Recollections of My Early Life (Volume I)
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“Les Souvenirs de viellards sont une part d’heritage qu’ils doivent acquitter de leur vivants.”
[The memories of old men are a part of their inheritance that they have to use up during their lifetime.]
“Chè suole a riguardar giovare altrui”
Purg: IV. 54
[“what joy—to look back at a path we’ve climbed!
Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio IV.54 Allen Mandelbaum translator.]
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Octo 23d 1899
November 20th l899
It is my purpose, in this book, to jot down the recollections of my life, as I can now recall them. There will be little to interest any one but my children and possibly their children: So I shall write with no attempt at display or fine writing. May they who read profit by any errors I exhibit— Life has been very sweet and happy to me, because uneventful—and because no man ever had a better Father & Mother—Sister or Brother—truer friends, or a better, dearer, truer wife. My children are too young yet to judge what they will be to me. So far they have been as sweet and good as children of their ages could be. May they never in after years cause me any more sorrow than they have to this time.
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* On this same table—in my parlour on Octo 31st & Nov 1st, 1900—lay my dear little boy Edwin Ellicott—my little angel boy—embowered in flowers—the sweetest flower, that ever bloomed on earth—to flourish and fade not forever—in Heaven.
[later inserted addition to description on next page.]
“Chè suole a riguardar giovare altrui” Purg IV 53 
[“what joy—to look back at a path we’ve climbed!
Dante Alighieri Purgatorio IV.54 Allen Mandelbaum translator.]
My earliest recollection is connected with Death—not Death with any attendant sorrow or grief or with any of the horror that so often surrounds it. I recall—as one recalls a landscape seen as the mist rises and then falls again—the card* table now in my hall, laden with flowers, and in the midst of them a little white figure—what it was I did not know, or as for that care—very much. I can recall very distinctly the sense of perfume and colour, and the little white figure—the face I do not recall. It was a little sister who died when I was a little over three years old. I was born August 27th 1853. She died September 3rd 1856—so I was a little over three years old. Her name was Maria Eskridge—named after her Aunt—Mother’s sister who married Gen Lindsay Walker.
It seems to me I saw this Aunt once—she died in [ ], but all I remember of her is a face with a very sweet smile and a figure with a very red shawl.
I also recall along with the flowers and the little figure, my mother’s father—Wm Eskridge. He was leaning with his head on the mantel in the dining room in our House on High St—now No 315 E.—and weeping bitterly. I didn’t understand why he wept and connected the tears in no way with the little white figure in the other room—the room at the South west corner of the house facing High St—my mother and father’s bed room. All I recall of my grandfather is a shock of very white hair & a face something like my mother’s. I have only one other remembrance of this Grandfather. One of the servant girls at the house—there were several—was very tardy one day about some-
thing, and on her return the old gentlemen asked her if “she would like to see London?” On receiving an affirmative reply, he took her by both ears, and raised her on tip toe, to her dismay. That it was not very painful is evidenced by the fact that I constantly asked to see London and would have my ears pulled.
The recollections of these two events are all I can recall of that time. Oblivion falls on life between these two events until another picture presents itself.
We are on a Mountain side— Below us a beautiful Landscape. A stage has stopped, the horses panting and blowing, my mother with a little child is in the stage. I am out in the road and in front of me is a beautiful Spring, gushing out of the bank on the road side. My father has a
silver tumbler, which is now the property of my brother—being one of the dozen my grandmother used on her table as I have been told— He is giving me a drink of water. I always thought this was on the Blue Ridge, but father seemed to think it was in Goshen Pass. We were on our way to visit Lexington & various watering places. It was in the summer of 1858.
My first recollection of my black “mammy” is connected with this trip. Her name was Rose, but I always called her “Biler”— Why I do not know unless it was from seeing her “bile” the clothes. Being rather delicate she was left at the Rockbridge Baths to take the waters—& I howled most dismally when we left her.
I recall swimming in a pool of water with a rope stretched across it. That is my father
swam with me on his back. Once he left me swinging on the rope, but I howled so dismally he came back & put me on dry land.
At Lexington we stopped at the home of a Mr Moore—just outside of the V.M.I. campus. I was never in Lexington again until 1899—forty one years afterwards & yet I picked out the house & asked if a Mr Moore did not live there— No one in my party knew, but an old inhabitant being appealed to said that a Mr Moore did live in that house “before the war”. Why I should have recalled the house is strange, as my only recollection of it is connected with one of the mishaps of childhood & a consequent change of clothes on the roof of the porch.
I recall going into the mess
hall of the V.M.I. & that some cadet dressed me up in a hat & coat & scarf— The hat came over my eyes & the coat tails dragged the ground, but I was very proud and happy. When they came to disrobe me I yelled & kicked so vigorously that the cadet surrendered the scarf on condition I would give up the coat & hat. I believe the scarf is still—1900—at SunnySide.
We visited on this trip my mother’s cousin Jas M. Ranson—whose wife—daughter of Judge Briscoe B. Baldwin of the Court of Appeals of Va—was mother’s first cousin. He lived on a farm near Lexington & we were there during wheat harvest—for I rode with the driver on a clumsy reaper—one of the newly invented McCormicks. I recall nothing more of
this trip, and little of anything else until the John Brown raid in 1859. I recall two cousins at the University of Virginia—William & John Towles—and an occasional visit to “Morea”, my grand-father’s place just beyond the University of Virginia where my Aunt Mrs Mary Jane Smith lived. I recall a boarder who occupied one of the attic rooms in the High Street House—a gentle faced lad—Charlie Percy of Louisana—who boarded with my father & went to school— His love and admiration for my father was touching—and I recall how he wept when he left beseeching my father to remember that if he ever wanted anything he—Charlie was rich & would give him anything he wanted. He gave me my first paint
box, and I spent many happy hours in his attic room daubing pictures— He was the son of a planter in Louisiana who lived near “Uncle Towles”—my mother’s brother-in-law—he having married my mother’s eldest sister Frances Peyton (Eskridge) Towles. Poor Charlie—he fell in defense of Southern liberty at Shiloh.
Robert S. Towles my first cousin, married his [insertion “i.e. Charlie’s”] half sister—his father having married a second time after the death of Charlie’s mother—who from all accounts was a most “gentle lady married to a” ‘boor’.
I must put in here—par parenthesis—a dim recollection of the great snow storm of 1857. I was then only a little over three years old, but I distinctly remember that the servant’s house in the yard—the brick building still used by Dr
Rogers as servants’ lodgings—was in snow up to the eves, and I recall seeing old “Si”—of whom I will have other things to speak of later on—digging through the snow to get to the door so as to let the servants out. He himself slept in the kitchen.
My most vivid recollection of my Father & Mother commence about 1858. Mother I remember as very dignified—and quiet and easy in her manner— She was a strict Presbyterian and drilled me steadily & thoroughly in the shorter catechism & read to me many little books— “Line upon Line”, Precept upon Precept &c, &c. She was exceedingly careful to see that we kept Sunday in the strictest fashion and we were not allowed to play any game, or read any but a religious book on that day. Sunday School books
as I recall them were not of a very exhilirating kind: They were decidedly dreary, and the good boy usually died young, whilst the wicked ones came to an awful end. The first shock my early faith ever received, was when I stole away one Sunday with Willie Watson—son of Judge E.R. Watson a ruling elder, and Sam Smith son of the Presbyterian Minister—and went on a hunting expedition or fishing—I think the latter—and no one was drowned altho the deepest water we struck was Schenks Branch. Sam is now a distinguished Presbyterian divine himself.
My mother was very sweet and loving and devoted to me—her “little Walker” as she always called me to distinguish me from my father who was always called “Walker Duke” by his sisters and associates.
My father was a very handsome—very busy man—who gave but little time in the week days to us. I worshiped him then with a devotion , which no age nor years ever diminished. I was called “his shadow” by the darkies, and my delight was to follow him wherever he went.
He was very fond of reading and of books. I used to watch him intent over a brown magazine with a man’s head on it, and wonder what he found in so unattractive a book. It was Blackwood’s Magazine which he commenced taking in 1844, whilst a cadet at the Va Military Institute and which he took to his dying day. I was happy to be able to give him the Volumes from No 1 1817 to 1844 and he left me the
entire set in his will. During the last months of his illness I read him Mrs Oliphants Volumes on the Firm of Blackwood & Sons, and the numbers of the magazines as they came out— With the June No l898 ended his enjoyment of this venerable magazine which then for 54 years had been his pleasure to read. He was devoted to hunting altho’ a poor shot: was an enthusiastic and very skilful and successful angler for trout—going regularly every spring to Moorman’s River in the Blue Ridge and spending a few days fishing. These trips I shared later on and if permitted will tell of some of them. I remember his pointer dog—Flora—who was a beautiful & intelligent animal, and remember how he used to laugh & tell us of Flora’s disgust at some of his bad shots.
My elder—and only—brother Willie was allowed sometimes to go hunting with him, but I was too young & never went at all. I had only one brother—Wm R. Duke and one sister Mary Willoughby Duke. My brother was five years older and my sister four years younger, so the latter and myself were playmates. My brother was a great tease & a tremendous fighter with the boys of his age. He was noted for his grit and obstinacy in fighting to the last ditch. Our cousin John Towles—once watched him & James Leitch—“Teague” as we called him—fight to the finish, and dubbed my brother “William the Conqueror”, “Conq” and “Conqueror” were long his nick names. I was—as strange as it may now ap-
-pear very shy and sensitive and hated boys who were rough & teasing—as most boys were. I found great delight in paper dolls and books & paint boxes, and consequently was my little sisters joy.
My playmates were not numerous— Willie (W.O.) Watson & Sam Smith were my especial favorites— Charlie Norris—who was accidently killed in 1869 & his brother Josie—who died very young were also intimates. With the latter I established a course of walks and wadings often venturing as far as Cochran’s Pond—a long-long journey, and with the former I ran a “blacksmith shop” in the corner of the outside chimney. We had a real anvil—an old worn out one—and numerous hammers &c &c.
Some childish quarrel broke up
the shop and these two friends cut me—to my infinite sorrow, & I became much more intimate with the Norris boys.
I want to devote a separate Chapter to the servants—who were all slaves, but whose treatment was so kind and whose affection so sincere, that I never saw any of the “horrors” of slavery”—so called.
Mother brought with her, her nurse and maid “Aunt Fanny” who as old as she was lived to see freedom, and did not die until some time in the 70’s. She was very old as I first remember her, and took care of my sister. She was about the usual height—rather thin—very wrinkled—very black—but with rather good features— whether her
hair was white or not I don’t know. She always wore a bandana handkerchief of bright colours around her head, and I never remember seeing her without it, until after the war. She was very neat—used good grammar— & was an ideal servant. She had the most elegant manners I every saw & made us learn to be polite to every one. My sister was noted for the elegance of her manners, and her gracious easy carriage— We always told her, that it was all due to Aunt Fanny, & much of it I think verily was. Aunt Fanny taught her to bow & curtesy—to walk & sit erect and to be polite kind & courteous to everyone high & low.
She loved her next to Mother & with an idolatry this generation knows nothing of—more’s the
My own “Mammy” was one of father’s servants—inherited by him from his father. Rose was her name. She was small—quick—alert and very black— High tempered and impatient of control, she was hard to manage and required firmness in handling. I think at times she would go almost crazy and if rebuked—she was never chastised—would go into the garden and yell like a Comanche .
Her husband “belonged” to the Omohundros. Wilson was his name. He always came on Saturday evening, and remained until Monday morning. He was taciturn—tall—and not very smart.
After the war he worked for us a long time at SunnySide & died on his lot adjoining the farm & is there buried.
“Mammy” lived with us off and on after the war and died whilst I was in Europe in 1882. She made many enquiries about me in her last illness. She too is buried near the farm by her husband. I think she spoiled me a great deal, and certainly fed me very profusely as I grew up.
Jane was the cook—an immense yellow woman, whom my Father bought in 1859 paying $1000 for her, to save her from the “nigger traders” She begged him to buy her, when she was on the Court Green about to be sold & at great inconvenience he did so. She was a superb cook & a good servant every way. She was the first to leave us “after freedom came”. The last I heard of her she was in New Jersey & getting $40 a month as cook for some rich man. She was worth it.
Maria was housemaid—a rather handsome ginger-bread coloured woman. She was quite a theif & gad-a-bout. There was great horror when she increased the live stock with a yellow baby—Caesar—whose father she always claimed was John Yates Beal—a student at the University—a noble gallant gentlemen of lofty lineage—who was hung on Governor’s Island in New York during the war as a spy—having been captured in a desperate attempt to free the prisoners on Johnson’s Island.
If there is anything in likenesses the wench’s story is true. Caesar—now an immense six footer is remarkably like a picture of Beal I saw in Charlestown W.Va where he lived, and where he now lies buried—a martyr to
the “Lost Cause.”
Maria grew so bad my father told her he would sell her if she did not do better. She grew worse and was sold in 1858 or 59. I remember my mother’s tears at parting from her, and my father coughed loudly & blew his nose vigorously as he told her goodbye. As for her, she went off in the most joyful mood & seemed no more to mind parting from her three year old child, than a cat does from its kittens after they have grown up. She went to Tennessee—had a good master & house and after the war wrote to know about Caesar. Caesar was given to me—the only human chattel I ever owned. “He belongs to me now” as Woods Garth used to say after the war, when he
saw one of his former slaves—“Only the d— yankees won’t let me have him.”
Caesar was the playmate of my youth and was allowed a good many freedoms as my playmate. Nothing could better show the relations of master & servant as they existed in the South than my relations with this boy.
We were friends, without presumption on his part, or any lowering of self esteem on mine. We fought like tigers on very many occasions, and the best man was allowed to win. He was never punished for “striking back” but never allowed to be impudent or to strike the first blow. Both he and I were very high tempered and had we been older—no doubt our strife would have been stopped, but as they were generally the roll and tumble fights of small boys no attention was paid to them.
As Caesar’s name will occur frequently hereafter this brief mention will suffice here, except to say that for the last ten years of my father’s life he was our gardener, and my father was very fond of him. He was the only “old family” servant with us when my dear Father died in 1898.
Sam was my father’s body servant—a likely young negro man, who accompanied my father into the army and died in 1863 of fever contracted in Camp.
Sy (or Ci) Gillett—was an old man who came to father from my grandfather’s estate. His main business was to look after the garden & chop wood. In his youth he had been a Rivanna boatman—and used to help transport the flour for my grandfather’s Mills—on flat boats to Richmond & pole back the boats laden with
groceries &c. I used to listen with open mouth to his “moving tales of field and flood”: His description of the long trips: His accounts of the dangers of shooting the dams in high water, and how a boat once broke in half—at what is now the Woolen Mills dam, and a likely young negro was drowned & a lot of flour thrown in the water.
Si was also full of ghost stories, and with shuddering awe I used to listen to the tale of the headless man who walked around the premises at night; and the white sheeted phantom that haunted an adjoining lot. Si used also to beat hominy every winter & I delighted to watch him put the corn in a big mortar made out of the trunk of a tree & crush or beat the
hulls off with a wooden pestle & then winnow it in the primitive fashion by throwing it up in the air from a seive. He too died in 1863.
There were two Henrys—Little Henry who was a cousin of Rose’s—a small dried up man who today—1901—doesn’t look much older than he did in 1860, altho’ he must now be well up in eighty years.
He was the gardener and hostler. He had one peculiarity. He would never sleep in a bed, but slept in a chair covered with sheepskin. Big Henry was a cousin of little Henry—a large goggle-eyed wooly headed negro—noted for his laziness and capacity for eating and lying. He was a gigantic romancer & his lies were the amusement of the kitchen. He was generally hired out by the year, but always spent the holi-
-days at home. The washerwoman & maid of all work was Emily a large very black woman with two children—a girl and boy— The boy—Barnett—grew up to be a very smart—neat man, who waited on me at Morea when I was a student at the University of Va in 1870-74.
Just beyond the University of Va still stands the large and rambling brick house known as “Morea”—So called from the Mulberry trees which once grew there in abundance. It was bought by my grandfather Richard Duke in 184[ ] and he died there on August 30th 1849. He was born August 15th 1778—married to Maria B. Walker August 8th 1806, and died August 30th 1849.
My Grandmother Maria Barclay Walker died there also January 10th 1852. She was born 19th Feb: 1785.
When I first remember the place Aunt Mary J. Smith— Aunt Mattie J. Duke and Uncle Chas C. Duke lived there. Aunt Mary’s husband had been Wm Willoughby T. Smith who was Consul from the United States to the Republic of Texas & was drowned there in the forties. Aunt Mary was quite a linguist—and liked Spanish very much— We were taught to call her Mi caria tia—which we shortened into “Micariá”. She was also an excellent french and italian scholar. & one of the loveliest characters I ever knew.
Morea was noted for its pyacanthus hedges— & two large box trees and box hedges which edged all the walks and flower beds. The house was built by Prof Emmet—a kinsman of Robt Emmet—who was one of the medical professors at the University and a great nat-
-uralist. He was said to have raised snakes & turned them loose & certainly “Morea” had a large & varied number of these reptiles—due I think to the great number of shrubs and hedges. After a rattlesnake was killed in the yard my Aunt had the hedges cut down.
