E. P. STEED, Company "F"

Ironton Register, 13 January 1887


Interesting War Experiences
NO. 9
How A Picket Post Was Captured.

     The Register reporter encountered E. P. Steed, in town the other day, and made him fork over a "Narrow Escape." He was a member of CO. F., 1st Va. Cavalry. It seems that the Va. Cavalry service had a wonderful fascination for our boys, as many of them went into that arm of the service from this county. We have told several "Narrow Escapes" of the 2nd Va. boys and now one from the 1st Va. is in order.

     "Well sir," said Mr. Steed, "what I am to tell you about, happened on the 14th day of December 1862, when our army was lying near Centerville, and our company was doing picket duty at Bull Run bridge. There were sixteen of us sent out from the regiment, and we were posted a short distance from the bridge, on the left side of the road, in a pine thicket. In the fore part of the night, six of us patrolled the pike, crossing the bridge and going toward Gainesville five miles off. We had returned about midnight, and turned in with boys, thinking everything was all right. Of course we had out sentries--one near the bridge, and one back of us on the road, between us and our regiment."

     "About 2 o’clock in the morning, I heard some horses’ hoofs, coming slowly towards us, and pretty soon I heard the sentry between us and the camp, call out:

     "Halt, who comes there?"

     "Friends with the countersign," replied a voice.

     "Advance, friends, and give the countersign," returned the sentry.

     "They did advance, and in doing so gobbled the sentry, and the next instant fired a volley right into our post. Oh, I tell you there was a hustling and a scampering in every direction. With the volley came the rebels with a yell, right down on us. It seemed to me every one of us was gone for good; that there were no possible chance of a single one of us getting out of there. But I dodged about among them the best I could, right between them, almost touching them, and by freely using my legs, got out of that scrimmage, and ran about 75 yards till I came to a gulley, into which I dropped and laid down in it as close as possible for three-quarters of an hour. In the meantime, the rebs were scouring about, trying to get as many of our boys as possible. I lay there thinking every minute my time had come, but as good luck would have it, they missed me, and in a short time, I saw they were getting away from there, expecting, of course, our regiment would soon be there.

     "Well, I laid there until about 3 o’clock, and then I thought I’d get into a skirt of pine woods about 100 yards distant, and across the open field I ran with all my might. When I got into the woods, I though to myself, the safest thing to do, was to stay right there, lest in going into camp at that hour, I might have some serious complications with the sentries. So I sat at the foot of a white oak tree, and waited and watched for daylight, which seemed never would come. I shivered and nodded and listened and imagined all sorts of things till the first faint blush of day came, and then glancing suspiciously about, I thought I saw the form of a man, under a tree about 30 yards away, and soon I felt sure it was a man. Then I began to wonder who it was, and whether it was an enemy or not. Maybe it is a reb with a gun looking for me! Thus painfully musing in my mind I kept an eye on the indistinct form, at the same time breathing low and holding myself perfectly still lest I would be discovered. That man seemed to be pursuing the same tactics. He was as still as the tree at whose foot he sat. He didn’t move a muscle, except I thought I could see him turn his head slowly, but I know he didn’t see me. And yet, the suspense was terrible. Here we were, right after a fight, and I trying to get away. There a reb looking for me. I was two miles from camp. I would be murdered, and the world would never know it.

     "At length, daylight began to grow stronger, and I imagined I saw a bluish cast to the man’s clothes, and that was a big consolation. Then I peered more intently, and the more I looked, the calmer I became--it was blue clothes sure enough, but the figure never moved. This worried me; but the next thought that came to me was, that form is familiar, yes I know it; I’ll call out. So bellowed softly:


     "The figure turned its head, with a "hello" from its lips, and sure enough, it was he--my old messmate Ben Griffith. Well, now that meeting was a jolly one, for it ended a dreadful suspense. He, like me, had escaped and started for camp, but had concluded it wasn’t safe to venture further till daylight. Thus my ‘narrow escape’ at the picket post terminated with a queer little romance."

     "Indeed it did," said the reporter, "and I thank you very much for the story."