Chapterette 23 – July 17-19, 1864 – The Three Burnings; David Hunter Torches Hunter Hill, Fountain Rock and Bedford While their Families Watch and Become Homeless, Another Is Saved by Clever Dealings; Gen David Hunter Planned Widespread Burnings and Was Replaced.
Federal Gen. David Hunter’s raid on County homes, as viewed by David Hunter Strother. Strother, who was born in Martinsburg and whose wife’s family resided in Charles Town, was chief-of-staff to his cousin, Gen. David Hunter, when Gen. Hunter shelled the Virginia Military Institute in Lynchburg in June, 1864. Earlier in late May, 1862 under Gen. Banks’ command, he prevented the firing of structures in Charles Town by an unruly mob of Federal soldiers who had set some buildings alight.
Sunday, July 17th: An order arrived from Washington. Col. Strother wrote in his diary:
Received a telegram from General Halleck informing Gen. Hunter to follow (the enemy) to Chancellorsville if practicable and then fall back if forced toward Washington. He was to devastate the valleys south of the railroad as far as the crows flying over would have to carry knapsacks.
The exact wording of this order was: Captain Martindale, First New York (Lincoln) Cavalry will proceed with cavalry under his command to Charlestown, WV and burn the dwelling house and outbuildings of Andrew Hunter, not permitting anything to be taken therefrom except the family. – (1).
Strother’s diary rejoins: “This need not involve the burning of houses, dwellings. I have begged off Charles Town from being burnt for the third time. He continued: July 18, Monday: The house of Andrew Hunter was burned yesterday by Martindale. I am sorry to see this warfare begun and would be glad to stop it, but I don’t pity the individuals at all. A war of mutual devastation will depopulate the border countries which contain all my kindred on both sides of the question. (NOTE: Strother was a cousin to Gen, Hunter and Gen. Hunter a cousin to Andrew Hunter, who had been the prosecuting attorney in the John Brown Trial in 1859, apparently one reason for his being targeted). Strother goes on: I would fain save some of them but fear that all will go under alike in the end . . .Martindale returned and reports Hunter’s house and made prisoner of Hunter himself, who was concealed in the house. He (Hunter) snapped his fingers and told Martindale he would not care that for the burning if he were ten years younger. – (2).
Sunday, July 17, 1864 – The Charlestown home of Andrew Hunter’s family is burned by the First New York Cavalry on orders. Young neighbor Richard Rutherford describes what happened.
In Charlestown, 14-year-old Richard D. Rutherford, whose family lived on Washington Street and a very short walk from the home of Andrew Hunter’s family, wrote later:
General Hunter had been in command in the valley before Sheridan came . . .One Sunday (July 17th, the day the order was given to burn the Hunter home-JS) we were all at church (Presbyterian Church on Washington Street.-JS) except my father, who had stayed home. Some ten or fifteen of Baylor’s boys had come into town, and as all seemed quiet and peaceful, some of them had ventured to attend church. The minister was in the midst of his sermon when we were startled by several shouts out in front. All made a rush to get the soldiers out first. A squad of yankees had passed, shooting at some of our boys who were visiting at their homes, but who had fled at the first alarm of their picket. Those at church had their horses tied behind the church and so succeeded in getting away over the fence in the rear before the main body of yankees got as far as the church. One of our men, a friend of my fathers, Newton Sadler, had left his horse downtown and walked up to see my father. They were sitting on the porch talking when the yankees dashed by. My father put him up in the attic right under a slate roof, and as it was very warm through the day, he almost roasted to death. My sister took him ice water often through the day, which enabled him to survive the imprisonment.
These yankees had come from General Hunter to burn Mr. Andrew Hunter’s house. They were first cousins and General Hunter, I was afterward told, had on a very handsome ring which Andrew Hunter had given him before the war. Mr. Hunter was at home at the time, but they caught him and brought him to our house, where his daughters were so now we were in a tight place with Mr. Hunter and yankee officers downstairs and Nate Sadler hidden up in the attic. My mother talked to the officer in command and tried to persuade them not to burn the Hunter house, but to give her time to go to Harper’s Ferry to see General Kelley, who was of no use. The men carried great armfuls of hay into each room and put it all to the match. The beautiful home was soon in flames. Nothing was saved but the clothes the family wore. My mother and I, with the help of an old Irishman who lived with us dragged the piano to the door and would have gotten it out had the soldiers not made us let it alone.
When I saw that beautiful home in ruins, I thought no punishment too great for General Hunter. – (3).
THE FAULKNERS SAVE THEIR BOYDVILLE HOME IN MARTINSBURG FROM MARTINDALE’s TORCHES:
The orders also included that “Capt. F. G. Martindale, First New York (Lincoln) Cavalry, will proceed with the cavalry under his command via Charlestown to Martinsburg, W. Va., and burn the dwelling-house and outbuildings of Charles J. Faulkner, not permitting anything to be taken therefrom except the family.” At the last minute the Faulkners reached higher ups in Washington who countermanded the order to burn their beautiful home on Queen Street Boydville.
July 17, 1864 – Martindale is foiled from burning Boydville, the Faulkner’s home in Martinsburg:
As Captain Martindale was leading his cavalry contingent to Martinsburg from Charlestown to burn the estate of Charles and Mary Faulkner, called Boydville, Federal General Averell, commanding in Martinsburg, was working behind the scenes to sabotage the extreme order.
Mrs. Faulkner waited indoors and her friend Mrs. Pierce waited, sitting on the porch as Martindale’s cavalrymen appeared on their long lane coming from Queen Street around nine o’clock.
“I want to see Mrs. Faulkner,” Martindale said ascending the porch. “This is a fine old place,” he said as he was led into the drawing room to see Mrs. Faulkner.
“I have to inform you, Madame, that I have orders from General Hunter to burn Boydville to the ground.”
“Will you let me see your orders?”
“No, my order is a sealed one.”
“Perhaps, you will, however, let me see it.”
Martindale took the order from his pocket, reading: “You are ordered to burn the property of Charles J. Faulkner to the ground and everything in it.”
Mrs. Faulkner said: “Give me one hour’s notice. This is not the property of Mr. Faulkner and neither you nor General Hunter will dare to put a torch to this house. It was given to me by my father, General Elisha Boyd, who was an officer in the War of 1812.”
