IN CAMP AT BEVERLY, 1861.
THE demoralized remnants of Pegram's and Garnett's commands were hovering around our lines, bushwhacking our supply trains, and scouting parties. The three months volunteers had cleared the field from the Ohio river to Elkwater and Cheat Mountain Summit, and ours was the army of occupation; but these fragments of a proud army organized themselves into predatory bands, with the view of preying on the tempting booty of government stores that every day lined the Staunton pike from Webster to Cheat Mountain, a distance of 67 miles. To protect our lines and the government property, scouting parties were frequently sent out to break up the bands of bushwhackers. Soon after our arrival at Beverly, Lieut. Devore, of Company I, and Lieut. Smythe, of Company F, were ordered out with a squad, to look after some of these bushwhackers, in the direction of Carrick's Ford. They returned the same day, and after taking a hasty supper, Lieut. Devore was again sent out with twenty of his own men, to intercept a confederate mail carrier. The detachment lay out all night, watching a bridle path on the side of Cheat Mountain. It was a dark, dreary night, and the pelting rain fell without cessation, making the situation an exceedingly uncomfortable one. The party returned to camp in the morning without any knowledge of the mail carrier, but with the proud consciousness of having done some severe duty.
On the 18th of August, a detachment of the Second Virginia and Sixth Ohio, numbering 50 men, was sent to the Laurel fork of the Cheat river. They followed an old road across Shaffer Mountain, and as they approached the river the road became very marshy, and the heavy pines and thick laurels stood like a wall on either side of the road. A body of the enemy lay in ambush on the opposite side of the narrow stream, and as our party were wading through the water, unconscious of a foe in such close proximity, they were startled by the sharp report of a rifle, followed quickly by another and another, and two of the party lay dead and one other mortally wounded. The detachment was helpless, the enemy being secure amid the dense laurel thickets, which were so thick that man or beast could be so completely hidden in them that no eye could detect their presence, while our forces were open to their view, and closely within the range of their muskets. Resistance was useless, and our men hastily retreated through the narrow defile. Hurriedly gathering up the dead and the wounded, they retraced their steps as rapidly as possible, carrying the wounded man to a rude cabin on Shaffer mountain, where they were obliged to leave him, while they tenderly wrapped the bodies of their dead comrades in their blankets and buried them in the mountain. When they returned to camp, the report of their expedition created a great excitement, and Col. Balsley, in command of the post, immediately ordered out a detachment of one hundred men from each of the two regiments, under command of Maj. J. D. Owens, of the Second Virginia. They found the wounded man, and upon arriving at the place where the other party had met such disaster, they were also fired into, but fortunately no one was hurt, and the command proceeded across Cheat and Shaffer mountains to the foot of the Alleghenies. After emptying their rifles this time, the bushwhackers fled, leaving their horses and saddles, which were captured by our men. To provide against surprise and ambushes, Lieut. Devore was directed at one place to take twenty men and go around a foot hill and fall in with the advance guard on the other side. The advance had not been apprised of this movement, and as the squad was approaching the road through the underbrush, the bullets of the advance began to whistle around their ears, much to their discomfort, but the mistake was fortunately discovered before any damage was done. At the foot of Shaffer mountain, two of Company I being in the advance, created quite an alarm by shooting two fat sheep, but before the rear could come up on a double quick, the sheep were skinned. This was a flagrant breach of orders, but the officers were pacified and a general compromise effected, by building a fire and cooking the mutton, which afforded a rare feast. On the third day the detachment returned to camp, having traveled almost uninterruptedly more than one hundred miles.
The scouting, and sentinel duty, were necessarily very heavy, and the new soldiers were soon inured to the hardships and privations that were afterward to be a part of their every day life. The discipline was rigid, and whenever the rain would permit, the troops were thoroughly drilled in the manual of arms, and in company and regimental evolutions. Everything that went to make up the soldier's life was experienced and nothing was omitted that would fit the troops for the stern realities of war, that came to us shortly afterward. Pages could be written of the pleasant scenes, the hours of relaxation and enjoyment, that came to brighten the soldier's life; and the weeks at Beverly had many bright spots and hours. The lack of veneration for officers in high command, coupled with the controling desire to serve faithfully our country, led to many absurd and ludicrous situations. While the colonel or the captain might still be John or Jim in the affections and expressions of the men yet an order in the line of duty from these same officers, would be carried out regardless of results.
Jack Halpin, of Company D, was well known throughout the regiment. He was from the Five Points, N. Y., and was a "case," yet good hearted and obliging. Just after the battle of Rich Mountain, Jack paid a visit to the village, and while on his way back to camp, saw an individual who wore a slouch hat, and who pulled from his pocket a large plug of tobacco and took a chew. The command had received no pay as yet, and the men were run down financially, so that tobacco was one of the luxuries. Jack thought he would improve the opportunity, so he stepped up to the stranger, and said: "Give us a chew, Cap. " The individual addressed looked Jack over and replied, "I guess not." The crushing reply of Jack was, "Go to the D----l," and he went on his way to camp. Shortly afterward, there was it rush to the road on the side of the camp, to see some one pass, and among those that went over was Jack. The person passing was General Rosecranz, who happened to be the same person that refused Jack a chew of his tobacco. Jack related what had happened, and quietly remarked that be would get even; That night Jack was detailed on guard duty. The countersign had just been issued, when a horseman came dashing through the darkness up to the post where Jack was stationed. The night was a beastly one, the rain falling in torrents, and the mud ankle deep. Jack halted the horseman and ordered him to dismount, and advance with the countersign. General Rosecranz, for it was he, told Jack who he was, and said that the mud was so deep that he would ride up and give him the countersign. But Jack knew his business, and here was his opportunity to get even, so he said, "Get off that horse and come forward, or I will put a hole through you." Jack didn't get his chew when he wanted it, but the general was nearly swamped in the mud before he was permitted to pass.
