Saturday, March 26, 2016

World War I Letters of Russell County, December 13, 1918

The following letter originally appeared in the December 13th, 1918 issue of the Lebanon News.

"Somewhere in France.
Oct. 27, 1918.

Dear Uncle Joe:

Will write you a few lines to let you know how I am getting along and also to tell you about a few things in France. I have been in the hospital for some time but think I will be out in a few days.

There is lots of things here in France for a lonesome dough boy to while away the time with back at the hospitals. The Red Cross have movies and many other ways of entertaining the wounded and sick. The Red Cross sure is doing a great work here for the wounded and unfortunate soldiers.

I must not forget to tell you that we are well entertained up at the front, but it is not as amusing as some of the others, but it puts a greater impression on the mind, one that a man will never forget, but is great sport to see the Huns scuttling through the brush with his ears pinned back like jack-rabbits running through sage brush.

The most widely known thing to the dough boy (dough boy is a nick name for the infantry or fighting soldier) is what is known at the "G I cans and whiz bangs." The "G I Cans" is a very long shell and a very high explosive. The whiz bang is a small high explosive shell. The whiz bang gets its name from the noise it makes - all you hear is zip and bang and you won't hear that much if you happen to be near it. But the big shell is much slower and a fellow has some chance to duck behind something and save himself.

I must not forget to tell you about the planes. They are taking a great part in the war and the flyers are regular dare-devils. I have seen some of the Yank airmen pull off stunts over the front lines that looked as though they were flying into eternity, but most of them come out without a scratch.

Uncle Sam has two great railway systems in Europe with millions of employees. The best known system is the Hob Nail Express. Everyone knows all the dough boys wear hob-nail shoes and carry a pack that weighs about one hundred and fifteen pounds. The Huns look to me very much like a gang of hungry razor-backed hogs in a corn field gobbling up everything around them. You know they will not pay any attention to a bunch of pups barking at them, but when a big dog runs in with his bristles up he causes a panic among them right away. So this is what happened when the Huns were gobbling up France - they didn't give the French and British much notice, but when the Yanks ran into those dirty brutes they flopped their ears back and took to the tall timber yelling "kamerad" every jump.

Well, I have just finished a big feed of beef stew and irish potatoes so I will continue to write. Some of the boys have begun to sing and play the fiddle so you see I have a great difficulty in collection my thoughts sufficiently to write. I guess I had better leave the war path now and tell you a few things in the agricultural lines. It would surprise you very much to see what fine crops they raise with every nook and corner under cultivation. The land is tough clay sub soil with plenty of lime and in some places there is so much lime that the land is white. There is not a spot of land in the United States that is any better than the average land here. They also have fine horses and cattle - some of the finest horses as I have ever seen. I have not seen a poor or worthless horse since I have been over here except some on the front that had been gassed.

I have seen lots of stallions that were equally as good as the horse the Ex-Governor Stuart had. The common draft horses are far better than the horses in the United States. The cattle as well bred, very heavy, short-legged, look something like our red short horn, also they have fine milch cows. Another surprise for me was to see the people wearing wooden shoes. About half the population wear them and I think I shall bring a pair back with me for a souvenir. I had a nice collection of souviners but lost them all when they brought me to the hospital.

I visited some old historic buildings, forts and castles. I have been in Bluebeard's castle and dungeons and I have seen castles that were so old that the stone walls have crumbled into dust almost. In fact, I have seen every thing in France that is worth seeing - been through Paris three times. The buildings are queer looking and not as high as those in cities in the United States. The houses in the small villages are made of clay, sticks or stone. I have not seen a single house made of wood except where the U. S. Government put them up since the war.

I have just been out chestnut hunting. There are two large trees about thirty steps from the ward that I am in. The chestnuts here are about the size of the Moccasin ridge buckeye.

Monday morning - Well I was interrupted yet again yesterday. We had a band concert just in front of the ward and they sure could make some music.

The farmers are still setting out cabbage plants and several other varieties of garden plants. They have very peculiar ways of tilling the soil here. I have seen a few wooden plows also some good gang plows, several good reapers and binders but they were made in the U. S.

Well guess I had better close for this time.

Your nephew,

Saturday, March 19, 2016

"War Incidentals of 1861-2-65 Statement by M. S. Hurt"

One morning about the first of June 1862, I with 15 sick comrades, was started on ahead to get out of the way.

John L. Fletcher was sent to help me along some three or 4 miles above Strasburg Va. Some Yanky Cavelry dashed in an capturd the 15 who was a short distance ahed. Jon and I escaped by hiding in a fence-corner under the cherry sprouts.

A few days afterward I left for home on 30 day furlow signd by Dr. Doak. Shortly after reaching home I commencd shoing up the soldiers stationd nearby, continueing it until I reinlisted by joining B. W. Jenkins Cavelry Co. was obedient unto his orders ever after ward untill the war closed.

I was in two raids or scouts. One with him and one with Lieutenant Scofield, and on the 16th of April 1865 I served as Corporal over a squad of men stationd on the Fincastle road north of Salem Va and was honorably discharged by him on the 13th of April 1865 by Capten himself.

M. S. Hurt

PS my left leg continued to give trouble the Dr said it was about to run into white swelling an I had better have it split and the bone scrapt that was in September 1865 it finely got better with out it.

[Written by Meekin S. Hurt of the 37th Virginia Infantry, October, 1925, as a part of his pension application.]

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Leonidas Blackwell Gets Conscripted

Leonidas Blackwell was born in Washington County, Virginia on August 10th, 1829, the son of Joseph and Elizabeth (Venable) Blackwell. He married Nancy C. Spurrier on January 27th, 1859. By the next year they were living in Russell County, and Leonidas was working as a blacksmith.

Leonidas was technically exempt from military service due to a part of his right foot having been partially cut off. He had a surgeon's certificate which verified this fact.

Leonidas avoided military service until June of 1864, when he was served with a written notice to appear before the Enrolling Officer for Russell County. He appeared and was sent home for three months. Three months later he was conscripted and ordered to report to Lynchburg on October 3, 1864. The Saturday before he was due to appear in Lynchburg, he was captured by Union scouts approximately 10 miles from Saltville, Virginia.

On October 26th, Leonidas was in Lexington, Kentucky, a Union prisoner. On October 22nd, he was sent to Camp Chase, Ohio. He remained at Camp Chase until February 1st, 1865, when he was released after taking the Oath of Allegiance. His description at the time was: light hair, light complexion, 5 feet 10 inches tall, with grey eyes and 35 years of age.

He returned home and soon moved back to Washington County where he again took up the occupation of blacksmith. In his 1900 pension application, he claims to have lost an eye to small pox while at Camp Chase.

Leonidas lived a long life and eventually died on December 28th, 1916, in Washington County, Virginia.