Charles Aglionby Keeps Farming Amid War
December, 1862-June, 1863 – The Daily Struggle at the Charles Aglionby Farm, “Mt. Pleasant” in Jefferson County.
In the early part of 1863 the Federal troops picketed the area and horses were stolen from the farms from time-to-time, but there was little local military activity until June. Then Confederate forces moved northwards. On the 14th the Federals evacuated Charles Town. Charles Aglionby watched Confederate forces advancing, A. P. Hill’s “corps d’armee” along the Shepherdstown road on the 23rd and Heth’s division next day. Many soldiers called in for milk and food. On the 30th, a little before noon there was a report “between a cannon and thunder.” It was caused by the Federals blowing up the magazines at Harper’s Ferry before evacuating it. These troops movements preceded the Battle of Gettysburg which was fought 1-3 July. On the 4th of July, Charles went to Harper’s Ferry which “looks truly like a deserted village.”
Wednesday, December 24, 1862
The day has been cloudy & chilly, the wind blowing mostly from the south. A little rain fell at intervals but not enough to intercept business. Frank, Howard and Davy and I were engaged before noon in opening the drain from the road. In the afternoon they hauled a load of the old refuse hay into the rack. Zacary was tending Ralf by hauling flagstones & dirt assisted by John. I beat some sandstone to throw over the pavement. Johnny was mostly with Will Downey and went home with him. R. Bowler was here. He split the large stone that was at the horse rack and dined. I settled with him for cleaning and deepening the woods pool.
There was but one soldier seen to pass here today. The Federals are said to be on the railroad towards Duffields laying the telegraph wires. Nothing more from the war.
Thursday, December 25, 1862 – Christmas
Not all times clear but quite pleasant. Pretty much holiday with all hands. Fare better than common and a greater variety. I went to Halltown and took Mrs. Creamer’s on the way. Mr. Dixon’s dinner was ready and after taking a little of his blackberry wine sat down to a very nice dinner, but as I had promised Mrs. A. to be home to her dinner I had to reserve some space. Our dinner was dinner and supper in one. The report of soldiers is that the Federals were at Duffields’ and went thence to Charlestown behind our farm. They did not remain long in town. There was right smart firing in different directions seemingly by citizens as well as soldiers. Credit cash by amount paid servants Sarah and two boys $4.00, Letty $2.00.
Friday, December 26, 1862
A little cloudy and mild throughout the day. John and I started to Mrs. M. Moore’s to dinner by invitation. After we were there a while Mrs. A. came with Mrs. H. Moore. John Moore, Jno. C. Wiltshire and Smith S. Crane were there also and after a while. Mr. G. D. Moore came. Frank rode down to his aunt Janet’s. Ralf, Will and some of the boys took the wagon with some wheat and flour casks. Rumors of Federals being about Winchester and other places. The day quiet.
Wednesday, December 31, 1862
The last day of the year 1862 has passed and the last night is passing off. May peace dawn on the coming year and each section do for itself what they could not do together, i.e. live in peace.
Saturday, January 3, 1863
Was quite a pretty day. The hands shucking corn. I went to Mrs. Striders and dined at Sml. S. Moore’s. Mr. Allen called in the morning and we settled our accounts. Mrs. Aglionby, Frank and Ralf went to Harper’s Ferry marketing. They called by Mama’s and Mrs. Dougherty’s. They succeeded in getting some goods and brought back some goods with them in the rock-away and the cart.
Monday, January 5, 1863
A pleasant winter day. The hands hauled the corn they shucked last week, also some fodder.
Wednesday, January 7, 1863
Cold and blustery. We commenced threshing.
Thursday, January 8, 1863
58 Yankee cavalry passed by. The morning was red. It soon clouded up and a little before noon it commenced snowing.
Saturday, January 10, 1863
Last night was very clear and starry above. Now about eight stars are shining above. We covered up our wheat in the pen and in the stack. The boys hauled a couple of loads of straw, shucked some corn in the barn. In the afternoon they cleaned one of the stables.
Wednesday, January 21, 1863
A real winter day, rain, hail and snow. The chimneys were burnt. Some corn run through the fan. Corn house over shilling room leveled so as to hold more corn. The stables cleaned and racks filled with straw and chaff. My hands and wrists pretty sore from shucking corn.
