Menu

120 StauntonElliott Auto Group web button 120  erie200

Picketing, Raiding, Finding Forage Mark Winter Of ‘63

  • Written by Bob Driver

Editor’s note: Welcome to another installment in our series about Rockbridge County in the Civil War. This week, local historian Bob Driver is once again keeping us “up to date” on how Rockbridge County soldiers were faring this time of the year 150 years ago.

 The winter of 1863 found most of the Confederate soldiers from Rockbridge County in winter quarters. Capt. Augustus M. Houston of the Valley Regulators, raised in the Natural Bridge area of the county, wrote to the Lexington Gazette to "present the thanks of my Company … to the Ladies and Gentlemen of the upper end of Rockbridge and the lower end of Botetourt for the presentation of sixty-two pair of socks, five pair of shoes, one pair of pants, one vizor, and two pair of gloves."

Capt. James J. White of the Liberty Hall Volunteers also wrote thanking the "citizens of Rockbridge for the clothing, shoes, blankets, etc. Men are well supplied. Surplus 67 carpet covers given to men from Northwest Virginia in the 25th & 31st Regiments."

A member of the 25th Virginia Infantry wrote his cousin, "You don't know anything about hard times - or never will unless Gen. Jackson gets hold of you. Then you will know nothing but hard marching and hard fighting. He will load you down with ammunition and feed you bread and beef - and just before a battle or a march he will allow you a thimbleful of sugar and sometimes a little coffee."

The 2nd Rockbridge Dragoons of the 14th Virginia Cavalry, with most of the other companies, moved to Salem in Roanoke County where forage for their horses was plentiful, and a position from which they could move rapidly to protect the Virginia-Tennessee Railroad. Two companies remained on outpost duty in Greenbrier and Monroe counties.

The Stonewall Brigade remained camped at Moss Neck, near Stonewall Jackson's headquarters, throughout the winter. The 1st Rockbridge Artillery was camped near Port Royal, overlooking the Rappahannock River. Pvt. Thomas M. Wade wrote, "We have drawn tents & our mess have fixed up a very comfortable house. We have made us some bunks & have got straw upon them, which is a great improvement upon the ground itself." One section of the battery was kept on picket at Jack's Hill overlooking Port Tobacco Bay. They were billeted in some slave quarters on the hill. An inspection report noted the 1st Rockbridge Artillery was getting plenty of corn from Essex County, but no long feed for the horses.

The 2nd Rockbridge Artillery went into winter quarters near Bowling Green. Cabins and stables were built, guns and carriages attended to, and the normal housekeeping chores of cooking, cutting wood, hauling water and forage, kept the men busy. They too were hauling corn from Essex County. On Feb. 28 their camp was moved to near Milford, to be closer to the railroad.

The 1st Rockbridge Dragoons of the 1st Virginia Cavalry spent a much more active winter. On Jan. 10, Gen. J.E.B. Stuart reviewed the brigade near Brandy Station. The troopers rose before dawn and fed, watered and curried their horses. As the men rode the 15 miles to the review, a cold rain began to fall, which lasted throughout the day. Generals Robert E. Lee and James Longstreet were also present. The pouring rain reduced visibility to 50 yards.

 

The cold, wet and miserable cavalrymen rode by the Confederate high command and then covered the 15 miles down muddy roads back to camp. This type of pomp and circumstance seemed unnecessary to the half-frozen men. Two days later the regiment moved into King William County in order to find feed for their horses.

One trooper reporting back from leave on Jan. 21, wrote, "Some of the boys have tents and some have cabins. It is impossible for us to get any fodder or hay. Corn is all we can get for our horses.” He also reported 15 members of his company were present, but without horses. Before the month was out, the 1st moved to Caroline County in search of food for their mounts.

All of the cavalry and infantry units were performing picket duty along the Rappahannock. A private in the 1st Virginia Cavalry wrote on Feb. 20, "We went on picket on the 15th and came in on the 18th. We had a pretty severe time of it. Commenced snowing on the 17th and continued until the morning of the 18th when it changed to rain and rained all day on us. … It snowed 10 to 12 inches then turned to rain. … Our relief got here about 3 o'clock in the evening and have to travle (sic) all the way to camp in the rain and dark. … roads ar (sic) in awful condition. .. I get plenty to eat since we came up to this camp. Pork and flower (sic). We get nothing but corn for our horses."

The 1st Virginia Cavalry made several raids across the Rappahannock, capturing prisoners, horses and weapons. These forays kept the federal cavalry busy and pinpointed their infantry as being opposite Fredericksburg. Gen. William W. Averell lead the Union response, attacking the Confederates at Kellys Ford on March 17. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee was forced to bring up all of his regiments to drive the raiders back. Lee singled out Capt. Charles F. Jordan of the 1st Rockbridge Dragoons for "reckless daring without parallel."

On the home front, a hospital was opened on the fairgrounds in Lexington on Jan. 29. Dr. Hunter McGuire was the surgeon in charge. Eighty patients arrived by canal boat from Lynchburg. On Feb. 10, an additional 80 patients arrived at the fairgrounds hospital.

Twenty-five of the first patients had been returned to duty. On March 5 the Gazette reported many donations were made by the citizens for the patients. Three deaths were reported among them. Robert L. Taylor was appointed chaplain at the fairgrounds hospital and requested "Bibles and Testaments" to be given to the patients. There were now 150-160 sick and wounded soldiers confined there.

