Mosby’s Greenback Raid Jefferson County, WV Oct. 14, 1864 with Steve French
By Jim Surkamp on November 18, 2018 in Civilian, Confederate, Jefferson County, Union, Wartime
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1. DAILY EXAMINER, Richmond, Virginia, October 18, 1864
2. Book Cover Rebel Chronicles.jpeg
2a. Quincy’s Siding.jpeg
3. Montage Mt. Pleasant Google Maps.jpeg
Hi, I’m Steve French. We’re here at the site of one of the most famous passenger train robberies in, not only Civil War history, but also in American history. This is the site of (John Singleton) Mosby’s famous Greenback Raid, which occurred in the early morning hours of October 14th 1864,
4. Charles_Aglionby .jpeg
About one mile west of present-day Bardane, West Virginia (called Brown’s Shop then), and just beyond Quincy’s Siding which is positively identified in all the B&O reports of this incident.
5. Gathering Autumn Leaves by Jervis McEntee.jpeg
October 14 – The Express Train, West, was thrown off the track at Quincy’s Siding, and the entire train, consisting of one express, one baggage, five passenger, and one sleeping car, was burnt. The Express train, East, was warned of the danger, and returned to Martinsburg. Cars were sent promptly, and the passengers from the destroyed train taken forward.
EARLIER THAT DAY ON THE NEARBY AGLIONBY FARM:
6. Planting corn The Iowa Agriculturalist .jpeg
7. Winslow Homer the pumpkin patch 1877.jpeg
8. D. S. Rentch 1821-1918 Shepherdstown Register April 18,1918.jpeg
At the close of the day at his nearby farm on October 13th, 1864, Charles Algionby recorded how that pleasant but windy day that the men deed in the corn rows on two fields, his (Homer) sons carted pumpkins out of the field, leaving the green ones for the hogs; they loaded up
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10. MacRae flannel bnbtart.com.jpeg
Mr. Rentch’s wagon with wool, striped linsey and flannel for his store in Shepherdstown.
THE GREENBACK RAID WITH STEVE FRENCH AND JOHN S. MOSBY:
11. Montage Map by L. Jacobi B&O line.jpeg
Late on the night of October 13th, the B&O Express West left Baltimore bound for Wheeling, West Virginia. There were about 200 passengers on board, which included 27 soldiers going back to their post in Martinsburg and Cumberland and also about sixty German immigrants headed West.
12. “Brown’s Shop” on map of Jefferson County, West Virginia – loc.gov.
The train made real good time, and as reported by one of the passengers on board it passed Brown’s Shop at 2:30 AM. He looked down at his watch it was 2:30 AM and, just a few moments later, they crashed into the side of this railroad cut (just over my right shoulder).
It was complete bedlam – people on the train hollering: “guerillas! guerillas!” – shots fired into the car. The rail had been taken up by Mosby and his men earlier that night – supposedly to guide the locomotive into the bank and then slide along the bank. However, the locomotive crashed, exploded and killed the engineer, Elijah Collins. Mosby’s men dropped on to the track and then burst into the cars.
13. Engine “Government” [Commodore?] down the “banks” near Brandy, April 1864.
14. Montage 3D Topo Map of Greenback Raid.jpeg
15. John S. Mosby head shot.jpeg
It was a lovely night, bright and clear with a big jack frost on the ground. I believe I was the only member of my command who went through the war without a watch but, all of my men had watches and we knew it would not be long before the train would be due. We had ridden all day and were tired and sleepy. So we were soon and soon were peacefully dreamin’. I laid my head in the lap of one of my men Curg Hutchinson and fell asleep.
16. John S.Mosby loc.gov.jpeg
Now how did Mosby get here? On October the 12th, he had started this way after receiving information from one of his scouts Jim Wiltshire that there was a gap in the picket line nearby and it would be a good opportunity to stop one of these trains and interrupt Sheridan’s means of communication. Now Sheridan and his army was at that time were camped around Middletown, Virginia. But he relied on this line to bring him supplies and bring him his troops. This night the B&O was also bringing him $173,000 to pay some of his troops.
Mosby, at this time, had been injured. He had been injured earlier that day in a fight near The Plains, Virginia, when his horse fell during a fight, rolled on him and injured his ankle. That was October 11th. But the next day, October 12th, he decided to head this way. He took eighty-four of his men and headed from Middleburg westward towards Bunker Hill, West Virginia.
