Recipient – Confederate Medal of Honour
 
From: btzoumas@bellsouth.net
 
Y’all,
 
Below is the story of William T. Overby, Private 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry, one of Mosby’s men. As this is from the book Valor In Gray, about the recipients of the Confederate Medal of Honor and their stories, I think it important to share these stories with all Southern partisans. From what I have read from this and other pro-Southern forums, I believe there are a lot of our people who do not really know WHY we ought to have pride in our heritage and history. There are many stories of men who were given a choice of whether to live, or to die. Think about that a moment. Captured by the enemy, you are presented with a choice. One is that you can live, you can grow old, have children and grandchildren, live a somewhat comfortable life, maybe into your eighties. You can enjoy life. All you have to do is tell where someone is, or tell who someone is. Or, if you do not cooperate, you WILL DIE. And right now. Simple as that. Sometimes, though as in this case, you believe that no matter what you do, you will still die. You believe your enemy is lying, that they are NOT honourable.
  
Sam Davis could have lived. Henry Wirz could have lived. Many others were given the choice to betray and live, or not and die. They chose death, with honour, than life and dishonour. Such is the legacy we inherited. Are we worthy of such a legacy? Have we done enough to deserve their nod of approval? Each individual only can answer this in truth.
 
Sincerely,
Jimmy L. Shirley Jr.
 
——————–
 
Visitors to the court house lawn in Newnan, Georgia, can hardly miss the imposing stone. Measuring seven feet tall by four feet wide, it stands not just as another Southern county’s turn-of-the-century tribute to the Confederate veteran, but also as a bold sentinel to the memory of one particular soldier. To the citizens of Coweta County, this man they remember, dubbed by them "The Nathan Hale of the Confederacy" went off to war and became a hero. If pressed for details, they will mention that he was executed…shot or hanged somewhere in Virginia…some kind of retaliation by the Yankees. And if asked, they will reply that, "Yes, his descendants still reside in the county, good folks justly proud of the sacrifice of one of their own."
     
The visit does not have to end here, however. Nine miles east of Newnan on Highway 34, the motorist reaches the McCollum-Sharpsburg Road at Thomas Cross Roads. Here, those interested in the curious story revealed by the court house stone are instructed to bear right and drive south for three and one half miles. At this point the highway intersects the Lower Fayetteville Road. Turning left and driving another mile and a half brings one to Cokes Chapel Methodist Church.
 
Founded in 1833, the church stands as a continuing testament to the faith of those who lived and are buried here. A walk through the churchyard reveals names on century-old stones that match those just passed on rural mailboxes.
     
And here, the traveler is informed, is the second stone to the memory of the young man who is so prominently honored on the court house lawn. A gentle walk through the cemetery passes row seven where-it is pointed out-his maternal grandparents are buried. His own marker is farther along, back in row eleven. But when found, it is a disappointment, a small stone situated modestly between the monument over his father’s grave and a second marking the grave of his step-mother. His stone reveals only his name and dates.. .and the small notation at he is really buried near Markham, Virginia.
     
Virginia… Tombstones to both father and maternal grandparents reveal that the families had come to Georgia from Brunswick County, Virginia, decades before the war. Indeed, the blood of the Old Dominion flowed in the veins of this young man.. .for he too had been born in Brunswick. But Markham is a small village in the northern part of the state, nowhere near Brunswick County. What then of the circumstances that had cost him his life?  (2)
     
His service record states only that he had enlisted in Atlanta as a private in Company A of the 7th Georgia Volunteers on 31 May 1861. There is evidence that he was wounded at Second Manassas and that during his recovery in the army hospital at Warrenton, Virginia, he suffered with rheumatism. He continued on as a nurse…at 25 cents per day: The record also shows that he was soon quietly "dropped from the rolls" of his regiment. (3)
     
Here, the trail narrows but does not end. More inquiry-this time in northern Virginia-reveals the existence of another stone, a third monument bearing his name. "It’s in Front Royal," locals say, "in the town’s main cemetery: It’s so tall it cannot be missed!" 
     
