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Captain Albert M. Hunter's account of
the War between the Sates
(Part 1)

Source: Descendants of A.M. Hunter

Transcribed by John Miller

Lexington, North Carolina, 1890

My Dear Niece Grace:

In compliance with your request, I will endeavor to tell you of my four year service in the war of the rebellion. Our company was organized on the 27th day of August, 1861. It happened that I was not in Gettysburg on that day and did not enlist until the 9th of September following.

Our camp of instruction was at Frederick City, MD., where we as intended the whole brigade, to which we were attached one or two recruited full was encamped for the purpose of drilling and learning the duties of a soldier.

That you may know the why and wherefore of our organization, I must tell you that Ex. Gov. Thomas of Maryland, had a bill passed to organize a brigade of four regiments of infantry with a company of cavalry attached to each regiment of infantry according to the number of letter, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. Our regiment never appeared.

Although "Home Brigade" was attached to us, and our ostensible enlistment was to guard the southern border of Maryland, we did not do more of that kind of duty than many other organization. We were sworn in just as other soldiers were, and mustered by a regular U.S. mustering officer, and when called to the front all went willingly, except perhaps, a half dozen objected, who were left at Williamsport, Md. to guard the property we had to leave behind. They were very glad to join us at Winchester, Va., in a week or two, when we arranged to have our property moved. I am glad to say they are heartily ashamed of what they said, when we were ordered to the front.

After being in camp of instruction at Frederick, Md., until about the middle of December, 1861, we were put on duty. I enlisted with the understanding that I was to be 2nd Bugler. Max J. Coble, a very fine musician, and a particular friend of mine, was to be 1st Bugler. I had never seen a Bugle, and did not know any more about blowing the calls on one than I did of making bean soup, and did not care whether I got the position or not. I always loved the pomp and funs of soldiery, and where I got to camp it would have taken a young regiment to have driven me away. I never thought of the hardships, vicissitudes, destruction, suffering and death, all of which are present during war, and doubly increased in all civil wars. John M. Huber, now druggist in Gettysburg, (a very short boy) had been sworn in as 2nd Bugler, but he did not want it, if he could stay as a private, which he did, and I got the position.

Coble took me in hand to instruct me in the mysteries of bugle music. I must confess that I was not a very apt scholar, I learned how to make four of the five notes necessary, but never could get them in on time, and when we paraded through the streets, I held my horn to my mouth, puffed out my cheeks and made considerable effort, but never a sound came from my bugle, except so low, that it rarely was really a solo.

I was extremely fond of the Drill. All of us were green in that line, I had taken lessons in Gettysburg from other soldiers there. We created a sensation, as it was new and rather fantastic; movements quick and many difficult. Our lady visitors were delighted with maneuvers, and I had as many interested spectators as the Dress parades, but this was not cavalry drill.

I spent my leisure time in reading the tactics on cavalry drill; I soon mastered the initial maneuvers, and although it was not a part of my duty, I would drill a squad of the new recruits, after regular drill, in cavalry on foot. (We did not have horses yet).

By the 1st of November we had all our arms, swords, revolvers and carbines, and at the same time our horses and horse equipment came, I tell you it was a lot of stuff to take car of - 25 to 30 thousand dollars worth.

We were in the saddle every day and made good use of our time, and I must acknowledge that I devoted much more time to studying the drill book than the bugle calls, and often was in consultation with the officers, who, I feel honored in saying, accepted my instructions.

There was considerable fun in many of the boys. In company "C", there was some bad. Some things found their way into camp that did not arrive by the usual requisition notable about a dozen fine turkey's on or about the first of December. They were denuded of all superfluous appendages and nicely stowed away in a barrel and said barrel with contents were snugly buried in the middle of a certain tent.

Daily visits to the barrel made the table of mess the envy of all the rest. A strict watch was instituted, and in a day or two the coveted rations were spotted. Arrangements were secretly concocted for a "divy", Dress Parade was the time, and the camp guard the performers, they succeeded admirable, in fact so well that none were left for the original owners, and they threw the empty barrel in the street, with supreme disgust, not daring to make any complaint.