Martindale was busied with the conversation of Judge Edmond Pendleton and Dr. E. Boyd Pendleton, Mary Faulkner’s nephews and “Union” men. Soon a crowd grew outside antagonizing Martindale’s design. – (4).
Then at last a telegram from President Lincoln arrived:
To Franklin G. Martindale
[c. July 17, 1864?]
The property of Charles J. Faulkner is exempt from the order of General David S. Hunter for the burning of the residences of prominent citizens of the Shenandoah Valley in retaliation for the burning of the Governor Bradford’s house in Maryland by the Confederate forces. ABRAHAM LINCOLN
Home Burnings Continue in Shepherdstown as Part of Federal Gen. David Hunter’s More Widespread Plan of Retributive Home-Burning.
Monday, July 18, 1864 – Gen. Hunter reportedly tells the railroad engineer at Harper’s Ferry that he planned to burn many homes, to the alarm of the head of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. B&O President Garrett wrote Federal Secretary of War Edwin Stanton:
Camden Station, Baltimore, July 18, 1864. (Received 8.30 PM)
Hon. E. M. Stanton: I have just received the following report from our engineer at Harper’s Ferry:
“I called to see General Hunter this morning and asked him to send a force upon the line of our road between Harper’s Ferry and Opequon, to enable us to relay the track and get road open. He replied: ‘Will send a force in a day or two.’ He also stated that he had burned Andrew Hunter’s residence at Charlestown, and had given orders to burn Faulkner’s house at Martinsburg, and, that it is his intention if he finds guerrillas at Charlestown to burn that town; and as Clarke County only polled two votes against the ordinance of secession, he will burn every house in the county.”
If this course is pursued I apprehend such retaliation will follow as will largely add to the losses and sufferings of our border. . . – John W. Garrett, president of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. – (6).
General Hunter Issues More Orders to Threaten Home-Burnings and the Continued Imprisonment of Andrew Hunter In Charlestown.
Harper’s Ferry, W. Va., July 19, 1864.
Brig. Gen. W. W. Averell, Commanding Troops, Martinsburg, W. Va.:
GENERAL: The major-general commanding (HUNTER) directs that you release the citizens of Hedgesville, now in custody at Martinsburg, only upon the condition that they pay to Mr. Cookus, of North Mountain Station, double the amount of property destroyed for him during the recent rebel raid. If the money is not paid at once their houses will be burned, and their families will be sent across our lines south. He also directs that you keep Mr. Andrew Hunter, of Charlestown, in safe custody, not permitting him to escape under any circumstances. I am, general, most respectfully, your obedient servant, P. G. Bier, Assistant Adjutant. – (7).
Strother continues in his diary:
Tuesday, July 19: Orders given to burn the houses of E. J. Lee and Alex Boteler. Martindale went forward to execute it. His description of the women and the scene is heartbreaking. Saw Gen. Hunter at dinner . . . – (8).
JULY 19, 1864 – THE BURNING OF THE BOTELERS’ HOME – FOUNTAIN ROCK – OUTSIDE SHEPHERDSTOWN:
Recalled by Elizabeth Stockton Pendleton from the recollections of her mother, Tippie Boteler:
In the summer of 1864, a corps of fifteen thousand Federal soldiers entered the Valley of Virginia, and growing crops, railroads, mills, barns, and dwelling houses were destroyed by the order of the commanding general, David Hunter. Among the homes laid in ruins in this campaign was that of Alexander R. Boteler, at that time a member of the Confederate Congress at Richmond. His home, Fountain Rock, was situated a short distance from Shepherdstown and both armies had passed many times over the farm till there was little left to be taken by the raiders that could be of any value as munitions of war. The house itself, however, with its valuable library, pictures and furniture had until then remained uninjured. A magnificent spring of water on the place made it a favorite halting spot for soldiers on the march, and situated, as it was, at the junction of two important roads traversed constantly by Union and Confederate troops, it is no wonder that the little household of women at Fountain Rock passed through many terrible experiences and grew accustomed to dangers and mischiefs and fear of them.
I seem to be with the little group at Fountain Rock on that hot day in July – my mother, my widowed Aunt Elizabeth (Mrs. Rezin Davis Shepherd), with her little three children, and Margaret Bunkins, the only servant left upon the place. I can see my frail, white-faced aunt looking like death after a severe illness, just creeping about the house. It is easy to recognize my mother in the vigorous, cheerful charming young girl who has looked after her sister’s comfort, minded the babies, cooked the dinner, and at last goes wearily up to her room for a moment’s rest.
It is all as if I had been there in spirit. The oppressive stillness of the mid-summer afternoon, the loneliness of the place, the voice of the negro woman singing in the laundry room of the spring house coming faintly up through the lilac hedge to the upper chamber. The slight dark-eyed girl brushing out her auburn hair preparatory to her nap. And then the appearance of my aunt at the door and her startled whisper, “Don’t undress – come with me – a party of yankees is here.” They went down and were met at the end of the front porch by a small band of cavalrymen gathered before the house. The captain dismounted and came forward handing a paper without a word. The two sisters read it together. “You are ordered to proceed to the houses of A. R. Boteler and E. J. Lee and to burn everything under cover on both places with their contents. The order was addressed to “Captain Martindale, of the 12th Pennsylvania Cavalry” (CORRECTED: “1st New York Cavalry”-JS) and signed “David Hunter, Maj. Gen., U.S.A.”
As the sisters realized the meaning of the words in the border to burn their beloved home, everything grew black before Helen’s eyes, until her sister’s voice recalled her to her senses. “Don’t give way,” she said, “If you give way, I cannot act,” and they immediately separated to save what they could. The mother flew to her children and sent them at once with Kitty, Margaret Bunkins’ child, a capable young girl, to a safe place under the oaks at some distance from the house. The little ones started off hand-in-hand, six-year-old Fanny in her new flowered hat and her night dress under her arm, with four year-old Alexander clinging to her, and the baby in the nurse’s arms.
By this time the soldiers were scattering all over the place. Helen ran straight up to the garret, followed by several men, and nerved by grief and excitement pulled an immense box of linen to the top of the stairs. The box itself empty could with difficulty be moved by one person. She asked some of the soldiers to carry it down and they did so in a kind of dazed confusion of purpose. One man followed her everywhere, trying to help and doing everything she asked. Others were only intent on securing things for themselves. Sometimes the soldiers would take up an article. “Let that alone,” would come the order and they would hurriedly turn to something else.
