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The Glengarry McDonalds of Virginia
Chapter 24 - Kenneth McDonald


Reminiscences.
[When I sent Kenneth some of the family sketches to read, his only criticism was that he thought 'I ought to write Iess of the war experiences and more of peaceful occupations. I proposed that he should write his own sketch, and his "reminiscences" are an amusing commentary on his own criticism.—(Ed.)]

Fifty years have passed since the first things which this little sketch relates, happened, and as it is all from my rather imperfect memory, there will doubtless appear statements somewhat at variance with the facts touching the war operations around Winchester and Lexington (Va.)

When the war broke out between the North and South, our home was in Winchester, Va., on the Romney road, about a mile from the centre of the town, and in a unique position for taking observations as well as being exposed to the dangers usually surrounding non-combatants.

At the very first, all the grown brothers, Angus, Edward, William, Marshall and Woodrow, had ;one into the conflict as Confederate soldiers, and with them our father also. This left Mother in sole command with Harry, fourteen years old, as her mails protector. At that early age, Harry believed and often said that he, also, should be in the Confederate army; so he never allowed an occasion to pass, when he or any of us was insulted or imposed upon by the Yankee soldiers, that he did not resent it. Although

I was five years younger than Harry, I was often with him. We were among the branches of one of Senator Mason's cherry trees one day, and two Yankees stopped and ordered us to come down. Harry at first refused, but when one of the soldiers raised his gun, he changed his mind. When he reached the ground, one of the Yankees struck him a heavy blow with his open hand, and received a very bloody nose in return, but Harry finally got the worst of it, and as usual in such encounters, we had to withdraw somewhat worsted. The Yankees would always start trouble by asking us if we were "Secesh," meaning Secessionists. The answer was always the same, that "we were." Then invariably followed some insult or violence. I was asked this question when I was alone one day, and gave the usual answer. The Yankee picked me up by the feet and dipped me head foremost into the spring till the water rose to my middle. I thought he was trying to drown me, but I can see now that he was exasperated at my impudence and only meant to give me a good scare.

It seemed to us, during these first years of the war, that the Confederates never tried to hold Winchester, but deliberately allowed the Yankees to take possession and lay up stores and ammunition to be taken from them by sudden attacks, which seemed to come at regular intervals. On one of these occasions, we saw by the hurried movements of cavalry, wagons, artillery, etc., through our place to and from the fort on a hill in the rear, to say nothing of the serious looks on the soldiers' faces, that trouble was brewing. The next morning about 9 o'clock, we heard cannon in the distance and immediately \vent up on the roof of the house, and lay there watching for what might happen. On a hill just across the Romney road, and not 400 yards from us, a regiment of Federal cavalry was drawn up. All had fine black horses and looked to be a perfect body of soldiers. They were armed and equipped to the last detail, but we remarked to each other that they must be concealing themselves for some sudden movement against the Confederates. Less than fifty yards in front of them, there was a dense thicket which completely hid them from view. Suddenly, a long line of smoke and blaze burst from the thicket and about one-fourth of the horses were riderless. The rest wheeled and rushed down against the six-foot stone fence, and broke a dozen rips through it, pouring out into the road, and scattering to any place of safety.

To make the picture complete, the "Louisiana Tigers" stepped out of the thicket in line, and continued to fire till the last Yankee was out of range. The rout may have started elsewhere, but we believed that this was the beginning. We came down from the roof and ran to the top of the hill and there beheld the entire Yankee army in full retreat, with the Confederates plainly in view, pursuing them. To make better speed, the Yankees abandoned wagons, sutler stores, everything, even their guns and knapsacks. We joined in the pursuit for a few miles, but were finally stopped by the load of things we had picked up. Allan's first prize was a lot of candy. He soon threw this away to load up with more oranges than he could carry. We all made several such changes, but the most notable was Allan's. He started home with a sword bayonet and an immense cheese about four inches thick. He carried it on his head in the hot sun, till his head went up through it, and then he threw it down. We could have gathered enough supplies to have lasted us all to this day. We made many excursions and brought home arms and ammunition to be hidden away in a secret place we had in the house, to be for months afterwards a source of anxiety to Mother, as the Yankees were certain to come back and search the house, as they had already done many times. This occasion was the exit of General Banks.

