A War Diary: the amazing diary of a Civil War preacher in rural West Virginia

This diary is so interesting, Julie had me read it to her aloud while she was cooking yesterday. It’s a quick read, and believe it or not, you can experience the Civil War in about 8 minutes time. The good, the bad, and the ugly….

Rev. A.S. Houston (relative to Sam Houston of Texas) was the pastor of the Union Presbyterian Church, which is actually my church, before and during the Civil War. Fortunately for all of us, he kept a diary during the Civil War years, which has survived. It is a horde of historical information pertaining to the Greenbrier Valley area – primarily Union and Lewisburg – of West Virginia during those crazy years. And even if you’re not connected to the area, it’s got to be one of the most interesting diaries you’ll read….

Union, WV. The building at center right is the Union Presbyterian Church.

I bet you’ll learn something you didn’t know if you read it. I know I did. There’s tons of snippets about inflation, miscommunication, propaganda, soldiers’ shenanigans, and so on.

Rev. Houston’s house still stands on Main Street in Union. I’ve been in it, and it’s awesome. It’s very well preserved, and it’s actually for sale. We were actually looking at it when Willowbrook became available and steered us in a different direction.

[Note: “Centerville” is present day “Greenville” WV]

The front of the Houston House.

1860

November

7 — Bell and Everett majority in this county, 176; in Greenbrier, 495.

16 — The affairs of the South yet more threatening; the people crazy with
excitement. “Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.” I fear
this will be exemplified in the precipitance of our Southern brethren.

19 — Some speeches from A. T. Caperton, John Echols, and Tristram
Patton on the present state of the Union and in reference to what action
Western Virginia should take at the present time. Some advised inaction,
others thought it best to condemn the precipitance of the South. No reso-
lutions submitted.

30 — Newspapers full of accounts about the excitement in the cotton states.
A dissolution of the Union seems to be inevitable! Then what?

December

3 — Demons at the North and South seem bent on our ruin as a nation.
I have not yet entirely despaired of the Republic. Some great good is
to come out of this terrible convulsion, I think.

15 — Dined with Major Echols 1 , A. T. Caperton, and Dr. Waddell.
Talked a great deal about the unhappy state of our country. Civil war and perhaps servile war seemed to us all extremely probable. Trade is
paralyzed. Thousands thrown out of employment threaten to plunder in
the cities for bread.

25 — Can’t do much these Christmas times. Heard that the captain of
our patrol had received letters warning him of an intended insurrection
on the part of the negroes.

30— The forts at Charleston have been seized by the people. The gov-
ernment, it is thought, will now be obliged to assert its claims by the
sword.

The North side of the Houston House, as seen from the church….

1861

January

1 — Our beloved country is in fearful peril. There is every appear-
ance of a rapidly approaching civil war, and all unite in the belief that
it will be awfully desolating if it occurs; that there will be a perfect
disintegration of the nation and our glory as a people will perish. Every-
body seems oppressed with sadness. Many devout prayers are being daily
offered up.

4 — The day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer recommended by the
President we have tried to observe.

5 — There seems to be such a preparation for civil war everywhere.
7 — Lincoln’s inauguration may be resisted.

19 — Some little hope that our national difficulties may yet be adjusted
and that no fratricidal blood shall flow.

20 — Four speeches by lawyers today to a great crowd of people in the
courthouse on the unhappy state of the country. It is distressing to think
that a civil war may be the result of the present tremendous agitation.
The people in this community seem ready to fight if the rights of the South
be denied.

An original photo I found in Willowbrook showing Constance Johnson (I believe) standing in front of the Houston House (which by then was owned by Johnson.

February

4 — Caperton and Echols elected without opposition. Flour $8.

13 — Political affairs more hopeful. Peace conference progressing har-
moniously, it is said.

18 — There will in all probability be a Southern Confederacy estab-
lished.

March

1 — Oh, that a kind God would interfere to calm the political caldron
which for so long has been casting up mire and dirt.

4 — Mr. A. Lincoln has this day been inaugurated president of the
once United States. We are anxious to know the spirit of his inaugural.