Going to the pantry, Helen found Captain Martindale looking curiously around.
“Please put this china here,” she said to him, holding up her skirt by the hem so as to make a kind of bag.
He obediently piled in piece-after-piece of a beautiful, new flowered dinner set and other favorite pieces.
“Why, gir-r-l,” he said, at last poking her in the belt with his forefinger, “Your dress will give way, there, see.”
“Never mind my dress, but just do as I say,” she answered, and he put it in with the rest of the china. In the midst of the hurry and confusion it was amazing to see one of the men vainly trying to fasten a big Sheffield waiter to his saddle. He turned it in every possible way, but the thing was much too large to be adjusted to the situation, and at last he threw it down with an oath. Another soldier was found in a bedroom trying on a suit of Davis Shepherd’s clothes – Davis, who had come home from Old Capitol prison to die only a few months before. “Take those off,” he was commanded sternly. “You may burn them, but you shall not wear them.” He jerked off the coat and said, ”Certainly, certainly,” in hurried embarrassment.
A quiet young man came up to Helen with a small photograph on porcelain of Murillo’s Immaculate Conception. “I’m a Christian,” he said crossing himself, “and I cannot let this be burned.” He was responsible also for the preservation of an old steel engraving, the picture of the interior of a Capuchin monastery with the monks at their devotions.
Elizabeth saved Grandfather Stockton’s picture, and some other oil portraits and a few things for the children, and bundles of her father’s papers. But the soldiers threw her baby’s cradle back into the flames, and one of them kicked a hole in a toilet pitcher she had carried down the stairs. The soldiers’ task of firing the house was soon accomplished. Chairs were piled up in the centre of the rooms, some combustible fluid poured over them, and the men ran about from place-to-place with lighted brooms setting them ablaze.
The efforts made to burn the springhouse proved useless for the damp mossy roof and the stone walls were not very combustible material. It burned so slowly that by the time the soldiers left only a small hole had been made in the roof, and boys from the town put out the fire entirely. The library building, containing thousands of volumes and many valuable papers, autograph letters, and curios were set on fire last, and the townspeople who gathered on the scene tried to save some of the contents. Unfortunately they selected handsomely bound presentation volumes and congressional books of little interest for preservation, judging them by their size and dress to be the most valuable books.
“Aunt” Hannah’s cottage and the two smaller cabins where the family servants had lived were also entirely destroyed. Up to the last moment the sisters were absorbed in the practical business of saving a little store of necessities and a few cherished treasures, but when finally everyone was forced to leave the burning building, in a sudden uncontrollable impulse of passionate grief, Helen rushed back into the parlor and touching the keys of her beloved piano for the last farewell to her home, the young girl sang these stanzas of Charlotte Elliott’s beautiful hymn:
“My God my Father while I stray
Far from my home in life’s rough way,
Oh teach me from my heart to say
Thy will be done”
“Though dark my path and sad my lot,
Let me be still and murmur not
Or breathe the prayer divinely taught,
“Thy will be done.”
What though in lonely grief I sigh
For friends beloved, no longer nigh,
Submissive still would I reply–
Thy will be done.”
Should grief or sickness waste away
My life in premature decay,
My Father, still I strive to say,
Thy will be done.”
Let but my fainting heart be blest
With Thy sweet Spirit for its Guest;
My God, to Thee I leave the rest–
Thy will be done.”
Renew my will from day to day;
Blend it with Thine and take away
All that now makes it hard to say,
Thy will be done.”
Then, when on earth I breathe no more,
The prayer, oft mixed with tears before,
I’ll sing upon a happier shore,
Thy will be done.”
One of the soldiers seized her by the shoulder and tried to lead her away into safety, but she pulled away from him and sang again:
“If Thou shouldst call me to resign
What I most prize, it ne’er was mine;
I only yield Thee what is Thine,
Thy will be done.”
The soldiers looked at her in scared amazement, probably thinking her distracted with grief and terror, but with her music books and guitar she then quickly joined the little group outside watching the final work of the fire.
How often in the vivid story of this war-time tragedy have we pictured the scene. The cluster of white roses hanging over the porch as they were caught one-by-one in the climbing flames, and sent whirling upward shriveled and broken; the trembling black tracery of the window shutters outlined against the red flame within; and the sound of the clanging piano strings through the roar of the fire, as they snapped in the melting heat. – (9).
July 19, 1864 – Mid-day – The Near-Burning of the Morgan’s Home, Falling Spring
Anna Morgan Getzendanner wrote of the experience of the son of Col. William Augustine Morgan, the then very young Augustine C. Morgan:
One day (the day of the Shepherdstown burnings-JS) while roaming through the woods, I heard men’s voices, excitedly giving orders, and then a sound as of flames, roaring and soon I perceived the house of our good neighbor (Botelers’ Fountain Rock-JS) to be burning, the barn also was afire and as the roof fell there was a terrible crash which frightened me not a little, this fire was destroying a beautiful Southern home, the residence of an officer on Gen. R. E. Lee’s staff (NOTE: Alexander Boteler and Edwin Grey Lee of Bedford had close ties with Gen. Lee but were not on his staff for any appreciable time.-JS), I ran to tell Mother but already she had seen the destruction and had gathered the children and servants into a terrified group for we feared our home (Falling Springs) would be the next invaded and it was not long when we saw the soldiers in their blue coats, rapidly approaching; the foremost man doffed his cap and informed my Mother that he held an order, issued by Genl Hunter to destroy and burn our home. We all became panicky with terror but were permitted to save what we needed most for Mother and the children. Almost despairing of saving our home, my Mother interviewed the officer and asked if the order was correctly understood. The officer asked if our home were not “Bedford,” finding his mistake, he soon apologized and learning that “Bedford” was an adjoining farm, withdrew his men and repaired at once to the home of a near kinsman of Gen. R. E. Lee. Leaving Liza and old Ned to restore our belongings to their proper places, my Mother donned her war pockets and taking me by the hand, led me quickly to “Bedford” but as the soldiers had preceded us, already their fiendish work had begun. There was little one could do to save anything valuable from destruction, my Mother and a daughter of the house in attempting to save a feather bed found their efforts useless as the rear end of the bed was burning. So here was another old Southern home laid in ashes. I remember it as a long, low house with dormer windows and a spacious portico, its roof supported with columns taken from the old ship “Constitution,” the home set high upon a grassy slope and the grounds were terraced to the turnpike. The burning of a house was a terrible thing to me as I stood watching the destruction of the cruel soldiers; they had piled furniture in a central part of the house, sandwiched it with straw, and emptied jugs of kerosene over it all. When the match or torch was applied, the result was indeed a conflagration. Sadly we returned homeward and found things replaced with but little loss.- (10).
