Although more than fifty years have passed away since the commencement of the War between the States 1861-65, yet I remember some of the incidents which came under my observation.
After Harpers Ferry was captured by the Southern Troops on the night of April 18th, 1861, we were given quarters in the Government Armory Building which had been saved from the fire and flames.
The news of the secession of the State of Virginia came to this town, Charles Town, Virginia, now West Virginia, on the afternoon of the 18th of April, 1861, and the State Troops were ordered to take possession of Harpers Ferry at once. The Botts Grays afterwards Company G, in the 2nd Virginia Infantry Regiment, and the Jefferson Guards, afterwards Company A in the same Regiment, fell in, in front of the Court House, in this town, Charles Town, about the middle of the afternoon and took up the line of march on the Charles Town and Harpers Ferry Turnpike towards Halltown, at Halltown they were joined by the Shepherdstown Company, afterwards Company B in the 2nd Virginia Infantry. When we ascended the hill leading into Bolivar, information was brought to Col. Allen, colonel of our command, that two armed men had stopped the head of the column on the brow of th[e] hill. Col. Allen ordered us to front and to load with ball cartridges. It was soon ascertained that they were nothing but videttes to observe the approach of any force.
Lieutenant Jones, who had command of a small body of Federal Infantry fired the Goevernment [sic] Armory and withdrew his force to the Eastern side of the Potomac River in Maryland. Before leaving he had fired the Govermnent [sic] Armory and we proceeded unmolested down through Bolivar, the flames from the Armory building lighting up the Heavens, it being dark when we reached the hill approaching Bolivar.
I remember when the command was ordered to load with ball and cartridges on the hill, leading into Bolivar, a comrade of mine remarked "I don't like this night fighting"' I thought the same thing, but made no remark.
When we got down into Harpers Ferry the flames in the Armory were extinguished and we were quartered in that portion which had been saved.
We remained in the Armory Building several weeks, and were occupied in drilling and guard duty, which at times was quite irksome.
One warm afternoon in May, the long roll was sounded, the drummer beating his drum vigorously and the fifer playing his fife lustily. They marched up and down the Armory Road and now and then would cry out "They are coming." All was confusion for a while then we were ordered to fall in with loaded guns. We were soon in line, with trappings on, and ordered to march up the Potomac River towards Shepherdstown. Very soon we were informed that the enemy was crossing and advancing at Shepherdstown and we were ordered to march there and meet them. We marched rapidly through the woods and fields. General Jackson (then Colonel Jackson) was with us on horseback, and seemed delighted at the prospect of active services. But half way between Harpers Ferry and Shepherdstown we were overtaken by a violent thunder storm, it was a very heavy rain and we wrere [sic] drenched from neck to heels. We pressed on and reached Shepherdstown a short time after dark. The town was quiet and the people seemed surprised to see an armed force approaching, in fact as much surprised as we were to be called out for a long roll. We rested a while in our wet clothes, and were marched to Kearneysville on the Turnpike, at times going through pieces of water up to our knees and taken back to Harpers Ferry on the Baltimore & Ohio Road, next morning in gondola cars.
We wondered at the time why it was we were deceived by the false alarm, and why it was we were exposed to the elements and forced march. But afterwards we knew that it meant a training for the arduous campaign which we were called upon to endure and through which we were compelled to pass.
We remained at Harpers Ferry some weeks and the time was occupied in organizing the troops into Regiments, and officers were appointed to command. General Harper of the Militia was in command for sometime and was afterwards superseded by General Joseph E. Johnston. We evacuated some time in June, the date I do not remember. The first Brigade consisting of the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 27th and 33rd Regiments was organized at this place and afterwards at the first Battle of Manassas was denominated the Stone Wall Brigade, commanded by General Jackson, this brigade was stationed, for a while, on the Potomac River and remained there until General Patterson invaded this State with an army of 20,000 He crossed near Williamsport on the Potomac River and a short Battle was fought near Hainesville. General Jackson was too skillful an officer to attack an army of 20,000 with one brigade, but he moved out from Camp towards the enemy and presented a bold front; it was the first time I had seen the enemy in column and filing out to the left and right to form line of Battle. General Jackson was in front with a small battery and some firing took place which was new to us. Part of the 5th Virginia regiment was taken to the front, skirmishers thrown out and some brisk firing was heard for a while. But General Jackson withdrew his command towards Martinsburg employing skirmishers when the Brigade fell back before the enemy. We continued there at for four or five miles to Martinsburg to what was called the "Big Springs." At that place we encamped for the night. After marching and skirmishing during the day and afternoon, we were pretty well fatigued and I lay down in camp soon falling into a deep sleep. Now my recollection is that I slept through until the sun wakened me by shining in my face. When I did get up, Ben White, a member of Company G, afterwards killed at the Battle of Chancellorsville, remarked to me "Do you know you cursed General Jackson last night?" I denied it and asked him not to tell such tales as that on me but he said that it was true. He then went on to tell me that General Jackson came through the camp that night, where he (Ben White) was attending to the camp fire, and he saw him come to where I was stretched out on the ground asleep, asking me where Col. Allen's head quarters were. I did not respond at once and he continued to shake me by the shoulders; after continuing to try to arouse me, I reached over near a rock pile, by which I was lying, and told him, in very rough language, if he did not go away I would strike him in the face. If such a thing occurred, I must have been sound asleep and stupid after the hard day's marching, and the impression made on me was that some of my comrades were trying to tease and annoy me. I have no recollection of such an occurrence, and if it did occur, it is about as bold an act as a soldier was ever guilty of, to resist and denounce the commanding General.
We afterwards learned that General Jackson was endeavoring to find Colonel Allen of the Regiment of the Brigade to prepare for a night attack at once on the Federal Army under Gen. Patterson. This was a bold act and I can't see that it was much to my credit. General Jackson seemed to understand it and moved on to continue his search for Colonel Allen's head-quarters, which I suppose, was under a tree in the woods.