‘Twixt North and South

By H. W. Calhoun

The Last Union Raid into Pendelton

Sometime in the month of February 1865, a force of Union cavalry under the command of a Major Croxwell made a forced march into Pendleton County by way of the North Fork and Mouth of Seneca. Late in the evening they turned off the North Fork road toward Franklin at the Conrad or Judy Gap just above Macksville. It was there learned in some way that their objective was Franklin where it was know that portions of the Dixie Boys and Pizzarinktums under the command of Harmon Hiner and Amos B. Warner were stationed and that a few Confederate regulars were home on leave. The regular Union cavalry had been joined on the way by about fifty Union Home Guards, thus bringing the entire force up to 150 or thereabout.

In that day was no way of transmitting news except by messenger and this means was not always safe for the messenger. The country roundabout had been drained of able-bodied men in order to fill the depleted and depleting ranks of the Confederate armies. No man could be found to carry the message and yet they knew that the message must in some way be carried.

Phoebe C. Harper, mother of the writer, and another girl whose name cannot now be recalled or ascertained, undertook to carry the message from near Macksville to the home of Zebedee Warner in the Bland Hills, a distance of several miles. It was hoped that some man might be found to carry the message from there on to Franklin. They made this trip afoot in the dead of winter with a deep snow on the ground through a section of country that was more or less debatable territory and beset with great danger to them in case they were discovered. In addition it was necessary for them to wade the North Fork River in order to reach their destination. They arrived at the Warner home about 11 o’clock at night, but to their disappointment found no man there to make the trip to Franklin. They did not know the way and they were little more than girls.

Mrs. Phebe Warner, the wife of Zebedee Warner and mother of Amos B. Warner, and her fourteen-year-old daughter, Mary Jane, afterward the wife of James Shears, finally undertook the journey. They came across the mountain by way of the Dolly Path. It was in the dead of night. It was necessary for them to make the journey on foot as all their horses had been previously taken.

As has been said before, there was a deep snow on the ground. Any person who may have traveled the Dolly Path in daylight and under the most favorable circumstances may form some faint idea of what the devoted woman and her daughter had to endure. Others cannot. Friends Run was swollen. Yet they had to wade it at each of the three fords. Finally, more dead than alive, they arrived at the home of John Bowers on Friends Run. Here Mrs. Warner left her daughter, completely exhausted, and secured a horse for herself for the remaining four miles or so of the journey.

Arriving in Franklin, Mrs. Warner first sought John E. Wilson to whom she delivered her message. He insisted on her taking his place in the warm bed from which he had just arisen while he carried the news to those interested in and about the town. Those who still had horses took them to the accustomed places of hiding.

The Dixie Boys, Pizzarinktums and a few regulars in town took up their position on what is known as "Rebels Retreat" just across the South Branch from the south end of town and awaited the coming of the invaders. Josiah Siple was dispatched down the South Branch to warn the citizens so that they, too, might conceal their property. He reached the home of George Hammer, Sr. on his mission about the same time that the Federal force was arriving at the home of James D. Ruddle, Who live where the home of Lloyd Hammer now stands, only a few hundred feet from the Hammer home in plain view, had it been daylight. The Federal force had come across the North Fork by way of Reeds Creek and Ruddle. Anderson and Clay, two of the sons of Mr. Ruddle, and a colored man named Ale who lived at the home, were already on their way toward the mountain with the Ruddle horses. They were fired upon several times by the approaching Federals but they kept on and got safely away with the horses.

Finding that the news of their coming had in some way preceded them, the Federals made a rapid dash for Franklin in the hope of arriving there in advance of any news of their coming. They found, however, upon their arrival, neither horses nor Confederates in the town.

They engaged in a skirmish across the South Branch with the Confederates stationed on Rebels’ Retreat, which for a time was quite spirited, but there were no casualties on either side.

Major Croxwell, in his disappointment, proclaimed that if he could find the man who had brought the news across from the North Fork he would have him shot at sunrise. When told that the messenger had not been a man at all but a woman, he expressed the desire to see her. He said he would like to buy her a pair of new shoes and lend her his own horse for the return journey back home.

On their return trip down the South Branch Valley, the invading force stopped at the home of Jacob F. Johnson, where John M. Kee now lives, and took Mr. Johnson a prisoner, though he was past the age for military duty and was only a private citizen.

George W. Hammer, who was at home on detached duty at the time, his brother, Benjamin S. Hammer, and Henry Snyder, who were at home on leave, all members of Company F of the Sixty-Second Virginia Regiment, decided they would try to secure the release of Mr. Johnson from captivity and prevent his being taken to prison, even though the odds against them were fifty to one. Accordingly they stationed themselves on the bluff back of the "Poor Field Hole," five miles below Franklin, and waited. In addition to their army muskets, one or more of them was armed with the regulation Colt’s army revolver, so when they opened fire on the advance guard of the approaching Federals, the three of them made considerable noise. The advance guard fell back upon the main body and then for several minutes the valley reverberated the sound of the miniature battle.

The Federals finally opened the fence to their left, forsook the public road, deployed in the "Poor Field" and got away. They stopped at the home of Elias Hammer at Ruddle and procured bandages. So it is thought some of them were probably wounded, though none were killed. In the confusion Mr. Johnson made good his escape. As far as is known this was the last armed raid of regular Union soldiers into Pendleton County.

The people of the Town of Franklin and those of the South Branch immediately below who profited by the information brought across the Dolly Path on that dark, cold, wintry night should now perform a tardy duty. Mindful of what she saved them in property, if not in human life and suffering, they should erect a suitable memorial or monument to the memory of Phebe Warner and her courageous deed. It would be a deserved and fitting tribute. Her trip across that rough, rocky mountain trail on that cold, dark, February night was far more courageous and heroic than the mythical ride of Paul Revere. The writer is glad to pay her this simple tardy tribute, and preserve in this humble way her memory and the record of her deed. No soldier on the field of battle or elsewhere in the same length of time ever dared more or endured more than did this humble woman, then far past middle age, in order that she might save the people of Franklin and the vicinity from the contemplated results of the raid