RETURN TO WESTERN VIRGINIA.
WE BOARDED the cars in Washington and arrived at Pittsburgh at midnight, September 30th. Here we were taken in charge by the sanitary commission, and given such treatment by the noble women of that grand organization, as we had not had since we left our homes at the beginning of the war. We were received in old city hall, where the patriotic women fed and cheered the tired and worn men, and rendered such service that it was an inspiration to us for future dangers and hardships. No words too strong have ever been written or uttered, in commendation of the cheerful services of these loyal, christian women, aided and backed by the noble work of the churches and organizations. So long as life lasts, and memory recalls the past, so long will the loyal soldiers of our country who passed through Pittsburgh, remember and bless these staunch and loyal supporters of their country. October 1st the Pennsylvania companies of the regiment were granted a furlough of two days, and they separated for a brief visit to their homes, the other companies going to Wheeling. At the close of our brief visit home, our companies were sent to Wheeling, thence to Parkersburg, and then started on a march to Point Pleasant, opposite the mouth of the Big Kanawha, where the regiment had gone. We met them on the 15th near the Point, returning to Parkersburg, and joined them, arriving at Parkersburg on the 17th. Thence we went to Clarksburg, where we were supplied with an outfit of winter clothing, ready for the arduous work before us. We left here on the 21st, arriving at Buckhannon on the 22d, where we lay in camp for a few days. We resumed our march on the 28th, arriving in Beverly on the 29th, where we laid out a camp and settled down. On the 4th of November, Company B was ordered to Bealington, and Company H. to Leading Creek, to guard the road over which our supplies were to come. By the middle of the month all the troops were taken from Beverly except the eight companies of our regiment, and we were ordered to drill about four hours per day, besides watching the counties about us, and doing our utmost to checkmate General Imboden, one of the boldest of the partisan rangers in Western Virginia. We were left undisturbed by him until the night of December 3d, when the regiment was called into line of battle, and rested on their arms until daylight. Our discovery of his approach, thus preventing a surprise, caused Imboden to retrace his steps, and the quiet of camp life was renewed. While at Leading Creek, Samuel Lyons, Richard Robinson and two or three others of Company H, were sent over on Cheat River on a scouting expedition, and when there camped in a farm house. Not posting their pickets at every avenue of approach, they were surprised to see three rebels stalk into the house, who were unaware of the presence of any Yankees. Our boys were wide awake, however, and at once covered the intruders with their guns, compelling them to surrender, and brought them prisoners into camp.
While located here, we were detached from Gen. Milroy's command, much to the grief of the men. He was placed in command at Winchester, and promoted to major general of volunteers, in recognition of his efficient services. Our regiment at once passed a set of resolutions, congratulating the general on his well deserved promotion, to which he responded with the following characteristic letter:
HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION EIGHTH ARMY CORPS,}We lay in camp in this place for six long months, but found it no easy duty. Nearly the whole of the time not over six hundred men formed our command, Capt. Ewing's battery being with us most of the time. We fixed up our tents into winter quarters with the help of some boards, as best we could, and had as comfortable homes as could be expected under the circumstances. While the weather remained pleasant, the drilling was almost continuous, but it was child's play to the severe scouting in which we were almost constantly engaged, during the whole of the winter. In January, 1863, Brig. Gen. Moor was placed in command of our brigade, which was known as the "Northern Brigade."
WINCHESTER, VA., March 31, 1863}
LIEUT. COL. SCOTT, et al., Second Virginia Regiment.
