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The Glengarry McDonalds of Virginia
Chapter 23 - Allan Lane McDonald


Allan Lane McDonald was born in Romney, Virginia, on October 30th, 1849, the Second son of Angus W. McDonald and Cornelia Peake (his wife)

In reply 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 language.

'`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 of Inspector

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 standing.

"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 arrest.

"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 comfortably.

"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.


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