The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Remembering the Civil War in the Blue Ridge

By Eula Golding Walters © 2014

Online: December, 2014

John Woodrow Golding in his WWII uniform.John Woodrow Golding in his WWII uniform.(Note from Eula Golding Walters: Below is a narrative of remembrances of the Civil War, as told to me, and written down by my father, John Woodrow Golding.)

My father, John Woodrow Golding, was drafted into WWII, and served in Europe during the end of the war. Unlike so many of his fellow soldiers, he came home safely at the end of the war to his family waiting for him on our little farm at the foot of the Blue Ridge.

Although he told us stories of his adventures during that time, the stories he most loved to tell were of the ones that happened to his kin years before his time. He loved pumping his own grandpa for stories of his life in the South during the Civil War. The following is part of a narrative that Daddy learned at his grandpa's knee when he was still a little boy.

"Grandpa, tell me where we came from", Daddy often begged. 'Grandpa' was John Golden, later changed to Golding (Daddy's namesake). In bits and pieces Daddy learned from his grandpa that the Golding's came to America from Ireland, but most likely originated in England. William Golding, or Bill as he was called, settled in Amherst County, and was the first of the Golding's recorded in America. He then moved to Yadkin Co, NC where other Goldings had already settled. In the early 1860's he developed 'consumption of the lungs', and moved to Carroll County, Virginia at the foot of the Blue Ridge, near Lambsburg, where the Goldings still live today. Neighbors helped Bill and his wife clear land, build a log cabin, and work their crops. All their tools were hand made. Their clothes were spun on a loom and sewed by hand. Grandpa Bill was an accomplished cobbler and cobbled all their shoes. He and his wife Mary had three children, two girls and a boy named John, who was to become Daddy's grandpa.

Daddy loved to hear these stories, but was very interested in the Civil War and wanted to learn as much as possible about it, and the part that his people played in it. He asked, "Grandpa, how old were you when the Civil War started, and can you remember it?" "I was 6 years old when the war began, and I remember it as tho it was yesterday," Grandpa told Daddy. "The war was raging in 1963, and things were bad for everyone, including our family. Every able bodied man had been called to war. Papa's health was much worse by then, keeping him from being drafted. He was so sick that he could no longer make the family's shoes. Mama made our shoes out of dried deer hide, turning the hair inside to keep our feet warmer."

"The Southern Army was so desperate for men to fight that they made the enlistment age from 16 to 65. Since coffee, sugar and salt were now non-existent; we made coffee from parched rye grain, and dug up the dirt from under the meat house, boiled it & strained out the salt. Sugar cane molasses was used for sugar."

"Our nearest neighbors were the Felts family. The father was away, fighting with Jeb Stuart. They were worse off than we were, and we worked together to make do. Each family had one horse and they put them together to make a team to pull the plow."

"Grandpa Bill was now so ill that he was completely bed ridden. One evening we helped him sit up so he could see the beautiful sunset. As his family supported his body, he whispered to them, 'I see a place where I want you and the children to meet me some day. We will be reunited and there will be no more sickness." These were the last words he ever spoke, as he closed his eyes in death."

"In early April, we were warned that Yankee thugs called Stoneman's Raiders were riding thru the land, destroying and killing everything in their path. People were warned to hide everything of value, including themselves, and especially the women, as they were being hunted down and raped. We took our cattle into the woods and made a corral for them of brush. A few days later we heard them coming and we hid in the brush. We could hear them shooting our neighbor's live stock and burning their barns. We could see the area where the mill house was going up in smoke. There would be no more grinding our corn and wheat. From our hiding place, we could see them riding toward our place. Soon, smoke covered everything. Next we heard shots fired and knew they were killing our chickens. They soon rode out as fast as they had ridden in, and we rushed out to see the damage. The corn crib and rail fence were burning. I hurried to take down a section on either side of the fence to stop the fire. Inside the house, furniture was smashed and a jug of molasses was spilled over the floor. We suddenly remembered our neighbors, the Felts, and started down the road to check on them. About half way, we were met by them, on their way to our house to check on us. Mrs. Felts had suffered much more damage than we did. They drove off her cows and took her horse, leaving her with a run down nag. We all sunk to the ground, hugging each other there in the road, and cried till there were no more tears to cry."

The effects of Stoneman's raid were unpatrolled in the area, and those effects lasted well into the 20th century. My daddy had vivid memories of visiting elderly neighbors with his mother who remembered the war, as well as the horrible Stoneman's raid.

My daddy is gone now, and his stories would have died with him if he had not written them down and told them to his children. I am so thankful to him for begging his grandpa for these stories, for remembering them and for writing them down. His love of history, of his family heritage, and of the written word has enabled us, his children, to cause these stories to live on. I am writing these words that my daddy told so that my own children will remember where they came from, what their ancestors endured, and will pass it down to their own children; lest we forget.