Amongst the servants at Morea was “Aunt Mourning”—my Mammy’s Grandmother, who died in 1863—considerably over 90 years of age. She belonged to my great grandfather Thos Walker, Jr, and was a girl of fourteen or fifteen when Tarleton made his raid into Albemarle. She went with her mistress in the carriage with the family & silver—somewhere in the woods on Peter’s Mountain—to escape the raiders. In her old age she used to dwell upon this event
and mutter things about “the redcoats”.
“Bella” was another servant I remember very well—who is at this date—1901—still living in Chicago. She was Aunt Mattie’s maid & subsequently cook. Daphne was another servant I barely recall. She died before 1859, and I remember her funeral & the peculiar wails of the negroes at her interment—which took place just back of the garden at Morea. She belonged to Uncle Charlie & he wept very bitterly at the funeral, as I recall it.
I used to be taken to Morea quite often, as a child & in later years—as a student boarded there—and have very many happy recollections of the place.
School Days in the “fifties.”
My first school was Misses Leighton’s who were proprietors of the Piedmont Institute—where my daughter Mary now—1901—goes to school. There were two of these ladies Miss Jane—who was short & stout—and afterwards married Revd [ ] Page, and Miss Anne who subsequently became the wife of Revd R.K. Meade—his third spouse.
They conducted what was then quite a famous female school—connected with which was a primary department in which small boys were taught. Miss Bettie Lewis, who afterwards married Rhodes Massie, taught this primary in which both small boys and girls were educated.
Here I learned to read, write & cipher, I remember
very little about the school.
In 1858 my father as a Democrat defeated Egbert R. Watson for Commonwealth Attorney of the County & as nearly all of the boys in the school were sons of “Whig” parents, I had a great many fights on my hands, and generally a very unhappy time. So serious did these combats become, that the teacher used to make me go at recess and play with the large girls—boarders &c— I would have preferred the thumpings I believe & finally rebelled so, that a truce was patched up & I was allowed to go back to the boys.
My brother went to a man—or rather brute—named “Henderson” who taught in the little wooden house on the corner of Jefferson and 4th Sts.
This teacher amused himself by beating his pupils, and general-
-ly illtreating them. My father took my brother away after one session. I went to the Misses Leighton up to 1860 I am sure, perhaps up to 1861, but of this I am not certain.
I recall very few of the scholars—Willie Nelson—son of Dr R.B. Nelson was my most intimate friend at school. The Kammerer girls—daughters of an old German jeweler—I recall as exceedingly pretty girls. They were in the classes with me. Whilst I was attending this school Cousin Florence & Laura Duke—daughters of my father’s eldest brother Wm J. Duke, came to Virginia from Kentucky & spent awhile at our house and then went to Morea.
They were followed in 1860 by their mother Aunt Emily Duke & their brother Richd W. Duke—now Clerk of the
Circuit & Corporation Courts—
We lived then & up to 1863 in the House in which Dr Wm G. Rogers now lives 315 E. High St. This street was then known as Maiden Lane—the houses were not numbered. There was no water supply. The bath room was in the yard & here winter & summer my old Mammy plunged me into a tub—generally icy cold, as the water was pumped directly from the well into the tub.
I was born in the house directly across the cross street No. [ ] E. High St. My father & mother lived there three months & during their sojourn I was born there on the 27th of August 1853 about 5 A.M. The house has been added to the room in which I was born having been a one story addition on the North East side, which has now been raised and another room
& passage added.
Morea—my Aunt Mary Smith’s place comes next. I have alluded to heretofore. The solid brick structure just West of the University, with the large box trees at the front stoop. My grandfather added the story and a half on the South and the dining room, to the main structure.
Two places, however stand out very distinctly in my memory. The first, the place owned by my Uncle Robert Rodes about ten miles Northwest of Charlottesville known as “Walnut Grove”. Here I spent the happiest hours of boyhood away from home. It was a beautiful place—standing on a knoll overlooking the beautiful Moorman’s River. The house was an unpretentious but picturesque frame house—white with green blinds, a large porch over which ran in riotous profusion a beautiful white climbing rose, which not only
covered the porch but ran on the roof. The lawn was green down to a round hill which was literally covered with pebbles and beyond, some quarter of a mile stood the old mill with its immense water wheel, and beyond the clear blue lovely Moorman’s River, with its upper and lower Blue Holes—deep, dark blue pools where I loved to fish and bathe. The upper Blue Hole had two large rocks in its centre—one of which stood up over the other like an immense oyster shell & back of the river here was a steep bit of woodland where wild azaleas & grapes bloomed in profusion. The lower “Blue Hole was about three quarters of a mile below the upper. Here the river ran directly into a cliff, and the eddy formed a pool almost square. It was more picturesque than the upper Hole, but not so much frequented.
But to return to the house.
As I have said it was picturesque & lovely. It had been built in the time of George II, who “patented” the land to “Uncle Bob’s” grandfather. In this house that grandfather died, and in the same room was born and died Uncle Bob’s father and Uncle Bob was born in the same room, but the house was burned before he died.
Uncle Bob’s first wife was my father’s sister Elizabeth. She had two children—Mary—who married Dr Anderson of Nelson County , and Walker—named for Father—who sleeps in an unknown grave—having been killed at the Battle of Hatchers Run but a few days before Gen Lee’s surrender.
Aunt Lizzie died before I knew her, and Uncle Bob married again—“Cousin” Hardenia Williams of Nelson—sister of the lady
who married Richard Duke—father’s first cousin, who lived about three miles from Uncle Bob’s.
Cousin “Denie” as we always called her was very deaf, but exceedingly sweet and amiable.
Uncle Bob was an immense man—weighing at least two hundred & fifty pounds, with a loud voice & fond of shouting his commands to the negroes. He was exceedingly good natured—genial and hospitable and beloved by all.
Walker’s room was an attic room, ceiled with pine, which age had turned almost as dark as walnut. It was a quaint room, with sloping sides, and tiny windows and opened into a room of similar character, tho’ smaller, where my brother & I generally slept: And such sleep—after an all day’s ramble in the fields & woods—after fishing and bathing & hunting to come
back to a glorious supper of corn bread & honey and rich milk & after “Mammy Jinnie” had washed our feet—for of course we went bare foot—then to crawl into the high bed smelling of lavender blossoms and off to sleep—sometimes with the rain pattering on the shingles just above our heads—a! that was bliss. Uncle Bob had one child by the second marriage—Jennie—who was about my sister’s age, & is now the wife of Judge Fletcher of Accomac.
The Mill was a never ending source of delight also. To climb into the wheat bins—slide down the piles of grain—watch the endless chain of little buckets carrying the grain up & to see the wheat ground and bolted into flour, all these things were a source of unending delight only sur-
passed by watching the great wheel making its revolutions and discharging the water into the <glossy> wheel pit—the home of immense eels and suckers if the Miller’s boy was to be believed.
To get to Walnut Grove you went out what was then known as the “Poor House” Road to Owensville & then down a steep hill and across Mechums River below Owen’s Saw Mill Dam—now gone—& then on & down another steeper hill across Moorman’s River—then across the flats to the Mill & then up the Hill to the House. How well I recall the trips to this dear old place. Once behind my father on horseback. Oftener with Mother & Willie & Sister in a carriage and father on horseback. A mile or so out of Charlottesville the road crossed a little branch
and then into a deep gully made by the wearing down of the road. On both sides were stone fences & as you rose the hill, you saw a lovely cottage with ivy clambering over the stone chimney. The front yard was filled with apple trees— In the rear stood five immense oaks. I used to look at this place with absolute delight. To my childish eyes it was too beautiful to think it was all real. I never went by it, without wishing I could play under the trees and live at such a sweet home. They called it Mr Carroll’s place, but in later years it was “Sunny Side” & my wish came true for in 1863 it became our home—the sweetest, happiest, dearest, loveliest, home God ever gave a family, and in it, and at it I passed
the happiest hours of boyhood, youth & manhood and beneath its roof had the agony of seeing three of those I have loved with the sincerest devotion pass from Earth to Heaven. Lucy Armistead my dear sweet cousin—my beloved dear, loving Mother, and my noble, beloved & honoured Father—and in the parlour lay for a night, my beloved sisters’s earthly tabernacle ere we consigned it to earth.
If I am spared to do so, I will write much about this sweet home later on. Another place was “Hardware” about the same distance from Charlottesville as Walnut Grove, but in exactly the opposite direction, being almost due South. This was the home of Uncle “Kit” Gilmer (Geo C. Gilmer) who married—in second marriage father’s sister Mildred Wirt. I recall very little about Hardware for I
only went there once with Mother in 1860 or 61, and yet I believe I could draw a picture of the house, the yard, with very little grass in it, & the grove across the road, even now.
Uncle Gilmer moved from Hardware to “Buckeyeland” soon after this visit and at this latter place I spent many happy hours later on. I shall reserve a description of this place for a later day.
Cousin “Sandy” Stuart’s lovely old place in Staunton, and his farm on North River are places I shall allude to later on, as I attempt to describe visits there. These places are the only ones to which I look back with any recollection of distinct pleasure & to each I owe many an happy hour.
I recall with great distinctness the John Brown raid—or rather the stir it caused.
Soon after it my father raised a Company of Volunteers—the Albemarle Rifles—afterwards Company “B” of the 19th Regiment Va Volunteers, Picketts Division.
I remember the first time I ever saw him in uniform— He had graduated with distinction at the Virginia Military Institute—2nd in his class, and carried himself up to his dying day as erect as a soldier should be.
I can see him now, as he came in the room dressed in a long gray frock coat with brass buttons, a soldier’s cap, shoulder straps & belt with a glittering sword. How proud I felt of him!
The Rifles wore grey uniform in 1859—before Confederate
gray was known. They all wore frock coats—single breasted for privates—double breasted for officers. Their arms consisted of a Springfield—or Enfield rifle* (*Mississippi Rifles—until 1861—then Springfield.) I don’t know which—which had a bronzed barrell and brass mountings. The uniform was very plain, beside that of the other Company—The Monticello Guards—who wore blue swallow tailed coats trimmed with red and high leather shakos topped with red & white chicken feathers.
I recall the drilling of my father’s company very well, both squad drills, which he sometimes held in his office & company drills which were held in the old Armory—situated on the Court Green in rear of the present Station House and running along the jail wall. It was pulled
down after the war.
I recall one drill with great delight. It was held one bright moonlit night, by both Companies. They drilled on the Court House Square & then marched to a vacant lot—where the coloured school now stands. I was allowed to stay up late, that night & saw the whole drill.
Some foundations, for houses which had never been completed, were in the field and I remember my father making the men lie down in them and shoot their rifles whilst thus lying down.
I recall a drill of the 88th Regiment of Militia—to which these Companies belonged—and the awe with which I contemplated the Brigadier Genl (Cocke) with his plumed cocked hat and immense blue & yellow holsters.
I recall also a visit some
Lynchburg Company made to Charlottesville & how the little town went wild over the soldiery.
Lincoln’s election is also very plainly remembered. My father had been a Whig up to the days of the Know Nothings. He then became a Democrat & voted for “Breckinridge and Lane”. I had a United States flag with their names on it, and also a severe combat with the Norris boys who were Bell & Everett “men”, and had a flag with their names on it.
Lincoln’s name was never mentioned but with ridicule. Outside of the Town Hall (Levy Opera House now) was an ingenious characiture representing him “splitting rails”. I recall the voting. One man—old Savage I believe—wanted to
vote for Lincoln Electors, but the Clerks wouldn’t cry his vote—they voted viva voce in those days because he had no ticket.
There were tickets with the names of the Electors on it. The voter wrote his name on the back of the ticket, handed it to a Clerk, who cried it out whilst another wrote it down with the name of the voter opposite the man he voted for.
A Clerk—or possibly the Sheriff—then strung the ticket with others on a string. There were no Lincoln tickets printed— Savage didn’t know the names of his electors—I don’t believe there were any in Virginia, so he couldn’t vote, and was hooted at in fine style as he left the Court House.
I do not recall the fact of Lincoln’s inauguration, but
I remember the talk of secession and the drilling of the Military Companies, and general air of unrest.
At that time my mind was more taken up, with the fact that I was allowed to play with the larger boys and engage in the rock battles.
Games and Playmates
We played the usual games—marbles & tops—<“chiminy”> or “chumney” from which baseball was finally evolved—and prisoner’s base—hide & seek & “hide the switch”. The playmates I remember then were boys mostly older than myself. Jim Leitch—Jim & Ben Benson—Charlie—their elder brother—Tom & Willie Nelson—Ned Hamner & his brother— The Via boys—Lyman & Henry—Kad & Wilbur Keblinger the latter much older than
the rest of us, and Dick Martin & Jim Lane—& many others whose names I do not recall.
Henry Guillaume—son of a french portrait painter was in Charlottesville awhile & ran with us, but when he left I do not remember.
There was a great antagonism between the Main Street boys & the boys on Maiden Lane & out of this antagonism grew the famous “rock battles”.
Our battle ground was situated at the Rockquarries at the end of what was then known as Green St. Our position was generally taken on the quarry hill where now stands the building of the Monticello Wine Co: & the Main Street “Cats”—as we called them the hill just opposite.
They were generally the attacking force. They advanced
throwing stones at us and we returning the compliment— Why some one was not maimed or killed I do not know & yet I do not recollect any one being seriously hurt. Our side was generally successfull—being the defenders I suppose, but at last we were put to absolute route & rock-battles ended.
Cad: Keblinger a good deal larger and older than the boys on either side joined the Main St Cats & led an assault upon us which resulted in our utter defeat. We fled ignominiously before the foe led by Caddis. Only Jim Leitch (who was an obstinate & utterly fearless boy) stood his ground, was overpowered—captured, and for several hours imprisoned in a hencoop on Main St— His condition, when released
can be better imagined than described. We never fought another battle.
Sometime in 1860 I went with Mother—Aunt Martha Eskridge Willie & Mary, to visit “Logan” where Uncle Lewis Walker resided. Logan is not far from Gordonsville—near what was then known as Lindsay’s Turnout on the Virginia Central Railroad (now C & O)
It was the home of my grandfather Richard Duke and his wife Maria Walker—who inherited it from her Father Thos: Walker, Jr. In an evil hour my grandfather exchanged it with his wife’s brother—for Millbrook—paying a large “boot”. Logan was one of the finest farms in Albemarle County. Millbrook was very poor—quite large, but possessed a fine water power & immense Mills—Corn— Wheat—Cotton
& Woolen. My Grandfather—who owned a good many negroes—thought he could do much better on a larger place & make money from the Mills—but to pay the “boot” he went heavily into debt & was really ruined by the exchange—which was made in 1821. My father was born at “Millbrook” on June 6th, 1822.
I recall the trip to Logan very distinctly & remember that a few days before we started the cook dropped a stove lid on my right foot & burned it severely just back of the little toe. The scar is plainly discernible still. This rendered me very lame and I did not run about much at Logan. Forty three years have passed since this visit (I write these lines in April 1903) but I recall
the trip on the train to “Lindsay’s Turnout”, the drive in an old fashioned carriage from thence to Logan, & I could draw a picture of the house now. It was a square brick house with an ample porch whose white columns gave it, to my childish eyes, the appearance of the entrance to a temple. Back of it in a thick grove of trees stood the old frame house which was built in Colonial times—very much decayed & of course haunted. Back of it were some tombstones marking the resting place of some of my father’s great Aunts & Uncles.
Uncle Lewis Walker (Meriwether Lewis, he was called after his Kinsman, the explorer) was the owner and a great character. It is said he never read a book but could discourse learnedly on almost any theme—having a
wonderful facility for holding on to any information he once obtained. The Richmond “Whig” was his Bible and he read that most carefully. An inveterate tobacco chewer, and not very careful in his ways—his white shirt front was generally anything but immaculate by ten o’clock.
A fine conversationalist he never allowed an opportunity for conversation to escape him and generally in summer time he spent most of the day on the front porch—a large bucket of ice water by his side—and hailed any traveller who passed along the road, with a hearty invitation to dismount and have a chat.
Often the invitation was accepted by one or more & word was sent to Aunt Maria, that company would be at dinner. Then there would be scurrying over
hill and dale—a small darkey sent to kill chickens—another hurrying from cabin to cabin for eggs—another to a neighbour’s to borrow this & that. The cook was hurried—the butler warned & general excitement was every where—except on the front porch where the ice jingled in the glasses, and the bucket now had a companion in the shape of a decanter, and perhaps a sugar bowl & a stack of mint was near, and the fate of the nation was discussed by more or less distinguished visitors—for many such sat on that front porch— Now it was an ex-Governor and Minister to England—Barbour—now another of the same name—judge of the Supreme Court of the United States—now it was a United States Senator afterwards to be Minster to France—Wm C. Rives. A speaker
of the House of Representatives—Andrew Stevenson. Madison & Monroe & Jefferson had visited in the old house. Wm Wirt had been there with his bride—Uncle Lewis’ Aunt Mildred. All of these men lived within a very few miles of Logan. Aunt Maria was a Miss Lindsay daughter of Col Reuben Lindsay. She lived up to the time I was over twenty, and I recall her very well indeed. Very black eyes dark complexion—thin and erect. She bore life’s trials and troubles with wonderful fortitude—like an old Roman matron. She was engaged to be married to Francis Walker Gilmer—uncle Lewis’ cousin—the brilliant genius Mr Jefferson selected to go to England to select the Professors for the University & who was to have been the first Professor of Law, but he broke the engagement for some unknown reason—the
tradition is, she was trying on her wedding dress when she got his note. For a long time she was very ill, but on her recovery, Uncle Lewis addressed her & she accepted him—married him and made him a good wife.
