Traditional Stories


BALAS C. DEWEES
(1828-1907)

In 1861, when the war clouds began to lower over the land and public sentiment assuming formidable proportions, Balas Dewees's sympathies were with the South, he espoused the cause of secession, which was fully known the country surrounding him being about evenly divided, the Union forces having come to Spencer, Roane County. Colonel Gilmore, commanding in the fall of 1861, sent out a detachment of men to apprehend Balas and bring him in, which they did, intercepting and capturing him on the head of Spring Run, a tributary of the West Fork, coming in the creek at Arnoldsburg. He was taken to Spencer and had a formal trial before a board of officers of the Ninth Virginia Regiment, the prosecuting witness, making contradictory statements, Balas was detained, during which time he was kept under guard, there being five soldiers of the Ninth Regiment Indianans, who were comrades of Balas in the Mexican War and meeting with him under the circumstances with which he was surrounded, made the point to be the detailed guards to guard him, which they done more as hosts than enemies in war. In a few days the regiment moved from Spencer to Glenville, taking my brother Balas along, his old Mexican comrades continuing as his guards and assured him that if Colonel Gilmore didn't release him that on their march to Glenville they would make it convenient so that he could take a French leave of absence, their remembrance of the ties of affection formed in their associations as soldiers and comrades in Mexico were stronger than any obligation that they felt to the cause in which they were then enlisted, and one mile up Millstone, above Arnoldsburg, at the mouth of the little hollow where Dr. Price now resides, Balas and his old Mexican comrades halted and were sitting by the side of the road, the regiment passing on, after which Balas and his old comrades had agreed on an armistice for the remainder of hostilities, so far as they were concerned, during which time, Balas's wife Mary, accompanied by Levi Reed, a member of the Ninth Regiment, and her brother-in-law, who went on and overtaking Colonel Gilmore, procured Balas's release, thus concluding an honorable release for him.

War clouds settling dense and heavy over our beloved land, stirring times were at hand, and our ominous presence of boding scenes were daily being acted, men of progressive minds and active turns could not in the face of the signs of the times remain silent and inactive. Another detachment of Federal soldiers following Colonel Gilmore's occupied Spencer, sending out a detail arrested Capt. A. Knotts, a man of marked ability and stirring qualities, a natural-born leader of men. It was important to the cause of the Union that his course of action be known. Consequently upon charges of disloyalty, he was taken to Spencer and incarcerated in jail. Squire W. W. Bailey, a man of marked ability and stirring qualities, and my brother Balas were under surveillance, all being men of prominence, and in fact Southern sympathizers. The peculiarity of Capt. A. Knotts's circumstances being such that his instinctive incentive was that self-preservation was the first law of nature, consequently the proposition being made to him that if he would publicly make a speech for the Union, pledging his fidelity to the government and promise to go home and raise a company of troops and join the Union army, his liberty and freedom would be accorded to him, which proposition Capt. A. Knotts accepted and executed in detail coming to his home at Minnora, Calhoun County, forthwith proceeded with raising a company, which was accomplished with an organization in the election of A. Knotts, captain; Balas Dewees, first lieutenant; Samuel Isanhart, second lieutenant; and A. J. Bailey, third lieutenant, upon which instead of joining the Union army the company was turned South and joined Dr. Harriford's battalion at Winfield, Putnam County, where they remained a short time, coming back to the West Fork country. On their way up Sandy as they were passing Newton, Roane County, Captain William King's company of state troops, commonly called home guards, were encountered in a bloodless fray.

The company, after some time, broke up camp on what is now known as Sier's Run, a tributary emptying into the West Fork at Minnora, sometime in October 1861, rejoined their battalion at Dry Creek Station in Greenbrier County. Taking up their line of march they passed over and up the Left Hand Fork of the West Fork, dropping over and down Duck Creek, crossing Elk River at the mouth of Strange Creek, going up which the second night they camped on Capt. Clinton Duffield's farm, laying on the dividing ridge between Strange Creek and Birch River, where a couple of fine large fat sheep were procured and butchered and distributed among the company, bountifully supplying every man an abundant ration for a sumptuous repast. Jackson Cottrell, whose name has before been mentioned in my memoirs, being one of the privates in the company mentioned, in addition to his ration of mutton during the night roasted the two mutton heads and completely divested them of every vestige of the meat, which aggregation of fresh sheep meat had a most disastrous and salutary effect upon Jackson's abdominal organs, necessarily placing him upon the invalid's list for several days. Next morning the company proceeded on in their line of march down to the foot of Powel's Mountain, just above Brownsville, where their line of march crossed the turnpike leading from Sutton, Braxton County, to Summersville, Nicholas County, over onto Anthony's Creek, a tributary of Birch River, coming in sight of the turnpike they came on to Gen. W. S. Rosecrans's army passing along the pike, the company obviated a collision and perhaps capture and annihilation, by quietly secreting themselves from observation until a favorable opportunity an opening appeared and proved sufficient for them to double-quick through the apperture, arriving over on Birch River at John Baufman's just a short time after the last of General Rosecrans's cavalry had passed, going into camp for the night. Whereupon in addition to the regular ration issued to each man, Captain Knotts bought an extra fine large bee gum of Mr. Baughman and opened it up, directing the company to every man help himself, whereupon the ever craving Jackson still complaining of miscellaneous and dislatory pains and cramps in his intestines, predatory to his overweaning fondness of sheep heads roasted, plowed in and loaded himself to the guards with an armful of honeycomb, loaded to overflowing with delicious honey all the while with his other hand full of the dripping honey, cramming great hunks large enough to have strangled a mule down his capacious throat. Captain Knotts, desiring to know how his boys were faring, was passing around among them, coming to Jackson, all of who he could see for the honey was his jaws and ears working in his efforts to get on the outside of as much honey as possible to accompany his sheep heads of the night previous, asked him if he was "getting any of the honey," to which Jackson replied, "A few bites Captain, a few bites, just enough to stay a sick man's stomach, your men are such d--b dogs that a decent man stands no show." Arriving at Dry Creek the company spent the winter. In the spring of 1862 the company was attached to the Fourteenth Regiment of Virginia Cavalry, commanded by Colonel Cochran, Lieutenant Colonel Brown and Major Brock, the latter being killed at Brandy Station, the regiment belonging to Gen. Albert Jenkins's command, passing the summer and fall in the Valley of Virginia, encountering the vicissitudes and soldier's life incident to those stormy times, going into winter quarters at Fincastle Court House, Virginia, where my brother Balas assumed command of the company. Capt. A. Knotts having been elected by the company as representative for Calhoun County, in the Southern Confederate legislature at Richmond, where he served during the session of 1863. In the spring of 1863 my brother Balas, in company with George Casto, and Squire W. W. Bailey, came through to the Little Levels of Pocahontas County in time to join Brig. Gen. W. L. Jackson's command and accompany through and participate in the memorable Bulltown fight in Braxton County.

Since the war my brother Balas has, as all true men, accepted the results of the Southern Confederacy's cause and is as loyal and true American and inflexible in his belief in our having the best government on earth as any man who wore the blue, with enmity towards none and charity for all, we all every truehearted Confederate are for the Union and only pray that Old Glory may forever wave over the homes of the free and the graves of the brave.

Source: Recollections of a Life Time, by Col. D. S. Dewees. (The Honorable A. Smith of Eden, West Virginia, helped Col. Daniel S. Dewees write his recollections in 1902 and 1903.)


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