During our stay at the old U.S. Government Barrack at Frederick we had plenty of fun, along with our drilling. Military tactics was not the only tactics practiced there. The many lovely maidens of the city and vicinity did not pay us daily visits entirely for naught. I can recall a number of marriages that can easily be traced to these daily visits, also many acquaintances that ripened into very kind and good friends. I made one myself that lasted all through the war, and so far as I know. although the lady is married is as friendly now as then, "but every rose has its thorn".

Our 1st Lieut. John Motter Annan was accidentally shot through the head and killed, by his best friend, J. Wallace Morring of Emmitsburg. A private of Company "B" from Clearspring, shot his nephew dead while instructing him in guard duty. In less than sixty days the Uncle's hair was white as snow caused by grief.

One day in November we were very surprised to see long columns of Infantry marching past our camp, upon inquiry we learned that it was Gen. N. P. Banke with a Brigade, buy why was the question asked by all, nobody could answer then.

A few days afterwards without notice the Secession part of the Maryland Legislature arrived in the city of Frederick, with a car load of laws already printed taking Maryland out of the Union, all ready for members to meet and vote. But, General Banks appeared a on scene a moment to too soon. All the members were arrested and placed under guard in the Old Barrack buildings and a bonfire was made of the books containing the laws. The actors were sent to Fort McHenry, Baltimore, the next morning. A laughable occurrence took place while these would be law makers were marching out of the gate.

Henry Hughes, a member of our company, declared they should march out under the good old flag, even if they dare to tear one star from its galaxy. He procured one of the very smallest toy flags and fastened it to a pole twenty feet long. and stood behind the guard at the gate, holding the flag low down over their heads. Then declaring he thought they were converted and that they would all be loyal soldiers as soon as they would get an opportunity.

Our brigade was allowed to select their own commissioned officers by ballot. After the death of Lieutenant John M. Annan, an election was held in our company to fill the vacancy. My having been successful in giving instructions in drill, made me a prominent candidate, even before Lieutenant John M. Annan was buried. I felt grieved and compelled by friends to wait. To tell it all, I only wanted to be a soldier, office had no allurements for me, and perhaps I would have refused positively to stand, but a majority of our company insisted that I must, and the other candidates, eight in number combined and one or two of them misrepresented me.

As "opposition is the life of trade" the opposition I had, set my blood to win, and I did. I took the plan of gaining votes by refraining and restraining all manner of vituperation. But with it all I could do we had a long and hot fight. A majority of the whole company was required to elect, and although I got a majority of all the votes cast every time, I was not elected until nine or ten ballots were had, because 10 to 15 of our men were off on detached duty, who could not vote. Colonel George R. Dennis, who was post commander, never gave more than a hours notice of the time taking the vote.

Max J. Coble, who was first bugler, an accomplished tailor, as soon as I was elected, must have a leave of absence to go back to Mr. George Arnolds of Gettysburg in whose employ both of us had been to make the very best uniform that could be had, which he did, to tune of over a hundred dollars. You know it was good, when I tell you I have some of it yet, in good and wearable condition.

I can conscientiously say that shoulder straps did not change my feeling toward the privates, and I feel sure that whatever else they may charge me with, there is not one who would say anything else. They were welcomed in my tent at all times. Their wants were duly attended to, as far as the rules and regulations would allow, their complaints adjusted as near as I could judge demanded. A hundred men as soldiers, become children. The officers are looked to much as children look to their parents, and it is only right, for they have no other way to get what they want or need.

As I have written before we remained in the camp of instruction until about the middle of December 1861. The rebels were making demonstrations on the Potomac River in the neighborhood of Williamsport, Fort Frederick, Clearsprings, Hancock, and other places along the Potomac. One evening just after dark the order came for us to move toward Williamsport, examining the Potomac River as we went.

Well it was a sight to worth seeing to see the hurry, the confusion, the calls for help. in this, that or the other way. O Shaw! I couldn't begin to tell you how it was. But as we had been there a good while we had naturally got together in our company, more plunder than a regiment or a brigade in light marching order would have. The great trouble was who and how was what we left behind to be cared for. The Master Sergeant of course, had the wagons and it was his duty to care for the company property and to be sure to bring it along. Some sent messages to their sweet hearts in the city, and good byes were numerous if distant.

