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Letter from James A. Scott, Co. "C" Coles Cavalry read at their annual reunion in 1893,

(Originally Published December 5, 1893Adams Star Sentinel)

Submitted by: Mark Dudrow

Recollections of Kearneysvi11e

Kearneysvi1le is a station on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad about midway between Harper's Ferry and Martinsburg, where the turnpike from Shepherdstown, on the Potomac, to Charlestown, the county seat of Jefferson, crosses the railroad. It is five miles from the former and seven, I believe, from the latter place. It was an important point, as this turnpike was one of the great arteries of travel from the river into the region of the Shenandoah Valley. As a lookout on the movements of the enemy and a guard for the protection of the railroad were necessary at this point, Cole's Cavalry in 1862 were stationed here and held the position until compelled to retreat at the time Banks was driven from the Valley; and upon the reoccupation of the Valley by the Union forces Cole's Cavalry returned again to this place and held it until again driven away by a general advance of the enemy later on. This narrative is written not to describe military movements, but to give incidents and recollections of camp life at Kearneysvi11e.

Our camp was situated on a gently rising wooded knoll between the railroad and turnpike and near to both. An abatis was formed by felling trees in a circle around the camp and disposing of their branches in such a way as to form a serious obstacle to the dash of an enemy on it. We were supplied with the Sibley tent a large and comfortable tent capable of accommodating ten or a dozen men and sheet-iron stoves accompanied the tents for winter use.

The men of Company "C" were in general men or more intelligence and spirit than the make up of most military companies, being largely farmers' sons and from the country. They were a lively set, and always on the alert for all the "fun" that was to be gotten out of the situation. Some of them were rather unrefined and rough, and a very few had an inordinate appetite for "strong waters," but on the whole they were a lot of men of which any captain might be proud. While lying here a medical officer was assigned to the Battalion, with the rank of Assistant Surgeon. He was a young man just recently graduated, and disposed to be pious and inclined to religious duty. He had daily devotions in his tent, but they were often sadly interfered with by the "Sons of Belial" of Company "C" and the other companies. About the time the Surgeon's devotions began there seemed to be a greatly increased number of crowing roosters, b-a-a-ing sheep, bellowing cattle, barking dogs, and yowling cats around. But the Doctor was very forbearing, and bore all the annoyance with Christian charity until some of the boys became ashamed of themselves for their treatment of the Doctor and began to regard him with high respect. He remained with the Battalion a long time, and did some hard marching with it.

At some distance from the camp, and on all sides of it, picket posts were established. Sometimes in the darkness our pickets were fired upon, and as there was no organized Rebel force in the immediate region the inference was that these contemptible would-be assassins were disloyal citizens of the vicinity who acted as guerrillas at night and peaceful noncombatants in the daytime. We adopted a plan to surprise these gentlemen, and perhaps to make some of them die surprised, if it worked right. It was always between midnight and morning that the videttes were fired upon, and our plan was for six men to quietly steal out on foot a hundred yards or so in advance of each vidette (who was always mounted), conceal themselves by lying prone on the ground inside a field or in some bushes, rifles loaded and cocked. Thus would they remain till daybreak and then return to camp. The curious thing about it all was that when we were thus prepared for these cut-throats they never made their appearance. We tried to mislead them by adopting a kind of intermittent service of this sort that is, not going out every night but it made no difference. They seemed to know all about our movements, and, of course, were informed by some of the Union citizens close to camp, who themselves may have gone "on duty" occasionally. However, none of our pickets were ever wounded by their shots, which only served to keep the camp in a state of wakeful ness.

