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The Confederate dead in Stonewall Cemetery, Winchester, Va. Memorial services, June 6, 1894.

Eulogy by Captain Wm. N. McDonald, on Major James W. Thomson, C. S. Artillery

Zzzcareer of Chew's Battery.

1 The memorial services on last Wednesday, June 6, 1894, in honor of the Confederate dead who sleep in Stonewall Cemetery were most successfully carried out despite the inclement weather. The usual exercises were conducted in the Courthouse hall, instead of the stand erected within the cemetery for that purpose. Many persons failed to gain admittance to the hall. The Chapel Grove Band rendered some good music at 12 o'clock, as the Confederate Veterans entered the Courthouse. The exercises were opened with prayer by Rev. T. O. D. Clark. It was a most impressive and beautiful petition. Mr. Clark said:

Oh, God of Hosts! we would bring to Thee the first fruits of this Memorial Day, and offer in the name of Jesus our tribute of heartfelt thanks. We thank Thee for the liberty and opportunity of expressing our devotion to the memory of those valorous souls whose [42] life went out amid the carnage of battle, or ebbed away in sickly prison pens and dismal hospital wards. We thank Thee for the tender grace of the women of our Southland, whose deeds of mercy span with redeeming glory the dark abyss of war, and through whose untiring zeal the names of patriots have been preserved, and their dust immortalized.

We most earnestly beseech Thee that the swiftly passing years may bear us further and further from the rankling memories of fraternal strife, and that the flowers we strew to-day may symbolize the charitable thoughts and generous deeds of a people once divided, who have learned mutual forgiveness above the unutterable pathos of their warriors' graves. And as the blood of Thy dear Son cleanses our souls from the defilement of sin, even so may the bloodshed of many battle-fields, represented by these sculptured memorials, make pure and beautiful the service of to-day. Oh, God of Hosts! let thy banner over us be love, that when life's bivouac shall end we may stack our arms in triumph, and crossing over the river, rest under the shadow of the tree of life.

And unto Thee the Father, unto Thee the Son, and unto Thee the Holy Ghost, shall be united and endless praises. Amen.

Captain John J. Williams, commander of the General Turner Ashby Camp, in behalf of the Ladies Memorial Association, asked for a collection, the proceeds to be applied to a fund for the purpose of erecting headstones to the graves of those whose names were known, but their State not known. He also announced that stones had been placed to each grave in the Virginia lot.

Captain Williams then introduced Captain Wm. N. McDonald, formerly an ordnance officer of the Turner Ashby Brigade, who delivered an interesting eulogy on Major James W. Thomson, who lost his life while leading a cavalry charge at High Bridge on General Lee's retreat from Petersburg. Captain McDonald said:

The mighty throng of the living strewing flowers over the graves of the dead Confederates is a fitting presence in which to real the memory of one who, among all the brave hearts that followed Lee and Jackson, was unsurpassed by none in a romantic devotion to the lost cause. The mountains that look down upon us, this beautiful valley, the land he loved so well, and these loyal harts of his old command here witnessed the splendor of his courage and the nobility of his action. [43]

Major James W. Thomson was born October 28th, 1843, in Jefferson county, Va. He was the son of John A. and Mary E. Thomson. His father was a man of bright intellect, polished by assiduous culture, of intense individuality in his opinions, and with a noble and chivalric spirit. His mother was a daughter of Beverley R. Scott, of Bedford county, Va., who was an officer with the rank of lieutenant, during the war of 1812. During the battle of New Orleans, the ship to which Lieutenant Scott was attached was blown up, and he escaped by swimming ashore. To him belonged the honor of capturing the celebrated pirate, La Fitte. From such stock Major Thomson came, and in him a noble ancestry warranted the expectation of a noble life.

His martial spirit was perhaps first displayed at Harper's Ferry, during the John Brown raid in 1859. In company with his father, he took part in the fight that occurred there between the citizens and the insurrectionists. As they came near the engine house which Brown was holding, Dr. Thomson, his father, directed him to shoot from under cover. ‘No sir,’ replied the boy, ‘No dodging for me; I go right along with the rest.’ Early manifesting a taste for military life, James Thomson was entered as a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute the year before the breaking out of the war, and here the reports of the impending conflict first reached him. He was of course eager for the fray, and soon left school and entered the army, being assigned to duty at first as drill master in the army of the Shenandoah. His first lesson in war was learned under that matchless captain of the art, Stonewall Jackson. For it was on the classic field of Manassas, while acting as aid to Jackson, that he received his baptism of fire, and caught the soldier's inspiration from the example of his great commander.

In the fall of 1861, at the organization of Chew's Battery, he was elected a lieutenant, and I need hardly add that for the next three years he bore no small part in all the daring achievements of that historic command. There is not space to mention even the times and places of their numerous actions. Almost from the beginning of the war to its close, it was constantly in the field. No true history of Jackson's Valley Campaign can be written without giving much space to the effective work done by this battery under its boy captain, Roger Preston Chew. It was always at the breach, making the common shot do bloody work upon the foe.

The fiery dash of Thomson was tempered by the audacious coolness [44] of Chew. Though Jackson's forward movements were like the rushes of the storm, yet, far in advance, the smoke of Chew's guns told where the heaviest blows would fall. In the retreat, too, though Jackson moved with wonderful speed, yet, Parthian like, he fought as he fled, and though often threatened by overwhelming foes, he felt secure from surprise, for the rattle of Ashby's small arms, the sound of Chew's guns, told him always exactly the whereabouts of the Federal advances.

At Tom's Brook, though two guns were lost, never was witnessed greater valor. The lines of blue almost surrounded it, sharpshooters poured volleys into its ranks; squadron after squadron of blue, on flank and rear, dashed at it, and not until the gray was lost in the surging waves of blue did its gallant gunners cease pouring grape and canister into the ranks of the enemy.

In this battle Major Thomson had three horses killed under him. If I cannot speak of Major Thomson without speaking of his old command, it is because the two cannot be separated in measuring the merit of either.

He was always ready to lead a cavalry charge, no matter how forlorn was the hope of success. Often when the service was such that the artillery had to be left behind, he became, for the time, the most daring of cavalrymen, and, riding nearly always at the head of the column, was among the first to reach the foe.

His tall form and his face glowing with the ardor of battle, became a familiar sight to the whole brigade, for it was the regiment that was nearest the enemy, that, for the moment, was his favorite. Such, indeed, was his love of combat, that even at times when there was a cessation in the artillery firing, he utilized his leisure moments in riding along the skirmish line, or leading a squadron into action. Many are the stories told of Major Thomson's reckless daring. At Culpeper, in the fall of 1863, when the Federals advanced across the Rappahannock, and the overpowering numbers of infantry and cavalry forced Stuart to retire, one gun of his battery was captured. The enemy, by cunning action, had gotten in the rear, and driving off the supports, suddenly appeared, cutttng off all hope of escape, for swarms of Federals were at the same time pressing on front and flank.

Major Thomson, stung with mortification at the loss of his gun, [45] dashed at the leader of the charging troop, who was somewhat in advance of his men. Unhorsing him with a single shot, he seized the rein of the riderless steed, and amidst the volleys of his pursuers, led him off the field. But it was, perhaps, in the closing days of the Confederacy that his fine qualities stood out in boldest relief and made him a conspicuous figure in that last drama of the war. On that memorable retreat of Lee to Appomattox, when disasters thickened and famine and the sword was destroying his gallant army, when the hearts of many were bowed down before bodings of evil, the spirit of James Thomson was quickened with a more unselfish and a loftier patriotism. With a handful of the men of his old battery, he rushed from point to point, appearing always in the forefront of the fight and with voice and action urging his comrades ‘Once more to the breach.’

In the fight at Jetersville on the day before his death, where a remnant of his old brigade, under the gallant Deering, chased for miles a greatly superior force of the enemy, Major Thomson was wounded. In that charge fell the gallant Captain Hugh McGuire, whose company was at the head of the charging column, and many others of the best and bravest. Unless at High Bridge the next day, never was there a greater exhibition of dauntless courage than was shown in that fight, when a small band of starved men on broken down horses, with repeated assaults upon a greatly superior foe. broke it with the sabre, for several miles strewing the road with Federal dead. Among the band of heroes rode Thomson, and well I remember, in the forefront he rode. He, next day, though disabled by a wound in the arm, fought his last battle. The ‘Pitch’ field was near High Bridge, over which a part of Lee's army expected to cross the Appomattox. A picked body of Federal cavalry and infantry under Colonel Washburn and General Reid were sent to destroy it.

The morning after the fight at Jetersville Major Thomson fell in with the column of Mahone's Division, to which I was attached. He was pale and feeble and much depressed over the situation of our army. When he was about to leave me to rejoin his command, I said: ‘Remember, if you go into a fight in your present condition, it will be suicide.’ After riding a few paces, he turned back and said, in the saddest tones, ‘I do not wish to survive the Confederacy.’ Says Rosser: ‘Thomson and I rode out together on the [46] field to watch the fight, for we were both wounded, but when Deering fell, he drew my sword from its scabbard and dashed into the fight.’ The fierce charge of the Confederates seemed to give him assurance of victory, and even when the equal valor of the Federals made the issue doubtful, he looked on calmly, but when Deering fell he rushed into the conflict with what seemed a spirit of deathless devotion. He could do little execution, but on he rode past the forefront right into the ranks of the enemy. The Federal line gave way, but still, broken into squads and retreating into the woods, they continued to fight, and it was in the midst of one of these squads that Major Thomson was last seen.

Wm. Bronaugh, of Manchester, Va., then a private in Chew's Battery, helped to convey his body from the field, and said that his clothes were pierced with bullet holes, and that he was wounded in seven places. Before his death he had often expressed a wish to be buried by the side of Ashby. It was in accordance with this wish that his body was removed from Charlottesville and placed here.

And, here I may be pardoned for saying of him what was said of Hotspur, whom he much resembled, ‘That nothing in his life so much became him as his manner of leaving it.’ Nay, I will say more, that the devotional character of his death, enrolls his name among those who, both in tradition and history, have sown the seeds of national liberty. To die for one's country in the discharge of duty is glorious-and yet it is a distinction shared in by the majority of those who sleep in Confederate graves—but to deliberately lay down one's life as an offering on the altar of his country is what few have done, and their names embalmed in song and story still keep green in our memory, while their monumental marble has crumbled to dust.

At the conclusion of the address the Friendship Band played ‘Dixie's Land.’ As soon as the crowd caught the old familiar air of ‘Dixie’ there was an outburst of applause. The veterans' yelling and waving handkerchiefs, hats, lasted for several minutes.

Congressman Charles E. Hooker was then introduced, and was received with applause. He apologized for not having manuscript, saying it was a task for him to write since the loss of his arm. He appeared dressed in Confederate gray, as did the late General Early, who delivered the annual memorial address here in 1889.

An empty sleeve—a remembrance of the Vicksburg seige—was, as Captain Williams happily remarked in introducing him, the most [47] honorable badge with which he could be decorated. For a man who has borne such a conspicuous part in the history of the South for the past thirty-five years, his appearance is youthful. Entering the army as a private, he rose to the rank of colonel of his regiment. He was one of the counsel assigned by the State of Mississippi to defend Jefferson Davis when he was tried in the Federal courts, and he has also served his State as its Attorney-General, besides representing his district in Congress, as he said in reply to a question by one of his enthusiastic Confederate hearers, for more terms than he cared to remember. His speech from beginning to end was deeply interesting and was listened to with breathless attention. He declared that during the late war the South was battling for ‘home rule and State rights,’ and while apologizing for nothing, he spoke in generous terms of the bravery and heroism of the Federal soldiers. He paid a tribute to General Grant for refusing to allow General Lee to be indicted and imprisoned.

At the conclusion of General Hooker's address Captain Williams adjourned the meeting until 3 o'clock, when the parade was formed, composed as follows: Major S. J. C. Moore, of Berryville, chief marshal; Friendship Fire Company, headed by the Friendship Military Band, 127 men; Sarah Zane Fire Company, 80 men, headed by C. V. Camp's Drum Corps; Woodstock and Tom's Brook Military Companies, of the Second Virginia Regiment; members of camps, Confederate Veterans, headed the Chapel Grove Band. The procession marched to the cemetery, and while several dirges were played by the bands the graves were decorated.

The several lots were in charge of the following ladies:

Mississippi, Mrs. Phil. Boyd and daughters, Missess Peggie and Sallie Miller; Tennessee, Misses Tillie and Lucy Russell, Mrs. Marshall Willis; Florida, Mrs. Henry Dinges, of Stephens City; names unknown but not States—right side, Episcopal College, left side, Methodist College; Mount Hebron, the Misses Wolfe; North Carolina, Mary Hamilton, Misses Annie and Jennie McKendrick, Miss Nannie Hamilton, Miss Maggie Osburn, Miss Laura Osborn, Miss Sallie Goughenour, Miss Rosa Osburn, Miss Mary Hamilton, Mr. Will Hollis, Mr. Lute Hodgson; South Carolina, Miss Maria Jones, Mrs. Tilden Reed, Mrs. Deschon, Mrs. Clarence Taylor, Miss Maggie Lanis, Mr. William Jenkins. Mrs. William Atkinson and daughters made the lovely design, ‘Gates Ajar,’ for this lot. Captain Jack brought his flowers, as usual. Virginia, first and second rows, [48] Mrs. John Lewis, Misses Olie Striker, Brookie Ford, Mamie Fuller, Kate Lewis; third row, Misses Lucy and Minnie Jones; fourth row, Misses Gettie and Laura McGuire; fifth row, Mrs. John McCoy and daughters; sixth row, Misses Nannie Krebs, Mary and Louisa Clark and Carrie Brent; seventh and eighth rows, Misses Nannie and Lilly Boyd, Mrs. Worthington, Miss L. D. Williams; ninth row, Misses Mary Tidball and Annie Conrad. Georgia, Mrs. Peter Kurtz, Mrs. V. W. Striker, Misses Vie Smith, Katie Trier, Mary and Lizzie Striker; Unknown Monument, Miss Belle Hollis and sisters, the Misses Simms; Texas, Mrs. Wm. Byrd and daughters; Arkansas, the Misses Mesmer and Mrs. Thomas Mesmer; Kentucky, Miss Mary and Miss Julia Kurtz, and little Mary Faulkner; Maryland, Misses Nellie, Kate and Mary Cover; Louisiana, Mrs. Geo. Grim and daughters, Mrs. Geo. Taylor and daughters, Misses Evie Haymaker, Lula Haymaker, Emma Wigginton and May Legg. The arch in Louisiana lot was beautiful and extravagantly admired. [From the Richmond. Va., Dispatch, August 19, 1894.]

1 For additional particulars of the career of the famed Chew's Battery, see account of a reunion of its survivors, held in October, 1890, Southern Historical society Papers, Vol. XVIII, pp. 281-286, and Vol. XXI, pp. 365-368.

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