On to Grafton
by William T. Price
They mustered in their simple dress, For wrongs to seek a stern redress; To right those wrongs, come weal or woe; To perish or o'ercome the foe!"
Tacitus, one of the most accomplished historians of the ages, makes this very wise observation on the uses of history:
This I hold to be the office of history; to rescue virtuous actions from oblivion, to which a want of records would consign them, and that men should feel a dread of being considered infamous in the opinion of posterity, from their depraved expressions and base actions.
This correspondent has taken it in hand to transcribe the contents of a diary that was kept during an excursion to Grafton during May and June 1861, as a volunteer chaplain.
During the national troubles that characterized the year of 1861, a military post was located at Grafton, a railroad town in Tyler County, now West Virginia. As a strategical point, it was regarded as very important, because the Parkersburg branch made a junction here with the main stem of the B&O Railway. A volunteer company, numbering over two hundred young men, the choice of the Highland families, was raised in a few days after the Lincoln proclamation, and organized with Felix Harness Hull, captain.
The names of Robert H. Bradshaw and Jesse Gilmore recur vividly to the writer's memory, as enthusiasts in the impending cause.
Orders came from Governor Letcher to take up the march for Grafton, and the troops started the 18th of May. At the solicitation of Captain Hull and others, and being more than willing besides, I tendered my services as a volunteer chaplain.
My congregations, McDowell and Williamsville, readily granted me leave of absence, and so on the 21st of May I set out to join the troops at Grafton. At first it was a perplexing matter to me whether I should furnish myself with arms, but having been advised to do so I borrowed a double-barreled shotgun. It was a show weapon for those times. The kind lady at whose home I had lived about a year, Mrs. Washington Hull, provided me with ample supplies of roasted chicken, good biscuit, and sweet cakes. Thus equipped and furnished I began my lonely journey from McDowell, heading for the seat of war at Grafton. The day was very uncomfortable because of a chilly blowing rain.
At Monterey I halted a little while, it being quite early, but I was there long enough to have my eyes opened to the fact that soldiers ought to be careful and not wear out their welcome. Old Mother Shumate had a sad tale of the care and inconvenience that was endured in providing volunteers with accommodations upon such short notice.
The first adventure of special notice after leaving Monterey, was to meet the late James Gay on the mountain between Monterey and Hightown in a state of much excitement over alarming rumors from the Northwest, to the effect that the people from Beverly on to Grafton were seriously disaffected toward the Southern troops. In consequence of this reported disaffection, he thought it about certain that civil war would commence at once. Such news made me think it was the right thing to have done to get my shotgun, and so prized it more than I had been doing. Nevertheless I felt quite faint at having to travel alone through the enemies' country from Beverly to Grafton. Not long after the interview I passed Hevener's climbed the mountain, crossed over to where there is a very clear beautiful spring of water and, being about noon, I stopped to give my horse his first feed and partake of some of my own fancy rations. I found however that my horse was foolishly afraid of a gun and when I dismounted he came near getting away from me. The great questions now was, and it spoiled all enjoyment for my first military dinner, how should I remount as he would not let me come near him with my gun in my hand. At Monterey and McDowell there had so many to help that I had not noticed his aversion to a gun when in the act of mounting. Finally I hit upon the expedient of blindfolding him, that proved entirely successful. Having replaced my saddle bags, shawl-blanket and overcoat, preparatory to remounting, I took my white linen handkerchief and blinded him until I could remount, which at length I succeeded in doing, with my gun in my hand. After mounting I reached forward and removed the blindfold, and proceeded without further trouble or interruption.
Towards evening I overtook a carriage containing a gentleman and two ladies. It was a pleasure to recognize them as the Rev. J.K. Harris, of Rockbridge County, with his wife and her sister. His destination was Beverly to take charge of some congregations in Randolph County. As Cheat was to be crossed the next day we made an agreement that I was to guard the party if they would carry a portion of my luggage. The terms were mutually satisfactory. About the time our agreement was ratified late evening came on, the carriage turned into Yeager's and I went on to George Burner's to spend the night. The old gentleman of the house occupied the time allotted to conversation by a resume of the political question then occupying public attention with such ominous prominence. The good lady of the house had no taste for politics and soon after finishing up the chores in the cooking room she came in, drew up a small table near the fireside, lighted a tallow dip, placed it on the table and near it reverently placed the Bible and hymn book. Having read the 116th Psalm and commented on the 7th verse: Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with thee--and sung the hymn "When I can read my title clear," we bowed in prayer for grace to help in time of need in those strange eventful days. Thus closes my first day's journey of my "On to Grafton."
On the morning of the following day May 22nd, 1861, I arose quite early and very much refreshed. Having breakfasted, I joined Mr. Harris and his party, as soon as they drove by, and took up my line of march for Cheat Mountain, not without some misgivings of possible trouble however.
We were so fortunate as to cross the mountain without any hindrance whatever and had there been no such thing as war, the shady recesses of that renowned mountain could not have been freer from the least suspicion of rude alarms and fratricidal strife, as it was that day.
Early in the afternoon, the valley beyond was entered and the party in the carriage drove on more rapidly than I cared to ride. As I was riding along rather leisurely I was accosted by a mountaineer calling to me from his cabin door some distance away. I stopped and waited developments. He gave me to understand that he thought from my military fixings that I might have something to do with the army that had come along a day or two before. He inquired if there were more soldiers coming on to kill all "the mean fellows in the country?" I told him that I knew of none coming on and that it was my hope that no more would be needed at present. He appeared to think I was mistaken. Just as I left him a third person appeared rather suddenly and as I looked back I saw that there were conversing in a rather earnest manner. He soon came on at a fast trot and overtook me, and in conversation with him he spoke of what I had said to that other man about the probabilities of war and that I expressed the opinion that no very active operations would be carried on until July 4th. In further course of our conversation he remarked that he had taken me for bearer of dispatches or holding some other high office. He was given to understand that in a certain sense this was true: I was a bearer of dispatches, not from an earthly leader, but from a heavenly one. This incident suggested this text as a suitable one for young soldiers: "Fight the good fight of faith and lay hold of eternal life." I Tim., 6, 12.
Early in the afternoon I reached Huttonsville in Randolph County where I found the people much excited and worried, and wearied to the verge of exhaustion by attention to soldiers a day or two before. Some persons seemed very desponding of the final outcome, success of our army, because of the overwhelming numbers threatened us by the North, especially the States of Ohio and Pennsylvania. I tried to cheer them up by saying to them that the cause of Virginia is a just one, such as the God of Hosts would approve. We might be slain in battle but never conquered. After the State had used all honorable means to compromise the difficulties and even in the act of devising the means of adjustment there comes an unconstitutional requisition upon the commonwealth for three regiments of soldiers, to shed the blood of those whose interests are identified with ours. The question then was whether we should sustain the usurption of power and draw the sword against our friends, or whether it should be resisted and stand on the defensive. If let alone no blood would be shed, but if assailed then battle for all that is near and dear to the noble heart.
Moreover in my table and fireside conversations I tried to impress the minds of all that the question now is whether Virginia shall have the privilege of self government and regulate our taxes according as our interests and social institutions require, or whether we are to have our laws made for us, and enforced by rulers, whose popularity at home is in direct proportion to their hatred of us and abuse of our social and political institutions.
After spending the evening calling upon different persons and families I sought lodging at the home of Squire John Hutton. Aunt Dolley looked up the family Bible and lighted a fresh tallow candle and arranged for evening worship at a late hour. I retired very weary on the verge of nervous prostration but very thankful that Cheat Mountain had been crossed in safety, and the state of public feeling in this part of the valley in a much more friendly mood than I had anticipated.
Thursday morning I set out on my way to Grafton. It was May 23, 1861. Hon. John Hutton, a most estimable gentleman, but of the decided opinion that a mistake had been made in sending troops to West Virginia, advised me to leave my military accoutrements with him for I would be much safer without them, and this I did such was my confidence in his judgement. Upon leaving I asked Aunt Dolley Hutton, a very pious lady, in fullest sympathy with the Confederate soldiers so willingly going where her husband was sure they would be sacrificed to no good purpose, to tell all the good people to remember us in their prayers, which she tearfully promised to do. After riding a few miles down the beautiful valley, the emerald gem of all West Virginia, I came to Mr. Henry Harper's not far from Beverly, where I found the young preacher and his party, with whom I had traveled the previous day. He was in much anxiety of mind, arising from a letter just received from Rev. T. L. Preston to Mr. Harper. We took a walk and had a long interview. It appeared that at the last meeting of the Lexington Presbytery Mr. Preston was prevailed on by his friends to apply for the chaplaincy of the cadet corps which had been called into the service of Virginia. Mr. Preston requested Mr. Harris to visit the churches in Tygarts Valley, which he had been supplying and while thus engaged had his home at Mr. Harper's, and if it was agreeable to supply them during his absence to Harpers Ferry. Mr. Harris consented to do so and the arrangement seemed so acceptable to all that he went at once to Kerr's Creek, Rockbridge County, packed up his effects with a view to moving his family, and was now here prepared to assume his ministerial duties in the new field. Upon his coming here yesterday however he was shown a letter from Mr. Preston to Mr. Harper stating that he had not received the appointment as chaplain and that he was at ease "lying upon his elbow and would be to see them in a few days."