Henrietta B. Lee described Bedford, her ancestral home in Shepherdstown:
Bedford, a red brick residence built on a knoll, had a two-story central portico, flanked by rambling wings. The lofty front portico with its soaring pointed roof was supported by four huge white wooden columns whose bases and caps had been carved from the splintered, battle-scarred masts of the U.S. frigate Constitution. Daniel Bedinger, while commandant of the Norfolk Naval Yard had bought chunks of the historic wood when “Old Ironsides” had been brought there for re-fitting . . One entered from the portico by way of the parlor, a large room, furnished with high-backed sofas and chairs, with portraits lining the wall in such a manner to focus attention of a portrait taken from life of General Washington wearing gold epaulettes. A door led from the parlor into the spacious dining room with a crystal chandelier, imported glassware, and silverware. And the spacious well-stocked library. – (11).
THE BURNING OF BEDFORD
JULY 19, 1864, LATE AFTERNOON – THE BURNING OF THE LEES’ HOME, BEDFORD:
Tippie Boteler later recalled to her daughter Elizabeth how the soldiers then turned their sights towards, Bedford, the third target home in their orders:
In less than half an hour from the time the soldiers started their work of destruction, the company was filing down the avenue on its way to Bedford, the home of Edmund J. Lee.
Just as the soldiers started off, Virginia Bedinger and her little brother, Harry – they lived at nearby Poplar Grove – arrived at Fountain Rock their faces white with distress and sympathy. “Go back to your Aunt Henrietta, they are coming there next.” But the captain interrupted: “Not before we do” – and thus prevented their giving warning to the Lee household.. When the squad of men, however, had gone well over the hill, Virginia and Harry ran across the fields and reached Bedford first. Mrs. Lee and Netta were just starting on their way to Fountain Rock. Old Sally had brought them word of the burning of the house, and Mrs. Lee had gotten out of a sick bed to fly to her friend’s home. “Those children are all alone, Netta, their mother is in Baltimore. I must go. Tippie was with us when Leeland was burned in 1856. I must go,” she insisted. But Virginia’s frantic gestures made them pause, and when she came panting up and told of the orders to burn their own loved home, they turned back to the pitiful tasks of saving what they could. A number of negroes on the place and some of the townspeople dragged out the parlor furniture, and then secured Mr. Lee’s valuable law papers, which were hidden under the parlor floor. But Captain Martindale and his men came up in time to prevent further work. The soldiers were rougher in their behavior than they had been at Fountain Rock, but one man sat down in weary protest against the services required of him and declared that he would not lift his finger in such work. The pale-faced soldier who helped the two sisters at Fountain Rock helped at Bedford also, but after all was over the little store of rescued goods made but a pathetic showing for two homeless families. – (12).
Mrs. Lee (Henrietta Bedinger Lee) wrote the following month to a cousin her “exact account.” (The recipient was likely Benjamin Franklin Bedinger, who lived in Kentucky, with views more “Northern”):
My dear friend
According to your earnest request I will send you an exact account of the burning of my beautiful old home by the United States troops under Captain Martindale of the New York Cavalry, I perform the task with a sick heart as you can imagine.
The morning of that eventful day was calm and lovely – no one dreaming that such dire calamity and mischief was near. I with Netta, my young daughter, and little son, were all the members of my family at home. About four o’clock in the afternoon, Harry rushed into my sick room saying: “O mama, the yankees have burned Col. Boteler’s house.” At this startling intelligence I immediately rose and dressed; resolving to go if possible to Col. Boteler’s, as there were only two helpless ladies and three very young children there. I reached the yard when I met my niece Virginia Bedinger in breathless haste she told me that she had just come from Fountain Rock – Col. Boteler’s home – to inform me that Col. Boteler’s house was in flames and the Federal officers were coming to “burn my house also.” That she had read the order from Gen. Hunter to that effect. Of course the scene which followed was one of grief and consternation! in a few moments the enemy was upon us! I met the Captain on the portico; when the following conversation took place: “Is this Mrs. Lee?” the Captain asked. “It is,” I replied. “Well, I have come to burn your house,” he said cooly, ”by order of General Hunter.”
“Here! Read the order,” handing at the same time a printed order to “Burn the house, its content, and all out buildings” and signed by Gen. David Hunter.
“Surely,” I replied, “you will not – can not execute such a barbarous, infamous order! Do spare this house!”
“It was built by my father, a Revolutionary soldier and officer. O! have respect for his memory and his deeds! I implore you! Do not burn this home! An honorable house!” – (13).
(NOTE: Her father, Daniel Bedinger, was indeed a much-suffering hero in the Revolutionary War, as this account by Danske Dandridge about him shows, describing the moment he was rescued from death by a brother in a soldiers’ hospital:In January Henry Bedinger and his brother officers were sent to Flatbush and Gravesend, Long Island, and billeted on the inhabitants there, at the rate of two dollars a week, supplied by Congress for their maintenance. Daniel was, of course, separated from his brother, and was, at first confined in the infamous Sugar-house, where he saw his companions die from starvation every day, and where he was so reduced by famine as to have endeavored to sustain life by scraping the deposit of sugar left in some refining kettles in that place of torment. He, however, was young and healthy, and he made a brave struggle for existence. After some weeks he was removed to the hold of a prison ship, and there he seems at last to have given up the hopeless fight for life, and to have laid down to die.Fortunately for him an exchange of prisoners took place late in 1776, the exact date of which I have been unable to ascertain. When the officer who had the matter in charge came to select men to go on shore to be exchanged, he twice passed Daniel by as too far gone to be taken away. But Daniel had found a soft spot in the heart of a Hessian officer, whose name is unrecorded, and begged him so pitifully, in his mother tongue, to give him a chance for his life, that this man took compassion on him, and had him lifted into a boat, where he lay down in the bottom, being unable to stand or sit. The prisoners were conducted to a large church, where they were exchanged. It is said that the British were quite fond of giving up men who were almost sure to die on the way home for hale and serviceable English soldiers, who had not received such diabolical treatment at the hands of the Americans.Somehow or other Daniel and a few of his comrades in misfortune made their way to Philadelphia. Arrived at this place the boy completely broke down, and lay there in a wretched hospital, more dead than alive. What next happened to him a son of George Michael Bedinger has told so touchingly in a letter that he wrote in 1871 to one of Daniel Bedinger’s children that I will give the story in his own words. He says: “My father went to the Hospital in search of his brother, but did not recognize him. On inquiry if there were any (that had been) prisoners there, a feeble voice responded, from a little pile of straw and rags in a corner: ‘Yes, Michael, there is one.’“Overcome by his feelings my father knelt by the side of the poor, emaciated boy, and took him in his arms. He then bore him to a house where he could procure some comforts in the way of food and clothing. After this he got an arm-chair, two pillows, and some leather straps. He placed his suffering and beloved charge in the chair, supported by the pillows, swung him by the leather straps to his back, and carried him some miles into the country, where he found a friendly asylum for him in the house of some good Quakers. There he nursed him, and, by the aid of the kind owners, who were farmers, gave him nourishing food until he partially recovered his strength.
