John H. Worsham about the Romney Expedition
| ...Gen. Jackson having decided on a winter campaign, marched his army from the neighborhood of Winchester January 1, 1862, a beautiful day, the sun shining brightly and the atmosphere bracing. The second brigade camped near Pughtown that night, the 21st Va. Regt. in a large wood, where gathering the fresh fallen leaves into large piles, placing our oilcloths on them and laying down, covering with our blankets, we enjoyed the bed as much as any we ever slept on.|
We marched the next morning at early dawn, and at night camped at Unger's X Roads. The next day, the 3d, we met the enemy about five miles from Bath, Morgan County. The 21st Va. Regt. was marching near the rear of the column. Gen. Jackson sent an order for F Company to report to the front, and we marched by our troops, who had halted in the road. When we reached the front, we halted and were ordered to load, which was done under fire, as the enemy were a short distance in front, on a hill behind a fence. As soon as we had loaded, we were deployed as skirmishers, and ordered forward through a wood, halting on its edge behind a fence. There we became heavily engaged with the enemy, and kept up a fire until it was too dark to see. Firing ceased, and returning to our regiment, we went into camp. This was the first real fight of the company, and the men behaved splendidly. William Exall was killed and Lieut. James B. Payne seriously wounded.
It snowed during the night and the weather became very cold.
The enemy were at Bath in force. In the morning Gen. Jackson advanced on their position in three columns, the second brigade moving along the road with F Company as advance guard. We moved slowly, in order to let a column on our left get into position on the mountain ridge. We came in sight of the enemy, who were in line of battle on that ridge, about one and a half miles from Bath. Our column had marched along the road until it got almost on the flank of their line, before they moved. It was too far for musket firing, but the men of each side engaged in much abuse of each other. As soon as our skirmish line on the ridge came within shooting distance, firing commenced, and the enemy began to retreat. Gen. Jackson now arrived at the front and took the lead on horseback, a few couriers following him; as he passed our company, he ordered us to double quick, and we soon ran. This was a grand sight. The second brigade marching by the flank and running down the road, the Yankees in sight on the ridge to our left, running too, our column on the ridge following them as fast as they could run! In this way our column entered Bath, going through the village, doubling back on the road which wound up the ridge. When we reached the top of the ridge, we could see the Yankees disappearing at the far end of a field, going toward the Potomac river. We followed, but the road ran through a defile, and we could not go as fast as the enemy, because we had to look out for their rear guard, who occasionally came in sight and fired. The enemy went over the river during the night. We captured some stores and a few prisoners.
I saw Col. Turner Ashby to-day for the first time; he impressed me as being a dashing man. He passed us with a company of cavalry, taking a road to our left. One of our columns following on another road, had a spirited combat with the enemy. On the next day, the 5th, Gen. Jackson moved his force towards Hancock, a village on the Maryland side of the Potomac. He sent for F Company to come to the front and lead the column across the river; a high honor to come from him. We marched out of camp singing, and kept it up until we arrived at the front. While we were singing the "Pirate's Glee," and were well in the chorus, every man having joined in with a zest, and had taken up the inspiring words, "We'll nail the black flag to the mast," we came suddenly on Gen. Jackson. He pulled off his cap, and his eyes twinkled with evident delight as we passed.
We marched to a certain point and halted, and stayed there several hours, the Yankees throwing a shell at us occasionally from a battery in Hancock. The ground was covered with snow, and it was cold, and we were not allowed to make fires. As night approached, we marched back and with our regiment, camped for the night. It was snowing and hailing, which continued all night, and was intensely cold. The ground the next morning was covered several inches with snow and ice. Gen. Jackson gave up the advance on this road, owing to the ice in the Potomac river, and on the 8th we returned to Unger's X Roads. The march was a terrible one; the road had become one sheet of ice from frequent marching over it, and the men would march in the side ditches and in the woods, where it was practicable; guns were constantly being fired by the men falling, and many accidents were occasioned thereby. In some instances the horses had to be taken from the cannon and wagons, and men with chains and ropes pulled them, the horses being sent forward through the woods; and at many hills, the pioneers had to cut small trenches across the road, in order that the men might have a footing. It was late in the night when we stopped to camp. Although the men underwent great exertion in this march, the cold was so intense that their suffering was great. I saw Gen. Jackson marching along the road on foot with the men several times.