Mr. Harris asked my advice, which I gave to this effect: That he should recall all his appointments for preaching for the present. Leave at once for some other field temporarily until these people should have another opportunity to secure Mr. Preston's services. Should they fail in doing so, as I felt sure they would, then he would be relieved from the imputation that he was to blame for Mr. Preston's not settling among them. I took pains to assure him that I regarded this state of things as altogether unintentional on the part of anyone. The Lord will provide for the safety and well being of his true and faithful servants, and show each one where and when he must labor in His blessed service. I professed to know Preston as well as it were possible for one person to know another. We had been classmates three years, and I had found him a better character than I had ever dreamed it possible for a young man to be.
Having thus tried to arrange matters for the perplexed brother Harris, I resumed my journey after dinner and soon reached Beverly. A large number of persons were in town, the main street so crowded that it was difficult to get through, so I flanked and went down a back street. The ordinance of Secession was being voted on, and yet all seemed seriously quiet and orderly among the people. I called upon the pastor, Rev. Enoch Thomas, but found him absent. I spent a pleasant hour with his family, much of our conversation was of a religious nature. Mrs. Thomas in her quiet, earnest way, a lady whose character had been chastened and purified by adversity, said that the 46th Psalm possessed at this time peculiar sweetness to her: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble Therefore will not we fear though the earth be removed and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof, Selah. With this refined, pure and cultured woman, mountains symbolized governments and waters the people.
Upon resuming my journey I found upon inquiry that it would be better not to go more than six or seven miles farther that afternoon and there spend the night, and so I rode along very leisurely. Just on the outskirts of Beverly I met armed men who had probably accompanied the Highland, Pendleton, and Randolph troops a short distance on their march. It was deeply impressive to reflect on what change a few weeks had brought about in these secluded and peaceful mountain retreats. Very soon after meeting the armed citizens I saw a solitary person approaching at a brisk, headlong trot. He was mounted on a very ordinary looking horse. The saddle and saddlebags were old and much worn, his shoes were of some home tanned leather, coarse and heavy, very need of the attention of a cobbler, while his clothing was of plain homespun jeans. His loosely fitting coat was threadbare and out at the elbows, and his crumpled slouch hat nearly concealed his shaggy eyebrows beneath which blazed a pair of piercing and inquisitive eyes, such as are seldom seen in a life time and never to be forgotten. He rather abruptly stopped me in the road by a stentorian inquiry whether I was from Beverly.
"How is the vote?"
"I think Secession has the majority"
"Do you say the Secession candidate is ahead? I have the honor to be that candidate."
And this was really so: the successful candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates was before me, elected by the counties of Randolph and Tucker. What a comment upon the democratic tendencies of our political institutions when candidates to be popular should dress like the Biblical Gibeonites and behave accordingly. One of the blessings of this civil war, we may hope, will be to inaugurate a happier era by sweeping the depraved and vicious from the political arena, or teach them to prize their political privileges by choosing the best, not the worst looking of men for their rulers.
Within a mile or so of the proposed place of spending the night I overtook a citizen who professed to have hard authentic particulars of the state of things at Grafton. He said that he had talked the day before with a waggoner just from Grafton, or very near there, and he reports five hundred Union soldiers in the place. "A number of cannon are planted at the Fettterman bridge, and before th troops, just gone on, can enter Grafton, there has to be a fight."
All this made me feel very gloomy and caused me to spend a very uncomfortable evening from that on, a mile or so. Just as the sun was setting I forded the river at the once famous "Red Barn" with its eight corners and smoke house roof. Mrs. Crawford, here lovely daughters and pleasant boys made my stay with them more than pleasant. The news they had was far more cheerful than what I had just heard up the road. I felt the pleasure one has when meeting friends known for years, received and entertained as I was by these lovely people, whom I met for the first time that evening, and have never seen since. The city of Elkins now occupies about all that was then in sight.
May 24, 1861--This morning I heard more favorable reports and was satisfied of their truth. By these new reports I was assured that there would be no fighting for the present and Grafton would be occupied peaceably. With more pleasant feelings therefore I resumed my journey.
The morning was bright and lovely and sweet prospects and singing birds, scene after scene of a most attractive character unfolded as I moved along. As landscape after landscape opened up to view, it was hard to realize the mournful probabilities that ere long the dreadful storm of war might ravage and desolate these hitherto quiet and peaceful surroundings.
About noon I entered the town of Philippa, where I was most kindly received and entertained at the home of Mr. L. Morrall, Clerk of the county of Barbour. Three military companies were here during the afternoon on the march to Grafton, the rendezvous: The Pocahontas Rescuers from Pocahontas, lead by Captain D. A. Stofer accompanied by Gen. Wm. Skeen and wife; the Barbour Greys, commanded by Capt. Reger, and the Mountain Guards, commanded by Capt. Sturms, an aged and grey veteran, entering upon his third war.
About 3 p.m. preparations were made for a flag presentation to the two Barbour companies. They were drawn up in the street facing the Morrall residence. Two groups of ladies occupied the sidewalk, supporting the flags. The flag presented to the Barbour was supported by Miss Virginia Rives, who was tastefully attired in blue silk, and in form and feature was a personality, that presented an ideal representation of the Genius of Liberty. Grouped about here was a number of young ladies, equally attractive in the part they performed. Their handkerchiefs of snowy whiteness, alternately waved in honor of the troops and brushed away irrepressible tears.
The folds of the flags gracefully undulated by breathing airs from the south-land while being unfurled and devoted to their patriotic uses.
The young ladies' flag made of silk and satin at a cost of sixty dollars, was received by Captain Reger in a speech of beauty and pathos.
Captain Reger appealed to his comrades whether they would solemnly vow to stand by him in the hour of battle, and bear that banner unsullied to victory or bite the dust in honorable death?
To this appeal a most cheering response was given.
The flag intended for the Mountain Guard, while not so costly, was really a beautiful one prepared and presented by the married ladies. Rev. Mr. Rives, a resident of Phillipi and a local Methodist minister, was selected by the ladies to represent them in a speech.
He was attired in a Prince Albert coat, buttoned to the chin, and wore a high crowned white silk hat. Though his locks were white yet patriotic fire intensely burned beneath the snowy exterior. His address abounded in phrases so characteristic of the spirit of those times, about resisting oppression, .lawless and tyrannical assumption of unconstitutional power, and of keeping back the fanatical and lustful hordes of the North
The venerable speaker closed his remarks by an allusion to the aged officer, Captain Sturms, as one who had already gone to two wars in defense of his country, in other years, but was now ready to consecrate his gray hairs and feeble strength to the service of his bleeding country.
The old captain upon receiving the flag, supported during the address by Mrs. Morrall and Mrs. Bradford, announced to the assembled hundreds around him that he could not make a speech himself but he had a lieutenant, an almost beardless boy, who could make a speech. Thereupon the young officer, John Randolph Phillips was called out and he did make a very nice and appropriate address for a rude uncultured mountain boy as he claimed himself to be. He pledged himself and fellow soldiers to see to it that the flag should not be dishonored nor would it be furled until the last invader had fallen in death or had withdrawn unhallowed feet from the sacred soil of Virginia, the land of our homes and all that ay be near and dear to our hearts. He alluded to the rugged personality of the Mountain Guard, but, says he, "Though their bosoms may be rough, their manners rude, yet their hearts are true and brave." What he said about his comrades was very apparent for some looked as if they had come in their cast off garments, expecting to be uniformed at the place of rendezvous, and
Had mustered in their simple dress, For wrongs to seek a stern redress.
At night I was requested by Capt. Sofer for the Pocahontas Rescuers to preach for his company, which I did, having for my text:
These things have I spoken unto you that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer: I have over come the world.--John 16, 33.The heads of the discourse were designated by three of the things that Jesus had spoken to give his disciples peace of mind:
Let not your heart be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in me.
Howbeit when he the spirit of truth shall come, he will guide you into all truth.
Verily, verily I say unto you, whatsoever you shall ask in my name I will do it.
The reflections presented were these, that the cause of the greatest real trouble that has ever disturbed the human mind--where shall we be after this life and where shall we spend eternity--has been removed since the blessed Redeemer has made known to us the way of salvation and has provided a home in heaven where the weary are at rest and the wicked cease from troubling. In the second place the word of the Holy Spirit in convincing us of sin, renewing the will, enlightening the mind in the knowledge of Christ, and in enabling and persuading the soul to receive and embrace Jesus Christ as he is freely offered us in the Gospel, are the progress steps in the work of the Holy Spirit in guiding the believer in all truth.
Finally another thing spoken for the peace of those who hear and believe, is that God knows better than we whatever will be best for us: for whatsoever we ask in Christ's name He will do for us.
