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CIVIL WAR


    DURING THE WAR OF REBELLION IN MIDDLEBOURNE, W. VA.

The death of Theopholis K. Harter in January, 1922 promoted this letter from G.D. Smith of St. Marys.

"In March 1864 some number of the 7th West Virginia Volunteer Infantry were returning to the front under the command of Capt. Eli Henthorn, after having been home on a veteran furlough. Several school boys and myself dropped into the old Fletcher Tavern, situated on Main Street of your town, and which was destroyed by fire in later years. We boys always enjoyed being around where the soldiers were and listening to their stories. I remember some of the men who were with Capt. Henthorn, namely: Aaron Ankrom, Jake Metz, E.H. Kearns, Henry Boyles, Is Wells, Nathan Ireland, Clay Bond and maybe others, there were not ever eight or ten in the crowd.

While these men were sitting around the Tavern, Theopholis K. Harter walked in. He was a soldier in the Confederate Army under General Jackson and General Breckenridge, and was also home on a furlough. He seemed surprised when he ran into this bunch of Federal soldiers, and one of the Union men recognized him, and that was Jake Metz. Jake asked Mr. Harter what he was doing home and Harter replied that he was back on a furlough, the same as they were. They talked some and Metz told his comrades who Harter was.

He was dressed in civilian clothes and had left his uniform at home. When the other Union soldiers found out who Harter was they jested with him and told him they would take him back to the Union lines. He told them he hoped they would not do this, that he expected shortly to return to his command and then if they captured him it would be all right, but it would not be fair to take him prisoner in this circumstances. Metz interceded for Harter, and told them that he was quite a singer and might sing for them. Harter said to sing Rebel songs in Middlebournc would get him into trouble, that the Home Guards would arrest him. Aaron Ankrom and some of the rest said that the Home Guards would do nothing of the kind while they were there.

Finally, after some bantering, it was agreed that Harter sing "Dixie" and more Rebel songs as all the boys would enjoy the joke and also it would create some excitement in the old town. They went down to the corner near the post office, or  where it was, kept by William Swan, where the First National Bank building now stands. They insisted that Harter should start from there and sing "Dixie" up to the John Kern corner and return, they agreeing to protect him from the Home Guards.

It was a warm nice day in the spring of the year and the streets of Middtehourne were dry and in good condition. Harter at that time of life was a young man, about 5 feet 10 inches in height, well built, and a splendid physique, coal black hair and eyes and a man who attracted attention everywhere. He started off at a moderate pace up the street and in a moderate tone of voice began to sing that old Rebel song, "Dixie" and the further he went, the more energy he put into it and when he got to the upper end of town he had attracted some attention and returning near the post office, a crowd had gathered, and things seemed interesting. He was a fine singer and he more than pleased the Union soldiers by the bold manner in which he played the act, and each in turn congratulated him.

About the time what Harter had expected was about to happen, Capt. Kern of the Home Guard and Benedict Swan, Orderly Sgt., came down and acting under orders from Capt. Kern, told Harter he was to consider himself under arrest, that he was a Rebel soldier and they would have to send him to Johnson Island or Camp Chase. Harter said nothing. But then it was that Aaron Ankrom and Is Wells spoke up and told the Captain and Orderly Sgt. of the Home Guards that they were having a little sport with this Rebel soldier and enjoying themselves such as they sometimes did on the front when the soldiers from the different armies would declare a short truce and exchange tobacco for coffee and amuse each other by singing their patriotic songs, and that they would not allow Harter to be arrested. Capt. Kern insisted that Harter had no right so ever to do what he did and he would arrest him. Then it was that Capt. Henthorn stepped out and remarked that he had permitted the boys to do this and they enjoyed it and now that they were returning to the front to join the army of the Potomac before Richmond, and if any members of the Home Guard wanted to go along they could do so, there would be plenty of fighting over there but that he would protect Harter in this instance. This was enough for the Home Guards and they returned to their respective places of business.

The Union soldiers took Harter to the hotel, gave him a hearty meal and he returned to his home and they departed next day for Sistersville and left by way of Wheeling, most of them never to return again.

Capt. Henthorn was killed at the battle of Cold Harbor in May, 1864, Aaron Ankrom was killed in action. Is Wells, Clay Bond and Nathan Ireland were each wounded by sharp shooters while on skirmish duty at Spottselvania Court House, but got well. Kearns was also wounded and Metz and some of the others also returned home.

This one of the incidents of that great  war in which the soldiers of either side were want to indulge in some little pleasantries, yet it did not prevent them when in line of duty and on the front, from proving to the world that they were the best soldiers that ever faced the other in battle.

Theophoiis K. Harter returned home and lived a peaceful and contented life until passed away a few days ago, and during his life he showed that intrepid daring and boldness that the soldiers of both armies exhibit

"Peace Be To His Ashes."

Respectfully yours, G. D. Smith"

Excerpted from The Tyler Co. paper 1922

Eli C Henthorn was the son of Matilda (Conaway) Henthorn and James Thomas Henthorn who was the son of William who was the son of James. He was married to Elizabeth Phillips. He enlisted as a 1st Lt. and was promoted to full Capt. He died in Spottsylvania Co., VA, 5-Oct-1864 from wounds sustained in the battle of Cold Harbor, MD.

Jake(Jacob) Metz is buried at Lazears Chapel, Middlebourne, WV.

Submitted by Rodney Henthorn

 

 
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