The other evening Observer had an interesting conversation with two Shepherdstown ladies who remembered many incidents that occurred in this town and vicinity during the Civil War, and this conversation brought forth some stories that are worth recording. Those of whom we refer were Mrs. Nannie Lea and Miss Bettie McGlincy, and their sister, the late Miss Virginia McGlincy, who was one of the most devoted Southerners that lived in our town, had jotted down notes of war-time events that Observer enjoyed reading. Perhaps the readers of the Register may find them interesting, also.
On one occasion a number of the Rebel boys had come through the lines to Shepherdstown to visit their wives and sweethearts and home folks, and while they were enjoying themselves, with little thought of danger, the Yankees suddenly made their appearance and surrounded the town. There was a wild scramble for safety. One young soldier, who was afterward a well-known physician of this county, hid himself in the town run that crosses Main street in front of where the Register office now stands. He lay there in the water all day and most of the night, until finally the coast was clear and he was able to crawl out undetected. When he joined the other boys, who had also come from their hiding places, they had a hearty laugh at the bedraggled appearance of poor “Mase,” who looked like a soaked herring. Another young fellow hid himself under his house, where he was in comparative safety, but later he discovered two big snakes coiled up alongside, and he was in a considerable of a pickle, for he had no use for snakes. He concluded, however, that he would rather take chances with the snakes than with the Yankees, and he decided that if they didn’t bother him he would not disturb them. So all day long they lay side by side, until he really felt that they were good friends. Nevertheless, he parted from them without regret when he had a chance to creep out. This man is now a sober-sided resident of Shepherdstown. Wonder if he has forgotten the incident?
Another soldier boy, who is now a veteran still true to the Lost Cause, made a bee-line for home when he heard that the Yankees were close by, and running to the garret hid himself between the floor and the ceiling. Although search was made for him, his hiding-place was not discovered, and he kept as still as a mouse. He remained in his uncomfortable quarters for two days and a night, for as he had been seen to enter the house a watch was kept by the Yankees as long as they remained in town. His mother fed him as best she could, but by the time the coast was clear he was almost helpless from lying in his cramped quarters for so long. His limbs had to be rubbed and bathed a long time before he was able to walk.
A pathetic incident occurred west of Shepherdstown. A young Southern soldier, hearing that his favorite sister was ill, determined to steal home to see her. He made his way through the lines, and when within sight of the old homestead found the way blocked by a cordon of Union soldiers who were guarding the B. & O. Railroad. He had gotten so close to them that he was at first afraid that he had been seen, but he sank down in a field of wheat before they got sight of him. He laid in the wheat field all day, trying to catch the attention of some of the folks about his father’s house, but no one came within sight. They were inside keeping vigil at the bedside of the dying girl, and had no idea that the son and brother was so near. Neither did he know that his sister’s life was fast ebbing away, and that she was piteously calling for him. When darkness came he easily evaded the Union soldiers and got into his home, only to learn that his sister was dead, and that her last words were for him.
One of the fights about Shepherdstown that is well remembered was on the 16th of July, 1863. There had been a tremendous downpour of rain, and the Confederates, who were in camp south of town, thought that there would be no trouble from the enemy, who were on the Maryland side of the river. A number of them came to town to see friends and the home folks, and were enjoying themselves first rate, when simultaneously the sun came out and the village filled with Yankees who had quietly crossed the river. The Union soldiers were in force, and soon there was a lively running fight along the Kearneysville pike. There were a number of casualties, and it was during this engagement that the gallant Colonel Drake was killed at Butler’s woods, a couple of miles south of town. A granite monument has lately been erected to mark the place where he fell.
Observer was recently told of an interesting incident of the late George W. Caton, who was one of the bravest and most daring soldiers from this community. As he was heading towards Kearneysville Mr. Caton’s horse was shot under him and fell on his leg. Although he fired point-blank several times at a Union soldier who was riding him down, he missed the fellow, who gave him a severe cut on the ear with his sabre. There was nothing to do but surrender, which Caton did with the most grace possible. He was not unmindful, however, of the possibility of making his escape, and he pretended to be much worst hurt that he really was. That leg got more and more painful, and it was all that he could do to get back to town, with the utmost assistance of his captor. He gave out entirely on the street, and fashioned him a pair of crutches, with which he managed to move slowly along. His captor was detailed to guard him until he could be sent on, and the two loafed around the old Lutheran and Reformed churches on East Main street. During the afternoon the Yankee began to get pretty hunger, when “Aunt” Julia Burke, an ardent Southern sympathizer, generously offered to give him something to eat. He gladly followed her home, leaving his helpless prisoner to await his return. The Union soldier was no sooner out of sight than Caton suddenly got better, and while none of the enemy was in sight he climbed into the shallow old well that may be seen in the middle of the street between the two churches. “Aunt Julia” kept the soldier as long as she could, and when he returned his prisoner had mysteriously disappeared. While search was being made for Caton, “Aunt Julia,” who knew where he was hiding, seated herself on the platform of the well, and warned all the Union men not to use the water, as it was very foul and not fit for man or beast. The prisoner remained in the well until long after nightfall, when “Aunt Julia” gave him the signal that the coast was clear, whereupon he crawled out and quietly made his way through the Reformed graveyard. He almost ran into two Union pickets, but he dropped upon his hands and knees and crawled past them. They saw the dark object passing along the fence, and one inquired of the other if it was a dog or a man. Caton heard them, and while they were speculating he managed to get out of their sight. In a few moments he was beyond observation, when he arose and made tracks for home, his lameness entirely gone. He spent the night at his home east of town, and next morning made his way towards Kearneysville and rejoined his command. The Confederates decided to have a little fun of their own this day, and made a sudden and spirited attack on the Union forces who still held the town, running them into Maryland a bit faster than they themselves had been chased to Kearneysville the previous day. By a strange coincidence, George Caton captured the very man who had taken him prisoner less than twenty-four hours before. The Union man swore volubly when he learned how he had been tricked by his former captive.
During this same fight a pathetic incident occurred. A Confederate soldier named Potts, riding horseback, saw a Union solider running afoot in a desperate endeavor to avoid capture. He called to the fleeing man to stop no less than three times, but as he kept on, he fired at him. At the first shot the man fell forward on his face, dead. Potts descended from his horse and turned his victim over, when he was horrified to find that he was looking into the glazing eyes of his own brother. One brother had enlisted in the Union army and the other had gone with the South, and this was the first time that they had met. Potts gave an old colored man of the town five dollars to give his brother decent burial, and then pressed on with his comrades, cut to the heart that the chances of war had made him the slayer of his own brother.
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