Thomas Smith

Thomas Russell Smith (1833-1914) was a son of Jonas Smith and Miriam Russell of Loudoun County, Virginia. Thomas married Ellen Haines (1835 – 1922) of Pipe Creek, Maryland, on October 17, 1859. The couple raised a family at “Hedgewood”, their farm located a mile or so outside the village of Lincoln. They were birthright Quakers, active in Goose Creek Meeting. Decades after their deaths, a handwritten journal was found tucked away in a chest of drawers located in the house at Hedgewood. It was a memoir written by Thomas Smith in the year 1908 and is transcribed below: 


scouting in the Blue Ridge (1)
“Union troops scouting Blue Ridge mountains Virginia” Alfred Waud war illustration  courtesy Library of Congress

Thomas Russell Smith’s account of some of his experiences during the civil war 1861-1865   Thomas and Ellen Smith were living at Hedgewood


My children desire I should give some account of our war experiences during the War of Rebellion that lasted from spring of 1861 to spring of 1865. I will go back nearly 18 months prior to the actual beginning of the War, to state that we were married 10/17 1859, that is TRS and EHS, which was a memorable day to us in particular and the State of Virginia in general as the night preceding our marriage, John Brown made his attack on Harpers Ferry, said incident fired the southern people up to a desperate condition, which incident I think hastened the War materially, and from that circumstance the war cloud rapidly developed and the southern people more excited as time past [sic]. John Brown’s party consisted of 19 men. A few were killed that night, Brown was captured with several of his men and a few of them got away. He was imprisoned in Charestown [Charles Town] jail, had a trial for high treason, was convicted and condemned to be hung, at which time several military companies were present with several howitzers. The impression got abroad that the northern people would make an effort to capture him at the time of his execution but there was no effort of that kind made. We could hear the booming of canon (sic) here very readily on that occasion. On that very day 12/2/1859, our home was in and we commenced keeping house on that very day, canon (sic) were plainly heard when at our 1st dinner in our new home.

During the summer of ’59, our cousin William C. Russell, son of Jesse Russell of Cincinnati, desired to learn farming and for that purpose was here most of that summer. He was a very correct and pleasant young man, one that we all loved very much. During that summer & fall & winter he became quite interested in the impending crises that was very fast approaching. After Fort Summer (sic) was fired on by the rebels, he after mature deliberation as he thought (although we tried to discourage him) it was his duty to enlist in the Union Army, and assist in putting down the Rebellion, which at this time was fast approaching.

During February and March several of the Southern States seceded and early in April, I have not the date but about the middle of the month I think, Virginia seceded. Then there was a great rush to form, companys [sic] & equip them with arms and horses for calvary [sic] & army wagons. Our southern sympathizers were quite officious in piloting (sic) southern soldiers to the homes of those that sympathized with the government to take horses for use in the Rebel army, without pay, and only a day or two after secession of Virginia. One of [the] Southern sympathizers, James McDaniel, piloted [sic] a lot of soldiers here, sent them in the field where I had a hurr-[illegible] team at work & took one of my horses without even intimating any recompense therefore. My friend did not go in the field with the soldiers, but remained away from it a safe distance, though he was recognized.

rebels advancing to the capture of guns (1)
“Rebels advancing to the capture of guns” by Alfred Waud shows the tragic reality of why both armies needed a constant re-supply of horses, often taking them from Virginia farms. Illustration courtesy Library of Congress

The night following about midnight a squad of soldiers came, called me & said they were impressing horses for [the] Southern army, went to the stable and got what they considered the best horse, without even promising remuneration. Therefore in less than 10 hours I lost 2 horses. At the time everything was in a state of excitement & much talk of forcing into the army those who did not go of their own free will. [I] soon concluded to leave the state, and at least save our remaining 2 horses. We therefore concluded to move Creed Turner (a white man I had hired by the year) from the stone house to the kitchen part of our house & have him take the best care of things he could, with oversight of my Uncle John Smith who lived nearby. He had my harvest cut & wheat stacked, but was not threshed for over 12 months. Creed proved to be unfaithful to my interests & squandered and appropriated much that I left here to his own account. Therefore about 24 hours after our 2 horses were taken we hitched the remaining 2 to a spring wagon & loaded in a few of our most valuable things, & made a bee line for my father-in-law Reuben Haines, starting from home long before day. We considered ourselves very fortunate to have a good place to go to. We both made ourselves as useful as possible & time past [sic] as well as might be expected under the trying conditions that prevailed at our home.