Uncle Lewis—tho’ the owner of one of the finest farms in Albemarle, was indolent and shiftless and became heavily involved. It is said that half of his harness at times was made up of hickory wythes, whilst long wild grape vines were used for plow lines. Logan was sold just before or during the war & Uncle Lewis moved with Aunt Maria to Lynchburg, where he died in the early sixties.
He was at one time the only descendant of Dr Thos Walker in the male line. My great grandfather—Capt Thos Walker—his father, had only one son
who reached manhood (no other son of Dr Walker left male descendants of the name)
Uncle Lewis had only two sons Dr Thos L. Walker of Lynchburg and Genl R. Lindsay Walker. Cousin Tom had only one son—Lewis—now a Captain in the U.S. Army. Uncle Lindsay had four sons—Lewis—Scott—Thos H. & Frank T. by his wife Aunt Maria Eskridge—mother’s sister—and Charlie C. by his second wife—a Miss Elam.
Lewis—son of R.L. died without issue , & so did Scott.
Tom has one son Davin.
Frank left two sons—Roger and Frank.
Charlie has two sons Carl & Lindsay.
So of the almost innumerable descendants of Dr Thos Walker only seven of his name on the male side live today—1903.
Whilst at Logan we went to Indian Fields— Aunt Maria—mother’s sister & Uncle Lindsay were living there when the house burned down— Cousin Mag Pryor was sleeping in an upper room with a little niece—Cousin Isabella Gilmer’s child.
Cousin Mag escaped, by jumping out of the window, but the poor little girl was burned to ashes.
Cousin Isabelle was Uncle Lewis’ oldest daughter. She married a distant Cousin John Harmer Gilmer [error; married Peachy Harmer Gilmer]. Cousin Mag: was the second daughter & married Wm H. Pryor Lt Col. C. S. A.
Cousin Belle died in The Louise Home several years since. Cousin Mag died this spring in Charlottesville.
I remember seeing with feelings of great awe, the smoke stained chimney & foundation & seeing the corner where the child’s heart was found unconsumed.
I visited the Indian Fields graveyard where Aunt Maria Eskridge Walker—was buried— She had the only monument in the graveyard—a white marble shaft. General Wm Gordon is buried near her. Only a pile of rocks marked then & still marks, I suppose, his last resting place. I could sketch that old graveyard now, so indelibly is it impressed on my mind.
I also was taken by my father to the graveyard where his father & mother were buried. It was surrounded by a high brick wall & no opening left in it. He held me up to see the graves. The vandal who bought the farm—during the war pulled down this wall & used the bricks & by this time I suppose names & memory of the graves have both perished.
I recall nothing of any importance between the visit to Logan and the breaking out of the war.
My first recollection of the war is the departure of the troops from Charlottesville, but prior to this I must recall one incident which came very near ending my earthly career— Early in the summer of 1860 I was allowed to go in swimming with my Brother & other boys in what was known as the “little University Pond. This was the upper pond of two lying in the flat between Morea & the University. The large pond was separated from the smaller by an embankment broken in the centre by an overflow which was spanned by a very pretty rustic bridge. The little pond was not very deep & as none of us could swim we did not adventure very far out, tho’ each tried to go out farther than
the others. I was quite a “brash” and vain-glorious youngster and one occasion, I cannot now recall whether it was late in the summer of 1860, or early in the summer of 1861, I was in the pond one afternoon with my brother & several small boys. Several negroes were on the bridge watching us. I, with my usual foolhardiness, went out deeper & deeper yelling “No one dares go as far as I”, when all of a sudden I stepped into the channel & over my head. Out of sight I went & tho’ I yelled lustily each time I came up, & I came up four times instead of the traditional three, nothing was done to help me, my brother & his companions being frightened out of their wits. Down I went for the last time, & down I would have remained had not a young
negro on the bridge jumped in and pulled me out. I was not unconscious, but nearly so & had to be carried home. My father rewarded the negro handsomely.
Let me say here that of all disagreeable things the sensation of drowning is the worst. I can describe it easily.
Let some one draw an endless belt of white, at lightning speed before your eyes, whilst some one else beats two gigantic bass drums at each ear, and another strangles you. This is drowning.
I distinctly recall as I went down the last time, that I remembered with much regret having surreptitiously eaten a bunch of malaga grapes some one had sent my mother that morning. This seems to have been the only sin I recalled then.
The troops left Charlottesville for the War between the States on the night of April 17th 1861. I recall it as tho’ it were only yesterday.
My father dressed in his uniform wearing by his side the sword belonging to his great-grandfather Dr Thos Walker, looked to my boyish eyes all that a warrior should be. I could not understand my mothers tears—nor see why she tried to conceal them. Father looked very stern & quiet. I went with him after supper to the Armory which stood on the public Square on the Court Green North of the jail, or rather East by North. Not a trace of it remains now. There the Albemarle Rifles—Co: “B” later on 19th Va Regiment, & The Monticello Guards Co “A”, were assembled. My father made a speech to the assembled
men, but of course I do not now recall it. Men have told me later that it was very eloquent & as events proved prophetic. Everybody believed the war would be over in 90 days and the troops were hilarious & jubilant; but my father told them—so men have told me since—that they should be calm & serious; that they were embarking on no holiday jaunt, but going away to a long and bloody war, many of them never to return. After the assembly in the Armory, all the men went out in front of the Court House & skylarked there. The Albemarle Rifles—my father’s Company had on gray uniforms with white leather belts & belts of the same leather crossing the chest. The Monticello Guards wore blue uniforms trimmed with red & tall black leather shakos with a plume of red & white cocks feathers.
Strange to say, they had bought with them the United States flag & I heard their Captain order the Colour bearer to “Case those colours”, I saw what he meant when the man put a black oil cloth cover over the flag after he rolled it around the staff. On the end of the staff was a gilt spear & I remember the colour-sergeant lowering it & making a thrust at Joe Lipop the bugler of the Rifles—for they were ordered by bugle—of course all this was in fun.
The night was a little misty, with some moonlight. Presently the bugle blew—orders rang out sharply & sternly & the troops fell in. They marched down to the Depôt—the C & O. Depôt—the only one then in the town & there they waited the arrival of a train which soon came crowded with men in red and
blue shirts. These were the students of the University of Virginia. The entire student body volunteered—forming in two companies—one of which wore red shirts and one blue. What struck my childish mind was the fact that a good many of the students were on the top of the coaches. My father kissed my mother & my brother & myself goodbye & followed the troops into the train & it pulled out, & my mother took us back home bravely struggling against her tears.
It is strange, but talking some time ago to the members—or rather some of the surviving members of the Monticello Guard, I found they had forgotten the fact that they went off to the war in blue uniforms. Charlie Wertenbaker, however, quickly recalled the fact & then
recalled to me the time when the old Town Hall—now Levy Opera House—was turned into a gigantic tailor shop & every tailor in town was there cutting out gray uniforms, whilst the ladies basted them & sewing women sewed them up. These uniforms were for the Monticello Guards & Wertenbaker had been detailed & sent back to get them.
Whilst writing these last few pages memory has brought back to me the raising of a Confederate flag at the University, some time prior to the troops going off to the war. The pole was erected in front of the Harris boarding house—a long brick building—since destroyed by fire—which stood on the sight of the three cottages next to the residence of Judge John L. Cochran—near
the University— A large crowd was there— The owner of the house—Tommie Harris, as he called, led out his daughter Miss Bettie dressed in a blue bodice spangled with stars & a red & white dress. The band played & Miss Bettie pulled the cord which ran up the flag & the stars & bars floated from the top of the flag staff, whilst some adventurous student climbed to the top of the Rotunda & nailed there a staff with a Confederate flag floating from it. Speeches were made, but I remember none of them, except the conclusion of a short speech made by old Mr Jas Alexander—the venerable printer & publisher of the Jeffersonian Republican.
He had long white hair which floated in the breeze as he spoke. His conclusion—which
is all I recall was “Oh! fellow citizens, if the soul of Thomas Jefferson could see this day, it would leap for joy” and as he said this, the old gentlemen suited the action to the word & jumped up in the air. There was great shouting at this and the crowd dispersed.
Tommie Harris during the war moved to his place in Sugar Hollow on Moorman’s River & died there. To the house of his widow, father & I went on many a trout fish in subsequent days, & I was surprised to find the buxom Bettie Harris was the beautiful fairy who raised the flag. She was a handsome woman, however, & her mother—her sister Mrs Rice Wood & herself were three splendid women. Bettie after the death of her mother and brother-in-law married
a cousin named Maupin and she & her sister moved to Missouri where the latter died, and Bettie still lives.
I think some time during my father’s absence on this first expedition I had typhoid pneumonia & was very ill—so much so father got a furlough & came home. I recall seeing him in his uniform sitting by my bed-side & weeping bitterly but that is about all I recall of his visit.
When I got well I remember that I found my brother—“Teague” Leitch—The Via boys & others busily engaged in a mimic naval warfare on the pond just above the present wine cellar—or rather which was there then—no trace of it remains now. They had built small ships out of scantling, had rigged them with sails & masts
some of them nicely painted with their names in white paint on the stern. One was called “Sumpter”, one Moultrie—& other names suggestive of the time. On the bank were toy cannon carrying buckshot & each boy shot at the others ship as it sailed down the pond.
“Teague” Leitch usually fired first & then yelled “look out”. He accordingly one day shot Lyman Via in the calf of the leg with a buckshot & we all fled incontinently, supposing we would be hung. Lyman limped after us, using rather vigorous language & threatening to “lamn” Leitch as soon as he caught him.
The Via boys—George & Lyman—were sons of a carriage maker whose shop was in the old Baptist Church—now
converted into a double tenement & on the corner of Jefferson and Fourth Sts. It was from Via’s shop most of the material for the ships was obtained & tools to make them.
Lyman was one of the older boys—about 16. He ran away from home the second year of the war & enlisted in the Artillery—in Southall’s or Carrington’s battery I do not recall which—I think Southall’s. He was colour sergeant. At the bloody angle Spotsylvania when the order was given to retreat he sprang on the breastworks & snatched his colours, but was pierced by many balls & fell with his flag in his hand. The earth works were reversed there & his body covered up & never recovered. He was a brave gallant boy—the only one of
my playmates who died for his native land.
My next recollection is a visit my mother—my brother—my sister and myself paid my father at his camp just below Manassas junction. This occurred just two weeks before the 1st battle of Manassas— We left the present C. & O. Depot one morning on the train of what was then known as The Virginia Central Railroad— The Engine was a small affair with a very large smoke stack. Wood was the fuel used, and every now and then we stopped to take on wood & water. The Cars were very small affairs compared to the Cars of today. The tops were rounded and in the interior covered with oil cloth on panels of which were painted gorgeous pictures. As we drew near Manassas Junction we began to pass tents and long brush
arbours, under which lay, soldiers whilst in front of them others strolled about.
Father met us at the Junction but we went on upon the train a mile or so across Bull Run & then got in a waggon and drove to the House where we were to stay. We drove through woods into an open field to a double frame house—unpainted and not very prepossessing in appearance—here we were to stay.
Father’s company was in Camp not very far from this house & I was soon very much at home. The men had tents & my father had a large “A” tent with a fly—both made of striped “bed ticking”—canvass being very scarce, father & Judge John L. Cochran (then plain Mr Cochran) the 1st Lieutenant of the Company, having bought the material & having had the tent
made in Charlottesville.
Some distance from the Camp was quite an array of Rifle Pits, which my father had caused his men to make & by one of which he received the only wound he did receive during the war.
When he met us he was on crutches, and laughingly told mother he had been wounded in a skirmish.
Father kept his company hard at work—drilling—digging Rifle pits & fitting them for real warfare. He determined one day to see how they would respond when called on at night & so instructed a Sentry—letting no one else into the secret & binding him to secrecy—to fire his gun about one o’clock in the morning having previously instructed the Bugler as to his duty in
case of a musket shot heard at night.
About one in the morning “bang” went a gun on the outposts—the bugle sounded the alarm—out poured the men, hurriedly dressed & with rifles & accoutrements hastily gathered together. Father, up & dressed, gave orders to fall in & march to the Rifle Pits and organize for a fight. In the darkness, he fell into one of those pits & sprained his knee so badly, he was on crutches up to the first battle of Manassas—and the fact is that he never thoroughly recovered from the sprain—the knee giving him occasional pain & remaining weak all his life.
I enjoyed our little stay with the soldiers very much— Father’s nephew—Walker Rhodes—was in his Com-
-pany and I remember once walking down the road through the woods, until I came in sight of Bull Run & the Railroad just across it. Below the embankment was a Mill—Union Mills—as it was called. Just as I got into the clearing I heard a voice say, “Halt”, & looking around I saw Walker Rodes treading his beat, as Sentry, across the road. He looked very imposing in his gray uniform with white belts crossing his chest, and around his waist. On his hands he wore white cotton gloves—for they were still playing at soldiering— I halted & he very gravely said—dropping his musket athwart his body, “Who comes there?” “Why its me Walker”, I said. “Advance ‘me’ and give the countersign”, he
said very gravely & sternly.
“I don’t know it”, I replied rather frightened, to tell the truth—“Then I’ll have to arrest you & call the Corporal of the Guard”, he said, but at this I turned and ran back to camp as hard as I could go, despite his laughing summons to return.
My brother tells me that the name of the owner of the house at which we stayed. It was [ ]
Soon after we returned home from this trip I broke out with a fine case of measles—contracted I suppose on the train. My sister also had the disease at the same time. I was not out of the house when the news of the battle reached us. Mr Geo: M. McIntyre—our Druggist—came around one afternoon & in a very excited manner told mother that a Captain Rea had just reached Charlottesville with the awful news that our army was defeated &
twelve thousand men killed. Poor mother was almost wild, & kept saying “Then I know, Walker,”—as she called my father—“is dead.”
Soon afterwards, however, the news of the glorious victory reached us, and later we saw in the paper that Capt Duke had been highly complimented by Genl Beauregard— How proud it made us & how Mother cherished the paper.
Father’s Company was on the extreme right of the line—guarding the ford, and did not fire a gun in the fight. They saw the enemy once & I have often heard father say, that whilst they were lying down behind breastworks & concealed, a Federal Officer walked out of the woods in front of the line & looked up & down it. He was in easy range & my father in a low voice ordered his Adjutant W.W. Alexander to shoot him. Alexander
leveled his rifle & was about to fire, when my father said the thought came over him “Heavens!, this looks like murder”, & told Alexander to lower his gun.
The officer presently went back into the woods, utterly unconscious of the fact that death had been so near to him.
A year later, he would have been shot by a dozen bullets, as soon as seen, but human life then had not become so little regarded. Father towards the close of the day, got very restless at his Company’s inaction and turning the command over to his first Lieutenant John L. Cochran, he went off hunting his General, & soon came to General Beauregard—who knew him.
Beauregard hailed him & ordered him to come to him, & ordering an Aide to dismount, directed Father to mount the horse &
go to a point in the line of battle & try to reorganize an Alabama Regiment whose officers were killed or missing, & the Regiment in a bad condition.
Very much relieved—for he expected a severe reprimand, or an arrest—father galloped into the thick of the fight. The enemy were then in full retreat and when father reached the hill where the Alabama Regiment ought to have been, he saw the enemy in full retreat—rapidly becoming a mad route. He was on the hill overlooking the Stone Bridge— As he stood there, his first cousin & brother-in-law Capt (afterwards General) R. Lindsay Walker dashed up with his battery of Napoleons & turned the guns on the retreating Federals. A waggon—or caisson—overturned on the Bridge, just as the gunners got the range, and a shell
exploding in the crowd created a wild & mad mob— Father said the sight sickened him, as shell after shell fell in the midst of the seething mass of men in blue & he was in an ace of asking “Lindsay” to stop, when he realized that this was what war meant, & he turned away to seek the Regiment, which by the way—he never found.
He saw Bee & Barton dying or dead & saluted a grave Colonel Jackson whom he knew as an odd & eccentric man, a Professor at his old school.
He reported later on to Beauregard, who told him that the missing Regiment had been found & then asked him where his own command was. Father “owned up” that he had left it where it was ordered to be left, but that he couldn’t resist the temptation to be in the fight. Beauregard, laughed & told him to
return to his command “excused”. He found his Company all “hopping mad”, because they had had no chance to smell gunpowder.
