The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Mountain Memories Of Elliott Harmon

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1984-2012

Issue: September, 1984

Editor’s Note… The Mountain Laurel wishes to express our thanks to Phyllis Janey of Floyd, Virginia for her help with this story about Elliott Harmon, her grandfather.

elliott harmonMajor Austin Harmon and wife.Elliott Harmon was born December 25, 1899. He was the first of three surviving children born to Francis Martin and Georgia Kitterman Harmon.

The family was native to Floyd County, Virginia in what was then the "East View" neighborhood. Today Elliott and his wife, Nancy Dillon Harmon, still live in a house on a dirt road off US Highway 221 that Elliott's father built. Originally, the house was only two rooms but later an upper story was added, then when Elliott was a young adult, he helped his father add on a back wing.

When Elliott was a mere lad of eight or nine years old, he spent a lot of time with his grandfather. It was the memory of those stories his grandfather told him that caused him to contact The Mountain Laurel.

His grandfather was Austin Harmon, Major in the army of the Confederate States of America. Elliott said he was always called "Major." Major Harmon was born in 1835 and died in 1914.

Elliott Harmon tells this story recounted to him by his grandfather:

Austin Harmon enlisted in a rifle brigade in Christiansburg, Virginia in 1861 and was assigned the rank of First Lieutenant. He was to be shipped out to Wytheville, but the troops didn't get there in time, so they were sent to the northern part of Virginia instead - Manassas Battlegrounds! There Austin Harmon took part in a skirmish in 1861 and fought in the second battle of Manassas in 1862.

Austin Harmon was wounded at the last battle of Manassas somewhere near the Stone Bridge at Bull Run. They were on retreat when he was shot. The ball entered his left shoulder blade, went up through his body, through his neck and lodged in his cheek bone. This happened about eight or nine o'clock in the morning and he laid wounded until around 4:00 pm that evening when a fellow soldier, a Private George Weaver (also from Floyd County) found him and carried him off the field.

Although they were both captured, they were allowed to stay together and George Weaver was allowed to nurse Austin Harmon back to health. It took some three months before Austin recovered and the men were released from a northern prison house. He said most of the captured soldiers after this battle were put into prison for a certain amount of time.

At this point, Elliott Harmon said, "What I really want to stress on this is what my grandfather said, 'There were bound to have been some awful good Christian men on the opposite side as well as the Confederate side because of the treatment we got while in prison'."

There were some terrible hardships for a soldier to go through. One was the shortage of food when ration lines were cut off. Austin Harmon told his grandson they "had to eat anything we could get hold of. As good a meat as I ever ate was once when I got a skunk, cleaned it and cooked it."

By the time Austin Harmon was discharged and came home, he was a Major and the year was 1865. He kept the bullet that wounded him and showed it to his grandson years later.

Major Harmon and George Weaver remained good friends until the end of their days and visited each other often. They only lived 3 to 5 miles apart.

Elliott Harmon has visited Manassas where his grandfather fought. He said he remembered from a childhood story of his grandfather's that at one point they ran so low on ammunition that they threw rocks. At the time, Elliott thought perhaps his grandfather was stretching the truth, but upon buying a book on the battles at Manassas, it described that very thing happening!

I ask if the wound his grandfather suffered inflicted any permanent damage. Elliott said he had a stiff shoulder, but that was about all. After Major Harmon came back from the War, he was never able to use a grain cradle the same as before - he had to have a strap to support the weight of the cradle.

Elliott Harmon's last words on his grandfather were, "My grandfather aimed to be honest and fair with everyone and he expected that in return."

You cannot help but feel a sense of awe talking with a person who heard of Civil War stories from someone who had actually experienced them - A living link to the history of our country.