Sergeant Blackwell’s Famous Account Of Service Given-Salem Men In Stuart’s Cavalry Regiment
From the 1938 centennial edition of The Times-Register
Almost every able bodied male in Roanoke county had been mustered into the army of the Confederacy before the war ended. Cold figures tell the story so that we quote the following figures from a speech made by Major W. W. Ballard at the unveiling of the Confederate monument here on June 3, 1910 when he said that this county sent 1,091 men to the front while the census of 1860 showed that there were but 1,136 white males over the age of 21.
Subject to the law which called out boys from sixteen to eighteen and those from fifty-five to sixty Co. F 2nd Regiment Virginia Junior Reserves was organized at Salem on March 22, 1864, The officers elected by this company were said to have been a happy mixture of old men and boys and they were as follows:
Captain J. C. Miller; 1st Lieut., G. Frank Board; 2nd Lieut., Samuel Lee; 3rd Lieut., John Steel; 1st Sgt., Calvin Blackwell; 2nd Sgt., Chas Stevens; 3rd Sgt., Chas. Brady.
Concerning the service of these “cradle and grave” fellows Sergeant Blackwell wrote the following which are excerpts from his account:
81 In Company
“There were 81 in the company when we were called out and organized in Salem, March 22, 1864. We were assembled in the five acre horse lot of Dr. Griffin on the south side of the rock road west of town. Of the officers selected only Second Lieutenant Samuel Lee mentioned had served in the war with Mexico. None of the others had seen service. A federal force was striking for the railroad at Salem or Christiansburg and we were armed and put under the command of Col. Preston, he being an old militia officer. We marched through the rain to Hanging Rock and went into camp. Our chief duty was to obstruct the road from north by cutting trees across it and arranging breast work of logs.”
After giving some incidents of life in camp the writer goes on to give the following account of their activities:
Ordered To Richmond
“The enemy not appearing we were ordered to Lynchburg and put in the camp for instruction. On May 1 the company was ordered to Richmond where at Camp Lee we were
again put under instruction and organized into the 2nd Regiment, Virginia Reserves. On May 10 we were put forward a few miles but did not get into the fight on June 2. We then marched to the York River Railroad and were placed to the extreme right of Lee’s army during the second battle
of Cold Harbor. The Federals were on the north side of the river and put us under a heavy shell fire, our first experience of the kind.”
“On June 15 we were taken to Richmond and assigned to duty on Bell Isle to guard federal prisoners. A week later we were assigned to similar duty in Richmond at Libby prison. July 1, we were moved to South Anna bridge and guarded and fortified the bridge against a second attack. On July 30, when Crater Mine was exploded at Petersburg we felt the shock although we were north of the James River. We remained in that vicinity for some time but things did not get lively until Sept. 29 when Warren’s Corps made an attack on Fort Harrison near Chafin’s farm. The fort was taken in the morning; our line was fiercely assaulted in the afternoon and the enemy repulsed with great slaughter.”
Make General Lee Laugh
“The next day, Sept. 30, Gen. Lee himself came to the north side to direct a vain effort to retake Fort Harrison. A terrific artillery fire was opened from the gun boats, at Drury’s Bluff and Chafin’s farm. We were lying in the ditches and behind us was a battery of guns. It was a drizzling rain. At every discharge of the guns great volumes of powder smoke would pour on us so that by 3 P.M. every man was black as powder. Just then General Lee and his staff drove by and we boys to a man leaped up to cheer him. We looked so much like so many negro boys that it provoked a radiant smile from General Lee and a heavy laugh from the whole staff. Gen. Lee quietly remarked ‘Lie down boys, some of you might get hurt.’ Through the rest of the fall and winter we remained at Chafin’s farm.
Sergeant Blackwell winds up his narrative by telling how the company was sent to Waynesboro, Lynchburg and then to the trans-Alleghany department under General Nichols at Dublin. They were disbanded at Christiansburg.
Students Form Company
The other reserve company organized at Salem was composed of students then attending Roanoke College, between the ages of 16 and 18 years. This company was first organized in September, 1861 but was not mustered into service until September, 1864.
The officers were: Captain Geo. W. Holland; Captain R. W. Branch; 1st Lieut., Arthur Parkhill; 2nd Lieut., Geo. A. Hubburt; 3rd Lieut., C. W. Nowlin; 1st Sgt., Otho O. Ovens; 1st Sgt., Willie Sledd; 1st Sgt., G. W. Price; 1st Sgt., W. R. Watkins.
Served In Maryland
This company saw some active service in Maryland. Two of the company, H. R. Morrison and W. W. Smith died while in the service at Point Lookout, Md. and one man, Private Andrew Wingfield was captured by the enemy at this place.
This company also did duty at Dublin, Saltville and Lynchburg. They were mustered out of the army on their way from Salem to Lynchburg upon the intelligence of Gen. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.
In all four Companies of regulars which saw the hardest kind of service during the war, two companies of reserves and parts of companies formed in other parts were furnished by men of Salem and Roanoke county.
The companies for which Roanoke county supplied a portion of the men were the following:
Cavalry Company Organized
The 2nd Regiment Virginia Cavalry which was organized at Lynchburg on May 8, 1861. The mustering officer was Col. J. A. Early and this was the first mounted regiment organized in Virginia. When Gen. J. E. B. Stuart organized his cavalry after the first battle of Manassas, he made his regiment the first and this regiment was designated as the Second Virginia Cavalry. Ten Salem men were in the company.
Co. A, 36th Regiment Virginia Volunteers was originally organized at Cabell, West Virginia and was mustered into the service of the Confederacy in the early part of 1862 at Greenbrier. Fifty-three men of this county joined the company which was commanded by officers from West Virginia.
Another company in which there were a large number of Roanoke county men was Co. E, 28th Regiment Virginia Volunteers which was at first known as the Botetourt Rifles. This company saw service in many of the major engagements of the war and served in Hunton’s Brigade of Pickett’s division at Gettysburg.
-Prepared by Lisa King
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