A few days lacking 11 months McClelland’s (sic) Army (Union) crossed the Potomac River & moved South. Then we felt it safe for us to go to our home which we did & for several months the Army was in the Southern portion of the state during which time we thrashed our wheat & sold it at Brunswick. But to our sorrow our Army fell back some to Washington & Maryland & this section was again not considered safe for man and beast. I slept in the woods many nights with my horses & they were left there during the day for quite a while.

Sometime, 1862 I think it was, the Southern Confederacy pass (sic) a law exempting all persons who had religious scruples against take up (sic) arms, were excused by paying a fine $500 in Confederate money which I paid costing $200 in greenbacks. After this time I felt safe from being conscripted & it was a great relief too.

For awhile in 1862 before I paid my fine I was in Maryland & my sister Rebecca was staying with Ellen. One evening about dusk there was a wrap (sic) at the door which Ellen answered & found a Confed. soldier there. He only wanted supper for 14 men and as many horses. This was an enlarged demand for 2 lone women that had not much interest in the cause which they were interested. However being 2 faithful women that couldn’t help themselves, they busied themselves until the multitude was fed. It took more than a few loaves & fishes, but not 12 baskets were gathered up afterwards. This squad was given 3 if not 4 meals before they left & be it to their credit these behaved themselves very well. They called themselves “Scott’s Rangers.”

The spring of 1863 Mosby’s men were the terror of the Union men by impressing their teams and hauling their corn to the haunts in Fauquier County. My team was impressed & I with many others loaded our wagons at Elijah Holmes (Hugh’s father) & we hauled it about 4 miles south of Upperville. We did not arrive there until after dark & we were late getting home next night. We did not get as much [as] thank you for our 2 days work. Where this corn was hauled Mosby’s men boarded when not on raids. A week or two later another squad of soldiers came to have more corn hauled. I then had a heavy wagon and only 3 horses. I told them I could not haul any corn worth while with my wagon & team. They said they would get my neighbors 3 horses (Thomas Nichols) & put with mine which they did. Colored men at such times would get out of the way, so I had to drive the team.

We left here (about 8 teams, Union men’s teams) about 2 o’clock and loaded our wagons at Trundles’ place (now Mrs Paxton’s). We left there about dusk, roads were bad, we drove all night, fed at 10 pm near Woodburn, and near Levi White’s, we left the road to avoid a mud hole & drove over the top of a stone fence with a few stones knocked off. At sun up or a little after we fed our horses again a little beyond Upperville. At this point the teams began to separate, each team going to their respective boarding places. I did not get to my destination until 3 o’clock at a place called Markham, 12 or 14 miles beyond Upperville. There I unloaded my corn & got my dinner. I was offered pay for my hauling in Confederate money which I did not accept as at that time it was worth nothing. One of the soldiers seemed determined he would take one of my horses but after reasoning & persuading he agreed to let me have it.

That night at Clifton Mills I arrived about nine o’clock & expected to be able to sleep in the mill but it was locked up & my only alternative was the soft side of an oak board in the bottom of the wagon bed. It being about the middle of April, it was not as comfortable as a room with a register in it. However I took no cold and got home next day 1st day [Sunday] about one o’clock. Traveling all told between 85 & 90 miles in 47 hours. I then made up my mind I would haul no more corn so I took my wagon to pieces & scattered it to all points of the compass & put my horses in the cellar until the hauling was all done. In 1863 I loaded up a load for marketing & got through lines to Washington with old plugs of horses; desiring to do some farming & not being able to keep good horses. I bought 3 run down street car horses for $50. With good feed and care by spring they were able to do some work. One was a very showy animal & toward evening in April (I was not at the house) 2 men came along on foot & told Ellen they were looking for Cavalry horses for the Confed. government. I was sent for on the place & when I got to the house they had the horse bridled & told me it would suit them. I asked them for their authority to buy horses, they said the order was verbal. I said then you can have it. I suddenly sprang upon the horse, they tried their best to put me off but could not. They then said they would shoot her, they fired carbines 2 or 3 times but they did not go off, I suppose not loaded. By that time Ellen came out, gave them a piece of her mind when they concluded to leave without her. It was then about night & when about 100 yards from the house toward Brown’s they met my plow team. It had been turned out and was nearly to the house. Each man jumped on a horse wheeled about & away they went, so they had gotten 2 instead of one, fortunately, they were the other 2 street car horses & not for calvary [sic] horses. Next morning I was preparing to look for them when word came they were browsing in the woods near James Jones. No doubt that these horses were not suitable for calvary [sic] or to sell at a good price.