6 — It has come to us today. It breathes a warlike spirit. He de-
clares his determination to collect the revenue and hold the forts in the
seceded states. I fear consequences of a most fearful character must come. What our convention will now do we are anxious to see. They will probably pass an ordinance of secession at once, and then unite with the already
Confederated States.

11 — Newspapers contain the same unhappy intelligence — disunion!

18 — Major Echols gave the people a full account of the proceedings in
our Legislature and Convention. No secession ordinance to be passed. This
is as it should be. The border states are to determine in convention what
they as a body will do. The major was a good deal interrupted by J.
H , who evidently had more feeling than knowledge.

Union, WV looking from the South.

April

7 — Our political troubles engage the attention of the people too much.

17 — Fort Sumter taken without the loss on either side of a single man!
What a kind providence ! Is not this a token for good ?

18 — The Presidents, Lincoln and Davis, have both issued their proc-
lamations, calling out the forces of their respective confederacies. Our
convention has passed an ordinance of secession. The other border states
will doubtless follow. Then there will be a united South against a united
North. And I trust that as the folly of undertaking to subjugate fifteen
states is patent, the war cannot last more than a few months at most. Very
great excitement extending among the people.

21 — People too much excited by war news to think on. spiritual subjects.

22 — Several secession flags raised here today, one by the high school
students, and some speeches made. There was far too much noise for
my taste. Profound seriousness should mark our conduct.

24 — The sound of war is rousing all around us. A letter from William
at Washington College says that three companies have left Lexington.

25 — Superior court met today. Several exciting speeches delivered on
the war. All are unanimous in the belief that the North must be resisted
to the last extremity. Many rumors afloat. It is said a New York regi-
ment has been cut to pieces between Annapolis and Washington and 600
killed — needs confirmation. A letter from Rutherford says a company of
volunteers formed of seminary students is drilled every day.

26 — The excitement today is great. A Home Guard is being formed
in which I have enlisted. Special prayers for George Edgar, the son of
one of our number, who was before Fort Pickens.

27 — Rumored that Fort Pickens is taken by the South with a loss of
1000 men. It is thought that the South has already made an assault on
Washington. An insurrection among the negroes on the Kanawha is ap-
prehended. In other places free negroes are enlisting in the Southern
army.

28 — Two confederacies will now undoubtedly be formed, and after the
war has terminated it will be long before the great questions of strife can
be settled.

29 — Our 25 magistrates met today. Companies of about 100 infantry and 75 cavalry have been formed. Much enthusiasm. The ladies meet daily to make uniforms, caps, etc., etc. Last Saturday a Home Guard was formed of men over 45. About 35 have already enlisted. It is expected that a guard of some 50 or 60 men will be formed in each magisterial district. Great excitement. Much going to and fro. We feel that we have justice and righteousness and truth on our side.

30 — The demands on either side cannot be easily or readily acceded
to. Our Home Guard to drill every Saturday. No uniform but a scarf.
Rifles if we have them. About 70,000 volunteers have offered their ser-
vices to Governor Letcher.

May

2 — The cloud over our unhappy land is evidently gathering blackness.
New York Tribune advises the driving off of the people of Virginia and
Maryland and the distribution of their lands and other property among
the invading forces ! ! ! )

3 — We don’t hear much about what the South is planning to do. Every-
thing is kept secret.

6 — Glad to hear that it is the policy of our government to act strictly
on the defensive. Great enthusiasm prevails in this county. The people
are wild with excitement throughout the state.

7 — The state rapidly being put into a posture of defense. The sense
of security will then be a comfort to all our families.

8 — The people of the North think our design is to overthrow this
government, and that our efforts if successful must necessarily bring about
anarchy or a military despotism. Hence all are united in effort and prayer
to subjugate the South.

9 — The volunteer company ordered into camp at Staunton. A company of 58 mounted riflemen has been raised in the lower end of the county under Captain Fleshman. The cavalry company has failed to make up its number. Great activity in town fitting out the volunteers to leave on
Monday.

11 — How sad the countenances of mothers, wives, and sisters. 27 young
men leave our little village. 100 in all leave our community.

13 — The saddest day in all my life. Our 108 volunteers left for the
perils of war. Address by General Chapman. Reply by Colonel Echols.
Then I commended them to the gracious protection of Almighty God. Al-
most all wept.

