Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Glengarry McDonalds of Virginia
Chapter 13 - Edward H. McDonald


Edward Allen Hitchcock McDonald, fourth child and second son of Angus William McDonald and Leacy Anne Naylor, (his wife) , was born in Romney, Hampshire County, Virginia, Oct. 26th, 1832, and was named Edward, for his father's only brother, and Allen Hitchcock after Gen. Ethan Allen Hitchcock, of Massachusetts, his father's classmate at West Point and life-long friend.

The early years of his life were spent in Romney, where he received an excellent education in the private schools of the town. When only about eighteen years of age, about the time he should have been starting to college, the demands of a large and growing family, causing somewhat of a financial strain in his father's affairs at that ,juncture, Edward, with characteristic unselfishness, voluntarily proposed to give up a college course, such as all his brothers enjoyed, and enter at once into business.

His father consenting, he went to Baltimore and obtained a situation in a wholesale silk house, where his fidelity and energy soon won for him speedy promotion. He did not remain there more than a year, however, when he returned home to take the superintendance of large lumber and milling interests, which his father had undertaken to develop in another part of the county, lying contiguous to the B. and O. B. R., near the site of the present town of Keyser. And the knowledge which he then gained of the surrounding country and its people, stood him in good hand a few years later when his State became involved in war.

During his residence at this place, he had applied himself to the study of law and by a curious coincidence he had gone to Warrenton, Virginia, to stand his examination before Judge Tyler and receive his license the very day that Fort Sumter was fired upon. Returning to his home in Winchester, he met General Harper, who was passing through there on his way to Harper's Ferry, and at once joined him as volunteer aid, and with his command, entered Harper's Ferry y by the light of the burning arsenals and Government shops, which had been fired by the retiring Federal troops.

Soon after the occupation of Harper's Ferry by Gen. Harper, Virginia was appealed to by the citizens of Baltimore for troops and ammunition to aid them in preventing Federal soldiers from passing through her territory to invade the South, and an order from Richmond directing Gen. Harper to send 1,000 rifles, reached his headquarters late that night —after the General and his staff had been asleep for some time.

Immediately upon its receipt, however, Gen. liar-per summoned Col. Harmon, his quartermaster, to make the necessary arrangements to ship them. But Col. Harmon urged that it would be impossible to do anything that night; to which Gen. Harper finally agreed.

McDonald then suggested the danger of delay in so important a contingency and volunteered to perform the service at once if furnished with a detail of men sufficient to carry the arms. His suggestion was adopted and the necessary order was given and the men of the 2nd Virginia Infantry, afterwards of the famous '`Stonewall Brigade," packed the guns in a car with straw, an engine was ordered from Martinsburg and within one hour the car was on its way to Baltimore with McDonald riding on the rear bumper.

He reached there by daylight they next morning, and was heartily welcomed by Marshall Kane and his men. The Confederate colors alone were in evidence everywhere, and these brave men were determined to resist the passage of Federal troops through their city.

As Major McDonald was about to take the cars for Harper's Ferry that evening, he met President Garrett of the B. and O. R. R., who invited him into his office and told him that Baltimore had never before been so crowded with supplies, that all communication with the North had been cut off and nothing could leave the city, while trains from the West were bringing in fresh supplies all the time.

He begged that the authorities at Richmond be apprised of the state of affairs and urged the importance of moving the troops from Harper's Ferry to Baltimore without delay, and declared that. the Susquehanna instead of the Potomac should be the line of defense.

McDonald was next sent to Romney to bring two companies of volunteers to Harper's Ferry. When they were about to march away, the wife of one of the men was so distressed at parting with her husband that Edward offered himself as a substitute, and took his place in the ranks. After some service at Harper's Ferry, they were sent back to Romney and from there they were ordered to destroy a certain bridge on the Baltimore and Ohio R. R. about a mile east of Keyser, and known as "Twenty One" bridge, and here he became the hero of almost the first actual engagement of the war in that immediate neighborhood. [I heard Dr. Lewis, of Culreper. Virginia, who was Surgeon of this expedition, tell of this incident as few days after it occurred.]

As they neared the vicinity of the bridge, which was guarded by a grin trained in their direction, considerable confusion was apparent among both men and officers, until McDonald stepped from the ranks and flourishing his musket overhead, called out, "Men follow me," and led them all, officers and melt, down the steep embankment, through the stream, and up the other side at a double quick, putting the enemy to a hasty rout, thus enabling the main body to capture the gun and destroy the bridge.