“But your father was very impatient to get home, and wished to proceed before he was well able to walk, and did so leave, while my father walked by his side, with his arm around him to support him. Thus they travelled from the neighborhood of Philadelphia to Shepherdstown, of course by short stages, when my father restored him to the arms of his mother. Your father related some incidents of that trip to me when I last saw him at Bedford (his home) in the spring of 1817, not more than a year before his death. “Our uncle, Henry Bedinger, was also a prisoner for a long time, and although he suffered greatly, his sufferings were not to be compared to those of your father. After your father recovered his health he again entered the service, and continued in it to the end of the war. He was made lieutenant, and I have heard my father speak of many battles he was in, but I have forgotten the names and places.” – (14)).
But Captain Martindale Dismisses Mrs. Lee’s Plea:
Mrs. Lee continued:
Martindale’s reply was in those coarse and unfeeling words: “Lord woman, you must be a fool. Can I help it? You are old enough to know that. And now I give you ten minutes to take out your clothing.” Ah! I saw from his cold cruel eyes and the iron hardness of his face; there was no more for me; and that farther appeal was useless! O, what could I do? My mind was too distracted to guide me: So many memories clustered round my childhood’s precious home! I left him and tried to collect some necessary articles. As I passed my pantry door Martindale stepped in and seized a decanter; which doubtless he thought contained brandy, but which proved to be black berry wine. How I did wish it had been drugged with “ipecac” I think this noble Captain would have been sick of that day’s work! But don’t suppose I include all his men in his heartless acts: no indeed; for some of the soldiers were far more merciful and noble than their leader. They offered to help me; and did behind their leader’s back. What they dared not do before his face! and their simplicity was sincere I know. They expressed themselves disgusted with the whole proceedings and several of them swore they would have nothing to do with burning the house. Seeing Netta’s grief at the thought of having her elegant Knabe piano burnt; six of these men said to her, “If you ask Capt. Martindale to spare it, we will move it for you.” With streaming eyes she pled with him for her instrument, which was a birthday gift from her father, but all in vain. It went to ruin with all else of the furniture. After the house was in full blaze, he turned to my niece Virginia Bedinger and said in the most insolent and scoffing tone. “Now go in and help yourself.” Nothing in nature could not have been more hard and cruel than that man’s whole bearing. A group of friends had hastened to me when they discovered what was going on and with them I was standing on the lawn gazing at the awful conflagration for all the outbuildings were burning at the same time. Then with the most self important and swaggering step Martindale approached me and dared to offer me his pity. “I scorn your pity,” I cried “You talk of pity, after such an act as this, it is mockery indeed, the qualities of mercy and pity are strangers to your heart.”
But dear it would make this letter too long to tell you all the burning words that fell from my tongue, let it suffice to say I was warm enough to give it to him in round numbers I assure you. One lady said to one “What did you say to that man? He went away looking like a whipped dog.” Well he was a whipped dog. But my home, my blessed lovely home! The fire ran from base to dome, and as the all devouring pitiless flames snapped each wire; the bell of that dear home tolled out its dirge. What is it now? The blackened walls, the frightful skeleton of what was once so fair looms up against the sky and the wind as it sighs around the ruin whispers: “Man’s inhumanity to man, Makes countless thousands mourn” The trailing vines are scorched and dead! The flowers bloom there no more; and the bright silver streams, which so added to its beauty and grace glides in its desolation murmuring a perpetual requiem for that dead home. My painful task is finished dear friend. How kind and soothing your sympathy is. We are refugeeing now miles away from that scene of sorrow and dismay – What we are to do without a home, and scant of clothing the future is too dark to penetrate. But He that feedeth the sparrows & clothed the lilies and in whom we all trust will I know provide. Ever truly and affectionately your friend and Cousin Henrietta B. Lee. – (15).
Netta Lee wrote her recollections of being at the burning many years later, first for The Shepherdstown Register Editor, H. L. Snyder for the paper’s July 16, 1914 edition (the event’s 50th anniversary), later in greater detail in 1928 for the Society of the Lees of Virginia:
It was the afternoon of July, the nineteenth, 1864. Mother had been ill in bed for some days; but on that date she was able to dine with us and later she came upstairs to my room, where I made her take a nap. Harry then fourteen years of age, was the only other member of the family home. He had gone to the dairy and with the assistance of two young negroes had made a freezer of ice cream. At the dinner table, Mother had given him permission to do this, provided he did not use up all of the one – and only – nutmeg to be found on our side of the Potomac, nor more than one cupful of the last of our sugar. She laughed as she said: “How can it be fit to eat?”
“Well, Harry,” said I, “you bring me a taste if it’s clean and you wash your hands.” So just as Mother awoke from her nap, Harry came running up bearing a cup and a saucer, each containing a helping of very presentable ice cream.
