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An Account of William Williams Taken Hostage by the Confederates
Written By William Williams During the Winter of 1888
In the latter part of the Eighth Month, 1863, one Seventh-day night, 'We had some company and were enjoying ourselves, when I heard a knock at the front door. On going to see who was there, a pistol was pointed in my face and I was told that I was a prisoner and must go with them. The commotion drew my wife out and she insisted on knowing what I was taken for. The soldiers said I was taken as a hostage and would be home in a few days, but were evidently in no mood for talking, and seemed in a great hurry.
With some difficulty, Mary persuaded them to tarry until she could get my overcoat. They mounted me behind one of them and off we went. I pretty soon found another had my friend R. I. Hollingsworth, behind him-this was about nine o'clock. We traveled about six miles to the house of my friend Elijah Holmes, whose family was awakened by the noise and came out to see what was the matter. He proposed to the soldiers that if they permit us to lodge in a bed, he would furnish a room in which was another bed in which two of the guards could sleep. This was assented to and we retired for the night, but from the scratching kept up by the guards, I felt Elijah's daughters would pay heavily for his kindness to us.
The next morning after getting a good breakfast, we proceeded to the Camp of Col. Elijah White, situated in the woods, on the farm of Joshua Hatcher. The Col. was not present and did not return until nearly the middle of the afternoon, By that time, quite a number of friends, both rebel and Union, with my wife had assembled on the grounds, The impolicy of arresting citizens as hostages for other citizens was discussed and all seemed desirous that we might be released. We were told we were held as hostages for Henry Ball and Campbell Belt, two rebel citizens, then in prison at Fort Delaware.
The former of these had acted as a commissary for the rebel army at the outbreak of the war, but was never regularly in and was at the time of his arrest quietly living at his home as he had before been arrested, tried by the authorities at Washington, and permitted to go to his home in consideration that he should quietly remain there, taking no active part in the war. He warmly sympathized with the south and had two sons in the army but there was no charge that he violated the parole given in Washington.
Belt had belonged to a Volunteer Company which had been called out at the beginning of the war. After serving twelve months, these companies were mustered into the Confederate Army, but those composing them were not compelled to serve, unless they re-enlisted. Belt availed himself of this right, left the army and had. since been living quietly at home.
Col. White seemed. indisposed to do anything for our release, but finally consented to parole us for thirty days to allow some of the Union men to go to Washington to see if they could get the exchange effected and with the understanding that if the effort proved unsuccessful, we were to report inside the thirty days at his camp, wherever that might be. So my Mary brought us home in the carriage with her that evening, meeting some of White's men on the road, whose countenances betrayed a feeling of disappointment which we took no pains to allay. My brother-in-law, James M. Janney went to Washington to try to effect the exchange, but Stanton was not inclined that way (evincing about as much feeling as a polar bear might). The effort, however, was of great advantage to us. It enabled James to purchase some goods to make ,me a suit of clothes-we could procure some kind of knapsacks, a change of under garments, a blanket, and many other conveniences wanted on such a trip.
We were informed by the Federal soldiers at the Point of Rocks that they would assist us, take us over the river and require us to give our paroles not to return until the war was over. I objected to this for several reasons. I knew that Col. White had rather transcended his authority in making the arrangement and that its leading to a failure might bring him into disrepute with the authorities and cause him to treat Union men with greater harshness; besides it would leave our families very much exposed and we unable under any circumstances to come to their relief. We had given a pledge and it was our duty to redeem it. By doing so we gained the respect of our enemies and I am satisfied have been looked upon in a very different light from that in which we should have been had we acted otherwise.
The day before our parole .was out, James Walker, my wife, Robert and I set sail for White's camp, and went as far as Joseph Nichols where we stayed that night. It was well we did, for a Company of Federal Cavalry came over to arrest us that afternoon. The next morning we went in pursuit of the Camp, not knowing where to find it or meeting with anyone who could tell us. Just before getting to Bloomfield, we saw a large body of Federal Calvary marching along a road toward Snickersville. When we got to The Trapp  a woman informed us, "The Yankees have been chasing our men all of the morning.” A mile or two further on, we met an officer with some soldiers. On inquiry for the Camp, I thought he did not incline to tell us its location, but on being informed of the object he had in view,. he put us in the charge of one of his men who took us there.
