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[189]

The fight at Lynchburg.

After remaining in Lexington three days, the Yankees departed, with Lynchburg as their objective point. We annoyed and harassed them, and made their march as tedious as possible. When we got to Buchanan we burned the bridge across James river, which did not delay them as much as we expected. They found a ford a mile above, and crossed by wading. Here we turned to the left and crossed the mountain by the Peaks of Otter, and camped that night at Fancy Farm, about eight miles north of Liberty. Next day we pursued our journey through Liberty, and on the high hill south of the town we gave the Yankees much trouble with our four six-pounders, with which we shelled them and made further progress impossible for a time. About night they struck both our flanks, and we had to give back. While in the vicinity of Liberty they burned the residence of Colonel Leftwich, a Confederate soldier, and prominent citizen of Bedford county in ante-bellum times.

The next stopping place was in full view of Lynchburg, where we determined that if any Yankees got into Lynchburg somebody would certainly be hurt. The Yankee infantry marched slowly, as it was very hot weather, and we realized the difficulty of 1,000 Confederates resisting 5,000 cavalry. But we stopped them and held our line until their 20,000 infantry came up; and as yet General Early had not put in an appearance, but was expected every moment. Hope had given way to despair, when we heard the whistle of locomotives in the distance. We knew who it was. Well do I recollect standing on a high hill overlooking the city and seeing the black columns of smoke rising from the engines, away down on the Southside railroad. Engines those days used pine wood to make steam, and a locomotive, if constantly fed with seasoned wood, could get a hustle on it. I had seen men go into battle before, but never had the opportunity of viewing the sight from a distance as I had now. Heretofore I was one of the soldiers, and now, safe from molestation and harm, I could view a battle not circumscribed by what was in my immediate front. I could see both the offensive and defensive armies.

The trains came in full view, plastered over sides and tops with men. A halt was made, and out swarmed men like blackbirds, piling their knapsacks into huge piles. Quickly forming, a ‘double-quick’ was made towards the firing line. Up hill and down they rushed, [190] eager to get there. I do not know how many there were of them, but several thousand. They cheered all the time, especially loudly when they neared our cavalry line and could hear the whistle of the bullets. On they came, and took the places of our dismounted cavalry, which withdrew and remounted. The reinforcements were about seven or eight hundred yards from the Yankee infantry, but they kept moving closer. The Yankees outnumbered our men and were constantly trying to flank, but every effort was repulsed. The enemy, too, was very stubborn, and held their ground well, but in an hour or more they had been driven from the first position back several hundred yards.

At this juncture, about 4 o'clock in the evening, our brigade galloped off to the right of the infantry, and went towards Forest Depot, where we vigorously attacked their wagon train, guarded by a brigade of infantry.

I thought we had secured this train, but our men got disorganized from some cause, probably from a disposition to see what was in these wagons, and those who were in front were driven back upon those behind them, confusion ensued, and we had to abandon all we had already taken except a few prisoners and a small number of wagons and horses.

We lost a few men, probably eight or ten, among them Captain Smith, of the Seventeenth cavalry, whom we brought out, and the last I ever saw of him was a citizen of the community carrying water from a near-by well bathing his face, when he was practically dead.

We could still hear the rattle of musketry towards Lynchburg, which did not cease until the stars were visible, and then it stopped.

Napoleon never looked upon his ‘Old Guard,’ or Caesar his ‘Tenth Legion,’ with more pride than I did that evening upon the advance of Early's men through those fields of golden grain. I once had been a part of it, serving one year in the 27th Virginia infantry, ‘Stonewall Brigade.’ Among these men were the comrades of my boyhood, and I could not help, even if I wished otherwise, but feel proud of such heroism. Verily, I believe, if old Leonidas and his Spartans were allowed to come back to earth, they would raise their hats in deference to the survivors of Early's division. I had seen a great deal of fighting, but had never seen such bulldog tenacity. They seemed to say: ‘If you don't go, I'll make you.’ And, as the sequel shows, they ‘made them.’

During the night, in company with a portion of my regiment, we stood guard at a bridge near Forest Depot, and about 10 o'clock [191] there was great commotion in the Yankee camp. We could tell this from the rumbling wagons and the peculiar jolting of artillery over rough roads. Headquarters was informed of this incident, and about 11 o'clock an order was sent our brigade. What it was or where we were going, we knew not, but in a short time we were plunging through forests, across rivers and creeks, and when daylight came, we were near Buchanan, from which place we went in a trot to a point close to Salem, where we cut Hunter's retreating army in two for a short time, capturing seven pieces of artillery and destroying a portion of his wagon train. The Yankees were almost famished. One consumptive looking fellow whom I captured, looked so pitiful when he told me that for some time he had nothing to eat but sassafras leaves and birch bark, that I handed him a couple of crackers and a slice of raw meat from my haversack, which he devoured very greedily. I told him if he wished he might go on with his companions, as he was not armed. General Early was pressing them in the rear, and picked up a large number of men nearly starved to death. We followed them to the top of Sweet Spring Mountain, where we left them, and McCausland came back down the Valley through Lexington, Staunton, Harrisonburg, and Winchester, and crossed the Potomac at Shepherdstown on our way to fight General Lew Wallace at Monocacy.

This was a disastrous raid for the Yankees. I had it from one of them that of those who reached Charleston, West Virginia, escaping the perils of starvation and capture, many died from overeating when plenty of food could be had.

This is the story of this raid as I saw it, and is drawn entirely from personal recollection. Others may have seen it differently, but what I have stated, I regard as ‘the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.’

J. Scott Moore, 14th Virginia Cavalry, C. S. A. Lexington, Va.

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