17. James G. Wiltshire.jpeg
17a. Mosby’s Illust. London News.jpeg
17b. Wiltshire lived nearby.jpeg
18. Sheridan and his generals NARA .jpeg
18a. Sheridan and his generals NARA close up.jpeg
He also sent Capt. William Chapman, with another battalion of men farther east in the area of Point of Rocks to intercept one of the trains there. Now, Mosby had a time schedule. He knew what time the train would be coming by here. During the day of the 13th, he was going to spend a lot of time with his men along the Martinsburg-Winchester Turnpike (what we call, usually, the Valley Pike or Route 11). They were intercepting riders and couriers during that day even killed a few Union soldiers and captured a few civilians.
19. Sheridan relied on this line.jpeg
20. French Curg Hutchinson at 2nd Reunion August 14, 1895
21. Montage William Chapman Map by Jacobi.jpeg
In Martinsburg, Brigadier-General William Seward, the son of the Secretary of State, received reports that Mosby was in the area. One of his soldiers said that he recognized Mosby and that he had his foot bound up. Seward also contacted Brigadier-General John Stevenson at Harper’s Ferry and alerted him to the fact that Mosby was in the area.
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23. Montage Seward, Stevenson & Martinsburg, Map.jpeg
That evening – the evening of the 13th – they headed this way. After dark – probably around eleven or twelve o’clock – they reached the woods just to the south of here. Left some men behind with the horses and came over here. Now, Mosby was probably on horseback at the time.
25. (no 24). men using levers on rails loc.gov
26. rails on ties loc.gov
But they would take position along this bank and some of the men took out a rail on the outside of the line so the train would slide right into the bank. However, as I said, it would crash.
27. It would crash Millers Vol. 2 p. 37
The men – it was probably around midnight a little bit after – they knew the train was coming along. The men went to sleep. Mosby even said he put his head in one of his men’s lap and dozed off.
28. Montage John Alexander & Starry Night Jean-François Millet
29. Montage RR tracks Alexander
we went to work on the track, and soon had one side of it so elevated on fence rails and old ties as to insure the upsetting of the engine when it should come to that point. Then we laid along the bank and waited for things to happen.
30. Winslow Homer campfire
31. Men sleeping by Walton Taber
Some of the boys, perhaps most of them, soon fell asleep, but “tired Nature’s sweet restorer” was not for me that night.
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33. train in foggy distance – Paul Neglia.jpeg
The lights and sounds from a neighboring camp first interested me, and then my imagination ran riot. Anticipations of what was certain to happen, and pictures of what might happen, in the next half hour, set my nerves tingling.
34. John Alexander (younger) – Williamson, p. 471
It is not a pleasant thing to lie calmly under the stars and contemplate the usual contingencies of a straight fight. But the possible horrors of a railroad wreck, and the sufferings of women, and children, and, not improbably, the presence of a carload of infantry, took such tangible shapes in my meditations as to give me a very bad half hour.
Presently I heard the train coming and I hurried around waking up the boys. I then went back to my place and watched and listened to the thumping of my heart. Nearer and louder came the sounds and quicker beat my pulses. Directly the headlight of the engine shot around a curve not far off, and as the engine rushed almost under me, it seemed, my heart well-nigh choked me. And then there was a tremendous thump and the shriek of the steam and the sound of a single shot and then — “the deluge.”
Alexander, pp. 108-109.
35. Mosby headshot loc.gov (same as No. 15).
Then I was aroused and astounded by an explosion and crash. The catastrophe came so suddenly that my men at first seemed to be stunned and bewildered. A good description of the scene could be found in Dante’s Inferno (1:53), because as we had displaced the rails, the engine had run off the track, the boiler had burst and was filled with red hot cinders and escaping steam.
36a. (no 36) women passengers on board Scott, p. 337.jpg
Above all could be heard the screams of the passengers, especially the women. p. 314.
37. Alexander the younger.jpeg
“Board her, boys !” rang out the Colonel’s crisp, steady tones. That brought me back to sense and braced me. The conductor of the train seemed to take in the situation more promptly than any of us, and never for a moment lost his nerve. He jumped off between his train and us, swinging a lighted lantern, and cried out that he surrendered the train. Down the bank we rushed. p. 109.
