BATTLE OF SCARY.
Dr. J. P. Hale, Editor West Virginia Historical Magazine, Charleston, W. Va.:
Dear Sir: – In compliance with your request, I herewith send you some of my recollections of the fight at Scary Creek, in this county, one of the first fights of the late Civil War.
The “Kanawha Riflemen” on July 17, 1861, were ordered from Camp Tompkins, near Coal’s Mouth, to meet the advance of General Cox’s Federal forces. Being a private in that company, my observations were confined, most of the time to a small field of vision.
The Riflemen were deployed as skirmishers, in advance of the other troops, in front of Hale’s Battery extending up the ravine along a brush fence. I was the last rile on the left. With considerable interest, not unmixed with anxiety. I saw a glittering line of steel extend through the thin woods and cover our front. I saw, I think, the first puff of powder smoke and a bullet hit the stump on which I sat. A large Beech tree was opportunely near me, and I immediately sought the protection of its trunk. As the puffs of smoke increased the beech tree seemed to wonderfully decrease in size. But for personal reasons I stuck to it. Captain Albert G. Jenkins, afterwards a Brigadier General, came up the line of skirmishers, with his hat off, and the blood streaming down his hair and neck, and called for someone to go and get his horse, tied to a stake behind Hale’s battery. He did not, like King Richard, promise a kingdom for his horse, but I was thinking of the kingdom to come, and a chance to dodge it. So I left the beech tree, and ran through the brush, over the hill and mounted the horse. I rode up to the battery and saw a dismounted cannon being propped up for service by a lot of determined men. I asked one of them, “where is my brother?” “Who is your brother?” “Lieutenant Welch of this battery.” “There he lies. He has done his duty.” Then I looked where the soldier pointed, and saw my brother upon the ground lying where he fell with his head almost severed by a flying piece of iron from the cannon that he was aiming when it was struck and dismounted by a cannon ball. As he lay with both arms extended in the shape of a cross, he reminded me of Christ crucified. One died for all mankind, the other for his native state, with the same willingness.
I rode the horse to where I left Captain Jenkins, and when I tried to dismount, I could not get my foot loose from the stirrup, and he could not mount. I was very much afraid that the tangle would be undone by the bullets, but solved the riddle by pulling out my camp knife and cutting the stirrup leather in two. I then repaired rapidly to my friend, the beech tree, and Captain Jenkins went his way in the fight, while I got the stirrup off my foot.
About this time a lot of our men rushed in on our left with blue trimmings on their uniforms, one of them fired at me and I yelled to my next file on the right, that we were being outflanked by the Yankees. My gun, at this time, was unloaded. He turned, and taking the same view of the situation as I did, with a sudden aim, he shot one of the supposed Yankees through and through. I do not remember how the mistake was rectified, but it was before the poor boy died. The artillery of the enemy for some time had been making the most noise, but suddenly we heard a new sound. It came from the “Peacemaker,” (a gun cast by Mr. Job Thayer at his foundry in Maiden) the new sound was caused by the miscellaneous missels it blew at the houses across the creek, behind which the enemy were fighting. Trace chains, mashed horse shoes and other kinds of scrap iron made the boards and shingles fly — and the Yankees also.
The order passed to the skirmishers to rally on the center which we did, and Lieutenant Nicholas Fitzhugh led us across the creek, and while we were burning some building’s to prevent their giving shelter again to the enemy, in case they should return, a lot of Federal officers rode up, supposing that we belonged to their army, on account of our incendiary occupation. One of them asked us where the d__d rebels were. We closed in around the lot and gave them the information sought. They were Colonel De Villiers. Col Neff and others. They consented after some parley to visit Richmond. I then got permission from Lieutenant Fitzhugh to go across the hills to the Upper Falls of Coal river, where my mother was at that time, and tell her the sad tidings of the death of her son.
Here ended my first lesson in the catachysm that followed.