When a Confederate soldier came-a-courtin’ a Southern Unionist’s daughter
While shuffling through some family history notes lately, I came across a story that I had forgotten about. A distant cousin (half first cousin, three times removed), George W. Hillyard, who served in the 12th Virginia Cavalry, and was a native of Winchester, Virginia, found time during the war to find romance with a young lady “down the road a ways”. Now, George “was a man of powerful build, a noted athlete in young manhood, and some notable exploits were credited to him”. When he started to court Miss Jemima Windle (seven years his junior), it didn’t set too well with her father, Samuel Windle.
Samuel was a native of Shenandoah County, and a farmer/merchant near Cedar Creek, but, more importantly, when it came to the war, he is said to have held firm to his Unionism.
So, the story goes…
When George W. Hillyard came to court his daughter, the prospective father-in-law denied him the privilege of the Windle home, and went so far as to secure assistance from some Union soldiers in removing the obnoxious suitor. George, seeing the party in blue coming, jumped through the window, taking the sash with him. Despite his hurried departure, when some distance away, he waited in ambush until the boys in blue came along. When George attacked, he proved the more capable fellow, ultimately drowning all of his pursuers in Cedar Creek.
That’s quite an interesting story, but… I couldn’t help but wonder if there was more info out there on “Papa” Windle. In fact, there is…
In the early 1870s, Samuel Windle prepared a Southern Loyalist claim, and left some interesting details about life, as he recalled them.
When reflecting on his loyalty, Windle informed the committee (in an interview and in the documentation):
At the beginning of the Rebellion I was for the Union and not for the Rebellion. I voted for the ordnance of secession. A man came to my house the night before the election and told me all that did not vote for the ordnance of secession would be tarred and feathered and drummed out. The security of my life required that I should vote for the ordnance. I was a Union man all the time.
Of course, it can’t hurt to let the committee know that a good Unionist has suffered at the hands of the Confederates either…
The Rebels took hay, corn, & goods from out my store, they robbed my house and took 150 dollars in Greenbacks from me. They threatened to burn my house on account of my being a Union man.
Then, of course, it’s important to let them know how one helped the Union army when it was around…
I went at the hour of midnight to give Gen. Milroy notice of the coming of Confederate forces. I gave him the information a few hours before the fight.
Even so, being a Southern Unionist didn’t guarantee safety from depredations at the hands of Union soldiers, as they came through the area… hence the root of the reasons behind why Samuel Windle made application to be reimbursed from losses incurred from their “visit”, in the fall of 1864. Samuel testified…
I was at home when my property was all taken – it was all the same Regiment that took my property – it was in command of a Col. Benjamin and belonged to Sheridan’s army. The Col. and a Capt. Bliss took breakfast with me the morning it was all taken and came upon my invitation – it was in the fall of 1864. – the regiment had encamped close to my house the night before. They were up the valley on the scout. Sheridan’s was in camp at Kernstown at the time. I think so. There was no others to take the property and was all taken that night and the next day and done while Col. Bliss was encamped there.
He also noted that, while hauling wood, Union soldiers took his saddle (worth $10) and horse, though the horse was later returned. Also claimed were, at least, 150 fence rails for camp fires, and 15 stands of bees, and all the honey, estimated at 300 lbs, to which the Union soldiers “made themselves welcome”.
Samuel’s son, James, backed his father’s story, adding the following…
I don’t know that there was any officer present. The sheep was in the Barn yard. The Hay in the Barn, the Potatoes in the patch. The saddle was taken from the horse in the road. The Corn was in the field. The rails enclosed the farm. The Honey was in the Hives. It was all removed by the soldiers. It was taken for the use of the U.S. Army. I saw it used by the army. A complaint was made to Captain Bliss who gave a receipt for the Sheep & Honey. The property was taken both night and day. Did not see the sheep taken but saw them using the mutton. They were the best sheep. Coats would [bring] five or six dollars a piece. I saw fifteen hundred pounds of hay taken. The hay was in the barn & I estimate the quantity from the bulk. It was worth 18 or 20 dollars a ton. I saw eight bushels of Potatoes taken from the ground. From the quantity of land I supposed there was eight bushels. They were worth about seventy five cents a bushel. I saw ten bushels of corn taken judged the quantity from the buck and supposed there was 10 bushels was worth about one dollar a bushel.
