Allan Lane McDonald was born in Romney,
Virginia, on October 30th, 1849, the Second son of Angus W. McDonald and
Cornelia Peake (his wife)
to my letter, asking Allan for some reminiscences of his early life, he
has sent me the following interesting narration, which I give in his own
'`It is difficult to recall, without
notes or memorandum, the happenings and incidents that made up one's
life fifty years ago, especially when that life took an active and
observing part, within its sphere, in the momentous period of 1861-65;
when there was Something doing all the time.
"Early in June, 1861, I left Winchester
to join my father at Romney, mounted on the horse which Jimmie Clark had
presented to him, in company with Dr. Scott of Richard Ashby's company.
That ride of forty-two miles convinced me that I was a soldier, Which
conviction was materially strengthened, when I was assigned to
headquarters as Pa's personal orderly; and I at once assumed the duties
General of everything going on in camp.
Pa began to be troubled with rheumatism shortly after that time and I
became his assistant in dressing. When orders came to move at once to
Winchester, we made a night march, my father riding in an ambulance and
I at his side. We arrived at Manassas on the morning of July 22nd. From
there Pa went to Richmond to arrange for supplies for a campaign in West
Virginia. We stopped at the Spotswood Hotel, where he met many of his
friends, among them Mr. Davis, General Winder and others. I remember
many useful lessons he taught me at this time. One was not to whistle to
the waiter in the dining room, and another was how to tie my cravat, in
which he gave me a practical lesson one morning, standing behind me and
performing the service with his own fingers.
On returning to the Valley again, Pa made
his headquarters in Winchester for awhile, making daily trips to the
camp of a part of his regiment, which was quartered at that time at
Hollingsworth Mill, and it was during this time that the incident of old
Col. Strother's arrest occurred.
About this time, Harry made a forced
march from Charles Town to Winchester, when the Federal troops appeared
near the latter place, and his decision and energy pleased my father so
much that he almost decided to take him in the army. I remember at one
time that Pa needed a map which had been sent among other things to
Clover Hill for safety and he told me one morning to get a horse and go
as quickly as I could and get the map. In making a short cut, I missed a
ford and was carried down the river and came near being drowned, but I
got to Clover Hill about eleven o'clock at night. stirred up the Bucks,
got the map, and started back to Winchester. arriving about 9 :30 next
morning. Pa was quite surprised at my prompt return and commended me
much for my energy.
"The Confederates finally evacuated the
Valley and I did not see my father again until about August, '63. When
we heard the booming of the cannon at the battle of Kernstown, Harry and
I made all haste to get on the scene and had many adventures. And while
we saw all the battles that were fought around Winchester at pretty
close range, no lack of care can be charged to Mother on that account.
While she had every confidence in our resourcefulness and carefulness,
and always commended our loyalty, she would never have consented to our
undertaking some of the things which we did undertake, if she had been
consulted beforehand. I was starting with her to church on the morning
of the battle of Kernstown, she turned back at the door for something,
and hearing the roar of the artillery. I made a break for the front gate
and she did not see me again until late that night. I met Harry on the
road and we joined teams and spent the day on the field.
"While the Federal troops camped on our
place that winter, burned all the fences, killed all the animals and
carried off everything they wanted, the vandalism was nothing to what
came later. When Gen. White fled from Winchester one night and blew up
the big magazine which set half the town on fire, I happened to be sick
in bed, but Harry went down to the fire and performed many deeds of
bravery in rescuing people and their goods from the flames.
About Christmas mother decided to send
Harry and me to Front Royal to carry some things, and we started on old
Kit, riding double. Before we had gotten very far on our way we met the
advance of Gen. Cluseret's command, who halted us, and after searching
and taking from us the things we were carrying, told us to stay where we
were until the other soldiers came up, but as soon as the opportunity
came we seized our saddle-bags containing our things and struck across
the country for Front Royal. On our return, laden with provisions, we
were stopped by the pickets and relieved of all our stores, and it was
very pleasant to sit there and watch them roast and consume the two
turkeys, which we had brought from Clover Hill, without being offered
even a drum-stick. We were finally allowed to go home, only to find
wreck and ruin on every side. The large pile of wood which Harry and I
had hauled and ricked up, had entirely disappeared, as well as all the
out-houses of every description. The main building alone was left
"During this winter Harry made several
trips outside the Federal lines. Flanking the pickets, swimming the
river, and exposed to all sorts of dangers, as he usually brought in
sums of money, sewed up, in the back of his shirt. He was as brave, able
and energetic as any man I ever saw, even when only a boy of fifteen.
"He never submitted to any assumption of
authority over him, by any of the Federals, no matter whether the man
was as big as a house, or wore the shoulder straps of a Lieutenant
General. I remember our being ordered out of a cherry tree once, by a
Federal wagonmaster. Harry refused to move, but later when he was on a
lower branch, the roan jerked._ him down and proceeded to chastise him.