This was one of the initial incidents in a very active military career, which was not interrupted through the four historic years which followed, except by sickness and imprisonment. [Major McDonald was detailed on one occasion to escort a number of prisoners, captured at Cedar Mountain, to Richmond and became on very friendly and amicable terms with some of them, during their long march. Colonel Chapman in command of a Connecticut regiment, was so impressed with his kind treatment and his intercourse generally, with the officers of the guard, that at parting 1e presented Major McDonald with his shoulder-straps and sash.] Soon after the return of this expedition to Romney, all volunteer regiments were ordered to join Gen. Joe Johnson at Manassas, and Colonel E. H. McDonald was ordered by him to leave the company in which he was then doing duty as private and take command of his regiment, the 77th Virginia militia, and report to his father, Colonel Angus W. McDonald, who at that time with his regiment of cavalry, was guarding the outposts in the neighborhood of Romney.

Soon after reporting for duty, Colonel E. H. McDonald was posted below Romney with twenty-seven of his men at a narrow part of the road which ran between the river and the base of an overhanging rock, [The description of the pass of Killicrankie tallies almost identically with the locality where this encounter with the Federals took place.] and as two regiments of the Federals unsuspectingly entered this narrow passway, they were suddenly startled by the rapid fire of musketry immediately overhead, to which they at once replied, but Colonel E. H. McDonald quickly realizing the immense advantage of his position ordered his men to throw their guns aside and avail themselves of the rocks which lay in profusion all around them, and they literally rained these deadly missiles upon the heads of the troops below, scattering the two regiments and obliging them to retreat in the greatest confusion.

It was not long after this that the militia were disbanded and he raised a company of cavalry, known as Company D of the 11th Virginia, Laurel Brigade, which saw steady service until the close of the war, and one of his most thrilling experiences occurred while with this company, and serves to prove not only his intrepid courage, but his coolness and daring as well. In an engagement with the Federals at Darkesville, a little town near Martinsburg, Virginia, where he met the enemy at very close quarters, and at a great disadvantage as to numbers, he heard a Federal officer tell one of his sharp-shooters to aim at the man on a white horse, which was Maj. McDonald himself, at that time in command of the regiment, which was doing scout duty. The man, so instructed, to make sure of his object, placed his gun against the pillar of a porch, where he had taken refuge, and coolly leveled his rifle, but his intended victim was on the alert, and quickly realized his danger, as he had already empted every barrel of his pistol; but with true strategic instinct he hurled the empty revolver at his would-be murderer, which, although it fell short of its mark, served to divert the deliberate aim, and the deadly ball only grazed McDonald's cheek in its swift passage. His brother William was a private in Company D at this time and fought with great gallantry on this occasion.

About the 1st of December, 1862, Major McDonald was sent on a reconnoisance to Moorefield, and also to recruit his company in both men and horses. While on this service he was surprised by a force of two hundred Federal Cavalry, and with several of his men was taken prisoner and sent to Camp Chase, where he was confined for some months. Finally he was sent with a boat-load of prisoners down the river to Vicksburg, to be exchanged, but just as they neared that point, the order for the exchange was recalled and the disappointed captives started on their way back to prison again, but McDonald had made up his mind that he would not return with them, and immediately set about planning a way of escape.

Suddenly all sentries were doubled, as if the prisoners were suspected and there was renewed vigilance on the part of the guards. McDonald bided his time, however, and when they had gotten some distance up the river the boat put in shore to rid themselves of some of the prisoners who had developed smallpox. Now was his opportunity, and he was quickly on the alert to avail himself of it. One of his comrades agreed to feign sudden and violent insanity, while McDonald and another confederate offered to carry him ashore. The ruse was successful and the three made good their escape. When the boat had gotten a safe distance from shore they appeared on the banks, singing Dixie in most exultant tones, but a few shots in their direction was the only attention bestowed upon them, no effort being made for their re-capture. After many hardships in the dense jungles of the Mississippi swamps they found friends who helped them on their way, and ere long McDonald was once more with his command, ready for the Spring campaign, and very soon the 11th was starting on one of its memorable expeditions down the Valley, and in the course of the very first skirmish which ensued, McDonald, whose impetuousity sometimes got the better of his prudence, came within an ace of being captured again.

