“Thy Will Be Done” – Chapter 24 Netta Lee Refugee by Jim Surkamp.

1893 words




Mother spent the night after the burning of Bedford at Poplar Grove, the home of her sister-in-law, Mrs. Henry Bedinger. I went to that of my dear Pink and the servants were cared by other friends. On the following morning, Mother and Harry left quite early to drive to Clarke County, search for Father and acquaint him with our terrible loss. She promised to send Harry back with their plans. On the following day, he returned, telling me to collect the servants and the small remnant of household possessions and to go to Clarke, where arrangements to stay with some cousins had been made. That evening, my last in Shepherdstown. Pink and I walked out to Bedford to gather up any fragments that were to be found. We came upon an old blank ledger of Father’s, which we cut in half, each promising to keep a diary of our daily thoughts and nightly dreams for the other while we were separated, as we had rarely been apart for many days in our lives. I kept mine which forms the basis of his story. I am sorry to say that Pink’s was lost.

July 23rd, 1861 – Dunham, Clarke County
Well, here I am, my sweet Pink, at the home of our dear friends and relatives, the Pages. This is the very first opportunity I have had since we parted to fulfill my promise to write you every day in my half of the old black book which we cut in two as we stood so mournfully over the pile of debris left on the ground midst the still smouldering ruins of old Bedford. I have had but little time to write or even think, which is probably the best thing that could have happened to me. Mother is sick and very weak; I relieve her all I can and try to make her rest. Father is greatly distressed, but cheered and comforted at being reunited with Mother.

It was a great comfort to have Tippie come with me on the trip; I suppose she has now returned as she found her father sooner than she expected and told him of the burning of Fountain Rock.

I would like to read your description of how we appeared as our caravan moved off from Aunt Carrie’s (Caroline – Mrs. Henry Bedinger) gate at Poplar Grove. Harry, Tippie, and I seated in the old rockaway, with innumerable boxes and bundles packed around is, and old Fly hitched to it with harness made of parts and pieces rescued from the stable. I had wondered how the old rockaway escaped, when they burned all the other carriages. The boys tell me they had taken to the spring to be washed. Behind us came the big farm wagon from Oak Hill, with our fat tenant, Ray, driving his own sleek horses to it, loaded with servants perched on top of the remnant of furniture we saved. Aunt Peggy, with her high bandanna headkerchief, seated in a huge rocking-chair, which Mother gave her, saved from the Leeland fire years ago. Behind all came the horses and cows, with negro boys riding driven and leading them. That was all. – (1).

Netta Lee wrote Pink of encounters on the trip to Clarke County:

Well, I had a little excitement after leaving your house. You know your mother wanted to make one good bundle out of the packages of letters given me to take through the lines, but I told her I would do them up at Poplar Grove, and off I started. Just as I came in sight of the gate, there was an uproar and over the hill on the turnpike came a party of yankees, riding wildly. I ran to take the shortest cut from the road to the yard, which, as you know, is through Shindler’s field and over the stone fence. I got safely to the top of the fence, but when I jumped to the ground, lo, the string of my war pocket, tied around my waist, broke with a snap, and to the four winds blew all my letters. To my dismay, the yankees also left the pike, turning into the gate just below me. “Mercy,” I thought, “My time has come. They’ll send me and all the writers of these letters to the Old Capitol prison!” I tried to cover them with my hoop-skirts, like an old hen on her chicks. A silent prayer was in my heart, when, joy, oh joy, every yankee dashed past me at a furious rate, almost riding over me and the letters as they sped along in their mad career. Hurriedly I scrambled the letters together and back into the pocket, as I heard, other horsemen coming from the same direction as the first. But, again, oh joy! These men wore grey uniforms and began to fire right over my head at the fast retreating yanks, who were taking the shortest cut to the Potomac river, right through dear old Bedford. My, but it was exciting! I’m really glad though that none of the poor fleeing fellows got shot.

From whom, Pink, do you think I had parted on the turnpike, a few moments prior to the above occurrence? Lee Lysle and Captain Christian. I expect both of them are making soft speeches to you at this moment, for their faces were turned your way. Who do you do, Pink, to fascinate all these poor fellows the way you have? Captain Christian went on to town, while Lysle and I sat on a big rock under the locusts and talked about you.

I reminded that gentleman of a bet he made with me on November 24th, 1862, when you had not altogether blasted his hopes. The wage was this – his bet was: “I will never marry unless I get the girl who has my heart in Shepherdstown.” My bet was this: “You will marry as soon as the war is over or before, and not a Shepherdstown girl.” If I win, he is to give me a box of the best kid gloves to be found; if he wins, I am to get him a box of the best cigars to be had in the South. I asked him today if he had been saving up his Confederate notes, or otherwise arranging to capture or even smuggle those gloves for me. He looked very disconsolate and said: “Now, Miss Netta, you wouldn’t work against me for a pair of gloves, would you?”