A Cavalry Camp in summer is usually a piece of woods with a branch running through it. The ground for a bed, the canopy of heaven for a covering, a wagon or two for supplies for man and beast and wood and rails to make a fire, are all the solders need. The officer we met proved to be Major Farinhue, who showed by his manner that he was a gentleman. Col. White was off on a raid and the Major gave us a line of introduction to a gentleman living beyond Paris, where, he said, we could be well accumulated, and sent one of his men with us, with orders to report in camp next morning. We did so, and Col. White returned soon after from an unsuccessful raid, in a very bad humor. To a request from my wife to allow me to ride instead of walk, he said we might if we could find the horses; but he had not enough to mount his own men. He kindly informed her that we were to be held and treated just as Ball and Belt were, and he understood that hey were put in a dungeon-he presumed we would be also. He did finally consent that the Commander of the guard, under whose charge we were placed, might be a man from our own town, who she thought would treat us with more consideration than a stranger would. This proved to be so; Corporal Harrison Moreland did many things for our comfort that he need not have done and I shall always feel grateful to him.
Bidding a sorrowful farewell to our friends, not knowing if we should ever meet again, we commenced our march to Richmond. Our party consisted of Robert, myself, and a young man by the name of Holland, who was a member of Capt. Fiery's Company of Maj. Henry Cole's Maryland Cavalry. There was also a fancifully dressed Zouave from Newark, N. J., who was said to be a deserter. Another member of the party was a man by the name of Cross, who had been arrested as a deserter from the rebel army. We were prisoners in the custody of Corporal Moreland and a group of his guards. These guards were a motley bunch; a fellow called "Davy" from across the river who was much given to inviting strong drink, a plug ugly from Baltimore, and a young man from the vicinity of Winchester, of good family but the meanest of the lot.
We marched about six miles that night to a man's house, near where John Carr lives, where we staid all night, getting our supper and breakfast-Harrison getting a bed for Robert and myself (as he was careful always to do) and the others sleeping on the floor. The next day we crossed the Blue Ridge, passed through the town of Front Royal, to a widow lady's, about two miles beyond, who lived in a large brick house. As we were passing through the town, a number of citizens seemed very anxious to trade with our soldier prisoners, exchanging Confederate Notes for Greenbacks, but the soldiers had either already relieved them, or they did not incline to be obliging, as no trading was done. The lady of the house informed us that they had been Union, but that two of her sons were in the Confederate Army. She gave us a good supper, but apologized for having no meat, as the Yankees had taken all of her bacon a few days before. In the meantime she had obtained some mutton for breakfast, and it did taste sweet.
The next day we continued up the Luray Valley, passing through Luray and staying at a gentleman's house (a very large brick one) whose name I have forgotten but his wife claimed to be a cousin of President Lincoln, and I thought was rather proud of the relationship. The men composing our guard were inclined to be rough at first, but by being pleasant with them we disarmed this hostility and with the exception of Richards, they frequently carried our knapsacks for us for miles and Harrison occasionally would ride and tie  with one or the other of us when we seemed tired.
The next day we continued up the river, through the edge of Rockingham County, to the house of Col. Miller at the foot of the ridge and in the graded road from Harrisburg to Fredericksburg and crossing the ridge at Swift run Gap. He soon had a sheep killed and dressed and we fared quite sumptuously. He informed us that the mountain was full of desperate characters, deserters from both armies, which made it dangerous for a well dressed man to go in it anywhere and that their flocks were frequently raided by those unwelcome neighbors.
The next morning there was a very heavy fog, which rendered it impossible to see more than a rod away. I had been sitting on the front porch talking with Holland, but went into the house where a small fire was burning. I had not been there long before Harrison came rushing in to inquire if the Yankee was there. It transpired that while the guard was busy getting their horses, he had used the opportunity to escape and could not be found. The rest of us moved off leaving the Plug Ugly to hunt up Holland. Harrison informed us that he would not be very particular about taking him prisoner the second time, if he got sight of him. We crossed the ridge over a firmly graded road, but I thought the rocky gorges offered many means of escape.
In passing through the village of Stannardsville, we halted on the tavern porch for a brief rest, when a lovely damsel put her head out of the window and seeing the Zouave's fine boots, exclaimed, "Why don't our men take that Yankee's boots and give him a par of shoes?" Kind hearted girl, I wondered she even thought of the shoes.