After the services the company formed and marched to the sound of martial music back to their quarters in this once remote and peaceful court house town amid the hills of Barbour County. The effect was peculiar. The congregation withdrew to their homes, some of the older men in tearful silence and many of the ladies were sobbing with breaking hearts.
Philippa, Va,. Saturday, May 25, 1861--Everything in Philippa bore a very animated aspect this morning. I call this town Philippa for Mr. Morrall says that is its proper name, as being named in honor off Philippa Carlyle, eldest daughter of the eminent lawyer, who began his career at this place and was grateful for the patronage and honor conferred on him by the people.
The two companies that received flags yesterday were preparing to go into camp at Grafton. In the meantime Capt. Stofer paraded the Pocahontas Rescuers in the Court House lawn, then marched them into the building and formed a hollow square within the bar.
The Captain was in a congenial mood and appeared at his best. Many a cup of good cheer had evidently been tendered him by patriotic hands. After all had been arranged to suit him, he made a happy address to the people of Phillippi, thanking them for the flattering attentions paid him and his company.
After recounting the wonderful exploits his devoted band were ready and willing to do and dare he fervently invoked an interest in the prayers and sympathies of the pure and spotless virgins, whose unsullied names must be protected, even if the crystal waters of the valley be made gory and crimson with their hearts' blood.
Upon a signal given, all arose to their feet in the presence of the ladies, and in response to their captain's sentiments solemnly pledged their lives in the defense of the fair ones present.
General William Skeen then arose and with a beautiful figure drawn from a description of a statue in the studio of Powers, the artist, spoke of his devotion to the American union at one time and of the sacred associations that clustered around the stars and stripes.
The statue has upon its brow a coronet of stars which is serenely turned toward heaven whither her uplifted hand is pointing while she leans upon a bundle of rods, firmly bound together, all emblematical of the sentiment that all our strength is from above. But the beautiful state and the glorious flag of our Union have no more hallowing and tender associations, because now they are emblematical of tyrannical usurpation of power and military despotism.
Gen. Skeen was followed by Hon. Samuel Woods, a distinguished resident of Philippa. He gave utterance to the feelings of his hear by a speech of some length. In his address he reiterated the oft repeated sentiments respecting Northern aggression. He denounced the treacherous duplicity of the North, their baseness in inaugurating an invasion of rapine and lust, under the guise of upholding the constitution and enforcing the law. He pleasantly alluded to the superior pleasure in the presence of the troops gave him and of the place they would have in the hearts of the Philippa people. All would anxiously peruse the details of battles to see who had fallen and to weep a tear of grateful gratitude to their memory. Green would be the grass ever waving over their graves, but greener still would be the memories in the hearts of these pure unsullied virgins of their own West Virginia mountains. At this the warm Secessionists bowed their heads and the ladies drew out their cambric preparatory to a copious effusion of tears.
Not long after this the exercises were closed by prayer, led by the Rev. Mr. Hindman, a minister of the M. E. Church. In a few minutes more all were on the march for their destination.
In the meantime I had repaired to my lodging at Mr. Morrall's were I remained until noon. Mr. Morrall's mother, Mrs. Harper, a lady more than eighty years of age, had attended the exercise and her feelings were much wrought up. I seem to hear as I write her plaintive oft repeated refrain, using the refrain of David: "These sheep, what have they done; somebody has sinned, but what have they done?"
Very soon I gathered up my luggage and followed on and I came to Grafton late the same afternoon. On the Fedderman Bridge I saw the bloody stains where a Union man had been shot a few nights before, among the first drops portentous of the bloody cloud outburst so near at hand.
At Grafton I found the men, my friends from Highland County, in very good spirits considering what was then the long and arduous march they had so hurriedly made. Being much fatigued myself I was glad to retire at an early hour. Col. George W. Hull, of McDowell, gathered up a bundle of straw and had me go with him to a commodious room of those occupied as quarters by Col. Hull's company. The straw was spread in a south east corner of a front room on the second floor, and we made our beds upon it. By putting our blankets and shawls together a very comfortable sleeping place was improvised. We had not been there but a little while until some soldiers relieved from guard duty came up the stairs and began to order us out of that room because of a previous claim or arrangement by one of their mess. One of them gave me a light kick and exclaimed with nameless expletives "What are you doing on my straw?" I remained perfectly still while the Colonel did the talking for us both.
We were permitted to remain, and they withdrew, seeking quarters elsewhere tough there was more than enough room for us all. About midnight an orderly, Samuel Gilmore, came through the barracks with a candle in his hand, touching the soldiers with his foot and arousing them in a whispered tone to get up, put on their shoes and wait for further orders. This alarm was occasioned by the firing of a gun accidentally near one of the outposts. This was ascertained in about a half an hour, and all became quiet.
I should have mentioned that about sunset there was a Union demonstration made in front of the barracks by a bevy of about twelve or fifteen half grown girls. They timidly promenaded the street, waving tiny Union flags and looking as if they expected to be fired upon any minute, Much to their evident surprise they were let strictly alone, and they glided away without any particular notice given them, and so failed their coveted martyrdom.
May 26, 1861--I awoke not much refreshed by my night's experience of something like the actualities of a soldier's life. The morning hours passed away very uncomfortably. The soldiers appeared very restless. Many of them apprehended an attack by overwhelming forces at every arrival of the train. One nervously inclined soldier very seriously admonished his comrades that if any present had not made their peace, calling, and election, sure it was really time they were about it, for many would not leave that hole alive. Not long after this admonition another was heard singing with much feeling apparently:
O land of rest for thee I sigh, When will the moment come, When I shall lay my armor by And be at peace and home? This world is not my home, This world is not my home, This world is a wilderness of woe, This world is not my home.
It was arranged by Captain Felix Hull and others to have religious services in a grove just outside and above the town. At 10 a.m. quite a number of persons attached t the Highland infantry companies and the Churchville Cavalry assembled, to whom I preached, having a stump for my desk. The discourse was from the text: There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.--Heb. 4, 9. I began by speaking of the sweetness of the word rest. Of all who may have lived and suffered in our world but few if any have been so sadly miserable as not to have tasted of the sweetness of rest at one time or another. There is no real rest to be had in this world of change and of danger, hence the importance of seeking the rest that remains to the people of God, the true spiritual rest. To enjoy this rest we should consider God's bountiful dealings with us, as the Psalmist says, "Return unto thy rest, oh my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully wit thee." God's bountiful dealings with our souls are many and various. Among these bountiful dealings may be specified his opening up a way of access to His presence in the exercise of humble believing prayer. As an illustration, the incident of a little child at play in the wilderness, far from its home, was made use of. That little child would gather the wild flowers, sport in the murmuring waters of the little mountain brook, and when weary would lie down for the innocent, restful sleep of childhood, because father or mother was ever near enough to be spoken to. So with the child of God, though he be far from home, in a dark world, exposed to the perils of the battlefield, or exposed to myriads of foes seen and unseen, yet he many be at peace and rest amid them all because his heavenly Father is near enough to be spoken to in humble confiding prayer. Another of God's dealing with the soul is the giving of His word for the instruction of the soul in that knowledge which makes us wise unto salvation. Among the petitions taught us in the blessed Word is the:"And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil." Speaking of this I took occasion to remark that in some respects our circumstances were extraordinary. The flower of our youth were banded together and as volunteers had devoted themselves to the service of Virginia, their own state. They were persons too, the most of them at least, whose birth and social position entitled them to the first place in the hearts of their older fellow citizens, independent of their nobly consecrating their lives in their defense. Should they be spared through this war their rewards would be rich--the best at the disposal of those whose rights they had defended.
This too is a noble cause that calls to arms. Very rarely in the history of the world has it been the privilege of soldiers to fight and die in a cause so purely just. Virginia, in performing the office of a peace maker, had her overtures refused and so forced to lay aside the olive branch and take up the sword. It was Virginia's alternative, either to sustain the unconstitutional usurption of power, or to resist the usurption and fight in self defense against those who are but secret friends if not avowed enemies. There is a beautiful beatitude applicable to Virginia: "Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called the children of God." Much is to be expected of noble young men fighting in a noble cause, especially of those who made sacred promises ere they crossed the thresholds of their homes to begin their weary marches to the tented fields that they would strive to avoid temptation. How bitter would be the tearful disappointment of our friends and relatives at home if their noble sons should fall into temptation and give place to those vices and indulgences which degrade and destroy both soul and body. In the last place I mentioned as another of God's bountiful dealings with the soul the giving of his son for the soul's redemption. It shows great condescension in God the Lord of all to bend His ear low enough for unworthy creature like us to make known our requests to Him. It manifests very great compassion in Him to give us His Word for our instruction, but what is it God would not do deal bountifully with our souls when from His own bosom He sent His own well-beloved Son to suffer bleed and die that our souls might be redeemed from the power of reigning sin.
At the conclusion of the services a pleasant gentleman, a venerable citizen of Grafton, tendered the use of the M. E. church for the afternoon service and notice was given accordingly.
