“Thy Will Be Done” – Chapter 25 – Netta Lee, The “Refugee” – continued

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Chapter (25a) – Netta Lee, The “Refugee” – continued

August 10, 1864 – Dunham:

Well, my dear Pink, when I wrote last night, while awaiting the return of Father and Mother from We Haw, little did I dream that this evening I’d be in the Yankee lines.

We thought this place was entirely out of the path of either army, but they are pouring down upon us like locusts from every quarter and making a road diagonally across this lovely green yard, coming from the direction of Charlestown and going to the Berryville turnpike. Thousands are passing; I am at Mother’s window; there are three or four officers on the porch below. I heard one say: “We have fifteen thousand men in this corps. I expect we will go on to Winchester tomorrow.” Another says: “We will likely go on to Lynchburg after we run the rebs out of Winchester.” Mother remarked, sotto voce, to me: “Yes, AFTER.”

Another officer is saying: “We cannot subsist upon the country entirely; so it will depend upon the result at Winchester whether they will send a wagon train from Washington or not.”

The children have just come running up to tell us that the yankees have broken into the smokehouse. “Goodbye,” I say to all our fine old hams, a dozen of which were saved from Bedford. They have begun “to feed upon the fat of our land.”

The party of officers, being sufficiently refreshed have departed.

Old Peggy called from the yard to me to “please come down.” I went and found an impudent young soldier had taken one of the two kerchiefs I have in the world from the clothesline. Aunt Peggy told me about it; so I boldly walked up to the man and remonstrated: “That kerchief around your neck, sir, is mine, not yours, as you can see by my name there in full. I will thank you to return it to me.”

“No,” he said, “I will not! I want it to keep my neck from getting sunburned.” Then glancing at my name: “I like the name, too ’Netta Lee.’”

“Insolence! I insist upon your giving it to me!”

“I will pay you for it,” he said. “So I told that old woman,” pointing to Aunt Peggy, who broke in:

“You know I told you that it belongs to my young Miss, and I couldn’t let you have it.”

Unabashed, Mr. Yankee turned to go off, when I said scornfully: “Of course, I might have known you would hardly be gentleman enough to give me what you have stolen,” and was turning to leave, when he jerked the kerchief off his dirty neck, tossing it toward me, saying: “Damn it, take your old handkerchief!”

I smiled as I picked it from the ground on the end of a stick. “Here, Peggy take this and wash it. Be sure to boil it well!” The Yankee looked daggers and left amidst a general chuckle from servants and soldiers nearby. – (1).

August 29th, 1864, Mansfield:

Dear Pink, With what joy I now write. We are within the Confederate lines. Just before sundown Sunday our men arrived. They drove the federals from two miles this side of Winchester to Rippon, three miles this side of Charlestown. With joy, not unmingled with anxiety we listened to the cannonading as it came near and nearer. At last it was on the farm. We could see the smoke from our men’s guns and the enemy retreating. You know too well, from the Antietam battle, what it is to be in this dreadful suspense . . .

August 31st, 1864 – Mansfield:

Yankees, Yankees everywhere,
Their shouts and curses fill the air.

You see darling every few days we change masters. Here comes one of the masters to demand something to eat. – (2).


September 5th, 1864 – Mansfield:

I have had trials lately, but those of today have surpassed them all for I have just met face-to-face that creature, Martindale. Brevet Major General A.T.A. Torbert sent him here to ask Cousin Mann if he would object to his having his headquarters here in the yard at Mansfield. From my window I saw an officer in a Captain’s uniform walk up and introduce himself to Brother Charles. At the same time another officer of the same rank came from behind and greeted him: “Good day, Mr. Lee.”

“Why, Captain Prentiss,” exclaimed brother Charles, giving him his hand. ”Where did you come from?”

“General Wright’s headquarters, about a mile from here,” replied Captain Prentiss.

Then turning to the other officer, Brother Charles said: “I presume you gentlemen know each other?” and invited them to seats on the porch.

