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The Glengarry McDonalds of Virginia
Chapter 6 - Col. Angus W. McDonald captured by Hunter


Col. McDonald remained in charge of the Post at Winchester until the evacuation of the place by Gen. Jackson the following Spring, March 12th, 1862, when he was left without a command. He accordingly proceeded to Richmond and reported to Gen. Cooper and while there awaiting an assignment he completed his report concerning the boundary lines of Virginia and laid it before the Legislature. But the discussion of the subject was postponed to a more auspicious time. Col. McDonald, whose whole heart and energies were absolutely absorbed in the cause of his country, spent much of his leisure at this time in perfecting models of a plan which he had originated for making more effective the guns of our stationary batteries along the Southern rivers. He also brought to the attention of the Chief of Ordnance, an improvement in small arms, which he had already submitted to the French Government. It is probable that neither project was of much practical value, and they are only alluded to here to show how entirely he was absorbed in the cause of the Confederacy.

He became more and more impaired in health, and in consideration of that fact he was assigned to duty on Court-martial in Richmond and after about a year's service in this capacity he was transferred to the Post at Lexington, Virginia, where his family were then living. His health, however, did not improve and he suffered constantly from violent rheumatic attacks, and he became in a short time very weak and infirm. Nothing disturbed him so much as the consciousness of his physical infirmities, and he often longed for the strength of his early manhood. While in command of the post at Lexington, news came of the approach of the infamous Gen. Hunter and his horde of vandals. As there was no force to resist the onward march of the desolating barbarians, preparations were made to evacuate the town. Loading a two-horse wagon with his private papers and several guns which were in the house, he took with him his son, Harry, a youth of sixteen and left the town. Leaving Lexington, as the booming of cannon announced the approach of the enemy, he proceeded on his journey in the direction of Lynchburg. What occurred from that time until he was lodged in the Wheeling prison is best told in the following letter:

Atheneum Prison, Wheeling, Virginia.

Sept. 6th, 1564.
Major-General Crook.

GENERAL:—If common repute among the citizens of the Valley of Virginia, has done you no more than justice, I may comfort myself with the assurance that this communication, if permitted to reach your hand, will promptly receive the attention of an educated and brave soldier, an intelligent gentleman and humane man. I am laboring, General, under painful and depressing difficulties; weakness of body disabling me from sitting up while I struggle to indite this for another to copy, with the conviction made stronger, each succeeding day, that on the morrow I shall he still more disabled and disordered. Without access to any intelligent friend, who could advise what should be said and what left unsaid, conscious that my memory is greatly impaired, my ,judgment muddy and obtuse,—with no power of arrangement. and no capacity to bring to my aid appropriate, much lass forcible language,—I feel that my only course is to speak right out what I know, as well as what I feel to be true, waiving any effort to marshal or select the most important facts.

Much must now remain untold; my present strength being inadequate to the labor of writing down even in the briefest manner, the half which should and shall be recorded, if God permits the restoration of my health.

I graduated at West Point in the summer of 1817, with I. D. Graham, Wm. M. Graham, Ethan A. Hitchcock and thirteen others, forming a class of seventeen. Why state this? Because it refers to a record, to which any may obtain access, indicates my age, and announces my- antecedents as those of a soldier and a gentleman. I refer to any and all of the class, and ask their testimony and judgment upon my claim to being "a soldier and a gentleman." Why put forth the claim? Because Gen. Hunter ignored it, and has treated me as though I were a convicted felon and blackguard.

After graduating at. West Point I remained in the service upward of two years, doing duty at Mobile, Mobile Point, and the greater part of the time with Major-General Hitchcock, now U. S. Commissioner of Exchange. In June, 1861. I received from the Confederate Government the appointment of Colonel of Cavalry, in the P. A. C. S. with orders to raise and organize companies of volunteers for a particular service. My first service in the field was in Hampshire County, Virginia, and commenced June, 1861.

About the 18th July, I left Hampshire with my command and did not return till about the last of August. On the 25th or 26th of October, my force of cavalry, becoming dismayed and panic-stricken by the presence of some ten times their number (of all arms) without having a man killed or wounded, retreated from Romney, leaving my entire baggage-train to be captured by the enemy. At the time of this disaster and for several months previous thereto, I was so disabled by rheumatism as to be able only with great pain and difficulty to mount my horse.

