Banner.jpg (54143 bytes)

Original page 10

64.  Uncle Jaque used to call Father “the Old Horse Thief” for as each army would pass by, there would be always sick or worn out horses left.  Father would drive them in and nurse them back to health; then the next army would come and pick them up and carry them off.  It was most discouraging, but Father, when they teased him about it, would say, “Laugh as you will, but when peace came, I had two horses and that was all we did have to start life and farming again.”


65.  There was a hollow back in one of the fields where he would shoo all the livestock when the soldiers were sighted.  Sometimes it worked, but one time they were on him too quickly and before he had gotten his cherished flock of turkeys, which he had raised himself, to their hiding place.  The Yankees spied them and were after them with whoops and yells and began shooting all around him.  Father said he was too furious to be scared.  He had worked so hard on those turkeys and to see them picked off and falling right and left was just terrible. 

Rev. Jo Ware (Josiah’s son and Sigismund’s brother) gave a wonderful accounting of an incident with the turkeys in his personal memoir.  The following is an excerpt from his writing that appears in Biography of Sigismund Stribling Ware written by Judy C. Ware in 2013:

“One day, there ‘was a flock of turkeys, about grown, in a field in sight of the house.’  Sig’s mother told the servants to shoo them closer in so the Yankees would not get them, but they were all too afraid to do so.  The servants told her, ‘No, can’t let the Yankees shoot us!’  In a humorous turn of events, Jo writes, ‘Then what must Sig do but say, ‘Jo and I will get them.’  My heart sank at the thought, and while I do not think that I am by nature brave, I have always despised cowardice.  And my self-respect would not let me act the coward, so away we ran.  To my surprise the soldiers, probably because they respected the audacity of such small chaps, permitted us to drive them off.  While the turkeys were making long strides for the house, a soldier followed us, unbeknown, and while we were ‘double-quicking’ after our rescue (I suppose that we were about five yards apart), a bullet buzzed between us and broke a turkey’s leg.  Then followed a race - - we and the Yank chasing the bird, and he racing for his life.  But the soldier’s long legs won out and he carried off the prize.  He had rested his gun against a tree for a sure shot.’ ” (Ref. 84)

66.  I was brought up on Civil War stories at first hand, as you can see.  One I remember especially.   Sheridan gave the order to burn every home in the valley, at least every large place.  This was
[done] as retaliation for one of Mosby’s raids.  Father said he went out to meet the Yankees as usual, but they had nothing to say and looked very grim.  The officer in command asked for the owner of the place and Grandmother came, with the two little boys at her skirts.  He told her he was going to burn her home and gave the order to his men to set it on fire.  Grandmother was a very brave woman, and Father said she showed not the slightest fear, even when smoke began curling out from piles of straw placed around in the house.  Sometime previously to this, the Yankee Captain Merritt (later General Merritt of the regular army) camped on the lawn in from of Springfield and when he moved, he told Grandmother that she and her family would be shown special immunity.  Grandmother remembered this, as a last resort, and though she had nothing to show for it, she was so convincing in demanding it, the officer at last turned and gave orders to put out the fires which were now well started.

Josiah’s youngest son, Rev. Jo Ware, recounted this same story in his memoirs:

“General Wesley Merritt ended up making his headquarters at Springfield and occupying one of the guest rooms.  The union troops were camped on the front lawn.  In appreciation for the hospitality shown him, Gen. Merritt guaranteed that the property should be unharmed by the Union army.  In 1863, however, a picket was killed by one of Mosby’s men on Morgan’s Lane, running along the west side of Durham Farm.  In retaliation for this, an order was issued for several homes in the valley to be burned – with Springfield being first on the list.  Without warning, a troop of cavalry rode up the side of the house.   Getting some straw, they entered pell-mell, announcing that they had orders to burn the house.  The soldiers started smashing things, but my mother [Edmonia] spoke with the officer in charge and told him of the guarantee from Gen. Merritt.  She said it was verbal, but that if he would hold his action in abeyance until he could dispatch a soldier to the camp, the statement would be verified.   The officer replied, ‘No, Madam.  If the order were in writing, it is my duty to see it, but the word of a lady is sufficient.’  From our house, they went to the home of Province McCormick –which they burned.”  Jo added later, “When she stood in front of the house, one of the skunks threatened to shoot her.  And she would have gone had not we held her.  We thought then that he would shoot her, as he raised his gun. How vividly I recall these experiences!”  (Ref. 84)

Sigismund also said “he’d never forget the smell of the burning straw the devils brought in and spread in the house, and he almost fainted with the thought ‘everything else is gone, and now the home is burning!” (Ref. 40)


67.  They wheeled their horses and were on their way.  They could be followed by the smoke from the fires that sprang up all along the way.  The next day the news came that Mosby had caught and shot them at sight.  Father said it made them feel very sad, for these men were just obeying orders and doing a job which they hated.

There were many who were deeply saddened to hear of what had happened to the beautiful estate.  As Union Captain Stevenson wrote, “I was very sorry to hear from him that the Union troops had, after we left that place, killed all his fancy sheep and carried off all his fine horses.” (Ref. 181)

Other sad events took place on Springfield as a result of the war.  A young officer was killed and his body was brought to Springfield.  “His men requested permission to bury him there, so his grave was placed between the parlor window and the garden.  His brother later came from North Carolina and took his remains home.  In a letter from Edmonia to her step-daughter Elizabeth, she wrote - “I decked the body of a young Col. with flowers and he was buried near the parlor window until his friends can come.  His band played funeral dirges and we had our own burial service.”  (Ref. 19)  

Rev. Jo Ware also wrote that “the servants, on the approach of any of the enemy, would cry out, ‘Miss Edmonia, the Yankees is coming.’  This announcement caused her to become pale and to tremble, but she would soon recover her composure.” (Ref. 84)

68.  Another story is one which Uncle Jaque told and which Frances Wolfe copied as he told it:

“In January, 1865, we were on a raid in West Virginia to New Creek Station, now Keyser City.  At that time, there were a number of our soldiers wearing Yankee overcoats, and anything else they could find, so when we got in sight of the place, there were about fifty men in blue overcoats selected to ride out in advance.  Thinking that these men were Yankee Cavalry returning from a scouting expedition, no attempt was made to stop them and the pickets were captured without any trouble, the town and garrison captured.  Then the command rode into the town, burnt the stores and plundered generally.  A fellow, Billy Moore, came up to me with a fifty pound sack of coffee and said if I would take it for him on the horse I was leading, he would give me half of it.  At that time, coffee was worth $50.00 a pound.  I had him strap the coffee on the lead horse and was just then sent out on a corn detail.  When I returned with the sack of corn in front of me, we were stopped by the provost guard and all with lead horses ordered to fall in line.


Return to Home Page

This site maintained by John Reagan and last updated