Valley men rush to the defense of… Washington?

Posted on July 8, 2014 by


This past weekend, I spent a little time enjoying the “Invasion Stalled” program at Harper’s Ferry. While it did indeed stall… Gen. Jubal Early bypassed Harper’s Ferry, and continued his press toward Washington. Gen. Ulysses Grant, however, didn’t hesitate, and by July 6 had dispatched more troops to deal with Early’s advance. Those extra troops did not make it in time to what was about to happen next… 150 years ago tomorrow, at Monocacy Junction.

But, the fight at Monocacy isn’t really the focus of this post…

No, as the title indicates, there’s at least one scenario… no matter how small… that has to raise an eyebrow.

What men of the Shenandoah Valley took-up arms to defend “Washington City”?

Sure, there were Valley men in the ranks of the Union army, but in this instance, I’m talking about those who were in refugee status.

In this particular story, the focus is on three men… Joseph Fravel, Lewis Funkhouser, and William F. Lichliter, all of Shenandoah County.

Up until the time of their escape from the Shenandoah Valley, they had been subjected to harassment typically experienced by Southern Unionists.

Catherine Fravel, mother of Joseph, noted, “My only son Joseph Fravel was conscripted and I used all of my influence to prevent his going he was only 18 years of age when they by force took him from my home and protection and left me a lone widow by myself to get a long as best I could [Joseph was able fortunate enough to get away]… My step son [David], a member of my family, was threatened with violence for his union sentiments”. Also a Unionist, Catherine had experienced harsh treatment herself, and “was shamed and treated with contempt by my neighbors for my outspoken Union sentiments.”

Finally, as the Confederate Army began its press down the Shenandoah, in the summer of either 1862 or 1863 (two accounts vary as to when this happened), the young men had had enough. Funkhouser recalled, “I was willing, and I did persuade two young men who were about to be conscripted [in Joseph Fravel’s case… conscripted again] to go with me through the mountains to the Union lines…”

A glimpse of the Old Long Bridge.

A glimpse of the Old Long Bridge.

When the three arrived in Washington, they likely found accommodations courtesy of David Fravel, who had made his escape from the Shenandoah about a year. All ended up “working for the government”, and, as Joseph Fravel recalled, “worked some time on the Long Bridge.” As Jubal Early threatened, they “took up arms in the defense of Washington City”.

So, now we know about the story of these Valley men who rushed to the defense of Washington. Yet… as I can’t just let the rest of the story fall to the wayside…

Joseph Fravel and Lewis Funkhouser eventually sought work outside Washington, driving teams with the army. Funkhouser stated in his claim that he served “in the 9th Army Corps, under Gen. Burnside – 14th N.Y. Heavy Artillery.”

While the young men successfully evaded Confederate service and persecution, Catherine Fravel remained behind in the Shenandoah, but was not alone, often sharing the company of those who shared her sentiments. Jacob Lichliter remembered:

I saw her often perhaps as often as five or six times a week. Her house was a meeting place for union people of the neighborhood as well as the town of Woodstock. We could talk over the progress of events and exchanged views with each other with out interruption or fear of being reported to the Rebels.

Catherine also aided Federal soldiers, whenever possible…

I did afford aid by baking and giving of Bread to union soldiers and waiting on such as men sick as many as two were here at my house at one time. I ministered to their wants to the best of my ability as my house was known by Union soldiers and Rebels. It was a home and stopping place for Union soldiers when they were on the march up or down the valley during the war. I mentioned a captain by the name of Robertson who came to my house sick. I cooked and prepared his meals for him for the space of five or six weeks. He was in General Banks command and was no relation of mine.

The claims of Catherine Fravel and Lewis Funkhouser were among those filed from Shenandoah County that received approval.

The final page in Catherine Fravel's claim, detailing the final decision of the Claims Commission.

The final page in Catherine Fravel’s claim, detailing the final decision of the Claims Commission.