Early in November I was relieved from cavalry service and assigned to post duty and from that time till I was captured did no service in the field. On the 13th of last June I was in command at Lexington, Rockbridge County, Virginia. On the morning of that day I learned that Gen. McCausland did not expect to attempt the permanent defense of that post against the army under Gen. Hunter, then advancing against it. Having no troops under my command, and having already sent the Commissary and Quartermaster's stores away, and being unwilling to impose upon Gen. McCausland's small force the care of an invalid, I determined to shift for myself and as best I could escape capture.

I had provided myself with an ambulance, a pair of horses and driver, and had it loaded with my bedding, wearing apparel, and public and private papers as well as all the arms I had, intending to defend myself as long as I was able, against any squads of stragglers, marauders or scouting parties who might chance to come upon me. I aimed to keep as far from the line of the march of your army as I could. About an hour before the fire was set to the bridge opposite Lexington, I left there in my ambulance. The negro driver who had been sent by the Quartermaster to drive the ambulance, failing to make his appearance, my son Harry, a youth just turned sixteen, and who had been my nurse for nearly the whole of the preceding; twelve months, helping me to dress and undress, became also my driver.

Using my best judgment to avoid the route upon which Hunter's force would advance, I went that day to Mr. Wilson's, residing between the roads, leading, one to the natural bridge, and the other to Buchanan. Spending the night there I learned next day that the enemy would probably go by Buchanan, at least with part of their forces. I selected a place for concealment and defence and with Mr. Wilson, his servants, wagons, &c., moved to it the next day. It was about three miles and a half from the road leading to Buchanan, by which Hunter's force marched to that place. On the day that Hunter entered Buchanan about 12 o'clock, Lieut. Lewis and private Blake charged with a war shout upon my camp. They were fired upon and repulsed but returned about Sun-down in force (as Capt. Martindale and Lieut. Lewis afterwards informed me) about twenty-two in number, and again attacked my camp. After fighting them till my gun stock was broken and my right hand paralysed by a bullet wound, I surrendered myself and son as prisoners of war.

When I so surrendered, the enemy were distant from us about forty yards. Lieut. Lewis answered my proposal of surrender in the affirmative. After receiving our arms and learning that my son and self constituted my entire force (old Mr. Wilson having been killed, and the negroes and two other lads in Mr. Wilson's employ having run off) the men seemed much provoked that I had fought them at all (some of them having been wounded) .

They took all of my property, private as well as Confederate, leaving me nothing whatever except the clothes on my back, one great coat and blanket. All of this I expected and do not complain of, especially, as after discussing the matter, they came to the conclusion that I had a right to resist being captured. They all treated me as brave men treat those who have bravely resisted, as long as the power of resistance lasted.

I was hauled in my own ambulance with one of the wounded enemy and delivered to Major. Quinn, of the 1st Regiment of New York, Lincoln cavalry, whose behavior to us was that of a soldier and a gentleman. I expected no difficulty in obtaining a parole and Major Quinn went with me next morning, at my request to Gen. Hunter's headquarters, to introduce me.

After exacting the homage of making me wait at his door for some twenty minutes, Gen. Hunter opened the door and briefly inspected me, without any salutation or recognition of my presence in any way, and then closed the door and retired. After a few minutes, Col. Strother (Gen. Hunter's aide, I was informed), opened the door, looked at me with apparent ferocity and hostility, insulted me by his manner and questions and closed the door. After the lapse of a few moments more, Capt. Alexander, a gentleman, came out and informed me that Gen. Hunter would not admit me to see him and when asked the reason, he said that Col. Strother had declared that I had treated his father badly when he (said father) was a prisoner at my camp; which assertion I here pronounce entirely false, and a most foul slander upon my character, fabricated by Col. Strother (as I believe and have reason for so doing) to provide himself with a pretext of excuse to his Southern kindred and friends, for having ,joined the North rather than the South.

I have been told by one of his former friends, that Col. Strother had given him such a reason for having joined the North. It was essentially false, for he pilotted Patterson before his father had ever been arrested, charges preferred against him and sent a prisoner to my camp near Winchester, which was in the middle or latter part of August, 1861.

I take occasion here to most solemnly declare, in the presence of Almighty God, that I never treated old Col. Strother with unkindness of any description; that I never felt a sentiment of the slightest unkindness or ill-will against him; that, so far from it I have from my boyhood entertained for him the kindest regard, and the highest respect for the fidelity and truthfulness of his character. He had been kind to my father, was his fellow-soldier, tended him on his death-bed and was kind to me as his son. I never forgot it and was never ungrateful.

The most painful duty I have been called upon to perform since the war commenced, was that which required me to hold Col. Strother a prisoner in my camp and have the testimony taken upon the charges preferred against him.

