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Chew's battery. Reunion of October, 1890. [from the Winchester (Va.) times, October 22, 1890]

It has occurred to me that the last days of Chew's famous old battery under his command as captain, and after his promotion, under [282] the command of Captain James Thompson, of Summit Point, and at the very last under Captain T. Carter, might be interesting reading to a number of our people, as the circumstance has brought scenes correctly to the mind, with the aid of notes and dates taken at the time.

November 14th, 1864.—Camped near Mt. Jackson after an all-day's march. 15th.—Near Strasburg, all the company but our detachment ordered back to Mt. Solon; out with Rosser's brigade on a scout. They capture fifty prisoners. Tuesday, 19th.—Gordon's magnificent victory; Kendall, Stewart, and myself on leave; went in with the infantry, captured two fine black mules, gloves, hats, clothes, gum blankets, plenty to eat, and a case of whiskey with a medical wagon. This battle ended in Early's rout, caused by allowing the men to straggle and plunder the immense captures of wagons, camps, etc. November 28th.—Back with battery. Captain W. R. Lyman brought ten dismounted cavalry for batallion duty. Tuesday, December 8th.—Marching. 19th.—Still marching. 10th.—Moving three batteries, Shoemaker's, Johnston's and ours, with the cavalry. 11th.— Within two miles of Newtown. 12th.—Battle opened on Cedar Creek line; some hard fighting; enemy in very heavy force; Generals Custer and Merrit in our immediate front, backed by infantry. Colonel Thomas Marshall, of the Seventh Virginia cavalry, from Fauquier county, killed to-day. He was a sincere Christian, a very brave and fearless man, and a much respected officer. Captain Emmett, of General Rosser's staff, wounded. General Rosser had to fall back, owing to the heavy columns of infantry in front. We gave them a sight of our teeth from hilltop to hilltop almost hourly. 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th.—Falling back, continually in the saddle, night and day; reached Furrer's furnace cold and raining. 24th.—Was sent to the front with the twelve-pound brass howitzer of Timberville. 28th.—Back to the battery. December 1st.—Received a twelve-pound brass rifle gun for our detachment, captured by Lieutenant McNeal, near Moorfield. Brigade on the move under strict orders; cavalry and artillery moving quietly but rapidly. Rosser has made a splendid raid, completely surprising the enemy at New Creek, eighty miles west of our starting point, destroying a large amount of army stores, burning depot and capturing five heavy canons, six hundred prisoners, two hundred horses, some wagons; lost but very few men — some report only two killed. Boys are loaded with blankets and general supplies needed. December 4th.—Received two more brass rifle canons. On Thursday, 9th.—Moving. 10th.—Snowing heavily, six inches deep; camped on [283] South river, near Waynesboroa; moved through Staunton, near Swope's depot. 18th.—Built winter quarters; has been very cold; the snow covered everything; finished our very comfortable log house, twelve by seven in size, five feet high, with cotton roof; mud heavy under the snow. 20th.—A very heavy snow. 23d.—Broke camp, left our winter quarters, moved through Staunton on Lexington road, three miles out; built winter quarters again , comfortable log houses and stables.

Christmas quiet. A number of us rode to Staunton. The snow of the 20th is still with us, heavy and cold. 29th.—Snowing. 31st.— New Year's eve, and what a night the boys are having; no sleep for them. They brought in about two gallons of brandy, roasted near a bushel of apples, procured a large tub, put in two camp kettles of hot water, mashed and putting in the apples and brandy. This mixture of a tub full they took in small doses of a tin full at a dose. Near my house was a tree growing at an angle of about thirty degrees. They moved the tub to this point. The speakers or orators would run up this tree for about ten feet and declaim. Some singing, others full of devilish fun and jokes, tales, etc. Tuesday, 3d.— Rumors of disbanding Shoemaker's and our batteries, owing to scarcity of forage and rations. Saturday, the 7th of January, 1865.— A Godsend. The county of Augusta gave us a dinner in camp—cakes, apples, turkeys, beef, light bread, etc. 14th.—Another snow. The 16th of January.—Shoemaker's and our (Thompson's) batteries disbanded to be called in by general order at any time. Called in through the papers April 1st, 1865; orderdered to report to Captain Tucker Carter at Washington Hotel, Lynchburg. I saw the order on the 2d; was then at Blacksburg, Montgomery county; reported to Captain Carter on the 3d at noon; the men reported for duty daily. Captain Carter was placed in command of a number of the fortifications around the city. He gave me the command of a small fort with two fine twenty-pound Parrott guns, with forty dismounted cavalrymen to drill in artillery exercise for action. 7th.—Drilling the men for inspection. Morning of the 8th.—Just heard of the death of Major James Thompson, our old captain. A more gallant and brave man would be hard to find, and a gentleman with his company. He was killed while leading his third charge at High Bridge, Amelia county. Sunday, the 9th.—Moved our section early to White Rock, east of the city. The stragglers coming in by hundreds. 10 o'clock.—Just heard officially of General R. E. Lee's surrender of eight thousand men in arms at Appomattox. Lieutenant John [284] Dunnigan and I sat on our guns looking at the remains of the army coming in; a sad sight to us. Evening.—We just finished spiking and burning thirty fine pieces of artillery. At sunset, the most of the officers disbanding their men, we marched our battery out to New London, twelve miles from the city, with Colonel Nelson's battalion of infantry. Artillery held a consultation that night in an old barn. (I think Colonel Chew came up with us in the barn — it raining some-and advised the men to go home; stating that he was going to Johnston's army, and would be glad to take any of us with him that wanted to go. But this is from memory, as I have no note of it.) At daylight Captain Carter assembled us, and several spoke. He then disbanded us on 10th of April, 1865. A sad parting! We had been shoulder to shoulder in so many hard places. The following names are of those present at the end:

