Chapter LXI - Closing Events of the War

History of Hampshire County West Virginia From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present
By Hu Maxwell and H. L. Swisher
Morgantown, West Virginia; A. Brown Boughner Printer; 1897

PART 2 County History
Pages 685-695

On the day of the capture of Generals Crook and Kelley, a daring but successful charge was made in the streets of Romney by two confederates of Company D, Robert Moorehead and John Urton. The cavalry which had pursued McNeill from Cumberland gave up the pursuit a few miles south of Romney, and the men returned to Cumberland. Their horses were very tired and stragglers were plentiful. A few of them remained awhile in town after the main body had passed down the road toward Cumberland. At that moment Robert Moorehead and John Urton came in on the Winchester road, on a scout. The union cavalry saw them, and supposed they were the frost of a column and galloped off. Urton and Moorehead followed, and observing that two of the yankees could not keep up with their comrades, determined to take them. Their horses being fresh they gained upon the yankees, Wako left the road to take a short cut across the fields, and ran their horses into a snow drift and stuck fast. They surrendered and were parolled. One of them proved to be Lieutenant Luther Griffith, who for many years afterward was cashier of a Cumberland bank.

A Young Soldier's Escape. — On February 5, 1865, when Colonel Young, in charge of a division of General Custer's troops, made a dash into Romney, there were many southern sympathizers who were taken by surprise. Among them was V. M. Poling. He had come home on furlough to see his parents who lived in Romney. He was sitting by the fire reading when his father came hurriedly in and announced with considerable excitement that the town was full of yankees. Mr. Poling, the elder, had always been a union man, although two of his sons were in the confederate army. The young soldier had no chance to escape by flight; but provision had been made for just such an emergency. The old log kitchen, built perhaps in the days of the Revolutionary war, had a log cut partly off making a small opening by which it was supposed a man could crawl under the floor. Mr. Poling made for the hole as the yankee cavalry galloped up the street. He tried to crawl in but could not push his shoulders through. The ostrich pokes its head in the sand and thinks it is hid. Not so with Mr. Poling. Although his head was in the hole he knew he was not out of sight. With the courage of despair he pulled off his coat and jacket, and by a superhuman squeeze he pushed through. His sister, with presence of mind suited to the occasion, covered the opening with boards. He remained in his cold quarters about two hours, and nearly froze. The yankees had left town by that time, and he undertook to crawl out. But either he had grown larger or the hole was smaller, for he could not get through no matter which way he turned or how persistently he squeezed. They brought him a saw and a chisel, and after chipping an hour or two he was again able to emerge from his hiding place.

Remarkable Record. — Near the close of the war the records of the confederacy at Richmond showed that McNeill's company up to that time had captured more than twenty-six hundred prisoners. That was about thirty persons for each man in active service in the command. The number in the company was not always the same. Sometimes it was more, sometimes less; but usually there were between sixty and seventy men in active service with McNeill. Perhaps no better illustration is furnished in the whole history of the United States of the efficiency of a small band, operating in a rugged country, full of hiding places and natural defenses. Against such a force numbers are sent in vain. A rapid retreat over mountain trails baffles pursuit; while the ability to strike unexpected blows, suddenly and with every advantage of position, makes the situation of the pursuing forces always one of danger. McNeill and his men knew every trail. They might be hemmed in on every road, as was the case when they were carrying Generals Crook and Kelley away as prisoners in 1865, yet they could leave all roads and take to the woods, bidding defiance to twenty times their numbers. They carried no baggage except what was tied to the saddles. Every man conducted his own advance and retreat. Yet all acted in concert. If scattered, they vanished among the hills and woods, and reassembled at well-known rendezvouses. They could make marches which surprised veterans; could appear and disappear here, there and everywhere with such celerity of movement that the most carefully planned efforts to resist or intercept were always defeated. It has been a mystery how they operated so long, so successfully, in a territory often occupied by overwhelming forces of the enemy; and yet they seldom or never made a miscalculation or a fatal blunder. "Whether they were assailants or acting upon the defensive, they were equally successful. Although they did an almost incredible amount of fighting, they lost few men. Their policy was to select their point of attack and then strike so suddenly that resistance came too late. The citizens of the country in which they operated were nearly all friendly with McNeill and gave him information whenever they could. Without this source of information he must have failed very often in his undertakings.

