“Thy Will Be Done” – Chapter 18 Tippie Recalls the Fight Near Fountain Rock in July, 1863. by Jim Surkamp.

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Tippie_Cameo


It was in July, 1863, a time of so much interest to all Virginians, when the tide of battle ebbed and flowed like an angry flood over our lovely Valley leaving desolation and sorrow in its path. Our home, known as Fountain Rock, was about one mile from the Potomac river, directly on the turnpike between Shepherdstown and Kearneysville, a point on the Baltimore and Ohio railroad.

July 16 was an unusually quiet day. No Federal soldiers were to be seen riding over the country. Consequently our fears were aroused knowing, as we did from experience that a calm always came before a storm. The next morning we found that our fears were not groundless, for a large force under General Gregg had crossed the Potomac and some were encamped on the turnpike and some on the road leading to Martinsburg.

UNWELCOME VISITORS

Stragglers, mostly from Col. Gregg’s regiment, began to swarm all over the place. Numerous and outrageous were the depredations they committed. Hearing a thumping at the back of the house, we went in and found two men in the pantry. “What are you doing here?” said my mother, with dignity. One of them impudently answered: “Oh, we just came to see what sort of style you lived in.” and added mockingly, “I’ll take that ham, if you please.” Turning around, she found he had already done so. He then reached over and said: “I’ll take these preserves too.” “No,” she said, “I don’t think you will.” He said: “I’d like to know who in the hell will prevent me?” “I will,” she said, very quietly and leaning forward, she put out her hand and gave a little push, which sent the preserves to the floor with a crash. He looked startled for a moment, but quickly recovered and sneered: “Oh, that’s your style is it?” “Yes, and you walk out of the house. It is a pity you had no mother to teach you not to break into houses and steal.” The reference to his mother seemed to rouse him and he said: “ I have a mother, and as good a one as you, if you are a right good-looking woman.” Nevertheless, he walked very meekly off.

ASKING FOR A GUARD

So great were the ravages committed that my young sister and cousin from Baltimore went into town to ask for a guard. When the complaint was laid before General (David) Gregg, he turned to an officer and said, “Tell Colonel (John) Gregg that I have nothing but complaints of his regiment this morning, and if needs be, he must take one-half-his men to keep the other half in order.” I doubt if the order was ever delivered, for while he was speaking a courier came in and reported “a large body of rebels advancing on the turnpike from Leetown.”

The girls now anxious to be at home, asked for an escort, for the soldiers had been very impertinent to them on their way into town. An escort was readily granted, and although our house was near the outposts, he came all the way to the door and there received my mother’s thanks for his courtesy. She also asked him his name, which at first he refused to give, but upon her reminding him that he knew what a day might bring forth, he gave Major Gaston of General Gregg’s staff. None but those who have seen and felt it can realize our feelings as we saw the enemy advance in such order and numbers, knowing as we did that only a few miles further on they were to meet our forces, among whom were many friends near and dear. Soon a few stray shots were heard, then the drumbeat and all stragglers were drawn in and quiet reigned for a little while. Then came the whir and shriek of the shells as they passed over the house, and the villainous little “zip:” of minie balls as they cut leaves from the hedge around the door. All of us retreated to the cellar. The family consisted of my mother, her two daughters, her niece, her two little grandchildren, whose mother was in Baltimore, a negro woman, and a terror-stricken dog.

A FIGHT TO BE REMEMBERED

All that evening the battle raged. The Federal wounded were brought from the field and laid upon the lawn before and under the protection of the of the house until they could be taken away, some few in ambulances, others on horses or on stretchers. I shall never forget the sight of a white horse, his whole fore-quarter stained with the life-blood of whom who was lying dead across his back. The firing never ceased until late in the night. Our house was kept closed and perfectly dark. The troops had no time to tarry and I heard them, as they passed to-and-fro from the spring, wonder where the women of the house were. All night we waited in the darkness, each with a candle, a few matches, and a piece of chocolate in our pockets. These had been kept for a time of need, and we thought that time had come. It was truly a night of horrors. By two or three o’clock all the Federals had gone and we heard the smooth canter of the Southern horseman take the place of the sharp ring of the steel shod horses of the Northern cavalry. Daylight found me with a pale face and hollow, but a hearty welcome for the Confederates, who rode into say that they would be back to breakfast. Our friends from town, alarmed for our safety , came almost as soon. Seeing a soldier and being anxious to know who of our friends had come, my young sister asked him to what regiment he belonged, to the great amusement of all around, for it proved to be General Fitzhugh Lee himself. Among the first questions asked was, who was in command of the forces opposed to us. When General Lee was told that it was General Gregg, he instantly said: “I wonder if he knew I was in command on this side?” and I gathered that they had been either classmates or friends before the war.

Oh, the contrast between two days divided by one single night! The day before terror and gloom prevailed and today the house filled with joy and gladness. We had little or nothing to give them to eat, all having been taken from us the day before and the garden trampled by the troops.

While rations that had been sent from the camp were being prepared, we gathered around the piano to entertain our guests with music and to deliver to General J.E.B. Stuart some music that had been in our keeping for several months, sent to him by an admiring friend in Baltimore. “Soldier Boy Nineteen Years Old,” “Benny Havens, Oh” were sung with a hearty good will. Impromptu verses to the latter air were composed by nearly all present. General Stuart’s contribution, written on the back of a piece of music was the following:

STUART’S IMPROMPTU

To the bonnie lass, Miss Lottie,
Our adoration’s due;
She soothes our hearts in times of woe,
With music soft and true.
May she rule her beau of nineteen,
The gallant Brigadier,
Who, though he vanquish men, I ween,
Her own command must fear.

To our jolly friend, Fitz Lee,
A health before we go.
He has a heart all full of glee,
A strong one for the foe.
May his triumphs long continue,
And Miss Lottie always know
The number of his regiment
And smiles on him bestow.

Later in the day a Baltimore American newspaper was gotten hold of by some means and the portico rang with merriment as the account of the battle from a Federal point of view was read out, and its inaccuracy wondered at and commented on. I heard General Lee say: “Well, I have not been in a hotter place since the war began than that fight was at one time yesterday.”

It was indeed a hard-fought fight, though it had had but small mention in the “Annals of the War.” it was here that Colonel Drake of the First Virginia Cavalry (formerly Stuart’s) was killed. When we congratulated Colonel Morgan on his promotion, he said feelingly: “Not yet! Not yet! Too late have I paid my last tribute to poor Drake.”

But this was no abiding place for either army. When the Federals were driven across the river, the Confederates retired beyond the railroad and so it was with us until peace settled down over the whole land and the war became as it now is, a thing of memory only. – (1).

References/Image Credits:

Chapterette 18: Tippie Boteler Recalls The Fight Near Fountain Rock in July, 1863; Kyd Douglas’ Letters to Tippie Don’t Take Hold.

1. Shepherdstown Register February 1, 1934.

2. Henry Kyd Douglas Papers, Duke University.

NEXT: Chapterette 19. https://civilwarscholars.com/uncategorized/thy-will-be-done-chapter-19-henry-k-douglas-writes-tippie-from-a-cold-island-prison-by-jim-surkamp/