Mary Buchanan Randolph’s Account of Union Forces in Charlottesville and at Edgehill

My dearest Jane—

Papa sent a dispatch to Cobham to day to be sent to Tom to give you news of our safety and losses. I will write to you to day to give you an account of these last five frightful days beginning with Friday when we heard the Yak Yankee cavalry was really in Charlottesville. Case came down early in the morning and told us Early had been entirely defeated and the Yankees were a cross the mountain. Whilst we were at breakfast John Mason came and told us of the entire innihilation of the only means of defen[se] between us and the enemy and after [breakfast?] [. . .] men came who confirmed the tale. Papa set off to go to Charlottesville but found finding the roads so bad and was being told the bank had been moved to Richmond, he turned back if he had gone on he would have had to hurry out of Charlottesville. We heard the party who had crossed the mountain had gone back but about one o’clock the servants called to us to come out and see a black smoke that was rising in the direction of Charlottesville at first we thought it was the University but persons coming down the road [. . .] told us it was the Depot that had been burned by our own people and we soon learned from others that the ennemy were in Charlottesville. Before dark we heard an explosion and saw a dark smoke [. . .] rising from the iron bridges and the burning of the factory and bridges soon light the sky. a A little after dark the Provost Guard from Charlottesville with Col Talare Taliaferro and Col Tom Smith came. They told us a party of Federals had crossed the river on foot at the iron bridge and they supposed had [. . .] the train that caused the explosion they thought the Free bridge was burned but were not certain we had heard in the evening that it was actually burnt and were shocked to find it not certain The Guard stayed here all night none of us went to bed and we spent the night trying to put away what [we] could. In the morning after a night of rain that had put the river in a flood we heard the bridge had been burnt and felt secure for the time. Papa went off with the Telescope and soon came riding back very fast and told us he had seen the Yankees at work on the bridge and replacing the plank on the place where it had been only partially burned. He ordered the horses all to be sent into the mountain and detirmined he would go himself. We put up two blankets in his oil cloth a bottle of whiskey and cash in his saddle bags and he went off to a place in the mountain where John Taylor was with his horses and negroes wereSteve was with him. About dinner time the Provost Guard all came in they got there dinners and staid on their horses in the yard until dark when they rode up under the dining room window and told us good bye they had seen some men they thought were Yankee Videttes on the high hills at Shadwell and thought they had better go so [. . .] off they scampered telling us that they thought we would not have a visit from them until the next day—I didn’t feel so sure of that so I sat at the west window to watch. every thing looked so lovely first in the twilight and then in the new moonlight it seemed impossible so much danger should be so near—I had been there about ¾ of an hour when some men rode up under the front window. Mama threw it up and they asked “where is the Colonel,” “In the mountain” says Mama—“Yankees Aunt JanePeg Carr said and touched her Anderson told me as I sprung up “the backyard is full of them.” “Why did he go into the mountain,” “because Mama said he chose to do it, and thought it best.” “Madam I shall search your house” Certainly I said but will you let the doors be guarded to prevent your men from coming in. [. . .] My father is not here however—“I will do it—” “Why did he think it necessary to leave his own house.” Because I said he is an old gentleman an We were afraid he would be exposed to [. . .] indignities from those who would not respect his grey hairs.” “I have been informed that a Confederate Colonel lived here” “No such thing my father has no connection with the army and was a Militia Colonel some 40 years ago”—[. . .]” he said “I have arrested a servant carrying a note to Col Randolph saying containing important intelligence from Richmond.” No such thing “Not to my father I said it must have been to some one else.” He had said he would give us a minute to light the candle “one minute he repeated.” I turned to Margaret then for the candle and he said, sitting on his horse all this time, “Under the circumstances I will not search the house if you will give me your word of honour as ladies as I presume you are ladies that Col: Randolph is not in the house I will not search it.” We gave him our word that he was not in the house. he told the other officer to call the men off and rode away—We shut the window and went to the back door where we found a great alarm George Hughes had been taken by them. and I recollected for the first time that George had been sent off by Tom Farish who dined here with a note to Papa saying he had important news for him from Richmond and must see him. We were in trouble as you may imagine—Mama at dinnertime after a great deal of talk had agreed to send the note to Papa because Mr Farish said it was so important—After the note was sent we got into an agony for fear he