The History of
Company I, 13th Virginia
The History of The Frontier Riflemen of Hampshire Count, Virginia (Company I, 13th Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment, C.S.A.) is taken from the book "History of Hampshire County, West Virginia" written by Hu Hu Maxwell and H. L. Swisher printed in Morgantown, West Virginia by A. Brown Boughner, 1897.
A special thanks to Mr. Dan Cowgill of Middletown, DE, for providing this valuable information to us. We truly appreciate his great effort.
"THE FRONTIER RIFLEMEN
This company was organized in 1860, after the John Brown raid, with Robert White as Captain, Elias L. Irvin as First Lieutenant, Job N. Cookus as Second Lieutenant and Daniel T. Keller as Third Lieutenant. On May 18,1861, by order of Governor Letcher, the company reported to Colonel T. J. Jackson [later Stonewall], then commanding at Harper's Ferry. While there the company voted on the Ordinance of Secession, there being seven votes against it. The company was placed in the Fourth Regiment, under Colonel A. P. Hill, and was designated as Company I. It being found that there were two Fourth Regiments, this one was changed to Thirteenth. While at Harper's Ferry the first death occurred in the company, Henry Wilson, but it was by no means the last death, for this company was almost totally destroyed before the close of the war.'
The First Fight
Active service soon commenced Colonel Hill, with the Thirteenth and Tenth Virginia and Third Tennessee Regiments, marched to Romney in June, 1861, and a detachment, consisting of Companies I and K and the Third Tennessee was sent to New Creek to destroy railroad bridges. The bridges were burned, and a skirmish occurred with the Cumberland Home Guards, in which the Guards were defeated, with the loss of two small cannons, which fell into the hands of the Confederates. These were the first trophies of war.
Colonel Hill marched to Winchester, and Company I was soon in the command of General Joseph Johnston, who was falling back from Harper's Ferry. After a few days General Johnston eluded and deceived General Patterson, of the Union Army, and slipped away to Manassas in time to turn the tide of battle (July 21) from apparent defeat to certain victory. Company I did not take part in the battle, having been posted on the right to guard a ford. After the battle the Thirteenth Regiment did picket duty in the vicinity of Alexandria. John Bobo died of fever at this camp, and Thomas Scanlon was accidentally shot in the foot. In the autumn of 1861 the army moved to Manassas, and here Thomas Kelly [Keely] and Samuel McCauley died in the hospital.
Captain White and Lieutenant Irvin resigned January 1862, and left the army. Johnston's army moved from Manassas in the spring of 1862, and General Powell's division, to which the Thirteenth Regiment belonged, was stationed on the Rappahannock River, and afterward fell back to Gordonsville. The Confederate Army was here reorganized. The time of enlistment of many of the men had expired; but the Confederate Congress having passed the Conscript Act, it compelled the men to remain in the commands where they then were. Many of the men felt themselves much aggrieved at this, as they had volunteered, and they thought they should be allowed to choose the arm of the service in which they would fight. Company I reorganized [in April 1862] by electing Job N. Cookus as Captain, Abraham Smith as First Lieutenant, James Moorehead as Second Lieutenant and Abraham Barnes as Third Lieutenant.
The division to which this company belonged moved from Gordonsville to Swift Run Gap, Jackson's old camp, facing Banks' army at Harrisonburg, in the Valley of Virginia. In all the fighting which followed, Company I did its full share. General Banks was forced out of the valley, with great loss of stores, artillery and prisoners.
But General Fremont and General Shields coming upon the scene, there was continued and heavy fighting. The Confederates gained a victory at Cross Keys. This was the first real battle taken part in by Company I, although it had seen much service. After the battle at Cross Keys, the division to which Company I belonged crossed the south fork of the Shenandoah and helped Jackson, who was fighting Shields. The Federals had a strong position. A brigade of Ewell's division and a regiment of Jackson's took a battery of six pieces on Shields' left, which proved to be the key to the field and decided the battle in favor of the confederates. The victory did not come too soon for them, for their army was completely exhausted, and it was with great difficulty that a pursuit of five miles was made, many of the men falling by the roadside. They had fought two days without a mouthful to eat.
Adventures of Boney Loy
Among the well-known members of Company I was William B. Loy, nick-named "Boney," who passed through many dangers and lived to see peace restored. He returned to Hampshire and proved by his life that the bravest in war are the best citizens in peace. He was of small stature, but of iron constitution, capable of enduring excessive fatigue; taking part in the hardest marches, the severest battles, and always at his post. In the battle above mentioned he had a long, hard time of it.
When the fight was over he wrapped himself in a new rubber blanket and lay down among the dead and dying, and was soon asleep. During the night some stragglers, who were robbing the dead, found him and supposing him dead also, rolled him over, pulled his blanket out and began to fold it up. But Loy awoke and soon convinced the thief that he had tackled a very lively corpse. The straggler turned away, remarking, "take your old blanket; I thought you were dead." Loy wrapped the blanket about him and again lay down to sleep. When he awoke in the morning, he found that his gun and boots had been stolen. Unarmed and barefooted he started out to forage, and soon found a rusty gun, which he took; but he was not so fortunate in procuring coverings for his feet, which were so small that he was hard to fit. But, finally he found a Yankee with boots about the right size, and he proceeded to pull them off. He received a kick in the stomach from the Yankee whom he had supposed dead, and the rebuke: "What are you about? Can't you let a man die in peace! Can't you wait till he is dead before you rob him?" As Mr. Loy had no intention of robbing a wounded soldier, he let go the boot with many apologies and moved off. He found no other boots of the proper size, and returned to camp barefooted. It was not long after that that Banks' commissary stores were captured by the rebels, and Boney Loy had the pick of several hundred cases of Yankee boots, and succeeded in finding a pair to fit him exactly.
Death of George Cheshire
After the battle of Port Republic, many of the members of Company I joined the cavalry and did good service; others left and went home to remain. After a rest of a few days, Company I, now reduced in numbers, was sent to Richmond to defend the Capital of the Southern Confederacy against McClellan. On June 27, 1862, when the company found itself on McClellan's right at Cold Harbor it had only eighteen men, including two conscripts. Although General Lee had forced General McClellan from his fortifications, his new position was a very strong one. In the battle which followed [the battle of Gaines' Mill], Company I passed through many dangerous places. It had to cross a swamp hip-deep to attack the enemy's infantry posted on an eminence. The Confederates were unmercifully raked by the artillery fire.
The survivors of the terrible battle tell of the gallant manner in which Sergeant George W. Cheshire met his death. He is looked upon as one of the bravest of the one hundred and twenty-two Hampshire men who gave their lives in the Cause of the South. He was killed near Richmond. The battle had raged with almost unprecedented fury, and seven ensigns had fallen. Cheshire seized the colors of his regiment and led the charge, calling to his comrades to follow. He held the flag until the staff was shot off in three places. It looked like a rush into the jaws of death, but they pressed forward. Cheshire fell, but the men who had followed him met the enemy and forced them back.
The Governor of Virginia made a special report on the gallantry of the young Hampshire officer, and his name stands recorded in history. The flag, cut into ribbons by bullets was sent to Governor Letcher, who returned a new flag, remarking that the old one "was battle worn and bullet torn", and "bathed in the blood of the gallant Cheshire." George Ruckman, another brave man of the company, fell in this battle, as did also one of the conscripts [W. D. Arrington]. Frank Shingleton of Delaware, who had joined the company, Boney Loy and the other conscript [James T. Fisher, died of his wound on July 11th 1862] were badly wounded.