Civil War Experiences of the
Honeycutt Family by Dale C.L. Honeycutt, Lt. Col. USAF, Retired
Contributed by Gene Kirk
Mr. Kirk writes of Lt. Co. Honeycutt, "Dale was the grandson of Esau. Dale passed away about 10 years ago. He was old enough to have gotten a lot of stories from Uncle Grover Cleveland Honeycutt, son of Esau. Grover was born in 1888."
Esau Honeycutt, Sr. was born in Yancy Co., N.C. in 1841and died in 1929, at age 88. When 4 years old, his father, Nathan Honeycutt, moved his second family to Osborne's Ford, Scott Co., Va. in 1845. He was one of 7 brothers in the second family of Nathan, namely, Peter, David, Esau, William Riley, John, Robert, and James. The later three, John, Robert, and James, followed their father to Eastern Kentucky at the close of the the Civil War where their descendants live today. William Riley died of typhoid fever in the hospital at Abingdon during the war. The 3 girls were Jamima, Lucinda and Sally. I do not know the 11th child. Perhaps one died young.
On Tuesday, 18 June 1861, grandfather Esau (age 19) along with a half-brother, Valentine (age 31), and brothers David (age 21), and William Riley (age 16) and other youth from the area, arrived in Abingdon, Va. after walking 40 miles from Osborne's Ford, now Dungannon. Their mother, Emily Sabrina, followed them to the Clinch River begging them not to go, saying she'd never see them again. How prophetic she was, for in 1862 she died of flux. William Riley died of typhoid fever, while Valentine, like many other boys from the hill country, returned to Scott County without fighting, and took his family to Eastern Kentucky where his descendants are now living.
Their company was called the Osborne Ford Independents commanded by Capt. H.W. Osborne, a brother to grandmother Honeycutt. (Grandmother Honeycutt was Mary Ann Osorne.) At least 3 of his brothers were in this company also - Uncles Bill, Jesse and Jonathan Osborne. On Wed., 19 June, 1861, they were enrolled in Co. K, later Co. C of the 48th Infantry Regiment, Virginia Volunteers. They went to Richmond, Va. by rail, and later to the mountains of Northwest Virginia (now West Virginia) where they took part in the mountain campaigns of the summer and fall of 1861. In Jan. 1862, they were ordered on a forced march to Winchester, Va., a distance of 150 miles, to join forces with Gen. Stonewall Jackson. This march was made in bitter cold weather with snow and rain falling frequently. The troops had few blankets, no tents, and went without food from 24 to 48 hours at times. Grandfather's unit, with some others, was sent to Romney, Va. (now W.Va.) where they camped in a swamp. Political pressure got them removed to near Winchester, against Gen. Jackson's wishes.
In March, 1862, Jackson, in an attempt to halt Federal Forces from going to Richmond, met them at Kernstown under Gen. Banks on 23 Mar. 1862. Although defeated by a superior force of some 8000 men, Jackson with about 3000 men succeeded in holding a force of over 15,000 men from marching towards Richmond. After this battle, the Confederates retreated down the Shenandoah Valley, followed slowly by the Yankees. Jackson meantime was picking up extra troops and recruits until he had some 6000 men under his command. When he came to Harrisonburg, he turned east towards Conrad's Store, thence up over the Blue Ridge Mountains to Mechum's River Station on the Va. Cent. R.R. This move was made through mud and rain in April, 1862. Here, they caught a train and rode to Staunton, 30 miles below Harrisonburg where Gen. Banks lost track of Jackson's army, sending a wire to Washington that "Jackson was on the run and no longer a threat to the Federal cause."
From Staunton, they headed to Highland Co., Va. to meet the threat of Gen. Freemont's Federal Forces. At McDowell, the two armies met on 8 May, 1862, with Jackson's army being victorious. Jackson then headed back up the valley to New Market and Luray, where he met Gen Ewell's army of about 8000 men. With some 15,000 men in these two armies, Jackson headed for Front Royal and Winchester to check Federal Forces there. Battles occurred at these places on 25 May, 1862 with the Federals being driven back across the Potomac towards Washington.
By now, the Federals from North and Northwest Va. had moved into the valley to trap Gen. Jackson. He brought his army back down the valley to meet this threat. On two successive days, 8 and 9 June, 1862, Jackson's army defeated two Federal Armies at Cross Keys and Port Republic, respectively.