would come back and became convinced it was all some of Tom Farish’s foolishness Papa never got the note but here he was Papa to be hunted through the mountain and perhaps taken off to and very badly treated—In a few minutes Rachel came crying into the house and said “they got Henry” and we found that it Ambrose and Johnny & all the horses had been found and taken off and that as they came by the quarters they had taken Sancho & Mack—I forgot to say the first news we had Saturday was that Jimmy & Moses & Isaac had gone off each on a horse. The horses could not be got over the river and returned during the day to be taken during the night—Thus ended visitation No 1 it left us agitated but thankful [. . .] for the respectful manner in which we had been treated. The children were very much frightened Pattie cried a little but we soon quieted her and gave them their suppers some one asked Cary why he did not eat his supper—“I’se so scared I cant eat.” he gasped We put the little children to bed up stairs and detirmined to sit up all night in the parlor and Mama’s room—before we could make our arrangements however another knock came at the [. . .] door Mama and I went to it the door with Sidney close behind us. I opened the door and a young man asked very respectfully whether he could get any apple brandy. “not a drop I said there is not a drop in the house”—Do you know where I can get any we want about six canteens full”—We did know so he very respectfully took his leave. We made some tea and each took a cup [. . .] to keep up our courage and keep us awake and thought we were very bold indeed but our hearts quaked when we heard about eleven o’clock a step on the portico and a knock at the door but we had detirmined we would go to the door as quickly as we could if we heard any one at it so out we sallied Mama and Carry and I—I in the lead. We opened the door and [. . .] found a man rather intoxicated evidently trying to pass himself off as a Confederate soldier. he asked several rather incoherent questions told him we knew nothing of course that was going on where were only a party of ladies and children had ourselves bolted in and knew nothing of what was going on outside “that’s right—he said and we saw him ride off in the moonlight with two others. It was right nervous work but we felt very quiet all of us and settled down again in the parlor with our ears open to every sound—At one o’clock that horrible noise on the portico and dreadful rap at the [. . .] door was heard again—We three went out this time Candle in hand and this time on opening the door found the same man evidently more intoxicated and quite detirmined to come in. “Any soldiers in here—” “No, not a soldier and you must’nt come in “your Captain has been here and says said the house must not be searched”—he stood his ground Mama holding the door and I insisting there were no soldiers in the house. Open the door Mama [. . .] Carry said and at the same time a rough voice behind the man said “open the door”—We slung the door open told them very boldly to come in then and look for [. . .] themselves very boldly—but my dear girls how our hearts sank when four drunken men staggered into the passage. they went on in to the parlor Cary and Mama taking the leed lead, went into Mama’s room where they began to rummage in the drawers—We called to them not to break the locks. I flew to the wardrobe threw both the doors open and told the horrid looking wretch to look—Mama got gave them the keys of the drawers—I made them stand back whilst I unlocked the drawer Carry was holding the candle—they seemed not to get much satisfaction and [. . .] came out—Carry and I then had each a candle and told them to come in took them into the dining room and through the pantry by this time they were evidently uneasy and each man had his pistol in his hand as I got to the back door, I was leading the way, I unbolted and threw it open—the man following me looked startled and said “why that goes up out of doors” yes indeed” I said he called back to the others to keep together they said they would go up stairs well we said go up but I said take care you dont know of what may be behind you—Just then the man out side who was holding their horses called to them, one went to the door and came back—and took the leader who was the drunkest by the shoulder and we saw them all go out greatly to our satisfaction as you may imagine but we were so shocked and frightened, all the little Garrison, that the rest of the night seemed like an age. and We ditirmined the next time we would hold a parley through the window but no one came and the night wore on. Aunt Sidney sat the whole night in the easy chair at the corner of the fire and never blinked her eyes. Margaret was crouched down on the floor beside her and Eliza with her the greater part of the night. Aunt Margaret had gone to bed about twelve very quietly—Mama & Carry sat up all night. the morning dawned upon [. . .] us at last—we got ourselves ready had the rooms cleaned up sent the maids out of the house. and and Margaret and I took our seats at the dining room window to watch the road. This was a quiet lovely morning Sunday morning the outlines of the mountains looked so soft and beautiful and the sun shone so brightly over the country there seemed no place for wickedness on the Earth. A faint hope possessed us that the