Gentlemen: Your favor of the 10th, congratulating me on my promotion to the rank of major general in the volunteer service of the United States, was duly received. To say that I thank you for your friendly congratulations and your expressions of feeling toward me, but poorly expresses my emotions, coming, as the congratulations do, from the Second Virginia Volunteer Infantry, one of the oldest of the West Virginia regiments in the present war, and one of the many West Virginia regiments that I have had the honor to command - a regiment justly entitled to be called veterans, for long, arduous and faithful service, through winter storms and summer suns, through pitiless cold, and rain, and mud, through burning heat and stifling dust, through the thunder and din of battle -- always on hand for the march or scout, skirmish or battle - a regiment to whose valor I am much indebted for the honorable promotion recently conferred on me by our government; congratulations from a regiment who have so long known me, followed me, and became endeared to me by a companionship of dangerous trials and privations, excite feelings which can be better appreciated than described. I thank you for the very flattering mention made of me in connection with the noble and patriotic resolutions you have adopted, which meet my most hearty approval. Please give my most heartfelt greeting to your brave boys, and say to them that I much regret that our temporary separation has been so long and unpleasantly extended; but I hope for its termination soon and to have the pleasure of the company of brave old Second Virginia with me in the coming campaign.
ROBERT H. MILROY, Major General.
Surgeon Hazlett relates the following incident: "On a crisp morning in November, the colonel, myself and an orderly, mounted, and armed with Spencer rifles, went to Shaffer mountain to hunt deer. Near the base of the mountain we were joined by W, an old hunter, a typical Virginia mountaineer, thoroughly familiar with the habits of the game we were after, a quiet, unobtrusive man. The colonel and orderly went along the base of the mountain, and W and I followed a bridle path to the crest of the mountain. While walking along I questioned my companion on the subject of buck-ague. Yes, he had heard of it, he missed his first deer in that way. I desired W to give me the first shot, and I would disprove the existence of buck-ague, to which he agreed. We soon reached the top, where we secreted ourselves to wait until the report of the colonel's gun should startle the herd. Soon the reports of two gun shots notified us that the colonel had found me. With eager expectation I braced myself in the stirrups, raised the lock hammer of my carbine, which was charged with an ounce ball and cartridge, and awaited the comer. 'There he comes,' said W, and looking up the crest there came a fine buck. 'Don't fire until I give the bleat,' said W, who stood almost behind me. This cry, very similar to the bleat of a sheep, W. uttered, when the deer was about fifty yards from us. 'Shoot,' cried W, which I did, and down dropped the buck. Elated with my success, I proudly announced that I had aimed for the left foreshoulder. On reaching the deer, W cut its throat, and pointing to the left fore-shoulder, said there was where the bullet struck. I was in an ecstasy of delight, and I remarked that he would find that my ball had passed entirely through the deer. I rubbed my hands and declared I had 'busted' the buck-ague theory. The animal was examined but no trace of my bullet could be found, but a small bullet, not much larger than a buck shot was taken out. W was silent, gazing steadfastly at the bullet. He then remarked: 'Mighty curious thing this buck-ague. I never knew it to fail; every fellow misses his first deer sure, and if you think you hadn't the buck-ague, just look at your gun.' I did so, and found the hammer of the lock raised and the charge not exploded. W had shot the deer and the report of his gun I mistook for my own. I besought and implored W not to expose me, humbly acknowledging that I had it bad, and he kept my secret."
November 4, 1862, Col. Latham issued orders to Capt. Ewing, as follows: "You will have as many of your man as arms can be obtained for ready to march at a moment's notice, without tents or camp equipage, but all mounted, as they will be used for cavalry." The next day Gen. Milroy issued the following orders to the captain: You will immediately send out eighteen men, in different directions, for the purpose of hiring transportation, etc." Ten days later, the general ordered: "Capt. Ewing's Company G, Second Regiment Virginia infantry, will report to the regiment for duty, and are hereby detailed to act as artillerists until further orders." The captain remarks drily that there were very few companies in the army that were required to be infantry, cavalry and artillery all at the same time.
On February 10th, an expedition consisting of sixty cavalry and seventy-five infantry, commanded by Capt. C. T. Ewing, was sent to Pocahontas county to capture confederate recruiting parties and stores. They secured 13 prisoners, 152 head of cattle, 15 horses and mules, and a large number of arms without any loss or accident on our side. April 18th, an expedition was sent to Franklin, taking it by surprise, capturing a few prisoners. Our loss was two men wounded, but not of our regiment. These are but a few of the many scouting parties sent out, the work being almost incessant and of the most exhausting character. The picket duty was also heavy, and the service throughout was very severe.