But before we were in the saddle, half of the city knew we were ordered off, and as we went at a sweeping trot through the town, every door was full and boys were kept busy by raising their hats, throwing kisses and practicing the military salute by gas light. I recollect one officer let go of his brindle reins and took both hands to it, and kept up the swing until he got out of town.

We rode off as if the Union depended on our getting there, soon, sooner, soonest. Our road was a good turnpike and we kept up the gait for eight miles, which brought us to Middletown, from there to Boonseboro, we were more considerate of our horses and about midnight we reached that mountain village, and routed up a store (hold) keeper and some of us got supper. There we were detailed in squads to scout the river country and report to Williamsport by day light. No one found anything but bad roads and considerable difficulty in finding the way, as the country was all new to most of us. We camped for a month or more at the old Red Mill, near the mouth of the Conococheaque.

Our folks from Gettysburg, Emmitsburg, and Taneytown gave us a large box of good things for a Christmas dinner, and oh how good it was. Some of the boys were away on patrol duty and we felt a share for them. When that night a rascal of our company, but from New York, stole the good things. We summarily discharged him. The Corporal of the guard took him a mile from camp and told him his life would not be worth a cant if he ever appeared at the Old Mill, I need not to say we never saw him again. Our next camp was at Hagerstown, where we had a splendid time until spring. We had the Fair Ground, and all the conveniences we could ask for, besides a jolly good time in the old barn.

In the spring, notes warlike, began to fill the air and camps, and we were detached to Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley for our first blood in battle. In March we were ordered to Winchester, Virginia as part of General Bank's Division. We had been there a month, perhaps, and all seemed quiet. General Banks with the troops, but a couple of regiments of Infantry and about 200 hundred cavalry left the place in command of General Ben S. Shields. In twenty four hours after they had gone General Thomas Jackson (Stonewall) attacked the place. This was our first experience in the carrying on of the War.

Just about sunset our pickets were driven in, and in less time than it takes me to tell about it, a half a dozen six pound solid shot came ricocheting into the suburbs of the town, and if they would have taken the town, for our troops were all on the other side a half mile out. But in a very short time all we had confronting Stonewall's advance, General Shields as his habit must go to the front, to see for himself. He had not been there for more than fifteen minutes when a shell busted over his head and a piece of shell fragment struck him in the arm and broke the small bone in his forearm. General Banks refused to be taken back, but went into a small house to have his arm bandaged up, he stayed up all night until the close of the battle, then turned over the command of the field to Colonel Kinball of Ohio.

During the night we got all available forces into position and at day light the "mill" began. Colonel Kinball handled a small force, he had well. General Shields had the highest house in town for headquarters and could see much of the maneuvering. Orderlies reported to him every few minutes and together they managed to drive Stonewall Jackson Back, and when night came we had men three miles from town. The cavalry did not do much fighting, but watched the flanks and reported the position of the enemy. When night came we were preparing to camp on the line of battle, when Colonel Kinball rode along the line , and I can hear him just as he passed each organization, saying in stentorian tone that the rebels certainly heard " Boys our mission here today was to lick them and damn them we did it". We had no rations along, and we concluded to make the best of it for our whole company to go picket a mile or two out on the road to the west. This compelled us to do without rations or forage until morning.

Early in the morning we heard wagons and artillery moving, but no firing. We did not know what this meant. We were not relieved, and stayed at our post until the sun was nearly two hours high. We were hungry. and our horses need feed. We finally agreed to leave our post and go to the battlefield and see what was up. When we arrived there the army was gone. We learned that before daylight Jackson commenced retreat up the Valley toward Strasburg and Colonel Kinball was in hot pursuit. We hurried back into camp, supplied our own and our horses demands and started in hot pursuit of the army, which we over took at Middletown some 16 miles up the Valley from Winchester, and also found General Banks with part of the men he had taken away. A courier having been sent after him when the fight began. We reached Cedar Creek, appearances indicated that a wagon train belonging to Jackson's Force was standing among the bushes at the ford, and we could see a battery on the hill beyond apparently guarding what ever might be there.

A squadron of the Ringold Cavalry and our company were ordered to charge down the hill to the creek and capture whatever was there. At the word of command away we went at full gallop. 1st Lieut. W. B. Morrision and myself in command, Capt. John Rener delayed at Middletown for some purpose. We had not gone a hundred yards before a six ponder went screaming just over our heads, and I shall never forget the simultaneous obeisance the whole column made. If a rod had been fastened to each head and pressed at a given signal and all obeyed at the same instant it could not have been more perfectly performed.

