McDonalds of Virginia
Chapter 13 -
Edward H. McDonald
MAJOR EDWARD ALLEN
Edward Allen Hitchcock McDonald, fourth
child and second son of Angus William McDonald and Leacy Anne Naylor,
(his wife) , was born in Romney, Hampshire County, Virginia, Oct. 26th,
1832, and was named Edward, for his father's only brother, and Allen
Hitchcock after Gen. Ethan Allen Hitchcock, of Massachusetts, his
father's classmate at West Point and life-long friend.
The early years of his life were spent in
Romney, where he received an excellent education in the private schools
of the town. When only about eighteen years of age, about the time he
should have been starting to college, the demands of a large and growing
family, causing somewhat of a financial strain in his father's affairs
at that ,juncture, Edward, with characteristic unselfishness,
voluntarily proposed to give up a college course, such as all his
brothers enjoyed, and enter at once into business.
His father consenting, he went to
Baltimore and obtained a situation in a wholesale silk house, where his
fidelity and energy soon won for him speedy promotion. He did not remain
there more than a year, however, when he returned home to take the
superintendance of large lumber and milling interests, which his father
had undertaken to develop in another part of the county, lying
contiguous to the B. and O. B. R., near the site of the present town of
Keyser. And the knowledge which he then gained of the surrounding
country and its people, stood him in good hand a few years later when
his State became involved in war.
During his residence at this place, he
had applied himself to the study of law and by a curious coincidence he
had gone to Warrenton, Virginia, to stand his examination before Judge
Tyler and receive his license the very day that Fort Sumter was fired
upon. Returning to his home in Winchester, he met General Harper, who
was passing through there on his way to Harper's Ferry, and at once
joined him as volunteer aid, and with his command, entered Harper's
Ferry y by the light of the burning arsenals and Government shops, which
had been fired by the retiring Federal troops.
Soon after the occupation of Harper's
Ferry by Gen. Harper, Virginia was appealed to by the citizens of
Baltimore for troops and ammunition to aid them in preventing Federal
soldiers from passing through her territory to invade the South, and an
order from Richmond directing Gen. Harper to send 1,000 rifles, reached
his headquarters late that night after the General and his staff had
been asleep for some time.
Immediately upon its receipt, however,
Gen. liar-per summoned Col. Harmon, his quartermaster, to make the
necessary arrangements to ship them. But Col. Harmon urged that it would
be impossible to do anything that night; to which Gen. Harper finally
McDonald then suggested the danger of
delay in so important a contingency and volunteered to perform the
service at once if furnished with a detail of men sufficient to carry
the arms. His suggestion was adopted and the necessary order was given
and the men of the 2nd Virginia Infantry, afterwards of the famous
'`Stonewall Brigade," packed the guns in a car with straw, an engine was
ordered from Martinsburg and within one hour the car was on its way to
Baltimore with McDonald riding on the rear bumper.
He reached there by daylight they next
morning, and was heartily welcomed by Marshall Kane and his men. The
Confederate colors alone were in evidence everywhere, and these brave
men were determined to resist the passage of Federal troops through
As Major McDonald was about to take the
cars for Harper's Ferry that evening, he met President Garrett of the B.
and O. R. R., who invited him into his office and told him that
Baltimore had never before been so crowded with supplies, that all
communication with the North had been cut off and nothing could leave
the city, while trains from the West were bringing in fresh supplies all
He begged that the authorities at
Richmond be apprised of the state of affairs and urged the importance of
moving the troops from Harper's Ferry to Baltimore without delay, and
declared that. the Susquehanna instead of the Potomac should be the line
McDonald was next sent to Romney to bring
two companies of volunteers to Harper's Ferry. When they were about to
march away, the wife of one of the men was so distressed at parting with
her husband that Edward offered himself as a substitute, and took his
place in the ranks. After some service at Harper's Ferry, they were sent
back to Romney and from there they were ordered to destroy a certain
bridge on the Baltimore and Ohio R. R. about a mile east of Keyser, and
known as "Twenty One" bridge, and here he became the hero of almost the
first actual engagement of the war in that immediate neighborhood. [I
heard Dr. Lewis, of Culreper. Virginia, who was Surgeon of this
expedition, tell of this incident as few days after it occurred.]
As they neared the vicinity of the
bridge, which was guarded by a grin trained in their direction,
considerable confusion was apparent among both men and officers, until
McDonald stepped from the ranks and flourishing his musket overhead,
called out, "Men follow me," and led them all, officers and melt, down
the steep embankment, through the stream, and up the other side at a
double quick, putting the enemy to a hasty rout, thus enabling the main
body to capture the gun and destroy the bridge.