Sabbath afternoon, May 26, 1861, I met the appointment made in the morning at the instance of Dr. Claggett for service at the Methodist church and preached to a pretty full house of soldiers, as but few citizens were present besides the venerable citizen just named. The text was: "Now abideth faith, hope charity, these three, but the greatest of these is charity."--I Cor. 13, 13. After explaining that charity is love to God and man and that such love is the fulfilling of the law, I called attention to the thought that it was only in this life that we needed faith and hope. Faith gives a view of brighter scenes in heaven and hope helps us realize that a place, a harp, and a crown await us there if steadfast and immovable we abound in the work of the Lord. As charity is the greatest it is well made plain why our Saviour and His apostolic teachers should have taken such special pains to explain what charity is. According to their teachings charity is the love of God or our love toward God with all the heart, the soul, the mind and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves. As it is only during our present earthly lives we need faith and hope it is clear that charity is as much greater than faith and hope as eternity is greater than time, for charity will be the blest exclusive employment of the soul in heaven, the home of the redeemed forever and evermore.
During the interval between the services morning and evening with Samuel and Jessie Gilmore assisted by several others several hymns were sung in the barracks and quite a crowd collected in the streets to listen. Notwithstanding all this however, our attending preaching and singing so often, there appeared much excitement among the citizens of the town. Quite a number of women and children were observed hurrying from house to house. Many were busy in rummaging their houses and packing up lighter articles with clothing and bedding. Just before sunset and after quite a number of drays, carts, and waggons were seen driving rapidly out of town for the country loaded with furniture and cooking utensils. Entire families seemed to be heading for the country, and all this awakened a suspicion in my thoughts that all this was not by any means right under the circumstances, it was easy to imagine that a plan for attacking the town might be in course of development. This suspicion was very much strengthened when all exertions put forth by our officers to quite the people in their apprehensions of danger was entirely unavailing. This stampede was kept up late Sunday night and most of the day Monday, by which time the town wore a sombre, desolated appearance.
After the service Sabbath afternoon, Mr. Claggett invited me to take tea with his family. I gladly complied with this and had for my companion Capt. Felix Hull of the Highlanders. The time passed very pleasantly in that elegant hospitable home. Mr. Claggett gave us such information respecting the affairs of the town as to enable us to understand in large measure why the people were leaving in such large numbers. According to his statement the people of Grafton were chiefly employees of the B. & O. railroad and what they made one day was eaten up the next. Hence but little provision was made for the future. Their supplies came from Wheeling and Parkersburg. When the troops came last Friday the railroad communications were almost entirely cut off and now starvation is inevitable unless the people can get to the country and even in the country near Grafton provisions are distressingly scarce this season and there is great danger of suffering there.
When Capt. Hull arose to return to the barracks, Mr. Claggett invited us both to remain overnight. Capt. Hull asked to be excused as it was his duty to be with his men but I remained with Mr. Claggett. About nine o'clock he had me go with him to visit a near neighbor in deep affliction. That morning one of the family, an interesting and very beautiful little boy, six years old, had died without a struggle. He had been sinking for three months with consumption. We found the parlour filled with sympathic friends. The other and myself had considerable conversation and it was very gratifying to find her so composed and resigned. She spoke as she really felt, that the departed little one was far more safe and secure in that better world where men learn war no more and where all is joy and peace unspeakable. To her it appeared very merciful in God, the Shepherd, to fold this little lamb so gently to his bosom just as war was breaking out around his once peaceful abode. At request of the parents we spent an hour in devotional services. The 12th of Hebrews was read and section of the chapter commented upon and applied.
Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.--Now no chastening for the present is joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
The hymn "Why Should We Mourn Departing Friends" was sung and then all bowed in prayer and the memory of that prayer touches my sympathy while I write forty years afterwards these sentences.
Much to my regret the names of these bereaved ones have been lost to me. This was our first and last meeting. The father and mother had me go with them to view the remains so precious to them. I was fascinated by the appearance of the child lying in his shroud. There was something so sweet and seraphic in that smile that I could not help feeling that angels must have met that disembodied spirit as it passed away, and the enraptured soul left its impress in this smile which made so bright the otherwise dark hour of death.
Mr. Claggett had me to return with him to his home where I was welcomed about midnight to one of the nicest rooms and sweetest of couches and so what remained of the night was passed in quietude and rest. And so ended the most memorable of the Sabbath days that have yet come my way in more than three score and ten years.
Grafton, May 27, 1861--This Monday morning I mainly spent in writing the first pages of this diary in the midst of much bustle and excitement. The lady with whom I had spent the night repeated over and over until it became a kind of refrain with her, that she believed the Virginia troops were all gentlemen and would not hurt her, still she believed it would be best to pack up a few of her most valuable things and be ready to move to the country at a moment's warning. She wished to know what I thought about it. In reply I told her it was one of those cases in which we could not be certain as to what would be the best to do. For subsequent events might show that moving was altogether unnecessary; then it might show also that it ought to have been done. To me it seemed that one thing was sure, that by moving one would be on the safe side. This advice I had occasion to repeat very frequently on the route from Huttonsville to Grafton.
Monday afternoon I left Grafton to visit a relative near Webster and find some repose from the wearisome depression I felt coming on me. I made a short stop at Fetterman where I met a fellow member of Lexington Presbytery, at whose licensure I had assisted some months previously at the Old Stone Church in Lewisburg, Rev. John Brunch. He seemed in much perplexity. His affinities were with the Provisional troops, while his people were mainly otherwise inclined. Many families of his charge had suddenly vacated their homes and he knew not where to seek refuge for his own. I made some arrangements with him for assisting in preaching for the soldiers.
From his house I went up to Fetterman Barracks, where Capt. Andrew G. McNeel;s company of cavalry from Pocahontas County was quartered. This appeared to be a select company composed of many of the choice young men of the county, but all seemed much discouraged and at a loss what to do with themselves. The w were without arms and, being on the most exposed outpost to Virginia, they were in hourly danger of being surprised and captured. they feelingly realized that they ought never to have come here in the first place, poorly prepared as they were. Their regret seemed to be that they had yielded to the advice and even persuasion of some over zealous friends to come with the expectation that if a cavalry outfit was not to be had they might be induced to dismount, send their horses home and form an infantry company. To this, it was found, very few would consent to be mustered in as infantry, consequently they should have been sent back at once. There were those however who were highly indignant at the idea of these young, inexperienced and unarmed troops to a post of comparative safety where they could drill and wait for arms, because of the moral effect it might have on friend and foe. It would injure the cause of Virginia, such argued, for the report to go abroad that a company was withdrawn because the requisite arms could not be provided. Such was the infatuation of even highly honorable men in times of war delirium. Some of these very persons did exert influence upon the policy of the commanding officers.
Upon leaving the camp I rode leisurely along towards Webster somewhat at a loss as to the right road to take for the home I had set out to find. At some distance from the road down a quiet and beautiful vale I observed a heat homestead embowered among the trees, on the fringes of a meadow as pretty as a meadow can be at this season. Being charmed by the surroundings of this dwelling and yielding to the impulse of the moment I left the road and turned my course towards it. The path I selected curved around a hill which led me rather away from the house but brought me in view of another homestead. I at once changed my purpose and rode up to the nearer house to make inquiry. A venerable man responded to my call, his benevolent face pleased me very much and I had no hesitation in making myself known and what I wished. He had a son in the Virginia Provisional army and he would be very much pleased to have me as long as I wished to remain in his home. The home circle as it then was consisted of the aged parents and two daughters, who had manifestly ripened into womanhood some time before the war had commenced. One of them retired quietly to what I presume was the wardrobe, and soon thereafter made her appearance in the company room with a Secession badge pinned over her heart, which was a highly pleasing token in its significance at the time. Mutual confidence soon possessed us all, and with a sense of security rarely experienced in wartimes among strangers I spent most pleasantly what remained of the evening. At family worship nothing seemed more appropriate than the words of the Psalmist:
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, Who forgive all thy iniquities, Who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction, Who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies; Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's, the Lord executeth righteous and judgement for all that are oppressed." Ps. 103
Tuesday, May 28th, 1861.--It vexes me to find that my diary does not give the name of the good people with whom I was that morning, having received me as a stranger and treated me as a brother in Christ in the best in their power to bestow.
About the time it was clearly light a neighbor hurried in bringing the startling intelligence that the Union troops were looked for during the day, and the expectation that there would be a battle near Prunty Town some time real soon.
Early in the forenoon I set out to find the home of my relatives near Webster, and dined with them. Somewhat late in the afternoon I went to Webster where I saw the Virginia troops on their retirement to Philippa, where it was the intention to make a stand and offer battle if pursued by the Union troops. Thereupon I returned to my relatives, Mrs. Hannah Sissel's, and spent the night. the next morning she would have me go with her to make the acquaintance of her husband's family just in sight. In the meantime she informed me that he was one of the strongest Union men f the entire vicinity and to prepare myself to hear some wild talk. I found him a personality of very serious appearance and would have made a fine representation of ho I imagine Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, must have appeared when he desired his head to be a fountain for patriotic tears for the troubles of his country, when he exclaimed in pathetic anguish, "Who will give my head waters and mine eyes a fountain of tears that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughters of my people?"
