The Confederate 1st Virginia Cavalry leaves Harper's Ferry...Click the image to load the highest resolution version.
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DescriptionThe Confederate 1st Virginia Cavalry leaves Harper's Ferry and heads for Winchester, Va. - June 18th, 1861.
Four page letter written by Adolphus Elhart, the Wagon Master of the famous 1st Virginia Cavalry. This regiment was under the command of J. E. B. Stuart & Stonewall Jackson. Elhart's letter has excellent content & comes with its original envelope, with a scarce "Harper's Ferry, Va. June 19, PAID 5" postmark. Reads in part:
"I stated in one of my letters some time ago that we will evacuate H. Ferry & now I affirm its real truth. We left there Saturday at 9 o'clock in the morning. Now I will give you a full description of our leaving, of the destruction we left behind & incidents in the night."
"On last Thursday in the morning I received orders to get my teams ready for marching & assign teams to the various regiments. On that day two Va. Regiments left at once for this place. The balance of the force commenced packing up & removing everything we had. This lasted until Friday morning. There was a great deal of confusion & hard work to do."
"Friday morning we blew up & burnt up the bridge across the Potomac. It was a beautiful yet a sad sight. This was destroyed in about 15 minutes. Next we burnt up the Armory, except one or two buildings. Next we burnt & destroyed the R. Road from the bridge to the end of the tressel work, a distance of about 1/2 mile. The citizens were all scared to death, most. They anticipated the burning of the whole town. But the engines were worked all the time to prevent the burning of private property & succeeded."
"On Friday morning I was ordered to march with teams about 1 mile from the Ferry & halt until further orders, until the regiments were ready. I laid there in the road with teams until Saturday morning, 9 o'clock & the march began. You ought to have seen the line of march. I had 200 teams & about 12,000 troops. They covered a space of about 5 miles, from end to end & close up to each other. Our destination was Winchester."
"Sunday our route was changed, being informed that the enemy was crossing the Potomac about Williamsport & trying to get in Winchester. We marched toward Martinsburg to stand them a fight. We went as far as Bunker's Hill and pitched tents overnight. I slept on my cot between heaven & earth that night. It rained on me, but being so fatigued, I slept so soundly that I did not discover it until I woke in the morning & found myself "wet."
"We marched on about 1/2 mile & heard that the enemy was only 2 hours march from us. We at once halted, arranged the troops for battle, sent on all the teams towards Winchester in double quick time to be out of the way of the rascals & give our men room in case of a retreat. I went away from the battle ground reluctantly but had to obey orders & take charge of the teams."
"That time it looked like a battle sure enough. There was a line of about 2 miles with troops & some regiments below to reinforce them. Everything looked like a fight but we were sadly disappointed & the men cursed old Abe & considered him as a coward. The federal troops halted & did not advance."
"We will move up to within 1/2 or 1 mile from this place & commence to throw up entrenchment, for the enemy is trying to make its way through here to the Manassas Junction. We will have a fight here before very long. We heard that the enemy was 18,000 strong, but we can whip them any how. This is a much better place for defense than H. Ferry for they never much have troubled us there & all our force would have been laying idle."
"Col. Jackson wanted me with Major Harman in the quarter Master's Department of the Va. Force which is now separated, but the General would not let me off. Consequently I am in the Confed. State's Department."
"If I get a chance I will send you Dolly for your own use. I am entitled to 2 horses as wagon Master. P. S. Direct your letters now to Winchester instead H. Ferry."
The letter is signed "Adolphus", and the envelope is addressed to "Mrs. Mary Ashley Elhart, Lexington, Virginia".
Elhart would continue on in the Stonewall Brigade eventually earning the rank of Major and Pay Master. The letter and cover are in fine condition with several ink spots. From the Calvin Packard Civil War Battlefield Letter Collection.
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