General Hunter's ambition is not of the archangel type. Low-reaching and coarse, he is satisfied to achieve notoriety rather than noble deeds. In his judgment, the quality of bravery would be indicated by the amount of blood and carnage a soldier could cause and contemplate unmoved, rather than by the risk he would voluntarily incur of suffering wounds or death in his own person. Punishment with him would be felt and measured in proportion to the number of stripes and the depth of color with which the epidermis might be marked, rather than the mortification inflicted by an insulting touch. Thirty-nine lashes on his bare back would give him ,just three times as much pain (and no more or less) than thirteen laid on with the same force.

With such an ambition, endowments and tastes in harmonious accord, perfected in action by a cultivated experience, Gen. Hunter required but the very brief space of time he had given to weigh me in his judgment and satisfy himself of the amount of suffering he might inflict by indirection and stop safely short of the evidence requisite to convict murderous intentions of dealing assassin blows and injuries.

He declined to see me and consigned me to the care of his Provost-Marshal-General, one Major Harkins, whose constant practice in the duties of his office, as required to be performed by Gen. Hunter, had made this officer an adept in comprehending the wishes and appetites of his master, as well as in the selection of measures best suited to attain the object desired by him.

By Major Harkin's order I was placed under the more immediate charge of a man bearing title of Captain Berry, whose coarse, unfeeling and insulting behavior made life a burden, without the aid of the physical tortures he inflicted. He too had his inferiors: lower in office, but not in wicked characterists and tastes than himself. To such he turned me over, with orders, given in my presence and hearing, that I was to be hauled in a baggage-wagon and was not to be permitted to get into an ambulance or any spring vehicle. My son being with me to carry them, I was permitted to keep a blanket and great coat; my ambulance horses, bedding, etc., were left at Buchanan, and I was started in a baggage-wagon to grace Gen. Hunter's triumphal advance upon Lynchburg. Sustained by the strength and kind care of my son. I was enabled to bear, without fainting, the great suffering to which I was subjected by so rude a mode of conveyance.

On the morning of the day after we passed Liberty, on the way to Lynchburg, I was informed that my son was to be sent back with the other prisoners, and that I was still to accompany the army. But being unable to carry my blanket or great coat, I had to go without them. As an example of Capt. Berry's treatment of me, I will here state that on the morning I was parted from my son, Capt. Berry came to the prisoners' camp and in a loud voice announced that "old man McDonald was to march with the army." I replied that I was not able to march. Whereupon he declared that "Gen. Hunter's orders were that I should march, and by G—d! he intended that they should be obeyed."

I then informed him that I was not able to march and would not attempt it. To which he replied, "If you don't, you shall be hauled with a rope," and ordered ropes to be brought. After some delay and his telling me that "Gen. Hunter had not yet decided whether he would hang me or not" he inquired if I could not walk half a mile. I replied "that if sufficient time were allowed me I could." He then ordered me to move on and at that distance, said I could get into a wagon—reiterating his order to Sergt. Owen Goodwyn (of Baltimore, I understand), that I was not to ride in an ambulance or any spring vehicle and this, he said was Gen. Hunter's order. I tottered on till we came to the train and was then put into a wagon, the bottom of which was covered with boxes of nails and parts of boxes of horse-shoes and horse-shoe nails, with quantities of the same lying loose.

Such was the bed upon which a field-officer and an old man, upwards of sixty-five. paralysed with rheumatism of spine, hips and knee-joints, his right hand disabled by a recent wound, and reduced in health and strength by the three preceding; years of disease was by Gen. Hunter's orders to lie, while being, hauled with his ordnance and other baggage. The wagon in which I was carried was nightly required to stop near Gen. Hunter's headquarters; and special orders given that I was to receive only the ration which the private soldier received. In addition to this, that all human sympathy should be denied me. I was, by his minions and bootlicks, denounced as a bush-whacker, bridge-burner and the cruel jailer of old Col. Strother. The field officers, whom I sometimes approached for food all seemed averse to any intercourse with me, throwing up to me as true the alleged ill-treatment of old Col. Strother.

Of such character was my treatment (varied occasionally, by insults, curses and threats from Sergt. Goodwyn) from the time I was separated from my son until, upon his retreat, Gen. Hunter reached Charleston. Then the guard handed me over to the Provost-Marshal of that post—a Capt. Harris of New York I learned—who being a gentleman, and knowing the responsibility of his position as well as commiserating my situation, took it upon himself to suffer me, on my parole and in charge of a sentinel, to go to the house of an old acquaintance to get my supper and lodge for the night. Gen. Hunter coming to a knowledge of these facts, sent for Capt. Harris and rebuked him for his kindness and required him to have me brought back and kept in the guard-room, where on a board shelf, knocked up for my comfort by the officer of the guard, I passed the night.

