moment of extreme danger for Lee's army, and that great general saw it. Unless the Federals could be checked and driven back, Richmond must fall. The Confederates from the left were countermarched on the double-quick across the open space to get in front of the Federals. Bullets and grape fell like rain. Boney Loy fell, shot through the leg, and was left on the field, while the Rebels hurried on, and after running half a mile found themselves in front of the Yankees.
It was at this critical moment that General Lee' appeared on the scene. He saw that everything depended upon checking the federal advance. It is believed to be the only instance [it also happened at the battle of the Wilderness] during the war in which General Lee offered to lead a charge, and it is worthy of note, to the honor of Hampshire, that this old county furnished its share of the soldiers which Lee was to lead on that momentous occasion, the most critical, perhaps, in the whole war. No one had noticed the General as he came up. He suddenly appeared at the head of the thirteenth regiment, with his hat off and smiling, but did not say a word. He looked at the men and they understood that he was ready to lead the charge. General Gordon came up at the moment and exclaimed: "I will lead these Virginians; General Lee, go to the rear" At once every man saw General Lee's danger, and called as with one voice: "General Lee, to the rear." Richard Roberson of Company I, caught Lee's horse by the bridle and turned him around. By that time several of Lee's staff officers came up. General Gordon then turned to the men and said: "Virginians, You have never failed before, and I know you will not fail today. Forward. Follow me."
The battle that day, to recover the lost ground, can be fittingly compared to the charge of Ney at Waterloo. It was a stubborn, hand-to-hand fight, in which the finest troops of the South were pitted against the veterans of the North. The soldiers on both sides knew what war was. They had learned the trade on many a field, and they were now to fight inch by inch for the mastery of the captured works. For a long time it was a doubtful contest; but inch by inch the Confederates pushed the Union troops back, and finally recaptured the lost works which General Edward Johnson, with Stonewall Jackson's old division, had lost that morning. But the battle for the mastery did not end there. Three times the Federals tried to retake the works, but were three times repulsed. Other brigades claim the honor of being the troops which General Lee offered to lead; and it is not impossible that he did offer to lead other brigades at other times; but it was surely the brigade in which Hampshire's Company I, thirteenth Virginia infantry fought, which Lee offered to lead at Spotsylvania Court House, May 12, 1864. J. William Jones [Chaplain of the 13th Virginia], in his memoirs of Lee, says he asked General Lee what brigade it was which he offered to lead, and that Lee answered: "General Gordon was the officer." General Gordon could settle the controversy as to the brigade, if he would, and it is due the brave men who followed him, and to the cause of history, that he speak on the subject.
Rain fell all night following the battle. The Confederate soldiers slept sitting, with their backs against the breastworks and gum blankets over their heads and guns. There was thunder and bright lightning, which served to keep up the battle. The Federals had taken up a position in a pine thicket about fifty yards in front of the Confederate works, and they kept up such a constant firing that no one could show his head without danger of having it shot off. A dead Union soldier lay a few yards below the breastworks, between the Federal and Confederate lines. He had a ring on his finger, and several attempts to get it failed. As soon as a Confederate attempted to crawl down, the Yankees in the pines fired at him. At length Samuel Mohler, of Company I, watched his chances, between flashes of lightning, and crawled down and got the ring. He did not care for the value of the ring, but wished to exhibit his recklessness. Boney Loy, who was wounded in the charge, was taken prisoner and carried to a Federal hospital nearby. A few days later the Confederates captured the hospital, and Loy climbed on a horse, behind one of the cavalrymen, and rode back to the camp. His wound in the leg rendered it necessary for him to spend some time in a hospital. He was then granted a furlough, and he set out for home. On the way he fell in with some troops under General Early, just as the fight at Fisher's Hill commenced. He took part in the battle; then proceeded to his home in Hampshire.
Death of Captain Smith
The next day after retaking the works at Spotsylvania Court House, General Lee moved his line back half a mile.
Company I was sent with Ewell's corps to make an attack on Grant's forces, seven miles distant. In the attack Captain Smith was, shot through the lungs. He fell near V. M. Poling, and said: "Tell my wife my first thought, when I fell, was of her, my God and my country. I believe our cause is just, and I have given my life for it." That night the soldiers of his country carried him seven miles back to Lee's lines there being no ambulance in which to send him. He died in the hospital seven days later. There was only seven of Company I left.
On May 30 this company moved to Hanover Court House, where a charge by the brigade to which Company I belonged was ordered, to take a battery of six pieces. The charge [the battle of Bethesda Church] was across an open field, without support. It was a disastrous undertaking, and unsuccessful. The Federal position could not be taken, and the Confederates were forced to retreat, with heavy loss of officers as well as men. The retreat was more fatal than the advance. Of the four hundred who went into the charge, eighty-one were left on the field. Company I suffered as usual. Joseph Carder lost his foot and R. J. Pugh was shot in the leg. It was an uncalled for sacrifice of life. Pugh was a good fellow, liked by all. He died in Romney a few years ago.
This left only five men in Company I, and the company lost its identity. It had not enough men left to elect officers. It had entered the army at the beginning of the war with eighty-six officers and men. On May 21,1864, it had not an officer and only five men. It might be supposed that further history of the company would be unnecessary; but there were five brave men left, and it is proper to follow them through their vicissitudes of fortune till the close of the war.