Scouts and Spies of the North and South
By William Gilmore Beymer


When the pages of this memoir have been read, and laid aside, and then in the course of time have been all but quite forgotten, there shall yet linger a memory that will stir when chance brings some passing mention of his name, or maybe at mere reference to the Secret Ser­vice. A confused memory perhaps, a memory of count­less desperate chances, of services that weigh heavy in the balance scale of Victory; remembrance of his youth and courage, and, at the last, an ever-questioning memory, vague as in the telling, of that final unrecorded battle; but outlasting all other recollections of the man there shall be this one concrete impression-admiration.

Who can quite forget such tributes as were paid him by his generals?—Sheridan's "I want him!" and the reply of General Edwards, "I would rather you would take my right arm than to have you take him from me." Best of all, the splendid profanity of one among his soldiers—a tribute rugged and imperishable as rough-hewn granite, "We think God A'mighty of him."

It is like a picture—that first story that begins before he was a soldier: the dusty chaise in which there stands the boy Young—he was scarcely more than a boy even when he was commissioned lieutenant-colonel four years later—and at his side the solemn-eyed little girl of ten, breathlessly watching brother Henry as he talks, watching him to the forgetting of the horse she holds, and the place her finger marks for him in the book of Military Tactics, forgetful of the very crowd that hems them in and that stands with upturned, troubled faces. For back­ground to the picture the street of a New England village —elms, and white houses, flecks of sunlight on the dusty road, and the unclouded May sky; but none of these must be seen very plainly, for they do not count in the picture.

The nation is at war and must have men—must have men. And the crowd presses closer about the chaise and restlessly listens, until its occupants drive away without looking back, for the boy is already deep in Tactics and the little girl is driving.

So, through the Blackstone Valley; in every village the boy calls a crowd about him, and at the end of one day's haranguing sixty-three men have volunteered to enlist with him.

But Rhode Island's quota had been already filled when he took the list to Colonel Slocum; and so he went back to his work in Providence, with God knows what of dis­appointment, and settled down again at the high stool and the ledgers in Lippitt & Martin's. But already he had left behind him that unforgetable impression-admiration. Colonel Slocum sent for him, and on June 6, 1861, he was mustered in with the regiment as Company B's second lieutenant—so pale, so office-stamped, such a slender little lieutenant, that Wright, his robust captain, growled: "He will be flat on his back after the first march! What does that young man expect to do in the army ?" Yet it was the second lieutenant that very night who silenced the angry, mutinous men in the bare, empty barracks of the Dexter Grounds. He might have stayed in the comfortable quarters of his brother officers, but instead, grasping the situation at a glance, he shouted, "It's about time to turn in, boys," and he spread a blanket, wrapped himself in his coat, and lay down on the hard floor among them. "Lie right down," he called, cheer­fully; and the men, abashed, yet pleased and touched withal, lay down good-humoredly about him. That was the beginning, and it was like that till the very end—always, where he led, men followed with implicit con­fidence.

Six weeks later, at Bull Run, they-the men of Company B-followed like veterans where he led them—he, the second lieutenant, who was to have been flat on his back; it was Captain Wright, the prophet, who occupied the cot bed in the hospital, ill; the first lieutenant was absent. The acting captain of Company B did not escape notice that July Sunday. One eye-witness says, "I can remem­ber how small he looked, his sword trailing on the ground, his slight figure so full of fire and energy." And it is said that fighting soldiers of other regiments paused and turned to look again at "such a boy in command of a company." Had he been a great, strapping fellow, the fewness of his years might have passed unnoticed, but he was not five feet five in height, and very slender; it seemed that a child had come out to lead them. That he led them well is shown by a first lieutenant's commis­sion, dated July 22d.

In a letter to his mother a short time after this he wrote :

You say you should think it [the suffering] would discourage any one from going to the war. The fact is, no one knows what fighting is till they have seen it; and they that have, after it is over and they think about it, would like to see it over again. There is an excitement about it, there is a longing for it again that no one knows who has not ex­perienced it.

Much of his character will be understood that could never be understood without those pregnant sentences. Read them again, for they contain that sentiment which was to be the lodestar, the north toward which the needle of his life was to point unswervingly till the end-the love of fighting and of danger.

General Oliver Edwards—and no one knew Young better—has written:

It was very rare to find a man who found in the most deadly peril his greatest pleasure, and who sought out danger, not only in the line of duty, but because he reveled in it. Colonel Henry H. Young and General Phil Kearny possessed this trait of character. . . .

Perhaps his crossing of the Rappahannock at Fred­ericksburg had something to do with his first staff ap­pointment-Fredericksburg, where Captain Young led Company B (since November 13, '61, his own company) over the pontoon bridge in the face of the fire of the sharpshooters. And with this appointment, which de­tached him from his regiment, there ended his relations with the men of his old company. What the men thought of him one of them had told unwittingly to the mother of his captain. It was in the hospital at Portsmouth Grove, where Mrs. Young and her little daughter—the little girl who drove that day in the Blackstone Valley-had gone to carry comforts to the men of the Second Rhode Island. She had had shown to her the cot where lay a man of Company B—his company. To the man, who had never before seen her, the question, "Do you like your captain ?" must have seemed an idle one, but it roused him as could no other.

"Like him, ma'am?" he cried, vehemently. "We think God A'mighty of him! There never was any one like him; the men would lay down their lives for him any day." It was admiration—idolatry—like that that he had left behind him.