We passed on a few miles and staid at the house of a woman, whose husband belonged to the command. She was rejoicing at having procured a barrel of flour that day and evidently regarded it as a luxury not often attained, but the poor creature gladly shared it with us. The next day we passed into Orange County, going in sight of Madison's old home, and we staid all night at the house of the overseer of some lordly proprietor.
The following morning we trudged through the rain and mud to Orange Court House, where we were handed over to the Provost guard whose office was in a small room used as the Clerk's office, in the front of the Court House. The officer acting as Provost, was a brother of John Stewart, who formerly lived near Waterford and knew me, although I did not remember him. He was very kind, said he did not wish to put us in the Guard House, and made arrangements for us to sleep in the front part of a church, partly occupied by soldiers. We gave our parole not to leave the building without his permission.
As it was about the middle of the afternoon and Robert's clothes in his knapsack had gotten very wet, he soon had them spread out to dry. As soon as I could I whispered to him to put them back, as the soldiers would steal them all. He soon took the hint but he was minus a pair of socks and something else before he got them packed away. The next morning the Provost sent us under guard to the best hotel in town. Here we had meat, bread without butter, rye coffee without sugar, but they charged us only two dollars, which was very cheap considering the currency. After breakfast our old guard made his appearance and said he had to take us to Stewart's Camp, on the other side of the Rapidan River, about four miles off.
When we reached the river it was quite high from the rain of the day before, and Harrison left us with a part of the guard on the bank, while he reported to headquarters. He soon returned and informed us that we would have to go to Richmond, so we were taken to the Provost again. He again manifested a kindly disposition and took us through the body of the Court House (where a number of officers were sitting at a long table covered with papers, engaged as I supposed in a court martial) and placed us in one of the jury rooms. Robert soon had his wardrobe spread in the window to dry, and commenced spattering the floor with tobacco juice. I soon stopped the latter, telling him I did not fancy sleeping in a pool of tobacco juice, and a big black man ended the former by telling us that we must go into the other room as this was wanted for some officers.
We moved our quarters and pretty soon a bluff voice ordered us removed to the guard house, where we arrived at about an hour before sundown. The guard house was the basement story of the court house, the front part of which was paved with flag stones and the back part had a dirt floor-the windows had iron bars and I supposed it was the jail of Orange County. We entered at the. front where a small fire was burning on the floor, which was surrounded by a number of soldiers engaged in playing cards. A motley throng of other soldiers filled the remainder of the room and we wended our way to the end near the back wall. Here sat an old man whose countenance I liked and by his side sat a youth apparently not more than seventeen years of age. The old man gave us a kindly greeting with the remark "Gentlemen, you have got into a hard place." "Yes," I remarked, "and I Suppose you have plenty of lice here." "That is not the worst," said he. "They will steal everything they can lay their hands on." He then went on to say that the guard was Jackson's old body guard, mostly composed of Irishmen-that about one-third of their number were in the house most of the time-that the other soldiers thought that they did the stealing and would hand to those of their confederates on the outside, so if a complaint were made, and the inmates searched nothing could ever be found-that when the inmates would all be asleep, someone would come around with a candle and appropriate to their own use anything that rook their fancy.
A little before night we were each of us given two army crackers and a small piece of fat bacon. Robert being more enterprising than I, cut a few slices from his piece and went forward to toast it at the fire. I gave mine to our North Carolina Friend, contenting myself with the crackers-this was Seventh-day night and WI had nothing else given us until we received our rations in "The Castle" on Second Day morning. When the time came to retire and the soldiers were generally asleep on the floor, I backed Robert into a recess formed by the chimney, with his knap sack as a seat and his legs spread out, then placing my knapsack between them, took my seat on it, calmly awaiting results. As foretold by the old soldier, as soon as the snoring showed that the men were asleep, a villainous looking man with a candle came around on a tour of inspection, but seeing that I was wide awake he passed on. We were not molested again. I do not think I slept any.
In the morning we were matched to the cars (in company with other prisoners) and forwarded under guard to Winder's headquarters at Richmond.
From Winder's we were marched underthe'douo1e quick to Castle Thunder, This had been a tobacco factory-it had a large front building divided by a passage way twelve or more feet wide with an ell 30 by 100 feet long, was three stories and an attic high. The lower rooms were used as officer's rooms, with a room in the basement of the ell where arms were stored and a small commissary or sutler was permitted to sell tobacco, bread and something they called pies, to some of the prisoners having money. A guard was always at the front door, one at the rear end of the passage, two in the little passage ways in the second story, and a number in platforms erected around the buildings. It was divided into a number of rooms and the prisoners from some of the rooms permitted two at a time to go to the paved yard where there was a large vat containing water where prisoners could wash their clothes.