This was one of the initial incidents in
a very active military career, which was not interrupted through the
four historic years which followed, except by sickness and imprisonment.
[Major McDonald was detailed on one occasion to escort a number of
prisoners, captured at Cedar Mountain, to Richmond and became on very
friendly and amicable terms with some of them, during their long march.
Colonel Chapman in command of a Connecticut regiment, was so impressed
with his kind treatment and his intercourse generally, with the officers
of the guard, that at parting 1e presented Major McDonald with his
shoulder-straps and sash.] Soon after the return of this expedition to
Romney, all volunteer regiments were ordered to join Gen. Joe Johnson at
Manassas, and Colonel E. H. McDonald was ordered by him to leave the
company in which he was then doing duty as private and take command of
his regiment, the 77th Virginia militia, and report to his father,
Colonel Angus W. McDonald, who at that time with his regiment of
cavalry, was guarding the outposts in the neighborhood of Romney.
Soon after reporting for duty, Colonel E.
H. McDonald was posted below Romney with twenty-seven of his men at a
narrow part of the road which ran between the river and the base of an
overhanging rock, [The description of the pass of Killicrankie tallies
almost identically with the locality where this encounter with the
Federals took place.] and as two regiments of the Federals
unsuspectingly entered this narrow passway, they were suddenly startled
by the rapid fire of musketry immediately overhead, to which they at
once replied, but Colonel E. H. McDonald quickly realizing the immense
advantage of his position ordered his men to throw their guns aside and
avail themselves of the rocks which lay in profusion all around them,
and they literally rained these deadly missiles upon the heads of the
troops below, scattering the two regiments and obliging them to retreat
in the greatest confusion.
It was not long after this that the
militia were disbanded and he raised a company of cavalry, known as
Company D of the 11th Virginia, Laurel Brigade, which saw steady service
until the close of the war, and one of his most thrilling experiences
occurred while with this company, and serves to prove not only his
intrepid courage, but his coolness and daring as well. In an engagement
with the Federals at Darkesville, a little town near Martinsburg,
Virginia, where he met the enemy at very close quarters, and at a great
disadvantage as to numbers, he heard a Federal officer tell one of his
sharp-shooters to aim at the man on a white horse, which was Maj.
McDonald himself, at that time in command of the regiment, which was
doing scout duty. The man, so instructed, to make sure of his object,
placed his gun against the pillar of a porch, where he had taken refuge,
and coolly leveled his rifle, but his intended victim was on the alert,
and quickly realized his danger, as he had already empted every barrel
of his pistol; but with true strategic instinct he hurled the empty
revolver at his would-be murderer, which, although it fell short of its
mark, served to divert the deliberate aim, and the deadly ball only
grazed McDonald's cheek in its swift passage. His brother William was a
private in Company D at this time and fought with great gallantry on
About the 1st of December, 1862, Major
McDonald was sent on a reconnoisance to Moorefield, and also to recruit
his company in both men and horses. While on this service he was
surprised by a force of two hundred Federal Cavalry, and with several of
his men was taken prisoner and sent to Camp Chase, where he was confined
for some months. Finally he was sent with a boat-load of prisoners down
the river to Vicksburg, to be exchanged, but just as they neared that
point, the order for the exchange was recalled and the disappointed
captives started on their way back to prison again, but McDonald had
made up his mind that he would not return with them, and immediately set
about planning a way of escape.
Suddenly all sentries were doubled, as if
the prisoners were suspected and there was renewed vigilance on the part
of the guards. McDonald bided his time, however, and when they had
gotten some distance up the river the boat put in shore to rid
themselves of some of the prisoners who had developed smallpox. Now was
his opportunity, and he was quickly on the alert to avail himself of it.
One of his comrades agreed to feign sudden and violent insanity, while
McDonald and another confederate offered to carry him ashore. The ruse
was successful and the three made good their escape. When the boat had
gotten a safe distance from shore they appeared on the banks, singing
Dixie in most exultant tones, but a few shots in their direction was the
only attention bestowed upon them, no effort being made for their
re-capture. After many hardships in the dense jungles of the Mississippi
swamps they found friends who helped them on their way, and ere long
McDonald was once more with his command, ready for the Spring campaign,
and very soon the 11th was starting on one of its memorable expeditions
down the Valley, and in the course of the very first skirmish which
ensued, McDonald, whose impetuousity sometimes got the better of his
prudence, came within an ace of being captured again.
