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The Glengarry McDonalds of Virginia
Chapter 14 - His account of the Capture of Sir Percy Wyndham


The Capture of Sir Percy Wyndham in June, 1862, as Related by Major Edward H. McDonald, of 11th Virginia Cavalry.

General Turner Ashby, who commanded in that engagement, had but recently been made a Brigadier-General, and had been given the command of all the cavalry operating in the valley. * * * * On the night of June 5th, the last that Ashby ever saw (as he was killed next day) many of the men and officers of his command were gathered around his bivouac fire, discussing the incidents and skirmishes of the day—the unusual boldness of the enemy's cavalry being explained by the information gotten from the Federal prisoners, that their advance had been led by Colonel Wyndham, of the First New Jersey Cavalry, who had boasted that he would capture Ashby, and rout his men within a few days.

Early next morning our pickets were driven in and the enemy came dashing into Harrisonburg. We met their charge and drove them back, and after some heavy skirmishing we continued our retreat along the Port Republic road, over which the enemy had retired. When seven miles from Harrisonburg, Wyndham dashed into our rear and for a short time cur troops were thrown into confusion, but they soon rallied and checked the enemy's advance. Our regiment, commanded at that time by Colonel Funsten, marched near and south of the road.

Ashby rode up and directed Funsten to move his regiment to the rear and attack the enemy's flank—which required crossing several high fences and somewhat confusing the order of march. We crossed the road and saw the Federal cavalry formed on a hill about three hundred yards away, and as we charged they broke from their line and ran, leaving only Wyndham and a few others to occupy the hill. Dismounting from his horse, Wyndham came toward us saying: "I will not command such a d d lot of cowards," and unclasping his sword, held it for surrender.

I asked Holmes Conrad. who was then a private in my command, to take the sword and carry the prisoner to the rear, which he did; and he still has the sword, a fine Damascus blade.

So far as my personal recollection goes, the pursuit of Wyndham's Rangers proved much more eventful than the charge that broke them.

We picked tip a number of them right away, but those having good horses, set a hot pace and we went streaming after them.

Having accounted for the Colonel I looked around for the next in command—the Major—and was soon able to make him out in the crowd of fugitives. He was a heavy, squat-built fellow, and was riding, crouched low over his horse's neck. The peculiar manner in which he held his saber particularly attracted my attention. It stuck back over his shoulder very much at the angle a trooper would ordinarily carry his carbine. I didn't know what it meant then—I found out a moment later, however.

Now, I had shot the last load out of my pistol and it was up to me to bluff this Major into surrender or else whack him over the head. I called to him several times to halt, but he kept right on, at an even gait, as though he hadn't heard me and while I did my best to reach him, my horse was badly blown and I couldn't quite make it. I could see plainly enough that he was watching me out of the tail of his eye all the time, but he never made a move with his weapon.

At that moment a private, mounted on a better, or a fresher horse than mine, came rushing up on the other side.

"Surrender, there!" he cried with an oath and almost immediately getting even with him, made a vicious swing at the Major's head.

Like a flash the Major rose in his stirrups and by an astonishingly dextrous twist of his blade tore the private's saber from his hand and flung it away off down the hill. Then he made the most terrible swipe at the private which I thought would surely take his head off and it Would undoubtedly have done so had not the private been quick enough to dodge. He flung himself away back until his head almost touched his horse's rump and the Major's sword, in passing over, struck the vizor of his cap and knocked it off.

I had never before seen such swordsmanship. The Major then whirled on me.

"Good morning, sir," I said with my politest bow and keeping beyond his reach, passed on.

In another moment or so one of our boys came up with a Ioaded pistol and threatening to blow it hole through him, made the fencing Major surrender. He proved to be a German officer, Major Borsch, who had served with distinction in the Crimean War, and had come over to this country to fight the "rebels" for the fun of the thing, and was expert in all the tricks known to European soldiers.

That night we had both Wyndham and the German in our tent. They were both good fellows.


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