Beauregard mentioned my father in his report of the Battle Lee Series I Vol 2 p497 “Rebellion Records.* (*Official records of the War of the Rebellion)
But to return to Charlottesville. Poor Capt Rea, of Co K. Va Infantry—“left” in full retreat at the critical time of the day when it looked as if the enemy had routed us. He fled to Manassas—boarded a train, & getting off at Charlottesville mounted the old Central Hotel Steps & told the large and wildly expectant crowd that “Our forces were defeated—twelve thousand killed” that the enemy would be in Charlottesville very soon & that everybody would be hung”. He was still wild with terror, & as the train pulled out, jumped on it &
went on to Mechums where he lived. Of course this terrible news spread, & was believed until telegrams came in the evening telling the truth.
Poor Rea resigned, & I remember following him once with a crowd of young rascals, singing
Of Co “K”,
On the battle day.”
as he walked up Main Street.
He went back into the army later on, as a private of Cavalry & served with gallantry. His “run-a-way” was a panic irresistable & he just couldn’t help it. I knew him well in after years & found him an excellent jolly good fellow— Very short & rotund & with a pleasant face and manner. He died a few years ago respected by every one.
As I was getting over the measles I read Gulliver’s Travels in the Edition of Swift’s Works which belonged to my Great-Great-Grandfather Thomas Hoops of Carlisle Penn:—who is said to have educated Benjamin West. I have the seventeen volumes now in my library. Reading the old type gave me an awful headache and to this day I cannot read Gulliver’s Travels without a headache—which comes on sooner or later. Curious, but true.
The summer of 61 passed with no particular incident which impressed itself upon my mind. Towards its end however Cousin John Towles died at our house, and his death made a deep impression upon me. His Regiment reached Manassas too late for the battle, but went into Camp. He contracted camp fever and was brought to our house where
he gradually grew worse. Just before his death a soldier came to see him. It was a Mr Lyons—now Judge [Thomas Barton] Lyons who lives in the old Flannagan House on Park St [Bonahora on Lyons Court]— He had been at Coleman’s School & at the University with John, and was exceedingly fond of him.
Cousin John’s death was a great sorrow to us all. Father & mother looked upon him as a son. He was exceedingly handsome, bright chivalrous & lovable in every way. The effect of the war upon commerce and trade was shown in a small way by his funeral. Uncle Towles insisted that his body should be sent home for burial. A trip to Bayou Sara La was no few days journey in those days. A metallic coffin was needed as the weather was very hot, but not a single one could be obtained in Charlottesville. They were all made North & the supply on hand was exhausted & no
more could be had. The undertaker accordingly lined a wooden casket with zinc and soddered down the lid. I watched with tearful eyes the man at his task, little thinking then that the other brother Wm E. Towles, equally beloved, had but two more years of life before him.
That fall our cook Jane had an attack of varioloid. Great was the excitement in the little town & a strict quarantine was established— So strict that if father had not come home we would have welnigh frozen & starved— No one was allowed to enter the lot & no one to leave. A little Irishman with a large pistol patrolled the walk in front of the house. The Town Sergeant—Mr Geo: Slaughter—whose person composed the entire police force—used every morning to mount a stump in front of the house & bawl out to know if we
wanted anything & often ran off before a window was opened— In vain our Doctor assured the authorities that Jane was isolated in the Cabin fifty feet from the house, and that her attack was of the very mildest type—indeed, he was doubtful it was really varioloid—and that the absurdly rigid quarantine was foolish.
Our wood gave out— Everybody burned wood in Charlottesville in those days. It made no difference—no one was allowed even to haul a load in—and our provisions grew very low. At this critical time Father returned & was halted by the Irish Sentinel—“If ye go in ye can’t come out” he said & attempted to bar his passage. He was quickly pushed aside & father came in. I recall his blazing wrath when he found the condition of affairs. Out he strode—to be stopped by the Sentry, who unfortunately was tempted to display his revol-
-ver. He had no time to do more than display, for he was hustled down the street by the irate Captain & never returned to his beat. In an hour wood came in, and provisions, and the blockade was raised. They did say that Capt Duke read “the riot act” to the Town authorities and informed them that both Sentry and Sergeant would meet a worse fate than small pox—if the quarantine was kept up longer.
That fall I commenced school at a school kept by Uncle Wm J. Duke, father’s eldest brother.* (*This photo is Taken from John Harmon’s residence & shows the school house—now moved near the station & a story added to it) He taught in a wooden house which stood just over what is now the Southern Railway at the Union Station. The House itself was rolled down the hill when the cut was made & a story added to it & it is now the Lunch establishment diagonally across from the depôt.
My schoolmates were Green & Howard Shackelford—now dead—R.T. Martin—Teller of the Bank of Albemarle—Jesse Jones—the Locksmith—Jas W. Lane—now principal of the High School and my brother and our Cousin R.W. Duke—now Clerk of the Circuit Court—Uncle William’s son. John Marchant—Ned: Hamner—the Druggist of Lynchburg who married Bettie Hamner—my wife’s cousin. There were of course many others whose names I cannot recall. Jas Hardin was one of the older boys—a very tall athletic man. It was at this school I developed a talent for reciting, which caused me at times a good deal of sorrow, but which eventually did me a great deal of good. I was very much teased as an “orator”—a nickname which clung to me a long time.
I recall very well my reciting Byron’s “Ball at Brussels”—the lines from Childe Harold. “There
was a sound of revelry by night” &c and the gusto with which I recited it, & the mock applause of the boys & my tears thereat.
Sometime this year we were visited by Scott, Lewis and Tom Walker, sons of Uncle Lindsay Walker by his first wife—my mother’s sister Maria. Their younger brother, Frank, did not come with them. They were fine fellows—Scott as dark and swarthy as an Indian—Lewis tall & fair & gentle—Tom boisterous & merry— All are gone now (1903) but Tom.
I recall very little of my school days that & the next year or so. I remember how once the boys nailed up the doors and windows & how my Uncle thrashed the guilty ones when they were detected. I recall a fight I had with Howard Shackelford in which I was the surprised victor, but the years of 1861 & 2 left little impress
upon me beyond the news of battles & the anxieties of my mother & the stories of death & wounds that came to us.
I recall seeing the body of Col Turner Ashby in his coffin in the lobby of the Farish House—now “Colonial Inn”. It was clothed in Confederate Gray, & I recall the long black beard & the dark handsome face, to which death had given the colour of a yellow wax mask. He was buried in the Soldier’s Cemetery at the University, but his body was removed after the war. Why it was brought to Charlottesville I never knew.
I recall distinctly the building of the Hospitals at old “Mudwall”. These Hospitals or Wards were long one story buildings erected on what is now the freight depôt & Grounds of the Southern Railroad at the Union Station. “Mudwall” was a large three story brick building
standing on the site of the present coloured Baptist Church nearest the depôt. It was built by Gen Cocke of Fluvanna as a Student’s Boarding House & surrounded by a wall made of clay—hence Mudwall.
The old Stone Tavern was also used as a hospital. It stood a little back from the street, between Gentry & Irvine Livery Stable and Eldridge Turner’s Grocery—facing Market St & between 4th & 5th. Adjoining it on the site of the Livery was a brick addition quite as large, which had been used as an hotel. The old Stone Tavern was quite old. It was built by the Nicholas’ & Gov W.C. Nicholas was born in it.
It was burned sometime in 1862 & I recall the fire very well. Indeed I stood in the line & helped to pass buckets of water the night it was burned.
It had a good many wounded
and sick soldiers in it, & there was great excitement getting them out. No lives were lost, tho’ the building was entirely consumed.
After the Hospitals at what was then the junction (of C & O & Southern R.R’s—then the Virginia Central & Orange & Alexandria) were built, I went to them very often with my mother. Nurses were very scarce & the ladies in the town each in turn helped to nurse. My mother had her regular turn & occasionally I went with her. She always carried some delicacy & went from couch to couch a very “ministering angel”. I remember seeing her wipe the death sweat from a handsome young fellow, who murmured “mother” & gazed at her with dim eyes as he died. I recall car-loads of wounded unloaded & figures of men desparately wounded carried on stretchers into the wards from
the cars. I remember seeing a great heap of arms & legs outside of a ward soon after 2nd Manassas & was fearfully shocked at the indifferent way in which a severed leg or arm was tossed on the heap by the surgeon.
We were hard pressed for Hospitals early in the war. At one time I remember seeing the Chapel—which stood on the site of the present Chairman’s Office—and the old Public Hall—now burned—of the University, filled with wounded men lying on pallets on the floor. Some of these wounded “convalesced” at Morea. One was a Texan by whom I saw the first cigarettes made. He used the tender inside of the corn shuck instead of paper & I took great pride in getting this shuck for him & cutting it into proper lengths.
I recall the March of Jackson’s Army through Charlottesville in [ ] 1862.
and the enthusiastic welcome given the brave men as they tramped through the town. It took them nearly a whole day. They marched with a swinging steady gait—chatting & laughing & eagerly accepting the gifts of cakes & bread the townspeople offered them. Jackson himself went through on the train & I think I saw him at the window of a car, but do not recall how he looked.
Sometime during one of these years a number of federal Soldiers—prisoners— were brought through town & stopped awhile in the Court House yard, the rear of which was surrounded by a stone wall. I have drawn a diagram of it on the next page as it then stood, & have made the sketch one of the whole surroundings of the Court House & vicinity as I remember it in 1863. The Court House was different both outside & in from what it is now. The Diagram I explain as follows.
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[Inserted between I 98 and I 99]
1 House in which we lived from 1853 until May 1863. Built by Dr Chas Brown prior to 1822.
2 House in which I was born—August 27th, 1853. The room in which I was born marked *, was a one story room. It has since been added to & made a separate house.
3 Mr Simpson’s house—now pulled down, & a brick house built on the site.
4 Office room in Miss Nancy Child’s yard.
5 Miss Nancy Child’s house—now pulled down. The Elk’s Home built on its site.
6 I do not know who lived in this house.
7 Mr Tom Wood’s house.
8 John Wood Jr’s house—now Saltsman.
9 Office. 10 Mr Tom Wood’s Office.
11 Father’s Office.
12 Judge Cochran’s Office.
13 Engine House
14 Sam Leitch’s House—Site of Jack Jouett’s Tavern. (The Swan) (Red Lands Club 1906) [added later see 102-103]
15 No: 0. Benson’s Auction House.
16 Farish Hotel— 17 Billy Watson’s Drug Store
18 Kamerer’s Jewelry Store— 19 Hoppe’s Grocery
20 Mannoni’s Confectionery
21 Where Judge Watson lived until 1861.
22 Old Post Office— 23 Old Central Hotel
24 Old Bank. 25 Old “rookeries”. 26 Some poor people lived there.
27 Office Alfred Benson lived in.
28 Henry Benson’s residence—now Conner.
29 Henderson’s School room.
[MAP OF COURT SQUARE AREA ]
The whole Court House yards front and back were filled with these poor fellows, who were a tired & hungry lot. I examined them from a distance, at first, for the hated “Yankee” was to me a terrible creature even tho’ a prisoner: After while my curiosity led me closer & I began to talk to one of them over the railing. He looked to me very tired & hungry & by and by a great pity for him & the other prisoners swelled up in my boyish heart.
“Are you hungry?” I asked. “Nearly starved”, he replied, & he looked it. I had a dime in my pocket & I went over to Mannoni’s & laid it out in ginger cakes—the good old fashioned black kind, no other generation will ever see. I returned & gave “my prisoner” a handful & the others were rapidly snatched by eager hands. Our citizens soon came with provisions & the prisoners were given a good square meal. Not an unkind word
was spoken to them by anyone, but they were kindly treated— Quite different, I have heard, was the treatment of Confederate prisoners by the Northern citizens.
In the early Spring of 1863 my father sold the house in which he lived to Mr Wood—of Ivy, for his daughter Mrs Wm G. Rogers— The price paid was $6000.00 in Confederate money. The “SunnySide” farm was soon after offered at public auction & my father asked the Auctioneer—Hy Benson to buy the place if he could get it for $6000— Failing this he was to invest the money in Confederate Bonds. Fortunately the place was knocked out at $6000—and Father thus became the owner of “SunnySide”—that lovely place I had so admired as a boy, and which was my happy home for twenty one years—and which I trust may remain in the family for generations yet to come. We had to give up possession of our town house the first
of May— We could not get possession of SunnySide until Sept 22nd, so we moved to “Morea”—boarding with our Aunt Mary from May 1st to Sept 22nd 1863. We occupied the front rooms upstairs, and a large curtain of bed ticking was put up on the large upper front porch, giving us almost another room.
Aunt Emily Duke, her two daughters & son & Uncle William were boarding there, as well as Cousin Lizzie Tucker with her son, Gilmer & her daughters, Lena—Lucy & Annie. It was quite a houseful & a very jolly one; but before I go into my recollection of this summer I must give a parting glimpse at Charlottesville, many things being recalled to me now since I have commenced to write for I have now—Nov 1903—been just four years on these 102 pages—
Charlottesville in 1862-3
Neighbours & Friends-
Our opposite neighbours were the Bensons. Henry Benson was a famous auctioneer and wag—one of the wittiest men I ever knew, with a tongue like a whip— His brother Alfred—partner in his business—was a handsome, melancholy man, very delicate—a great practical joker—a sport and it was whispered—with much truth a gambler. He lived in a little office on the corner of the street & directly opposite us— Mrs Benson’s mother lived with him. She was a dried up little old woman who had lost one eye, & always kept a lock of her hair carefully curled over the vanished optic.
Mr Hy Benson had been married twice— His children by his first wife were numerous. Charlie & Jim & Ben were the three youngest & our playmates—but Charlie went off into the war quite
early— By his second marriage Mr Benson had several daughters & a son. His baby daughter died whilst we lived opposite & I recall their sorrow at her loss. Over her grave was placed a box with a glass top in which was put all of her toys— The Bensons had a black pony, & how I envied them that pony! It frequently ran away & threw its rider, but that made no difference. Benson had his Auction house at No Nothing as it was called, the house projecting out into the Street on the Eastern Side of the Court House. It was a great gathering place for the men of the town in summer afternoons, & the gossip therein & thereat indulged in must have been unique. Just across the Street—Jefferson—was Sam Leitch’s house.* (*Site of Jack Jouett’s Tavern—“The Swan”, & now the Redland’s Club.) Sam was a great character— An Irishman—nephew of “old” Sam—as he was called—his father had made quite
a competency as a merchant, to which Sam had added a great deal & retired from business when I first recall him. He was tall—slim—much wrinkled—clean shaven—and always wore a high silk hat & old fashioned collar & black stock. He had a ready wit—a sharp tongue but a frequent subject of practical jokes, and a favorite butt of Hy: Benson—whose store he frequently visited, but whom he cordially despised, “If the Savior of mankind was to come bodily to earth, “Sir”, he once said, “he would not escape the “slanderious ” tongue of Henery Bensing”.
His cousin Dr Jas Leitch (Teague’s father) was our family physician & himself being a great wag & practical joker used to play a great many jokes on the old man. He took great pride in his garden, his small fruit trees and his pig. The latter Dr
Leitch once took & put in a box, the box they nailed on top of the tallest pole they could get & then planted the pole right across the street from the old man’s house. Great was his lamentation on finding his pig gone. He informed some people later on, in the day, that he knew his pig was dead, that he could hear its ghost grunting in the air. Later on his attention was called to the post & his pig was rescued.
Fred: Godwin, who was one of the bad boys of the town, generally got all of the old man’s fruit before it got ripe. On one occasion, the old gentleman loaded a shot gun with cubes of fat middling & shot Fred: in one of his apple trees. Fred: fell to the ground, not only badly scared but one of the greasiest individuals ever seen in Charlottesville. The following Spring it was report-
-ted that Fred: had been drowned in the Rivanna River, whilst bathing: “Thank God!” old Sam is said to have said, very solemnly, “Now I shall know what my fruit tastes like?”
There was in the early fifties a great deal of trouble between the mechanics & town boys and the Students of the University. On one or two occasions serious riots were narrowly averted. I heard my father say that on one occasion, so serious had matters become that a meeting was held to protect a man named Dodd with whom some student had had a row & the student body had taken it up. The citizens met in the Mayors office & Hy Benson proposed they should send Mr Leitch on a scouting tour to find out if a mob of the students were really coming, he in the meantime having
placed some friends of his on the lookout, to beat tin pans & yell when old Sam approached the top of Vinegar Hill. Old Sam accepted the position of Scout—he was a brave old fellow—& posted off.
The crowd was let into the secret. Amongst them was Hardin Massie Esqr—a prominent lawyer & banker afterwards then young in the profession, and Dr Hughes who had just begun the practice of medicine. Old Sam went to the top of Vinegar Hill & as he came up, the friends of Benson yelled in fine style & beat their tin pans & the old man rapidly returned to the Mayor’s Office: “Mr Mare”, he exclaimed, “I have the honour to report that the inimy are approaching in great force”.
At this Massie & Hughes—who were in the secret—sniggered. He wheeled on them & exclaimed in a loud voice “Misther Mare,
I want it to be distinctly understood that I am not to be laughed at in the discharge of me official duthy, by a briefless barrister, and a physician without a patient.” The rest was silence.
Dr Marcellus McKennie—afterwards my dear old friend—when he graduated in Medicine, opened for practice in Charlottesville. He put an advertisement in the paper
“M. McKennie, M.D. will be found in his office at all times, except when professionally engaged.”
