Traditional Stories

Colonel Daniel S. Dewees


I have always been very decided in all questions religiously and politically, but I always endeavored in maintaining my opinions to respect those who differed from me at all times and on all occasions, and when the dark and gloomy days of 1861-65 came on, I lived on what is known as the head of Piper, a tributary of the Crooked Fork of Steer Creek in Gilmer County, and in 1861, along in the early fall on the dividing ridge between Pipers Fork and Bender's Run, a Union soldier was killed from ambush by someone unknown to me. A short time after which occurrence a squad of fifteen Union soldiers commanded by Lieutenant James Conley came along and took me a prisoner or rather from what I could glean from them they suspicioned me of either killing the Union soldier, or at any rate they intended that my life should atone for the Union soldier who had been killed. Starting with me they went in the direction of the ill-fated spot where the Union soldier had been killed, keeping my composure I proceeded to entertain my captors with stories that I hoped would throw them off their guard. which to my comfort succeeded and in the middle of a story which was highly entertaining to them, just as we were nearing the fatal spot as we were passing along a path single file past a dense growth of underbrush, I saw my chance to elude a dose of Yankee pills, which I was very desirous of avoiding. I gave a sudden bound, made a successful dash for freedom by the covering of dense copse. I was enabled to completely elude my pursuers, whereupon, after getting to myself and mediating over my situation, and studying my surroundings, I decided my only course to pursue was to strike for Dixie's land and volunteer in the army, which I did, by enlisting in Capt. S. H. Campbell's Company of the Nineteenth Virginia Cavalry. General W. L. Jackson, commonly called "Mudwall," commanding, where I remained with the varied incidents common to a soldier's life. After about one month after my enlistment I went home on a furlough, getting home in the night, I stayed in the house until morning, when I went to the woods for safety, remaining until next morning about daybreak, I was slipping in home, when on nearing the house I stopped to reconnoiter and casting my gaze over the landscape of my surroundings I spied two Union soldiers on an eminence overlooking the premises surrounding my house, one of them raising to his feet. Just as I saw them I took deliberate aim and fired at them, upon which they beat a hasty retreat, bidding adieu to their surroundings, the one who rose up just as I spied them having on a fine large soldier overcoat, deeming it cumbersome laid off his Yankee blue greatcoat so that he could get faster away from the harmless sound of Rebel guns. When I felt pretty sure that Mr. Yanks were gone, I very eagerly appropriated the vacant and abandoned overcoat. which article to me was a very necessary luxury, with which I immediately started for rebeldom, where I stayed until February 1862. 1 came home and immediately went back to the army, returning home once during the summer of 1862. 1 was at the battle of Fredericksburg. I was at Lynchburg and followed Hunter on his retreat, also I was in a skirmish at Beverly, Randolph County, July 4, 1863, and was captured on the thirty-first day of December, 1863, on Point Mountain, near Addison, the county seat of Webster County, by Lieutenant Shreaves, commanding a squad of Union scouts belonging to General Averal's command. They took me to Beverly where they kept me for about a week, when with seven other prisoners, a part of whose names I remember, James Gregory, Jesse Paine, Daniel Pardue, George Wayne, and William Lynch, we were started on foot guarded by a lieutenant and fourteen others as a guard, all of whom were Dutch and belonged to the Twenty-eighth Ohio Regiment of infantry for Grafton, where we took a train for Wheeling. On our way to Grafton, when about seventeen miles from Beverly, we were passing a farm the house being something like seventy to one hundred yards from the road, the man of the house whose name was Corley came running to the road just as we were passing opposite the house and calling to the Dutch lieutenant says, "Hah! got prisoner, eh!" To which the lieutenant replied, "Yes, we've got some prisoners," whereupon Corley climbing upon the fence to give himself a greater air of importance says, "These are the very men who stole (naming some farmers in the neighborhood) horses," upon which James Gregory protested our innocence, at which juncture I spoke up and says to Corley, "You have no right to say anything, sir." Whereupon Corley wanted to know why! And I says, "Why, sir, I don't deny taking the horses, and just as sure as I had any hand in taking them horses you showed them to us," which Corley bitterly denied, and I insisting that as sure as we took the horses he showed them to us and when he did a thing to never deny it, that I had never denied taking the horses, and for him not to be denying it, on which Corley says, "Well, it is no use to argue with a pack of rebels" whereupon I says to the lieutenant, "That is enough to prove he was with us or he wouldn't have known us so well," to which the lieutenant replied, "That is so." Corley still jawing back that he was going to the house that it was no use to talk to a d-- rebel, at which juncture