WAR STORIES BY R. W. HALL
(As told by R. W. Hall to his grandson, Kenneth Hall)
As a boy of eighteen years, Rawley W. Hall fought from April 22, 1861, to April 30, 1864, as a private in Company B of "Chatham Grays" in Montague's infantry battalion, which became Company I of the Fifty-third Virginia Infantry Regiment. In order of succession, the commanders of the Fifty-third Virginia were Colonels Harrison B. Tomdin, John G. Grammer, Jr., and William R. Aylett. The regiment itself came principally from the counties of the Virginia south side-such as Pittsylvania, Halifax, and Charles City.
The Fifty-third Virginia had a most illustrious Civil War history. Its sister regiments were the Ninth, Fourteenth, Thirty-eighth and Fifty-seventh Virginia Infantry, and the five regiments together formed a brigade under Gen. Lewis A. Armistead. This unit took part in most of the major battles of the Army of Northern Virginia, including the Peninsular Campaign, Second Manassas, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and the siege of Petersburg. Armistead's brigade is best remembered for its sterling part in Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg. Although some one thousand men served at various times in the Fifty-third Virginia, only eighty-one were left to surrender with Lee's army at Appomattox. In one of his battles, Rawley felt a terrific stinging pain in his abdomen. He placed his hand front and back to discover his injury or blood and finding none, continued to fight. After the battle he removed his watch and found it was shattered.
Another story involved a new recruit who confided in grandfather that he had a premonition that he would die in battle. He asked that his belongings and a letter be mailed to his mother.
Their company was to leave by train for the coming battle and grandfather devised the following plan: the boy was to hide at the depot and would be seen trying to get on the train after it had started. He could not then be considered a deserter. When the train was under way the boy sat down by grandfather and said, "Whatever happens I cannot act dishonorably." During the ensuing battle they were fired on by a sharpshooter on a hill above them. They alternately loaded their guns and shot, thus keeping the sharpshooter from appearing from behind the tree to shoot at them. They continued this partnership successfully for sometime. Finally a Northern regiment appeared on the hill, the boy scared, stood up and ran. He was shot in the back and as he fell he faced grandfather and gave a despairing look as if to say, "Remember what I told you."
While a prisoner, Abraham Lincoln visited the war camp and shook the hands of all Confederate prisoners.
Source: Kenneth Hall, Sand Ridge, West Virginia,
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