“Hevins!” said old Sam “Does the man expect to make a recluse of himself.”
Dr Jas S. [A.] Leitch was the prominent physician of the town. A wild young man—fond of all sorts of practical jokes—full of fun and merriment, as maturity came on he lost the wildness, but retained the light heart and generous merry disposition which made him
exceedingly popular. He was a fine physician with a very large practice. A prominent & enthusiastic Free Mason he was elected Grand Master in 185[4-1855].
He was the physician attending my mother when I was born & was the first person who ever saw me. He is buried within ten feet of where—God willing—I will be buried, & in case of my interment in our family plot, there will be buried within a few feet of one another two Grand Masters of Masons in Virginia one of whom was the first person who saw the other. I remember Dr Leitch but slightly. I recall his funeral which was largely attended & the evidences of grief were sincere & welnigh universal.
Dr R.B. Nelson I remember very well— Young Dr Nelson he was called. His son Willie was a
boyhood friend— He too was a great Mason. Cousin Chas Minor was also a physician I recall. He “refugeed” into Charlottesville early in the war. A nice rather indolent man. The father of Judge E.C. Minor lately decd & of Gilmer Minor who was another playmate.
I was a rather “oldish” sort of a boy & had several elderly friends in the humbler walks of life. The tailor B.L. Powell was a great friend & I used to steal off & sit in his shop on the square & watch him stitch away whilst he talked to me very learnedly. Bob Cogbill—a coloured barber—was another crony who worked in Tom Drew’s shop. Both were free men of colour & I used to go to their shop & read the Bible to them. It must have been a funny
sight. Bob was a very shrewd sharp fellow & accumulated a nice estate. He lived to shave me many a day, dying only a few years ago
Old man Billie Summerson was another type, who lived in a little frame house just across the street from the Episcopal Church. Not a trace of the house remains now— John T. Antrim having bought it & thrown it into the lawn of his house—where T.J. Williams now lives. Billie was a little dried up old man, who was Constable—Town Sergeant & general utility man. One of his occupations was to whip disobedient darkies whose masters were too tender-hearted to inflict punishment. The unfortunate recipiant of the chastisement to be, was sent with a note & fifty cents
to old Billie, who gave the necessary thrashing & sent back a receipt for the money as an evidence that the bearer had received a quid pro quo. This was seething the kid in its mother’s milk so to speak.
Near Billie, lived Mr Keller, the Baker and Confectioner—father of our former respected City Sergeant Spotswood Keller. He was a small man with quite a paunch, & when Tyler of the Masonic Lodge a curved sword he used to carry seemed made to fit his shape. He was a Belgian & fought in the Battle of Waterloo & had a Waterloo Medal.
Where now stands the store of Eldridge Turner—corner of Market & 3rd Sts was a ramshackling old frame building in which lived an old Englishman—Eubank by name—a mattress maker. He had been a British soldier and at one time
had been one of the troops who guarded Napoleon at St. Helena. He often told me of how Napoleon looked & walked.
E. Watts the bookbinder & small store keeper I barely remember. A little one & one half stone frame house on the corner of Main & First Sts—now occupied by the Hartnagle Building was his store and dwelling. He was a tall lank peculiar man & spent all he made in Lottery tickets. The boys used to tease him a great deal— They would go in his store & ask for all sorts of things & he would chase them out in a great rage. Charlie Llewellyn—the young wag of the town—once went in and gravely asked him if he had any nails “Yes! Yes! Yes!” he said.”What kind?” said Charlie: “All kinds: all kinds Sir: all kinds.” “Then give me a pound of toe-nails”, said Charlie running out of the store as the
old man rushed around the corner with a yardstick.
Cousin Anne Gilmer lived in the house now occupied by T.J. Williams*— (*Now—1916—by C.H. Walker & the place is called “Altamont Circle”.) the long brick dwelling on the Hill in front of the Episcopal Church— The lawn in her day only extended a few feet from the first slope of the yard. An open street—a sort of cul-de-sac—ran up to the fence & gate which was then about fifty feet from the door—or rather fifty yards.
This street was badly washed & gullied but was a favorite play ground. Now—1916—built up. [“Now... ” inserted later] Cousin Anne was the widow of Gov Thomas Walker Gilmer who next to Mr Jefferson was probably the most brilliant intellect this County ever produced. He had been member of the Legislature—Member of Congress; Governor of Virginia and Secretary of the Navy before he
was forty one years old. A brilliant lawyer—polished speaker, witty & handsome he was a popular idol. Whilst Secretary of the Navy he was killed by the explosion of a gun, which was being tested on a vessel at Washington.
President Tyler’s second wife’s father was killed at the same time. Lyon G.Tyler son of the president & this second wife, subsequently married Anne Baker Tucker—Cousin Anne’s Grand-daughter.
After Cousin Walker’s death, Cousin Anne became almost a recluse. She seldom went out at all, but when I knew her was a bright smart old lady, given to repartee & an elegant conversationalist. She used to read Boswell’s Life of Johnson a great deal & first introduced me to that charming book.
He[r] daughter Lizzie married H. St George Tucker—brother of John
Randolph Tucker—who was a great wit & charming man. He & my father were Law partners for a short while prior to the war— Cousin Lizzie was exceedingly fat good natured & cheerful. She had one son—Walker Gilmer Tucker & three daughters—Lena—Lucy & Annie.
Gilmer Tucker was a handsome boy—stuttered in talk—& we were great friends & playmates. Lena was quiet & dignified— She is now a teacher at the Miller School. Lucy was fat—saucy & a whirlwind of a girl— Annie was plump & pretty & a jolly girl every way. She is now the wife of Lyon G.Tyler President of Wm & Mary College— Gilmer is dead—poor fellow—& should have died—for his own & friend’s sake earlier. He became very dissipated & died only a few years back, a wreck.
Cousin Anne’s Sons were George: Walker: & James— Another son—a very brilliant young man—John [Inserted later]—was killed in Baltimore by the train just before the war. I remember my father going on to bring back his body.
George Gilmer & Walker Gilmer were Presbyterian Ministers. The latter was taking a high stand in the Church when he died quite suddenly.
James was a lawyer in Charlottesville when I first came to the Bar. He moved to Waco Texas and died there. Cousin Juliet was Cousin Anne’s youngest daughter— One of the wittiest brightest women I ever knew, whose satire spared no one and whose ready speech was the source of much delight, and some fear, to all who knew her. She died at the Louise Home in Washington
a few years ago.
Cousin Anne was much devoted to my mother & to the Morea folks. I will have something to say of them when I come to the summer of 1863 spent at Morea.
The capture of Alexandria & the invasion of the lower Valley brought into Charlottesville a large number of families from Alexandria—Winchester & other sections of the Country. They came to Charlottesville & the University—some renting houses and some boarding. Don McClain*(* died Sept 1905) —a stout good natured boy from Alexandria joined the boys and was a great favorite. Mason Ambler a grandson of John M. Mason came from Fauquier & John Randolph Tucker & his son Harry and his daughters came from Winchester & rented one of the Dawson Row buildings at the University.
1863 and SunnySide
We moved into “Morea” in the Spring of 1863—occupying the front upstairs room and one of the side rooms.
Uncle William—his wife & two daughters & son R.W. (Dick—now Circuit Clerk) Cousin Anne Gilmer—Cousin Lucy Tucker—& her children—Lena—Lucy—Gilmer & Annie were also there. Aunt Mary Smith & Aunt Mattie Duke & their & father’s niece Nannie Deskins (daughter of Aunt Sally, who married Hon Harvey Deskins of Floyd Co & died when Nannie was a baby lived at Morea. It was a jolly household & we children had lots of fun.
In the summer Dick Duke went off to the wars— I remember how carefully he was fixed up by his doting mother & the tears we all shed at his departure. I wept for another reason. I too was anxious to join the army & was laughingly told I might. Amongst my most cherished possessions was an ancient “horse pistol” that had belonged to my
Grandfather—an immense thing—flint lock—smooth bore— I brought that out—tied it around my waist & thus prepared walked out a few moments before Dick left announcing my purpose to go with him. Great was my wrath & greater my howls when I was told that I could not go—for they saw I was in dead earnest—and I was finally incarcerated in a dark room & my weapon confiscated.
Dick joined Carrington’s Battery & did gallant service. He was in many important battles—was in the “bloody angle” at Spotsylvania, but escaped safely.
During my stay at Morea I read a great deal. Swiss Family Robinson & The Arabian Nights were then for the first time perused & I got half way through “East Lynn”, when Aunt Emily took it away from me. Why? the Lord only knows, as I could never have
seen the impropriety in it—if indeed there was any.
Cousin Annie Gilmer introduced me to Boswell’s Johnson & I read the “Tour to the Hebrides.” I also read “Tom Jones”, and being a very innocent pure minded boy the indecency of the book was absolutely unseen by me. I rejoiced in its incidents & I believe my mind was helped by its perusal. Aunt Emmie did not see me read it— I kept out of her way with all books after the East Lynn episode—nor did any one else I know of.
The Summer went by very rapidly. During it Aunt Mourning my Mammy’s Grandmother died nearly a hundred years old. She had belonged to my great Grandfather Thomas Walker, Jr & I have spoken of her heretofore. Old Uncle Si, also died that summer, and in July, Sam my father’s body servant came back from camp
ill with typhoid fever. He died a very short while after his return. I remember how carefully my mother watched the poor boy—giving him his medicine herself & going nearly every hour of the day & several times at late hours at night to see that he was well taken care of. He was a fine negro, devoted to my father and we all wept much at his death. He could not have been much over twenty years of age.
I smoked my first cigar that summer—with the usual result. I am glad to say that I have never—except for a short interval—cared to repeat the smoke, and hope my children will follow my example & that of their Grandfather, Great Grandfather & Great-Great-Grandfather—none of whom used the weed.
My play was interspersed with warfare with Lucy Tucker who
quite a tomboy and with whom I had many a combat—generally good-natured, but sometimes ending in a downright fight, in which I was usually badly worsted.
On the 22nd of September we moved into SunnySide.
During this summer my mother with my sister went down to visit father at “Wilton”, the old Colonial Mansion occupied by Col W.C. Knight, near which Father’s regiment was camped. Thus began an intimacy between that family & our own which has lasted to the present day— Sally Knight & my sister became devoted friends & Sally later on, became my first Sweetheart & was my only one for a long time.
Wilton is on the James nine miles below Richmond. It is a beautiful place—walls very thick with secret staircases in them & I heard much of it from
We moved to SunnySide on the 22nd day of September 1863, and I remember it well indeed. Waggon load after waggon load of furniture was hauled to the house, to which my brother sister mother and myself walked over in the afternoon.
We went from Morea across the fields and in a sketch map on the next page I have attempted to give some idea of the path &c. A very thick wood lay on the hill now owned by myself just a few hundred yards from Meadow Creek & on the line between Massie’s place and ours. This land then all belonged to Wm P. Farish and his overseer Mr Jas O. Harden—who yet lives at the advanced age of 90 lived at what we knew as the old Lewis place afterwards christened “West Cairns” by W.T. Randolph.
At the edge of this wood was
a “shelter house”, built for the hands to take refuge in from inclement weather. The path ran by this house & then thro’ the wood & for some twenty yards it was the blackest bit of woods I ever saw. Even at noonday the gloom was oppressive, and after night it was really as black as black could well be.
We found the house filled with the furniture & the dining room was so crowded there was hardly room in which to turn around. Mother & Mary and Aunt Martha Eskridge slept upstairs, Willie & I slept on a mattress back of the door, the tired sweet sleep of childhood. It was several days before the house was gotten in order and we all worked like Turks.
The place was much different then from what it is now. In the back yard were five immense oaks—only two now remain. The front yard
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[I 127] MAP OF PATH FROM MOREA TO SUNNYSIDE AND ENVIRONS
even including the circle was planted in apple trees—a row of cheese apples—a row of Queen Cheese—a row of Belles Fleurs—a row of Albemarle Pippins, & in the Spring the beauty and fragrance of the blossoms can be imagined better than described. The place was only thirty acres in extent, and a few acres in woodland at the foot of Still House Mountain. A large Spring walled up & cemented over, lay at the foot of the lawn & our water was drawn from it. The rear line of the property was not more than fifty yards from the back door & across the worm fence was an old burying ground, long disused, thro’ which led a path to the County Poor House down the hill—the County Poor Farm adjoining our land— On the other side is a sketch map of the property as I first knew it.
LAYOUT OF POOR HOUSE AND FARM
The house at SunnySide had been originally a log cabin. Mr Ira Garrett bought it, added the wing to the South—weatherboarded the log part added a porch and made it a lovely picturesque cottage— The Kitchen—as in all old time houses was of logs—some twenty five feet away & adjoining it was a servants house still standing, but added to & now united to the main dwelling by the new kitchen & the extension added by father in the 90’s.
The kitchen was one story only & the servants room one and a half. The stable—on the site of the present stable was of logs also. The back gate was about ten feet from the present Ice House—& a lane to the stable separated the SunnySide land from the Poor House land.
Opposite is a photograph taken in the 90’s. The photo could not be better. On the steps are my two sons Walker & Jack & standing is Harriet—their “Mammy”.
FIRST AND UPPER STORY OF SUNNYSIDE
This upper story was only half pitched & the window in my room & in the passage opposite were skylight windows. The present dormers were put in when the room now used as a library was built. There was a narrow little passage between Aunt Mat’s room & the storage room.
The Poor House adjoined us and as all the buildings except two are now gone I give a diagram on next page
The paupers were all white with one or two exceptions— One was an idiot named Bob Beaver (still living) who was all out of shape & continually jerking himself about & throwing up his arms & tossing his head. He had a mania for collecting light bread & had an old sack in which he kept it until it was old & musty.
Mr Smithson—one of the paupers had once been the keeper of the Poor House, and now in his old age had come to be a pauper. He died whilst at the Poor House and I was in the room when he died—the first person I ever saw depart this life. He was a kindly good old man & was well taken care of. The Keeper of the Poor House was a Mr Richard Anderson. He had been brought up by my
MAP OF SUNNYSIDE, POOR HOUSE AND ENVIRONS
Grandfather—Richard Duke under the following circumstances— During the war of 1812 my grandfather was drafted. He hired a substitute—the father of Mr Anderson, and that substitute died in camp— So my grandfather took his son and raised him, employing him at the mill & taking care of him until he was able to take care of himself.
He was a most devoted admirer of my grandfather & grandmother and never spoke of them except in terms of the highest praise and his account of his life at Millbrook & of the family there was exceedingly interesting. He always spoke of grandmother as the best woman he ever knew—Aunt Lucy as the prettiest, and Aunt Mary as the smartest of all women. He had married a Miss Yates—a stout large woman—who had once been I judge a very pretty woman.
She was the “grey horse”, and much disposed to talk of her family & the great condescencion she had shown in marrying Mr Anderson. They had three children—Mary—a rather handsome woman—Boswell P.—now a distinguished and wealthy physician in Colorado and R.T. Washington Anderson—whom I knew as Dick—a boy about my own age & to be the companion of several happy years— A negro boy named Tom—a few years younger than Dick, belonged to Mr Anderson. Very soon, he & Caesar—Dick & myself were inseperable.
In the house now occupied by Gen T.L. Rosser—known as Rugby, lived Andrew J. Brown—a retired Druggist of Charlottesville who had married a Miss Minor a distant cousin of fathers & they had quite a large family. Bettie—afterwards a Mrs Moses—Susie—afterwards a Mrs Staling
Lily afterwards Mrs Frank Moore—James—Lewis—Andrew—Charlie Maggie—now Mrs Huck. Willie who married Dr Dold & died—and Cornelia now hopelessly insane.
Susie—Lillie & Maggie were very pretty women—tho’ Maggie was only a girl in 1863, being a little younger than I. James was about Willie’s age—Lewis about a year or two younger. A noble generous wild youth—sweet tempered, but hasty, & under good influences might have—had he lived—been a noble man. He died at 16 years of age. The three Brown girls were great belles & the house was quite a rendevous for soldiers during the war & students afterwards.
Between the house & Meadow Creek was a thick woodland—gone now—more’s the pity.
“Cousin Betty” as we called Mrs Brown was one of our earliest
callers, and the girls & their beaux used to come over very often. They also visited Mary Anderson & as the Andersons lived very well often took meals there despite the fact that they were a little disposed to look down on the kindly people whose misfortune—not their fault—had made them occupy the position of the family of the Poor House Keeper. Mother very early warned me to be careful, neither by look word or deed, to make any of the Andersons think that their position made any difference to us. They were good kind neighbours, worthy people, and much better & kinder than many who thought themselves vastly superior to them.
As I have said Dick & I were soon friends and presently there came in George Terrill a boy of our own age who lived about a mile away. His father Mr Geo: Terrill owned a farm just back
of the negro settlement known now as Georgetown—the settlement itself having been a part of the Terrill farm—sold off to negros after the war. Where the settlement now is were thick old-field pine woods, and the fields across from the settlement—now cleared, were then in thick woods.
Mr Terrill was a kindly old man, but an odd eccentric one. His wife was one of the best women I every knew. They had two sons—Willie who was in the army & George—still living—tho’ in wretched health—at the old place.