14 — Sensational rumors constantly afloat.

15 — The stage driver brought intelligence that a disturbance among
the negroes in Lewisburg has just occurred, and that the leader of the re-
volt with many others has been put in jail. It has produced something
of a panic among us. Patrol walks the streets till midnight. Our two
guns and a large horseman’s pistol have been loaded.

16 — A meeting of citizens to form a more efficient police. Never did
I see so gloomy a time.

17 — General muster. About 400 men on parade.

18 — We have heard that some of the negroes of Monroe are implicated in the disturbance at Lewisburg. Their real designs we cannot tell. Under such circumstances most persons always fear the worst. Floating reports of discontent among the negroes are producing a great deal of uneasiness in neighboring counties, but no organized bands have been discovered.

19 — Had little sleep last night. Our home dangers more feared by
some than by the invading North.

20 — Court day but no business done. War rules everything in the land.
Almost all our schools and colleges are broken up.

21 — Another company being formed, but its character does not promise
much.

22 — Our volunteer companies highly commended for their good
order and discipline. Have heard that the negroes express a strong dis-
like for the sermon I lately preached, proving that the war on our side,
being defensive, is a just one.

23 — Only two votes against secession in this precinct. The Panhandle
and some of the northwestern counties will probably go the whole length
with the North. Perhaps this is best for Virginia. Currently reported
and believed at the North that some one placed an image of a negro on
the statue of Washington at Richmond as a symbol of the Southern Confederacy.

27 — Our papers tell us Alexandria was occupied on the 24th. Virginia
is now invaded. All the South may now rush as one man to the conflict.

28 — Rumor of battle near Fortress Monroe, in which the Federals were
repulsed losing 700 and the Confederates 500. Much exaggeration prob-
ably. Our crops all look well. Coffee rising rapidly. Flour $8. Some
things cheaper than formerly.

31 — Vote against secession in northwestern counties much greater than
anticipated.

June

1 — The postal arrangements of the new Confederacy go into operation
— 5 cents to 500 miles, 10 cents to 1000.

3 — A man from Blue Sulphur calls for men to go immediately to
Lewisburg to meet a large invading cavalry company, said to be advancing
from Braxton or Nicholas. An attack expected this evening or tomorrow.
The volunteer company collecting ordered to march. We begin to think
of removing the women and children to the retired places in the county.

4 — No sleep at all last night. Volunteers were coming in from all
quarters, some of them shouting and alarming the ladies. Noon: alarm false. Originated thus: at a Methodist meeting in Nicholas some one reported he had heard 1100 Federal cavalry had suddenly entered Braxton and laid Sutton in ashes. Scouts sent out returned saying enemy only IS miles off and marching on Nicholas C. H. A courier rode full haste 50 miles to Lewisburg arousing the people. Our companies reached Lewisburg during the night and found town illuminated bright as day. Battle expected seven miles out. Enemy reported 3000 to 5000. About 3000 riflemen collected at Lewisburg.

5 — Hundreds upon hundreds of men have been on their way from Giles, Mercer, Craig, Alleghany, Pocahontas, etc. Not one seemed to have any other feeling than that of defending his country to the most deadly extremity. What a delightful calm has succeeded this tremendous turmoil !

8 — Apprehension of servile insurrection, etc., etc.

12 — Beirne Sharpshooters left 10:30 A. M. I presented a flag by the
ladies. Response by J. Summers. Company under a wreath of flowers
suspended by rope across street near our house. The scene impressive.
The men are stalwart laborers or hardy farmers and look very determined.

[Emphasis is mine. This is the unit led by Christopher Bierne, who owned Willowbrook Plantation during the Civil War….]

13 — Day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer recommended by Davis
observed. Church fuller than ever before on such an occasion.

14 — Some ladies from Richmond recently arrive seeking a refuge from
the storm hovering around our eastern front.

17 — Our ladies asked to help make 400 tents.

22 — At Centerville 50 or 60 ladies making uniforms.

25 — Centerville volunteers arrived here and were apportioned among
the citizens. We received five into our house.

27 — Report of heavy cannonading heard in Bath.