Harry showed fight and presently had the man on his back and was
pommelling him like fury, when a soldier stepped up and interfered.
"Many soldiers were encamped on our
grounds, including the regiment of which Rutherford B. Hayes was
Colonel. When they were tearing down one of the out-buildings, Mother
stood by protesting against it, when one of the soldiers was very
insulting to her. She complained of it, and an officer told her if she
could identify the man he would be punished. The next day at parade I
went along the line with Adjt. William McKinley and identified the man
by his wearing a checked shirt, when McKinley at once ordered his
"I well remember the trouble we had over
the valentine that Mother painted and sent to Gen. McIlroy. Two "colored
ladies" were being offered seats by the General while two "white women"
were being dismissed with the words, "out you d---d rebels." They were
constantly threatening to take our house for a hospital before they
finally did, and Dr. Brown made every effort to get it for a small-pox
hospital, paid well for it afterwards when, Brothers Ed and Will
identified him among the prisoners that were afterwards captured.
"We had heard of the battle of Gettysburg
and knew of the retreat, but little dreamed how much it' meant until one
day brother Ed rode up to the door and called to mother: "Mother, if you
don't want to spend another winter here with the Yankees, get ready to
leave at once. Gen. Lee is falling back." The next morning Brother Ed
had two wagons at the door and we were ready to move. What things could
be gotten together on such short notice, were loaded in the big wagon
and with Harry as driver started out for Staunton. I, driving the other
wagon with mother and the younger children, while Kenneth brought up the
rear on old Bet.
"It was ninety-six long miles to Staunton
and most of the way we were compelled to keep to the side of the road to
avoid the Iong trains of artillery and wagons which were coming from
Maryland. At Willow Spring we were overtaken by Sisters Sue and Flora
and Miss Julia Clark, who were riding aristocratically in a carriage
with Bishop Joseph Wilmer, of Louisiana, as their escort. After many
adventures and vicissitudes we finally landed in Lexington. In September
I went to Richmond to be with my father, and we had quarters at the
corner of 11th and Broad streets at the house of Mr. Tabb, it being
convenient to the church, where the Court Martial, of which Pa was
president, was sitting. Here we began housekeeping. I was cook, nurse
and messenger and learned to prepare many a dainty meal, though I spent
a good deal of my time in the court room, listening to the proceedings,
and well recollect when John B. Tighe was tried as a spy.
"In December, my father was ordered to
Lexington to take command of the post. And our only means of
transportation there was by way of the canal. When we had gotten some
distance from Richmond we went into a very deep canal lock. The head of
the boat got caught under the stringers of the lock-gate and could not
be dislodged at first, while the water came rushing in and threatened to
drown the passengers. My father was sitting near the passage-way and as
the people came rushing cut of the rear door. he seemed to divine at
once what had happened. He rose from his seat, and steadying himself on
one crutch, he used the other to turn back the crowds that were rushing
to the front of the boat, and thus by his alert and prompt action
prevented a frightful accident.
"My father left Lexington on the morning
of June 12th. 1864, to avoid being captured by Hunter, who was
approaching with a large force, and as he left the house he put his hand
on my head and said, `My son, I leave your mother and your sister and
the younger children in your charge, and I am sure you will do your
duty.' Harry was to accompany him.
"It was during that summer that I went to
work on Mr. Rufner's farm. and with chopping wood, hunting and fishing,
in all of which I was assisted to the best of their abilities by my
young brothers, we managed to keep the wolf from the door very
"One evening as I was driving into town I
noticed that the boys were regarding me with a good deal of attention,
and presently one of them called out: `Harry has gotten back and he's
got a Yankee with him.' I at once ,jumped off the wagon and ran down
town and found that Harry had made his escape, and had brought a
prisoner with him from Pochahontas County. The following Spring he
joined the army and was attached to Brother Ed's command."
Immediately following the war, Allan
lived at Cool Spring and attended the school taught by his brother
William, for the next two or three years, and from there entered
Washington and Lee University.
He went west from there, finally settling
in Louisville, where he married Miss Fannie B. Snead, daughter of Mr.
Charles Snead, on Feb. 13th, 1878. They had five children, Charles,
Harry, Angus, Ellen Snead and Frances. He was associated with his
brother William for a number of years as teacher in the Rugby School and
when William finally returned to establish the Shenandoah University
School in Virginia, Allan maintained the Rugby in successful operation
two or three years longer, when he decided to go into other business.
He left Louisville in 1896 and took up
his residence in San Francisco. For a number of years he was on the
editorial staff of the San Francisco Call, but after the earthquake
there, he accepted a position with the California State Board of
Development, as its Secretary, which he still holds.
Warm-hearted to a fault, affectionate and
confiding, Allan was always easily susceptible to the influences
surrounding him, and in his early manhood seriously contemplated
studying for the ministry; he was for a long time, lay-reader at St.
Andrew's Episcopal Church, under Dr. Shield's pastorate.