While we saw this morning, in an earlier post, where Strother encountered Virginia militia troops from Berkeley and Jefferson counties, hoping for a reversal on secession in Virginia, we also see these two letters (courtesy of the Staunton Vindicator, April 26, 1861); one from Capt. Absalom Koiner (Augusta Rifles), and the other from Capt. William Hanger Smith Baylor (West Augusta Guard). As with the Strother recollection, I have placed emphasis on the portions reflecting a particular spirit. Obviously, this shows greater spirit toward secession, while the men Strother encountered showed quite something to the contrary. In the end, there was still division in the Old Dominion.
We have received from Capt. A. Koiner and W.S.H. Baylor, the following interesting letters, one dated at Winchester and the other from Harper’s Ferry. From both it will be seen that our gallant boys are in fine spirits and ready for the work to which they have been assigned. Their pluck we know and feel assured that when the tug of war comes the expectations of their friends will not be disappointed. Courage boys, you have the sympathies, prayers and confidence of those you left behind.
Winchester, Va., 20th, 1861.
Mr. Editor:–The “Augusta Rifles” marched for Harper’s Ferry at 6 o’clock A.M. on the 19th instant, under my command, arrived in Winchester at 3 o’clock, A.M. this morning in safety, but very much wearied, and are quartered for the present at the Taylor Hotel. We have been very hospitably received and entertained. I have never seen such an outpouring of popular feelings in behalf of the South. The ladies every where appear as enthusiastic as the men. I heard one encouraging the men to “stand up for our rights! If she (I) were a man, she (I) would go too!”
At this writing I do not know whether I will go to Harper’s Ferry or not, or stay here for further orders. I have telegraphed to Harper’s Ferry, and will hear soon. Our men are in fine spirits, and are very much complimented as fine looking men. It is hard to tell where we will move next. We are in the midst of a great revolution; our people are united as one man, and are determined to maintain their rights at every sacrifice. “United we stand.” The Virginia spirit is as high, as gallant, and as patriotic as at any former period.
Tell our militia to be prepared for any thing, and take a high and manly position, with a determination to maintain it. We received several recruits on the way hither, who could not wait for an order of the corps to which they belong. A young lawyer of Albemarle, Mr. Montero, is one of the number. He has made several flaming speeches in behalf of our rights, on the way hither, and here, which were received with much enthusiasm.
You shall hear from me occasionally, as I may have opportunity to write. We have now, after much anxiety and labor, got our company so organized as to be able to live at least. In great haste,
Yours, A. KOINER.
S.M. Yost, Esq.
For the Vindicator.
Head Quarters, 5th Reg’t Va. Vol’s.
Camp Hill, Harper’s Ferry,
April 22d, 1861
Mr. Editor:–My duty to the relatives of the men composing my command makes me impose upon your columns a few lines. I am glad to say that all of my men, with but one or two exceptions, are and have been well, and in the finest spirits. A portion of my regiment, the West Augusta Guard, and a battery of two pieces of the Staunton Artillery is now encamped on the most romantic and commanding spots about Harper’s Ferry. It is the most important post here, and I have been assigned the command, with old Augusta’s boys, to hold it against any force. It is the post of danger, and therefore the post of honour, and we will maintain it against every enemy. You and your readers must pardon seeming vanity, Mr. Editor, for the pride which I have for the gallant fellows under me, may make me exceed propriety. Their conduct reminds me of the glorious deeds of our forefathers, and their name and memory shall never be disgraced by their sons. All of my men are contented, and have adapted themselves to the strict rule of military life, and the arduous duties of the camp. Thanks to the ladies, and our liberal citizens, we are the best equipt command, and if they could only see us on duty, I know they would be satisfied that their generous liberality was not improperly bestowed.
We have all been working hard, and Gen. Harman’s command has been by far the most active here, and I would not believe that any one could do the work and lose the rest that all of us have done. I have not had off my clothes since I left Staunton; I am sure I have not slept ten hours all put together. The men work willingly, eat heartily, and sleep as soundly on the ground, as a prince in a palace.–They are ready for a fight, and I believe are eager to show their courage in driving back any invading foe. Great enthusiasm animates all, and should the vicegerent of the arch-fiend dare send his minions to Old Virginia, we will repel them, or leave the memory of brave men for our friends to revere.
I wish Mr. Editor, you would draw a comparison between the soldiers here. I am sure old Augusta would not suffer by it. The Staunton companies exceed any here in number by at least twenty, whilst the county companies (Captain Koiner’s and Captain Crawford’s) are larger than the majority of others here. The 5th Regiment will be the flower.
I promised the friends of my soldiers that I would be a brother to them. I intend to redeem the promise. I will spare no pains to make them comfortable. None of them shall suffer. I trust their friends will give themselves no trouble or concern about them. God is on our side. He will defend the right.
We ask the prayers of our friends for our success. We will do our duties as men–as men of Augusta. I write in greta haste, with a thousand things pressing upon me. When more leisure comes, I will write fully to you.
Wm. S.H. Baylor
P.S.–If a fight occurs, we will be the first in it, and the last out of it. We have Minnie muskets, which by our vigilance we captured, so we will be paid for our trouble, even if we don’t have a fight.
*As often the case, thanks to the Valley of the Shadow project for ease of access to the Civil War era Staunton newspapers.
- Strother returns to the Valley, April 30 – May 2, 1861 (cenantua.wordpress.com)