The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Confederate Nags in Return

Reprinted from the Gettysburg Times
By Mahlon R. Hagerty © 1990

Issue: May, 1990

My great-great-grandfather, Adam Smith, was cultivating 175 acres of prime farm land not far from Hanover when the Civil War began in 1861. He had a wife and four children, but received a draft notice nevertheless. For some reason he was not accepted for service, the reason for which I never found out.

What I do recall, however, is an incident related to me by my grandmother and which left a deep impression with me. Even during what has been described by many historians as the bloodiest civil war, it seems there were compensating features.

The Confederates were retreating from their unsuccessful efforts to capture Harrisburg in June, 1863, and were enroute for the showdown at Gettysburg. They were foraging the countryside for supplies. They were especially in need of fresh horses to replace the weary, half-starved ones that had made the long, wearisome trek from Virginia.

Knowing the "rebs" were in the general vicinity, my great-great-granddad locked the stable doors before going to the house for his midday meal. Shortly thereafter, he heard a commotion outside. Jeb Stuart's men had broken into the barn and were "requisitioning" Adam's eight horses.

Now his first impulse was to go outside and shout "halt!" whereupon several soldiers aimed their rifles at him. Obviously concluding that discretion was the better part of valor, he retreated to the house in record time.

After the "enemy" had gone, Adams went out to the barn. To his surprise, the southerners had left eight somewhat emaciated horses which, with proper care, were soon fit for farm work. Of course, the soldiers could have shot the useless nags, but I like to believe that a certain amount of innate chivalry dictated otherwise. War had not yet "progressed" to the point where any resource that might possibly be of use to the other side must be destroyed.

How times have changed in the past 127 years.