So conspicuous was his gallantry on this occasion, that Colonel Funsten, commanding the regiment, in his official report, says: "It is always a delicate point to discriminate among those who have done their duty faithfully, but I cannot forbear to mention Captain Harness, E. H. McDonald and F. A. Dangerfield."

McDonald was sent by General Jones soon after this to destroy some bridges in the vicinity of Altamont. Harmon had also been engaged in the same occupation and when the 11th, under McDonald sought to rejoin Harmon, they found that the burning bridges had aroused all the countryside and the roads were now infested with hostile bushwhackers, so that the 11th had literally to fight its way back to headquarters over devious bypaths and through swollen streams. About. two months after this was fought the memorable battle of Brandy Station. admitted by all historians to have been the greatest cavalry battle of modern times, and the Laurel Brigade, under General Jones, played a conspicuous part in it, and McDonald's name occurs several times in General Jones' official report. His regiment, the 11th, capturing 122 of the 428 prisoners taken.

,It was about this time that Captain McDonald was promoted to be Major of his regiment, and led it gallantly through many of its hard-fought encounters. I remember an incident related to me by General Rosser, who was laughing at Major McDonald one day for his jealousy of the 11th's reputation and his pride in its record. It was at the beginning of one of their numerous encounters with the Yankees, when, Gen. Rosser said, great confusion prevailed, and he presently recognized McDonald right amongst the enemy cutting right and left with his sabre; he called out, "McDonald, where is the 11th?" "Here she is, General," responded McDonald, confidently, above the din of the clashing sabres. `But," commented General Rosser, "I could only recognize three or four of the 11th beside McDonald himself."

Following are copies of some of the orders which he faithfully executed:

Headquarters Cavalry Division. Leesburg, Va.,
Sept. 5th, 1862.

SIR:—You will proceed with despatch and secresy, with your command along the line of the R. R. (B. and O.) to break it up from Martinsburg as far as Black Creek, or Cacapon. Destroy all the bridges, water tanks, &c., keeping your men well in hand and concentrated on single points at a time.

Endeavor in all cases to surprise the enemy and accomplish your mission. Having made your work thorough, you will join your brigade without delay by way of Harper's Ferry.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Ma;i. Gen., Commanding.

The following one from Gen. Lee commits him to an even more responsible and perilous mission than the preceding one.

Headquarters Lee's Cay. Division.
Mar. 16th, 4:20 P. M.

General Fitz. Lee directs that you take charge of the details from the different commands, which will report to you at Mrs. Winston's gate and cross the Pamunkey at Hanovertown.

You will work all night, getting in front of the enemy, who are moving towards the White House; and blockade all the roads leading to that point.

This a most important duty and Gen. Lee relies upon you to effectually check the march, until our forces can get at them.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Lt. and A. D. C. Major commanding 11th Va. Cay.

The ensuing was probably among his last orders, as very soon after that he developed typhoid fever and was sent to the hospital in Richmond.

Special Order No. 110.
Headquarters Rosser's Cavalry.
Feb. 27th, 1865.

Major E. H. McDonald will proceed without delay to the vicinity of New Market and collect all the companies on detached service, wheresoever serving, belonging to the "Laurel Brigade," and order them to whatsoever point he may think advisable; to prepare for the advance of the enemy, and take command of them, and use them as the exigencies of the case may require.

Taos. L. ROSSER,
Major General.

For Major McDonald.

A severe illness of typhoid fever compelled him to be away from his command most of the Spring of '65. And though still very weak and with a thirty days furlough in his pocket, he joined it again, as they began falling back before Grant's army in the direction of Appomattox. In almost the last day's fighting he received his first wound, though he had been in active service continuously from the beginning of hostilities. The ball entered his face, fracturing the lower jaw and lodging near the windpipe. And he rode alone on his horse to the hospital in Charlottesville, where his three brothers, Angus, William and Harry nursed him for several weeks.

In his very weakened condition, the doctors deemed it unwise at first to attempt to remove the ball, and bent all their energies to building him up before venturing upon the very delicate and dangerous operation. He could only make known his wants by means of pencil and paper, and was nourished exclusively on liquid food.