ennemy had gone back to Staunton after destroying the bridges—We very soon saw however a party [. . .] rising on the road above Tom’s barn then another party and as they rose the Hill hill the whole Yankee column came in sight—we watched these first parties, and saw them ride round. The head of the Column passed but then we saw three men ride in and tear furiously up the Hill and into the yard one rode round to the back of the house and one came strait up and around to the front. We were standing at the open window thinking they were men sent to search the house and we would speak to us them through the window but he said “good morning” and dashed round to the front of the house—The one at the back of [. . .] the house a tied his horse drew his Sabre and went in to the cellar after he disappeared one of the others came to the door Mama and Carry and I were standing at the door one of us opened it—He asked if there were any men about—We told him no Mama said here are the keys & looked the most pitious object you ever saw. “I dont want your keys” he said and really looked ashamed—“Well she said there is one man now trying to open the cellar will you take the key and open the door.” he had not entered the house & refused to go down the cellar steps—we told him to put the key in up side down. “All right’ he said and jumped down the alley wall—Apple jack was what they wanted they took a ham of bacon which they threw away [. . .] before they left the house and two loaves of bread they put in their hoversacks—These men did not come in the house at all—Just as they rode off a negro rode [. . .] in on a very fine horse at full speed it proved to be Jimmy he stopped at Sarah Jane’s house and sent up for her to come and get his shirt. he had the grace not to come to the house—3 men rode in at the [. . .] at the shop gate and 2 at the front gate. they came right up to the house as hard as they could dare tied their horses and came right in three of them. they we were at the door but they brushed by us went into Mama’s room ransacked the drawers to Mama’s room and set off up stairs rummaged through Carry’s and my presses kicked open [. . .] Jane’s trunk and threw all the things out of Aunt Margaret’s. Two sat on their horses at the door all the time—One of them as he came down stairs spied Papa’s black over coat hanging by behind the Green door and took it off with him. This we thought was the passing of the whole army but time passed and there was no appearance of any one on the road we got our breakfast Mama kept house and we were all together in the dining room when Sidney came in and told us Keswick was on fire and Dr Everett’s yard was full of them and they Yankees and they were riding over the fields. we went to the back door and there was a scene to make one’s heart quail. the dark black smoke and flames of the burning Depot—Dr Everetts yard full of them and the fields filled with horsemen tearing riding about tearing up the railroad and looking like fiends I had put on the watch I took out of your trunk and I was so uneasy at having it and at Carry’s having hers we called to Sally and she came and took them from us, we had put on our cloaks after the first arrival to prevent their being stolen. Carry and I went to the parlor window to see if we could not see some Officer whose protection we could claim but all we saw was these horrible wretches riding as hard as they could strait up through the garden gate strait up the hill & [. . .] dashing round to the back door—All of them we saw were as drunk as they could be and no [. . .] officer amongst them—My courage was all gone now I was terrified to death and clung to Carry’s arm at t standing in the dining room door she says as if my arms were made of iron. Aunt Sidney, Peg and the children were in the dining room—The storm soon burst—A drunken wretch rushed into the back door cursed Mama shok shook his pistol over her and told her to give him her gold and silver or he would burn the house down—“I have no gold or silver” she said he went on in to her room cursing and making a noise followed by a stream of others. the house was filled with them coming in and going up stairs we could here hear them pulling the things about in the garret and going about. This drunken man rushed up to Carry & I—“Give me your watches give me your watches”—We have no watches.” “let me see,” let me see”! I threw back my cloak but Carrie could not get hers open as soon and he clutched hold of it Mama flew at him as if she had been a wild tiger. Carry got the cloak open or I think he would have torn it open. Haven’t you a mother & sisters? Ma said, ringing her hands in his face—“What”—“haven’t you a mother & sisters.” “Yes I have a mother & sisters.” just then he caught sight of the three rings on my fingers—I had quite forgotten. “Rings on your fingers,” “give me those rings” and I thought he would have torn them off my finger so I gave them to him—his pistol was flourishing over us all the while but I didn’t care any more for it than if it had been a stick he turned to Carry for her rings and then to Aunt Margaret. You want this, she said quite coolly and pulled off her little black ring she has been wearing for forty years. Just then a young Man rushed down the stairs his pistol in his hand “What’s this about taking rings from women”? “give them back give Sir give them back—take