The Terrill family lived in a couple of cabins on a hill, the view from which is superb. Prior to the war Mr Terrill had commenced a more ambitious house & had gotten up two huge pens of logs which were to be the framing. He always intended to commence finishing them tomorrow—but tomorrow never came
and they still stand—roofed it is true, but nothing more.
The fall of 1863 I did not go to school— With my dear sister Mary & Caesar & Dick Anderson & Tom, I had plenty of amusement in all sorts of games. But my main sport was to carry on war against the yankees—I—of course—was General—Mary Colonel & Caesar the army—occasionally reinforced by Dick & Tom— We rode stick horses & carried stick swords & one old bayonet on the end of a tobacco stick. I proudly claimed the horse pistol of my grandfather—a huge flint lock without, a hammer, but which I wore buckled about me. We exterminated a large patch of broomsedge back of the garden in our charges & no doubt the exercise did
us lots of good.
The pinch of war began to make itself severely felt during the winter of 1863-64: Coffee and sugar had ceased to be seen— For coffee we tried many substitutes. Sweet potatoes, dried roasted & ground: Acorns, ditto: ditto:, but we finally fell back upon rye, parched & ground, and we used this straight along. For sweets we used sorghum molasses, which was made in the neighbourhood & we ourselves raised the cane & made sorghum in the summer of 1864. The molasses was thick, quite black & sometimes a green scum was on the top of the syrup. It was made by crushing the cane in a press made of two wooden rollers, the juice being then boiled down in a large kettle over an open wood fire.
When we moved to SunnySide
we had no horses—father having taken old “Noble” (Young Noble, he was then”) off, to use as his horse in the Army. R.F. Harris—a kind good man—came over and plowed up some fields for us & seeded them in wheat.
Flour was very scarce & high—as indeed everything was—but we were allowed to get it at Government prices from any farmer—this being a perquisite of my father as Colonel.
Meat was even scarcer then flour. Butcher’s meat we saw very seldom. We were allowed, as an officer’s family, to get from the Slaughter House of the Hospital a beefshead one week and a sheepshead the next. Great was the rejoicing the week the beefshead came, for out of it Jane deftly concocted soups and stews and hash.
The sheepshead furnished a much smaller ration & was not much enjoyed.
Bacon was our standbye; but of that the “homefolk” did not get much; the hands having to be well fed. So very often the bacon was fried for breakfast, the gravy, with milk poured into it, served us with cornbread. This, with rye coffee sweetened with sorghum was our breakfast. For dinner our usual “piéce de résistance” was a large bowl of black pea broth, the peas being boiled with “middlin”; and the “midlin” with as much soup as they wished given the negroes, whilst the soup alone was served us. We had a few potatoes & apples & sometimes cakes made with sorghum.
Later in that winter my brother made rabbit traps &
our larder was replenished once or twice a week with savoury rabbit. Our supper generally consisted of cornmeal mush & milk with a little salt. Salt was very scarce. The Confederate Government took possession of all that was made and doled it out from a store-room in Charlottesville. Our neighbour, and father’s old friend Andrew J. Brown, was the distributing agent & I was once or twice sent to him with a little sack, which he filled & I brought back. Our clothes soon became much worn & were indeed, before the war ended “things of shreds and patches”. Lights were also a problem— There were no wax candles—no sperm oil and Kerosene was not to be had—indeed was unknown— Tallow candles soon became unpurchasable
and I remember we bought candle molds & the servants tried to make them. But tallow soon became too scarce & high and we made and used “Confederate Candles”. These candles I often helped to make. They were about 25 feet long. Strings of cotton were taken for the wick. A kettle of melted beeswax with a little tallow in it, was put on the fire & when melted, these strings were run through & held in the air to dry; This process was repeated until the “candle” became about as thick as a child’s little finger, when—before it had become entirely hard—it was wound around a wooden candlestick at the top of which was a wire hook in which the candle was fastened, about two inches standing above the
hook. This was lighted and as it burned down, a bit more of the candle was unwound & shoved up, until the whole candle was consumed .
As our clothes wore out, homespun took their place—homespun of cotton & wool mixed, spun and woven on the larger plantations. Our mother & Aunt cut them out & the negro women made the clothes. I had to wear aprons—to my great disgust—which came up to neck, were tied around it, & around my body. These were made of gingham & later of ordinary cotton cloth dyed at home in the kettles and of the most fearful shades. The negroes used to use the red mud with something to set it, & dyed the white
cotton a most fearful yellow. From April to frost, we went barefooted, & my pleasure at turning my toes “out to graze”, as we said in the spring, was only equaled by the joy with which I resumed shoes & stockings after the ground grew cold & hard & white.
Our shoes—rough raw hide affairs—were made by cobblers in town, and mended by little Henry, who was quite a cobbler. He used to make shoe pegs out of beech wood. Blacking was out of the question; so our shoes were regularly greased with a preparation of tallow & beeswax, which if it did not prove ornamental at least served to make them water proof.
In spite of hard times & poor food and thin worn garments, and the absence
of father & my dear mother’s care & anxiety, I had a good time. I was always hungry, so anything to eat came in very well, & to this day I am thankful for an ability to eat anything & to like everything to eat. I had a fine digestion; was healthy and merry and full of life. So the fall of 1863 went along into the winter & we began to feel settled in our new home. Father’s regiment had been ordered to South Carolina, & before its departure he had a short furlough— So this made us very happy.
In the winter we were told that Genl Wickham’s Brigade of Cavalry, would go into winter quarters in the Poor House woods & around the neighbour, & in the latter part of November or early in December, the troops came in. How many they were
actually I do not know, but to my childish eyes they appeared an immense host. They came along the road one “dumb dim dripping” afternoon, the rain drizzling down & the road churned into a mass of mud & water. I was not allowed to go out of the yard, but went to the rock fence & got soaking wet watching the columns file by.
A little after dark a negro man rode into the yard & gave mother a note, which proved to be from Genl Roger A. Pryor—whom she had known well in earlier life. Genl Pryor had been a Brigadier General, but in a fit of pique resigned & went in the service as a private. He was then a private soldier in Wickham’s brigade, but like many of the private soldiers had his body servant along with him, & the negro
who brought the note was this body servant. The note—recalling the writer to mother’s recollection requested the loan of the second volume of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Mother promptly sent the book, but in an hour back came the book with the General. “My Dear Madame”, he said, “I cannot read in camp. No tents & no huts. Its bivouac or nothing. Can’t you take in a poor private for the night.” I shall never forget my Dear Mother’s smile as she replied—seeing for the first time the General’s little ruse. “I cannot decline General, but think you should not have waited & tried any other plan than the old Virginia one of coming right to the house where you knew you would be welcome”.
So the General was made welcome & I took him up into the room over the parlour. A bright fire was ablaze in the fire-place; the red curtains gave colour to the room and the white-counterpane on the bed shone like snow.”Ah! me,” he said, as he rubbed his hands “this looks like Heaven”.
He remained with us two or three days until quarters were in some shape for his reception, but soon left on a furlough. I never saw him again until 1878 at the White Sulphur Springs. His daughter married Frank Walker—my first cousin.
In a few days after the General’s visit I was allowed to go up into the camp & roamed around watching with much interest the tents & huts,& stables & the cavalrymen. The Brigade occupied the woods in which the Barbecue Spring
is situated, the main camp being up the little branch that runs from Still House Mountain & thence extending in a Northerly direction to the public road. The soldiers were very ingenious in building log huts with stone chimneys (the ruins of some of the chimneys can yet be seen in the woods). The stables were long sheds roofed with leaves for the most part. Along the road, where now is the negro settlement known as Georgetown were thick “old-field” pines. These were, to a certain extent cleared & I saw for the first time portable forges, which were placed amongst the pines along the road. The forges were all captured from the Yankees.
Some few nights after General Pryor’s departure we were very much frightened by a
drunken soldier, who tried to gain admittance to the house after nine o’clock. On being refused he rode up on the front porch & dismounted & went to sleep on one of the benches, his horse being tied to the door knob. My brother got the shot gun & loaded it & started to go out & slay the would be intruder, but my mother would not let him. The trooper left before morning & we at once went to Genl Wickham. The offender was detected and severely punished. General Wickham then sent to my mother and asked if she did not wish a soldier to stay in our house and act as a guard & mother very readily assented. So down came a tall good looking young gentleman—a Mr Eppes of Prince Edward County (or Amelia, I’ve for-
gotten which) who remained with us that winter & until the troops left. He was a quiet pleasant man & enjoyed the comforts of a good home. He was the innocent cause of the last “condign punishment” I ever received. The way of it was this: I found his cartridge box hanging on the back of a chair, and took out several cartridges—and Caesar & I had great fun throwing pinches of the powder, which we extracted from the cartridges—paper shells they were—in the fire. We enjoyed this so much that we practically depleted the box, and Eppes finding it out, told my mother of the fact & told her to warn the children that these cartridges were dangerous. She investigated the matter, and then asked me if
I had used any of these cartridges. I am sorry to say I denied it; but Caesar, more honest than I, told the truth. He was let off with a reprimand, whilst I received a thorough and well deserved flogging. Eppes, when he found this out, was much grieved & as a solace took me up on his horse & and allowed me to ride with him to the camp and dine with his friends. They occupied one of the numerous little log huts with a stone chimney; Their beds consisted of bunks filled with straw— Dinner consisted of hard tack cooked in bacon grease and rye coffee without sugar or milk. The hard tack was a novelty to me and I soon forgot my thrashing and enjoyed my visit very much. Eppes remained with us until the Spring & I never saw him
again until some time in the 90s when he came into my office & introduced himself. He was then a colporteur for the Presbyterian Church. We had quite a pleasant chat over the old times and he went out to SunnySide & spent the night. A year or so afterwards I heard of his death.
I went to school during the winter of 63–4 to my old teacher Miss Bettie Lewis—who had a little school at A. J. Brown’s (now Genl Rosser’s). My brother—Dick Anderson & I walked over there & spent a few hours each day.
The winter of 1864 as I remember it, was a very hard one—I know 1864–5 was exceedingly so—& I think 1863–4 was also.
It passed—as such seasons always pass—in a round
of rabbit & snow bird hunts, but its main events are forgotten. It is strange how little I recall of the war that winter. Probably we were in the Country & away from the news—or I was so busy with the novelty of country life, I was oblivious to all else.
In March 1864, my father resigned the Colonelcy of the 46th Va regiment & came home—remaining a month.
The reasons of his resignation were as follows:
Genl Henry A. Wise—ex-Governor of Va —and absolutely without military training—a political soldier—was the Brigadier of the Command of which the 46th was a part. My Father was a trained soldier & in every way a direct counterpart of his Superior Officer. On his first
taking command of his regiment he was made much of by General Wise, who availed himself in every way of my father’s military knowledge and in a very patronizing manner he assured my father of his confidence in him & desire to promote his advancement. The men of the Brigade & officers also soon became exceedingly fond of father & in a short while the General became exceedingly jealous. He showed it in many petty ways, but my father ignored him, which seemed to pour fat on the fire. In the winter of 63-4 the Brigade was ordered to South Carolina— It is said this was done to get Genl Wise out of the way, as he was a sort of an enfant terrible, both to the War Department and his Commanding General. As the Brigade did little more than guard duty during that winter
being stationed near Charleston & never under fire save from a Federal Gunboat now & then, matters went on rather smoothly, but when ordered back to Virginia & stationed on the lines below Richmond, the command had several sharp skirmishes. In one of them General Wise was missing & the command devolved on my Father, who extricated the men from a dangerous position, drove the enemy back & then found General Wise sitting near a Railroad Culvert reading a newspaper. My Father reported the fight, which was still going on & the Genl cooly told him, that as he had managed the affair as long as he had he could continue it. My Father saluted returned to the Brigade & in a short while the skirmish was over. Genl Wise made quite
an elaborate report of the skirmish & never mentioned my Father’s name. At this Father (who I may say en passant, was exempt from military service, being Commonwealth Attorney of Albemarle) sent in a preremptory resignation to the War Department direct, not even sending it to Wise’s office. The Department wrote back asking him to recall it, in a very flattering letter, & at the same time sent the resignation to General Wise stating they were forced to accept it, but urging him to use his influence with Colonel Duke to remain in service. Wise ignored my Father, but returned the resignation to the Department with a scurrilous letter in which he spoke of my Father as “bearded like a pard” & wound up by saying he preferred to have the resignation accepted
and let the valiant enjoy his “otium cum ‘dollar’” [adapting Cicero’s “otium cum dignitate” meaning “leisure with dignity” to “leisure with money”]. The Department promptly sent this letter to my Father & he prepared in duplicate one of the most tremendous flayings of Gen Wise ever read. It exposed his ignorance of the simplest rudiments of the Art of War . It showed up his vanity & conceit: his petty spite & jealously: the contempt of his soldiers for him & his utter unfitness for the position he held. Junius never wrote a stronger paper & as Gen Wise’s grandson once told me, he wondered the old Genl did not have an apoplectic fit—despite his lean-ness—when he read it. For read it he did. One copy Father sent to the War Department. One to the General direct by Col Ran: Harrison with a letter in which he stated
that he sent this by private hand, as he knew General Wise would deny ever having received it, if he sent it by mail or by a private soldier. The General promptly sent word that if my father was not his inferior officer he would challenge him. Father at once sent a peremptory demand that his resignation be accepted. Accepted it was & he then sent word to General Wise that “Mr” Duke”—a citizen, was ready to receive any cartel sent by Genl Wise. None ever came altho’ Father remained a week at camp & Genl Wise saw him several times. Father then sent him word that he proposed to return to Charlottesville & would remain a private citizen for thirty days.
So home father came to our great joy. I think
I recall this visit with as much clearness as if it were yesterday. Father was much graver than I had ever seen him & was accustomed every day to take the small sword he wore in the army and go through some exercise with it. I learned afterwards that had Genl Wise challenged him, he would have selected swords as the weapons—and that Genl Wise knew my father was a fine swordsman. The facts as to all the foregoing I heard—not from my father at first—but from Gen (Maj) J.C. Hill, Col Randolph Harrison & others.
Father afterwards told me about what they did, and stated that he did not believe Gen Wise lacked actual courage, but that he would never challenge any one unless he could have choice of weapons.
As far as the family were concerned we were grateful for anything that gave us father for a month & we clung to him with a devotion that was ever due to him.
I may state here, to be understood, that Father was Commonwealth’s Attorney for Albemarle all during the Civil War, having been elected in 1858 and regularly re-elected until he was elected to Congress in 1869. Judge Watson volunteered to do all the work of the office all the time father was in service & declined one penny of the salary—saying that he wanted to give the Confederacy a soldier & my father was that one. This civil office—of course exempted Father from military service, but he would not avail himself of it & served from the first tap of the drum until the end.
with the exception of the thirty days named.
At the end of the thirty days he reported for service to the War Department & asked to be assigned for duty. They at once commissioned him as Lieutenant Colonel & ordered him to raise and drill a Battalion of the Reserve Force. These “Reserves” as they were called consisted of boys between the age of 17 & 18—and old men from 45 to 60. The Confederacy had so exhausted itself that it became necessary as Grant said to enlist “from the cradle to the grave”. The first aim in raising these troops was to use them simply for Guard duty, but before the end they were in regular service & did noble duty.
So in a week after the thirty days expired we saw
our Father leave us again.
During the late winter or early Spring Caesar & I were playing in the hayloft, when all of a sudden we heard a “boom” “boom” boom” sounding like distant thunder— Out of the loft we tumbled & rushed to the house where we found the entire household listening.
“Those were sounds of cannon,” my mother told us, and our faces were pale and anxiety very great. But we heard nothing more. The next day we learned that a raiding party of Yankees, had ridden into a parked battery at Rio Mills— That the artillerymen, at once jumped to their feet, loaded a gun & fired it at the Yankees & then mounting the Artillery horses charged the raiding party for several miles.
The gallant officer in command was “Jim” Breathed, & it is said that he himself followed the retreating foe armed with nothing but a fence rail broken in half and with that weapon he soundly belabored two troopers & made them surrender.
The spring time of 1864 passed very quickly & the early summer. August brought to me the most eventful and delightful circumstance of my life up to that time.
Father came up for a short furlough and announced that he proposed to take me back with him for a two weeks visit to Camp. It seemed to me the time dragged until the happy day that we embarked on the Virginia Central Railway train at the University Station, as it was then called. The Station being a platform at what
was a grade crossing where the Railway now crosses Main Street, and the trains regularly stopping there up to the Spring of 1871.
The engines of those days burned wood, and the cars were small & light—roofed with canvass on the interior & on that canvass were painted landscapes &c. I do not think the trains made over 15 or 20 miles an hour & I know we were all day getting to Richmond. It is true we were held up at Trevillians Station for several hours, & my father took me over much of the battlefield. There were broken wheels—& bits of saddles & harness—some broken carbines & sabre handles—A few graves & skeletons of horses. The fight, which took place in 1863 was the greatest cavalry fight of the war.