Saturday, January 31, 1863
A mild and pleasant day. I went to a shoemaker’s and was halted at the crossroads going towards Flowing Springs by a Dutch (German) cavalryman. He wanted to know who I was, where I was going and did I know a Mr. Leavell. Giving him answers he told me I might go. He had his revolver drawn. Mr. Sampson put a patch on my boots.
Saturday, February 14, 1863
The day raw and cloudy. I went over to Duffield’s after I had opened the trench around the west side of the corn house. Mrs. Aglionby returned from Baltimore in the train. Her trunk and some things were brought home in the cart.
Sunday, February 22, 1863
Sunday being the anniversary of the birth of Washington is also the Lord’s Day.
Snowy all day and best part of the day. The snow is about ten inches deep and cold and dry. We all stayed home today and read and improved ourselves according to our various tastes and sense of duty. After reading the Lessons etc. for the day I read the memoirs of Mrs. Anne Page by Dr. Charles Andrews.
Wednesday, March 4, 1863
This day two years ago Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated President of the United States. What a change has come over the face of this once happy country. How altered are the households and relations of every man in the country. What an expenditure of blood and treasure. For how long will it continue? The Lord save us from man. Make an end of this bloodshed and carnage. Forgive us if we have abused our privileges. Restore the land once more to peace and let us once more travel in the road leading to prosperity and happiness. Let the hatchet be buried, the sword turned into plowshare. Let the lion lay down with the lamb and let everyone lay down under his own vine and fig tree and no one to make him afraid or ashamed.
Thursday, March 5, 1863
It has been a very pretty day. The wagon and boys hauled four loads of fodder. Ralf at posts. John went to mill after dinner. Ralf and John hauled some straw and chaff. I stayed at home, fixed some physic for rats in the corn house, fixed the upper door under the shed in the spilling department and raked up when the hands were loading.
Wednesday, March 25, 1863
Last night much rain – heavy shower before breakfast. It cleared off handsomely. The hands went into the woods with their axes. In the evening, John went to the mill and the two other boys filled the racks. Ralf, the Madam and I trimmed the grape vines.
Tuesday, April 7, 1863
Last night, Mrs. Aglionby and I had a very anxious night about our little daughter – early in the morning we sent Frank off for the doctor. He and the Dr. came to a second breakfast. Doctor Mason seemed alarmed at her symptoms and cupped and blistered her immediately and left medicines to take until tomorrow morning. Her disease is bronchitis.
Wednesday, April 8, 1863
. . .The Dr. came to breakfast and found Nettie much better. . .
Thursday, April 9, 1863
This turned out to be a very pretty day. The hands hauled manure. Ralf mended the garden fence. I rode out to dinner with Col. Yates and called by my mother’s and sister Beall’s. Saw the town garrisoned with Union soldiers.
Saturday, April 11, 1863
The weather pleasant. The hands sowed clover seed in the forenoon, in the afternoon some manure from before the stable doors, and filled the racks. Mrs. Aglionby had her gang in the garden. I helped her to spin. She sowed some peas.
Tuesday, April 14, 1863
This has been a pretty day. We went on with plowing, spreading manure, etc. I walked out into the fields this morning and evening and inspected matters.
Friday, April 17, 1863
A little cloudy all day – the sun sometimes shining. We performed a little operation on the young colt this morning to give vent to his water.
Saturday, April 25, 1863
A very pretty, windy, clear, and drying day. The hands with myself pulled down the stake and cap fence on the upper side of the shop orchard and put up a plank fence in place of it. After dinner Ralf and I finished it and the others took a load of rails down to the low field and repaired the fence. Not much war news.
Sunday, May 24, 1863 (After the last enslaved person left Mt. Pleasant)
The boys (sons Frank and John) and their mother milked the cows and we all made ourselves generally useful.
Sunday, June 7, 1863
Today I blacked my shoes, a thing I had not done I know not when. Alas many who have been reared in the lap of luxury have done the same since this war began whether in the camp or domicile. – (1).
Sunday, June 21, 1863 – Henrietta B. Lee writes her daughter Ida Rust of the absence of enslaved persons and resulting, daily struggles in Shepherdstown: – (2).