“Mother, I’ve brought each of you a taste of my cream. We thought it so good that maybe you would eat a little; just because I made it, you know.” Mother barely tasted hers, simply to please the boy, but I ate all of mine. Then Harry left us and Mother finished her nap. I had been writing a letter on my little mahogany lap-desk, purchased from the sutler’s store with money given me at Christmas by Mother, and purchased after paying a “duty” of ten per cent. The cup which had held my ice cream was on the floor. Presently a little mouse crept up to it, dipped his paw into the bottom and licked it, much as a child would have done. I was much absorbed in this performance, when Aunt Peggy appeared with a small basket of blackberries she had gathered along the Charlestown road. After bemoaning the scarcity of berries, Peggy continued:
“While I was there, a lot of yankees came along, more than a dozen and the Captain, he said: ‘Old woman, are there any rebs in Shepherdstown?’ “And what did you say Peggy?” I asked. “Oh I just told him I don’t know anything about it. Then he cussed and said: ‘When were the last ones in town?’ and I said: ‘I’ve told you once I don’t know anything at all about any rebels.’ Then he cussed again and said to the other soldiers: ‘Boys you just go ahead to the edge of town and I’ll slowly follow. Then you all can tell me what you can find out.’ Then he said, pointing to me: ‘That ain’t nothing but a damn old secesh negro anyhow.’ So they went on to town and I came onto the house, because they aren’t berries anyway and I was afraid they’d take those I had if I stayed ‘till they come back from town; and I didn’t want them yankees to cuss me anymore and call me names. Nasty poor white trash they are anyhow. I just know Miss Netta they are after some kind of deviltry, anyways.”
With this warning, Aunt Peggy departed, but a few minutes later she burst into my room, crying: “Oh! Oh! Oh! Miss Henrietta and Miss Netta! Look over to Colonel Boteler’s! Just look! The house is all on fire and those yankees are coming right here down the pike, as sure as I’m born. I knew they were after some deviltry just as I told you all! O Lord! Oh Lord! What can we do?”
Dear Mother, ill as she was, sprang from the bed and began to dress, saying: “I must to go Fountain Rock; Colonel Boteler is South, Mrs. Boteler is in Baltimore; Helen and Lizzie are there alone with Lizzie’s little children.”
We started down the yard, pursued by Harry, calling to us: “Oh Mother and Sister Netta! Don’t go over there. Those yankees are coming here. See how they are pointing and looking this way as they come through the toll-gate!” “And Mother,” I added. “there comes Virginia Bedinger, as fast as she can run. She would not be leaving them now unless she had bad news to tell us before our enemies arrive. She would stay and help them.” Mother paused and then turned back. I feared she would fall, she was so weak: “Run children, run servants and save what you can, but first of all, do not forget your father’s command: ‘Should the house ever take fire, save my papers first.’”
Before Father left home he secured extra heavy canvas bags with secure padlocks; children and servants knew where they were to be found. All did our Mother’s bidding; the negroes and Harry hid them in the weeds and bushes around the garden, far from the house.
“Run, run, all of you, save all that you can before the enemy arrive,” cried Mother, as Virginia arrived with the tidings that she had read General Hunter’s order to: Burn both houses and every out building, allowing nothing but wearing apparel.” My little maid, Margaret, followed at my heels as I rushed to my own sweet room for the last time. I put my gold watch and chain, which was Father’s wedding present to Mother, with a few other trinkets in my little writing desk and gave it to Margaret saying: “Here, you keep these, for the yankees will not take them from you, while they may from me.”
Captain Martindale and troopers from the 1st New York Cavalry arrived and dismounted. Ill as she was, Mother met the Captain bravely at her drawing room door.
“Madam,” he said. “ I have orders from General Hunter to burn this house and its contents and also every outbuilding.”
“But you surely will not carry out such a wicked order?”
“Yes, I will,” he replied emphatically.
“You shall not burn the house which my father, a soldier of the Revolution, built. What did he, or I, ever do to you?”
“Woman, you must be a fool,” he replied, “here are my orders; read them; I shall carry them out to the letter.” With that he thrust a paper, signed by General Hunter, before Mother’s eyes, signaling to his men to begin the work of destruction. Harry handed Mother a glass of wine which I had sent one of the servants to bring her. She then turned to the servants and to the friends who has hastened to help us, showing them what we most valued. But Martindale ordered them to put down the things they tried or remove, threatening to shoot them. Our handsome Knabe piano, a gift from my Father the previous Christmas, had been pulled onto the portico of the drawing room, when the gallant Captain made his men push back this bit of contraband, although I pled for it with tears in my eyes.
In a frenzy, I turned with dear little Harry and my cousin, the wife of Colonel William Morgan, who were standing near Martindale when he ordered the boys to desist, and said: “We defy you to shoot us, we will not take orders from you.”
The boys were trying to pull a featherbed through a downstairs window. We made a dash for the bed and pulled it out. Alas! A huge cloud of smoke and flames burst from it, compelling us to let go. With a Satanic grin of triumph, the Captain turned to Mrs. Morgan and myself: “Now you may go in and get out what you please,” he said.
Some of the soldiers were Dutch or German and did not appear to understand a word of English, for when I was in my room and pointed to my old black trunk, in which I kept my party dresses, old laces, and jewelry, and asked them to lift it down stairs, they did not seem to understand a word I said, but when I pointed through a window to the back-porch roof, they picked it up and allowed it to fall to the flower-beds below, where the lock and hinges were broken and most of the jewelry and trinkets were stolen.
There was one little, pale-faced, blond fellow whom I shall never forget. He followed me everywhere, trying to help me, when he could elude the vigilance of his Captain. One incident made me smile in the midst of my grief and terror. I was standing on the eastern end of the long back porch, on the servant’s side of the house, watching the train of straw, just lighted, as the flames crept towards me. I stepped back to the pavement; when this young man, with eyes full of tears, came up to me, and carefully wrapped my heavy fur cape, around my shoulders – on a hot July day, as I was standing between two blazing fires – as if it ’twas mid-winter and I was cold. Possibly I was shivering from nervousness. Both of us smiled, and I took the cape to add to the armful of clothing I had rescued.
It may be well to record the technique of house-burning. I was on the back porch, and, looking in the dining room window, saw the sofa and chairs all piled up where the extension table stood, with a large mantle mirror and pictures upon them. Straw had been thrown under and around the table and coal oil poured over all. The match must have been struck before I appeared, for no one was in the room yet the blaze was burning rapidly.
At last, when flames enveloped every part of the house and the seven out buildings were ablaze, Mother and I, with a group of kind friends, were standing near the eastern end of the portico, watching the four old columns which supported it, as one by one they tottered and fell to the ground. Mother was so weak that I was trying to make her lean on my arm, when we saw Martindale approaching with a swaggering air, as if he was proud of his accomplishments. Bracing herself, and looking very much the daughter of a Revolutionary soldier, our brave Mother faced the man, whose eyes quailed before hers. He began in a patronizing tone:
“Madam, I have come to tell you that I have been obliged to carry out my orders in burning your home; I also wish to offer you my pity.”
