Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Diary of Sir Arthur James Lyon Fremantle: Sunday, June 21, 1863

We got the horse shod with some delay, and after refreshing the animals with corn and ourselves with bacon, we effected a'start at 8.15 A.M. We experienced considerable difficulty in carrying my small saddle-bags and knapsack, on account of the state of our horses' backs. Mine was not very bad, but that of Norris was in a horrid state. We had not travelled more than a few miles when the latter animal cast a shoe, which took us an hour to replace at a village called Sperryville. The country is really magnificent, but as it has supported two large armies for two years, it is now completely cleaned out. It is almost uncultivated, and no animals are grazing where there used to be hundreds. All fences have been destroyed, and numberless farms burnt, the chimneys alone left standing. It is difficult to depict and impossible to exaggerate the sufferings which this part of Virginia has undergone. But the ravages of war have not been able to destroy the beauties of nature — the verdure is charming, the trees magnificent, the country undulating, and the Blue Ridge mountains form the background.

Being Sunday, we met about thirty negroes going to church, wonderfully smartly dressed, some (both male and female) riding on horseback, and others in waggons; but Mr Norris informs me that two years ago we should have numbered them by hundreds. We soon began to catch up the sick and brokendown men of the army, but not in great numbers; most of them were well shod, though I saw two without shoes.

After crossing a gap in the Blue Bidge range, we reached Front Royal at 5 P.M., and we were now in the well-known Shenandoah Valley — the scene of Jackson's celebrated campaigns. Front Royal is a pretty little place, and was the theatre of one of the earliest fights in the war, which was commenced by a Maryland regiment of Confederates, who, as Mr Norris observed, “jumped on to” a Federal regiment from the same State, and “whipped it badly.” Since that time the village has changed hands continually, and was visited by the Federals only a few days previous to Ewell's rapid advance ten days ago.

After immense trouble we procured a feed of corn for the horses, and, to Mr Norris's astonishment, I was impudent enough to get food for ourselves by appealing to the kind feelings of two good-looking female citizens of Front Royal, who, during our supper, entertained us by stories of the manner they annoyed the Northern soldiers by disagreeable allusions to “Stonewall” Jackson.

We started again at 6.30, and crossed two branches of the Shenandoah River, a broad and rapid stream. Both the railway and carriage bridges having been destroyed, we had to ford it; and as the water was deep, we were only just able to accomplish the passage. The soldiers, of whom there were a number with us, took off their trousers, and held their rifles and ammunition above their heads. Soon afterwards our horses became very leg-weary; for although the weather had been cool, the roads were muddy and hard upon them. At 8.30 we came up with Pender's Division encamped on the sides of hills, illuminated with innumerable camp-fires, which looked very picturesque. After passing through about two miles of bivouacs, we begged for shelter in the hayloft of a Mr Mason: we turned our horses into a field, and found our hayloft most luxurious after forty-six miles’ ride at a foot's pace.

Stonewall Jackson is considered a regular demigod in this country.

SOURCE: Sir Arthur James Lyon Fremantle, Three Months in the Southern States: April-June, 1863, p. 226-9

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