When our guard delivered us to the Commandant, and the order had been given where to take us, a young man immediately in advance of me (I do not think I ever saw greater suffering depicted on a human countenance) threw up his hands and exclaimed, "Oh God, here, take my portmonaie."  I had noticed him in the cars-he had evidently been well raised and looked like one suffering from a nervous chill. It was rumored that he had committed some crime in the army, the nature of which. I did not learn. My turn coming next, I voluntarily offered mine, when he remarked, "There is not much complaint of stealing in the room where I shall put you, but how much have you?" Not caring he should know, I remarked, "Not much, but I do not care to lose the little I have," He then asked, "Have you taken the oath of allegiance?" Thinking he meant the Federal Government, I said, "Yes," and was to explain the circumstances under which it was done, when he cut me off with the query, "Have you any weapon?" I replied, "Nothing but a pen knife," Reaching out his hand he said, "Well I must have that." Robert, being immediately behind me, did not say yea or nay to the last question and therefore kept his.
We were hurried into our room, the Commandant from some cause evidently being in a hurry himself. When the door of the room was opened we were ushered into the midst of a throng of over 100 persons yelling "fresh fish" at the top of their voices. It was deafening and trying to the nerves, but seeing that nearly all of them were dressed in citizen's clothing, we did not feel so bad as if they had been soldiers of either army. Many of them were citizens from about Chambersburg, Pa., and others were loyal men from East Tennessee, held on various charges: a few citizens from Virginia and now and then a Yankee deserter, with an occasional soldier belonging to the Confederate Army, completed the assortment. An occasional hammock betrayed the seamen.
A very few lamps and tubs made of half barrels for use in the night, constituted the furniture. The sergeant of the room politely came forward and informed us that the law there was, first come, first served, and that after the others had gone to roost, we could select any unoccupied place on the floor to make our beds. When the time came, we accordingly selected one and as the glass was all Out from the windows, we had not much fear from draughts. When we awoke in the morning there was a large tub of water which served as a wash basin and if you had a towel of your own you could use it or do as boys sometimes do when fishing, use the nether garment, or depend on the breezes of heaven.
About nine o'clock, there was an evident commotion in the room as the officer in charge of the commissary department made his appearance. As our names were called, each one received a half loaf of good wheat bread and a small piece of boiled beef, varying in size according to the line in it, but not exceeding four ounces of pure meat. Near the middle of the afternoon, we were again served with a pint of soup, it being the water in which the beef had been boiled with some black eyed peas in it and an occasional cabbage leaf-the latter I could not eat but was assured by the prisoners, I would after a while. A friend from lower Virginia, formerly from New Jersey got me to draw this ration for him and appeared to enjoy it in addition to his portion. This was the ration as long as I remained in the Castle, but Robert informed me that the wheat bread gave way to corn pone made out of unsifted corn meal, the very day I left. Some very indifferent homemade soap was given to the prisoners once a month, but I never drew mine as we could get colored people connected with the prison to do our washing by paying them for it. Many men of an ingenious turn of mind made spoons from the bones they got from the kitchen, using muscle shells for bowls and riveting them together with pins. I fully intended buying one of those for a memento, but not using the soup, put it off too long as we were unexpectedly removed from this room to another where I had not the chance.
We spent our time in listening to the history of one another, playing a game of checkers with an old sea captain, and the more serious business of lousing which had to be done every day to keep the nits from hatching. I have seen as many as five men, stark naked, engaged in this interesting employment. In the course of three weeks, this life became rather monotonous, and the authorities kindly removed us to the upper rooms of the building from which no one was allowed to depart day or night, excepting the sergeant of the room, consequently the tubs became very offensive and you were never free from the stench day or night. I may mention here that there was a detail of prisoners every day whose duty it was to sweep the room and empty these tubs, but if you had money, there was no difficulty in hiring a substitute for a Confederate dollar, so we were saved this unpleasant task.
We had a fine view of the city from these dormer windows and there was no danger of being shot by the guards which sometimes happened to the over curious. I saw a little old man frequently moving about the prison who, I was informed, was a detective from Norfolk and who was said to have the faculty of recognizing anyone whom he had once seen.