“No, indeed, Mr. Lysle.” I replied, “but it is because I am your very good friend that I do not encourage you uselessly.”

Harry and I walked out to Oak Hill where our horse was left for greater safety and from there drove to Mr. Moore’s, a mile or so the other side of Kearneysville, where we found ourselves almost in General Imboden’s camp. I delivered a message for Mr. Moore from Father, and then asked Betty if there was a short-cut through her father’s farm to Dr. Gibson’s house, which would save a return to the turnpike.

“Oh yes,” she replied, “you can save at least a mile by going through that wood,” pointing to a dense forest between the two places. It looked to be a plain road until we had penetrated well into its depths, where we found that leaves had blown over the main track, making it undistinguishable from the many other tracks made by wagons hauling wood.

We wound around and around, going four miles out of our way and at one time I thought we would land in either Charlestown or Harper’s Ferry. I must confess I felt a bit uneasy at having only little Harry with me, though we both had our pistols, and then it was a tower of strength to know that we were within the Confederate lines. At last we found ourselves in Dr. Gibson’s yard, with soldiers scattered around under the fine old trees.

The first one to jump up and greet me was another of your special friends, Captain Lee Heiskell. He was very cordial and nice, begging us to get out of the rockaway. Hus aunt, Mrs. Gibson, also came and insisted on our taking dinner as they had just arisen from the table. I was sorry enough to decline, but there was a long drive before us and we had already lost so much time.

We were at Dr. Gibson’s an hour or more. We then continued our journey without interruption until we came to the last Confederate picket post, this side of Leetown, where there was a large squad of soldiers. One of them stepped to the side of the rockaway, saying: “Your pass, lady, please.

I could not help smiling, when I replied: “I have none, sergeant.”

“Oh my,” replied the man, trying to look stern, though his eyes twinkled mirthfully. He continued:

“We can never let ladies by without halting them. for you know some ladies cannot be trusted. So tell me where you are from and where you wish to go?”

“We are going to Clarke county, this side of Berryville, and are just from the banks of the Potomac at Shepherdstown. You see we have driven a long way and still have eight or ten miles to drive before dark, so please do not detain us.”

Just then another fine-looking man, with a pleasant mouth and beautiful teeth, stepped up. The first man addressed him as lieutenant.

“You must pardon us, little lady,” said the lieutenant, “if we ask you a few questions. Our orders are to let no one by without a pass. Where is your home?”

Then I grew serious and my voice changed as I repeated the word. “Home.” My eyes filled and I answered: “I have no home; I don’t live anywhere, but I stay in Clarke county. Our beautiful home in Shepherdstown was burned by the Federals only a few days ago.”

Then a bright lad looking chap came forward, clapping his hands and saying: “Oh, Shepherdstown! That is the place for me. Not in the whole South are Confederate soldiers treated better than in Shepherdstown. I just love that pretty little place on the river bank.”

I felt like patting the enthusiastic boy on his shoulder for that speech, but the lieutenant said: “Tell me your name and I will go and see headquarters.””

My name is Netta Lee and this young boy is my brother, Harry Bedinger Lee, my soldier and my protector.”

“Lee!” the officer exclaimed, while the first soldier lifted his hat with deference, saying: “Surely Miss Lee, your name should pass through all Confederate lines.”

“May I ask if you are related to our dear general,” inquired the lieutenant, lifting his hat.

“Yes, he and my father are first cousins,” I replied, my face flowing with pride and pleasure.

“Boys, that is enough pass. This lady and her brother can go anywhere through these lines she wants to go.”

Gratefully thanking those splendid Southern gentlemen, as each man took off his hat and bowed a farewell, we passed on our way.

In two hours we were safely at the Pendleton home, Dunham, but disappointed that Father and Mother were not there to greet us, they having accepted an invitation to dine at Wee Haw, the beautiful home of our old friends, the Blackburns. – (2).

References/Image Credits:

Chapter 24: The Journey of a Refugee by Netta Lee – The Lees Go To Clarke County.

1. Netta Lee, pp. 36-37.

2. Ibid. pp. 42-45.

Chapter 24a Continued (slightly out of time sequence)

1. Netta Lee, pp. 45-47.

2. Ibid., pp. 48-53

3. Ibid. pp. 54-55.

4. Franklin G. Martindale, 1st New York Cavalry. Service and Veterans Records from the Civil War, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

5. Netta Lee, pp. 55-56.

6. Ibid., pp. 61-63.

NEXT: Chapter 25. https://civilwarscholars.com/uncategorized/thy-will-be-done-chapter-25-july-30-1864-the-burning-of-chambersburg-by-jim-surkamp/