Such were my accommodations while we remained at Charleston. From my capture until we arrived at that place, some eighteen days, no means were ever afforded me to even wash my face. All my clothing had been taken, not even a clean shirt allowed me. My treatment until I reached Cumberland, continued equally harsh and insulting. Aboard the steamboat from Charleston to Parkersburg, I was put on the boiler-deck under Capt. Reynolds, of New York, who at the risk of displeasing his superior officers, treated me kindly.

At Cumberland orders were given by Hunter that I was not to be permitted to receive any food or refreshment from the citizens, or allowed to purchase any; that my fare was to be only the ration issued to privates in prison. From the military prison at Cumberland I was ordered to be taken to the County jail, then hand-cuffed and locked within a cell eight feet by ten, with a guard of four men to watch over me and see that I did not escape, or receive any prohibited comforts from outside. The cell in which I was confined was one next to a felon, who was taken out of his and hung a few days after I arrived there. From Cumberland, on or about the 14th of July, I was sent to this prison (under a guard who treated me with kindness en route) and locked up in a large room with some fifty men of all kinds, when I arrived; but as many as three hundred have been confined therein since my arrival.

For one day after my arrival my hand cuffs were left off, but on the second night the jailer informed me that he had received from Gen. Hunter a telegram, saying that I should be hand-cuffed and allowed no more accommodation than a private prisoner. I was kept in irons and upon prison pare for thirty days, during which time General Hunter was deprived of the command of this department. A soldier succeeded him and my fetters were removed; and since the date of such removal I have been treated as all other prisoners of war are treated in this prison.

General Crook, the privations and sufferings to which I have been subjected have made such inroads upon my health, that I have not been able to sit up and write since the date of this letter, now some sixteen days. I have been informed by the newspapers that Col. Crook of the U. S. Army, a prisoner in the Confederacy, has been taken into special custody to receive parallel treatment to such as I may receive. As soon as I heard of it I wrote a letter to President Davis of which the enclosed is a copy.

Now, General, if he has suffered the half that I have, he and I have suffered far more than falls to the Iot of one prisoner of war in a thousand, and our respective governments should not delay our parole or exchange. The stabs which I have received continue their effect upon my general health, and I can scarcely hope ever again to see my family, if am kept a prisoner much longer. I fear that even now, though I may start, I can never reach my home. I enclose a copy of a certificate of the surgeon of the prison, given me at its date, since which I have not been able to set out of my bed and dress, or even to sit up while writing this letter. May I not, General Crook, ask your aid to have me released either by exchange or upon parole, at the earliest possible time; and in the meantime that I may be sent a prisoner to Point Lookout, Baltimore, or Washington, on parole, that I may recruit health sufficient upon which to pursue my journey home when exchanged, or if allowed to go home upon parole.

I remain, sir, yours respectfully,
A. W. McDONALD,
Colonel P. A. C. S.

N. B. I enclose the surgeon's certificate, in the hope that I may receive the liberty of the city on my parole, and if nothing more, transferred to the post hospital. A. W. McD.

While Col. McDonald was suffering such incredible torture his family knew nothing of it. They had heard through his son, Harry, who had escaped from the Federal guards, that Col. McDonald had experienced some harsh treatment, and they were fearful lest his health might be still more impaired by being transported so far over land. But they never dreamed that an innocent, feeble old man with his rank in the army well-known, would be permitted to be hand-cuffed like some vile criminal, and cast into a loathsome dungeon. Information of his cruel treatment was first received through a letter dropped into the Lexington post-office, without post-mark or signature. Who mailed it has never been known, although the bearer must know that Col. McDonald's family would befriend him forever for that act of kindness. The envelope, which was addressed to his wife, contained the following:

"Cumberland Jail, July 10th, 1864.

To my wife and children, I wish two drawings made. First; My conflict (backed by my gallant Harry) with the 22nd New York cavalry, 1st Lincoln regiment, and our capture by them; and I hereby testify to their bravery as soldiers and their courtesy and humanity as captors.