John Alexander, who was a young man who later wrote a book about his experience with Mosby, said he couldn’t sleep because he was just visualizing crashing a train. He knew passengers are going to be aboard the train and it could cause a large loss of life. About 2:30 of course, as I say, the train’s coming this way. Alexander describes it as it makes the curve and comes into view. He said that when it got here it just thundered past and all of the sudden, there was a crash. He said the men were falling out of the steam almost like apparitions and (also) boarding the train.
As I ran up the steps on the platform of a coach, a tall Ranger was standing with his pistol, poked through the door ajar, calling on somebody to surrender. Being short and slim, I slipped under his arm and jumped in. On the first seat sat a soldier with a lady beside him, who, as I stopped, assured me that her “husband was a sick man.”
38. portly man Strother Harpers Aug, 1856.jpg
39. gold pocket watch wikimedia commons.jpg
Just behind them sat a gentleman, across whose portliness stretched a gold watch chain. He must have noticed that it fascinated my gaze, for he promptly presented it to me, without detaching from it a beautiful gold watch. Of course I could not accept such munificence without some inquiry into the condition of his finances. The generous old man responded to this with the offer of his pocket-book,
40. hand taking gold watch chain.jpg
but I had barely noticed its plump appearance, when a long lank arm reached over my shoulder and appropriated what my modesty might have declined. By this time the boys were crowding into the car.
41. Montage John Alexander and Scott p. 337 (repeats).jpg
42. Charles Henry Dear findagrave.com George Seitz.jpg
43. James G. Wiltshire.jpeg
Charley Dear, one of the scouts, and Jim Wiltshire, hurriedly went into the cars. Wiltshire went into one, Dear another. Dear shot a Union soldier who got up.
And, once again it was complete bedlam, as the Rangers, not only are looking for payrolls – there was a safe on board with $20,000 in as express). The whole train consisted of five passenger cars, a sleeper, a baggage car and an Adams Express car, a little bit like a UPS service. It would transport money.
44. the Adams Express.jpeg
Even that night it was transporting one dead body, a soldier, back home. A lot of confusion. The men on the train trying to give their valuables to women, because
the Confederates would seldom bother or steal from women.
45. Sallie Martin B&0 Magazine May, 1936.jpeg
One girl from Martinsburg we’ll talk a little bit about – one 12-year-old Sallie Martin. She had been with her aunt and uncle in Baltimore that day. As soon as the Confederates got on board, her uncle handed her his expensive timepiece. She was able to save it even though she was twirling it around on her finger. The Confederates didn’t see it.
46. Private J. West Aldridge Alexander p. n128.jpg
Two of my men, Charlie Dear and West Aldridge, came to me and reported that they had two U.S. Paymasters with their satchels of greenbacks pp. 316-317.
47. $10 1863 Greenback Abraham Lincoln .jpg
48. Scott, p. 337.jpg
Dear and another Ranger went back to check on some of the Union soldiers, and they discovered a satchel and a box. They didn’t know what was in it. They took it outside and found that it was money, filled with uncut Greenbacks or paper money. This was to pay the troops in Martinsburg and other of Sheridan’s troops. This was a big haul. They’d take it out. Show it to Mosby. Now remember these people were partisan rangers, and partisan rangers could keep anything that they captured, and if it was arms, or equipment or horses, they could sell it back to the Confederate government or keep it for themselves.
49. Illus. London News 1865.jpg
50. Charley Dear.jpg
51. Charles Grogan Maryland Hist. Society.jpg
So Mosby knew this was a good pay day for the troops – his 84 men. He picked four men out including Dear and Lt. Grogan and he sent them back across the Blue Ridge with that money to a place called Bloomfield.
Mosby, who was using a cane after his recent hip injury, and as he supervised the plundering from the hillside, maintained that he wasn’t following closely the possible taking of personal valuables from the passengers. He later wrote of the raid: “Whether my men got anything in the shape of pocketbooks, watches, or other valuable articles, I never inquired, and I was too busy attending to the destroying of the train to see whether they did. p. 317.
52. sleeping car for men.jpg
The men especially in the sleeper car lost almost everything because they didn’t have time to hide their valuables. Some of the men, who were in the cars, were taken out into the woods. First they thought, that they were going to be – maybe – even shot.
