The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Autobiography of Mrs. Elizabeth Peirce Crockett Thomas 1854-1950

Preserved By Alice Kelley © 1990

Issue: May, 1990

Our appreciation to the Crockett Family not only in allowing us to share this excerpt from the autobiography with our readers, but for the role they have played in preserving not only their family history but the history of the county and nation as well.

The Civil War

I was seven years old when the war started. My first memory of it was the Bland Sharp-Shooters under Captain Jack Grayson, coming through the Cove to join the Confederate army. The Cove people served dinner to them near Cousin Carolina Crockett's, at the brick house at the forks of the road; tables were put up in the flat near the road. Mary Crockett, Uncle Thomp's daughter and I made little bouquets and gave each of the soldiers one. The Allen boys' sisters and Aunt Mary Jack came that far with the boys. The latter had two sons in the Sharp-Shooters, William and Robert; both of whom lost their lives. Captain Robert Crockett was killed at Cloyd's Mountain Battle.

Captain William Crump's West Virginia Company came through Bland and the entire company ate supper at our home. My mother was not strong as it was only three months after the birth of my brother, Alexander George Crockett. She overdid herself and was taken very ill, brain fever, and was delirious from Monday until Sunday. Uncle Thompson Crockett went down for Grandma Chaffin. This was my first experience in keeping house. I was in the yard near the old kitchen when Aunt Sally Crockett came out and told me, as Grandma was coming, I had better tell the cook to kill several chickens and cook a ham. I said, "I've already told her." Little Alex had to be weaned. Aunt Mary Sam had come from Max Meadows when she heard Ma was sick. She fixed a bottle for Alex and put a cloth over a quill and put it in the bottle of milk. Ma was sick for several weeks, but finally recovered.

My father was examined by the military board and found incapable of military service on account of white swelling in his knees, as it was called then. He joined the Home Guards. Whenever the Yanks made a raid in this part of the County, the Home Guards were called out. I remember he went to Saltville and Central Depot, now Radford.

When General Averell's Calvary Regiment came through Bland, and attempted to reach the railroad at Wytheville and destroy it, they were met at the Gap of the cove, three miles from my home, buy General Morgan's men, who was stationed on Queen's Knob overlooking the narrow Gap. The Yankees were repulsed and retreated up the Cove. We could hear the cannon. My father and several others walked down the road in the direction of the fighting, seeing the retreating Army, coming up the Cove, they came back and reached home just ahead of the Yankees. An officer rode up to the front door, seeing Pa on the porch, he said, "What are you doing here, you damned old Rebel?" Then he said, "Have the women and children go to the basement as the battle may be renewed." But as Morgan's men were pursuing them closely and hotly, they were so worn out, they continued their hasty retreat up the Cove, galloping through our orchard, throwing the rail fences out of the way, came by the spring house, grabbed up crops of milk and drank it as they rode, also taking the supper off the table. We children were in the basement dining room under the table. Several wounded Yankees were left at our home and brought to Wytheville the next day. General Averell was wounded. His wound was probed in our yard, sending in to get water to wash it. A little silver probe was found near our chimney the next day. He was able to continue the retreat with his soldiers. A wounded Yankee was left in our dining room and he begged "Uncle Daniel" our Negro butcher, to cut the bullet out of his stomach. My father saw "Uncle Daniel" sharpening his butcher knife and asked him what he was doing. He replied, "I am guant cut out dat bullet." My father said, "Stop Daniel, you can't do that." The wounded Yankee was brought to Wytheville the next day, where he died.

Some of the wounded Yankees were left in the little brick church, built by my Grandmother, near our place. They were taken to Wytheville the next day. The brick for this church were made on my father's place about 1858 and the money to build the church was furnished by my Grandmother, Nancy Graham Crockett. I remember Mr. Wesley Johnson, the brick mason, carried me down to the field to see the brick being made. I was about four years old. My father gave an acre of land on which the church was erected.

Several of our Negroes went with the Yankees and the Yankees also took some of our horses. They retreated to the mountain in the head of the Cove, where they got lost for a time, and one of them said if Morgan's men had followed them, they would have been captured. The Yankees finally got out of the mountain and went down through Bland and joined General Crooke's Army, which had fought at the Battle of Cloyd's Mountain the day before. The Yankee soldiers came from Ohio.

Years afterward, my daughter met a member of the army living in Portsmouth, Ohio. The gentleman said, "I tried to go to Wytheville, Virginia once but met Morgan's men at the Gap of the Cove and I didn't get through." About fifty years after the war, my son William, was visiting in Knoxville, Tennessee, and was taking a walk one morning and met a gentleman who asked my son where he was from. My son replied, "I'm from Wytheville, Virginia, the town half way between Roanoke and Bristol." The man replied, "I came almost to Wytheville one time." And my son asked him why he didn't come all the way. He replied, "Oh, Hell, I couldn't make it. I was in the Yankee Army at the Battle in Crockett's Cove and the Confederates not only shot at us from the butt end of the mountain at the Gap of Cove, but threw rocks and sticks at us."

Later, a regiment of Yankees came from North Carolina on their way to the Lead Mines, near my Grandmother Chaffin's home. They ransacked her house, breaking open bureau drawers, searching for money and valuables. I now have in my possession, a mahogany bureau of hers with a broken lock. They took a number of horses and Negroes. After the war, one of our Negroes, Daniel, came back. My grandmother said, "Daniel, I hope I'd never see your face again; you showed the Yankees where the horses were and persuaded some of the other Negroes to go with you." He denied it and left and she never saw him again.

During the war, I knitted socks for the soldiers, giving a pair to a wounded Kentucky soldier who was at our house. He tried to get back to Kentucky, but was forced to return. He brought me a string of blue and white beads.