“Stop sir, I command you!” cried my Mother, stamping her foot. “You pity me? I scorn your pity. But listen to me! Do you see the one remaining column about to fall? That sir, is the last of the original masts of the Federal frigate Constitution, Old Ironsides. My Father, a brave officer of the revolution, built this home after that war. He went in as a boy, young and strong; he came out after serving seven years, weak and broken. He died at the early age of forty-five. Your grateful country has honored his memory by turning me, his daughter, and these, my children upon the world, homeless and destitute. Now you may go, sir. You have done all the harm of which you are capable; I defy you to do more, and I utterly scorn your pity. Be gone out of my sight!”
Mother was pallid, save for two red spots upon either cheek. Her eyes were ablaze with righteous indignation. The brave Captain quailed under their flash as he turned and slunk off like a whipped dog. They all left hurriedly, appearing to fear that the rebels might se the blaze against the twilight sky and pounce down upon them. – (16).
Recalled young Augustine Morgan:
The next day (July 20), two yankees rode up to our door, one being wounded, for his bluecoat, open at the throat, showed in the front of his shirt, marked with splotches of blood; he moaned with pain while the other soldier supported him. He asked Mother if she would not care for the wounded man who had been shot in the arm, but the maimed soldier proudly protested and insisted that no rebel woman should dress his wound, but my gentle mother quite won him over and I was sent for Liza who brought clean linen and fresh water. The arm was finally dressed, bandaged and the soldier made comfortable. – (17).
The following day Mrs. Lee writes a letter of protest to Gen. Hunter, the originator of the order to burn her home, a letter which unfortunately for many got into the hands of Confederate General Jubal Early who took revenge on the town of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. The letter has been called by some “a masterpiece of sublime invective.”
Jefferson County, July 20, 1864.
Yesterday your underling, Captain Martindale, of the First New York cavalry, executed your infamous order and burned my house [“Bedford”]. You have had the satisfaction ere this of receiving from him the information that your orders were fulfilled to the letter; the dwelling and every out-building, seven in number, with their contents, being burned. I, therefore, a helpless woman [age 54] whom you have cruelly wronged, address you, a Major-General of the United States army, and demand why this was done? What was my offense? My husband was absent, an exile.[Edmund Jennings Lee] He had never been a politician or in any way engaged in the struggle now going on, his age preventing. This fact your Chief-of-Staff, David Strother, could have told you. The house was built by my father [Lieut. Daniel Bedinger], a Revolutionary soldier, who served the whole seven years for your independence. There was I born; there the sacred dead repose. It was my house and my home, and there has your niece (Miss Griffith) who has tarried among us all this horrid war up to the present time, met with all kindness and hospitality at my hands. Was it for this that you turned me, my young daughter and little son out upon the world without a shelter? Or was it because my husband is the grandson of the Revolutionary patriot and “rebel,” Richard Henry Lee, and the near kinsman of the greatest of Generals, Robert E. Lee? You and your Government have failed to conquer, subdue or match him; and disappointment, rage and malice find vent on the helpless and inoffensive.
Hyena-like, you have torn my heart to pieces! for all hallowed memories clustered around that homestead, and, demon-like, you have done it without even the pretext of revenge, for I never saw or harmed you. Your office is not to lead, like a brave man and soldier, your men to fight in the ranks of war, but your work has been to separate yourself from all danger, and with your incendiary band steal unawares upon helpless women and children, to insult and destroy. Two fair homes did you yesterday ruthlessly lay in ashes, giving not a moment’s warning to the startled inmates of your wicked purpose; turning mothers and children out of doors, you are execrated by your own men for the cruel work you give them to do.
In the case of Colonel A. R. Boteler, both father and mother were far away. Any heart but that of Captain Martindale (and yours) would have been touched by that little circle, comprising a widowed daughter just risen from her bed of illness, her three fatherless babies—the oldest not five years old—and her heroic sister. I repeat, any man would have been touched at that sight but Captain Martindale. One might as well hope to find mercy and feeling in the heart of a wolf bent on his prey of young lambs, as to search for such qualities in his bosom. You have chosen well your agent for such deeds, and doubtless will promote him!
A colonel of the Federal army has stated that you deprived forty of your officers of their commands because they refused to carry on your malignant mischief. All honor to their names for this at least! They are men — they have human hearts and blush for such a commander!
I ask who that does not wish infamy and disgrace attached to him forever would serve under you? Your name will stand on history’s page as the Hunter of weak women and innocent children; the Hunter to destroy defenseless villages and refined and beautiful homes—to torture afresh the agonized hearts of widows; the Hunter with the relentless heart of a wild beast, the face of a fiend and the form of a man. Oh, Earth, behold the monster! Can I say, “God forgive you”? No prayer can be offered for you! Were it possible for human lips to raise your name heavenward, angels would thrust the foul thing back again, and demons claim their own. The curses of thousands, the scorn of the manly and upright and the hatred of the true and honorable, will follow you and yours through all time, and brand your name infamy! infamy!
Again, I demand why you have burned my home? Answer as you must answer before the Searcher of all hearts, why have you added this cruel, wicked deed to your many crimes? – (18).
Wednesday night, July 20, 1864 – Tippie Boteler wrote to her sisters, from the family’s second home in Shepherdstown (located today on the northeast corner of Church and New Streets) – about Bedford’s burning.
My precious sisters – Well my darlings I suppose that you have heard before this reaches you that our dear beautiful home is in ashes. Yesterday just after dinner 15 yankees of the 1st New York Cavalry under Captain Martindale came with orders from Mr. Hunter to burn everything under roof on the places of A. R. Boteler and E. J. Lee. They came to us first & in twenty minutes after their arrival, it would have been dangerous to enter the house. Of the furniture we saved were two little rocking chairs, Lizzie’s workstand & three other chairs including those on the porch. This is literally all except two tables & a chest of drawers that the boys got from the library after the fiends left – The barn in which was stored all the hay just out & the negro house & library are all gone. The meat house & Dairy are still standing as the wind blew from them. Writing this is harder work than I thought it would be after all I’ve gone through with. We saved all out clothes & have the poor comfort of knowing that we did all that anyone would have done & more than many could have done. We have many things that we all value yet. The men from the Capt. down obeyed my orders like subordinates & I kept them busy. They piled up the furniture & with camphine etc. built the fire that has branded deep in our hearts . . . and I am glad to say we were accounted worthy to suffer. Netta & I are both at Aunt Nannie’s tonight, Lizzie & children at the Grove. Mrs. Lee has found her husband & Fount Rock & Bedford are desolated.