53. men strip Scott, p. 402.jpg
But the rangers took them out there, made them strip completely, and then they took what they wanted from them. Sometimes they took their pants and so on.
54. Montage Kearneysville train station Taylor Sketchbook, p. 205.jpeg
Even after this was over, these men, rather than getting back on the train in front of the women without much of their clothes, decided they’d walk on to Kearneysville and try to find some clothes there.
55. Mosby with sword full loc.gov.jpg
56. Woman drawing Partisan Life with Mosby, p. 332.jpg
While all this is going on, Mosby is standing on the back bank. Women are coming up and asking him for favors. One said: “My father’s a Mason,” trying to get some help from Mosby in that way. Mosby said “I don’t care. You have to get out of here.” On board the train, women especially were asking for protection.
57. Mosby headshot loc.gov .jpg
58. man with torch woman with child Scott p. 331 .jpg
“. . . I want to emphacize that no women were hurt during this time. I believe Alexander said in his memoirs that he told a few of the women on the train there that they didn’t have to worry, (that) they were Southern gentlemen and that they had the most beautiful in the South, and these women on the train didn’t have to worry.
So it’s complete bedlam. It’s going to last forty-five minutes.
It did not take long to pull out the passengers. While all this was goin’ on I stood on the bank giving directions to the men, and one of them reported to me that
59. Fashion German 1860s on train.jpg
a car was filled with Germans and they would not come out I told him: “Set fire to the car and burn the Dutch (deutsch) out, if they would not come out.”
60. The New York Herald wikipedia.org.jpg
There were a lot of New York Heralds on the train for Sheridan’s army. So my men circulated the papers through the train and applied matches. pp. 315.
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Cab Maddux . . came dashing up and cried that the Yankees were coming. I immediately gave orders to mount up quickly and form. One was sent to find out if the report was true. He soon came back and said it was not. The menthen dismounted and went to work again. I was very mad at Cab for almost creatin’ a stampede and told him I had a good mind to have him shot. Cab was quick-witted, but seeing how angry I was, said nothing then. . . . Years afterward, Cab confessed why he gave the false alarm. He said he heard (p. 317) the noise the train made when it ran off the track and knew the men were gathering the spoils and did not think it was fair for him to be away picketing for their benefit.
Suddenly there was a grand illumination. The Germans now took in the situation and came tumbling out in a pile out of the flames. They ought not to blame me but Sheridan. It was his business not mine to protect them.
62. Montage Sallie Martin, drum and beaver hat.jpg
Sallie Martin about this time is getting off the train, but she’s having a problem. She’s bought a big beaver hat that day for herself and also two drums, and she’s trying to get off the train. She can’t do it. One of Mosby’s men comes to her and says: “Sis I’ll help ya.” So he picks her up and he takes her over here on the bank, puts her down and he tells her: “I know it’s cold, but it’s going to be warm pretty soon.”
We left all the civilians, including the ladies to keep warm by the burning cars, pp. 317-318.
63. Jim Surkamp wooded bank .jpg
Now they’re twenty-seven soldiers on board and some of these are going to be taken captive, including the two paymasters on board – Major Ruggles and Major Moore. They’re lined up and one of the soldiers says to his sergeant: “I’m afraid they’re going to shoot us.” And he replied: “Don’t worry they haven’t gone that far yet.”
64. Montage Centralia Massacre.jpg
Now, remember, a month before in Centralia, Missouri – Bill Anderson, Jesse James and others got over twenty soldiers off of a train there at the station and shot and killed all but one. So that’s what this soldier was thinking about. Maybe they were going to be in that type of situation.
65. beaverskin great coat hat boots pinterest.jpg
The soldiers were taken with us as prisoners. Among the latter was a young German lieutenant who had just received a commission and was on his way to join his regiment in Sheridan’s army. He was dressed in a fine beaver-cloth overcoat; high boots, and a new hat with gilt cord and tassel. After we were pretty well acquainted, I said to him, “We have done you no harm. Why did you come over here to fight us?” “Oh,” he said, “I only come to learn de art of war.” I then left him and rode to the head of the column.