\Vhen the Yankees came back the next time, Col. Rutherford B. Hayes' Regiment camped in our apple orchard. As soon as their tents were pitched, they seemed to move in a body to our house, and then started a scramble for chickens, turkeys, pigs and every living thing on the place except ourselves. This was Christmas Eve and there were rusks in the kitchen stove for us. A Yankee soldier walked into the kitchen, opened the stove, and started to take out the pan of rusks. Mother was, of course, angry and desperate at being so helpless, but she took hold of the intruder use the back of his collar, and with the rolling pin in her right hand, ordered him to put the pan back. He did.

Col. R. B. Hayes shortly afterward made his headquarters in our house, which while it was galling in the extreme to us all, was, nevertheless, a protection to us. He always behaved as a gentleman should. He was ordered elsewhere shortly, and then we had our home to ourselves again, but our possession was confined to the house only. Every outbuilding and fence on the place had departed to make fire wood, or serve some other purpose for the soldiers. One private out-building was carried bodily to the camp and served as cook shed.

I said every living farm animal was taken, but one cow escaped, and thereby hangs a tale. There was no shelter left for the cow, so we had to keep her in the cellar. She was let out at night to pick up what food she could. There being no fences, she would wander far enough to get grass. Harry's duty was to get up before day and find her before the Yankees hail milked her. He was some times too late, and for the next three meals we had dry bread only, but there came a day in that winter when dry bread was almost a luxury. 'There were some real human beings among the Yankees. The man who had charge of the forage must have at least known that on several occasions a bale of hay dropped off the wagon right at our cellar door. It had hardly reached the ground before it had disappeared in the cellar. Nobody said a word, but that meant a certain supply of milk for at least a week or two. On one occasion, while the sergeant was sitting in the front door of the commissary tent, Allan and I lifted the rear flap, and softly withdrew a barrel of crackers which we hurried into our own scanty larder. I always believed that the sergeant knew what we were doing.

There were only two real battles around Winchester while we were there. The second was on the occasion of the exit of Milroy. After the Federals had occupied Winchester in comparative security for many months, we one day noticed very anxious looks on the faces of the Federals, and suspected that something was about to happen. We heard of skirmishes further up the Valley, which gradually grew nearer to Winchester and finally, one evening about dusk, after some cannonading from the hills around the town, General 'Milroy, pale and anxious-looking, rode through our yard up to his big fort on the hill in the rear of our place. That night, about ten o'clock, shells were screaming through the air, and we could see their course by the light of the fuse. They all pointed to and from the fort. Finally, all was quiet and everybody in our house went to bed. About four o'clock in the morning, we were awakened by what seemed to be an earthquake. Every window-pane in the house was broken, and we looked out of the windows, and saw over where the fort was, a light in the heavens. As soon as daylight came, we went to the top of the hill and found that Milroy had blown up his magazines and departed. Milroy had been a perfect tyrant over the people of Winchester; at least. he seemed so. He had caused our house to be searched at least half a dozen times; had ordered Mother to vacate it at least that many times in order that the Federals might use it for a hospital. On each occasion, Mother would put on her bonnet, walk into Winchester, go to General Milroy's office, and plead with him to leave her in peace, as she had no other shelter for herself and children. Each time, he would rip out a storm of oaths, abusing the Confederacy, from President Davis down to the infants in the cradle, and finally wind up by telling her she could stay. The man seemed to have had a heart in him after all.

During one summer while we remained in Winchester, the whole seven of us were sick with typhoid and scarlet fever. In the midst of this came the news of brother Wood's death on the battlefield of Gaines' Mill. I remember well how difficult it was in my fevered delirium, to fully realize what had happened, but a sorrowing household long afterward brought even the youngest to a full understanding of it.