James also added that his father sent he and his two brothers into the Union lines “to keep us out of the Rebel service” and, that he [Samuel]…
…gave the Union men all the information he could and aided Rebel deserters to get into the Union lines. They threatened to burn his house and took his property on account of his being a Union man. I do not think the claimant could have staid here had the south gained her independence, and further deponent sayeth not.
Joseph W. Hodge also provided testimony on behalf of Samuel Windle. Having been conscripted in the summer of 1862, into the 11th Virginia Cavalry, Hodge deserted on December 20, 1862. Taking refuge in the homes of Southern Unionists in the Valley, by the summer of 1863, he finally made his way to Ohio. Taking advantage of Sheridan’s occupation of the Valley, in the fall of 1864, he returned home for a while, before returning to Ohio, where he remained until the close of the war.
I did not return until the fall of 1864, and was at Windles for a day or two when I left again for the North. I had come home to see my friends while the Union army was here, but I left again for feat that Sheridan would fall back and leave me in the hands of the rebels. I had a great many talks with the claimant about the war – in his conversations he always expressed strong Union sentiments.
Hodge also let the committee know that Windle’s three sons had been conscripted into the Confederate army. This is where things grow a little fuzzy… but only because all of what was being told… between Samuel Windle, James Windle, and Joseph Hodge… did not all neatly mesh.
In fact, as service records reveal, Windle’s three sons, Addison, James, and William, were all prewar militia, who were activated for Virginia’s service (and, thereby, the Confederacy’s service), in July 1861 (James was mustered-in with the 146th Virginia Militia, July 11, 1861, while Addison and William were mustered-in with the 136th Virginia Militia, July 21, 1861). Of course, as I’ve pointed out before, such service, in the militia, is not an indicator of loyalty to the Confederacy, as many considered themselves conscripts, under such activation, even before the Confederacy passed its first conscription act.
Ultimately, all three were excused or dismissed from militia service at various times prior to October 1861 (Addison and William, in September; and James in October).
From what I’m able to weed-out, (though I can’t tell when, exactly) it appears that Addison was the one who first took his father’s advice, and went to Ohio, to avoid further Confederate conscription. There he remained, until after the war.
James and William, on the other hand, appear to have taken their chances… and lost.
William was conscripted on December 8, 1863, and assigned to Co. E, 11th Virginia Cavalry, on March 9, 1864. He appears to have deserted not long after, finally taking refuge in Ohio. he returned to Winchester, in April 1865, where he received his parole from Federal forces.
James was conscripted as well, and, though not on the rolls of the 7th Virginia Cavalry (I suspect the term of service being so short explains why), having received a disabling wound at Jack’s Shop, received a discharge (at least according to his postwar application for a pension for his service to Virginia). Such a situation, of course, would have enabled James to remain on his father’s farm without further pursuit by Confederate conscript hunters… thereby giving him the opportunity to witness events in the fall of 1864… for which he gave testimony, as seen above.
Hodge, by the way, in his testimony, lent credence to Samuel Windle’s claim, that he sent his sons North (though, I must say, Samuel was a big vague as to the details, while he explained this to the commission). When Hodge fled the Valley, in June of 1863, he stated that he went to Ohio where “Mr Windle’s son was living”.
Of course, I have to wonder if the Claims Commission could see all that we are able to see, in records today, as they are available to us now. At this point, I’d be very confident in saying that Windle was, indeed, a loyal Southern Unionist. However, as in the case of several others I’ve seen, it’s often some fine detail that spoils the whole story. In fact, the Claims Commission found out that Windle sold 3,341 lbs of hay to the Confederacy, at Sharpsburg, Maryland, on December 20, 1862 (for a total of $141.50). But, really, it appears that this wasn’t the factor that brought them to their decision. Who knows… for all they knew, they may have considered such a sale made under duress.
Rather, it was that part about Samuel Windle having voted in favor of secession, that wrecked his claim (albeit, really, a rather small claim). The decision of the Commission, inevitably came down to this…
Claimant stated that he voted for the Ordinance of Secession. We regard a vote for the dissolution of the Union and the overthrow of the Government as inconsistent with local adherence to the Cause of the Union and the Government of the United States. We reject the claim.
… and there you have it. A Southern Unionist… I feel certain… but, not one who went to the point of defying secessionists who threatened him with violence, and perhaps his very life.
Oh yes… and about that romance between George Hillyard and Ann Jemima Windle… they still stuck it out, and were married. Ann died in 1878, while George went on to marry again. Still, in those 13 years after the war, between the end of the war and Ann’s death, one has to wonder just how those family holidays at the Windle house may have been…