Men’s property as much as you please but when it comes to taking rings from women you shant do it, give them back, give them back, three others joined them him and they had it as loud as they could talk threatening this horrid wretch until at last he gave the man two of our rings—I thought every minute they would have got into a fight and I wish now they had blown his brains out—but we didn’t say anything of the other rings and he skulked off. we got one of the young men to stay in the passage with us strange to say they never attempted to go into the dinning room—one or two of them told us not to be so frightened—Carry was quite cool calm looking but I expect Mama & I looked very much agitated. The very fellow who had been the most p[. . .] against the drunken man ran back up stairs and came down with Tom’s new saddle & bridle. all of them had been drinking. they told us the Officers were coming and two young men rode up to the door—we were standing in the door and I expect presented a group that must have moved their sympathies for nothing could have surpassed the respect & deference of their manners As soon officers As soon as they got into the portico We spoke to them told them we saw they were Officers and asked their protection from these drunken soldiers—Our own people could not have expressed more indignation than they did They tried to quiet us and one of them sent an officer up to Shadwell to stop the rioting that was going on up there. One of them took all the letters they had taken at Keswick and out of his pocket & let us pick out ours—One of them was a letter to Margaret Carter enclosing [. . .] Cary anne’s two last letters from Richmond, full of every thing that was going on there—They said they had had no breakfast and asked if it was not too much trouble if We would give them something to eat but if it was taking from what we had not to do it. They told us Col Caphard was in command of the brigade and that he was coming to the door—He came into the porch and stood hat in hand with an air of the most profound respect didn’t offer to come in [. . .] until I asked him. The Young Men introduced us to him and I asked him into the parlor—Aunt Margaret conducted him to Mama’s room which was a scene of the greatest confusion you ever saw every thing out of the presses in on the floor—We retired then and they went to their lunch After it was over they the young ones went off and Col Caphard came into the parlor. He sat a little while and talked to us I was ditirmined he should not think we loved them so I said “We are all very staunch Southern women but we know how to appreciate kind Courtesy from a Northern Officer.” that we felt very grateful for the kindness that had been shown us We got into a conversation with him then he said the matter would soon all be settled that it was very distressing and unnecessary that their was no occasion for war the whole thing had been hurried on by a few ambitious men on both sides—We told we hoped the matter would not be soon over and that we had as strong faith in the success of the cause as we ever had—that our love was [. . .] for fo the new government and our allegiance due to it—he said he respected our opinions thanked Mama for her hospitality told us he would leave a guard with us until the brigade had all passed and [. . .] that if the army passed this way he would make it his business to see that we had a guard and He then took his leave. the guard of 15 or 20 men stayed with us for half an hour and left—The commander, Col. Battersby sent his card in to Mama we thought that she might use it in case of further trouble—then they were all gone leaving the lawn torn up by their hated horses hoofs and the line of the railroad marked by the smoke rising from the Depots and [. . .] as far as we could see along this and the Lynchburg roads

I shall always feel grateful to those officers Yankees as they were—We [. . .] did not go to bed Sunday night & were expecting all Monday Morning to see the whole body moving down this road—We soon saw a single horseman riding down from Shadwell and he came in to the yard. It turned out to be Buck on a captured Yankee horse. he told us the Yankees had all gone and they had burned the Free Bridge behind them and had left C. We soon saw about as large a body as had passed here moving down to Milton they passed strait through Milton after a few hours we saw the smoke rising from the Buck Island factory and at night we saw several other fires—After a while John Taylor came out of the Mountain. We heard Papa was quite well but they did not think it safe to come down and neither did we—Monday night we were too uneasy to go to bed. Tuesday several parties of Our gentlemen came by to see how we had fared and at dinner time we sent for Papa to come home. We told our tale and he gave us an account of his adventure in the Mountain for the last three days A party of Yankees had been firing at them all the Sun morning Sunday and been very near taking father John Taylor’s party [. . .] They were looking for Tom’s horses they had not succeeded in getting them all—Papa had several gentlemen with him indeed the Mountain was full of gentlemen several of them were taken prisoners. They The party who was with Papa went down the north side of the mountain for some distance below Cloverfields. He stayed every night at the little house under