Incidents of the Civil War
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When I went home from college in June, 1863, I stopped overnight in Huntingdon at the Jackson Hotel. The next morning at breakfast, I sat opposite General Milroy and his staff, who had just escaped from Harpers Ferry where he had been defeated by General Early of the Confederate Army. I went by train to Mount Union and there boarded an omnibus, driven by Soloman Devilblis, to Fort Littleton. I walked the remaining sixteen miles to Webster Mills. These omnibuses were not unlike the present day bus except that they were smaller with an entrance door in the back, seats along the sides, and of course, they were horse-drawn.
The confederates made a great many raids in this valley of the Big Cove. Webster Mills was in a direct line from Hancock, Maryland, and the Potomac River was sixteen miles away. Naturally everything of value was hidden as far as it was possible to do so. This being a border county, there were many Southern sympathizers, men who openly opposed the Union cause. They were called "Copperheads".
Shortly after my return from college, two of my Mercersburg schoolmates came to visit me, Bob Shirtz and Rhea Ritchey. We three boys had taken five horses to the woods, hiding them in a pine thicket and going daily to take them food and water (at least Bob and I did, Rhea Ritchey always got out of it if he could!)
Soon after noon on June 28th, we received word that a Colonel Penz and two hundred and fifty Confederate cavalry were riding rapidly North on a raid, their objective being the store at Big Cove Tannery owned by S. & J. Robinson, one and a half miles south of us, and the store and post office at Webster Mills, especially the latter, as my father was a prominent Union man and the postmaster. We three boys started for the horses, intending to hide them farther back in the woods. Now, behind our house ran a creek with a foot log crossing it. On the opposite side stood a barn and sloping upward toward the woods from the barn lay an open field separated from the woods by a fence.
As we hurried over the creek by way of the foot log, we saw the soldiers riding over the hill to the south. Passing the barn we started running up and over the open field to the woods. A number of soldiers surrounded the field, closed in on us and fired six shots. One of the men jumped his horse over the fence and reached us just as we arrived at the woods. Bob Shirtz had crossed the fence, I fell over it, and as I picked myself up I was facing a carbine and we were commanded to surrender. Of course we were all scared and Bob Shirtz expressed his fright in a funny way. He walked up to the soldier and grasping his hand exclaimed, "Why how do you do, I'm glad to see you--how did you leave the folks at home?" The reply was, "Shut your damned Yankee mouth." They demanded to know where the fourth member of our party was. They said they had counted four of us as we crossed the foot log. We insisted that there were only three, not knowing that father had followed us over the creek. After holding a short parley, they took us down the hill. My father, after crossing the creek, went into the barn, hiding in the granary. When the door into the barn floor was opened, it covered and concealed the granary door completely. My father owned a little dog which we all called "Tip". He was very fond of my father and was always at his heels. After father concealed himself in the granary of the barn, he discovered that Tip was with him and father had to hold Tip's mouth shut all the time the Confederates were in the barn or otherwise he would have been discovered. The Confederates searched the barn, driving their carbines into the hay and calling on Patterson to come out or they would burn the barn. Our ignorance of father's whereabouts and our emphatic denials of his being with us seemed to finally convince them they were mistaken, but failing to get him they talked of taking me as a hostage. At first they thought we were Union soldiers in civilian clothes, but sister Henrietta, clinging to Colonel Penz's horse, assured him we were only school boys. He finally turned us free. They confiscated and destroyed the entire stock of goods in the store. They finally withdrew but later on in the evening a guard was placed around the house for the night. In the meantime, father had ridden away. At no time during this raid was a disrespectful word spoken to my mother or sister. Colonel Penz was a true gentleman. Three days later he was killed at the battle of Gettysburg.
Father had sustained heavy losses and no knowing how many more raids there might be it seemed useless to restock his store, so in a short while he rented the place and with his family moved to Springfield, Ohio. When warnings of these raids would reach us my younger brother, Webster, would frequently be sent up the valley a few miles to warn the farmers so that they might hide their horses and cattle. We were visited often by Union soldiers as well as Confederates and Henrietta and Webster were, on one occasion at least, set to watch for the enemy while Union officers and men ate their dinner in our home. During a raid in 1863, an invalid aunt, hearing and seeing Confederate soldiers everywhere, came downstairs exclaiming, "Elizabeth, this must be the Day of Judgment". Turning to her Ma remarked, "Tut! Tut! Rebecca, I expect to see a better looking crowd than this on the Judgment Day."
My sister tells of a terrible day just before I got home from school. She says, "Colonel Jenkens of Baltimore was in charge of a company of soldiers. They were hunting runaway slaves. The Captain required Ma to take an oath as to which were slaves and which were free negroes about the place, so she and I were taken out to the carriage house. Inside was a brand new two-horse carriage filled with darkies and a wounded Rebel soldier. The buggy was standing outside and I got into it while Ma did the swearing. Colonel Jenkens was mounted on a beautiful horse with one little darky in front of him and two at the back. The Captain came to Ma and told her to get me out of the buggy as the Colonel had had too many drinks in McConnellsburg, his pistol was cocked, might go off any minute and put an end to me. I was hastily removed.
Introduction … by David Hunter Patterson
Chapter 1 … The Valley of the Big Cove
Chapter 2 … The Tall Oaks & Towering Pines of Gallant Little Fulton
Chapter 3 … The Pattersons and the Hunters
Chapter 4 … Concerning Some of my Forbears
Chapter 5 … Childhood Memories
Chapter 6 … Some Church History
Chapter 7 … Boyhood Days
Chapter 8 … I Go Away to School
Chapter 9 … Incidents of the Civil War
Chapter 10 … Springfield - Graduation
Chapter 11 … Your Mother
Chapter 12 … A Quaker Family of Western Pennsylvania
Chapter 13 … From 1870 to 1880
Chapter 14 … Home Again at Webster Mills
Chapter 15 … The Centennial - I Buy a Farm and get into Politics
Chapter 16 … Last Years in the Old Home
Epilogue … by Elizabeth Patterson Neeson
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This page was last updated on Monday, 10-Sep-2018 09:15:11 MDT
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