We occasionally got letters from home and my last had informed me that the application for our release being the second one made by my Mary and her brother James to Washington authorities, had proved unsuccessful. Lincoln seemed inclined to grant it, but would not do so without Staunton's consent and he, in very discourteous terms absolutely refused it. This seemed to render our case hopeless, but my spirits never gave way, which was a fortunate circumstance, as the hopeless soon pined away and died.
After we had been in this room two or three days, we were called to go down stairs, where we found Dr. Cochrane of Middleburg, with whom I had a slight acquaintance. He evinced much sympathy for us and had brought us letters from home. He also kindly offered to loan us money which we declined, as we could not use it. He furthermore promised to gee some of his relatives in Richmond to send us books to read, but they never came. As he had offered to befriend us, I told him I would be glad if he would use his influence to have us removed into another room. I mentioned it being one with a stove in it which had the windows glazed which we could see through a crack from the room in which we were first put. He spoke to the Commandant (Col. Alexander) at once, and he sent two bright little colored boys with us to get our luggage and to conduce us co our new room, the presence of these boys with him would pass any prisoner by the guards.
We were now in the parlor of the Castle and among a different class of prisoners. Men connected with the sanitary commission, correspondents of newspapers, merchants captured on the coasts, with enough of the poor to act as substitutes for scavenger duty, constituted the household. A good stove with glazed windows rendered it comparatively comfortable, for the weather was now getting cold.
I noticed that the correspondents of the New York Herald rarely remained long, while Julius Henri Brown and his companion correspondents remained as long as I was there and as I learned were afterwards removed to Saulsbury from which prison they made their escape. Some of these parties who had money and influence occasionally had very excellent dinners brought in, especially a man from New York, by the name of Thompson. As he was taken with a fit, the day I left, which proved to be the beginning of an attack of small pox, I do not think the diet, without any exercise, was any advantage to him. Better the prison diet which had no tendency to make a full habit.
In about two weeks, Enoch Fenton was brought in and as he had no blankets, we allowed him to share ours. He was somewhat elated at having gotten ahead of the officials in saving a lot of greenbacks by cramming them in the toe of his boot. They searched him from the crown of his head, inside and out, even striking the heels of his boots on the floor to see if he had anything concealed. A few days after his arrest, he and Robert were ordered into another room, but by getting Daniel Dulaney to intercede for them, they were returned the same evening which proved a blessing to us all, for in the course of a few days we were ordered into the yard adjoining the prison while our room was being cleaned and whitewashed. While in the yard, the air felt so refreshing that I thought I would take some exercise by jumping.
Feeling fatigued I was resting on a bench near the gate into the yard, when someone called out at the gate, "Are there any Friends in here?" I answered that there were some who claimed to be, when Enoch stepping forward said, "Why! John, how d' ye do?" It proved to be John B. Crenshaw, who married the sister of Israel Hoge, who married a cousin of mine. We had seen each other and the family connections made us pretty well acquainted. He at once offered to get us anything' we needed, and we asked him to get us two iron spoons, a tin cup of sorgum and a small piece of bacon. He soon returned with the tin of molasses and the meat, but said he could not gee the spoons in Richmond. The other prisoners seeing this, began to crowd around him requesting him to get them something, when he backed out as soon as he could.
The next day he came to our window and beckoned me out, enquiring if 1 were willing to give my parole if he would take me home with him. I asked the nature of the parole. He said it was that I should make no effort to escape, and return whenever called upon by the prison authorities. I said I would gladly do so. He then told me to get my traps, come down to his buggy at the door and the boy would drive me to the Parole Office, where I would sign the parole. We accordingly went there and making known my name and business, the instrument was presented which John had already signed as my security, he being held to take my place, in the event of my failure to comply with it.
We then went back to the Castle, John remarking that he must go by the way of the Penitentiary to get some shoes. When we got there, he put 1,100 dollars worth of shoes into the buggy box, and turned around remarking to me, "I think thee has the ravioli."  This took me by surprise and I said, "I reckon not, but if I have, thee must take me to the Hospital, as I am not going to thy house with such a disease." He remarked, "I want some vaccine matter, and I will go by Dr. Sneed’s, my old Physician, and see what he says." The doctor came out, and after looking at me said, very decidedly, "He has the ravioli, and you had better take him to the hospital."