My precious Child
It is the blessed Sabbath day, and I feel that I am not violating it in writing to you and expressing my joy and gratitude at the safe return of your dear dear – Father – O my heart indeed is full to overflowing “surely goodness and mercy have flowed to me all the days of my life.” I cannot dare utter that You did not come too. I was sadly disappointed and I write now to urge that you will get A’s (Ida’s husband, Armistead Rust) consent to come here and spend the rest of the summer. You can hear from A. just as easily from here as where you now are – and I know his heart is too great to refuse your mother’s so reasonable a request – beside for the sake of the future affection which is to exist between you and his children you ought to see them this summer before they forget you altogether. Children soon forget and I do not want your influence weakened, or a spark of their affection lost towards you. Come then my child to your house and your Mother’s heart. There is perfect safety here now.
Gen. Lee’s headquarters are in Winchester. Eight thousand of our troops passed through Shepherdstown on Thursday last and are with many other encamped opposite the Lawn in Maryland, there is no fear that you will encounter the wild beasts that have so lately infested these counties or that you will be where you cannot write or hear from your husband.
Your Papa thinks of sending Edmund with a nice covered wagon to Lexington, so you & Sue (daughter-in-law), and V.(niece Virginia Rust Bedinger) must come back in it.
This will be your best and least expensive plan. The house is full of soldiers of all ranks and grades – from the rank of General to the most humble private. I greet all as brother, and am willing to share every mouthful with them.
Your dear little babe’s likeness I hugged and kissed, but I am so sorry he has been baptized – I did so want to have it done here. I am going to Maryland tomorrow, and will finish out your list. I have long ago gotten everything you wrote for the shoes I will get tomorrow. These steel pens are so horrid I cannot bear to write with them. I wish I never had seen one. G. Robinson was here yesterday and took off the baby’s likening to show to Annie. Annie has a lovely little boy – and my little God daughter Nannie is the most lovely engaging thing I ever saw. I want you to be here while she’s in Town. A friend wrote to you but the yankees got the letters. Lila talks of you every day. Fred has just come to Sunday School. Sends his love and begs if you are ever coming you will come now. I am so sorry V. is not here as George (George Bedinger, Virginia’s brother) is and looks so well & happy. Tell her everyone of Mrs. Robinson’s servants have left her. Rosa has been cooking and last week I spent the evening there and the hot rolls R. had made was an elegant as any I ever saw.
There are no servants to be had – nearly all have gone off. I have been on the street for a washer every week since Old Kit decamped. Last week Milly Edward washed for me and if this old sow which is grunting around here, had whirled them about with her snout in a mud puddle, they would have looked as well. I hope you will bring your servant, and she can wash for you for it is dreadful that when things are as high as they are now they should be ruined in washing.
If I were only sure you would return with Edmund I would not send you things on because you would have them made up here so much cheaper. I am afraid I cannot send the bonnet lest it should be injured. When I was in Frederick I got Netta a most beautiful photograph album, and meant to have had my picture taken on cards and sent each of you one. I can have it done tomorrow. Netta has got that photograph taken of you and A. I think. Your precious father has just come in and read me his letter to you all, he has given you all the army news – Only to think of his having to sleep on the damp ground all night bless his dear heart – it is well I did not know it, I should have started in pursuit. All the Town seems mad with joy at the return of our soldiers.
We have been so long under yankee rule, It was perfectly dreadful for a while and if your men had not come, I do believe the Negroes would have made an effort to have changed places with us. I wrote a disguised letter to you last week, giving you an account of how Margie Boteler (daughter of Alexander Boteler’s brother, Charles) was insulted did you get it? When we would get a letter we would not dare to tell we had one or talk about it, for fear of being sent over the lines. I shall write to Sue tomorrow. God bless you my darling, send a kiss to dear A. for me, and tell him he must not “say me nay”. Kiss both the dear children for me, Netta, and N. Strider are surrounded with beaus, they do not know I am writing. Ever – Your Mother Henrietta Bedinger Lee. – (3).
Chapterette 16: December, 1862-April, 1863 in Jefferson County – The Calm Between Storms.
1. “The Day Book Kept By Charles Aglionby at Mount Pleasant, Charles Town, Jefferson County, Virginia.” 6 March, 1861 to 1 January, 1866.” – Jefferson County Museum, Charles Town, Wv.
2. Levin, p. 2.
3. Henrietta Bedinger Lee, Goldsborough Collection, Shepherd University Library.
Next: Chapter 17. Click Here https://civilwarscholars.com/uncategorized/thy-will-be-done-17-july-3-1863-george-bedinger-falls-at-gettysburg/