Captains Tuck. Carter, William R. Lyman, Clayton Williams, Charles and Frank Conrad, Frank Asberry, Red. Zirkle, Robert Atkinson, Thornton, Dayley, Morrell, William R. Lyman, Hare, Crawford, Pem. Thompson, Charles W. McVicar arid Adjutant William Thompson—16. Sixteen of us—some old comrades of three years nearly—had been to the front together in over fifty engagements. The separation was felt as only those in our position could realize, but would fail in words to describe. And after a lapse of over twenty-five years the reunion of Ashby's brigade and this battery was started. Major Holmes Conrad worked hard for a month to make it a success. Its growth was beyond the expectation, but not up to the amount it would have been had it not been in seeding time. Assistance had to be called in. The old Veteran Camp, No. 4, held a meeting. Committees were appointed. The committee of general management was: Dr. William P. McGuire, chairman; Captain William H. Myers, Charles W. McVicar, Major Holmes Conrad and Captain John J. Williams. We met often, and a large amount of work was done, and well done. I proposed getting a section of guns for the battery, and wrote to the Staunton battery requesting the loan of the guns. The reply came promptly, and freely tendering the loan of one or more guns. The kindness of the Staunton battery is here acknowledged. Captain David O'Rork was very prompt in shipping; and we here extend thanks also to Mr. Jacob Baker and Captain John Glaize, both of these gentlemen furnishing four horses each, at the expense of their seeding, free of cost to us. Colonel Chew, with his characteristic generosity, sent us a check for seventy-five dollars to defray expense of battery. By [285] having the guns in line gave the old members a chance to march as they would wish and to awaken the old feelings, and to show that they had not forgotten the old manual of loading and firing. Is it not very remarkable that so many of the old batteries were present? Twenty-nine—after a separation of over a quarter of a century—should come together from such widely separated source, and yet we had at least ten more in correspondence. The names of the twenty-nine are as follows: Colonel Robert Preston Chew, First Sergeant George Phillips, First Corporal George M. Neese, Privates William R. Lyman, George Callahan, Isaac Haas, Morgan Deck, James Homrick, Robert Hoshour,——Dingledine, Reuben Wonder, Dr. Clayton Williams, Dr. William P. McGuire, Bent. Holliday, Orderly Sergeant A. J. Souder, Third Sergeant Stephen Miller, Quartermaster-Sergeant John Chew, Mark Rodeffer, John Longerbeam, William Deck, Deaux Bowly, Ambler Brooke,——Ramey, Jesse Frye, Pem. Thompson, Captain John J. Williams, Henry Deahl, Frank Conrad, Charles W. McVicar.

Wednesday morning, October 1st.—Collected a few of the old battery—Mr. Jacob Cline, of Carpenter's battery; Lieutenant Edward G. Hollis, of Crenshaw's battery of Richmond; Mr. Beverley, of V. M. I. battery; Theo. Hodgson of Eleventh Virginia cavalry, marched the section to the Fair grounds, fired eleven rounds, one for each of the old Confederate States. Returned with the guns to the corner of Market and Piccadilly streets; dismissed the men, with orders to assemble at 9:30. At that hour called the men to their places. Our old battle-flag was there with us—a present from the ladies of Charlottesville. It has many bullet holes through it. Colonel Chew was with us, and I introduced Rev. Dr. Henry M. White to the Colonel, requesting he should ride in his old place in line to the left of a colonel of artillery. We fired twenty blank cartridges at Stonewall cemetary and ten rounds at Fair grounds.

On Tuesday night Captain Lyman and myself gathered some ten of the old battery in his room at the Taylor House of our old comrades, John Chew, and renewed old associations of by-gones, old songs, tales, &c. Wednesday night.—Together in same room; a large number gathered. The orderly sergeant trying to revise the old roll. As name after name was brought forward the memory of many of those present had to be enlightened by ‘Mamy’ Neese or others by recalling some incident, laughable or humorous, to identify him, and generally ‘Mamy’ Neese was right, bringing forcibly to [286] mind the old camp life with its amusements as well as hardships, careless and easy as to what had passed. Hopeful and willing to take the chances of the future—making fun and amusement out of the smallest items; the camp-fire tales always true, and sometimes a “leetle” more than true, the songs of the Glee Club, the square patent note mess that made the woods echo with the do sol me do, with their note books taking sound, &c.; the mischeivous humor of ‘Jap’ Pierce, of Baltimore; the devilish tricks of John Williams, of Rockingham, and others; each mess having its peculiarity with a leader, the roll and feed calls, and above all the flanking out from camp to see the girls, and get a change of rations; and Abe Nisewander's failing—he couldn't help it—first to secure a sweetheart at or near every camp, and go to see her ten nights in a week; then the French leave-go home a hundred miles away in winter, careless of fatigue and danger, as if we did not reason or care for the cost. After 10 o'clock Captain John Williams had a 'bus at the door and requested us to take seats and go with him to the Fair grounds, around the camp-fires of Captain Hugh McGuire's old company, and greet the boys he was transferred from our battery to in the last year of the war. We enjoyed the trip; came back to town at 2 o'clock in the morning. Thus ended the ever to be remembered reunion of the old battery. It will grow in links of a chain we will form of friendship closer and better through the balance of life. The old camp-life had its charms, and few of us would wish to forget it.

Major Conrad richly deserves the thanks of our people in this reunion for his liberality, untiring energy and amount of labor performed; also the veterans of Camp No. 4, and not least, the county committees. Their thoroughness deserves the highest praise, and the people who so liberally donated to the feast, showing the quiet yet warm hearts that need only the call to respond to any object they deem worthy.

Charles W. Mcvicar, Of the Stuart Horse Artillery.

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