He received me very kindly indeed, but it seemed to have cost him an effort for he was intensely excited and tremulous with deeply agitated feeling. It was not long before the sad tale of his care was duly unfolded. His oxen had been impressed the day before in the service of the Virginia Provisional Army. He said that ever since the arrival of the troops he had tried very hard to stifle all feeling of revenge but for the time being he was overpowered when the news came that his oxen and waggon had been taken for military uses so dreadfully contrary to his wishes and principles. But he said, "As I worked in my field my prayer all day long was that these Virginia troops might all flee before the Union men, and that not one of them be hurt."
I remained several hours with him and made numerous inquiries as to how the praying people of his wide circle of relatives and friends and acquaintances felt towards the friends of Virginia in the stand the Provisional Government had taken. It became very apparent the religious feelings of most people were intense indeed. The burden of their tearful cries to heaven were not revengeful in their tone, but that all might flee before the Northern blast. Soon after dining with this praying Union patriarch I resumed my way toward Philippa. A few miles being made I was on the verge of nervous prostration and could hardly keep myself in the saddle. Moreover, being desirous to learn something of public sentiment in Barbour County, I called at Squire Woodford's, a prominent citizen of that county and, at that time, presiding justice of the county court. His manner towards me was quite cordial, insisted that I remain until morning as it would be quite late before I could reach Philippa. Our interchange of views was of a very frank, pleasant character. He was a "plain, blunt man" and called a spade a spade, a strong Union man, and he had a son in the Union Army, as he had left home a day or so previously for the purpose of enlisting as a Union volunteer. I was treated with hearty kindness, Mrs. Woodford was very cordial, and she joined in a pressing invitation to stay with them as much and as long as I could find it convenient to do so. I was inclined to remain with them during the forenoon at least. But as the day wore on I became uneasy in a measure in consequence of several persons coming and going. One man in particular was there a few minutes in the early morning who had not been in the neighborhood for several years, but had been in Ohio. He eyed me very closely and then withdrew with the Squire to have some private conversation with him beyond my hearing, and then went away. Early in the afternoon a young man called at the ate to deliver a message, but bing told I was in the house he dismounted and came in. In conversing with a member of the family in an undertone I heard enough to ascertain that young Woodford had gone to meet the Union troops and that there were armed men gathering in the woods not far away. It was not long before I looked up my horse and inquired if there was a post office not far away. Mrs. Woodford pressed me to return after posting my letter and spend another night. When I reached the man road I headed for Philippa where I arrived at sunset, and was most kindly received by Mr. and Mrs. Morrall.
It was now Thursday, May 30th, 1861, and I remained over until Monday following, as the troops had gone into quarters and were preparing to make a stand unless threatened by overwhelming numbers. The time passes somewhat tediously on Friday and Saturday. There was nothing to be heard from Grafton. A squad of Capt. Loudermilk's cavalry reported themselves ambushed four miles from Philippa, and one of them wounded and left to be captured. Groups of soldiers were at drill, otherwise there seemed but little order pervading the camp.
On Friday I met Col. Porterfield and was invited to take tea with him at his quarters, and I found him to be a very intelligent and affable gentleman. During the interview he told of an incident that indicated the state of feeling of the higher circles of Northern people toward the Seceding Virginians. It was to the effect that Rev. Dr. Harrison, Pastor of the Alexandria Church, had made conversation with an eminent Philadelphia divine in regard to our national troubles. The northern minister of the city of brotherly love declared very warmly that the government must be supported at the sacrifice of much life, if need be. So it seemed it mattered not to him if many souls perished in the effort to vindicate the government though souls should perish for a soulless corporation. Col. Porterfield spoke rather despondently of the unprepared condition of Virginia to meet invasion successfully. He regretted very much the lack of order, preparation, and discipline among the troops now at the front, but he hoped all might come right after while.
Friday afternoon about four o'clock I officiated as chaplain at the burial of the first soldier to die in this campaign. Private Phares of Pendleton Minute Men, a company led by Capt. David Anderson, of Franklin. This company along with the Franklin Guards, led by Capt. Moomau, made up the funeral cortege, under the direction of Capt. Anderson. The dead soldier's disease was pneumonia much aggravated by forced marching on Tuesday previous. The grave was on a knoll half a mile to the northeast of Philippa. The hour was about 5 p.m. when the body was lowered and the salute fired. The evening air was balmy to a delightful degree and seemed to hold a solemn stillness. The sunset scene was inspiring and touchingly suggestive of the beautiful aspiration that once welled up from a sorrowing heart:
Thus when life's toilsome day is o'er, May its departing ray Be calm as this impressive hour And lead to endless day.
Night came quietly on, the soldiers had partaken of their evening rations, and in one quarter hymns were heard, in another the banjo and the dance, in another the jest and laughter. Suddenly a horseman was heard rushing the bridge at a furious rate and galloped up Main Street a la Paul Revere, and reported the Union Army just a few miles away, coming at quick step to attack Philippa. The long roll was sounded and as soon as possible the troops prepared for action and were arranged to meet the threatened attack. The night was so dark one could hardly seen the length of his arm. There was an incipient stampede of civilians, women and children from the northern part of town, towards the southern hills. A dense crowd surrounded the public house at the southern extreme of the town and jammed the street while a very large, portly gentleman, a refugee from the direction of Fairmont, called out in tones like the roaring of a bull that he believed the whole thing was a "hoe-ax" and nothing but a "hoe-ax" and it was all a bad kind of foolishness to be scared in such a bad way. The effect was reassuring and in the course of an hour or less perfect tranquility was restored.
Sabbath morning, June 2, 1861.--Religious services were held on a lawn attached to a private residence. The speakers and leaders occupied the portico. the Rev. Mr. Hindman, a resident pastor of the M. E. Church, gave a timely, practical discourse on the blessings of faith. At the conclusion I was asked to lead in the closing services, which I improved as an opportunity for a somewhat extended exhortation in which I delivered a message to our boys sent them by their mothers, sisters, and devoted young friends from Highland County. The purport of the message was "to be good and brave," and avoid all temptations of the army camp, fight the god fight of faith, and lay hold on eternal life. That afternoon two young ladies rode rapidly down from the bridge and were hailed in the street about opposite the Court House by parties that recognized them as acquaintances and it was learned in a few minutes that they were young ladies from Fairmont with a message for Col. Porterfield and the were shown to headquarters by their soldier acquaintances. The sudden arrival of these young ladies, the Misses Mollie Kerr and Mollie McLeod, was the sensation of the afternoon bringing, as it turned out, intelligence that the Union forces were quite strong at Grafton and that an attack was planned for Sunday night on the Virginia troops at Philippa or on the following morning at the fartherest.
These young lady couriers had left Fairmont Sunday morning at a suspiciously early hour, heading for Philippa, and were unexpectedly detained at a blacksmith shop where they were closely questioned by a Union citizen--a stranger to them. Under assumed names they professed that they were on a visit to some friends in Barbour County and would certainly return that evening. The citizen appeared satisfied and passed on in the direction of Fairmont. The young ladies in the meantime rode rapidly on towards Webster, but they were soon overtaken by this same Union man. He passed them and kept far ahead of them. Suspecting his purpose they chewed up some letters concealed about their persons and prepared themselves for being searched. Then they came to Webster they found a large excited crowd of peopled collected and were closely interrogated, but the young ladies replied by proposing to submit to a search by any respectable woman whom the crowd might offer. Upon this they were permitted to pass on without searching and in about two hours reached Philippa and communicated the information about the intended attack.
Instructions were at once given for the Virginia troops to be in marching order at 5 p.m. I prepared myself accordingly and in compliance with an invitation given by a citizen living near Belington, I started out with him a few minutes before five o'clock. He was afoot and so we rode and walked alternately. His name was Thornhill. We reached his place about dark and found the place much crowded. Our accommodations were nevertheless very pleasant and ample. Upon retiring that night all seemed prognostic of a quiet and restful time. Parson Rives of Philippa and myself had a nice room all to ourselves.
About daybreak Mrs. Morrall, who had come from Philippa, sometime during the night with her aged mother, came hurriedly to our room and asked what could that noise be down towards Philippa. Parson Rives, my bedfellow, jumped up and upon going out said it was cannonading and a battle must be going on at or near Philippa. I was not long after him and while I was listening I heard but one report, but could not be sure whether it was by cannon or by a volley of musketry. For an hour or more all was quiet, but the silence was rudely broken in about two hours by fugitives rushing along the road as if for dear life, spreading the news that the town had been cannonaded and the Virginians were in full retreat coming on, pursued by the Union men.
A person, a stranger to me, having stripes on his uniform, was giving orders that all who might have guns should post themselves in ambuscade and take his men as they came along. These orders caused great consternation in our party, consisting mostly of ladies, young and old. There being a buggy convenient I suggested that Mrs. Morrall and her aged mother be placed in it and driven some distance from the road, which was done, and they knew where to find safe and pleasant refuge. Most all of the other ladies crossed a hill nearby, where they were out of sight and threatened danger.