the mountain where a Mayor Throckmorton lives by himself he was treated very kindly indeed he says every body was kind to him. Tom Farish’s letter note that was captured on George raised a suspicion upon Papa and caused the excitement there was against him. [. . .] After Papa had been at home about two hours Tuesday we saw a body of troops riding over towards the mill. We were not certain it was not the party who had passed through Milton returning this way to burn the mill. George who had got off Monday and returned home thought they were Yankees. Papa went into the mountain again and Carry and I watched them fearing they were Yankees and pretty soon Steve came by on his way to the mountain again and sent us word a large body of Yankee infantry was in Charlottesville—We were completely done up then and thought we were to be regularly taken possession of but about nine Dr Everett sent to us to tell us he knew the body of Cavalry on the Camping Branch was our own people, and there was not a yankee in C. We did not really believe it but were very much relieved the next morning they came up some of them to get their breakfasts—so ended our five days Campaign. Our first experience of the Yankees—It was pretty severe but not so bad as many people have suffered. 12 of our negroes are gone and all our horses [. . .] and 120 peices of meat belonging to the boys we ought to have sent to the government when our own went. the corn has not been disturbed and nothing broken about the house or plantation we have lost none of our flour. the negroes have three months provisions Mama gave out to them the day before the Yankees came—Robert George & Ambrose and Johnny who who returned to us as soon as they could—Robert who has been as faithful and kind to us as he could be—Joe who rode Tom’s most valuable horse off and brought him safely back Thursday—Archie who walked quietly down to his wife’s house and staid until the fuss was over—Lou, little Burwell and Johnny Helia and Washington are those who have stayed—none of the women went away and if these women about the house had been our own sisters they could not have been kinder than they have been. the most distressing of the whole business is the loss of Phill & Wormley. In the evening Sunday they ran away to Shadwell where the Yankees were burning the Depot and went off with them—George & Johnny both saw them in town. Sidney is broken hearted about them both and I feel so sorry for her—whatever happens and whatever they may do here after I shall always feel an affection for them for their sympathy & kindness—particularly Sally she was as good as she could be and showed so much sense—

We have not been able to hear any thing particularly from Mildred and Mrs Nelson—the Yankees were very rough to them I dont think know that they were more so than to every one else—they took Mildred’s watch & six gold dollars out of her pocket. I hope Charlotte has got letters from them. Willie Meriwether was here Tuesday. he told me he had written to her. He has been scouting all the time—Sunday when the Yankees were at Dr Everett’s [. . .] he was at Everettsville—there are too many men here not in the army too many entirely and they don’t do any thing at home—Mama sends her love and says I must tell you the children were not the least in the way they were very good and are very happy and did not embarrass us in the least. Aunt Sidney sends her love to Cary Anne and says you must tell her she would have written but I wrote this for you all. We are going to keep her here for a while—I want you and Charlotte & Sarah to write to Ri[. . .] and Ellen and Wilson and give them an account of what has happened. the the letters will go more directly from Richmond and as you may see we have no paper—We cant get to Charlottesville and cant tell what has happened at Mrs Holladay’s house—Tell Sarah we were very glad she was not at home—her bridle is gone and the only equipage we have is the donkey cart and a blind mule but we dont care for any thing if we can only whip those wretches—The two officers who were particularly kind to us were two of Custer’s staff. Edward’s saddle & both horses are gone. I wish you had seen how they rode through the flower garden. The Crocuses are blooming under the tract of their horses hoofs now and that is the way we will rise & flourish too under our adversities—

Good bye. One thing Tom Farish did was to tell us a very heavy fight was going on to [. . .] right when he left Richmond And we had the addition of anxiety about you all to our own troubles—give much love—Cary Anne and particularly to Charlotte—When You all think it safe and she has an opportunity to at last come home. I am almost sorry for her do come—Many thanks for the gloves they fit nicely and I was just wanting a pr—I have been writing this letter for three days I went to a post office when we got a chance and Carry & I went [. . . .]

RC (ViU: Jefferson, Randolph, Taylor, Smith and Nicholas Families Papers, Mss 8937); unsigned; undated; on multiple sheets of unmatched paper, with fourteen of the nineteen pages folded to form a booklet and stitched together in the center; in the hand of Mary Buchanan Randolph; date editorially conjectured from internal evidence; in margin of fifteenth page: “Make Steve tell you all about the girls He behaved beautifully.”
Date Range
March 3, 1865 to March 31, 1865