The horse they failed to get shortly after was sold to the Confederate government for $300 in their currency, flour was bought of a good Confed. for $30 per barrel & sold in Federal lines at Berlin at $10 per barrel. 2nd street car horse died & 3rd street car horse General Howard’s brigade got, his division 3000 or 4000 strong came by here. Ellen baked up a barrel of flour & sold it to the soldiers. They took everything movable on the place such as chickens, harness, meat & milk, even then were left in arrears.

One night toward the spring of ’63 we were aroused by some one calling loudly. I heard them sometime before I answered them. I thought they might go away if I did not answer them, but it didn’t work so I answered them, 3 in number; they said they had come after $500 in greenbacks which they knew I had. I told them they were entirely mistaken for I had not even seen that much money for a long, long time. They insisted I had it & said it was not worthwhile to deny it. I positively denied having it so they said if I did not give it to them they would burn the barn. I told them they would have to do it then so they went to the barn and kept calling back – left one at the house to receive the money while the other 2 men were at the barn threatening all the while they would burn the barn unless I gave it to them. After so threatening quite a while they brought an arm load of hay to the house & said then they would burn the house unless I gave them the $500. They threw the hay down by the side of the house (a brick wall) and said, after feeling through their pockets, they had no match, would I give them one? Knowing that the burning the bunch of hay by the side of a brick wall would not set fire to the house but they did set fire to the hay. I finally told them I had $50 in confederate money they might have, they said “— the Confed” but after relieving a short distance for consultation, I heard them say they had better take it “perhaps they could do something with it” so I gave it to them and they left. Then our bedroom was in the parlor and Anna was a baby & raised in bed wide awake & made a noise. One of the men looked in the window, (I had it up) & said you have a d— good looking baby. One of these men kept out of my sight (we had a light burning). I am sure it was someone I knew from that fact.

Early next day I heard they had been to three different places, Bernard Taylors, Elisha & Asa Janney. The first named place they got over $100 as he had sold 3 cattle the day previous. At Elisha Janney’s they got some money & at Asa’s they behaved very ugly, got no money as I recollect & broke up the sewing machine. I think they were nothing more or less than thieves & took advantage of condition of things as there were enforced no laws at this time.

During the fall of ’63 there was a cavalry skirmish right this side of Hamilton, a few killed and wounded on both sides & for a few days quite a number of soldiers (Confederates) in the neighborhood. At this time I had 2 horses & during the day we kept them fastened up in stable & turned them out at night. About dusk two men came along dressed in soldiers garb & armed well, said they wanted to hire a vehicle to move a wounded soldier & would return it the next day. I had only a one horse vehicle (a ‘gagger’ 2 seats) & I insisted I could not hire it to them but they were equally insisting & as horses were out in the yard there was nothing to do but to let them have it. I thought then if they took it I would never see it again, so I concluded to go with them & make sure of the team. Therefore in due time we started, about 9 p.m. They had told me a wounded man was up on Black Oak Ridge at the William Janney place (from their description). When we got there we halted. One of the men went to the house, soon returning without the man & said he had gone on to the next house. When we go to the next house, Thomas Hesser, one of them, called there, with the same report, had gone on. By this time I began to think there was no wounded man in it & they only wanted the team. After going on a mile or more, they told me to turn to the left which lead into a large body of woods, it being cloudy and very dark and the road unknown to me. I had difficulty in keeping in the road when both men got out, one lead the horse & the other kept a short distance ahead in the road & by that means we got through the large body of dark woods safely. When we came to the turnpike below Bluemont the horse was stopped & the man that piloted through the woods came back beside the buggy & drew his pistol on at the same time saying they were done with me, get out or I will blow a hole through you. I hesitated saying I had not accomplished what they desired me to do. The threat was repeated & I still hesitated to comply with the request. Then the man that had been leading the horse came back & with pistol drawn repeated the request or threat, when I concluded the time had arrived for me to give possession which I did. They then searched me for arms & fund none. They then both got into the carriage & drove away as fast as the horse could go leaving me in the road 10 miles from home and as dark as night as I most ever saw about midnight or later and it raining.