One shot after another followed in rapid succession knocking the dirt out of the stone fences on the side of the road and covering us with dirt and dust. When we got to the creek, we did not find anything to capture, but saw a company of infantry dodge behind a bank expecting to give us a raking cross fire as we passed, but after finding the stream, we called a halt. The shells fell thick in the water. I shall never forget the shower of water thrown over me by a solid shot falling close beside me. We returned up te hill through a field, and as soon as our elevation brought us in sight of the battery, they hurried us by plowing the ground around us very liberally, with shells.

Job Mority of our company, came to me after the affray was over and said "I never was scared so bad in all my life, I got as weak as a dish rag. I don't care for bullets but I can't stand dinner pots."

In our hurry leaving Winchester, and thoughtlessly, we did not take any rations or forage along, and forward evening we found we were to camp on the banks of the creek, but company "C" (the next is gone, I think) had an innate propensity for taking care of themselves. It did not take many minutes to discover a flock of sheep in a neighboring field, and not much longer to convert one into mutton, which with a few "hard tack" made a fine supper, and the corn cribs and haystacks of the farmers around supplied our horses. Sometime during the night, the quarter master arrived with provisions, before daylight we were supplied with hardtack and bacon which many of us ate raw, started after Jackson. He made a stand on Fisher's Hill but not very stubborn, and we followed nearly to New Market, where we were ordered to return.

On the morning after the first days fight, when we came in from picket riding over the battlefield of the day previous, we saw our first dead men lying over the field. It made quite a different impression from what I had expected. It just seemed as if it was, and ought to be the natural and the right thing to be, and I did not have that peculiar dread, or awe when looking at the dead.

We lost about 10, (the whole command) the rebels about 125, and two or three hundred wounded. I recollect one dead man lying in the woods that seemed to have been struck on the shoulder by a descending cannon ball, which almost literally annihilated him, what was left looked as if it would go in a pick basket.

Our company had no casualties, I went into that battle expecting to do big business. I buckled on my saber, one or two revolvers and carbine strapped over my shoulder, but it was the last time I carried a carbine. Officers are expected to see that others do the most of the fighting and direct how it is to be done, rather watch opportunities and only defend themselves, except in a charge when everyone is expected to bow his own rod in carnage to glory.

The female portions of the citizens of Winchester were generally very vindictive rebels, some spit out of the windows on union soldiers, severely threats were mad e against them, but none carried in effect. A few, a very few were loyal there at the core and it took bravery to be loyal there at the time. I have visited some of them, but have forgotten their names. The lady that gave General Sheridan information, and to whom the General gave a gold watch gave me several meals when I was a prisoner, sometime afterwards, in the town.

We remained in Winchester for some time doing scout duty, and occasionally exchanging shots with the enemy. During the summer, July 16, 1861, our four companies were organized into a Battalion, know as the Battalion of the Potomac Home Brigade Maryland Vol. Cavalry with Captain Henry A. Cole of Co. A promoted to Major, commanding.

I forgot to mention that during Feb. 1862, we were camped at Hancock, MD. The rebels would come down to the river, and several threw shots and shells over at us. One day Capt. Horner told the General commanding that he would try to dislodge them. He got permission to take the company and cross the river for the purpose. One cold night, about midnight, we embarked on a large ferry boat and crossed, mounted and started out to find the enemy, we moved along cautiously for five or six miles and halted to reconnoiter but found no one. Towards morning the cold was very severe and Sargent. George Guium built a fire at the root of a tree. It soon burned through the shell, for the tree was hollow, and made an excellent chimney. The blaze roared and crackled up and soon blazed out at the top, and as the Captain said, scared away any enemy there was near. We returned about noon very hungry and sleepy, if not wiser soldiers.

Hancock was one great big mud hole and when not frozen was almost impassable. I took sick on the last day of Feb., which was muster for pay day. As soon as the muster was over, I took stage for Clearspring, being so disgusted with Hancock. I did not want to be buried there if my sickness proved fatal.