29 — Negro leader at Lewisburg hung yesterday.

The view looking North from the Houston House’ front door.

July

20 — A good deal of excitement at the rumored intention of McClellan
to occupy Lewisburg.

23 — The advance regiment of Floyd’s brigade passing through this
county to join Lee at Monterey.

24 — News of the Confederate victory at Manassas. The victory will
I fear greatly exasperate the foe and cause them to redouble their efforts.
Captain Tiffany and five others of the Monroe Guards are killed and 11
wounded, most of them slightly.

29 — Much uneasiness at the report that Wise has been ordered back
to Covington to protect the Virginia Railroad. The people talking of
taking their families away.
August —

5 — Started with my family for Rockbridge, arriving at Lexington four
days later.

14 — I return to Union. Put up tomatoes, etc.

26 — Committee of five to solicit contributions for the sick soldiers in
hospital at Lewisburg.

September

8 — How this dreadful civil war has broken up our congregation in
Union.

10 — Three prisoners taken near Hawksnest brought into town.

15 — 300 sick at Lewisburg, 400 at Huntersville; more at all the houses
along turnpike between Lewisburg and Hawksnest. Three to five die every
day at Huntersville.

17 — Typhoid fever doing sad work among our soldiers at all the camps.

October

4 — Six Union men brought to town last evening. Many articles of
food and raiment are becoming very scarce.

9 — 200 sick at Meadow Bluff. Some are without anyone to attend
to them.

18 — Brought family back.

31 — Potatoes in this region have nearly all rotted in the ground. Very
difficult to procure suitable clothing. Common jeans $1 per yard and
but little to be obtained.

November

1 — Six rifled six pounders under the care of Colonel Jackson of Floyd’s

Brigade passed through on its way to Floyd in Raleigh. Colonel Jackson

spoke harshly of Lee and Loring for falling back from Sewell Mountain.

5 — Married a couple today; only the third thus far this year.

9 — About 100 wagons of supplies for Floyd have passed through the last few days.

10 — 1500 sick at White Sulphur hospital and about five deaths daily.

12 — Profanity, intemperance, gambling, Sabbath-breaking, and fighting
seem to be awfully prevalent.

20 — Some 70 or 80 soldiers, lately discharged from hospital, stopped
here for the night. They occupy the courthouse. They generally appear
in good spirits.

23 — We hear that Floyd’s forces are going into winter quarters; some
at Red Sulphur Springs, others at Princeton, Meadow Bluff, Greenbrier
bridge, etc.

26 — Willie’s mess consists of six soldiers occupying a cabin they have
built; 12 feet square, puncheon floor, clapboard roof, large “kitchen
chimney.”

December

31 — Several negroes have left their homes in this neighborhood and
made their way, it is thought, to the Federal army. They will never find
as comfortable and happy homes as they have left.

1862

January

2 — Some 80 or 100 cavalry gone to drive off a marauding party in
the neighborhood of Pack’s Ferry.

3 — The enemy in force at Fayette C. H.

6 — A prominent citizen named Landcraft on New River apprehended
for harboring the Yankees and giving them counsel. He is to be tried
at Red Sulphur Springs today.

9 — B sent off today under a strong guard.

20 — Court day. Colonel Echols addressed the people.
25 — Five militiamen from Potts Creek imprisoned for refusing to come
out when notified by their officers. Many a day there is no mail.

29 — Early this morning our town thrown into great excitement by a
dispatch stating that 250 Yankee cavalry were only 22 miles from Lewis-
burg night before last.

31 — Another similar report.

February

17 — Court day. Speeches by Caperton and Chapman urging to a vig-
orous defense of the country. 100,000 Federals against 60,000 Confed-
erates at Fort Donelson.

25 — A letter from General Heth to A. T. Caperton states that this
county is in extreme danger from the inroads of the enemy and that im-
mediate efforts ought to be made for a determined resistance.

27 — Many making arrangements to remove as soon as the roads get
better to some place less likely to be overrun by the enemy.

28 — A day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer appointed by the pres-
ident observed.

March

17 — A great meeting on court day to petition the government for more
aid to defend our region. Stirring addresses by Chapman, Caperton, Price
and General Heth to the dense crowd in the courthouse. The petition nu-
merously signed.