As the Dr. was the attending physician at the Smallpox Hospital of the city, John took me directly there, telling the lady in charge, that Dr. Sneed had ordered it, which gave me admission. Here I was taken into a clean, well ventilated room, with an open fire in it and a clean nice bed, all to myself, as there was only one other patient there, and he a colored man. The next morning the doctor called and seeing me smiled and said, "I did not mean for Mr. Crenshaw to bring you to this Hospital, but as long as you are here, we wi1lnot turn you out:' I thanked him; then he said I did not need any medicine and the lady in charge would give me such food as I needed. Not having had an opportunity to look into a mirror for some time, I was surprised to find the eruption so finely developed. My food was excellent and the matron very kind and the doctor came every day. I had access to the newspapers and the time passed very pleasantly.
In a day or two John called to see me and asked if he would be safe in paroling Robert Isaac. On my assuring him that he would, he called at the prison and took him to his country house, about five miles from the city.
In the course of ten days the eruption dried up and the doctor said I might safely leave as soon as all of the scabs were out of my hands. He further said it was customary for the patients leaving the hospital, to leave their old clothes behind in order to avoid carrying the infection with them, but he presumed it would not suit my convenience to do so. I told him it would not and queried to know as I had a change of underclothing, if it would not answer for me to get the old lady to wash and air one suit which could be put on when leaving, let her take the other through a similar course, call in a few days and get it. The price of board and treatment had been fixed at $4.00 per day before the War and had never been altered, so I considered it the cheapest living for the quality I ever had.
The next day Robert called with the buggy and took me to John Crenshaw's where I was warmly welcomed by the family. His wife, Judith, being a Philadelphian, had a warm feeling for Union men. John made an arrangement for Robert to open a school and the terms had been fixed upon. While these events had been transpiring, we had been visited by several of our Loudoun rebel friends then in Richmond, Wm. B. Lynch, Charles Ball, Thomas M. Edwards and others. Henry Ball hearing that I was held as hostage for him, wrote to his family that de did not want this done, which letter was forwarded to his son, a Captain in the rebel army.
Thus, friends, whom we had deemed enemies, were active in our behalf. One of these, Thomas M. Edwards, interested Charles Lee in us. Lee was personally acquainted with Seddon, the Secretary or Assistant Secretary of War. Edwards and Lee represented to Seddon that we were Virginians, held for others who did not desire it. They said this was wrong, and if the authorities wanted hostages for citizens of the Confederacy being held as prisoners by the Yankees, they should go to the enemy's country to get them. So at the solicitation of these two men, backed by the request of Captain Ball, he gave us an unconditional release. Thus in our case, as in many others, the darkest hour was Just before dawn. But in consequence of Robert being taken sick, we were unable to avail ourselves of it for some ten days or two weeks.
Our time, in the meantime, was spent as pleasantly as it could be under the circumstances and we felt free to express opinions. I remember on one occasion shocking the family when they were denouncing the Government for putting the slaves in the army, by saying that it was the right thing to do. But when I explained that the slaves from the Potomac to the Rio Grande had gotten it into their heads that some how the War was to free them and that the Government taking them in hand they would look to it for direction and that otherwise they would act for themselves and would repeat the scenes that transpired in San Domingo-that the South by putting all of its able bodied white men in the army and sending them to the border states, had left the women and children at the mercy of the blacks, they came to see the matter in a different light, and admitted "it might be so."
We sometimes went to Richmond to meetings and heard John preach, and while not agreeing with him on all subjects, I must own that a man who showed such disinterested kindness to us and many others, could not be very far from the Kingdom of Heaven, as illustrated in the life and teachings of Him, men called the Saviour. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one for the other." I would that there were more of this practical religion among those belonging to my own branch of the Society of Friends. I have always regretted that it was not in my power to return a fair reward to this good man for his kindness to me.
Meeting Thomas Edwards in town one day, he congratulated me on having obtained an unconditional release and on our prospects of returning home. I remarked to him that I did not feel safe yet, as he knew no one could get a pass from that place without taking an oath of allegiance to the Southern Confederacy, a thing I was not yet willing to do. He knew that I regarded the present effort as a Rebellion against legal authorities, that if it succeeded and became a Revolution, I would then be willing either to take the oath or leave the country, but that in the meantime, I could not conscientiously admit the Confederacy to be a rightful authority.