A system of night patrols was also established. Two bands of from a dozen to twenty mounted men started out in different directions every midnight, making circuits of some miles around our camp and from seven to ten miles distant from it, so timing themselves as to get back to camp before daylight. Once in a while they came in with one or two prisoners mostly Rebel soldiers home on furlough. One night we came near having a disaster. Our two bands, owing to some mismanagement, unexpectedly met just at the edge of a forest, and only by the presence of mind of the leaders were prevented from firing into each other. Voices of the challenging parties were recognized, which was all that saved some bloodshed then and there. One patrol, of which the writer of this was also a part, was moving along one night in the direction of Smithfield. When nearing this place a bright light or fire was observed a distance ahead, near the road, and figures observed moving in the light. Being about 2 A.M. this seemed odd. Now and then there would be a flash of light from objects connected with the moving figures, which led us to believe it was a body of armed Rebels passing the night at a camp fire. Halting, we held a council of war. Our route lay right past the place where the light was, as Smithfield was the terminus of our patrol, and we were not far from it. We had no way of finding out the size of the apparent force except by dismounting and creeping close enough to see the size of it. Finally, we decided the best thing to do was to charge boldly up and take whatever we might encounter. So we dashed along, with yells that might have frightened a regiment, and arriving at the place saw a scared multitude of people running and howling and shrieking, male and female. Negroes were having a. part in -front of a burning limekiln, with their dusky belles. Our loud yells of laughter at their fright and flight somewhat reassured them, but it is needless to say that ended their fun for the night. The flashes we saw and mistook for arms were occasioned by brass buttons, some of the beaux being dressed in the glory of swallow tails which latter stood almost straight out in their flight, and so excited our mirth.

Various tricks were resorted to by some of our men at Kearneysvil1e to get whisky (sic). The article being contraband under military jurisdiction captures and confiscations of it were now and then made. Our commander occupied as headquarters during the daytime an abandoned frame dwelling with two rooms, near where the turnpike crossed the railroad. Once a capture was made of two barrels of whisky, which were brought to this house and deposited in the unused room. Under the house was a space of some three feet between the earth and the floor. Having got the location of the barrels "down fine" the whisky lovers procured an auger and bored a hole up through the floor and into the barrel, having previously made a stopper for the hole. Here they went and drew a supply when they pleased and it might have been carried on with facility till both barrels were consumed had the stuff been used in moderation, but men getting drunk every day led to investigation, and the discovery of the source of supply. One of the barrels was nearly empty. One evening shortly after dark a freight train came down the railroad and in it a platform car laden with barrels of whisky. When the train stopped at the station, two of the men under cover of darkness got aboard this car, and when a little distance away they rolled off one of the barrels and continued on to the next station, where they left the train unobserved and walked back. In the meantime some Confederates had secured the barrel and buried it in an adjacent field. This yielded a supply for a while until one of the men in a state of intoxication revealed the secret.

Some of the boys, feeling that fresh pork (and there seemed to be a good deal of it around) now and then would be a welcome addition to the Government ration, got up a sort of port association. A negro living alone in a cabin a mile or so away was employed as purveyor, and he was allowed as his pay a certain share for his own use. He was to kill and dress it, and the boys were to furnish the material on the hoof. At the same time he had a roving commission to capture all the live porkers he could, for which he was to be paid a small sum. Thus the pot was kept boiling sometimes, and "Rebel" pork had a racy flavor.

The white people of the community were almost entirely disloyal, and though the young ladies would occasionally -flirt with Yankee soldiers, for the most part they put them decidedly under ban. One fine Sunday evening a lieutenant of the Battalion and myself were taking a quiet walk along a road some distance from camp. We met and passed three young ladies arm in arm. As they came opposite us we politely raised our caps in salutation, saying not a. word. After we were away some fifty yards from them we heard the word "officer" shouted out in a feminine voice. Turning, we saw one of them beckoning to us. We stopped and the lieutenant started back to see what was wanted. When he was near them the beckoner exclaimed "There! don't come any nearer! I only called you back to tell you are a nasty, mean, greasy Yankee!" "You are a female," replied the lieutenant in a tone that meant had those words come from a male source the utterer of them would have had them forced down his throat, and came back indignantly and rejoined me. Perhaps they were offended that we did not accost them as they passed us.