We got to Richmond about dusk & walked
through the streets & out into the country, for what are rows of streets today were open fields then. We passed the gloomy walls of the Penitentiary, then outside the City, & along the Canal by the Tredegar works, then actively engaged in the making of arms & munitions of war, & soon reached the River opposite Belle Island. My father hailed & presently a boat put out & took us to the Island & my father’s tent was reached in a little while & I was soon sound asleep beneath the Canvass.
Belle Isle is a small island in the James—now really in Richmond. It is now connected by a bridge, but in 1864 it was not. Upon it then—as I believe now—were nail works—and these works were & are at the foot of the hill on which the Camp was. The Island was used as a
place of temporary confinement for federal prisoners and father’s regiment had been stationed there to guard them. No prisoners were on the Island whilst I was there, & only the “pen” indicated what the Island had been used for. This “pen” was a sort of earthwork, like a fort, a deep ditch on the inside between the earthwork & the place where the tents were stored. This place was now empty.
The Camp was on the hill above the “pen” & my father’s tent stood by a locust tree on the Summit of the hill. This tree is still standing, or was, some year or so ago when for the first time since 1864 I revisited the Island. There was a hole in the tent right by the cot on which my father & I slept & I could touch the tree by putting my hand thro’
this hole. I spent ten days with my father on Belle Isle and delightful days they were.
The tents of his men, were very poor flimsy things, & the hot sun poured thro’ the thin canvass. The men were either old men or young boys & had no uniforms to speak of, tho’ their guns were kept as bright as they could be. The food was the same for officers & men & the menu quite limited. It consisted of thick fat pork—middlin— which had been brought over in a Blockade runner & some of it smelt of “Bilge Water”, my father said. It certainly smelt very badly.
We had no wheat flour—only corn-meal—and there was not a sifter in the camp, so the hoe-cakes were baked with husks & all in them. Rye was used for coffee & there
was a meagre allowance of sorghum molasses.
Father’s cook was an old man named Harris—who was alive some two or three years ago— He was the father of Capt <Genie> Harris—a most excellent man, now a conductor on the C. & O. R.R. By acting as cook, he escaped guard duty & so was glad to take the place. He was not a cordon bleu, by a long shot. He got me & the apothecary into trouble with the Colonel whilst I was there, in this wise: He told me one day that if he had a tablespoonful of soda, he could make some fine batter cakes & that I knew the Colonel was awfully fond of batter cakes, & that all I had to do was to go to the regimental apothecary & tell him the Colonel had sent me for the soda & I could get it & we would have a fine “mess” of
cakes. So off I went in the innocence of my heart to the apothecary—who was Ben Benson, one of my playmates—tho’ some five or six years older— I told Ben that the Colonel—my father—wanted a tablespoonful of soda, & Ben promptly gave it to me, & I to Harris. That night we had batter cakes galore & the way Father enjoyed them, with gravy from the fat pork, was duly equalled by the way I put them down. All went well, until all of a sudden Father laid down his fork & seemed to think a moment: Just then Harris came in with a plate of smoking cakes & a broad grin. “Harris”—said the Colonel—“I think these cakes are made with soda. Where did you get it?” “From the young Colonel”, replied Harris, indicating me. “Where did you get it?
Tom” said Father. “Why Mr Harris told me to go to Ben Benson, for it,” I said “and Ben gave it to me”. “Send Benson to me”, my father said to his orderly & in a few minutes in came Ben— Harris had fled— “How came you to issue soda without a requisition from the Surgeon or myself, Benson,” sternly asked my father. “Why I thought you sent Tom for it”, replied Ben. “You had no business to think, Sir”, said my father, “But as it has happened, I shall overlook this one offence. “Remember, however, sir that if you again allow anything to be taken from your stores except by proper authority, you are liable to strict punishment”— And then my father’s eyes twinkled “The only punishment I shall inflict now, is to make you
eat some of Harris’ cakes”. So Harris was called in, reprimanded & Ben devoured cakes to his heart’s content & Harris’ dismay—for he counted on the lions share.
My father then told me that soda was so scarce in the Confederacy that it was kept very carefully & that it was worth almost its weight in gold & used mainly for the sick, & so Ben had been guilty of a great indiscretion in letting me have it. But of course I did not know this & was excused; but never to take or ask for anything without asking him first. The cakes did this much good—Father found where Harris got the buttermilk he used with the soda—& made him get a gallon for us every other day.
Life in the camp was quite monotonous—I suppose to everybody except myself. I never tired
of anything from reveille to taps: I went from one tent to another & from one end of the Island to the other: I watched the half naked men in the nail works rolling the red hot iron sheets, cutting out thin strips, & then putting them in machines that cut out the nails complete: Squad drill & company drill I attended regularly, & dress parade was a source of unending delight each afternoon when it was had. It must have seemed—as I look at it now—a very amusing performance to my father. The troop—or regiment I should say—was composed of men from 45 to 60 & boys from 17 to 18— They had no uniforms—or rather no “uniform” uniforms— Some were welnigh coatless—several barefooted: Every sort of a hat—from an ancient “beaver”
to a tatterred straw were seen— Some men’s clothes were actually ragged—and most of them patched everywhere. They straggled into line & each company was formed by its Captain & what I suppose a short company drill took place. Then my father took his position & everything came to attention— The “band” consisted of two fifes and a drum & the fifes were certainly “ear piercing”. They were played by two old men who had been fifers in the militia.
My father had a brand new uniform— The same in which his photograph—I have, was taken. He was exceedingly neat; very soldierly: Carried himself very erect (Something he did to his dying day) and was a superb figure as he stood in front of the line & drew the sword he carried— The small
dress sword which belonged to his great grandfather Thos Walker—& which tradition says he wore whilst with Washington under Braddock. His commands were given in a short, crisp, clear way & under his orders various evolutions took place, winding up with the drum and fifes parading from one end of the line to the other, up & down, & then “ranks broke”.
As can well be imagined it was rather hard to get these old men & boys into military ways— Their ideas of discipline & military matters were very crude—to say the least of it. I remember once the Sergeant of one of the Companies came to my father’s tent boiling over with rage.
“Colonel!” he said saluting “What am I a’ ’gwine to do? I have ordered young so & so (I
forget the name) to go on guard & he says he’ll be d-mned if he will”. I didn’t blame so & so—for it was a fearfully hot day & it did look idiotic to me to have men walking up & down in the boiling sun on an Island—apparently guarding nothing.
“What!, Sergeant,” my father replied sternly, “A man refuses to obey orders & you return to me & ask what to do?”
“Yessir!” replied the Sergeant, saluting again, “Name o’ God, Colonel, what kin I do”?
“Take a file of soldiers & shoot him, Sir” my father said sternly & my blood ran cold.
“All right” said the Sergeant, “All right Colonel. It shell be done” & off he wheeled & marched away. I saw
my father’s eye twinkle as the man left & my anxiety was allayed.
“Come on Tom,” he said to me “Lets go & see what the Sergeant will do.”
We followed the rapidly walking “non commission” to an old tent & saw him dive in it & presently out he came dragging a youth, who had on nothing but a thin shirt & a pair of trousers. “Come along Sir, Come along,” You’ve gone and disobeyed orders & the Colonel has told me to have you shot, & I’m a’ gwine to do it, just as soon as I can get the men: Come along Sir.”
The youth began to beg—for he evidently thought his last hour was come. “I’ll go, Sergeant,” he said, “right off. I was only fooling”. “Too late” Sir—too late now”, was the stern reply. “You
jest bet I ain’t a’ gwine to disobey the Colonel & he’s told me to shoot you. Come on,” and he dragged his victim towards the path leading to the pen, shouting lustily at the same time—“Six of you fellows come here with your guns loaded”.
Father stopped him. “Well! Sergeant”, he said “if the soldier will go now, you can let him off this time, but report him to your Captain, as you should have done at first, & he’ll probably be a little milder on him”.
The victim was released—ran back in his tent—came back with his hat & coat on & gun in his hand, & coming to a present said “Colonel I was just a foolin” Whar shall I go Sergeant? I’ll walk a line all day, ef
I’m to be shot for not a’ doing it”. Father laughed & then gave a lecture & a little instruction to both Sergeant & private & they went their way. The next day, passing the guardhouse I saw the young fellow on the ground nicely “bucked”, so I suppose his delinquicy had been reported & he punished.
Bucking was not a very dignified proceeding. The unfortunate victim had his hands tied—his elbows were then brought over his knees, as he took a sitting position: A stick was then run through his knees—or rather under them & above his arms—so he sat like a trussed fowl, or was turned over on his side & lay there helpless & a spectacle for God & men— How long he was bucked depended upon the nature of the offence, but I do not think any one was kept
very long. I think men were generally punished this way for drunkenness, & it seems to me it would have had a very sobering effect.
Once or twice a week my father & I went swimming in the James in pools at the upper edge of the Island & enjoyed this about as much as anything during the trip. We would go up under “the falls” & have a shower bath & I would paddle around in water up to my armpits—for I could not swim, whilst Father swam in the larger pools.
Once or twice we visited Richmond— One night we took tea with some friends of my Father’s—I have forgotten their names. One never-to-be-forgotten night I was taken to the Theatre—my first experience. The Theatre was the old Richmond
Theatre on the corner of Broad and [ ] Streets—long since pulled down— The play was “The Ghost of the Dismal Swamp”, and it was advertised that a new and ingenious method would be used to exhibit the Ghost. This was some usage of mirrors, that projected the figure on the stage & allowed swords to be thrust thro’ it &c &c.
It was a lurid melodrama but was something inconceivably delightful to me— I can see “in my mind’s eye” now the ghostlike figure of a beautiful girl that now & then flashed on the stage to thwart the villian & had I an artists’ pen I believe I could draw the face & ghostlike form. I remember absolutely nothing about the play except the ghost.
I was taken to a paper mill on one of the Islands; also to the Tredegar works where I
saw the making of small arms & the boring of cannon— Also to see the manufacture of percussion caps—the only kind used then. The building in which these caps were manufactured was on an isolated Island in the James. The business was a risky one & there had been an explosion very shortly before which had killed several people. So we were careful in our walk and conversation. I was much amazed to see white ladies at work—for they used women in some portions of the work. I was shown the whole business. Sheets of thin copper were struck off into a sort of a <cross> this <cross> was twisted into the cap, row after row of these caps were put into a machine & filled with a white powder, which was slowly & carefully pressed down by
another machine & the cap was then taken out, ready for use.
I think I remained at the Camp about two weeks. In the slang of the day, I had “the time of my life”, and it was with a heavy heart I was told that my visit was over and that I must return to SunnySide. The day of my departure came & with a ten dollar Confederate note in my pocket, as pocket money, I was put on the Virginia Central Railroad & came home. The ten dollar bill I paid to an ice-cream vendor for a small saucer of frozen milk— The vendor was a negro boy named Charles who belonged to Cousin Ann Gilmer, but was allowed to peddle ice-cream &c on the trains between Gordonsville & Charlottesville. As
Confederate money went then I suppose the actual value of my expenditure was about ten cents. To my great surprise and delight, however, Charles gave me back the money before we reached Charlottesville—saying he wanted to treat me.
I got off at the University Station—there being a platform where the C & O now crosses Main St by a viaduct & was met by Caesar, with whom I walked across the fields home, where I was for a while the centre of attraction as I told of my adventures in Camp.
Before going on with my narrative I want to revert to a sad circumstance which took place in the summer of 1863, and that was the death of Cousin William E. Towles which occurred in
[ ] of that year. I well remember the receipt of the telegram telling us of his death & the great grief of my mother and Aunt Martha who loved him like a son.
He had served gallantly with the Washington Artillery, and then was aide on Genl J.E.B. Stuart’s staff—Gen Stuart being his kinswoman [‘wo’ deleted in pencil]. He distinguished himself & was complimented by the General for gallantry during the raid around McClellan. He became engaged to his & our Cousin—Fannie Stuart—the daughter of Cousin “Sandy” (A.H.H) Stuart of Staunton. The wedding day was fixed & Cousin William started home on furlough to make arrangements for the wedding. There had been great floods in Mississippi and a
bridge over “Chunky” River in that state, on the line of the Railroad, washed entirely away. A man had been set to guard it, but he went to sleep & train plunged into the chasm. Cousin William & his body servant “Bill”, were in one of the coaches and Cousin William was drowned. My father had often taken him bathing & tried to teach him to swim. It seemed utterly impossible for him to learn strive as he might & this inability to learn to swim caused his death. He got out of the car, was seen to get on a cotton bale floating in the river, but either fell off, or was thrown off & was drowned. His faithful servant who swam out was like a crazy man, they said. As soon as he saw his
Master was not amongst the saved, he plunged into the river and diving again & again finally found & brought up his young master’s dead body, & took it home.
Cousin William was a brilliant man— An A.M. & B.L. of the University of Virginia, the son of wealthy parents—a brilliant future seemed before him. He & his brother—Cousin John—who died at our house in town in 1861, lived with Father & Mother some time &went to school. They loved my parents as if they were their own & were loved by them almost as if they had been their children.
Dear old Aunt Mat used constantly to call attention to the fact that Cousin William’s initials—W.E.T.—were prophetic of his death
by water. There is a strange circumstance connected with his death, which I learned from his mother’s own lips.
Neither she nor his father knew of his home coming: He wanted to take them by surprise. The night in which he was drowned my Aunt Frances awoke my Uncle & told him she had just had a dream that William was dead. He laughed at her & told her to go to sleep. She did so, but presently awoke him, screaming “Oh! Maj Towles, William is dead! He is drowned. I saw him in a river dead”. My Uncle tried to soothe her & told her to go in the next room & get in bed with her daughter Belle. She did so, went to sleep but had the dreams a
third time. The next day as she saw a man riding up the long Avenue of live oaks that led to the house, she exclaimed, “Maj Towles, that’s a telegram coming to tell us of William’s death.” So it was— He had been drowned as I have related & as near as she could reckon about the time of her dream.
My Aunt told me this, herself. That it is true I believe beyond question. I have never attempted to account for it. Who can?
A greater sorrow came to my dear mother that same year— My Aunt Virginia—my mother’s youngest sister—lived at my Uncle Towles’—as did my mother’s father Wm S. Eskridge. Aunt Virginia was an exquisitely beautiful woman. She
noted as a wit, and a belle and had many suitors. The favored one was a Mr Walter Harrison, a cadet at the Va Mil: Inst:, who was very handsome but very disippated. The opposition to the marriage on her parents’ side was so great that she broke off the match. She declined all other offers and went into a decline, which the softer climate of Louisiana seemed to check. She was never entirely well, however, and the shock of the death of the two nephews proved too much for her and she died that fall. My old grandfather did not survive her very long. He died suddenly a short while after her death & so in a brief few months my mother lost her favorite nephew, her sister & her father.
Black was the wear of the ladies of our family for several years: But that was nothing uncommon. I remember once
attending the Presbyterian Church on the occasion when the Revd Wm Hoge (Brother of Moses D.) who was then our Pastor, preached a great sermon, when it was proposed to give the Church Bell to the Confederate Government in order that its metal might be used for cannon. Gun metal was very scarce in the Confederacy so the Congregations of the various Churches were requested to donate their bells to be cast into cannon— I recall Dr Hoge’s appearance in the pulpit even now. He was strikingly handsome & a superb pulpit orator . I recall only one thing of his sermon, tho’ I remember that tears were profusely shed: Looking over the audience he was silent a moment & after a pause said in deep impressive tones. “What do I see? A large mass of men and women filling
this church to its capacity. What else do I see? Every man in it is old with white hair, or wounded and incapacitated for active service, and every woman wears black”. It was true— Every able bodied man of the proper age was in service of the State, and every woman was in mourning for some loved one dead in the same service. The Bell was unanimously voted away—as indeed was every Church bell in the town—but before they were ever sent for the war was over.
St Paul’s bell—in Richmond was used, & the Congregation, so I have heard, never agreed to get another in its place—preferring that the empty steeple should stand to remind the people of their sacrifice.
Cousin “Sandy” Stuart’s
It was during the late summer of 1864 or early fall that we paid the first visit of which I have any distinct recollection, to Cousin Sandy Stuart’s in Staunton_
Cousin Sandy, was the Hon A.H.H. Stuart a distinguished lawyer & Statesman, who had represented the State in Congress—was Secretary of the Interior under Fillmore and was held in high estimation over the State. He was a very tall distinguished looking man, smoothly shaven—a superb head—& a manner in which dignity gravity and austerity combined to render him in my eyes a sort of demi-god of whom I stood in great awe. His wife—Cousin Fanny—my mother’s first cousin—was one of the loveliest sweetest women I ever knew—gentle—tender—low voiced—calm & serene. Her face was beau-
-tiful not only in regularity of feature, but in expression. I never saw her angry—or remember hearing her speak in a loud or ill tempered voice.