On March 12th an election was held in the regiment for the erection of Western Virginia into a separate State, and all the qualified voters performed their duty, giving an overwhelming majority in favor of the new State. About the 1st of April, Brig. Gen. Benj. S. Roberts was placed in command of our brigade, to try his fortune in the peculiar warfare of the mountain region.
On the 24th of April, our little command, consisting of less than 900 men, was attacked by a large force of confederates, consisting of infantry, cavalry and artillery. In the morning Frank Ferris, sheriff of Randolph county, was out on some business, and was shot through the breast by the advance of the confederates. He rode to our pickets, in charge of Sergeant Wm. F. Graebe, Company C, and gave the alarm, the first intimation we had of the approach of an enemy, and they were then but eighteen miles distant. The last, heroic act, of the sheriff, was to apprise the small garrison of its danger, and then yield his life. (Note of correction: Frank Ferris recovered from his severe wounds, and is yet living near Beverly.) We hastily prepared for defense, but before we were ready to make the best of our circumstances, the confederates came down the valley in force, on both sides of the river, evidently intending to cut off our retreat and capture us. As soon as they came within range, our artillery opened on them, and soon skirmishing was begun on our left, which was kept up briskly for some time. The force of the enemy on the right stopped behind some timber, and Company F was sent to engage them. But our men were unable to stem the strong force they met, and it being ascertained that the enemy were endeavoring to surround us, our colonel deemed it wise to withdraw, which was done in good order, the enemy being baffled at all points in their efforts to cut us off. We left the town about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, after firing the commissary stores, which were burned by order of General Roberts, to prevent them from falling into the hands of the enemy. While making our way to Leading Creek, just as we were crossing a little stream that crossed the road, the confederate cavalry charged us, and several shots were fired, resulting in the wounding of Henry Barnhart, Co. I, who was shot through the body and mortally wounded, dying on the 28th. Some of our men were captured in the charge. About four miles further we were again charged upon, the enemy being repulsed with such vigor and dash, that they then let us alone, not deeming it prudent to follow us so closely. We marched to Leading Creek that night, where we remained until morning. Two more of the regiment were captured here while out on a foraging expedition. We continued our march to Bealington, where it was our intention to make a stand, and endeavor to force the enemy to battle, but we received orders from General Roberts to join him at once at Buckhannon. That night we camped at Phillippi, and the next evening, the 26th, we arrived at brigade headquarters, and were at once ordered into line of battle, but no enemy appearing, we went into camp. On the 27th we ambushed for a force of rebel cavalry, but they kept at a respectful distance, and we resumed our march, arriving at Weston in the evening, where we camped for the night. Before leaving this place we destroyed all the commissary stores, consisting of a large quantity of flour, beans, rice, sugar, etc. The next morning we continued our march, reaching Clarksburg about 10 o'clock at night, almost worn out. During the 29th and 30th we were constantly on the alert for some forces of the enemy that kept annoying us, but we could not get near enough to them to measure strength. Their policy was to worry us by persistent and unexpected assaults, and not to come to battle. The following is the official report of the fight made by Col. Geo. R. Latham, who was in command of the forces at Beverly, to General Roberts:
On April 24th, about 9 A. M., I received notice that the enemy was in force at Huttonville, eleven miles distant, and advancing. I immediately proceeded to the front with two companies of cavalry, advancing on both roads leading up the valley toward Huttonville. Having proceeded about five miles, we met their advance guard on both roads. * * We fell back slowly, worrying and impeding the progress of the enemy wherever an advantage could be gained. At 12 M., the enemy being within two and a-half miles of Beverly, I repaired to the town to see that the troops were properly disposed the most successfully to meet the attack, as I was satisfied, from their steady and determined advance, and the rumbling of artillery in the rear, that they were in very considerable force, though from the thick fog, an estimate was yet impossible. * * * My force consisted of seven companies of the Second Virginia Infantry, numbering for duty 400 men; five companies of the Eighth Virginia Infantry, 289 men; Capt. Frank Smith's Independent Company of Ohio Cavalry, 98 men; Capt. Hagan's Company A, First West Virginia Cavalry, 59 men; one section, consisting