During the next two months Davis Shepherd spent most of his time in camp, but when off duty would come to his family at Fountain Rock.
In November, 1861 all the Confederate forces on the river were called in and he was ordered to report with his company to Colonel McDonald at Winchester. The same day that this order was received a message was brought to him that Redmond Burke had escaped from the Old Capitol Prison in Washington and was waiting to see him in Shepherdstown. Davis met the Confederate scout in the village and received from his hands copies of the plans of fortifications around Washington. Burke feared that he might be taken and wanted copies of his papers to be in safe hands in case of accident
The men of Davis’ company were housed for the night in the old market house and he came back to Fountain Rock. In the meantime, Mrs. S. one of the Union sympathizers of the town, was hastening up the river to the yankee camp with word of Redmond Burke’s return and of the whereabouts of Davis and his company.
Acting on information given by this woman, the soldiers encamped in Maryland, crossed the river and came to Fountain Rock at midnight. The rap of bayonets on the door roused the family, who were ready in a few moments to meet the crowd of soldiers who pushed into the house and swarmed all over it in every direction.
Davis Shepherd disappeared at the first noise of their approach and no one knew where he had hidden himself – a much safer situation than if the four frightened women had helped him find a hiding place. A demand was made for candles to aid in the search, and Helen (Tippie) Boteler went to the pantry, but was so closely surrounded by men that she could not raise her hand from her side. She could raise her voice, however, and cried out indignantly, “Is this to be allowed?” Immediately the men fell back, and procuring the necessary light, she carried it for the searchers from room-to-room.
They thrust their bayonets through every mattress, even lifting with the point of a bayonet, the mattress of the crib in which little Fanny was sitting up in still, wide-eyed terror. Finding an old musket in the corner of one of the garret rooms, they seized on it with enthusiasm.
“Cap! aw, Cap! here’s a gun.” One of them cried. “Take it by all means,” said Tippie holding up the candle. “You will find it worthless. There are no useful arms here; they are all in the hands of our brave soldiers!” This pronounced with as much fervor as she could command seemed to end their interest in the weapon and they left it where it stood.
Finally they came to a curious cubby-hole under the roof where the old and newer parts of the building joined. This low attic space was entered by one of the soldiers, who had to crawl through a doorway not more than two-and-a-half feet high to search it. He came back in a moment, his face white and eyes staring. “There’s a man in there!” he exclaimed, with as much fear in his tone as if he had found a wildcat. Davis Shepherd came out before they had time to fire at him and stood tall and straight in the narrow landing at the head of the garret stairs, facing his captors. He had taken off his uniform containing the papers and left them under the eaves. The soldiers did not go back for them, but allowing time only for a hasty completion of toilet carried him off with them at once.
When the little group of women saw him there in the hands of the enemy with an unknown fate before him, all possibility of brave sounding speech left them, and husband and wife said goodbye with the expressionless quiet of desperate self-control.
On their way through town the company separated. One of the squad went to the market house. The leader knocked at the door and called out in the darkness. “Get up, boys! Davis Shepherd is out here and wants you right away!” “All right!” “We’re coming!” “I’ll go anywhere with Davis!” “I’d get up to fight a yankee any time of night!” Came the answering calls from Davis’ guard as they scrambled from bed and went out one-by-one to meet their unexpected capture. The other division of the company was on the lookout for Redmond Burke. They had been directed to the house of George McGlincy, the town constable. Not finding the man they wanted here, they took McGlincy prisoner instead.
But Redmond Burke was in the house all the time. When the alarm came, he was seized with terror. He was a brave man, but the idea of being trapped this way was an agony! “Hide me! Hide me!” he begged of McGlincy’s daughter. She took him to the top of the house and pointed to the rafters. A man could lie along one of the heavy beams in the obscurity of the dark garret in comparative safety if he could once get there. Burke looked up, measuring the distance above his head with a quick eye, then turned to “Gin” McGlincy in dismay. “Here, stand on my shoulder!” she whispered; and she stood firm while he swung himself up, his heavy-nailed boot making a deep mark in her flesh.
As she came down the stairs she met the search party who were just entering. The sight of them filled her with anger, and taking her stand at the head of the narrow stairway with an axe handle she beat back the soldiers who attempted to come up. When she finally allowed them to pass her, Burke had so successfully hidden himself that they soon gave up the search.
In the dark dawn, the soldiers rowed back across the river with their prisoners and discussed the adventures of the night in Davis Shepherd’s hearing. “My, but don’t those rings on Miss Boteler’s fingers sparkle!” said one. “I’m coming back to get ‘em someday!”
“I’d like to have a picture of her!” said another. “Did you see how her black eyes flashed when she said: “They’re all in the hands of our brave soldiers?” mimicking the dramatic manner of (Tippie Boteler-JS) .
One must not at this late day dwell upon the horror of prison life nor tell the story of all that Davis Shepherd suffered while in the hands of the Federal authorities. Two deliberate attempts were made upon his life, one at Keedysville and again at Williamsport. He was put in solitary confinement. At one time he was taken desperately ill and the doctor who tended him looked him over and remarked, “It’s a pity Alex Boteler’s son-in-law should die a natural death!”
When they reached Washington he was made to march up and down the streets in the custody of his self-important captors until he could walk no further. They had to carry him at last to his cell in the Old Capitol prison. When the articles for exchanging him as a political prisoner were prepared – it was said he was a prisoner of war; and when preparations were made for his exchange as a prisoner of war, he was declared a political prisoner. His health was wrecked by poisoned food given him; every indignity was put upon him. Filth and disease surrounded him. – (1).
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