Surrender of McNeill. — McNeill's men surrendered soon after General Lee. It was arranged that they should lay down their arms on the South branch above Romney. A company of federals from New. Creek met them for that purpose. Two or three officers and a half dozen men crossed the river where McNeill's men were, while the main body of the company remained on the north side. There was no unnecessary ceremony. The confederates threw down their arms and were parolled. The implements of war piled on the ground looked as if they had come out of a museum a hundred years old. They were flint-locks, broken-stocks, bent-barrels, no ramrods, triggerless, rusty, big, little, horse-pistols, deringers, pepperboxes, choke-bores, and others beyond description. The federal officers were aware that these were not the guns with which McNeill's men had done their fighting". They had hidden their good guns and had gathered up these superannuated, pre-revolutionary traps in junk-shops and garrets and were surrendering them for form's sake. A competent judge who saw the arms piled on the ground declared they were not worth ten dollars a ton. However the yankees hauled them to New Creek.

After they had thrown down their worthless guns, one of McNeill's men asked the union officers: "What would be the result if I would keep a little powder to shoot coons and such thing's, and it should be found in my house, and an old shotgun or something?" The officer told him it would go hard with him if he went to bushwhacking. To this the soldier replied: "I won't hurt any of you fellows, but the Swamp Dragons from North Fork better not come fooling around me." The Swamp Dragons were the union guerrillas who infested the mountain fastnesses around the headwaters of the South branch and Cheat river. Between them and McNeill's men there was war to the death. Neither side asked or gave quarters.

By the terms agreed upon between General Lee and General Grant, the confederates were permitted to keep their horses, but must surrender their arms and equipage. This rule was understood to apply to McNeill's men as well as to the others. A controversy arose at the time of McNeill's surrender as to how for this understanding should go. Everyone of the men rode a United States saddle, captured in battle, and had United States blankets, and full outfits taken as spoils of war. The federal officers insisted that those should be given up; and McNeill said he would not surrender them, as he did not intend that his men should ride home bareback. The discussion of this point became so animated that it threatened to cause trouble. The federal officer was firm in his demand that the saddles and blankets should be given up, and McNeill was equally positive that they should not be given up. Finally McNeill declared that he would not surrender at all unless permitted to keep the saddles. It might be presumed that the confederates, having already surrendered their arms, were powerless to resist, and that they were in no position to enforce their demand that they retain their saddles. But such was the case in appearance only, and the union officers knew it very well. McNeill's men had at that time revolvers under their coats, and the pistols were so poorly concealed that the federals had no doubts on the subject. Add to this the fact that the river was deep, and that a small skiff was the only means of crossing, and that the main part of the small union force was on the other side, and it can be seen that the federal officers who had crossed over to parol the men were really in the power of McNeill, and knew it. Of course, if the confederates had resisted, it would have gone hard with them in the end, for they must have been captured sooner or later. But the federal captain made a merit of necessity and permitted the men to keep their saddles and equipage. They rode off and disbanded, and the famous McNeill company had ceased to exist and had taken its place in history.

The Timber Ridge Robbers. — During the war, in Hampshire county, there was an organized band of thieves and robbers with headquarters on Timber ridge, but with places of meeting in various other parts of the country, in Morgan and Berkeley counties, and occasionally in Hardy. They did not belong to either army, and were outlawed by both. They numbered from fifteen to twenty, and robbed whenever and wherever they could, and sold their plunder wherever a buyer could be found. The were despised by the soldiers and dreaded by the citizens. Their hand was against every man, and every man's hand against them. The result was that they brought destruction upon themselves. One by one they were killed, some by soldiers and others, perhaps by citizens, until only a few were left and the gang was broken up.