As for my part, being without arms, the extemporized officer had no authority over me, so I gathered up my luggage and prepared to fall back on Beverly. In the party that had stayed at the Thornhill's was a young refugee lady from Fairmont, mounted on a very fine horse. She introduced herself to me in a very pleasant modest manner and told me some things about her history. Her brother was a lieutenant in the Provisional Army of Virginia, that her father was a refugee from Fairmont, and that by some means during the confusion at Philippa on Sunday evening she and her father had gotten separated. If my memory serves me faithfully his name was Alfred Haymond. I found the young lady quite spritely and agreeable. I had her go with me from Mr. Thornhill's to Beverly. We lost sight of each other in the vicinity of Beverly during the days of confusion that transpired upon the arrival of the Virginia troops from Philippa, halting a while at Beverly and then moving on to Huttonsville.
I reference to the attack on Philippa, the following is a resume of particulars gathered from the camp gossip of the time.
When the troops were properly in marching order Sunday evening, June 2, 1861, instructions were given to eat supper and wait for further orders. The officers in charge of the pickets and scouts were directed to bring in all by midnight an,if it was not raining, the march to Beverly would begin. The scouts reported at 12 o'clock and the pickets withdrawn and so, from midnight on, neither videttes nor pickets were on duty. Captain Sterrett of the Churchville Cavalry had supposed from the character of the instructions received by him that it was his duty to await further orders and so did Captain Stofer, officer in charge of the pickets.
In the meantime the Union troops were advancing unobserved and unmolested and prepared for the attack at dawn. The first intimation the Virginians had of the Union men's approach was the firing of artillery from an eminence beyond the bridge on the opposite side of the river from the cavalry camp. It appeared that the Unionists had adopted this plan of assault: Philippa was to be approached at the north end by two divisions, while a flanking attachment was to enter by the south road simultaneously, cutting off all retreat. It seemed to have been intended that the attack should be brought on by the infantry upon the sleeping soldiers, followed up by the artillery opening up on the cavalry camps at the northern end of the town. Had this plan of battle been carried out the Virginians would have all been slain or captured.
Through a very manifest Providence interposing, as the writer views it, confusion was brought upon the design of the Unionist by the assault opening with the artillery. This gave the Virginians time to leave town before the infantry could cut off the retreat. The flanking part of the Unionists came into position just as the last of the Virginians were passing out of the town by the southern road. On the part of the Virginians not a one was reported lost. Two or three were seriously wounded--LeRoy Dangerfield of the Bath Cavalry and Private Hanger of the Churchville Cavalry.
The Unionists had their commanding officer, Col. B. F. Kelly, severely wounded, near the southern extremity of town, and as soon as that occurred all purpose seemed to have ceased. The credit of this exploit was accredited to three persons: Pvt. Shafer of Capt. Felix Hull's Highlanders; Lieut. Archie McClintic of the Bath Cavalry; and Pvt. Jacob W. Mathews of a Tygart's Valley Company. The probabilities lean in favor of Mathews, but it seemed he was not inclined to press the matter as there was honor enough for them all, provided there be any honor in such an exploit.
It was reported among the Virginians at the time of their sojourn at Huttonsville that several of the Unionists were slain by their own people, while possibly a few might have been killed or wounded by the Virginians. Not very many, however, as only eight or ten Virginia soldiers were known to have used their guns. At the time referred to in this diary it was regarded as a well established fact that the Union artillery cannonaded their own troops by mistake. Persons claiming to have been at Philippa since the engagement report that nearly a hundred new graves were to be counted there. The Unionists captured over four hundred stand of arms and about all the clothing and camp equipage.
The Virginians reached Beverly in much confusion, very much broken in spirit, and their privations for several days were very grievous indeed t the most of them, having so recently left homes abounding with every personal comfort. One soldier whom I had known from his early boyhood and at whose opulent home I had spent much of my time for two or three years, I recognized in my rounds of the camp near Huttonsville. He greeted me in a very cordial manner and insisted that I should take breakfast with him for the sake of old acquaintance: "I must tell you that I have nothing but a piece of sugar maple and a piece of beef cooked on the coals but it does not taste so bad to a hungry man."
With a mischievous twinkle in his eye he inquired about Harry Lightfoot, as my horse was called, how he liked wartimes. He then told how Harry Lightfoot had spilled him and his brother "Marsh" in the big road for shooting a gun over his head in order to train him for what he might have to go through with if people did not talking so much about war. This young soldier was Charles Francisco of the Bath Squadron, who died in Pennsylvania in 1863, of a wound received July 3.
The scenes between Beverly and Huttonsville and beyond were very sad. Numbers of men overcome by hunger, fatigue, or sickness would lie upon the damp and muddy ground, apparently sound asleep. Others deemed themselves exceedingly fortunate to find a piece of plank or space on a bare floor in a dwelling or barn where they might seek relief from fatigue by sleep. It looked as if the risks in actual battle were but few compared to the risks of exposure, fatigue, and disease, and that an early death would be the fate of many of these choice people.
How slowly, wearily and sadly these days came and went. If time ever moved on wings weighted with lead, it was about these days around Huttonsville and vicinity farther up toward Mingo. In the most feeling sense of the word, Tygarts Valley was now a vale of tears. Rumors were rife that the Unionists were gathering at Philippa and Buchannon in great force. In the meantime General Garnett came hastily over the eastern mountains with reinforcements and moved on toward Laurel Hill and Rich Mountain. Reorganization was the order of the day with the soldiers I had been identified with. I had some trouble finding my nice shotgun. It had drifted up to Mingo Flats and, when I found it, I turned homewards to McDowell by way of Marlin's Bottom. The citizens of lower Pocahontas had arranged to observe the 20th of June as a day of fasting and prayer, recommended by the Virginia authorities. In company with my venerated mother, Mrs. James Atlee Price, I attended two meetings, one in the forenoon at Buckeye, and the other in the afternoon at Hillsboro.
The services at Buckeye were led by the Rev. Joshua Buckley, assisted by Jonathan McNeill and Capt. William Cochran. It seemed to me that I had never seen people more devoutly humbled than the large audience that was present. The prayers had no spirit of revenge or complaint that twas perceptible. Nothing was solicited, but what God deemed just and right to grant. The Lord of Hosts was feelingly implored to lead our men in battle and to give success accordingly.
In the Hillsboro meeting in the afternoon, led by Rev. M. D. Dunlap, who read and commented on the 144th Psalm. My attention was very much drawn to the principle prayer that was made y a prominent layman of one of the churches represented on the occasion. It was exceedingly prolix and abounded in minute specifications of the wrongs perpetuated on Virginia and her people and her institutions, civil and religious. He arraigned the Unionists at the throne of grace to answer a long list of charges for invading the homes of peaceful and unoffending citizens, and for separating happy families who desired nothing better than to remain under their own vine and fig tree, with none daring to make them afraid as to social relations. Some of these families are now exiles from their homes and some are carried away as prisoners: our people being slain because they love their country and their rights purchased by tears and blood of revered ancestors.; and because they felt it their duty to obey God by being obedient to the powers that be, as His Holy Word enjoins. He most earnestly implored the making bare of the Almighty Arm to defend our people in this their hour of unspeakable trial.
Now, while all that person said in prayer was true and much to be desired, still I could not help feeling that such prayer is not of the proper spirit. It reminded me too much of the prayer who stood and prayed in the temple: "God I thank Thee that I am not as other men are." In prayer, it seems to me, we should look at our sins and leave the sins of the Unionists to God and themselves, if God would be interposing make the much desired peace a blessing to all concerned, Unionists and Virginians alike.
Thus closes my diary virtually, transcribed as written forty years ago under the circumstances indicated there in.
No doubt our discerning readers have perceived ere this that the writer was usually in the vanguard when the marching was retrogressive but, when it was otherwise, he was save, comparatively, in the rearward, during those weeks in May and June, 1861, which he spent with the "foremost ranks in danger's dark career." And should they surmise that I greatly preferred to be a living noncombatant to be a heroic slain or wounded combatant, they will not miss it very far.
Let it pass without being written that it would take a book of multiplied pages to contain all that might be written about what I saw, heard, and experienced in my sequestered sphere of service in Bath and Highland Counties during the tearful and bloody four years of War Between the States and the seven or eight years thereafter characterized by vexing business cares, bitter political dissensions, and irritating controversies pertaining to the relations between the Church and State. I had become through force of circumstances a one book personality, as it were, which may be explained in this manner: In preparing for ministerial service I passed ten years in school at the virtual sacrifice of my worldly patrimony, and went into the ministry equipped with the best the schools I attended could furnish. The early operations were brilliant but, somehow, the results were not what I had hoped for. Were an elegantly attired milk maid furnished with a painted stool and ornamental pad to seat herself in the pasture to sing and wait for the cows to come to her, her performance may be brilliant, but results unsatisfactory, especially with the younger part of the herd. I took my position in the gospel work and displayed my lectures and sermons, but results were not what I anticipated. About the time Ruling Elder Robert Houston Milroy and Deacon Stonewall Jackson came to my part of the gospel field in 1862. Whereupon my preaching outfit was hidden away under the corn cobs and other rubbish in the grain house of one of my ruling elders, the late Joseph Layne, of revered memory, near McDowell, Virginia, and it remained there until several months under the surrender at Appomattox.