So conspicuous was his gallantry on this
occasion, that Colonel Funsten, commanding the regiment, in his official
report, says: "It is always a delicate point to discriminate among those
who have done their duty faithfully, but I cannot forbear to mention
Captain Harness, E. H. McDonald and F. A. Dangerfield."
McDonald was sent by General Jones soon
after this to destroy some bridges in the vicinity of Altamont. Harmon
had also been engaged in the same occupation and when the 11th, under
McDonald sought to rejoin Harmon, they found that the burning bridges
had aroused all the countryside and the roads were now infested with
hostile bushwhackers, so that the 11th had literally to fight its way
back to headquarters over devious bypaths and through swollen streams.
About. two months after this was fought the memorable battle of Brandy
Station. admitted by all historians to have been the greatest cavalry
battle of modern times, and the Laurel Brigade, under General Jones,
played a conspicuous part in it, and McDonald's name occurs several
times in General Jones' official report. His regiment, the 11th,
capturing 122 of the 428 prisoners taken.
,It was about this time that Captain
McDonald was promoted to be Major of his regiment, and led it gallantly
through many of its hard-fought encounters. I remember an incident
related to me by General Rosser, who was laughing at Major McDonald one
day for his jealousy of the 11th's reputation and his pride in its
record. It was at the beginning of one of their numerous encounters with
the Yankees, when, Gen. Rosser said, great confusion prevailed, and he
presently recognized McDonald right amongst the enemy cutting right and
left with his sabre; he called out, "McDonald, where is the 11th?" "Here
she is, General," responded McDonald, confidently, above the din of the
clashing sabres. `But," commented General Rosser, "I could only
recognize three or four of the 11th beside McDonald himself."
Following are copies of some of the
orders which he faithfully executed:
SIR:You will proceed with despatch and secresy, with your command along
the line of the R. R. (B. and O.) to break it up from Martinsburg as far
as Black Creek, or Cacapon. Destroy all the bridges, water tanks, &c.,
keeping your men well in hand and concentrated on single points at a
Endeavor in all cases to surprise the
enemy and accomplish your mission. Having made your work thorough, you
will join your brigade without delay by way of Harper's Ferry.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. E. B. STUART,
Ma;i. Gen., Commanding.
The following one from Gen. Lee commits
him to an even more responsible and perilous mission than the preceding
Headquarters Lee's Cay.
Mar. 16th, 4:20 P. M.
General Fitz. Lee directs that you take charge of the details from the
different commands, which will report to you at Mrs. Winston's gate and
cross the Pamunkey at Hanovertown.
You will work all night, getting in front
of the enemy, who are moving towards the White House; and blockade all
the roads leading to that point.
This a most important duty and Gen. Lee
relies upon you to effectually check the march, until our forces can get
Very respectfully, your
C. MINNEGERODE, JR.,
Lt. and A. D. C. Major commanding 11th Va.
The ensuing was probably among his last
orders, as very soon after that he developed typhoid fever and was sent
to the hospital in Richmond.
Special Order No. 110.
Headquarters Rosser's Cavalry.
Feb. 27th, 1865.
Major E. H. McDonald will proceed without
delay to the vicinity of New Market and collect all the companies on
detached service, wheresoever serving, belonging to the "Laurel
Brigade," and order them to whatsoever point he may think advisable; to
prepare for the advance of the enemy, and take command of them, and use
them as the exigencies of the case may require.
Taos. L. ROSSER,
For Major McDonald.
A severe illness of typhoid fever
compelled him to be away from his command most of the Spring of '65. And
though still very weak and with a thirty days furlough in his pocket, he
joined it again, as they began falling back before Grant's army in the
direction of Appomattox. In almost the last day's fighting he received
his first wound, though he had been in active service continuously from
the beginning of hostilities. The ball entered his face, fracturing the
lower jaw and lodging near the windpipe. And he rode alone on his horse
to the hospital in Charlottesville, where his three brothers, Angus,
William and Harry nursed him for several weeks.
In his very weakened condition, the
doctors deemed it unwise at first to attempt to remove the ball, and
bent all their energies to building him up before venturing upon the
very delicate and dangerous operation. He could only make known his
wants by means of pencil and paper, and was nourished exclusively on
One morning as he sat propped among his
pillows, he noticed the doctors gathered in a knot, as if discussing
some very grave point, and he insisted, by means of his pencil, upon
knowing just what they were discussing. They finally disclosed that they
had come to the conclusion that the ball, which was dangerously near a
vital point should be removed, but at the same time were afraid to
administer chloroform; with a flash of his old fire he quickly
responded, "Leave off the chloroform and cut it out, I can stand it."