Furloughs were occasionally given to those who desired them. In the month of February, 1862, I secured one for the purpose of a horseback trip into Pennsylvania. My road lay along the turnpike to Shepherdstown, where I would cross the river on a barge, the bridge there having been burned. The weather was very cold. Armed with pistol and sabre I mounted and left camp before daylight. It was snowing. It was considered a safe enough thing for one to take this ride, as the region had recently been quiet, no enemy in force being near. Yet there being no Union troops at Shepherdstown and none between our camp and that disloyal place. I felt I would rather get through it and across the river by daylight, as it would be safer. I came in sight of Shepherdstown in the gray of the morning without having seen a soul. Just before I reached a street where I must turn to the right at a sharp angle I heard the galloping of a. horse. Before I could even imagine who it might be, rider and horse turned into the pike facing me. The rider was a stout well built man profusely armed and in Rebel uniform. There was an instant's pause on the part of both of us, but, I presume, both being struck at once with the best thing to do under the circumstances, we kept right on and passed each other without a word from either. Having to turn down the street up which he came, I could not look back to see what he might be doing, but hurried rapidly toward the river in some trepidation for fear there might be more of the same sort around. Arrived at the river, and beginning again to breath freely, with the thought that I should soon have it as a barrier between me and any enemies in town, I found to my dismay the barge was on the Maryland side, and, no movement being visible there, it was necessary for me to yell for the bargeman to come and ferry me over. In response, a man made his appearance and shouted across to me that the barge was frozen up tightly in the ice and could not be moved. I would have to cross somewhere else. Here was a pretty kettle of fish! Broad daylight, necessary to return through the town, and ride the five long bleak miles on the pike back to camp in the teeth of a snowstorm, and, besides, with the risk of being shot or snapped up by the way. Another vexing thing was a day of my furlough would be lost, as it would be necessary for me to ride to Harper's Ferry, to cross there on the pontoon, and I could not do more than that till night. However, I arrived in safety back to Kearneysvi1le, informed the boys about the man I met, whereupon they organized a scout in that direction, and I rode to Harper's Ferry, were I remained all night and crossed the river there in the morning on my way to Pennsylvania.

If I recollect aright, it was during the second time we were obliged to leave this camp by the approach of the enemy in great force, that our departure was so abrupt as that we were compelled to burn our tents and stores to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy. It was a sorry sight to see our beautiful and comfortable tents go up in flame and smoke. We had a lovely company flag, a present to us from the dear ladies of Emmitsburg. When we were mounted and in line awaiting the order to march, a comrade at the front of the column had charge of the flag. Blower of our company happened to fall in near the rear of the line, and some of the boys, knowing Blower's weak spot, thought they saw a chance for a little quiet fun. Blower had been complaining of not feeling well, which he never did when the Johnnies were around. One of the boys casually remarked to another (in Blower's hearing) that those of us in the rear would likely have some fighting to do on the retreat, as the Rebels were very close. This remark soon bore fruit. Blower quietly withdrew from his place and rode to the head of the company, where we saw him talking with the captain. By the next thing that took place we saw what his business had been with the officer. He rode to the front of the line and the -flag was handed him to carry. Here was another chance too good to be lost. One of the rear guard .rode forward and addressing Blower with great seriousness, said, "Good heavens, Blower! You say you are not well, yet you have put yourself in the most dangerous and responsible place in the line. If the Rebels attack us they will be sure to go for our flag the first thing, as a trophy, and that we must protect at all hazards. We mustn't let them have that. So, keep a sharp lookout, Blower!" We watched for the effect of these words. Very soon Blower rode up to the captain, the flag in his hand, and told him that since holding it he had been struck with such severe rheumatic pain in his shoulder that he was reluctantly oblidged to give it up. The captain then selected a man to take it and Blower was relieved, and about that time we had to leave suddenly and quickly.

James A. Scott