For three or more years with a pocket Bible and a small thumbworn hymn book I went from house to house, camp to camp, grave to grave, talking and singing, and much to the joy of my heart, there were signs following, though my efforts were far from being such as the schools would have passed on favorably in student days. There was so much that passed under my observation that recalled the utterances of Jeremiah, the Prophet, that speaks of himself as a man that saw affliction, that I have been much drawn to his writings.
I need not try to give expression to my feeling when I ponder what the Lord Jehovah says of that Prophet:"Behold I have put my words into thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, to pull down, to destroy and build and to plant."--Jeremiah 1, 9-10.
During these years time after time these words of the Prophet of the Nations would be recalled with a vividness that was almost as startling as audible voice: "For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Then why is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?"
When I came to consider that earth hath no sorrow that heaven cannot heal it was pertinent to inquire what is to be done that the health of the daughter of my people might be recovered. I rested in the decided opinion that the Sermon on the Mount and the Golden Rule gave instructions which if faithfully observed would settle every controversy in the Church and State, right every wrong between man and man in all the relations of citizenship. I became fully persuaded of the truth of all this and felt it would be so deplorable were all to come to ruin the chief source of remorseful regret would be to think that all this came about while the efficient remedy was just in reach, and had been for ages past, but unfortunately forgotten or overlooked at the proper time.
A heartbroken mother of my acquaintance, seated by the coffin of her beloved first born, exclaimed as the casket was closed, "Oh, just to think, my darling one died in my arms while the remedy was just within my reach and I failed to remember and use it in time. Oh, it is more than I can bear to think of."
The train of reflection awakened by the prayer I had heard at Hillsboro on the day of humiliation and prayer, spoken of last week, and what I say, heard, and felt during the subsequent years of the war and the seven or eight years thereafter have all been very much in my mind ever since, and has influenced my ministerial course, more or less.
By way of illustration I will mention one other well remembered incidence on record in my diary: At the fall meeting of the Lexington Presbytery in 1872, at the instance of Rev. S. R. Bowman, D.D., I was elected as one of the four commissioners to the General Assembly to meet at Little Rock, Arkansas, May 1873. The Assembly was opened one Thursday morning and on Saturday afternoon following, prompted by a seemingly irresistible sense of duty, I attempted to read a paper I had prepared with prayerful care, which was to this effect:
Whereas the General Assembly, North, has recognized our separate existence and has expressed an earnest desire to be on friendly relations with ours on principles of love, honor, and mutual respect, and to that end did appoint a committee of persons highly acceptable to us, and to remove all scruples on our part in regard to receiving and treating with said committee, emphatically reaffirmed a joint resolution previously adopted that no rule or precedent should be valid, but all null and void, unless reaffirmed by the united bodies;
Whereas, said committee was received and heard with marked courtesy, thus showing to the world that notwithstanding the position occupied by us as sole witnesses of the cross of Christ as witnesses for the crown rights of Jesus Christ as our King we virtually assented that scruples, barring the correspondence contemplated were removed;
And whereas, a Committee of Conference was appointed by the Assembly, South, of 1870, charged with instructions that virtually prejudged the questions now pending which instructions have deprived us of a most timely, effective and legitimate opportunity for bearing our testimony to the world and to our former brethren and made us appear to a needless disadvantage before those whom we desire our testimony to reach and which render us more and more liable to be misunderstood and the luster and force of our testimony liable to be sadly dimmed in all subsequent history;
And Whereas, the General Assembly, North, in withdrawing their committee in consequence of said instructions expressed their readiness to respond to any motion on our part to secure adjustment of the difficulties between us on principles of love, honor, and mutual respect;
Therefore, Be it resolved, that a committee consisting of five ministers and four ruling elders be appointed by this Assembly to meet and confer with a similar committee to be appointed by the General Assembly, North, in regard to the amicable settlement of all existing difficulties, and the opening of a friendly correspondence between the Northern and Southern Churches.
Resolved, 2nd, That said committee consist as far as possible of the same persons that were appointed at the Assembly of 1870, and the committee be allowed to perform its duties unencumbered with instructions, and requested to report progress to the Assembly of 1874."
Several efforts were made to prevent me from reading this paper and so I was frequently interrupted but, having all rules on my side, I maintained my place on the floor long enough to read, make some explanatory remarks, and offer a motion, which was promptly seconded, to have the paper referred to the committee on foreign correspondence. Rev. James Park made a motion to have the paper laid on the table instead of referring to a committee on correspondence. Dr. Park's motion was carried, several voting in the negative, however.
The Moderator emphatically notified the clerks and reporters to take no notice of the paper read or the explanatory remarks. Some of the ministers took it upon themselves to see that the reporters complied with the Moderator's request. A reporter sent me his card to meet him in the chapel in the rear of the auditorium. I did so. He was a very pleasant young man and was in tears at the indignity shown my paper, and said if I would say the word and give him my resolutions and an outline of my remarks he would see fair play.
In the meantime Dr. Welch, the pastor, joined us and told the reporter if he did so the Assembly would exclude him from the floor during the subsequent sessions. I had requested Dr. Richard McIlwaine to come and hear what I might say to the reporter, and as soon as Dr. Welch had his say, I said to the young man that while I appreciated his spirit and marked kindness, it was not the intention of the paper to make trouble, and for the sake of peace I would forego all my rights and would take it as a personal favor from him to pass the matter by as if it had not occurred. From the turn of affairs I had felt sorry I had ever read the paper.
That night however an agent of the Associated Press telegraphed a pretty full account to the St. Louis papers, all without my consent. On Tuesday morning I was almost dazed with surprise to see what had been printed. The explanatory remarks I had made upon reading the paper were as follows:
"This paper is designed to ascertain what relief, if any, may be expected from this General Assembly for a great and sore evil experienced by those who live on the borders of our church. It is but fair and frank to state that this paper calls in question a line of policy inaugurated and approved by some of the most beloved of our ministerial fathers and brethren. Hence it is admitted with some diffidence and it is hoped that if there is anything wrong or out of taste it will be corrected by the committee of foreign correspondence. What we wish is to take out of the hands of irresponsible parties a power for unspeakable mischief and secure the services of a number of our wisest and best men, North and South, to consider whatever questions may arise in reference to our relations. If that result can be obtained it matters not to me if every syllable of this paper be erased and a sounder form of words arranged by a wiser brother be adopted. One thing is sure, we must soon have a policy that will virtually silence irresponsible newspaper correspondents, pamphleteers, injudicious secretaries, partisan trustees of churches and schools, or the ridicule and contempt of the civilized world will mainly rest upon us. Upon us now rests the work of taking out of the hands of the injudicious and irresponsible parties great powers for mischief and putting the whole matter into the hands of the best men (North and South) to be considered and determined on the principles of love, honor, and mutual respect. We have been approached with overtures based on principles of love, honor, and mutual respect. A church that for conscientious reasons holds a conference for the sake of peace, on such principles, is becoming too good for such a sinful world as this, and it will not be long until we find it out."
I was told that it was my speech, especially the last paragraph or two, that made it so hot for me and brought about the excitement already described. Quite a number, at least a dozen of those voting in the negative would have joined me in the protest, as I had reasons to assure me, and the paper would have been placed on record. After the Assembly had adjourned I keenly regretted that the protest had not been made, so as to have had the matter before the churches a year or two before it was.
It was a truly propitious providence, as I regard it, that the Rev. D. John L. Kirkpatrick, Professor of Moral Science, Washington and Lee University, was a Commissioner of Lexington Presbytery in the Assembly of 1874. This minister in his day and generation was one of the wisest counselors and astute church parliamentarians that ever appeared in the Assemblies of the Southern Church. In the Assembly of 1874 acted favorably by making arrangements for a conference. That conference was held and in due time a plan for fraternal relations was ratified on the principles of love, honor, and mutual respect. In carrying out the arrangements agreed upon by the Assembly of 1874, it is pleasant to notice that the good genius of fraternal relations, like sovereign grace, chose some of her proudest foes on the committee to manage the negotiations, so the results were doubly assured for permanency, and to be universally, or at least, more generally satisfactory to those vitally concerned, in having the evils complained of removed at the least, virtually so and greatly palliated. And now for more than a quarter of a century, the dire influence of the irresponsibility has been to gratifying degree eliminated and the Assemblies have been moving on lines much more conductive to the peace and edification of our adherents on the border.
While I had, as it turned out, a consuming zeal concerning fraternal relations, I had no enthusiasm to speak of in reference to organic union, as it once existed, feeling, as I long have, even before the separation, that there are many respects in which our Southern home interest may flourish far better in Southern sunshine than in Northern shade.