of one 10-pounder Parrott gun and a 6-pounder brass smooth bore, of Ewing's battery, 32 men, a total of 878 men, rank and file. I took a strong position on the south side of the town, commanding the entire valley and the turnpike above, but flanked by back roads on each side. In this position I placed the Parrott gun and the Second Virginia, holding the detachment of the Eighth Virginia and the brass gun in reserve to watch the flanks. About 2 P. M. the action was opened with artillery and infantry, skirmishing at long range. A large force of the enemy's cavalry and part of his artillery was now seen advancing on the back road west of the valley toward the road leading from Beverly to Buckhannon and effectually turning our right. This movement it was impossible for us to counteract, though with the river intervening we were not in much danger of an actual attack from this force. The object of this movement was to prevent our retreat toward Buckhannon. Three regiments of his infantry were at the same time advancing cautiously through the woods, pressing back our skirmishers toward our front and left, his artillery playing directly in front, with two regiments of infantry in reserve. At 3 P. M. the action had become quite brisk along our whole line; our skirmishers were driven in on our front and the enemy had advanced to within canister range. The commands of his officers could be distinctly heard, and he was pressing well beyond our left. Shortly after this I received your order to fall back. I immediately set my train in motion, destroyed the public stores of all kinds, and about 5 P. M. drew off my forces. The movement was executed in perfect order, and though the enemy pressed our rear for six miles, and twice charged us with his cavalry, there was no confusion, no hurry, no indecent haste. His cavalry charges were handsomely repulsed, and he learned to follow at a respectful distance. We marched this evening nine miles, and having gained a safe position, rested for the night, our pickets and those of the enemy being about one mile apart. * * * In this affair we lost 1 man, believed to be killed, 2 wounded (I of Second Virginia), and 14 prisoners - 10 from the Second Virginia, 2 from the Eighth Virginia and 2 from Capt. Smith's company.
Brig. Gen. J. D. Imboden, in command of the confederate forces, in his official report, gives the number in his own immediate command about 1,825 men, and the number from Gen. Saml. Jones's command about 1,540, giving him an entire force of about 3,365 men, of which about 700 were mounted. He lost two men killed, three wounded and 11 prisoners, in all 16, at Beverly.
When our forces were attacked, and it was seen that we were overpowered, Sergt. Geo. Jones and privates Martin Walters, Hugh Smith, William Weible and Thomas B. Richardson, of Company F, were detailed to guard the ford over the river. They held their position until the regiment was driven from the town, when they found that they were surrounded by the enemy, and that it was out of the question to rejoin their company. Surrender seemed to be the only way out of the difficulty, but a consultation was held, and the boys determined that they would not surrender, but keep in hiding until an opportunity presented itself for escape. They lay in the bushes for two days and one night, and when the second night came, they were so hungry that another council of war was held, when it was decided to make a break for liberty; that they would proceed separately, to meet again at a place designated. They were successful in their efforts, and met as agreed upon. They then traveled together for about 15 miles, keeping in the woods, to make a distance of six miles; and then after all their care and maneuvering, they ran into the confederate pickets, who fired upon them, but, fortunately hurt no one. They made good their escape from this danger, and after about two weeks more of rough traveling, and hiding in caves and in the woods, they reached the regiment at West Union, but little the worse for their rough experience. Evening of the 4th we boarded a train of cars, and were run to West Union, where we arrived about 2 o'clock in the night. The rebels had already burned several bridges, and we were sent to this place to protect the railroad and bridges. On the 6th a force of 1,400 cavalry charged our pickets, capturing 16 of them, and charged down the valley, but halted before they came within range of our regiment, which was drawn up in line of battle, and they retreated as hastily and as quickly as they came. We pursued them at once, but no trace of them could be found. It was a brilliant dash, and as we had no cavalry we could not successfully follow the bold rangers that attacked us. On the 11th we left West Union, and arrived at Weston May 13th, where we remained in camp a few days, and where all our force was concentrated, ready for any emergencies that might arise. We left here on the 19th of May, marching through Buckhannon, reaching Beverly at noon on the 21st. The men captured at West Union returned to us on the 22d, and reported to their companies.