A visit to this small, picturesque town situated at the northern entrance of Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park proves to be a treat. Front Royal is a community whose heritage is matched only by its residents’ pride to proclaim it. Prospect Hill Cemetery is quickly pointed out, a prominent hill on the south side of town. The stone this time-the third one-is easily found, an imposing granite obelisk 25 feet high flanked by two ancient cannon. Here again is the name of the young man from Coweta County. But this is also a monument to six others, and their names are here too…seven men in all, each executed by the enemy near Front Royal during the war-ravaged autumn of 1864.  (4)
     
Certainly there were many who lost their lives in the war. And there were dozens of grim executions. Thus, visitors to this quiet knoll might rightly ask what extraordinary circumstances merited so imposing a monument to the memory of seven executed Confederates?
     
There are two reasons, both answered in stone. The first is a straightforward accusation of war crimes by the enemy, for this monument was erected to the
MEMORY OF SEVEN COMRADES EXECUTED WHILE PRISONERS OF WAR NEAR THIS SPOT.
     
The second reason is boldly carved into the obelisk’s massive base. Just two words confront the visitor. Yet to the citizens of Front Royal and indeed to Virginians across the region, this is enough, for these seven martyrs had been MOSBY’S MEN.
     
"When any of them are caught with nothing to designate what they are," Uysses S. Grant had ordered, "hang them without trial." Ruthless words from another time, but such had been the nature of that war. And such had been the fate for these seven who rode with the famed "Gray Ghost."
 
But for the citizens who witnessed the events of that terrible Friday; the brave~ indeed the defiance of one of the sacrificed became the stuff of legend.
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
     
What an inviting target! From the wooded heights above Front Royal, Capt. Sam Chapman watched silently as an enemy ambulance train neared the town. The escort appeared to number about 200 cavalry; But given the element of surprise and the experience of his own hundred or so rangers, Chapman felt that the odds were on his side. (5)
     
Quickly he divided his command. Capt. Walter Frankland would take 45 men and hit the front of the wagon train while he, with the balance, would attack the rear. It was just as the Colonel himself would have done!
     
But John Mosby was absent, down with a serious wound suffered the week before. This would be Chapman’s fight.
     
The two columns separated, working their way under cover and into position for the attack. Suddenly, Chapman spotted more blue riders, hundreds following at a discreet distance behind the wagons! It was a trap! If Frankland charged into this brigade of cavalry, he and his men would be annihilated! He must be stopped!
     
But gunfire erupted before Chapman could deliver his warning. Desperately he yelled to Frankland, "Call off your men; you are attacking a brigade!"
     
Walter Frankland stared for an instant, mystified. "Why, Sam, we’ve whipped them." But it took only moments for Chapman’s warning to ring true. (6)
     
Heavy return fire and masses of Yankee cavalry quickly converged on the attackers from three sides. Frantically Sam Chapman sought to disengage, alternately fighting then retreating to better ground. This was Mosby’s style, sudden, impetuous attacks always with an out. Now his rangers sought that escape, splitting into small parties and vanishing into the woods, using their knowledge of the land to distance themselves from their foe.
     
In the first moments of the attack, Thomas Moss had blazed away at the blue riders. The surprise seemed complete. Suddenly a hand grabbed him on the shoulder. "For God’s sake, come out from here!" It was Frankland and as Moss took note of his surroundings, he realized that "there was not another one of our comrades in view."
     
Racing through a neck of woods to escape the massive sweep of Union cavalry, Moss emerged in open ground. "I saw the main column of our boys passing through a gap in the fence." Jumping this fence, he and three others "formed" on a nearby elevation, but the woods and fields were filled with blue riders. Moments later, Moss remembered, a regiment of cavalry "came in between us and our main body; " To tarry longer meant certain capture!
     
But as the foursome abandoned their hill, they spied some 20 blue soldiers guarding rangers already taken. Prisoners! It was never too late for an attack to free a friend!
     
Tom Moss and his comrades rushed the guards, pistols blazing. At point blank range, they emptied their revolvers, then used them as clubs. The prisoners scrambled
in the melee, grabbing dropped weapons, then lending a hand to the scrap while others ran for the woods. But hearing the gunfire in their rear, Federal cavalry converged on the fight and smothered it with overwhelming numbers. Yet most of Mosby’s men got away, melting into the wooded hills to fight another day.
     