24 — The militia of the county assembled here to make arrangements
to join General Heth at Lewisburg.

25 — Our western border of Monroe has been given up to the enemy
and fortifications are being prepared at the Narrows.

26 — Almost impossible to get fuel hauled.

31 — Sherwood, a militiaman who refused to go into the service and
tried to make his escape was shot through the knee today. We hear that
the Union men have hung a secessionist in this county.

April

10 — Wheat $2, corn $1.25, bacon 20 cents, sugar 30, salt 10, molasses
$1.75, coarse shoes $4.00, soldier’s boots $10 to $14. No coffee.

23 — Received $5 to buy tracts for the soldiers in the west, and $5 a
few days ago to purchase Testaments for themu

30 — A Union man was brought to town yesterday and will probably
be sent to Richmond for imprisonment. He has given the people much
trouble in his neighborhood.

May

5 — Some Union men stole three horses from farmers within nine miles
of this village last Saturday. A suspected accomplice was brought to
town yesterday. Eight men, 20 wagons full of provisions, and 90 horses
taken near Wytheville (?) a few days ago.

8 — An advance guard of 200 men passed up New River and entered
Pearisburg yesterday.

9 — The Moccasin Rangers (Confederate) here from Greenbrier. Their
captain (Hammond) from Marion.

10 — I have no vindictive feelings toward even the worst enemies of
my country.

11 — About 100 at Meadow Bluff banded together for mutual defense
against both parties, who want to keep out of all fighting and will prob-
ably become a band of outlaws. There is said to be another body of such
men in Peters Mountain not far from this place. Skirmish at the Nar-
rows today.

13 — Enemy in full possession of Greenbrier county and guarding the
fords. They have demanded bacon, but have committed no enormities that
we have heard of. They are said to be treating the people of Lewisburg
with much kindness.

15 — 30 of the enemy’s cavalry came within six or seven miles of this
place today and drove off some 60 or 70 head of cattle belonging to Gen-
eral Davis of Greenbrier.

18 — We expected to have our communion today, but almost all our
male members being absent, the community much excited, and the enemy
on two sides of us, we thought it best to defer until a more favorable
time. We learn that the militia have been called out.

21 — Heth at Narrows, Humphrey Marshall at Mercer C. H. Sent off
yesterday for meal, so we may have a good supply on hand in case of
a siege. Soon after 4 P. M., Heth’s advance entered Union. Quartered
in courthouse, one of the churches, academy, etc. Many of the soldiers
appear much run down. Generally rather raw and undisciplined.

22 — Heth’s forces all passed through toward Lewisburg. Some 30 or
40 sick and exhausted left behind without supplies of any kind. Before
evening we had about 18 comfortably accommodated in the high school.

23 — Heth repulsed at Lewisburg. His whole army arrived here about
4 P. M. much fatigued, hungry, and somewhat demoralized. They unite
in the belief that Heth did not manage matters right, and that it was
imprudent to attack. Some of the men behaved in a very cowardly man-
ner. Battle lasted one-half hour. Major Edgar reported killed. Heth
burned Greenbrier bridge. Our town filled with extreme sadness.

24 — I have given 100 men our church. Nine supped with us last night
and five lodged. Army left at 10, except two batteries and an infantry
company, to Salt Sulphur. River too high for enemy to cross.

26—36 Confederate dead taken into Lewisburg Presbyterian church. Six
wounded have died and 10 more probably will. Union dead said to be
about 85.

27 — Yesterday pickets driven in from Greenbrier river. Heth put his
forces in battle array near north end of village. Removed my family to
Mr. Hutchinson’s, three-fourths mile out.

June

7 — Returned to Union after taking family to Rockbridge.

12 — Two deserters whipped in presence of whole regiment. Eight or
ten others punished less severely. Some 400 cavalry arrived.

13 — All our infantry on the move. About 500 cavalry are left. The
convicts have been moved away. Orders given for the removal of the
cattle from this region. All the people are sad.

18 — J. M. Nickell’s tannery burned last night.

20 — The soldiers are abusing the town in a variety of ways. The pas-
tures are becoming commons. No one drunk.