During the winter of 1862 and '63, Harry made three or four trips to Front Royal to get money which our father would send there for us. He had to steal through the Yankee picket lines, both going and coming. He always succeeded but on one occasion came near being captured. He always took with him a whip, as if he were in search of the cow. lie found that he was about to be discovered by an approaching squad of cavalry, and quickly crept in the hollow space left by two Iarge logs being rolled together. He waited for the soldiers to pass on, but instead, they not only stopped, but camped right at those logs and built a fire against them. his suspense was long, but in a few hours they moved on, and he crept out and came home under the protection of the night.

On July 18th, 1863,—I remember because it was my eleventh birth clay,—the Confederates were again about to withdraw up the Valley of the Shenandoah, and again leave old Winchester to the tender mercies of her enemies. Our father sent word to Mother that she must not risk passing another winter at our old home and within the Federal lines. She started with little else beside a spring wagon Ioad of children, and another of household goods. Allan drove the spring wagon containing Mother and the four smaller children. To my delight, I was selected to ride an old lame horse. Riding on horseback such a distance, from Winchester to Charlottesville, to me was full of adventure, but after the first day I learned a lot about riding a horse. I found that for an inexperienced horseman, it was next to impossible to ride bare-backed two clays in succession in a sitting position. The second day I rode kneeling on the horse's back, lying across her back on my stomach, standing up on her rump—ally way but the right way, and wound up by walking some miles.

After waiting for a few weeks at Amherst Court House for orders, Lexington, Va., was selected as our final stopping place, and there we arrived with little else than the clothes we had on. The entire lot of children's clothes had been stolen on the canal boat. We were "refugees," and they were not very welcome in communities which had not felt the real pinch of war. While Mother was sitting with us around her, in her room at the Lexington Hotel, where we had established ourselves, without knowing how the bill was to be paid, a noble woman, Mrs. McElwee, called to see us, merely from the kindness of her good heart, and before she left she had invited Mother to bring the children and "board" with her at her beautiful home just out of town. Though nothing was said, both of those women knew in their hearts that our "board" would never be paid, in all probability. It was paid, though many years afterward, when we grew to be men.

A thing happened eight years afterward, while I was a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute, which nearly squared our account with the McElwees. I know that she thought so, at any rate. One cold winter morning when the ice on the North River was only one night old, the entire student body from Washington College and all the V. M. I. cadets were turned loose for a day's skating. As this scattered throng moved along the waving and snapping young ice, I remember noticing a spot which never froze, being over a spring. The ice got gradually thinner as it got nearer the hole. I had passed this place only a little while, when I heard a tremendous yell and looked around to find nearly everybody making for the shore,—anything to get away from that dangerous hole. A closer look showed me two little red mitts—all that could be seen—of some child struggling for its life in that bitter cold water. I must say that I forgot all about the danger, struck out for that hole, and when I was within about sixty feet of it, to avoid breaking in before I got to the child, I laid flat on my face and slid into the hole to find him gone under. I soon had him, though, and then had plenty of time to do a little thinking. It was a desperate struggle to keep that child's nose and mouth above the water, and with my military overcoat and skates on, I was soon nearly worn out. I had more than once decided that I would not let go of the child, though there was a strong temptation to try to save myself. Every other soul had gotten entirely off the ice, and were lined up on the bank shouting advice as to what I should do, when I could do only the one thing, hold that child and attempt to climb on the thin ice, to get a fresh ducking for myself and burden every time. I had nearly given up when a tall young cadet, who had not been one of the skaters, stepped out of the crowd with a thin fence rail in his hands, and walked as confidently on that bending ice as he would on a dirt road. The water came nearly up to his shoe tops. I remember that because I was desperately afraid he would break in before he reached me with the rail. He didn't break in, and handed me the end of the rail and pulled me with my load up on the ice and dragged us up where it was stronger. I then looked at the child and found that it was Mrs. Elwees' youngest boy Will. The tall young fellow who helped us out was Henry Murrel, of Lynchburgh.