During March the Rockbridge County Court appointed a committee to list all men in Confederate service and the history of them.

The winter of 1863 found most of the Confederate soldiers from Rockbridge County in winter quarters. Capt. Augustus M. Houston of the Valley Regulators, raised in the Natural Bridge area of the county, wrote to the Lexington Gazette to "present the thanks of my Company … to the Ladies and Gentlemen of the upper end of Rockbridge and the lower end of Botetourt for the presentation of sixty-two pair of socks, five pair of shoes, one pair of pants, one vizor, and two pair of gloves."

Capt. James J. White of the Liberty Hall Volunteers also wrote thanking the "citizens of Rockbridge for the clothing, shoes, blankets, etc. Men are well supplied. Surplus 67 carpet covers given to men from Northwest Virginia in the 25th & 31st Regiments."

A member of the 25th Virginia Infantry wrote his cousin, "You don't know anything about hard times - or never will unless Gen. Jackson gets hold of you. Then you will know nothing but hard marching and hard fighting. He will load you down with ammunition and feed you bread and beef - and just before a battle or a march he will allow you a thimbleful of sugar and sometimes a little coffee."

The 2nd Rockbridge Dragoons of the 14th Virginia Cavalry, with most of the other companies, moved to Salem in Roanoke County where forage for their horses was plentiful, and a position from which they could move rapidly to protect the Virginia-Tennessee Railroad. Two companies remained on outpost duty in Greenbrier and Monroe counties.

The Stonewall Brigade remained camped at Moss Neck, near Stonewall Jackson's headquarters, throughout the winter. The 1st Rockbridge Artillery was camped near Port Royal, overlooking the Rappahannock River. Pvt. Thomas M. Wade wrote, "We have drawn tents & our mess have fixed up a very comfortable house. We have made us some bunks & have got straw upon them, which is a great improvement upon the ground itself." One section of the battery was kept on picket at Jack's Hill overlooking Port Tobacco Bay. They were billeted in some slave quarters on the hill. An inspection report noted the 1st Rockbridge Artillery was getting plenty of corn from Essex County, but no long feed for the horses.

The 2nd Rockbridge Artillery went into winter quarters near Bowling Green. Cabins and stables were built, guns and carriages attended to, and the normal housekeeping chores of cooking, cutting wood, hauling water and forage, kept the men busy. They too were hauling corn from Essex County. On Feb. 28 their camp was moved to near Milford, to be closer to the railroad.

The 1st Rockbridge Dragoons of the 1st Virginia Cavalry spent a much more active winter. On Jan. 10, Gen. J.E.B. Stuart reviewed the brigade near Brandy Station. The troopers rose before dawn and fed, watered and curried their horses. As the men rode the 15 miles to the review, a cold rain began to fall, which lasted throughout the day. Generals Robert E. Lee and James Longstreet were also present. The pouring rain reduced visibility to 50 yards.

 

The cold, wet and miserable cavalrymen rode by the Confederate high command and then covered the 15 miles down muddy roads back to camp. This type of pomp and circumstance seemed unnecessary to the half-frozen men. Two days later the regiment moved into King William County in order to find feed for their horses.

One trooper reporting back from leave on Jan. 21, wrote, "Some of the boys have tents and some have cabins. It is impossible for us to get any fodder or hay. Corn is all we can get for our horses.” He also reported 15 members of his company were present, but without horses. Before the month was out, the 1st moved to Caroline County in search of food for their mounts.

All of the cavalry and infantry units were performing picket duty along the Rappahannock. A private in the 1st Virginia Cavalry wrote on Feb. 20, "We went on picket on the 15th and came in on the 18th. We had a pretty severe time of it. Commenced snowing on the 17th and continued until the morning of the 18th when it changed to rain and rained all day on us. … It snowed 10 to 12 inches then turned to rain. … Our relief got here about 3 o'clock in the evening and have to travle (sic) all the way to camp in the rain and dark. … roads ar (sic) in awful condition. .. I get plenty to eat since we came up to this camp. Pork and flower (sic). We get nothing but corn for our horses."

The 1st Virginia Cavalry made several raids across the Rappahannock, capturing prisoners, horses and weapons. These forays kept the federal cavalry busy and pinpointed their infantry as being opposite Fredericksburg. Gen. William W. Averell lead the Union response, attacking the Confederates at Kellys Ford on March 17. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee was forced to bring up all of his regiments to drive the raiders back. Lee singled out Capt. Charles F. Jordan of the 1st Rockbridge Dragoons for "reckless daring without parallel."

On the home front, a hospital was opened on the fairgrounds in Lexington on Jan. 29. Dr. Hunter McGuire was the surgeon in charge. Eighty patients arrived by canal boat from Lynchburg. On Feb. 10, an additional 80 patients arrived at the fairgrounds hospital.

Twenty-five of the first patients had been returned to duty. On March 5 the Gazette reported many donations were made by the citizens for the patients. Three deaths were reported among them. Robert L. Taylor was appointed chaplain at the fairgrounds hospital and requested "Bibles and Testaments" to be given to the patients. There were now 150-160 sick and wounded soldiers confined there.

During March the Rockbridge County Court appointed a committee to list all men in Confederate service and the history of them.