Col. Gilham and Major Shipp of the 21st Va. Regt. received an order to report to the Va. Military Institute for duty, and they left on the 9th. The men had become very much attached to both, and were sorry to give them up. As a token of their respect, F Company purchased a fine horse and presented it to Col. Gilham, attaching to the bridle one of our F's. The next day we had hail again; the second brigade marched only about four miles, marching as they did the day before, men to help cannon and wagons. The next day my regiment marched about five hundred yards, and the head of the brigade marched about four miles. Owing to the terrible weather, our line was scattered over ten miles of road. My mess was so near the camping place of last night, that we went back to it, put the chunks together, and in a short time were comfortable and asleep for the night, rejoining the company in the morning in time for roll call. The only way we could get along at all was to have heavy details of men with each wagon and cannon to help, and at times to pull them. Each day was colder than the day before, and we crossed most of the streams, cannon, wagons, and men, on the ice.
On the 14th it snowed and hailed again. In our march we passed for several miles along the road a growth of flat cedar or arbor vitæ. We continued our march in the same way, until we reached the neighborhood of Romney on the 17th. There the head of the column had quite a spirited combat with the enemy, capturing their camp and some stores. The second brigade went into camp in a wood near the town, and picketed the road we had marched over. Here the sun came out and shone on us, the first time for nineteen days.
Our mess lost its "spider" on this march, and I thought one might be purchased in the neighborhood to replace it. One day I took a stroll into the country to get one, and went to several houses without success. Finally I came to a very comfortable looking house, and found an old lady who was very talkative. She made many inquiries where we were from, how long we were going to stay, etc.; she seemed particularly pleased on learning I was from Richmond, and we had a long chat about the city. I finally told her what I wanted. She called a servant girl and held a consultation, and finally decided that she would let me have a certain oven that was too large for her family. It was brought from one of the outhouses and a bargain was made, after much discussion. She wished to know if it suited me. It was an unusually large one, and had a broken lid. It did not suit me, but was the only one I had been able to get, and I told her that it did. As to the price, she did not know what to say. She finally said, "That is a good oven. I bought it in Winchester sixteen years ago, and gave two dollars and fifty cents for it. It's a good oven, even if the lid is cracked (a piece was broken out of it), it's done me good service. Well, as you want it, under the circumstances, you may have it for two dollars and seventy-five cents." That took all the wind out of me; I am sure you could have knocked me down with a feather, but I paid her the money, and the service that oven rendered us proved it was a bargain.
The first night or two after the ground became covered with snow. We cleaned the snow off, so as to have the ground to lie on, but the thawing of the ground underneath us made it muddy, and our oilcloths would be badly soiled when we got up in the morning; we then tried the snow, and found it made a better bed and was equally as warm. After that, we never removed the snow on going into camp. Some nights we would spread our tent on the snow, put our oilcloths on that, and a blanket on that, then the party would lie down, a comrade cover them up with the remaining blankets, and then throw the sides of the tent over that, leaving nothing but the head out; he would then crawl from the bottom into his place. In this way I managed to sleep very comfortably several nights on this expedition.
On the 24th, the 21st Va. Regt. marched into the town of Romney, taking up its quarters in the houses that had been deserted. F Company had the bank building. We lived well there; my mess employed an old darky, about two squares off, to cook our rations, she adding to them any good thing she could get. There was a hotel that had buckwheat cakes in splendid style, fine butter and syrup for breakfast, and only charged twenty-five cents for meals. It took only three days for us to eat it out.
Gen. Jackson left us here, going to Winchester and taking a part of his force with him, leaving Gen. Loring in command at Romney. We staid until the evening of February 3d, when Romney was given up, and Gen. Loring's force was marched towards Winchester. We marched late in the night, and it snowed again. Our wagons had gone ahead, and when I arrived at their camping place, I sat down on a bucket at one of the wagoner's fire to warm, fell asleep, and stayed on my bucket until morning! We reached Winchester on the 6th, and went into camp, after being away a little over a month, undergoing the most terrible experience during the war. Many men were frozen to death, others frozen so badly they never recovered, and the rheumatism contracted by many was never gotten rid of. Many of the men were incapacitated for service, large numbers were barefooted, having burned their shoes while trying to warm their feet at the fires.
Do any of my readers recollect Randall Evans at Winchester? He is the old colored man who could get up such famous dinners. After a long time in camp, or on a march with the usual army fare, to go to Randall Evans, and get a meal such as he could serve, would make one forget all about bread and beef, both without salt! I never saw a soldier leave his place who was not perfectly satisfied with the army and everything else, and it was brought about by being full of food, as Randall did not keep anything to drink. What Tom Griffin was to Richmond, so was Randall Evans to Winchester. After the Romney campaign, we came very near eating Randall out.
Taken from: One of Jackson's Foot Cavalry, his Experience and what he saw During the War 1861-1865, Including a History of "F Company," Richmond, Va., 21st Regiment Virginia Infantry, Second Brigade, Jackson's Division, Second Corps, A. N. Va., by Worsham, John H.