In a little while Cousin Edmonia came to my room. “Netta,” she said. “Captain Prentiss is down on the porch. Father sent to ask you to come down and meet him.”

“Certainly,” I replied, “I will be down in a moment.”

I bathed my face and went down to the portico. Captain Prentiss was seated on the bench near the door, talking to Cousin Edmonia. At the far end of the porch, Cousin Mann was conversing with a man whom I recognized as Captain Martindale of the First New York Cavalry. Introducing us, Cousin Mann said: “Miss Lee, Captains Martindale and Prentiss.”

I bowed low to Captain Prentiss, then I stood erect and faced Martindale, my hands clenched, head high and lips parted, though out of them not a word came. I held Martindale’s, looking steadily into his face, which at first turned crimson, then deadly, as he quailed before my gaze. All eyes were upon us. The craven moved uneasily, then dropped his eyes to the floor. Without uttering a word, I turned my back on him and stepped into the hall. Then my power of speech returned to me. I felt an irresistible desire to make him recognize me before all the company.

So I faced him a second time. His eyes couldn’t look me in the face; his color changed from crimson to a livid white. Before I could speak, I caught the beseeching look of poor, dear old Cousin Mann. Quivering with pent-up emotion and outrage, I could only curl my lips with with scorn and again turn my back on the man.

Oh, if I could only have said my say to Captain Martindale. But Cousin Mann had never been in Federal lines before and lived in daily dread of having his house burned, for be it remembered, he, too, is a near relative of our great general, though he has not his name, which seems to be our great offence. We all fear that his giving shelter to one of us may bring trouble upon him; therefore, I am most circumspect in my speech.

Cousin Edmonia told me that Martindale left a few minutes after I did. Then Captain Prentiss turned to her and asked: “Miss Page, are all yankees so obnoxious to your cousin that the sight of us affects her so strangely?”

“No, Captain Prentiss,” said Edmonia, “But that man,” pointing to Captain Martindale, who was mounting his horse, ”burned her beautiful home in Shepherdstown a couple of weeks ago. This is their first meeting since that occasion.”

“Is it possible,” he exclaimed, “poor little girl. No wonder her eyes flashed. She was superb. My! but I am glad she didn’t look that way at me!”

Edmonia told him all about Bedford. When she had finished, he remarked: ”Well, it is not likely that Captain Martindale will take any meals in this house while they camp on your lawn.

“I guess he will not,” said Edmonia, emphatically. – (3).

(Self-destructive acts have many causes and origins. While its sources are unknowable, it should be noted that many years later, this same Franklin G. Martindale, while residing at a veteran’s home near Los Angeles, California, on October 2, 1896, died. The cause according to the official report: “Strychnine taken with suicidal intent.” He was buried in Home Cemetery Section 2, Row 5-13.-JS). – (4).

September 7, 1864 – Mansfield:

Brother Charles told me that while conversing with General Torbert, he said: “I suppose, General, you heard of the disagreeable episode that occurred on the portico yesterday.”

His reply: “Yes, Captain Martindale told me that he had met Miss Lee, whose home he had been ordered by Major General Hunter to burn. Martindale said he had been compelled to obey the orders given to him, but had been as merciful as he could.”

“General,” my brother answered, “my sister tells me that he was neither merciful nor manly – he was brutal.”

“Of course, Mr. Lee, it was all brutal in that young girl’s eyes and war is brutal at best. Martindale said he let them save everything excepting the parlor furniture, while his orders were to allow the removal of nothing save wearing apparel.”

“General Torbert,” replied my brother, “I assure you it was just the contrary. The only things saved were a part of the parlor furniture, which were removed before the men reached my father’s house, and while they were burning Fountain Rock. Our servants had pulled the piano to the drawing room door, when Martindale arrived and made them push it back. Some small boys had pulled a feather bed through a down-stairs window. The captain ordered them to let do or he would shoot them. My sister watched Martindale select books from the shelves in the library. When the flames were pouring out of doors and windows, he jeeringly offered to let them go in and save what they could.”