A telegram was sent to the commanding officer in the valley, after our return, by Col. Harris, of the Tenth Virginia, that a force supposed to be a detachment from the confederate army, had visited Upshur county, had succeeded in capturing a number of fine horses and made their escape into the mountains. There was no cavalry in this section at the time, and it was at once decided to make the attempt to intercept the raiders in the Elk river district, with infantry, an undertaking that did not promise great success, but all were anxious to try it. Fifty men were at once detailed, under command of Capt. Hall, of the Third Virginia, with Lieut. French, of the Second, as second in command. The detail left Beverly in the evening, and went fifteen miles before camping, starting again at early morn, and by rapid marching most of the way over exceedingly rough country, they succeeded in reaching Elk river a little after nightfall, camping in and about the cabin of a backwoodsman, who scarcely knew that there was a war on hands. He was the possessor of but little besides a wife and three stands of bees. In the morning he was the possessor of a wife only, for at the first peep of day the boys carried the hives to the river bank and shook the bees into the stream, securing to themselves a delightful breakfast, which they took care to flavor with wild onions, which had grown in abundance. Following the tortuous stream they came to the county seat of Webster county; thence they advanced to reach the junction of the two branches of the Elk river. When within two miles of this place a moccasin track was noticed in the wet sand, and the inference was that the presence of the union troops was being heralded by some mountaineers to the marauders who were being followed. Here the roads forked, one branch leading over a rugged spur of the mountain while the other followed the stream, coming together at the junction of the branches of the river. The command was divided into two equal parts, Capt. Hall crossing the spur while Lieut. French followed the stream. Though the latter went on the double quick, he failed to overtake the owner of the moccasins, and when he reached the hamlet at the junction of the branches, not a living soul was to be seen. But a few minutes later they saw the captain and his men emerging from the thick undergrowth on the mountain point, and with them a squad of prisoners and a number of fine horses. The owners of the moccasins had accomplished their purpose, had apprised the marauders of the approach of the union boys, and they had stealthily secreted themselves in the timber until they found the river route was being followed, and, as they supposed, by the entire force. They then took the mountain road, intending to leave the blue coats in the rear, but as they began to descend the hill the captain halted them so suddenly and unexpectedly that resistance was useless. Sergeant Wigner, of Company E, Second Virginia, was the first to discover the legs of the horses under the drooping branches, before the body of the leader was visible, and with his gun leveled on him called a halt and demanded a surrender. The whole party was captured, and it was discovered that the leader was a famous "partisan ranger," as they styled themselves, by the name of Watt Cool. The captain talked strongly of inflicting summary punishment upon him, but at the suggestion of the lieutenant a better use was made of him. The command had successfully accomplished their object without the shedding of a drop of blood, but they were about sixty miles from any union force and without any proper knowledge of the country. The captain proposed to the old guerilla that if he would faithfully act as guide for us to Buckhannon his life would, be spared; and he promised, and kept his word, all arriving at Buckhannon tired, footsore and hungry. The stolen horses were restored, and Cool and his party were sent to Camp Chase, where he died.
We remained at Beverly until ordered to Grafton to be mounted. In this time we were kept busy drilling, except when out on scouting parties, which were so frequent that it was difficult to keep run of them.