The old Stuart Mansion—stood & stands today on Church St in Staunton. It was planned by Mr Jefferson for Judge Archibald Stuart—Cousin Sandy’s father—who built it. It is a stately old Mansion, with its great high white pillars & stands today amidst its modern surroundings like a dignified old gentleman in venerable dress, amongst a lot of fops. Mr Jefferson—whose domestic architecture—was not one of his strong points—omitted a fire place in one or two rooms. I always thought one of these rooms should have been given him—especially in winter—but the best bed-room was always turned over to him when
he visited Judge Stuart & to this day is known as Mr Jefferson’s room. Just across the narrow street in rear of the house stood a pretty tho’ simple cottage, whose long porch was covered with an immense grape vine, and in which lived Aunt Martha Baldwin—Cousin Fanny’s mother—the widow of Judge Briscoe G. Baldwin of the Supreme Court of Appeals of Va and whose son Cousin John B. Baldwin, was the distinguished lawyer—& a prominent citizen of Virginia. Aunt Martha was a tall wrinkled old lady, who carried herself like a soldier & had a power of wit and sarcasm noted in her day & generation. I was desperately afraid of her, tho’ for my life I cannot say why, as she was always as good to me as one could well be.
Aunt Martha Eskridge—Dear
old Aunt Mat was her namesake. Cousin Sandy had a large family— His eldest son Baldwin—was blown up on a steamboat on the Mississippi river just before the war, on his way to be married to a Southern girl— I never remember seeing him. Cousin Mary—who afterwards became the wife of Dr Hunter McGuire—was a tall & beautiful girl— I used to think that Queen Mary Stuart was like her—this Mary Stuart who was so queenlike in person & manner.
Then came Cousin Gussie—not at all pretty—but one of the Saints of the earth— Gentle & sweet as a woman could be. Then Cousin Fanny—a handsome exceedingly sweet girl—who was engaged to Cousin William Towles. For years after his death, she went very little out into Society, but finally
became the wife of Revd Dr Atkinson, of Hampden-Sidney College—his third— She & Cousin Gussie died in the seventies.
Next came Sandy, Jr, a fine sweet fellow—gentle in his ways as a woman. About brother’s age, he & Willie were great friends. He entered the University in 1865-6 contracted typhoid fever there & going home died in 1867. He was at the V.M.I. in 1864 & took part in the battle of New Market, being, I believe slightly wounded in that fight.
Next came Susie—who afterwards married Right Revd Robt A. Gibson now Bishop of Virginia. Susie was beautiful in face form & character. Lovely eyes and golden hair—a fair skin, regular features & the sweetest smile I ever saw on a human face. Being several years older than I was, of course
I was wildly & desperately in love with her, but never told my love. She died only two years ago in Richmond, leaving two sons & three daughters, whose friendship with my own daughter is a great pleasure to me.
Next came Maggie—a wild tomboy—full of fun and mischief—whose brown eyes sparkling with life & animation made one forget the irregularity of feature. She was—and is—tho’ now a gray haired middle aged woman—one of the wittiest, brightest persons I have ever known. We used to fight like wildcats, but were both honestly & truly devoted to one another. She and my sister were devoted comrades & friends & their affection was akin to that which knitted David & Jonathan together. Her children & mine carry into the third generation a fondness
& affection that I trust may have no end.
Archie—the youngest—a handsome brilliant boy—a few years younger than myself—we were not very “chummy” but I was fond of him & we got along very well together. A youth & early manhood of brilliant promise, he did well at the University—went to St. Paul & died of the same dread disease which carried off Cousin Gussie & Fannie—consumption.
My visits to the Stuart House were often renewed— I had always a happy time there, & I still love to return to the old place & repeople it with the vanished forms of those dear sweet kinsfolk—the best beloved I think still of any of my mother’s kin.
The Stuart house was handsomely furnished & was a
most charming house in every way. One peculiarity of the service there was continued up to a late time, until the lack of good servants forced them to discontinue it. That was handed tea— Breakfast and dinner were at table, as usual, but the table was not spread for supper. Two negro servants came in at supper time with plates &c, & tea—& food was served by being handed to each person on large waiters from which each one took what he or she wanted. Chipped beef was always one of the dishes I remember.
Staunton in 1864 was quite a small town. Cousin Sandy’s house stood almost alone: The section between it and the C & O Depôt was then a pasture lot—a saw-mill stood in the bottom where a little branch then ran, & when it was at work—which was
not often—I used to spend some time in watching it work.
This visit to Staunton was for about ten days, I think, & I had a good time. I was taken to the Deaf & Dumb Institution, also an Institution for the Blind & there met mothers two cousins—Cousin Ann Covell and Mary Merillât—who were daughters of my mother’s Uncle George Eskridge. Both were beautiful women. Mr Covell was Superintendant of the Institution. His daughter Avery was a beautiful girl—with whom I proceeded, at once to fall in love—an affection, which with multitudinous others kept a place even up to my twentieth year. Cousin Mary’s husband was Dr Merrillât, a frenchman, who was a teacher in the School. After the war they moved to Maryland & the Doctor had a flourishing school there.
Amongst the pupils was a boy named Albert. He was about fifteen years of age. Cousin Mary was forty one—but a marvelously beautiful woman. The boy was sickly & she nursed him thro’ one or two spells. Dr Merrillât died when Albert was about 24 years old. He at once came on & besought Cousin Mary to marry him: She laughed at him: He persisted time & again—and finally Cousin Mary to try & rid herself of his attentions went to Europe. He followed her & his persistence was at last rewarded. They were married in Paris. Albert was at that time a man of a good deal of wealth. The couple now live in New York. When Mary Slaughter—my niece—was married they paid us a visit. They seem very happy & he is an attentive kind husband
tho’ she is now an old old woman & he about fifty two years of age & really looking younger.
I remember on this visit to the D.D. & B. Institution I heard a blind man play Gothchalk’s “Last Hope” on the great organ in the Chapel. He played exquisitely & to this day I never hear the music without recalling the swaying figure at the great organ & the pathos of the player’s condition of sightlessness as it appealed to my young mind.
The winter of 1864 was quite cold, I remember. I went to school during that Fall and the winter of 1864-5 to Mr Carroll—in Charlottesville—my brother & myself walking in & out. Mr Carroll was a fine teacher—for those boys who wanted to study, but not very good for those who
did not. He was a small man with a long black beard & an incessant smoker— I commenced Latin under him that session.
Amongst his pupils were the friends of my boyhood & I made others. J.R. Wingfield—afterwards State Senator & Consul to Nicaragua—was the star pupil— Gilmer Minor—Gilmer Tucker Jim (Teague) Leitch, Willie Watson Jim Lane—& others I cannot recall. Meriwether Anderson—Green Shackelford & Carter Minor—the latter was a great bully I remember, & was much disliked.
I shall never forget the Christmas of 1864. Things had become very scarce with everybody in the Confederacy & at SunnySide we were on very short rations. I recall our horror when Aunt Mat: came in the sitting room & said to Mother
“Lisbeth”, I don’t know what we are going to do. The rye is all gone and the sorghum most out”. Now parched rye was our only coffee— Sorghum our only “sweetening. So this seemed to mean no sort of cakes or sweet things for Christmas. And the fact is we had very little of anything good that Christmas. We hung up our stockings— something I continued to do until I was married & left the old rooftree.
Tom—Mr Anderson’s boy & Dick Anderson in some way had got some powder & Christmas eve we loaded an old hollow log with it and put it in the thicket across the lane— Early in the morning my brother & I got up and met Dick & Tom & Caesar & we lit the fuze & the log exploded with a loud noise which awoke all the neighbour. We—my brother &
Caesar & I ran in to get our stocking. My brother & I went into mother’s room & there was our little sister Mary sitting on the floor her stocking in her lap. Slowly she pulled out some paper dolls—homemade—an apple & two ginger cakes & drawing a long sigh she said “Well! I reckon the Yankees has caught Santy Klaus”.
Our stockings had cakes & apples, but we ate them gladly & then to breakfast which consisted of Corn bread & cream gravy & a little rye coffee. Aunt Mat had skirmished around & in some way gotten both rye & sorghum.
After breakfast we played in the deep snow & had as good a time I suppose as any children could have.
I do not recall much more of the year 1865 until March. Then came an event indelibly impressed upon my mind and never to be forgotten. Rumour after rumour of disaster reached us & finally early in March the news came that the Yankees had won a victory in the Valley & were on their way to Charlottesville. The news froze our blood. Was it—could it be—possible that these awful creatures were to come to us. We had heard of Sheridan—of his ruthless plundering—burning of dwelling houses & all the fiendish acts which characterized his raids in the Valley of Virginia. We dreaded his approach & could not believe it to be true. But as the certainty of the fact was impressed upon by one or more persons it was determined to
send my brother away with what silver plate we had & with father’s horse which he had sent home for the winter. So the solid silver was boxed up, and on the morning of the 8th of March—I think—Willie mounted old Noble and with the box of silver on the pommel of his saddle & his shot gun on his shoulder started off to go to Buckeyeland to the house of Uncle Kit Gilmer, which being off the line of the public roads and ten miles from Charlottesville, we thought would be out of the line of the enemy’s march—as indeed it was.
Willie—as he afterwards told us—met General Jubal A. Early and a few of his staff on the Southern outskirts of Charlottesville. He accompanied them across Monticello Mountain where they separated. With them was one poor Federal prisoner that
had been captured and whom they were taking along. From Genl Early Willie learned of our defeat at Waynesboro. I may say en passant, that Willie reached Uncle Kit in safety & the Yankees never got to Buckeyeland— On the morning of the 9th, I think it was, of March Caesar & I were playing under the oaks in the back yard, when a squadron of men rode up to the gate and asked us a question. They had on grey uniforms, and we supposed they were Confederates. They were really “Jesse Scouts”—that is Union Soldiers in Confederate uniforms.
Since writing the above my brother informs me that I am mistaken as to the day he left and as to the time he met Genl Early. He left on Friday morning March 9th & rode halfway up Monticello Mountain—then took
the road across the Mountain side up to the Gap & then crossing above the Crank place went to Uncle Gilmers that way. As he rode along the Mountain side he saw the Yankees enter Charlottesville. He heard the shots fired by some fools who met the advance guard & fired on them & then ran away. He saw the smoke arise from the C & O. Depot, which Sheridan burned & then he hurried on. It was on his return home that he met Genl Early, who had “side stepped” somewhere after the defeat at Waynesboro & was in the rear of the raiders. Willie had overtaken Lewis Garth & one or two others who had captured a straggler— They all rode down to the Woolen Mills to see the ruins of the railroad bridge and Mill which the Yankees had destroyed. Returning they
met Genl Early & a few of his staff & turned the prisoner over to them. The poor fellow was killed that night, attempting to escape, it was said.
But to return to my own recollections. The Jesse Scouts rode off without coming in the yard and after a question or so, & Caesar and I played on under the trees— Presently we heard faintly borne on the wind the sound of martial music. It came from the University road and at once Caesar & I with Jane the cook & one other servant started off and ran across the hill and up on the hill just back of Brown’s—now Genl Rosser’s. From this point we could see very plainly the road. A long blue line of horsemen filled it as far as we could see & the band which was playing
loudly was just about the foot of Carr’s Hill. I never shall forget the horror & rage and indignation with which I looked upon these dreadful invaders. Disgust, fear anger, sorrow, all struggled in my boyish bosom as I saw the hated Yankee coming as a conqueror on our “sacred soil”. We stood watching the long—seemingly endless— column—move along, like a great blue snake: No one spoke: The negroes seemed as much awed as we did; and after a little while we returned slowly and sadly home, to tell them that the news was true & that the Yankees had really come.
Mother took my sister and myself into her room and sat down. She had an air of agonized expectancy and fear upon her face. I don’t think she spoke a word whilst we sat there. All
of a sudden the chamber door was opened and Aunt Fanny came in, a long meat hook in her hand & the top of her turban—a red bandana handkerchief—on her head quivering with indignation. “Miss Liz”, she screamed, “Fo’ God, I’se never seen sich folks in all my life. Don’t you think they’s done come in the kitchen and took the meat out’n the pot”.
And she shook the meat hook in the air as if she wanted to hit somebody with it. Mother got up & went into the passage, my sister clinging to her skirts and I following her. She turned to walk towards the door which opened out to the kitchen when it was kicked open and in rushed a lot of men clothed in blue uniforms with dirty yellow trimmings. The man in
front was a hideous jimberjawed creature, with a dirty face, a hooked nose & one of the most horrible faces I ever saw— This wretch—without any rhyme or reason I could see—caught my mother by the throat & yelled out “G— d-mn you, woman, where’s your bread?” My mother gave a wild shriek, & tearing herself away, pointed to the store-room door which happened to be right at her side; The devil who had seized her immediately kicked that door open & followed by what was now a yelling crowd rushed in the room & began to loot.
I am not, as a general rule malicious or unforgiving, but to my dying day I shall hate & despise the miserable wretch who caught hold of my mother. I think I would know his brutal mean face
today. I would like to kill him even now—forty two years after the event—and I would like to do it slowly & with deliberation. Something “slow & lingering”, boiling oil, or a rusty case knife to saw his throat with.
Mother went right away & taking Mary called to Aunt Martha & begged her to come with her & they would go to the Andersons where Mr Anderson might be able to protect us. Aunt Mat refused but told Mother to go with Mary & let me remain with her. Mother did so & did not return until night. In the meantime the looting devils went on with their robbery— They went in the bed rooms—took off the pillow cases and using them as sacks put everything in them they could lay hand on. Aunt Mat followed
them fearlessly—upbraiding them for their conduct & now & then asking them to forego their depredations as she was saving this, that & ’tother “for sickness”.
She snatched preserve jars our of their hands, & one or two other things— The climax came when one fellow had a pillow case filled with dried apples & started away with it. “Don’t take those apples”, said Aunt Mat: “We need ’em for sickness”. The fellow roared with laughter & Aunt Mat left the room.
There was indeed very little to take— What little bacon we had was hidden under the kitchen floor & up the parlour chimney and escaped the spoilers— But they made a clean sweep of everything else. They went into the bed-rooms—opened the ward-
-robes & bureaux— They took out our poor little dresses and tore them up in sheer wantoness. They went into the room where Father’s books & papers were stored & threw papers & books on the floor & then broke over them some large bottles of “elder berry” ink; Ink we had made by pressing the juice of elder berries into vinegar. One man broke a molasses jug over the heap & another with a yell emptied a pillow case of meal on the heap, which soaking up molasses and ink really saved some of the books & papers. Evidently some man in the crowd knew the value of some rare books my father owned—for a Venetian Boccaccio and several Elzivers [early Dutch publisher Elzevirs] disappeared that day. All over the
house from top to bottom they went tearing up everything, kicking doors open & breaking locks and furniture. One fellow put a silk hat on his head over his cap & another father’s wig—an adornment he gave up—with the beginning of his first campaign. One wretch went in the parlour & with his drawn sword whacked at the furniture & pictures. He was drunk & didn’t do much harm. He started to slash, with his sword an oil painting of my mother’s sister—Aunt Maria—Uncle Lindsay Walker’s wife—an exquisitely beautiful woman—the portrait was exquisitely beautiful. He raised his sword & as frightened as I was I, who had followed him into the parlour, was about to beg him not to destroy the picture, when the uplifted
sword was dropped. He peered at the picture & muttered “You’re too d-mn pretty to hurt,” & then left the room.
I ran out into the yard which was full of men—mounted and unmounted—one man was just in the act of mounting his horse—from the large rock which is near the oak tree that is now the only one left of the noble seven of my childhood. Under one arm he had a jar of preserves, in his hand a pillow case filled with flour. He got one foot in the stirrup & had the other half over the saddle, when there came the sound of rushing troops & quickly with the sound the “bang”, “bang” “bang” of pistols and carbines. Down went the jar of preserves & the pillow case of flour and off rushed this “gallant”—
thief, his foot caught in the slit of his McClellan saddle. There was a loud yell of “Mosby”, Mosby” and then such a route “A hurrying to & fro”—
In a moment the yard was empty— Troopers on foot and on horseback were scurrying away for dear life & in ten minutes not a Yankee was in sight. Down to our back gate rode half a dozen men, one or two in grey—the rest in citizens clothes. Upon a horse one held a poor federal trooper all covered with mud & blood, his head hanging down & his limbs limp. It was not Mosby, nor any of his men—but a lot of citizens & soldiers, who had ridden down the road into a squadron of marauders just above our gate. Shots were fired; this one poor yankee wounded—he died afterwards at the Hospi-
pital in Charlottesville—and all the Yankees fled—thinking Mosby had attacked them.
The men looked into our yard & then turned and rode away carrying the wounded man with them. I cannot describe my feelings. Joy at thinking that there was going to be trouble for the Yankees—fear that a battle might take place on our place and the house be destroyed—amazement, and a little sense of pity for the poor wounded man—all these sentiments were in my heart. It was not long, however, before fear became the predominant sense. Out of the woods on the hill between SunnySide & the University, on the land I now own—tho’ the woods are gone—cautiously filed out a few troops. They advanced
slowly, their carbines unslung & by the time they had reached the branch—a company or more came out of the wood—& formed on the hill.
The advance guard came cautiously & slowly up the hill in the lane & halted at the gate a moment— Then went up the public road & then a Company came & formed partly in the lane & partly in our yard. I rushed into the house— Aunt Mat came out, and an officer in rear of the Company kindly spoke to her & told her that they were sent to meet an attack, which he believed was only an assault by “bushwhackers”, But if a fight came off she had better go away. Presently—probably half an hour later some troops came back & I suppose a report was made.