Not so for Pvt. William Overby. In the thick of the fight, Tom Moss had flung him the reins to a captured horse, but before he could mount the animal and
make good his escape, he was recaptured.  (7)
     
As the firing died away, the Federals collected their forces and reformed. Smarting from the brazen insult of the rangers’ attack as well as from actual casualties, the Yankees herded Overby and four others at gunpoint into the dusty column and continued toward Front Royal.
     
Then came the news about Lt. Charles McMaster!
     
Up the road from the main fight, away from town and near Chester Gap, McMaster had led his squadron in an attempt to block the main retreat of Chapman’s men over the mountain. Confronted by McMaster’s force astride his escape route, a desperate Chapman held back nothing and ordered his men to shoot their way through.
     
And the men did exactly that! More than a dozen Federals were cut down. McMaster himself, having first had his horse shot from under him, bravely stood his ground only to be riddled with bullets and then trampled by Confederate horsemen charging to reach freedom. As he lay mortally wounded in the dust of the road, he indicated he had been shot after surrendering, gunned down in cold blood!
     
Now as the five prisoners marched toward Front Royal, ugly shouts for retribution and revenge taunted them. Calls for vengeance degenerated into curses, then spit… and finally kicks and slaps. Officers along the column said nothing or looked the other way.
     
News of McMaster’s wounding spread quickly; each retelling colored and embellished. By the time the outraged procession entered Front Royal, it was little more than an armed mob. Knots of angry soldiers met them, gathering at street intersections, loudly demanding revenge. Nearby, a regimental band struck up the "Dead March."
     
In all of this, fear seized the townspeople; window shades dropped and doors closed as the sinister crowd of soldiers snarled through the streets. The loud shouts grew uglier; in the midst of the blue-coated mob, two prisoners came into view, pushed and kicked along by raging men calling for blood. Reaching a fevered pitch, the Federals suddenly swirled off the street…and then through the yells and curses came the climatic shots. Their hatred vented, the angry crowd dispersed, and two of John Mosby’s men, Lucien Love and David L. Jones, lay dead in a church yard.
     
But nearby, more maddened Unionists sought revenge on a third prisoner, Thomas Anderson, shooting him down in a fusillade of gunfire beneath an elm tree. Of the five captives, only Overby and Carter remained alive.
     
Shoved and prodded by their captors, the two were led to Petty’s wagon yard. But now instead of a swift execution, the Yankee mob’s urgent lust for revenge tempered itself to other considerations. Where was Mosby; they demanded? Tell us how we can find him and the rest of his band and we’ll let you live!
     
Carter, paralyzed with fear at the horrors just witnessed, could only weep at the black fate that confronted him. Three of his comrades had just been slaughtered; regardless of what he did, he knew death also awaited him.
     
William Overby knew it too. Yet the grim acts perpetrated by these criminals brought only a stony silence. He would give them nothing!
     
From a distance, an acquaintance watched as the two men stood before their captors…enduring their taunts…and temptations. Yet it was the tall Georgian that attracted his attention. "I recollect the appearance of Overby; he was standing with his hat and coat off, his wavy black hair floating in the breeze. 1 never saw a
finer specimen of manhood.. .he looked like a knight of old.  (8)
     
But events were moving swiftly: As if pushed by an evil wind, the riotous crowd of soldiers suddenly tired of their patience and, grabbing their captives, hustled them toward the north end of town. Nearby, the band commenced a dirge- "Love Not, the One You Love May Die"-and played it over and over. "Well do I remember the picture," one woman wrote later of that black Friday, "Overby, with head erect, defiant, and Carter overcome and weeping.  (9)
     
The mob halted under a walnut tree on a hill halfway between the town and the rolling Shenandoah River. Ropes appeared and determined men scrambled to secure them to the stately limbs above. With rough nooses around their necks, these rebels would talk now!  (10)
     
Where was Mosby? When and where were his men to meet again? Tell us and live!
     
William Thomas Overby eyed them coldly and shook his head. "We cannot tell that."
     
But again came the questions.. .and the tendered promise. With defiance and contempt, Overby just glared.
     