I have my guitar with me. As the house was burning I sang my last hymn “Thy Will Be Done” at our dear old piano. It sent up one shriek afterwards as the ceilings fell on it & the bells all sang out as the flames reached them. They were rejoicing with us that no yankee had ever been entertained within those walls – tho’ Jackson, Stuart, Fitz Lee & Ransom had all used it as their headquarters. No Confederate soldier ever met with anything but a warm greeting & warmer welcome there. Oh how my heart aches for you all to have such terrible tidings of the dearest spot in all the world to you. I fear I loved it too much but my greatest grief is for our darling Pa & Ma. We are young & can bear such changes better but their life ties were formed & riveted there. I’ll write more in the morning when I’ll be fitter for it. Good night. – (19).
Thursday, July 21, 1864 – Tippie Boteler continued writing the next day to her sisters.
Thursday morning – I wrote my dear Lottie one of my long letters telling of the happy happy time that we had when our men were in here & whilst waiting for an opportunity to send it, it was burned. I am sorry for it will be hard for me to re-write it now. But I’ll do it for you all some day. It is such a comfort dear Lottie to me now to know that you have a husband’s heart & home to rest in. I have been selfishly grieving for you, ever since you left me but I was wrong. I wish George could have seen it in its beauty. I have said nothing of Ma because we have been expecting her home every day. Miss Griffith who takes this for me is going this morning via Hagerstown. I think we will have a home for her before she gets here and will be comfortably settled with our few treasures around us. Everybody is very kind to us indeed. I wrote to Pa yesterday morning if Ma comes home soon she can see him. This wholesale destruction would not go on if the enemy expected to hold this country. Thank God that we are all alive and can look forward to a happy reunion somewhere with our hearts chastened and our Land free we will be happier than ever. We received a letter from Alex written the 12th. He was well and said he hoped to bring his little family on to see us this summer. Every body speaks very highly of Alex. He has had some thrilling adventures during this last campaign. Alex, Henry, Charley & Henry G. won’t they be sorry to hear of the destruction of their home for it is theirs too. I have always felt that it was the home of the whole family. Give my love to Aunt Liney. Tell her we saved Grandma’s picture & Grand Pa’s for Ma. The trees nearest the house are burned to the ground & those standing will die from the effects. The lawn in front is a blackened mass, the grass was so dry it burned easily. How many in the army will be so sorry to hear of all this. I read Hunter’s order myself, had it in my hands & tried to keep it to send to them but it was taken out of my hands. We can all of us look back with nothing but pleasure to our home we had nothing but happiness there. The grounds can & will be kept as beautiful as ever so when you all come to us in the summer we can have picnics there. “Ah! there is life in the old land yet.” They may break they may burn but they cannot subdue. Lizzie was home yesterday & says that the head of Alexander the Great, you know that little medallion, is still hanging on the nursery walls. The walls of the old part of the house crumbled & fell very soon, their great age could not stand such a trial. Those which Grandpa built are still standing & good. The hen house burned though the shingles were saved. The wind was so high that Grandison Hall was with difficulty saved. The fences on & across the turnpike burned. One yankee had tied little Davis’ mug to his saddle. I quickly undid it & told him it wasn’t pure silver but that he shouldn’t have it. I made the Captain look at the fiercest flames & told him to tell Hunter for me that hot & fierce as they were it was not to be compared to the Hell that was being prepared for his heart. The boys saved some of Pa’s books after the yankees left, at Mr. Lee’s when some one brought out some chairs they pitched them back in the flames. It is all right and our cause is brightening under such conduct. Mrs. Lee is heart-broken. You know she was born at Bedford. I see and acknowledge a higher hand in all this and feel that it is all right. We saved Ma’s clock. I think I’ll fit up the pigeons’ house for my apartments. Thank brother Harry for the guitar strings they gave me a great deal of pleasure & will give me more. I know Mamie is so glad she was with us this summer. Oh the beautiful roses how the flames sported with them. The largest stone of the front steps is broken in many pieces. What a life little Fannie has led. Poor child she will never forget the scenes through which she is passing. She put her hat on & took her dolls under her arm. The yankees tore the feather out of the white hat – and one was decking himself out in poor Davis’ clothes but he quickly peeled them off. The barn was the most fearfully grand sight I ever saw. Lizzie told them that if Hunter had ordered his horses fed there it would have been trouble. Rather than that she would gladly see it burn. The dinner table burned as it was & they pocketed the spoons etc. that we were using. Lizzie has just come in & sends her best love to you all. I must go & dress myself & so must stop. God ever bless you my darlings and give you strength to bear this will be the prayer of your devoted sister’s heart. Give my warmest love to George & Henry – Ever yours – Tippie – (20).
Not yet 10-year-old Caroline “Danske” Dandridge, the precocious step-sister of George Rust Bedinger and Virginia Rust Bedinger, was probably home when Henrietta B. Lee, her aunt, took fresh refuge in their home, Poplar Grove, after the burning. Danske wrote:
O cruel serpent. King of scorpions thou.
Curse on thy barb’rous act!
May never the Goddess of Pity send her smile
Upon thy blasted heart!
Behold on yonder verdant hill a house once stood.
It was the house of love, of peace and glee.
How soon that home was rendered desolate
By whom? Oh Hunter ’twas by thee! – (21).
“REFUGEEING” – HOMELESS BOTELERS AND LEES SEEK SHELTER, SUPPORT.
After the Burnings, the Botelers and Lees sought refuge with friends:
Wrote Elizabeth Pendleton of her grandparents, mother and Aunt Lizzie’s family:
Kind neighbors gave shelter for the night, and for many nights afterward until both families were again under a roof of their own. Tippie Boteler and her sister moved into a little house in the village. It is now the Methodist parsonage. Every fair Sunday until she left Shepherdstown, Tippie would take her Bible and go to Fountain Rock to read; there was peace there even in its desolation. – (22).
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