Degenerate Warfare. — War is degenerating in its effect. It is destructive of morality as well as of physical force. It is savagery that cannot be disguised in the most civilized country. Men accustomed to scenes of carnage and destruction grow to have smaller and smaller regard for the rights of man as they are understood in time of peace. This was illustrated in Hampshire county near the close of the war. The longer the conflict continued the less were personal rights considered. At first the property of citizens was taken or destroyed under the plea of military necessity; but later in the conflict the taking of property degenerated into highway robbery. This should not be applied to all the soldiers on both sides, nor to a majority on either side; for there were many, both northern and southern, who came out of the army as they went in, honest, conscientious soldiers. But pillage and robbery grew alarmingly frequent toward the close of the war. Soldiers entered private houses and compelled citizens to give up their money and jewelry. Numerous instances of this could be cited. Indeed, families in this county found it necessary to keep their valuables hidden. Hampshire was on the border during the whole war. Its war was that of the frontier. It was considered doubtful ground by both sides. It was first in possession of the federals and then the confederates. Neither could hold it or protect it from incursions and raids from the other. Thus, it experienced all the horrors of frontier warfare. It has been remarked by one who knew the situation that, had the war continued much longer, Hampshire would have been like Kansas in its border troubles and the carbine and the revolver would have been the only recognized law.

Last Armed Confederates in Romney. — When Lee surrendered, in April, 1865, General Rosser, with a considerable force, made his escape, avoided the numerous federal detachments with which the country was filled and reached Lynchburg, Virginia, without any serious opposition. From there he proceeded toward Staunton, making his way through a country devastated by war. He saw that further resistance was useless and dismissed his men, each regiment being left free to do what seemed best. Each regiment broke up into companies, and each company pursued its way. There was a vague notion among the men that General Johnston, in North Carolina, would still hold out, and he was looked upon as the general around whom the scattered soldiers should rally. Some started to join him, but there was no concert of movement. Two Hampshire companies that had escaped with Rosser came through to Romney. They had shaped their course for home, without any definite plans for the future. So long as they were on the road and in motion, they did not find it necessary to decide on future movements; but when they reached home and found themselves at their journey's end, the time had come to decide. The two companies met in front of the court house in Romney to deliberate whether they would surrender or endeavor to reach General Johnston. The members were about equally divided among those who wished to lay down their arms and those who were still for war. Few who marched away with the companies at the beginning of the war were among those who came back. The troop was one of the remnants of a powerful army, which had fought as long as there was hope. The two Hampshire companies wished to act in concert, all make their way to Johnston or all surrender. They could not agree, and the dispute ran so high that they almost fell to fighting among themselves. About that time, however, news was received that Johnston had surrendered, and there was no longer an army around which to rally. The Hampshire companies thereupon went to Winchester and surrendered. This was the last armed confederate force to occupy Romney. The town changed hands fifty-six times during the war.

The Confederate Monument. — It is believed that the first decoration of confederate graves and the first monument erected to the confederate dead are credited to Hampshire county. Immediately after the war, while the southern sympathizers were still under the ban, and were not allowed to vote or hold office, the people of Hampshire, at the risk of incurring the displeasure of the federal authorities, raised money and built a monument to the memory of their dead who gave their lives in the cause of the south. The idea originated in the house of Colonel Robert White, in the early spring of 1866. It was discussed by Colonel and Mrs. White, Captain C. S. White, Miss Bessie J. Schultze, who afterwards became the wife of Captain White, and Miss Fannie White, now Mrs. S. L. Flournoy. Others afterwards became interested, and the project was discussed and a course of procedure decided upon. The first public meeting was held in Romney in the spring of 1866; a constitution was adopted and the association went to work, appointed committees and arranged to decorate the graves of confederates. The decoration took place June 1, 1866, in Indian Mound cemetery. The graves have been decorated every year since. Few persons attended the first decoration, because the people were afraid. Many persons refrained from taking part in the work of erecting the monument because they were afraid of incurring the displeasure of the federal authorities. There were others who were expected to assist, but who refused to do so; but the workers who were not afraid kept at it. Funds were solicited; a sewing circle was held; a fair was held; and money was turned into the treasury at an encouraging rate. On October 15, 1866, there was on hand $1,170.91, of which $421.58 was appropriated to the relief of the orphans of confederate soldiers. Other public exhibitions were given, and on June 6, 1867, it was resolved to proceed with the erection of the monument. In July the committee considered three inscriptions, one of which spoke of the soldiers as having "died in defense of what they believed to be right;" another one being "our sons and brothers, who fell as soldiers in the confederate army;" the third, which was adopted and was engraved on the monument, was in these words: "The Daughters of Old Hampshire Erect this Tribute of Affection to Her Heroic Sons Who Fell in Defense of Southern Rights." On September 26, 1867, the monument was dedicated with appropriate ceremonies. It cost the association about fourteen hundred dollars in money, besides large donations in labor. It was made in Baltimore, is twelve feet high and is made of white marble. The names of the dead are engraved upon it. A number of those who fell in battle are not represented on the monument, because it was not known to a certainty that they were dead when the monument was made. The list of dead is as follows:

Captains — G. F. Sheetz, A. Smith, G. W. Stump, J. M. Lovett.

Lieutenants — M. Blue, J. Buzzard, J. Earsom, H. Engle, W. F. Johnson, J. N. Moorehead, F. D. Sherrard, Rev. J. S. Reese.

Sergeants — B. W. Armstrong, J. C. Leps, G. Cheshire.

Privates — A. T. Pugh, J. W. Park, S. Park, J. W. Poland, J. Peer, R. J. Parran, C. Parran, H. Powell, N. Pownall, J. W. Ream, G. W. Ruckman, L. Spaid, P. Stump, H. Senoff, A. Shingleton, J. Stewart, S. Swisher, E. Gaylor, M. Taylor, J. Taylor, E. P. Ward, I. Wolfe, J. Washington, M. Watkins, H. Wilson, G. Shoemaker, L. D. Shanholtzer, J. Strother, W. Unglesbee, B. Wills, J. Haines, J. F. Hass, M. Harmison, A. Hollenback, G. Hott, E. Hartley, B. Hare, ___, Householder, M. V. Inskeep, J. Johnson, J. H. Johnson, T. Keely, J. Kern, S. Loy, E. Milleson, O. Milleson, S. Mohler, F. M. Myers, J. W. Marker, T. McGraw, I. Mills, J. Merritt, J. W. Pugh, O. V. Pugh, J. Kump, M. Orndorff, S. McCauley, L. Snodgrass, J. Pugh, V. Kump, P. Noland, J. Rudolph, J. M. Reese, M. V. Reid, W. O. Lupton, J. Noreland, J. Starns, F. C. Sechrist, G. W. Strother, J. D. Adams, I. P. Armstrong, E. Allen, J. W. Baker, H. Baker, J. W. Barley, H. Bird, W. J. Blue, T. T. Brooks, R. Brown, J. W. Boro, I. D. Carroll, J. Cupp, J. S. Davis, J. A. Daily, J. Davy, S. Engly, J. Floury, J. Furlow, I. V. Gibson, R. C. Grace, T. T. Gross, R. Gill, J. P. Greitzner, A. Haines, J. J. Arnold, F. Abee, A. J. Baker, William Baker, J. Bumgarner, Morgan Brill, Mat Brill, G. Delaplains, J. Doughett, J. Engie, C. Garvin, G. R. Garvin, J. Hammock, T. Harrison.

As far as can be gathered from the minute-book, which is incomplete, the following have been the officers of the association:

Presidents — Mrs. Robert White, Mrs. Abraham Smith, Mrs. J. P. Wilson, Mrs. J. L. Vance, Mrs. G. W. Parsons.

Vice-Presidents — Mrs. Margaret V. Taylor, Miss Miranda Taylor, Mrs. C. E. Blue, Mrs. C. S. White, Mrs. J. L. Vance, Mrs. John J. Inskeep.

Secretaries — Misses Bessie J. Schultze, Tillie Kern, Mary V. Foote, Ellen Kane, Mary Heiskell, Lou McCarty.

Treasurers — Mrs. J. D. Armstrong, Mrs. Michael Blue, Miss Virginia Parsons, Mrs. Julius Waddle.

It would be impossible to give the names of all persons who contributed labor and money to build the monument; but it is no injustice to those omitted to name as worthy of special notice the following*: Mrs. James D. Armstrong, Mrs. James N. Morehead, Misses Susie M. Pancake, Susie Poling, Louise Greitzner, Lizzie Inskeep, Lieutenant C. W. Pattie, D. W. Endler.

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