Among the beauties of the war in Western Virginia was the “mixed-up” way in which the combatants manoeuvre among the mountains. Here is an instance where a single loyal soldier halted an entire rebel regiment:
Serg. Carter, of Tippecanoe, Ohio, was upon the post first attacked by the enemy. The advance-guard of the Second Virginia, (rebel,) consisting of twelve men, came suddenly upon him and his three companions. The bright moonlight revealed the flashing bayonets of the advancing regiment. He was surrounded and separated from his reserve. With great presence of mind he stepped out and challenged: “Halt! Who goes there?” The advance-guard, supposing they had come upon a scouting party of their own men, answered, “Friends, with the countersign.” At his order, “Advance, one, and give the countersign.” they hesitated. He repeated the order peremptorily, “Advance and give the countersign or I’ll blow you through.” They answered, without advancing, “Mississippi.” “Where do you belong?” he demanded. “To the Second Virginia regiment” “Where are you going?” “Along the ridge.” They then in turn questioned him,–“Who are you?” “That’s my own business,” he answered, and taking deliberate aim, he shot down his questioner.
He called for his boys to follow him, and sprung down a ledge of rock, while a full volley went over his head. He heard his companions summoned to surrender, and the order given to the Major to advance with the regiment. Several started in pursuit of him. He had to descend the hill on the side towards the enemy’s camp. While he eluded his pursuers, he found himself in a new danger. He had got within the enemy’s camp pickets! He had, while running, torn the U. S. from his cartridge box, and covered his belt plate with his cap box, and torn the strips from his pantaloons. He was challenged by their sentinels while making his way out, and answered, giving the countersign, “‘Mississippi,’ Second Virginia regiment.” They asked him what he was doing there. He said that the boys had gone off on a scout after the Yankees, that he had been detained in camp, and in trying to find them he had got bewildered.
As he passed through, to prevent further questioning, he said, “Our boys are up on the ridge; which is the best way up?” They answered, “Bear to the left, and you’ll find it easier to climb.” Soon again his pursuers were after him, as he expressed it, “breaking brush” behind him; this time with a hound on his trail. He made his way to a brook, and running down the shallow stream, threw the dog off the scent, and, as the day was dawning he suddenly came upon four pickets, who brought their arms to a ready, and challenged him. He gave the countersign, “Mississippi,” and claimed to belong to the Second Virginia regiment. His cap box had slipped from his belt plate. They asked him where he got that belt. He told them he had captured it that might from a Yankee. They told him to advance, and, as he approached, he recognized their accoutrements, and knew that he was among his own men, a picket guard from the First Kentucky.
He was taken before Col. Enyart, and dismissed to his regiment. His motive in halting a whole column of the enemy was to give intimation to the reserve of their advance, that they might open upon them on their left flank, and so, perhaps, arrest their progress.
Originally posted 2008-11-17 03:00:08.