Were ecclesiastical relations arranged somewhat as I would like to see them in the emergencies now impending I would favor a Presbyterian Federation, constituted on some such line as the following: Presbyteries with annual stated meetings; Synods coterminous with State lines, with biennial stated meetings; four Provincial Assemblies, with triennial meetings; and a Federated General Assembly, with quadrennial meetings, this Federated Assembly to be composed of Synodical Commissioners; and all these bodies having provisos for special meetings during the interim respectively when felt to be needed.
As to the Provincial Assembly I would, with becoming modesty, hint that I would favor an organization the Provincial Assembly of the North Atlantic compromising the states east of the Mississippi River and north of the Ohio; the Provincial Assembly of the South Atlantic consisting of the States south of the Ohio River east of the Mississippi; Provincial Assembly of the Interior between the Mississippi and the Great Divide; and the Provincial Assembly of the Pacific between the Great Divide and the Pacific Ocean. All to be constituted of Presbyterial commissioners.
Then as a bond of union and a means of concentrated action on enterprises of general interest, I would favor of Federal General Assembly with quadrennial stated meetings to be composed of Synodical commissioners on a ratio of representation that may prove acceptable to a consensus of the Synods.
As pertinent to the subject under consideration it may be remarked that in the whole course of ecclesiastical and political history there has been nothing more effective in causing agitations and revolutions than the formulating and the using of cast iron rules in the much avowed interests of peace, harmony, and outward conformity, thereby opposing or precluding flexibly wise adoption of unchanging principles to changing circumstances, which are the inevitable concomitants of progressive material civilization and the ever widening scope of intellectual apprehensions in virtue or the wisdom that accumulates from period to period. But there are unchangeable principles, if wisely and flexibly applied, that tend to keep all things in decency and in order.
This statement may be disputed and the whole universe of logical experts in polemics are challenged to dispute it. A statement by disputed by a vast array of ipsi dixits, but that does not imply that it is intrinsically refuted. As for my part, I am freely persuaded that were the forces of American Presbyterianism aligned somewhat in the way indicated there would be a very pleasing retrenchment in the expenditure of funds needed for running the mere machinery of the national Presbyterianism while a marvelous increase of revenues for home evangelization, and for foreign mission enterprises over the world at large might be reasonably anticipated.
Let it be far from me to write anything captiously or peevishly about any policy deemed wisest and best by my brethren as earnest and conscientious as I can justly claim to be and possibly far more in practice than I have been, yet I must say that to me it has been something rather bitter that efforts made by an obscure member of our assembly to have a grievous evil palliated should be ignored as they have been. The censorship of the press, recommended by the Moderator of the Little Rock Assembly in 1873 was so effective that not even a hint appeared in the papers of that cities concerning the preamble and resolutions that had been presented. So far as I am advised there was not a syllable published in the religious papers, North or South, concerning the affair. With magnanimous courtesy, which I shall always appreciate, the Christian Observer, at Louisville, Ky,., one of whose Editors was present when the paper in question was presented, published a communication written soon after the adjournment of the Assembly, form which this extract is given:
"I know of one, at least, who ventured the opinion as far back as 1860 in a Presbyterial sermon that our Presbyterianism would flourish better in Southern sunshine than in Northern shade, and though he received a rebuke for his pains, he is still of the same opinion, if not more so. Let us have peace but not organic union, for our little Southern church is all that we can call our own, and is the only place where we can feel at home and is about all that is left to us by the storm that has not yet ceased to rage about our ears. Some of us would like to see five good men of the North and five good men of the South set apart by their Assemblies respectively for the specific work of considering all questions that may arise with reference to our ecclesiastical relations, and unimpeded by special instruction. In the meantime we would like to see everybody else provoking one another to love and good works and so fulfil the law of Christ. We would like to see the papers filled with editorials and communications as to the best means to save souls and uphold the cause of Christ amid the sublime and terrible emergencies now upon us. When the committees are ready to report we would like to see i full what is calmly and judiciously written on both sides, and then after some time spent in study and prayer, decide as to the issue. If this be treason to the interests of the Southern or Northern Churches, let the most be made of it."
While this extract does not give the information that a move had been made in the direction indicated, yet it would enable the readers of the Observer to learn something or the Spirit may have prompted such an effort. I had to undergo interview after interview, interrogated and cross interrogated, almost literally by day and by night by parties who wished to probe the true inwardness of the movement. From the way I was interviewed and cross-examined by persons whose names not mentioned here though familiar as household words to all well read up in the published proceedings, I was painfully impressed with the idea that it was contemplated to have me excluded from my place upon the floor of the Assembly. That this was not attempted I shall always feel that I am indebted to the Rev. Dr. William Brown, so long the renowned and able stated clerk of the Assembly, and who is mentioned in a noted Centennial Poem as the "Judicious Hooker of the Southern Church," and to the Rev. Dr. Richard McIlwaine, the co-ordinate Secretary of the Assembly's Home Missions and who is now making himself an enduring and honorable reputation as a conspicuous member of the Virginia Constitutional Convention in session in Richmond. Dr. Brown seems to have taken pains to have the hot spur extremist know there was nothing but what they all saw and heard--the blunderings of an earnest and honest, but mistaken ministerial brother whom Lexington Presbytery ought to have kept at home. The paper was the work of one who tried to be instant in season and out of season, and sometimes, as in this case, he was very much out of season. Such was Rev. Dr. Brown's verdict, facetiously rendered upon telling by way of illustration an anecdote in point culled from Hardshell Baptist pulpit lore.
Dr. Brown's position was earnestly and ably supported by Dr. McIlwaine, who never does anything by half way. He claimed to know me as well as it was possible for one person to know another, and asserted that my interview with the reporter, to which he had been invited, "was simply beautiful."
Rev. Dr. Joseph Wilson, so distinguished for his long and efficient services Permanent Clerk, facetiously remarked that the Brother of Resolutions reminded him of the Irish orator who remarked of himself that somehow he could never open his mouth without putting his foot in it. Let it all pass, the good brother is self guillotined and will appear in the Assembly Nevermore, as quoth the Raven.
Several satirical pleasantries were perpetrated by other ministerial brethren, but as they have since departed to be with Him who said that He came not to destroy the law and the prophets but to fulfil and preached the Sermon on the Mount, and spoke as a man never spoke when He enunciated the Golden Rule, their pleasantries reverently omitted here and their memories I would embalm with memorial tears and good words.
In a few days the mists cleared away and I was made aware of the fact when the Moderator very pleasantly approached and requested me to take charge of the usual devotional services at the opening of the Assembly one morning just before the final adjournment. Meeting "Bill Arp" Smith a moment afterwards, I asked his permission to call on him to lead in prayer during the exercises. I claimed him as one of my sympathizers as he had voted in the negative, as I have been informed. He declined with respectful regrets, as a previous engagement for some committee work would prevent his attendance so early in the day. I then turned to my colleague and traveling companion, Ruling Elder J. W. Calhoun, and he readily consented. The minister who led in prayer at my request was the Rev. Dr. Patton who had endeared himself to me when matters were at their hottest by introducing himself to me and expressing his admiration for the sentiments of the paper and the moral courage required and present such resolutions of the Assembly. His was a prayer such as the pure hearted and gifted Dr. Patton could pray, and it was like a balm to one listener at least.
In a few days afterwards the Assembly of 1873 adjourned and, as I have never been returned since to any Assembly, it seems to me to have been a final adjournment for me with emphatic significance. On the morning ager the adjournment, while most of the members were at the Little Rock station waiting to entrain for their homes, Rev. Dr. Brown turned to me and kindly inquired how I felt after my escapade: "Well, Doctor, I feel like an aged 'mill boy' near Deerfield, Virginia, says he felt on one occasion. One morning as we was riding to the mill, seated on his grist, a forked tree fell upon his horse, striking it fore and aft, and killed his horse in his tracks, while the rider was not touched or hurt in the least, merely frightened. In speaking of the affair he would say with apparent emotion that it was 'the Lord's mercy and a thousand pities that he wasn't killed himself.'"
Upon returning home the time came for me to report as a commissioner. I made no allusion to what I had attempted. The matter seemed to have been so completely ignored that it was virtually nihil and was neither here nor there from my point of view. I reported my diligence in attending all the sessions and voting on all the subjects under consideration, and the report was approved. I also intimated my gratitude to Presbytery for the honor bestowed but I had been so fully satisfied with my Assembly experience that I felt no special desire for the honor to be thrust upon me again.
Somehow or other it came about that there were brethren not fully satisfied at the easy manner at which I was let off by the Presbytery. How it could be is only a matter of conjecture. At all events the same brother who nominated me seemed to have felt it his duty to feel the pulse of the Presbytery with a view to formulating a resolution of disapproval, but it was never formulated. Robert C. Walker, Dr. John L. Kirkpatrick, and, I understand, Dr. James Murray had nice apologetic words to say in my behalf, and it came to be understood that such a resolution would not carry.
Last modified: Sun Oct 25 16:34:43 EDT 2009