About dark the stage started, it was full to overflowing and I wrapped up well, got up with the driver, and away we went, arriving at Clearspring late in the night. I stopped for lodging and shelter with Shas. Lotterie, an acquaintance, but Col. Kenly of Balto., MD was there with his regiment, some of Baltimore's very worst fellows, and his hotel was so full, I had to crawl in at a back window, and lay on the floor beside the dining room stove until after breakfast next morning. I was very sick with bilious fever, and I lay there looking under the stove at those roughs eating, swearing and throwing knives at each other across the table. I did not improve much in health. I had requested Charlie to send to the drug store for Calomel and Jallop, but he could not get it until near noon. In the meantime I got to bed about 9 o'clock, burning up with fever. I took the calomel and a sicker boy you have never seen, but after it had done its intended duty, I soon regained health, and in about two weeks was able to rejoin the Company.

In a short time after we were consolidated into a Battalion, we were stationed at Bolivar Heights. From this point we made very frequent reconnaissance through the country in the valley of VA, sometimes meeting Mosby's guerrillas and having a little fight or a bid horse race.

In June 1862, on account of infirmity and old age Captain John Horner tendered his resignation. Col. Miles of the USA was commanding with headquarters at Harper's Ferry. When we received the Captain's resignation, he sent for me and told me that I must notify our 1st Lieut., W.B. Morrison, he wanted his resignation too, and told me he would never make him captain, and that if he would not resign he would have him dismissed. I told Morrison about it, and he was very angry, swore that he would see Miles about it. I knew that he never would and advised him to save his reputation. He got me to write his resignation and told me he would hand it in. I pitied him. He was a good fellow, but awfully ignorant, and utterly unfit to perform the clerical duties of an officer. And he knew a hundred and fifty dollar per month job was too good to be carelessly thrown away, so he put the resignation in his pocket.

I met Col. Miles a few days afterward and when he asked me why Lieut. Morrison did not send in his resignation. I told him I had written it for him and that he told me he had. He said it had not come and that he would have him dismissed. I hurried to Morrison and advised him to save his reputation. Finally he agreed to hand it in and in a few days the captain's and his were accepted and I got my commission for Captain, and W.A. Horner 1st Sargent.

Col. Miles requested me to bring my best Sergeant to him for examination for 2nd Lieut. I had three applicants: A. A. Annon, brother of Lieut. Annon, who was killed at Frederick, Geo. Guium, a harum-scarum fellow with no more intelligence than Morrison, and Heram S. McNair. I told them to prepare to go before Miles next morning fro examination. (Miles was a very severe overbearing officer). We started, and meeting Guium, I called to him to come on. He looked a minute then said with an oath, "If I had a drink of whiskey I would go." He did not get any and did not come.

The examination was not a bit hard. Only two questions: Where were you educated? and write your name. McNair told me afterward that he never was so scared in his life, for he expected to have some of the hardest military questions to answer.

He got his commission in a few days, and to give the company some of the right which were granted to us at the organization, I told them to select an orderly Sergeant, and the no-commissioned officers, and held an election for them, which resulted satisfactorily to all of us.

Active preparations commenced, the armies were put in best trim. We were in the saddle continually, scouring the country in every direction, sometimes successful, and other times not. But Cole's cavalry had an enviable reputation for finding things contraband. It would be satisfaction for me to know just how many horses company "C" turned in to Uncle Sam. I have no particular desire to know haw many were run off, and the proceeds appropriated to individual use. I know that the number was a considerable fraction of the whole number. Soon after our return from a scout in Loudoun, I received a note from a lady saying that she was a relative of Bradley T. Johnson of Baltimore, and that she had a paper from the Secretary of War guaranteeing her safety in person and property, and that if I did not return her pony she would inform the official and compel me to do so. I never saw the pony to my knowledge and cared very little about it. But that was the last I ever heard of it.

In our expeditions through London County, we meet many Quakers notably at Goose Creek meeting house. We also scouted in that section in company with Capt. Means, who had organized a company to watch operations and report to the war department direct. His, and the head of every man in his company had a price and it was no common fun to them. "Victory or Death" had to be their watchword.

The Quakers were very loyal and friendly to us, but they had to be very circumspect in their actions to save their property and person. They gave us all the information they had and all the creature comforts they could command, even when it was very dangerous to do so.