66. Montage Mosby German talk.jpg
It was not long before the German came trotting up to join me. There had been such a metamorphosis that I scarcely recognized him. One of my men had exchanged his old clothes with him for his new ones, and he complained about it. I asked him if he had not told me that he came to Virginia to learn the art of war. “Yes,” he replied. “Very well,” I said, “this is your first lesson.” p. 318.
67. Steve French.jpg
So, once again, it takes forty minutes to an hour to complete.
The Rangers mount up with their plunder. A few of them shout to the women over here on the bank. “We have room for you if you want to go south with us.” But they have no takers. And they disappear into the night. Here are the passengers. It’s very cold, but the fire has started. And pretty soon the whole train is going to be consumed, including the money on board, the $20,000 that was headed to a bank in Cumberland.
68. pop pop.jpg
Suddenly, they hear all this “pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.” And soon the smell of oysters. They could smell oysters. Sallie Martin – almost 72 years later – she was talking to a reporter for the B&O Magazine – and she said how vividly she remembered how good oysters tasted with some soda crackers she had bought in Baltimore earlier that day.
69. London Illustrated News loc.gov.jpeg
The next morning a train comes from Martinsburg and picks the the passengers up and takes them back. Back to Mosby, they’re headed east across the Blue Ridge. By this time Union General Stevenson in Harpers Ferry has sent men out to capture him (Mosby) and also General Stuart, but he (Mosby) is able to escape.
70. Montage Their mettle was up.jpg
My men had had an easy time capturing the train, and, although they were not indifferent to greenbacks, their mettle was up when they heard that “Old Blaze”, was about. They were eager for a fight in which they could win more laurels. It was not long before we struck Blazer’s trail and saw his camp fires where he had spent the night. I could no longer restrain the men — they rushed into the camp “as reapers descend to the harvests of death.” p. 319
We crossed the Shenandoah and Blue Ridge before noon and found Grogan’s party with the greenbacks waiting for us at the appointed place in Loudoun County. The men were ordered to dismount and fall in line, and three were appointed — Charlie Hall, Mountjoy, and Fount Beattie — to open the satchels and count the money in their presence. I ordered it to be divided equally among them and no distinction be made between officers and men. Of course, the motive of the act was to stimulate enterprise. p. 320.
They will reach Bloomfield and there Mosby will set up a division of the money. OK. Each man will get a little over two thousand dollars in greenbacks. A big haul. You could say that today that might equate to sixty, eighty thousand dollars in purchasing power.
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James Thomas Littleton, whose family lived at the Snow Hill Farm about three miles away, got family help in making his $2,000 share of paper money look less new.
Ada Littleton Tavenner, who was a little girl in 1864, recounted how her brother, Jimmy Littleton, was with Mosby when the payroll train was robbed. All the girls, her parents and Jimmy went down into the dirt cellar at night with lanterns, and there for several hours crimped and shuffled the new money, and rubbed it with dirt and grime to make it appear old and used.
Mosby, however, refuses to take one cent. He was a great student of ancient history, and he always told the men and other people he fought for glory, not for spoils – just like Achilles and people like that back in the days of ancient Greece and Rome.
72. John Alexander in later years.jpg
Alexander later recalled of the incident: No sort of solicitations from his men could induce him to take a share. His emphatic response was that he was fighting for glory, not for spoils. I have always wondered what he took us for? But so sensitive on this point was he, that he would not even permit Mrs. Mosby to accept a purse of gold which the boys subsequently made up and tendered her.
So he doesn’t take any money, but later those men will take up a collection and they will purchase a horse, but they’ll give it to his wife. Then, she will give it to him, and that’s the way he will take it.
73. Berryville Wagon Raid The Museum of the Confederacy, photography by Katherine Wetzel.jpg
MOSBY LATER SAVES THE FORMER PAYMASTER FROM BEING SUED
74. Title Edward Moore and stolen money.jpg
75. French Aaron Buron dies
AARON BURTON DIES:
On Monday, December 22nd 1902 in Brooklyn, NY a news article, was reported across the nation including the Kansas City Star in Missouri. It read:
He was Mosby’s bodyguard
The death of nenogenarian Negro Aaron Burton in Brooklyn. The Funeral of Aaron Burton, the negro bodyguard of Colonel John S. Mosby, the Confederate cavalry leader, was conducted yesterday at the home of his daughter. Burton, who was more than ninety years old had lived in Brooklyn for seven years. He was born in Charlottesville, Va. and belonged to Miss Jennie McGaran, who became the wife of Col. Mosby. In the Civil War Col. Mosby placed the utmost confidence in his bodyguard and frequently sent him on important missions. In his later life the colored man who not forgotten by his old master, who frequently sent him checks. “Father” Burton as he was known among the Brooklyn acquaintances, leaves four daughters and two sons.