the lieutenant says, "No, you will not go back to the house neither, sir." To which Corley asked why! "Because you go along with us," says the lieutenant. Whereupon Corley said, "Well, I will have to go over to the house to get some other clothes," to which the lieutenant observed that his clothes were sufficient. "I'll have to go over to the house and let my family know where I am going," said Corley. "You can holler over," said the lieutenant, "and tell them," whereupon Corley hollered and his wife coming out said, "What do you want?" Corley replied, "Don't be uneasy, I am going with these men." The woman says, "When will you be back?" To which Corley replied, "Oh, this evening, or in the morning," at which juncture I says, "Oh, Corley, you should not tell a lie. You don't know when you are coming back," which Corley answered very curtly, "You mind your own business," to which I said, "I thought that I was." I always hated to hear a man tell a woman a lie, at which juncture our Dutch lieutenant gave command, forward, march, with our friend Corley in ranks marching with us. a sadder, but wiser man, sullenly keeping his own counsel, the monotony of which I occasionally broke by asking Corley if he didn't wish now that he hadn't shown those horses, which Corley bitterly denied, while I admonished him when he did a thing never to deny it, I don't deny taking the horses, which tactics I at stated intervals kept up, until we arrived at Grafton, where we were put on board the cars and freighted through to Wheeling, where we prisoners were promoted to the guardhouse, Rebel prisoners of war, and our friend Corley was taken somewhere else. Next morning, just after we had dispatched our breakfast, our Dutch lieutenant came to the barracks door and called for me and informed me that I was wanted at headquarters, to give evidence against my Confederate Corley, as an accomplice at horse stealing, whereupon I realized that I was up against the real thing and summoning up courage, I resolved to face the ordeal, Corley and the court marshal, with all the presumption of one knowing his business and intent on doing it. We came to the place where we found a court of inquiry. composed of three officers and Corley the prisoner at the bar looking crestfallen and as though if he was back in his cabin home in Randolph County, Rebel horse thieves would have no charms or cares for him. My Dutch lieutenant introduced me to the court marshal, as the witness who could tell them about Corley's connection with me in horse stealing. One of the court asked me to relate as to the prisoner at the bar, Corley's connection in horse stealing, to which I replied by asking him, if he would take the evidence of a Rebel against a good Union man? Whereupon the officer replied, "I thought a Rebel could tell the truth," to which I replied that "I thought so, but I didn't know whether he thought so, but I presume that you are going to have me sworn," to which the officer replied, "Can't you tell the truth without being sworn?" I answered, "Yes, sir, and you are just as sure to get it." Whereupon I was told to go on and relate what I knew of Corley's connection with some stolen horses in Randolph County, referring to the Dutch lieutenant, I said, "You know what I have said all the time and now if I vary from that one word, I want you to tell me," to which he said, "Vell, I vill just do dot." When I then addressed myself to the court, saying, "Honored Court, this man Corley came out to the road as we were passing his place, as I suppose, and there arrested that I with others of we prisoners were the very identical ones that had stolen the horses in his country. I will just say so that this court may know that I have never denied taking the horses and don't intend to deny it, and just as sure as I have any hand in taking those horses, this man Corley showed us them, as an evidence of which how would he have known us if he hadn't been with us," at which juncture one of the court said "Sure enough." Another officer said "Isn't that enough?" and the third one said, "That's enough," and for me to stand aside, and ordered the lieutenant to return me to the guardhouse, when the lieutenant requested to be permitted to stay and hear the verdict, which permission was granted, with a caution to keep vigilant watch over me, whereupon I assured them that I would make no attempt to leave or escape, until returned to the guardhouse. The court after some deliberation passed judgment, and convicted Corley to close confinement and to wear ball and chain during the war, on which Corley groaned and said, "Oh! that's hard to bear for a lie," to which I says, ever being on the alert to make life lonesome for Corley, "Well, what did you tell it for?" Being the last that I saw or ever heard of Corley.

I was sent on to Camp Chase, Ohio, and from there to Fort Delaware, where I underwent the vicissitudes and privations that thousands of my fellow countrymen and co-Rebels underwent being finally exchanged at Richmond on the twenty-third day of September, 1864, being emaciated and sick from the effects and privations of prison experiences and hardships, I didn't get back to my home and family until in the spring of 1865, a short time before the war closed.

Source: Col. D. S. Dewees's Recollections of a Life Time, published Eden, Calhoun County, 1904.


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