22 — 1600 Federals reported crossing at Alderson.

23 — Village in great commotion. Cavalry ready for action at a mo-
ment’s warning. Army to retire to Narrows.

30 — The enemy — 1200 to 1500 infantry — stayed in Union but three hours.
Burned a mill at Centerville. Carried off 22 negroes, 80 cattle. Many
negroes refused to go, though offered $10 to $20 per month.

July

1 — Firing at Richmond heard distinctly.

22 — Great difficulty in getting my horse shod. Coalbanks within en-
emy’s lines and no iron brought into the county. My pasture appropriated
by government.

24 — Took the teeth out of my harrow lest they should some day be
missing. Many of my potato hills robbed by soldiers.

25 — Forty-fifth Regiment and Edgar’s Battalion returned to this place.

26 — Grand review by Loring in a field near town; 35 companies of
four regiments, one battalion, three artillery companies, five or six cav-
alry companies. Line over a mile long. A very large number of the citi-
zens present.

28 — Large body of prisoners taken at Nicholas C. H. brought in.

29 — Prisoners sent on to Lynchburg, all but Dr. Rucker, who has been
ironed and will be tried in a day or two.

30 — We in some danger crossing Sweet Springs Mountain. Deserters
very numerous there. While the police officers were bringing to the hotel
three of them yesterday, they were fired on by 16 others, and one deserter
was killed by mistake.

August

4 — The Federals are everywhere becoming more cruel.
29 — Army left here this morning and encamped at Centerville.

September

17 — Our forces in possession of the Kanawha salt-works. Farmers in
great numbers going there for the salt in the captured wagons. One mil-
lion pounds for disposal at 35 cents the bushel. We have been paying $5.
The county has been purchasing wheat at $3.50.

October

9 — Brought family back. No supplies scarcely. Hard to obtain any-
thing. Prices are two, three, or four times higher than formerly.

17 — 28 prisoners arrived here captured at Gauley Bridge ; a rusty look-
ing set.

21 — Preparing wood for winter. We can get no help.

28 — Bryan’s artillery lodged in town last night — six cannon, bound for
the Kanawha valley. Few of the enemy now on this side of the Ohio
River.

November

1 — Some hundreds of wagons on their way for salt turned back on
account of the entrance of the enemy into the (Kanawha) valley.

12 — Enemy’s cavalry invaded Greenbrier and burned 600 bushels wheat
in wagons.

16 — General Echols has returned on sick furlough. Speaks discour-
agingly of the state of our country. A larger number of deaths from
disease during the past year than in any year previous.

19 — The Confederate soldiers very bold in taking whatever they want.

22 — It is thought a famine is threatening us.

29 — Two regiments, a battery, and a battalion arrived today. It is
thought the provisions will all be swept off and much suffering ensue.

December

8 — A store (Riggs) opened in town. Great rush of the people to get
goods; sold very high.

23 — The force in this vicinity has moved toward Lewisburg.

25 — Ladies had a “tableau vivant” for the benefit of the soldiers and
raised over $100. Repeated two days later and $60 more raised.

1863

January

5 — Jeans $2, linsey $2, flannel $3. The dresses of my little girls
cost $18 to $25 apiece, and the servant girl’s living dress about $15.

12 — A boy hunting on the Knobs saw seven Yankee cavalry one and
one-half mile from town. They asked for General Echols, laid up with
a broken arm. But the report turned out false.

February

9 — Sugar selling at $1. Have let out over 200 trees for one-third their
yield. Direct tax of one per cent on every man with above $1000 prop-
erty.

March

26 — The regiment in this vicinity,, finds it difficult to get supplies.

May

30 — No fresh beef or mutton for a long time. Have bacon and occa-
sionally a chicken.

July

17 — Hard to get laborers. $5 a day offered.

August

25 — Dispatch from General Jones advising the people to remove their
effects out of the way, as a raid may be expected at any moment.

27 — Our village greatly relieved at the result of Dry Creek battle.

29 — 56 prisoners passed through.

September

4 — Paid $16 for just putting single soles on two pairs of gaiters for
Mary and Helen. Vile extortion practiced all over our land.