I formed many acquaintances among them, old an young that I love to think of now. I recollect a note received from one of the fair daughters asking some trifling favor, closing with "thine truly". It made me feel as if I had a friend indeed among the fair daughters of the disciples of Fox. I remember also of undertaking to skate on the canal from Point of Rocks to Washington with John B. Dutton, but the ice was so rough that we turned back after going about 12 miles. I also remember with grateful feeling the many more substantial favors received from them on many occasions.

After the second battle of Bull Run, Col. Miles sent us out to Leesburg. He told us that General Pope had routed Lee's army, and that we must bring back as many prisoners as we had men. We picked up Capt. Means and his company at Waterford and marched straight for Leesburg. We picketed the town and sent out scouts in every direction. We waited several hours but did not see or hear of a rebel soldier. We turned back and had gone perhaps a mile, when a shot was fired in the rear, and we found a score or more rebels after us. We wheeled into a field and gave them a hot reception and chase, and while we were doing that the whole 2nd VA cavalry (Col. Mumford's) had cut around a field of standing corn and took us by surprise in the rear. I was firing away and not tending to an officer's duty, as I have explained heretofore, and the first thing I know Sergeant Guium and myself were far in advance and surrounded. On looking back I saw the rest of our command making splendid time through a field into the woods, and some eight or ten of us ere made prisoners, and taken back to Leesburg, where we learned that Pope had been utterly routed.

The next morning all the privates were paroled, but the commissioned officers were held on account of Pope's order "to forage off the enemy" and Lieuts. Milling Gallagher and myself were held, and it was well for five or six of our men were wounded, one fatally, the others badly, and we could wait on them.

General Lee's army passed through to Maryland that and the two following days. We had paroles for the town, But General D.H. Hill thought some of the bad men in their army might do us harm so he gave us a guard in an old store room, where we passed the time playing cards or other amusement.

One of my wounded men died as also one from company "A". I had them buried, for which I paid 30 dollars for plain rough coffins. After remaining in Leesburg for a week, a guard was sent with us to Winchester, where Lieut. Fisher assistant Marshal told us he was to take us to Libby Prison in Richmond. There were four commissioned officers and some 60 privates. A New York Lieut. who was in the party told me that according to the cartel made between the US and the CS all prisoners were to be paroled within ten days after capture, if practical. I argued the case with the officers telling them it was practical and lawful to give us our paroles. They tried to make it appear that it was not, that we would have to pass right through General Lee's army, which was from Winchester to Antietam and South Mountain in MD. I told them I knew a much better way for us to go than through Lee's army. I proposed that we go west on the Romney Road for 10 or 15 miles then north and come out on the Baltimore and Ohio railroad at Paw Paw tunnel. This they could not deny, and finally agreed to parole us and send us home.

When Lieut. Fisher came to deliver us our paroles, he told me I had cheated him out of a visit to his sweetheart at Richmond, whom he had not seen for more than a year. I consoled him with the hope that another chance would, I hoped, soon appear, and that he would have the pleasure he had anticipated gratified, but that the reputation of Libby prison was so unfavorable in the eyes of Union soldiers, that I was compelled to use all the means in my power to ovoid its hospitality.

Sixty-six, I think was the number paroled. A guard was sent with us ten miles. We went a few miles further, when an old lady, a friend of the boys in blue, told us a company of rebel cavalry would be along soon and more than likely would take every one of us back, and she gave directions how to cross the country through the mountains to Paw Paw tunnel. We obeyed her instructions and were soon out of sight.

That night we camped in a farmer's barn. All of us, and more I fear, who had any money bought supper from the farmer. I was exceedingly hungry and ate too much and was very sick in the morning. I was not able to walk and some of the others did not have any inclination to do so and we hired the farmer for 4 dollars to haul us to the tunnel. We went through Bloomne Gap Furnace; a place General Lander had almost destroyed some time before. The mountain air, the jolting wagon and the hope of soon getting among friends cured me by dinner. Before night we arrived at the tunnel. A company of infantry from Somerset Co., PA were doing guard duty there and among them I found a cousin by the name of Shriver. I am sorry to say I lost his home address and have never heard from him since. My money had about five out and I sold my watch for 10 dollars to my cousin.

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