Every road and path had its picket, and the camps were strictly guarded. It was while the guards were under the most stringent orders to pass no one at night without the countersign, that the biter was bit, or, in other words, that Col. Balsley was subjected to an exceedingly practical joke, if such it was. About two miles from town, on the road that passes from Beverly over Rich mountain to Buckhannon, there was a tavern kept by a Mr. Baker, who, by the way, was a good union man, and kept everything in first-class order. There was a picket on the bridge that spans the river close to Beverly on this road. One afternoon, Col. Balsley, with his staff, crossed the bridge and rode out to the, tavern. Here they dined and were detained until after dark. The officer of the day had made his rounds, and the pickets made acquainted with the countersign. Night had fully set in and it was as dark as erebus. Charley Hixenbaugh, of Company I, was on post at the bridge, and was on the alert for anything in his line of duty. Presently he heard the clatter of horses' hoofs. Near and nearer they came, when, ringing out sharp and clear on the night air, was heard the voice of the faithful sentinel:
"Halt! who comes there?"
The answer was immediate:
"Col. Balsley and staff."
"Dismount one, advance, and give the countersign," demanded the sentinel.
"Well, but we haven't the countersign," said the colonel; "my name is Col. Balsley, commander of this post."
"Don't care a d--n," said Charley; "my name is Charley Hixenbaugh, of Bellevernon, and you can't pass;" and there the Bellevernon boy held the colonel until the arrival of the sergeant of the guard, who decided that the colonel and his belated escort might pass into town.
Shortly after entering the service, Dr. Hazlett was temporarily promoted to the position of brigade surgeon, and when new recruits with their medical officers arrived, it was his duty to instruct the latter how to proceed. Surgeon A., of the --- Cavalry, had come, more splendidly arrayed than Solomon, elegantly uniformed, sword and sash, military hat and plume, gauntlet gloves, etc. Calling at the surgeon's headquarters, which were at the foot of a tree, he inquired how he was to obtain medical supplies for his battalion. Being informed that they would be forthcoming upon a requisition, he desired to know what that was. When enlightened, he inquired where he could procure an ambulance. The answer to that was by a requisition upon the quartermaster. "But," he replied, "we have no quartermaster;" and before time was given to answer him, he struck an attitude and said, "I have it, I'll make a requisition for a quartermaster," and off he strutted. Surgeon Hazlett met him sometime afterward, sword; sash, hat and plume gone, unkempt and unshaven, his whole outfit would not have brought 75 cents. The surgeon drily remarked in regard to it; "In his dilapidated state, I had not the heart to ask him about the requisition, but mostly for the reason if I had done so, he would have trounced me."
When the regiment went to Elkwater, a few of the men were left behind to guard the post. S. J. Clendaniel relates an incident that shows their fidelity, if not their sagacity, as soldiers. Capt. Otto was in command, things began to look dangerous, and orders were very strict. One night a picket shot was heard, and the posts all fired in turn, creating consternation in the camp. The guards were ordered to fire at anything they saw move, and they carried out orders to the letter. Geo. E. McCloy, of Company F, was posted beyond the Methodist Church near the river, when he was discovered by the bridge guard, who opened fire upon him. McCloy returned the compliment, and the firing became general throughout the camp. Capt. Otto came to the rescue and saved bloodshed between the contending forces. He double quicked his men down to the Court House, followed the road some distance, when bang went a gun, and a regular fusilade followed. It looked as if a real fight was now on the hands of the boys, and they were ordered to fall back to the jail. The officer in command there inquired the cause of the firing. The captain stated some one had discovered a black stump and fired upon it, creating an alarm that almost resulted seriously. The same night Clendaniel's gun went off accidentally, the bullet almost hitting a drill master who was near, lodging in the weather boarding just over his head. It was an eventful night of alarms, but fortunately no one was hurt. But the awkward recruits of Beverly, soon learned better the arts of war, and in after days were as efficient as they were brave and true.
During August the troops at Beverly suffered severely from typhoid fever, dysentery and diarrhoea, and many of them will remember with gratitude all their lives the kind words, the careful attention and the refreshing delicacies from the good women of that town. One in particular deserves honorable mention, Mrs. Jonathan Arnold, a sister of the confederate Gen. "Stonewall" Jackson, who was lavish in her offices of kindness. Her fragile form was almost ubiquitous in the hospitals, and with her own tender hands she soothed the aching temples of many a dying soldier boy, far away from the loved ones at home. She was as an angel of mercy among the sick, and did all in her power to render less arduous and irksome the lives of the country's defenders. She was ardently attached to the union cause, notwithstanding the devotion of her distinguished brother, and other relatives, including her husband, to the confederate cause. Of this noble woman, Dr. Hazlett, surgeon of the regiment, speaks in the most glowing terms. He was in position to see her work of love, and says: "Many incidents of her loyalty and courage are personally known to the writer. Almost alone, amidst a disloyal community, she unflinchingly declared her devotion to the flag, not only by word but act. Her house was an asylum for the sick soldier, and faithfully she ministered to his wants. Her resources were often taxed to their utmost, and many were her regrets that she was unable to do greater good. On more than one occasion have I found her the sole watcher at the bedside of a disabled soldier. We have never heard that she received one farthing from the government, for her generous and loyal outlay, and have reason to believe that she never made application; but if there is one deserving soul in the great, army of patriots that merits special recognition at the hands of the republic, it is Mrs. Jonathan Arnold."