General Torbert looked very grave as he replied: “It is useless to make war worse than necessary. I should never give or execute such an order. Captain Martindale does not belong to my staff; he was ordered to my service as a guide through this country, to which I am a stranger. – (5).

September 15, 1864 – Mansfield:

The army still surrounds us and General Torbert’s headquarters are still at Mansfield. He is such a good man and a gentleman. Some of his staff officers I like very much too – I mean, of course, as much as I allow myself to like Blue Coats. The General is quite young, good enough looking, slender, and soldierly in bearing, with an exceedingly pleasant expression. He is modest and has a quiet dignity that at once charms and commands respect. What is more important, he does not force himself upon us. He has done all within his power to help us and to make war less brutal. Then, too, he is from Delaware and not a Yankee in the full significance of the word; he is also an old army officer. There are also two brothers from Elkton, Maryland – Ellis – who are refined. They have shown us many kind attentions.

The other day, General Torbert came on the porch, wearing a pair of superb new riding boots; they reached ‘way above his knees. He was equipped for a trip. He said:

“I have come to tell you goodbye, Miss Lee. I am leaving camp for a day or two.

“Oh,” I said, “would it be treason to tell a Rebel whither?”

“Oh, no, not so long as she is in my lines,” he said. “I am going on a little raid to Winchester, and by the way, I may see your brother, and bring him back with me.” He continued. “At any rate, I’m going to look him up.”

September 17, 1864 – Mansfield:

Oh, Pink my darling. I feel so happy! For father and all of us are going back to live in Shepherdstown; and in the old Rectory, too, so near to you. All of this great joy I owe under providence to General A. T. A. Torbert. I wrote you that, at the first opportunity, I was going to tell General Torbert all about the way Father had been persecuted and driven away from home by the malignity and petty spite of the Union men in Shepherdstown. He listened with much interest to all I told him and I do him but scant justice when I say he is kind and good.

“Miss Lee,” he said, “my advice to you all is to go at once to Shepherdstown as all your father’s property and interests are there, even if your house is destroyed.”

”But General, while that is true, there is where his enemies, persecutors and slanderers are, and not in the Federal army.”

“Well, you tell your father I say: “Go back to Shepherdstown and as far as I am concerned he shall not be molested by any of those petty officers of whom you have told me”

“But suppose they do arrest him and send him to prison, General?”

“Well, if they do, let me know at once and I’ll settle them and see that they don’t try it again.”

“Oh, my darling Pink, I am so happy, I don’t know what to do. You may be sure I expressed my gratitude to General Torbert. Everything is for the best. If we hadn’t lost our house, Father and Mother would have been separated indefinitely; and both are old and growing feeble. Now we can go to Shepherdstown if not to our beautiful Bedford, and start a new home. I thank God for this though I have not told Father and Mother for fear something may prevent. – (6).

References/Image Credits:

Chapter 25: July 30, 1864 – The Burning of Chambersburg

1. Early’s interview with The Richmond State, June 22nd, 1887; The Wilmington Morning Star, North Carolina, Sunday, June 26, 1887. p. 478.
Lieutenant General Jubal Anderson Early C.S.A.
Autobiographical Sketch and Narrative of the War Between the States. Appendix.

2. Letter to The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 1, 1864.

3. (Subscription to service required:) Rocky Mountain News August 3, 1864.

4. (Subscription to service required:) Evening Post (New York, NY) August 2, 1864.

5. History of Franklin County, p. 386.

6. Evening Post (New York, NY) Aug. 2, 1864.

7. Public Opinion, July 30, 1886; History of Franklin County, p. 386.

NEXT: Chapter 26. https://civilwarscholars.com/uncategorized/post-thy-will-be-done-chapter-26-by-jim-surkamp/