He Was Mosby’s Bodyguard. The Death of a Nenogenarian Negro, Aaron Burton, in Brooklyn
New-York tribune., December 23, 1902, Page 9, Image 9
chroniclingamerica.loc.gov 3 June 2008 Web. 23 October 2017.
After the War, always guided by logic with lawyerly precision and independence, he sought out the company of Sam Chapman to whom he wrote his thoughts and visited like minded old warriors such as William Edward Hitchcock McDonald at Media Farm near Charles Town, Wv.
76. Mosby Memoirs, p. 398.jpg
77. Major Edward Allen Hitchcock McDonald.jpg
78. Sam Chapmen during the war.jpg
79. Mosby and Sam Chapman later years.jpg
I wrote you about my disgust at reading the Reunion speeches. It has since been increased by reading Christian’s report. I am certainly glad I wasn’t there. According to Christian, the Virginia people were the abolitionists and the Northern people were pro-slavery. He says slavery was ‘a patriarchal’ institution. So were polygamy and circumcision. Ask Hugh if he has been circumcised.
80. Reunion Williamson, p. 500. .jpg
81. George L. Christian.jpg
82. James M. Mason drafted the 2nd Fugitive Slave Act.jpg
83. Andrew Hunter John Brown prosecutor.jpg
84. Henry Wise Governor of Virginia 1859.jpg
Christian quotes what the Old Virginians said against slavery. True; but why didn’t he quote what the modern Virginians said in favor of it? Mason, Hunter, Wise, etc. Why didn’t he state that a Virginia senator, Mason, was the author of the Fugitive Slave Law, and why didn’t he quote The Virginia Code that made it a crime to speak against slavery?
Now while I think as badly of slavery as Horace Greeley did, I am not ashamed that my family were slaveholders. It was our inheritance.
The South went to war on account of slavery. South Carolina went to war, as she said in her secession proclamation, because slavery would not be secure under Lincoln. South Carolina ought to know what was the cause for her seceding. The truth is the modern Virginians departed from the teachings of the Father’s.
85. Mosby letter to Sam Chapman TITLE.jpg
I am not ashamed of having fought on the side of slavery, a soldier fights for his country, right or wrong, he is not responsible for the political merits of the course he fights in. The South was my country.
86. Portrait Mosby’s Memoirs p. 318 by W. O. Beck.jpg
87. Julia Davis with McDonald Grand Parents.jpg
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90. Media Farm near Charles town, WV.jpg
91. Mosby & McDonald.jpg
They just sat on the porch in comfortable rocking chairs and reminisced, . . . We always served them juleps, you know, with company, yes we’d have juleps, especially if it was an old Confederate. I mean that was obviously the thing. Grandfather was one of the leaders. I remember Mosby very distinctly because he was so a particular enthusiasm.
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When I was about eleven which was shortly before he died. He said he had fought from First Manassas to Appomattox,
I didn’t quite finish telling you what grandfather said about the war. He said he had to fight the way he did because he couldn’t fight his own people, because in those days, you were much more a Virginian than you were a United States person. After all, Virginia had been here for 150 years before there was a . . . and the states were very conscious of their own governments still.
93. Major E. H. McDonald.jpg
He didn’t approve of slavery and said he would never own a slave and he also didn’t approve of secession. He argued about that with this father a great deal. Then he told me he had to fight the way he did because he couldn’t have fought his own people.
94. Wm E.H. McDonald and Julia Davis.jpg
BUT, he said, you must always be VERY glad we didn’t win! So he took the whole thing off the top of my head there and I went away to boarding school and I’d never have to be “a Southerner” you know and stand up for the Confederacy . . .
He was a very intelligent man.
95. tombstone of Wm E.H. McDonald Zion Episcopal churchyard.jpg
96. Mosby dies May 30, 1916.jpg
97. Monument for Mosby.jpg