Enough then! Tightly binding their prisoners’ hands behind their backs, the captors manhandled Overby and Carter onto horses. The skittish animals lurched, tightening the noose into a burn around each man’s neck. Carter choked a plea that he might pray and bowed his head. Overby remained transfixed, grimly armed now only with an iron conviction against those who would destroy him.
     
Once more…tell us where Mosby is…and live!
     
"Mobil hang ten of you for everyone of us!" came the sharp reply…and an instant later, the whips cracked.  (11)
     
But the killers were not finished. Yet a sixth member of Mosby’s command- 17 -year-old Henry C. Rhodes-perished at the hands of the Union cavalry that day. Brought into Front Royal after the first five, Rhodes was lashed with ropes between two horses, and dragged in plain sight of his agonized relatives, to the open field north of our town, where one man volunteered to do the killing, and ordered the helpless, dazed prisoner to stand up in front of him while he emptied his pistol upon him.  (12)
     
From a distance Sue Richardson watched in horror.
     
"We could see the crowd assembled around him, then we had the pain of seeing the stock passing around him before his body could be removed. His poor mother is almost crazy."  (13)
     
Their frenzy of death finished, the enemy abandoned Front Royal, but not before leaving a dire warning to those who still would ride with the notorious Gray Ghost. Scrawled on a placard hanging from the swollen, dark corpse of William Thomas Overby was the following message: "Such is the fate of all of Mosby’s gang.  (14)
     
As if to emphasize this warning, in October, A. C. Willis was captured and hanged in Rappahannock County; bringing to seven the number of Mosby’s men executed by the Federals.
     
John Mosby received the black news from Front Royal with regret but grim resolve. If this was the way the war was to be conducted, then let there be no mistake. Biding his time, he retaliated on 6 November by executing members of Gen. George Custer’s cavalry. To Sheridan, he sent the following warning.
    
"Since the murder of my men not less than 700 prisoners, including many officers of high rank, captured from your army by this command, have been forwarded to Richmond, but the execution of my purpose of retaliation was deferred in order, as far as possible, to confine its operation to the men of Custer and Powell. Accordingly on the 6th instant seven of your men were, by my order, executed.. ..Hereafter any prisoners falling into my hands will be treated with the kindness due to their condition, unless some new act of barbarity shall compel me reluctantly to adopt a course of policy repulsive to humanity.  (15)
     
With his last breath, the loyal Overby had warned his executioners of Mosby’s wrath. He and those with him that day in Front Royal had died hard. But never
would he betray the Colonel! Now, an eye had been taken for an eye. Was that not enough? If the war continued down this desperate road, Overby’s dire prediction still held…Mosby and his men, he knew in his last moments, could and would assuredly "adopt a course of policy repulsive to humanity." And in the end, Philip Sheridan knew it, too.
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
     
There is a fourth stone. It is by far the most obscure but for the visitor to Markham, Virginia, in search of William Overby, the most poignant. For this is no enormous boulder erected by his countrymen lauding him with a nom de guerre. This is no memorial in granite flanked by cannon, nor is it a mark of fond remembrance amidst the dust of his kinsmen.
     
Markham, situated on an interchange beside the bustle and blur of Interstate 66, remains much the rural village it was during the last century. With good directions and a keen determination, those interested will park in front of an older, well-kept farmhouse, seek the courtesy of permission, then cross a side yard to a two-rail fence. Climbing a small hill, the way leads back several hundred feet to a broken-down iron fence. Thick brush and vines obscure most of the forgotten stones, many of which are tilted or broken.
     
The name "Anderson" predominates here, but if the searcher is careful and patiently clears the undergrowth with a careful eye for poison ivy and snakes, the discovery of this fourth stone is the reward. The inscription is brief:
                                                                       W.T. OVERBY
                                                            MOSBY’S COMMAND, CO. C
                                                              KILLED FRONT ROYAL, VA.
                                                                      SEPT. 23, 1864
     
It is the gravestone of a hero, for William Thomas Overby went to his death refusing to divulge vital information to his enemy…information that might have
saved his life but which would certainly have compromised and possibly destroyed his battalion. Even after witnessing the cold-blooded murder of three of his
comrades, Pvt. Overby remained steadfast, leaving an extraordinary example of personal bravery and defiance.  (16)
     
For his ultimate sacrifice on behalf of his country, Pvt. William Thomas Overby was posthumously awarded the Confederate Medal of Honor. This decoration is displayed in Carnegie House, Headquarters of the Newnan-Coweta County Historical Society, Newnan, Georgia.