The pressure was building up on Richmond, so Gen. Lee ordered Gen. Jackson to move secretly to Richmond in vicinity of Mechanicsville. On 15 June, they began this move by foot, arriving on the night of 26 June. Gen. McClellan learning of Jackson's presence, withdrew at night. Jackson pursued with occasional battles with the enemy. With other Confederate Forces under Gen. Lee, known as the 7 Days Battle of Richmond, the Yankees were badly defeated. President Lincoln sent a wire to Federal Gen. McClellan, "Take every precaution necessary, but whatever you do, save your army from destruction." Gen. Jackson said as he did in all his battle reports: "We should pause to thank God for his victory, which has brought despondency to the North, hope and faith to the South, and the capitol of Virginia and the Confederacy has been saved."
While at Richmond, grandfather was found sleeping on picket duty. This was perhaps on Monday, 7 July, 1862 when his unit was on picket duty. He acted unconscious, was taken to the hospital where they worked with him a good while. Suddenly he arose, and said he was alright, when asked what was the matter, he said, "I've had such spells all my life." No action apparently , was taken against him, as he was a good soldier, with no bad record.
From Richmond, Jackson started back to the valley about 19 July, 1862, to again meet the danger of Federal troops that had moved into the Valley of Virginia under Gen. Pope. At Cedar Mountain, these two armies met on Sunday afternoon 9 Aug., 1862. In one of the bloodiest battles thus far, both sides had heavy losses. Gen. Winder, Division Commander of our Grandfather was killed, along with many officers and men of both sides. Uncle Dave Honeycutt was shot in the arm above the elbow that afternoon. Many prisoners were taken, including our grandfather. His attempt to escape was foiled, so he was taken by boat to Ft. Monroe, Va. in late August, 1862. About one month later in Sept., 1862 he was in a prisoner exchange, promising never to draw arms again against the U.S. He headed for Southwest Virginia, and to some form of service, the exact nature we do not know as yet. His pension application dated 1902 stated he was in the service from the beginning of the war in 1861 until Gen. Lee surrendered at Appomattox in 1865, and that he fought under Gen. Lee and Gen. Jackson. Since his first child was named John Morgan, after the great General, I somehow believe he spent the 2 1/2 years from the winter of 1862 until spring of 1865 in some form of service with Gen. Morgan, but not necessarily combat duty. This is entirely my supposition.
One more incident which Uncle Grover related to me and which I'd heard before was that he was sick in the hospital with typhoid. (The hospital records, showing he was hospitalized in May, 1862 at Charlottesville, Virginia with rheumatism.) He was burning up and they would give him no water. He heard churning somewhere nearby and planned to raid the kitchen when all was quiet. This he did, drinking a good supply of buttermilk. From then on he began to get well.
From records available, I believe he walked about 1000 miles during the 14 months from 17 June 1861 until his capture on 9 Aug., 1862. This was often done without food, with very poor clothing, some men going barefooted due to lack of shoes. Such hardships, often under battle conditions, was strenuous, but those glorious Confederates pushed on for four years. I think it can be summarized by the comment of a Scott County Veteran on his pension application, when he said: "I was with Gen. Jackson on all his forced marches in the valley and in all his battles - continued exposure to such hardships and the elements made my nerves give way." Mr.Bruce Catton, noted Civil War historian and editor of the American Heritage Magazine, has said the story of the Civil War is the story of the individual soldier. Looking at our Grandfather, we can see the truth in his statement.
Summarizing, Gen. Jackson with an army of never more that 17,000, kept from 30,000 to 70,000 Federal Troops continually on the alert, preventing them from moving south to Richmond. His actions kept the National Capital at Washington in a rather nervous state. With his army outnumbered from 2 1/2 to 1 and at times more than 5 to 1 the soldierly qualities of him and his men made themselves immortal in the minds of the Southern cause and of military men the world over. Such unbelievable feats they accomplished have been talked about, written about and discussed even down to the present day. It was soldiers of such stamina and character as that of our grandfather, that made such success possible. He was a great soldier and patriot. Thusly, we honor him.
Dale C.L. Honeycutt,
Lt. Col. USAF Ret'd.