"Second: Myself as a prisoner in tattered and soiled garments, with iron fetters locked on my wrists, and guarded in a cell seven by ten feet, in my uniform coat, the marks of rank, except the stars, nearly all worn off. These two drawings on one canvas, I wish to have multiplied, that every child and grandchild of mine living at my death may have one, to testify to him or her and his or her descendants, that the liberty and independence of themselves and their native land is worth all I have done and antlered and as much more as I may be called upon to do or suffer.

ANGUS McDONALD, Colonel P. A C. S."

On the other side of the paper was written the following:

Not to secure but to torture; and furnish color of evidence that Col. Strother was urged by private wrongs done his father to join the North in its war upon his native State. On the 9th of July, 1864, Gen. Hunter instigated by Col. Strother, his aid and relative had a felon's hand-cuffs locked upon the old, enfeebled and rheumatic wrists of Col. McDonald and incarcerated him in a cell."

Upon receipt of this, his family at once took all possible means to procure a retaliatory measure from their government. And Col. Crook, a federal prisoner at Andersonville, was ordered to be incarcerated and hand-cuffed. This order, however, was never carried out, though it was spoken of in the papers and no doubt the impression prevailed at the North that it had been executed. As soon as Col. McDonald learned of it through the public press, he at once wrote Mr. Davis urging him to prevent it, "for," he said in his letter to Mr. Davis, "Col. Crook is a brave soldier and has done nothing to merit such treatment, though," he added, "it might be just as well to let the U. S. Government think it is being done."

Upon investigation, however, it was found that the Confederate jailer of Col. Crook had never obeyed the order, in consideration of his poor health, though he allowed the impression to go abroad that he had executed the order. With what trumpet tones does this solitary instance, regarded side by side with the treatment of the infirm and suffering Col. McDonald, refute the charge of cruelty and inhumanity in the Confederate prisons, and proclaims the guilt of the slanderous North.

Through the instrumentality of General Hitchcock, Commissioner for the exchange of prisoners, Col. McDonald was finally released from prison and returned to Richmond the 7th of November, 1864. The shock which his system had received from the torture inflicted by his captors left him barely strength enough to reach Richmond. And perhaps the great physical torture with which he was racked, was small in comparison with the sense of mortification, which almost broke his proud heart.

A week following his return to Richmond he was taken seriously ill, and from this attack he never recovered. On December 1st, 1864, he died at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Thos. C. Green, Dr. James Bolton, of Richmond, was his attending physician and he received many loving attentions from both friends and strangers during the few short weeks intervening between his return and his death.

He was buried in Hollywood Cemetery, the funeral services being conducted by the Rev. Dr. Minnegerode of St. Paul's Church. The Masons, of which body he was an honored member, also assisted in the last rites. It was the blessed privilege of the compiler of these memoirs to be with her father during his last illness and he left a request that his sons, who were all at their posts in the army, should not avenge his wrongs. Long suffering had humbled him, not before men but God, and he died forgiving honestly and sincerely all his enemies.

He told us, his daughters, who were at that time the only members of his family in Richmond, some very touching experiences of his imprisonment. One was of a man whom he had befriended years before, a tailor, who came to see him in prison and observing his great need of apparel insisted upon taking his measure, and soon sent him an entire outfit with the receipted bill. Many of the citizens made efforts to relieve his necessities, but the Sisters of Charity first succeeded in gaining admittance and did a great deal to alleviate the condition of his last days in prison. On his departure by "Flag of Truce" they sent him a basket filled with provisions and delicacies for his trip, and not being able to make any acknowledgement of it at the time, he afterwards had his picture taken with the basket beside him. And it is to those same kind sisters that his family were indebted for a copy of that picture after the War.

One day, when in the Wheeling jail, watching the passage of the weary hours, there came by his window some Confederate prisoners, who were going to obtain their release by taking the oath. Getting upon a chair, in order to communicate with them, steadied by his fellow-prisoners, he raised his hands trembling with the weight of the fetters, to the small window and pointing to the stars on his collar, said "Look what that government has done to which you are going to swear allegiance." Most of them, indignant at the sight, refused to proceed, and the officer of the guard, furious at the interruption, had the only chair taken from the room, as a punishment for what he called "the stubborn old traitor."

He was a man whose faults were relieved by many noble traits of character. He was proud, but it was the pride of a noble soul which strengthened virtue and raised him above meanness of any sort. Uncompromising in his political animosity, his bosom was a stranger to personal malice. An open enemy and a dangerous one, he was yet always magnanimous to a fallen foe. He loved his friends with all the enthusiasm of youth, and never permitted the tongue of slander to sully their good name without striking a friendly blow in their defence. And he loved his country and "the Cause" next to his God.


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