(1)-Overby’s date of birth is derived from records in the International Genealogical Index, LDS Genealogical Library, Kensington, Maryland. For decades after the war, citizens of Front Royal remembered 23 September 1864 as "Black Friday." Overby’s nom de gue"e is cited from the Laura Virginia Hale papers on deposit at the Warren Heritage Society, Front Royal, Virginia.
 
(2)-Newnan-Coweta Historical Society, History of Coweta County. Georgia, (Newnan, Georgia, 1988), Overby family genealogy, p. 325.
 
(3)-CSR-7th Georgia Volunteers.
 
(4)-This monument was unveiled on 23 September 1899. SHSP, Vol. 27. pp. 250-87. The names on the monument are Carter, Overby, Love, Jones, Willis, Rhodes, and Anderson. Willis was executed several weeks after the first six.
 
(5)-Estimates of Confederate strength vary from 80 to 120 men.
 
(6)-Williamson, James J., Mosby’s Rangers, (New York, 1895), pp. 239-40. Cited herein as Williamson.
 
(7)-Moss’ account is reprinted in Ibid., pp. 241-2.
 
(8)-This is Dr. R. C. Buck’s recollection as reprinted in Ibid., p. 242; the reference to a ‘knight of old’ is from his article in SHSP, Vol. 25, p. 240.
 
(9)-This is the account of Mrs. Davis-Roy as reported in Williamson, p. 240.
 
(1O)-Sue Richardson diary, entry for 23 September 1864, wrote that Carter and Overby "…were hung in the Mountain field on a large walnut tree…" Typescript copy courtesy Special Collections, Robert W Woodruff Library, Emory University, Atlanta, GA. Cited herein as Richardson.
 
(ll)-This final scene is from the eyewitness account of Sgt. S. C. Willis, 1st Rhode Island Cavalry in a letter to Front Royal Postmaster, H. L. Cook, dated 27 March 1902, and cited in v: C. Jones’ Ranger Mosby, (Chapel Hill, 1944), p. 211. Rev. Frederic Denison differs with this account, writing in Sabres and Spurs: The First Rhode Island Cavalry, (Central Falls, 1876), p. 392, that after "their hands

[were] fastened behind them, [and] the halters finally adjusted, the bodies were pulled up"…indicating that Carter and Overby were strangled. H. P. Moyer witnessed the executions and identified Companies E and L, 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry and Lt. McMaster’s troop of the 2nd US Cavalry as the soldiers who did the hanging on orders from Gen. Torbert. Writing nearly a half century after the execution, Moyer acknowledged the pair "met their cruel fate bravely." Moyer, H. P., compiler, History of the Seventeenth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry, (Lebanon, 1911), pp. 217-8.
 
(12)-SHSP, Vol. 24, p. 109.
 
(13)-Richardson, entry for 23 September 1864.
 
(14) There are several versions of what was written on the placard. Mosby obviously paraphrased the wording in his written warning of 11 November 1864 to Gen. Philip Sheridan, i.e., "this would be the fate of Mosby and all his men." OR, Vol. 43, pt. 2, p. 920. The version cited is from Williamson, p. 241.
 
(15)-OR, Vol. 43, pt. 2, p. 920; Mosby was unaware at the time he wrote to Sheridan on 11 November 1864, that two of his captives had escaped into the dark. Of the remaining five, three were hanged and two shot. Mosby’s men, possibly out of repugnance for the ordered retaliation, failed to "finish off" the two gunshot prisoners and both men survived, albeit as cripples, thus bringing to but three the number actually executed.
 
(16)-Pvt. Thomas E. Anderson is buried nearby On 5 January 1997, the mortal remains of William Thomas Overby; having been exhumed from his grave in Markham, Virginia, were interred with full military honors at Oak Hill Cemetery in Newnan, Georgia.