Friday, February 28, 2014

Papers of J. B. McLaughlin

James Buchanan McLaughlin (1843-1940)
Thanks to my cousin Deborah for sending me the following account written by our mutual uncle who served the 25th Virginia Infantry, Company C of the Army of Northern Virginia during the War for Southern Independence.  His name was James Buchanan McLaughlin.

As I blogged earlier, he and his brother both served in the same company and were both POWs.  James's brother Richard died in the notorious Point Lookout POW camp, while James would not only survive the Point, but was also sent to the horrific Elmira prison camp, where he also survived.

Here is the brief biography of J. B. McLaughlin:

He was born April 1, 1843 in Rock Camp, Braxton County, Virginia. 
He enlisted in Company C of the 9th Virginia Battalion (later, the 2nd Company C of the 25th Virginia Infantry at Sutton, VA, now WV) on May 18, 1861. He was captured (along with his brother Richard, see below) at the Wilderness (May 15, 1864), sent to Belle Plain, then to Point Lookout POW Camp, May 17, 1864. After the death of his brother as a POW at Point Lookout, James was sent to the notorious POW camp at Elmira on August 10, 1864 (which had a 24% death rate among the more than 12,000 POWs who were held there). He survived ten months at Elmira, and was released at the end of the war, June 23, 1865. 
On December 13, 1868, James married Elizabeth Mary Fox (1848-1927). They lived in Glendon, WV and had ten children. James died on July 4, 1940 (at the age of 97) in Glendon, and he and his wife were both buried in the so-called James B. McLaughlin cemetery near Glendon - which I have as of yet not been able to find even with the detailed county map. 

But now, some thirty years after first learning about my great-great-great-granduncle, we now have his own recollections of the war.

Papers of J. B. McLaughlin

ca. 1865
Company C, 25th Virginia Volunteer Infantry, C.S.A.

Captain - P. B. Duffy
1st Lieutenant - J. M. Boggs
2nd Lieutenant - E. D. Camden
3rd Lieutenant - J. M. McCorkle
1st Sergeant - W. T. Lawrence

We left Sutton in May went to Flatwoods and camped there about two weeks.  The first night after leaving Flatwoods, we camped on the farm of Ira Cutlip on Holly River.  Camped the next night at Hacker's Valley.  Was there two days over.  Next camp was on Buchannon farm at Mingo Flats.  Camped on Valley River at Elk Water.  Next day went to Beverly where we camped about two weeks.  Moved down Tygart's Valley to the Round Barn where Elkins is located now.  Camped near where the Court House now stands.  Moved back up a few miles.  When the Confederates were driven from Locust Hill, we crossed the mountain to the back fork of Cheat River.  Went down the river to where Parsons is now located.  Went down a creek the name of which I think was Horse Shoe.  From that time I do not know where was (sic) until we reached Monterey.  Went up one branch of the Potomac River to Monterey in Highland County Virginia.

Traveled day and night for about eighty days.  Never ate any bread all this time.  Got a little beef at times, about three times, I believe.  And when we got to Monterey, they gave us one big round hardtack as hard as a stone.  There we drew some clothing and a blanket and a big heavy overcoat.  As much as a man could carry when wet, and to have to toat (sic) this garment in July and August was enough to make a man say bad words.

Left Monterey by way of Staunton and Parkersburg Pike.  Our first camp was Laurel Fork, a branch of the Potomac.  We next camped on the top of the Allegheny Mountain.  Moved from there to Camp Bartow on the Greenbriar River, where Durbin is now located.  We camped here the balance of the summer of 1861.

Was on one scouting party that went to the top of Cheat Mountain but did not accomplish anything.  The Union troop from Cheat Mountain paid us one visit during the summer and drove in our picket.  Got up in range with their artillery and opened fire.  This was my first time under fire of artillery and the noise that the shot and the shell made,  made me feel cheap.  The Greenbriar River was on a rampage and neither side could cross it.  Our pickets had to hide in the woods to keep from being captured.  Our next move was back to the summit of the Allegheny Mountains.  For winter quarters, we were camped on the highest peak of the mountains where camp put in for the winter.  On the 13th of December, the forces from Cheat Mountain came very near surrounding our camp in the night.  At daylight, we were attacked and had a considerable battle which lasted until the afternoon.  When the Union force was driven off and left us here, we lost some good men.  In killed and wounded, we lost John Green and Thurmond Tinney, killed and several wounded.  Capt. Mollohan of Webster County was killed here.

In the spring, we moved back to Buffalo Gap on the railroad.  Camped a short time and moved back near Staunton.  Early this spring, we were joined by forces of Stonewall Jackson, and then moved back and attacked the Union forces at McDowell.  Here was one of the hottest engagements yet pulled off in this part of the Confederacy.  We drove the Union forces under General Milroy down the South Branch to Franklin in Pendleton County.  We turned back at Franklin and came back to the valley.  Went down by way of Bridgewater to Harrisonburg, then the force divided one portion going down the Shenandoah, the other down at the Page Valley.  At Front Royal, we routed the 1st Maryland Bucktails at Straussburg.  The other force came upon the main Union force and we drove them to Winchester where Banks made a stand but when our forces all got up he was soon dislodged.  And from here he was never let stop until he reached Harper's Ferry.  At Winchester, we captured a large amount of supplies of camp equipment and a large amount of provisions.  Just above Charles Town, we were about faced in the road and marched to Winchester.  That night, I slept on two rails where the water was two or three inches deep.  Out next morning at daylight and never halted until we reached Straussburg.  When we left Valley Road and marched out the Pike toward Romney one and a half miles where we met Milroy and his forces endeavoring to cut us off at this point and it was a close call.  Here we had a little brush with him and gave him a set back.  We continued our march up the Valley, the Union forces following us up and every once in a while we had a brush to keep them back.

