance, so not a great many were killed.
We left a young fellow by the name of William Fields at Sailor's Creek dead,
as we thought, and at Farmville we lost an<'ther fellow. Luck, and I never
knew anything of either of them again until the summer of 1911, when I met
both at a reunion j-t New Port News.

The attack was just at daybreak and Luck told me that the Yankees cap-
tured him at Farmville and then we recaptured them all and we thought he had
been killed, but he was sent on with Gen Curtiss' men. 'i'he bridge was 300
feet, and as soon as we captured the men and took the obstruction from the
railroad track, the waiting trains moved on. As the fog rose, and the trains
whi.'itled, we looked up and saw them moving so high above us, that I told the
boys there Was Gabriel coming in the clouds blowing his bugle.



71

We marched Gen Curtiss and his men on toward Lynchburg, and he and
the YanKees were all just as nice as they could be. They had to go on, just
like we did, without provisions. The provost guard soon tooK charge of them
and went on toward Lynchburg, but may have disbanded before getting there
as the surrendt?r took place the next day.

Gen. R. E. Lee, with the remainder of the army, had been forced to leave
Richmond before this and was moving on toward Lynchburg, and got with us
the same day of our capture at Farmville Bridge.

At night we laid down to rest, but still without food I had fared a little
better than some of them, as I was sent out to Mr. Gill's and got three meals
on that trip. All of the men Lee had with him had fared just like us. If they
got anything to eat at all, they begged it from citizens in passing by or stole
it, and the great trouble was there was so little left to steal. The country was
stripped.

The next morning Fitz Lee's cavalry was ordered to charge the enemy's
left flank as they had gotten in front of us to cut us off from Lynchburg. We
charged them and drove them back toward Appomattox C. H. When we got
arc»und on the road leading from Appomattox to Lynchburg, we met some of
the boys who had gotten furloughs, 10 days before, to go home to be married,
and were then on their way back to the army. We congratulated them and
they fell into line with us Just then a charge was ordered and we charged
right down toward Appomattox C. H., and the first volley that was fired on us
killed Lieut. Parker of Co. G, who had joined us just about five minutes before
and we had just congratulated.

Jas. Godwin, of Co. C. who had fought through the whole time unharmed
was wounded then. The ambulance corps took him to the rear and on to Lynch-
bure. and we hadn't gone but a few hundred yards, when we saw a flag of
truce coming up the road. The bearers of the flag came on to Fitz Lee
and told him that Robt. E. Lee had surrendered. Fitz Lee received orders
to disiband his whole division right then. Col. Munford disbanded the 1-3-4
an i 5 regiments on the grounds, but as we of the second had been mustered
into service at Lynchburg and it was right on our way home, he tooK us
thert- to disband us. We vrent out to the fair grounds, just where we had
drilled and had been mustered in, four years before. There is a nice park
at this place novv. and the U. S. government presented Col. Munford and
the 2nd Va. cavalry with two peices of artillery and placed them in this
park with two pyramids of cannon ballss, to marK the place where his men
were mustered into service and disbanded.

As we passed through Lynchburg, some one told us that one of our
men who had been wounded wanted to go home with us and wa^ able to



72
ride on horse back. It proved to be Jas. Godwin. He had been shot in the
foot, but had it dressed and was anxious to get home, so v^e started with him.
When we got to a bridge on the outskirts of the town we found an irish senti-
nel guarding the city. When we got in sight he yelled at us liKe a stnam en-
gine and we halted. He said: "Dismount and advance one and give the
countersign." I did so and told him I had no countersign or pass word, but
that Gen. Lee's army had surrendered at Appomattox that day and we were
on our way home. He said : ''Surrindered ! Hill and damnation ! you know

Gen. Lee wouldn't surrindsr to such ad rascal as Ulysse.'^ Grant. You

are both d deserters." I told him we were not. He then said we couldn't

get by without a pass from Gen. Colston who was Mayor of the town and had
charge of the army post and hospitals etc. I got on my horse and told him I
had fought four years in this war and had been in 54 battles, the last on« that
day at Appomattox in which the man with me had been wounded and I was
taking him home and that I was going over that bridge if he or I one had to
die. At that I leveled my pistol on him and told him to fire if he wanted to.
He said : "Damned if I don't believe something is in the wind boys, and you
can go on." Then he told us h^^ was from Louisianna and had been wounded
and sent to the hospital and was sent out there, and if he got near our pla<-^
in going back home, he'd like to stay all night with me. I told him I'd do any
thing in my power to help a fellow soldier and with that we pvissed over the
bridge,

Night overtook us at William Henry Kyle's, a few miles above Lynchburg,
so we spent a very pleasant night with him, as he had visited his brother.
Haslet Kyle, who was in our Co.. several times during the war.

