We thought we were made to do more than a reasonable part of guard duty, but this hard service continued to the middle of the winter, in the face of the cold hard fact that our clothing was nothing but rags. On account of the exposure we had to undergo, many fell sick and died. I have a sorrowful remembrance of two of my comrades being taken out of my tent very ill with the terrible 'camp fever' as it was called. Both died in less than two weeks. By this time, most of the boys were eighteen years old, all claimed to be. As we had come out uder a reserve call, but were now of military age, we claimed the right to volunteer in any regiment we pleased.
A good many of us went to the 60th Virginian. This was in February of 1865 and we remained here until March 2 of the same year. When Sheridan came up the valley, we then broke camp, marched to a little town by the name of Waynesborough and formed in line of battle. We remained there several hours, being exposed to a cold March rain. About 2 o'clock in the afternoon of March 2, the Yankees made the appearance in great numbers on the ridge about three-fourths of a mile from us. Some pieces of artillery unlimbered and began firing at them.
I will here state that we were under the command of General Early. In forming the line of battle, our regiment, the 60th was on the extreme right. But we were moved from our position on the right, marching at double quick to the extreme left. As we were formed on the top of a ridge, the company to which I belonged, and one other company, were hurried on and formed in about two hundred yards from the rest of the regiment. This was done for the purpose of holding in check a flanking party. This we did to the best of our ability, and held our position until almost entirely surrounded, when we discovered that our regiment had been driven from its position.
It suddenly dawned upon me that it was either run, be killed, or captured. I will say I used my heels to the best of my ability, as did the rest of the men. The center and right wing had had given away before the 60th was driven from her position. Early's entire force was driven into the town where most of it was captured, except the two companies that had been engaged with the flanking party, and we were entirely cut off from the rest of the command. We retreated through the river bottom, exposed to a murderous cross fire. Reaching the river, a few of us managed to cross and make our escape into the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Reaching the woods I sat down on a log, being entirely given out. The others kept on and I was left alone, except one man, a stranger, who like myself, was run down. After resting we climbed to the top of the Blue Ridge. Going a little distance on the east side we came to where an old Irishman lived, who kindly gave us food and shelter for the night. The next morning we dropped down to where the country was more thickly settled.
Here I learned that the greater part of the army had been captured. About 10 o'clock as we approached a house, we discovered men in the yard. Concealing ourselves by the fence, we watched until we discovered they were southern men. We naturally looked to the officers to tell us what to do. He said he was unable to give advice, as he did not know what to do himself. He said Early's army was entirely broken up, that the Federal Cavalry was scouting the country in every direction. To say the least, I felt 'blue,' which is very mild term to express my feelings. While we were in the yard talking the old man came out and said, "Men I want you to get away from here, the Yankees are liable to run on you any minute, and I don't want you shot down in my yard."
We did not wait for a second invitation to leave. Getting into the brush we stopped to try to decide what to do. In the crowd were two men whose homes were in Wythe County, VA. They made a proposal we three travel together. We started south, keeping in the vastness of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Traveling on up into Nelson County we crossed back into the valley, pushing on in a Southwesterly direction, we finally reached the Great Alleghany Range. We had now reached Alleghany County, VA. It was somewhere in these mountains that my partners informed me that it was their intention to try to get to their homes, and advised me to do the same, as there was nowhere else to go that they knew of.
We soon parted, my friends going up through Craig County, myself keeping on a Westerly direction and entering Monroe County at the old Sweet Springs. Taking the Valley road in direction of Peterstown I spent the first night in this county with an old gentleman by the name of Thomas Neal, near Gap Mills. Starting on next morning I soon began to feel badly on account of the exposure I had been forced to endure. I had contracted a deep cold. I had a cough that was harassing me day and night. I dragged my weary limbs to within six miles of Peterstown, realizing that I could go no further.
Calling at a house I asked to stay all night, and the lady of the house kindly took me in. The gentlemen came in soon and commenced asking me about things generally. I had to talk whether I felt like it or not. I asked him if there was not a small force at the narrows of New River. I thought I might get there and recruit up a little. He said he thought there were a few men there, but told me they would have no 'earthy' use for a sick man. He said, "Boy, do you know you are going to be down with camp fever? He said he thought they would send me home. I went to Princeton and reported and was given written permission to remain at home until able for duty. This was about the midddle of March of 1865. My career as a soldier was ended. Three weeks later, April 9, Lee surrendered. For these humble services I have been awarded a 'Southern Cross of Honor'. That the south for so long a time resisted the attempts of her powerful enemy to subdue her, is a tribute to the skill of her generals and the courage and unyielding firmness of her soldiers.
In ending his memories of the Civil War years, Brammer concluded with this statement, "The names of Lee and Jackson rank with the foremost generals the world has ever known. When the end had come most officers surrendered. Sadly they furled and yielded the bullet riddled battle flag they had carried so proudly. Those armies are rapidly disappearing from the land they loved so well. When the last of the men who wore the gray shall have joined the comrades beyond the river of death, coming generations will hold them in loving remembrance for upholding the honor of the Confederacy in battle."