At Harrisonburg, there was a considerable fight.  Gen. Ashby was killed here leading an Infantry Charge.  The next day, we had a fight at Cross Keys.  The next morning our forces crossed at the South Branch of the Shenandoah and when the last of our troops crossed over, the bridge was burned.  Our forces then marched down the valley and attacked General Shields, taking all of his artillery and many prisoners.  This ended the Campaign in the Valley for a time.  In the evening, after the battle with Shields, our forces marched up the West side of the Blue Ridge and camped there for two of (sic) three days.  Then, returning to the valley, went into camp near Weir's Cave, below Waynesboro, where we remained for a short time.

The next move was to break camp and head toward Richmond.  We crossed the Blue Ridge near the Big Tunnel.  I walked through the tunnel which is near a mile in length.  I don't remember how many days we were on the road.  It was said that the agent of the RR at Gordonsville asked Jackson if he wanted to get at Richmond.  We were taken up by the trains and were hauled for some distance.  The train returned and took up the hindmost troops.

We arrived in the vicinity of Richmond the evening of the 7 days battle opened and were under fire every day from that time until it closed.  We camped around Richmond a short time and I left there on a train which brought us up the road next toward Gordonsville, to a river where Stoneman's Cavalry had burned the bridge.  From there to Gordonsville, we walked the RR.  We were at Gordonsville a short time and then the maneuvering for to get around John Pope, who said that he had never as yet got to see the face of a Rebel.  This marching and countermarching was kept up for some time until the battle of Cedar Mountain was fought.  After a short time, Jackson began maneuvering to get in Pope's rear and after so long a time, he succeeded and struck the RR at a station a short distance above Manassas Junction where we captured all sorts of army equipage, a large amount of provisions, all sorts and kinds of arms and ammunition, harness, and everything that goes to equip an army.  Here Jackson had men behind him that he wanted and had begun to work around until he could form a junction with Lee and Longstreet which he soon accomplished.  And then the general battle was on which lasted for two or three days and ended with victory for the Confederates.  There we took up the march for Maryland by way of Leesburg, crossing the Potomac at Fallen Rock.  Our next stop was at Frederick City.  We were here a short time then we were off for Harper's Ferry.  We crossed the Potomac at Williamsport and marched on for Harper's Ferry which was then surrounded on three sides and we closed the fourth side.  The 3rd day after we reached (sic) the garrison surrendered with about 1100 men and a vast amount of arms and stores provisions etc.  Then we were ordered to join Lee at Antietam.  We recrossed the river at Shepherdstown and were in the battle I think on the 17th of Sept. 1862.  We had to get back to the Virginia side and crossed at Shepherdstown moved around in the Valley and went into camp at Bunker Hill.  Camped here for some time.  Tore up the B&O RR for several miles burning and crooking the rails so they could not be used until sent to the shop and straightened.  Our next move was to cross the Blue Ridge at some gap, I don't remember, where the object being to get to Fredericksburg.  We went into camp somewhere in that vicinity until the 13 of December, when Gen. Burnside with his host crossed the Rapahannoc at that town and brought on a general engagement which proved disastrous for Mr. Burnside.  We went into winter quarters in that county until about April.  We (the 25th Va. Regt.) was sent to Buffalo Gap to join General Imboden and we took up the march through West Va. by way of Monterey, crossing the Allegheny and Cheat Mountains to Beverly by way of Buckhannon, Weston, Bulltown, Braxton C. and through Nicholas County, Greenbriar, Bath, and Augusta.  By joining the Army of Northern Virginia, somewhere near Richmond, then General Jackson was wounded and died just after Chancellorsville.

Immediately after joining the Army of Northern Virginia, we recrossed the Blue Ridge and advanced on Winchester from the Front Royal road, driving Milroy from Winchester, we crossed the Potomac at Shepherdstown.  We marched through Maryland into Pennsylvania, somewhere near Carlisle.  We were ordered to join Early at Gettysburg, arriving at that place the first day of the engagement and remained throughout the siege.  We were on the extreme left of the Confederate line.  After this fight we recrossed the Potomac at Williamsport.  We waded the river just at daybreak when it was up to my chin.  I had to hold my head as high as I could in order to keep my mouth out of the water.  After this fight, we were located somewhere near Orange I.C.H. and when the campaign opened in the spring of 1864 was captured on the 5th of May 1864 and was taken to Point Lookout where we were kept until August, then removed to Elmira, New York, where I remained until the close of the war.  Was released from prison about the 15th of July, 1865.

Was out.

J.B. McLaughlin
Co "C" 25 Va Vol Inft
Confederate States of America

This is only an outline of my experiences in the Confederate Army.

When we were at Beverly, at the first of the war.  We first had the old mountain rifle.  Then, we turned them over and drew the old army musket which had been made for a flint lock afterward changed to the percussion lock.  I do not know how much execution they done in front, but always coupled the one that done the firing.  Our first supply of ammunition was one cartridge to each man.  This was the old style ball and buckshot.

The Army of the Confederacy was poorly supplied the last two years for clothing and rations.  They did not get anywhere near enough to eat or wear.  The fare we had in the northern prisons was scant in the prison that it was held at the morning about 8 o'clock we went to the Cook House and our breakfast consisted of a slice of light bread and a very small piece of meat - sometimes a bone.  In the evening, about 3 or 4 o'clock, we got a slice of bread and a tin plate of bean water - sometimes there would be a few beans in it.  We were allowed one fire a day in the Barracks in the winter time.  This one fire was out of anthracite coal and had to last 24 hours.  When President Lincoln was killed at Washington, they fired stones out of the cannon they had around the prison into the prisoner's quarters.  Fortunately, there was no one hurt.

J. B. McLaughlin

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