I then started for home down the turnpike in the direction of Philomont. It was very dark but I managed to keep on the turnpike until I got to Joseph Nichols, when I concluded it was an impossibility for one to find the way home through the woods. I then unwillingly called Joseph Nichols, told him why I came to there when I was invited into the house and given a good bed to spend the balance of the night, say 2 or 3 hours. I arose early & made for home where I met a warm reception. Minus a horse & vehicle worth $150. I afterwards learned from some of my neighbors, who I met on my road home that morning (who were hauling corn for Moseby’s men) that a horse & vehicle, answering a description of mine, were seen early that morning (after leaving me) to cross Shenandoah River containing 3 men, of them being to all appearances wounded. This was the last I ever heard of said team or men.

During the fall of ’64, also that winter, Gen’l Sheridan was located at headquarters at Winchester. In November of that fall Gen’l Grant or Sheridan, one or both, concluded it would be a good idea to bum all forage in Loudon (sic) & drive out all stock & thereby starve the rebels. Gen’l Devin with several thousand cavalry was ordered to execute this order said force entered the county at Snickersville, (now Bluemont) coming down the Aldie Turnpike as far as Philomont, burning all provender. Whether in out (sic) of buildings, over a space of 3 or 4 miles in width, at the same time driving with them all stock they saw. When they got to Philomont they turned north, coming by Guinea, Lincoln, Hamilton, Waterford & Taylorsville. When they turned west & went to the Brunswick road near Lovettsville near where they encamped for the night. Next day the 29th of November they continued their devastation in the direction of Wheatland to Purcellville – where they halted for lunch & rest. Gen’l (Devin?) pitched his tent in a field near where Joseph Janney’s house now stands & from that point to cross roads at Mrs. Love’s the road was full of stock of all kinds, horses, cattle, oxen & sheep & cows. Early on the 29th heard the burning was in progress and to ascertain the facts I got on my only old horse George & went up on Rock Hill near where Levi Carter’s house stands & taking a view, I found the burning was really in progress as I could see smoke comin up in all directions. I then hurried home as soon as I could & put George in the cellar and a very fine yoke of oxen under the barn as I thought out of sight. I scarcely got that done when a Col & several men rode up to my house. At that time there was a strong north west wind blowing. They made known their business. I told the officer I though burning the barn would endanger my house. He looked at me very unconcerned & said ‘not quite.’

I asked for a little time to roll 5 barrels of flour out of the barn but he paid no attention to my request & told the men to proceed & they did with dispatch, striking matches & throwing them around from one end of the barn to the other, in hay mows & other places where there was anything to catch fire & apparently in less than five minutes the barn was afire from end to end & top to bottom. I had a small colored boy here & we got out by extra exertion the 5 barrels of flour, a wheat fan & a few other small things, the corn crib & wagon house that stood nearer the house than the bard did burn (about where the Norway Maple now stands N.E. of the old white pine.) During the burning the brick walls of the house were so hot you could scarcely hold the hand on them & had the wind changed to the north, the house would certainly have burned too. The barn contained a good lot of hay and some corn that I was putting in a hay mow, with a view of hiding same from Moseby’s men, intending to cover it up with hay.

With the barn all my farming utensils went up in the smoke. Soldiers found the oxen and 100 good ewes in the field that had recently cost me $6.00 each. During that day until late in the night we watched the direction of the wind very closely. The barn having been a log barn originally and boarded up on the outside made a very hot & long fire which was still burning the following morning.

The morning following the fire we felt very blue to put it mildly with building in ashes sheep oxen & cows all gone with no milk for ourselves & 2 little children but we were thankful for them.

Next morning (after the fire) several of us concluded (I had George left, an old horse) we would follow on after the Army & see if there was a possibility of getting at least one cow back. When we got to Waterford, we learned they had been to Lovettsville & were then passing Wheatland South. So we went direct to Wheatland from Waterford & got there in time to fall in the rear of procession of stock & soldiers which completely filled the turnpike from Mrs. Love’s to Purcellville.

Two of us approached the officer in command. He had struck his tent and was eating his lunch. We stated our case, said we had small children at home & would like to have the privilege of taking one of our cows home with us. He said no most emphatically. I then went down to Mrs. Love’s barnyard & fortunately my best cow (lately fresh) was standing by the barn that led into the yard. About this time order was given to move the cavalcade west. I let down the bars & was turning my cow in the yard when a soldier rode up & wanted to know what in —– I was doing, but in the excitement of starting the mixed lot of stock I clandestinely got my cow in the barn or stable where she remained until they, the army, got out of sight when I took my cow home & felt made up for a cow, yet I had nothing to feed her on except some scorched wheat that had fallen outside the wall in burning. We had that ground & by buying feed we had plenty of milk & butter that winter.