5 — Wharton’s Brigade passed through on their way to the Red Sul-
phur; 700 men.

6 — Many of the principal persons seldom or never attend church, and
all now seem to have their minds absorbed by the war and worldly things.

November

6 — Echols retreated from Droop Mountain to Union — 45 miles — with-
out stopping. 21 killed, 130 wounded. Much disorganized and demoral-
ized. Passed through today and encamped near Salt Sulphur. Great ex-
citement. Farmers driving off stock.

9 — Jackson’s 600 cavalry in battle array in our very midst, having heard
enemy advancing in force. Excitement of the people now intense.

December

11 — Enemy approach Lewisburg in two columns. Our troops fell back
to this place. Enemy got around our men at the Sweet Springs and pro-
ceeded to Salem.

19 — Echols sent a dispatch stating the enemy would probably cross the
mountain on their return from Salem and be in the midst of us immediately.

24 — Echols again near Lewisburg. Damage at Salem $1,500,000.

1864


January

10 — No services at night. Extremely difficult to get tallow and lard,
and oil cannot be obtained at all.

March

2— Woods alive with sugar-makers. Everything now selling at enor-
mous prices. My taxes this year probably $500.

21 — Court day. Addresses by Chapman, Price, Caperton and General
Breckenridge, the latter making an effective speech of some 15 minutes.

April

9 — 900 of Echol’s Brigade here.

May

7 — Almost all our troops have gone to join Lee.

14 — Enemy took possession of village, and sent out pickets and foraging
parties in every direction. They fired on our provost guard and swept
through the town in the most terrific manner. They fired on a man near
my house, but gave no trouble, and soon encamped in a field quite near.
Mr. H. and I went to Colonel Phillips and asked guards for our homes
and many others. They were sent and as long as they remained we felt
comparatively safe. But they did not stay all the time, and we were vis-
ited by squad after squad of hungry soldiers, sometimes civilly asking for
food and at others demanding it most rudely. We were obliged to give
them all the cooked food we had and also flour, meal, meat, etc. My grain,
meat, etc., were hidden and not found by them.

15 — 8.30 main army entered and did not get through for six and one-
half hours. 10,000 men, 200 wagons, 35 ambulances, 213 prisoners, over
100 negroes. Encamped all about the north side of the village, extending
three or four miles into the country. They desolated the farm of Oliver
Beirne, killed sheep and cattle, and occupied his fine house as a hospital.
A. T. Caperton’s, house was entered by 50 at the front door and almost
ruined. For five long days — 21 to 26 — the town and country for 10 miles around were preyed upon by the hungry troops. They had lost their ra-
tions to some extent, and hence were more destructive than would other-
wise have been the case.

June

8 — Our cavalry left here to intercept the enemy toward Staunton.


16 — We are cut off from all communication with Lynchburg and Rich-
mond.

July

2 — No papers for over 20 days.

? — Between Salem and Charleston — 171 miles — Hunter’s men ate birch
bark, bran, potato roots, and cornstalks. No rations for almost the whole
way except a small quantity of beef picked up. People stripped of every
thing, but two-thirds the way nothing but barren mountains.

No entries from August 18 to April 1.

1865

April

13 — News of surrender of Lee.

15 — Soldiers returning and some horses disappearing. Thieves pretend
to be impressing them for the war. A great deal of excitement, appre-
hending evils from the Yankees and the disbanded soldiers, who are far
from home without current money and without provisions. Our condition
is at present truly lamentable.

20 — A letter from A. T. Caperton produced quite an excitement this
evening. The legislature and other public men are requested to meet in
Richmond and agree with our conquerers upon terms of peace.
Very liberal terms are offered by President Lincoln ; no further confiscation
of property, state governments as heretofore under United States constitu-
tion, a general amnesty, etc. A conference to be held at Staunton.

25 — Mr. Caperton returned from Staunton. Nothing accomplished.
President Lincoln’s death arrested their discussion.

May

8 — Opened the high school with 23 scholars, eight of them my own,
Dr. Waddell assisting me. Two departments for the present. A band
of Yankee soldiers now in the county collecting government horses and
armsi.

[THE END]

Source: A History of Monroe County, West Virginia, by Oren F. Morton, 1916.

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