We journeyed on up the "tow path" and parsed a good many of the in-
fantry coming on home. In many places the road was lined for some distance
with them. Just after 12 o'clodk we came to Dr. Watson's and we ate dinner
and spent several hours with him. He dressed Jim's foot and treated us very
kindly. One of his daughters married on« of our countrymen, Richard Hayden,
deceased.

We passed the home of Dick Burks that evening. He had served as our
adjutant the first y.'ar of the war. He insisted on us spending the night with
him, but we were so anxieus to get home that we went on several miles farther
and spent the night with a Mr. Arnold who lived near Natural Bridge They
were very kind indeed to us, < ot charging a cent for us or our horses. The next
morning, which was the 11th, we started on our last day's ride for home. We
got to Springwood just after the middle of the day and good old hospitable
aunt Kati'* Hayth, whose door was never closed on the wayfarer, made us eat
dinner with her. After resting awhile we made a start for Fincastle. arriving
there about 3 o'clock.

I turned Jim over to his mother at his home. He stood the trip very well
and soon recovered from his wound. We had left amid the cheers and tears
of an excellent throng, feeling that we would soon be victorious and return,
but none felt joyous now, only to see the few who were left returning.

When I got to the Court House several had heard I was coming and met




R. H. PECK, I913.



78

me there. I told the boys I.d left home the 17th of May '61 to fisfht YanKees
and at the first battle of Manases, we fou]?ht full fledged American Yankees
and they were gentlemen, but after that we fought every nationality, i think.
unless it was Esquimos. They had been hired by the Yankees, of ccurse[and
some of them were tough customers I tell you.

I reached home that eve with my dappled gray that I captured in Stafford
Co., near Kelley's Ford in '63 and which Gen. Stewart had given me. I also
had the gun with me, that I had to take from the provest guard to get corn
for our starving horses, on the horrible retreat, just a few days before the
surrender. I still have it among my war relics.

Mother met me at the gate and I told her I hadn't a single regret. I felt I
had answered my country's call and discharged my duty, but all the time I was
fighting for what my state thought best and against my own convictions.

My father wais offered $8,000 for his slaves just before the war and I
begged him to take it and not own slaves. I never thought slavery was right,
although my father treated his slaves as kindly as any one possibly could and
they were good and obedient.

The many happy days that our old black mammy took us children out to
gather hickorynuts, pick beans or do any kind of light work or play, are still
fresh in my memory to day. And the many coon, and opossum and rabbit
hunts, that her boy Jack who was just a few years older than I, and myself
have had together. He was always so thougthfulof our wellfare and protect-
ed me and my brothers, more like an older brother than a slave.

I told mother how I'd been in 54 engagements, some hard fought and
others not, but in nearly every one, some of my relatives, friends or acquaint-
ances, were killed or wounded We had left them buried or on the fl3ld in Md. ,
Penn., all through the Valley of Va., at Manassas Junction, through the Wild-
erness of Spottsylvania, over the battle fields holdin^^ Sheridan bacK from Rich-
mond, holding Grant back from Spottsylvania, on around to Petersburg and
then to Apppemattox G. H. None-of father's slaves left him for a year or more
but he paid them some wages, of course, and they seemed as sad and discon-
solate as wa were when they did leave. My father was gettin-^ old, and as he
had been security for a number of men who had lost thftir wealth in slaves, just
as he had, he was placed in straightened circumstances. So we had to soon
forget for a time, the sorrows we had passed through and turn our minds to
caring for those around us. None of our property had been stolen or burned
by raiders, so we were better off than the thousands of households and farms
we had passed by, during the war and from whom we were obliged to steal
some times or starve. While I often thought of four of the best years of


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Online LibraryRufus H. PeckReminiscences of a Confederate soldier of Co. C, 2nd Va. Cavalry → online text (page 9 of 10)