One morning as he sat propped among his pillows, he noticed the doctors gathered in a knot, as if discussing some very grave point, and he insisted, by means of his pencil, upon knowing just what they were discussing. They finally disclosed that they had come to the conclusion that the ball, which was dangerously near a vital point should be removed, but at the same time were afraid to administer chloroform; with a flash of his old fire he quickly responded, "Leave off the chloroform and cut it out, I can stand it." And they did!

Doctor Cabell, one of the surgeons, said afterwards that he had never before, in all of his practice seen such superb nerve and courage. He fortunately bore the operation well and was finally restored to health.

He went back to the valley and with his brother. William rented "Cool Spring," one of the largest and finest farms in Clarke County. Each had his horse, and with no other capital than their good name, they soon stocked the farm and successfully embarked in their new enterprise. Edward managing the farm and William a boys' school, which was soon established.

Major McDonald had an amusing experience soon after the close of the war, when he ventured to visit the mining town of Piedmont in 'Vest Virginia, located on the B. and 0. R. R. It was only a few miles from Keyser, where he had formerly lived, and owning property there, he had many acquaintances among all classes. Situated as it was on the Northern boundary line, it was decidedly "Union" in its sentiments, and as Major McDonald had been the leader in a good many successful raids in that section, there was naturally much bad feeling towards him, and many threats had been made against his life should he ever visit the place again.

Notwithstanding, however, the many rumors which had reached him to that effect, McDonald decided to risk a visit at the first convenient moment. An inherent love of adventure, as well as curiosity to know the condition of his property in the inhospitable town, soon prompted him to start on his journey; which was made on horseback from Cool Spring in Clarke County to Piedmont.

He had scarcely reached the hotel there before he was made to realize the antagonistic atmosphere around him. One man alone, by name of Pennington, whose son had been in the Confederate army, seemed anxious to speak to him, but McDonald was afraid to take the initiative for fear of compromising him. Finally, after walking up and down the room for a little while, Pennington stopped suddenly in front of McDonald and offered his hand, saying with a tragic air, "With all thy faults, I love thee still," and as suddenly dropping his hand turned quickly away, though McDonald was conscious that he had left something in his hand, which upon investigation proved to be a "greenback." He had truthfully divined the most urgent need of an ex-Confederate at that juncture, e, and had in the most delicate manner endeavored to supply it.

Presently three men approached him, one of them advancing a little, said they represented a thousand others, and unless he left the town at once they would cluck him in the river. The hotel-keeper, who had been a Federal soldier, hearing of their threat said at once McDonald should not go, that he, with the other Federal soldiers present, would see that his parole given at Appomattox under which he was guaranteed protection, should be respected.

A telegram was at once despatched to Gen. Grant apprising him of the state of affairs, to which came the reply, "Protect him at all hazard." And before long a crowd of a hundred men had gathered around the hotel bent on defending McDonald.

The mob soon dispersed now and his friends brought a brass band and serenaded him.

He remained at Cool Spring about four years, when William moved to Kentucky. But the old bond which had always existed between the brothers could not be severed and very soon Edward, too, left Virginia and followed him to Kentucky, settling in Louisville. Here he established the first title Company in the State, and conducted its affairs very successfully for a number of years. On October 12th, 1869, he was married to Miss Julia Yates Leavell, of "Media," Jefferson County, West Virginia, a daughter of the Rev. W. T. Leavell.

During his residence in Louisville, he and his brother William established the "Southern Bivouac," which at the time was the only magazine published devoted exclusively to the interests and preservation of Confederate history. It finally passed into other hands, and was eventually bought out by the Century Company. He was a prominent and active member of the George B. Eastin Camp of Confederate Veterans. He was also a member of St. Andrew's Protestant Episcopal Church and for many years a vestryman.

He finally decided to return to Virginia and make his home, he accordingly moved with his family of seven boys and three girls to his farm "Media," in Jefferson County, West Virginia, where he has since resided, and with such success that the United States Department of Agriculture has published a bulletin of his fare for general circulation, giving the details of its management, with many tables and notes, as to the cost of producing the various crops, etc., showing that the plough has its victories as well as the sword.

The children of Edward and Julia were: Edward LeaveIl, Anne Yates, Julia Terrell, William Thomas, Angus W., Peerce Naylor, Mary Aiglonby, Marshall Woodrow, John Yates, and Francis, who died in infancy.

They also lost their second daughter, Julia, who had developed into a most attractive and lovely woman, soon after her marriage.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus