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The last blood shed. [from the Richmond (Va.) times, March 5, 1893]

Three Virginians who battled against a whole army.

Buried where they fell Dead—a mad scheme to Wreak Vengeance—they sold their lives Dearly.

In a swampy country graveyard, five miles from Floyd Courthouse, Va., are buried William Bordunix, John McMasters, and Owen Lewis, on the spot where Union bullets laid them low. Their graves have sunk, and are almost concealed by rank calimos weeds. Cut on the face of one of the headstones, which have almost fallen over the neglected graves, is the following simple inscription: ‘William Bordunix, born January 16, 1840; died May 24, 1865.’ The two others have similar inscriptions. [344]

In that isolated, mountainous country, forty miles from the nearest railroad, their names are famous. They were the last men slain during the last war.

Forty-three days after the surrender of General Lee they gave their lives on the altar of the dead Confederacy. Nor is it the fact that they were the last men killed in the rebellion that has made their names famous in that community. History does not record the battle in which they were killed. The engagement took place May 23, 1865, or forty-three days after the close of the late conflict. It was a most daring attack of rebel soldiers on Northern troops. It was also disastrous to the entire attacking party, every one of them being killed.

After General George Stoneman's return to Greensboro, N. C., from his successful Knoxville expedition, he was ordered to take command of Thompson's cavalry, and advance eastward and destroy the Virginia and Tennessee railroad, now the Norfolk and Western. On March 20th, he started on his expedition, but turned north at Boone, N. C. Entering the valley at New River, in Virginia, he captured Wytheville and continued along the railroad, destroying it nearly to Lynchburg. On this raid he laid waste miles of adjoining country. As this had been the first invasion of Northern troops into Floyd and Wythe counties, the inhabitants of them were very bitter against General Stoneman. The more the raid was talked of, the more bitter became the spirit of the people, and many were the threats made against Stoneman and his troopers. William Beaden, who gave the writer the fact while standing at Bordunix's grave, said that a secret organization, whose object was to be revenged on General Stoneman, was formed directly after the surrender of General Lee of all the young men who had not previously taken active part in the war, and of rebel soldiers home on leave of absence.

In the meantime Stoneman continued on his raid, which ended at Salisbury, N. C., a rebel prison camp, three days after General Grant's victory. Instead of remaining in North Carolina, as he had been ordered by General Sherman, he left and entered Jonesboroa, in the eastern part of Tennessee, April 18th, where he received the news of Lee's surrender.

All this time the ranks of the secret organization in Floyd and Wythe counties had been considerably increased in numbers by the enlistment of discharged soldiers from Lee's disbanded army. When [345] the news arrived that Stoneman and his cavalry would pass through Floyd county on his way to Washington, wiser and older heads tried to prevail on the young enthusiasts to abandon their plan of revenge, but with apparently little or no effect.

On May 18th, Stoneman, with 6,000 cavalry, 10,000 infantry, and twenty-three guns, started on a hundred-mile march over the mountains to the Virginia and Tennessee railroad, at Christiansburg, to embark for Washington.

Mounted couriers of Floyd county's little army were immediately dispatched from different sections to inform the recruits in outlaying districts of the movements of Stoneman's army, and to notify them to gather at Floyd Courthouse under arms. It was the intention of the foremost in the scheme to secrete the men in different parts of the town and neighborhood, and at the appearance of the army to fire on them from their places of concealment, and thus harass the Northerners for a distance of ten miles on each side of the town. Early in the morning of May 22d, 200 ex-Confederate soldiers and recruits had arrived at the town. As the day advanced and no new arrivals were reported, they became disheartened and desertions were numerous. Another hour passed, and the advance guard of Stoneman's army was reported within ten miles of Floyd Courthouse. By the time the information was received, about one hundred men—all that remained of the bold little band—were concealed along the highway. But as soon as the Federal column hove in sight the self-appointed protectors of Floyd county deserted—except the three men whose graves I have described. Nerved by drink and a sense of injury, they boldly entered the town, and with oaths boasted that they would exterminate the whole of Stoneman's army.

In another hour the head of the army appeared at the outskirts of the village. By this time the three men were crazed by liquor, and in marching order, with Bordunix in the lead, acting as commander, boldly advanced to meet the great army of Stoneman with as little fear as did David to battle with the mighty hosts of the Philistines. When within a stone throw of the front of the column they entered a field thickly grown with bushes. The march of the three men was watched with interest by the inhabitants of the town, who had turned out in full force to see the army pass. They had no idea that the boasts of the men were more than idle threats. After entering the field Bordunix halted his followers, and greatly to the amusement [346] of the Union troops, put them through drill. They were greeted with good-natured cries from the soldiers, giving the rebel war-cry of‘Yip, yip, yah!’ Finally, Bordunix gave the order to aim and then to fire, at the same time suiting the action to the word. The amazement of the Unionists can be imagined when two of their number fell seriously wounded. Before they had fully recovered from their surprise another volley was fired, wounding others. The three men hastily retreated. The town was searched, but they were not found, as they had gone further down the road. The army moved forward, and a mile from town was again fired upon, this time from ambush. The order was given to capture them alive, and they were charged by at least five hundred men, but were not taken, as they apparently knew the rough country well.

Another mile, and three more Union soldiers fell under their aim. Two miles further on three others fell out of the ranks, and were carried to the roadside to await the arrival of the ambulance. The three avengers hastened forward, and found concealment in a graveyard beside the highway. Here they waited again for Stoneman's army. The troops were ordered to fire if another assault was made. They advanced nervously for the fifth time. Suddenly the crack of three rifles was heard, and the roar of 500 muskets answered it. The mad Virginians fell riddled with bullets, and were buried where they fell. Theirs was the last blood shed in the war.

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