"Very well," said he, "when you are ready to start come to me and I will get you a pass." "Remember this promise," I remarked. So when Robert got well enough to travel, we went in one Seventh day, called at the War office to see Thomas and made known our business. He stepped back, got his hat and went with us to Winder's office, when I remarked to him, "Let us remain at the door, while thee gets the pass, as we might be asked some questions and have to answer, unless our presence is absolutely necessary." He went in, named the matter to a subordinate who began to hem and haw and finally said he would see Winder about the matter. As he went to go into the room, Thomas whipped around him, told Winder he wanted passes for the two gentlemen who had been released by order of the Sec. of War two weeks before, but who had been prevented from returning home at the time by the illness of one of them. Then Winder turned to the sub and ordered him to make them out, which he did and Thomas triumphantly handed them to us. I then felt free for the first time. How many Union men would have done the same thing for an avowed Rebel wanting a pass from the U. S. Government-not many I opine.
The next day we spent with Willie Pleasants where we were kindly entertained and where we met Miss Betty Vanlew whose outspoken loyalty before Rebel soldiers made us tremble for fear Robert or I should say something we ought not to. We took the cars next morning for Staunton where we expected John Parkins to meet us. There were a good many soldiers aboard and an old wheezy engine stalled in the middle of the tunnel and was so long getting out that we did not get to Staunton until dark. John was not there and we went to a hotel, the best in town, and had a good supper, but they could not furnish each guest with a separate cup and saucer.
The next morning John came in and took us to his brother Isaac·s. Here we had to remain a week in consequence of some military movements then on hand. The Federals had made a raid on the Salt Works and had sent up a body of cavalry from Harpers Ferry as a diversion. The Confederate Cavalry under FitzHugh Lee and a body of infantry had been sent up from Lee's army to intercept these and probably would have captured them but for the river being too high for them to cross below Port Republic which opened to the Federals a door of retreat. FitzHugh Lee and some of the officers staid all night at Isaac's, but we did not make their acquaintance. (They fed us on turkey and other good things, until Robert Isaac made himself sick by eating too much.) This little episode interfered with our plans sadly for our passes expressly provided that we were subject to the military authorities in our line of march and these had interdicted all travel northward. It became a matter of conjecture when we would be allowed to proceed and how. Rumor said that in a few days the stage would be allowed to go as far as Harrisonburg, but luckily for us, just about this time, Harrison Bowers who had purchased Abby Hollingsworth's farm was on his way to Richmond and staid all night at Isaac's.
He returned there in a day or two and traveling in a one horse open wagon, agreed to take us to Winchester. Being an old veteran on the road, he said the right course to proceed was to start to go as far as the Confederates would let us, when in all probability the Yankees would advance again, place us inside their lines, after which there would be no more difficulty. We adopted the plan, bade our kind friends adieu and once more started for home. The first day we arrived at Harrisonburg and staid all night at a cousin's of Robert's, Milton Hollingsworth, who kept a boarding house.
Resuming our journey next morning, we passed during the day a large body of Rebel Infantry, some with very indifferent shoes, showing their roes, some with a piece of fat bacon stuck on their bayonets, but all seemingly cheerful. The day before we had passed a number of farmers with teams and cattle, returning to their homes-they had fled before the advancing Federals a few days before. Truly between the exactions of the Confederates and the wanton destruction of the Federals, the people of the Valley lived between the upper and nether mill stone, and the only wonder is how they survived the war anyhow.
The next, day we came as far as Edinburg, where we staid all night. We passed many dead horses on the road, shot by the Federals to keep them from falling into the hands of the rebels. One of the guests at the hotel by the name of Capt. Moore, into whose hip the Yankees had planted a bullet at the battle of Bull Run, was kind enough to inform us what was to be done with the Quakers at the end of the War, but as we did not anticipate the same ending he did, it did not trouble us much. I was astonished to see how much mare faith the people of the Valley had in Confederate money, than those of Richmond-they did not advance prices in the same ratio and our living was cheap, not exceeding Four Dollars for supper, lodging and breakfast; when a dollar greenback would purchase Twelve in Confederate money at Richmond.
The next morning ,we were arrested at Strasburg by one-eyed H. Gilmore  and his roughs. Bowers came to us and said he thought he could obtain permission to go on, but we might be detained a few days. But Robert went to Gilmore and in his impulsive way said "We are gentlemen and will observe any parole you enact." This pleased him and he consented for us to go on, provided we would say nothing about military matters. We starred, and within three miles, Bowers commenced telling a blacksmith how matters stood, until reminded that he had a padlock on his mouth. We arrived at Winchester about dark-Robert stopping at his uncle's, Nathan Perkins, and I going to Hugh Sidwell's.