And they did!
Doctor Cabell, one of the surgeons, said
afterwards that he had never before, in all of his practice seen such
superb nerve and courage. He fortunately bore the operation well and was
finally restored to health.
He went back to the valley and with his
brother. William rented "Cool Spring," one of the largest and finest
farms in Clarke County. Each had his horse, and with no other capital
than their good name, they soon stocked the farm and successfully
embarked in their new enterprise. Edward managing the farm and William a
boys' school, which was soon established.
Major McDonald had an amusing experience
soon after the close of the war, when he ventured to visit the mining
town of Piedmont in 'Vest Virginia, located on the B. and 0. R. R. It
was only a few miles from Keyser, where he had formerly lived, and
owning property there, he had many acquaintances among all classes.
Situated as it was on the Northern boundary line, it was decidedly
"Union" in its sentiments, and as Major McDonald had been the leader in
a good many successful raids in that section, there was naturally much
bad feeling towards him, and many threats had been made against his life
should he ever visit the place again.
Notwithstanding, however, the many rumors
which had reached him to that effect, McDonald decided to risk a visit
at the first convenient moment. An inherent love of adventure, as well
as curiosity to know the condition of his property in the inhospitable
town, soon prompted him to start on his journey; which was made on
horseback from Cool Spring in Clarke County to Piedmont.
He had scarcely reached the hotel there
before he was made to realize the antagonistic atmosphere around him.
One man alone, by name of Pennington, whose son had been in the
Confederate army, seemed anxious to speak to him, but McDonald was
afraid to take the initiative for fear of compromising him. Finally,
after walking up and down the room for a little while, Pennington
stopped suddenly in front of McDonald and offered his hand, saying with
a tragic air, "With all thy faults, I love thee still," and as suddenly
dropping his hand turned quickly away, though McDonald was conscious
that he had left something in his hand, which upon investigation proved
to be a "greenback." He had truthfully divined the most urgent need of
an ex-Confederate at that juncture, e, and had in the most delicate
manner endeavored to supply it.
Presently three men approached him, one
of them advancing a little, said they represented a thousand others, and
unless he left the town at once they would cluck him in the river. The
hotel-keeper, who had been a Federal soldier, hearing of their threat
said at once McDonald should not go, that he, with the other Federal
soldiers present, would see that his parole given at Appomattox under
which he was guaranteed protection, should be respected.
A telegram was at once despatched to Gen.
Grant apprising him of the state of affairs, to which came the reply,
"Protect him at all hazard." And before long a crowd of a hundred men
had gathered around the hotel bent on defending McDonald.
The mob soon dispersed now and his
friends brought a brass band and serenaded him.
He remained at Cool Spring about four
years, when William moved to Kentucky. But the old bond which had always
existed between the brothers could not be severed and very soon Edward,
too, left Virginia and followed him to Kentucky, settling in Louisville.
Here he established the first title Company in the State, and conducted
its affairs very successfully for a number of years. On October 12th,
1869, he was married to Miss Julia Yates Leavell, of "Media," Jefferson
County, West Virginia, a daughter of the Rev. W. T. Leavell.
During his residence in Louisville, he
and his brother William established the "Southern Bivouac," which at the
time was the only magazine published devoted exclusively to the
interests and preservation of Confederate history. It finally passed
into other hands, and was eventually bought out by the Century Company.
He was a prominent and active member of the George B. Eastin Camp of
Confederate Veterans. He was also a member of St. Andrew's Protestant
Episcopal Church and for many years a vestryman.
He finally decided to return to Virginia
and make his home, he accordingly moved with his family of seven boys
and three girls to his farm "Media," in Jefferson County, West Virginia,
where he has since resided, and with such success that the United States
Department of Agriculture has published a bulletin of his fare for
general circulation, giving the details of its management, with many
tables and notes, as to the cost of producing the various crops, etc.,
showing that the plough has its victories as well as the sword.
The children of Edward and Julia were:
Edward LeaveIl, Anne Yates, Julia Terrell, William Thomas, Angus W.,
Peerce Naylor, Mary Aiglonby, Marshall Woodrow, John Yates, and Francis,
who died in infancy.
They also lost their second daughter,
Julia, who had developed into a most attractive and lovely woman, soon
after her marriage.
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