The war operations around Lexington were small compared with what we saw in Winchester. The only thin; of note which occurred,—in fact the only time in which the Yankees appeared in force—was when General Hunter came through, having shelled the town from across the river. He burned the Virginia Military Institute, which had given to the Confederacy so many able officers, General Stonewall Jackson among the number; then he passed on, with hardly a stop, and on his way, overtook our father, who had been Commander of the post at Lexington, and captured him, carrying him to Wheeling as a prisoner. Which story is told elsewhere.

We lived in Lexington till the war closed. The store- of Harry's capture by the Yankees, when he was defending his father, is also told elsewhere. After long and anxious months of waiting, we were rewarded with his arrival home, hatless and shoeless, with two Yankee prisoners handcuffed. After lie had made his own escape, lie came upon these two soldiers asleep, and took away their guns, and having a pair of handcuff's which he had picked up, he could not resist putting them on the wrists of the two men, and marching them into Lexington in full view of the admiring throng of boys. Although Harry was only seventeen years old, he had the bodily strength of a mature man. I have seen him at that age pick up a barrel of flour and walk up the steps with it on his shoulder.

The six of us younger boys thought we were having a hard time in those awful days just after the var. It is painful while it lasts, but such an experience is not bad for a boy who must make his way in the world. We learned all about making and caring for a garden, raising four acres of potatoes a mile from home, in a field lull of stumps. Cutting wood on shares four miles in the hills, the owner delivering to us one-half of what we cut.

Thus the real pinch of hard times came upon us after the war was over. Mother was at a loss to know what to do to keep us clothed and fed. [By some means or other, Mother got hold of a quantity of curtains, bedding, etc.. which we had left at Winchester. They proved to be of inestimable value to us after the war, and during the latter days of it. Nellie was dressed in all manner of things made from the old curtains. The best clothes of the boy were made of bed-ticking. I had a letter only a few months ago from a man in Texas, who happened to find out where I was. He was a boy along with me in Lexington. In his letter he said that he remembered distinctly the first time he had over seen me. He remembered the neatness and care with which I was dressed. In my reply to him, I said that he ought not to have any difficulty in recalling the particular circumstance of my dress, as it was a full suit of bed ticking.]

Gradwally things began to brighten a little, when the two colleges at Lexington, Washington College (afterwards Washington Lee University) and the Virginia Military Institute, began to fill up with students. Mother saw an opportunity in the fact that all the Washington College students had to have a place to live, so she opened a boarding house, and for four or five years kept things going in that way. Harry went to Washington College and Allan went to Cool Spring, where Brother Will had a school and Brother Ed a farm. Afterwards, Allan came to Washington College. And upon leaving there he went to Texas. After spending a year and a half in Texas as a school teacher, lie came to Louisville and taught with his brother William in the Rugby School. I was placed at the Virginia Military Institute; my brother :Marshall defraying my expenses. I graduated there in 1873 and moved to Louisville to join Harry and Allan. The younger boys, Nellie and Mother coming with us. Louisville has been the family home ever since. With Harry's small experience as a civil engineer he opened an office as an architect, and after I came from the Virginia Military Institute (having graduated in civil engineering and what little they taught in architecture at that school), I went in with Harry as a partner, and with that start, the firm of McDonald Brothers, composed of myself, Harry and Donald, was organized, which firm practiced architecture for many years in the City of Louisville and the surrounding country. Roy naturally fell into the building profession as superintendent for us. He was appointed Inspector of Buildings for the City of Louisville, but ill health overtook him, and after some years, entirely disabled him. Donald left our firm to become Receiver for the Kentucky Rock Gas Company. His management of this was so successful that out of it grew the prosperous corporation now called the Kentucky Heating Company.

Kenneth McDonald was born in Romney, Virginia, July 18th, 1852, being the fourth child of Angus W. McDonald and Cornelia Peake (his wife) . After graduating at the V. M. I. he came to Louisville with the family and soon. afterwards the firm of "McDonald Brothers, Architects" was launched and grew into a successful business, being responsible for many handsome buildings and artistic homes in and around Louisville.

On November 20th, 1879, he was married to Miss America R. Moore, of Louisville, Ky. They have three sons, Kenneth, Allan and Graeme.

He is still a resident of Louisville and senior member of the popular and prosperous firm of "McDonald and Dodd."


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