I was very kindly received and sorry I could not gratify their curiosity as to things in the upper valley, but seeing a good many Yankee soldiers straggling about the town, I ventured to suggest to Hugh that he advise them to move on, as in my ignorance, I fully expected the rebels would be there very soon. Robert said his uncle owned a blind horse and wagon and thought that he would take u as far as the river. Uncle Hugh also had a neighbor who owned an old horse an wagon, which he sometimes got to go to Hopewe1l.  He saw him and agree to take us as far as Snicker's Ferry, for five dollars, Va. money. As the Yankee had stolen Nathan's harness, we made arrangements and started from home that morning. We passed through the rear guard of the Yankees in Berryville an were allowed to proceed on our way unmolested. We were fortunate in meeting a man at the Ferry who owned a canoe and he agreed to cross us for One Dollar in Yankee money, or Two Dollars Va. money. Being the fortunate possessor of dollar bank bill, I paid this with pleasure. We then took our fate in our own hands and wended our Way to young Benjamin Birdsell's, at Purcellville, where we arrived a little after dark, footsore and weary.
We were very kindly entertained that night an the next morning Benjamin brought us and his wit to Waterford where he arrived a little before noon.
We took the town by surprise as they had not heard of our release. On my way up the street, I stopped in at Mother Walker's, where I found my baby Sue, but the child did not know me and would not let me kiss her. This I did not wonder at, as I had not shaved since leaving home and had always previously worn a clean face. My dear wife was coming down the street and when she saw me coming she turned and fled home, not wishing to meet me away from home. The news soon spread among our friends and it was not long before a good Christmas dinner was on the table, a duck pomace and something else from another made quite a feast which we all enjoyed. Although she had suffered great anxiety of mind as well a privation, I was pleased to see my Mary looking so well-notwithstanding her ill health and emaciated condition, she looked more beautiful to me than in he girlhood.
Shortly after our return, James Walker wrote to General Hitchcock telling how we had been released and suggesting how nice it would be if the Federal authorities would reciprocate by releasing Ball and Belt. We were all exceedingly gratified that this request was granted, and those poor men allowed to return to their families from whom they ought never to have been separated.
Now there are several things connected with this imprisonment that have impressed my mind. I am naturally a timid man and there was no one who dreaded more than I, being arrested by the Confederates. I was a Union man by conviction and had allowed my feelings to carry me far into a state of hatred for all concerned in the Rebellion, and although I had a shadowy belief in the providence of God, that worketh all things aright, like any others I had come to rely almost exclusively on the arm of flesh. I was arrested, incarcerated in a vile prison, but never insulted by any and received many acts of kindness from those I regarded as enemies, while abandoned by those considered as friends. Contrary to the uniform custom, I was allowed to enter the prison without being searched-Why was this? I have never been able to account for it. Why was Stewart, almost a stranger to me, so kind at Orange Court House? Why were the people whose sons and husbands were in the Army fighting for a principle I opposed, so uniformly kind to me? Why were men who forsook their homes to unite their destinies with those of the Confederacy to interest themselves to procure my release? Why did the way open for my entering the City Hospital, where I was kindly cared for, instead of the prison Hospital, where I should have probably died? Shakespeare says: "There is a Divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them as we may." A greater One than Shakespeare said: "A sparrow cannot fall to the ground without our Father's knowledge and that He cares for us all." I believe that this experience was needed to strengthen my faith in Him and to teach me the lesson of Charity and Forbearance toward those who differed from me in opinion. Looking at it in this light, I hope the suffering has not been without its use.
To look to the past is to have a sense of history. Our village and county history is part of the base, the roots from which we spring.
1. Many otherwise unidentified persons in this narrative were known to Williams because of his association with them in the Society of Friends.
2. The Trapp; a village in Loudoun County now non-existent.
3. To ride and tie the first traveler would ride ahead on horseback to a given point. There he would dismount, tie the horse and continue walking. The second traveler would walk to the point where the horse was tied and would ride on, in time passing the first traveler, and continuing to a second designated point where he would dismount, tie the horse and start walking again.
4. A small purse.
6. Major Harry Gilmore, Confederate cavalryman.
7. Hopewell Friends' Meeting near Clearbrook, Virginia.
8. Now the home of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Edwards on Second Street.
9. Mrs. Susan Williams Pidgeon, mother of Miss Mary Elizabeth Pidgeon, who kindly donated this article.