It may be that in the staff appointment he foresaw the opportunity to commence the work that Sheridan has called "invaluable"; or perhaps, once on the staff, he merely drifted into it; but however it was, he began then his self-taught, self-sought apprenticeship to the Secret Service. Camp life grew irksome, and he went out be­tween the lines to quicken it.

Once he saved a supply train from certain capture by raiders whose plans he had discovered. Discovered how? —at what personal hazard? If ever he told, it was in some such unsatisfying manner as the story of fighting his way out of a guerrilla ambush is told in a letter to his mother:

I went out the other day on a little expedition over the mountains —three of us, all mounted on mules. We went some six miles outside of our picket-lines, and got in among the guerrillas after we had crossed what is called Carter's Run. We were fired on, but made out to get away. One of the boys lost his mule and equipments. The mule balked when they commenced firing, and would not stir a step, and they pressed the man so hard he had to take to the woods afoot. I think that I shall explore that section again at an early date.

And in another letter :

A scout's life is a dangerous one to a certain extent, but I don't know, after all, that it is more so than a great many other positions.

Well indeed might he say that !-he of whom his brigade commander wrote:

When you wished an order carried to any part of the field he [Young] did not look about for the safest route but took the most direct one, no matter how the bullets whistled. He was always ready to dash through the hottest place, to cheer on a wavering regiment or to rally a disorganized one. While the battle [Marye's Heights] was at its height he discovered a wounded soldier of the Second Rhode Island in such a position that he was exposed to the fire of both sides. Leaping from his horse, amid a shower of bullets, he was himself wounded in the arm, but dragged the poor fellow to the shelter of a tree; it was but the work of a moment, yet amid the noise and con­fusion of battle seemed wonderfully cool and deliberate.

And all this time the duties of a staff officer continued, varied only by free-lance scoutings to gratify the longing for excitement; the other life was beyond him still, but he was reaching out to grasp it. Chancellorsville, Gettys­burg, Rappahannock Station, Mine Run, Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor-he was of the brigade head­quarters staff at all of them.

And then the Shenandoah, the valley in which the name of Major Harry Young was to be known and dreaded and respected in every household throughout its length and breadth: the place and the man were together; the time was almost upon them. After the battle of the Opequon—September 19, 1864-Col. Oliver Edwards was left in command of Winchester, and Young was his Inspector-General. It was part of_ his staff duty to familiarize himself with all the roads round about Winchester, and he was almost daily in Confederate uniform scouting through the Valley; he was now on that intangible border line which separates the army scouts from men of the Secret Service.

At this time there was in the Valley a body of scouts from General Crook's command—a hundred men on detached service commanded by one Captain Blazer‑who were engaged in a war to the death with the parti­san battalions of Gilmor, McNeil, and Mosby. Captain Young at every opportunity rode out at the side of Cap­tain Blazer, and from him learned much of the methods of such irregular warfare, much that must afterward have proved of incalculable value when he was head of Sheridan's Secret Service. Later on, Mosby's Captain "Dolly" Richards all but wiped out Blazer's little com­mand in a savage hand-to-hand battle, in which Captain Blazer's career was closed by his capture. After that Captain Young adopted different methods. At one time he induced three of Colonel Edwards's men to ap­parently desert from the Union army and enlist with Mosby, to whom one of them got so close as to be even orderly at the partisan leader's headquarters; but they must have been the wrong men for their opportunity, for nothing seems to have come of it, and Young restlessly turned to other schemes. A well-planned trap was in­advertently sprung by a detachment of Federal cavalry not in Young's secret. Soon after this, Sheridan lifted Young up to so broad a field of endeavor that such work shrank to secondary importance. But that was not until he had outfaced Death in two desperate personal encounters. Once was on the Front Royal road in the late afternoon of a summer day—one of those hot, dusty, breathless days when the great pallid cumulus clouds heap up, mountain upon mountain, then flush, then dull and darken into presagers of the coming storm. Young, alone, miles outside the Federal outposts, was galloping back to Winchester from another of his lonely, restless scoutings—he seems always to have preferred to be alone ; other scouts went out in pairs, he seemed fascinated by the desolation of unshared dangers. In the thick hush before the breaking of the storm, he should have heard—but perhaps the muttering thunder drowned the drum of the approaching hoofbeats; they turned in from a cross-road close behind him—a party of Confederate cavalry. In an instant the pursuit began. He tried to outdistance them, but the little gray—so often mentioned in his let­ters home—was tired, and Young knew it; he suddenly stopped, turned at right angles, and put him at the wall; with a supreme effort the gray cleared the ditch, cleared the wall, and began the struggle up the long slope to the dense woodland that crowned it. Two only, on the fleetest mounts, took the wall, and followed; the rest re­fused it, and after a moment's confusion raced down the road to head him off should he come back to the road where it turned along the second side of the forest. The two, shouting, were overtaking him; he turned on them and charged furiously down upon them, shooting as he rode; they fled, yelling for their comrades. Then he rode into the shelter of the wood, and, but a few rods from its edge, he hid the trembling gray, and flung himself face down, burrowing into the leaf mold.

The storm broke; day was stripped of an hour by the darkness; the trees grew loud in the rush of the wind, and the earth trembled with the unusually violent thunder. The Confederates came back; he could hear them above the lash of the rain—calling to each other and crashing about in the thickets. He had stopped so near the point where he had entered the wood that they did not search there; but they passed perilously close, and once he was sure they would find him. They gave it up at last and went away; he learned afterward from a prisoner that the leader, blinded by the lightning's glare, had been dashed against a low bough and seriously injured.

After a while he led his horse out from the dripping trees, and rode unmolested back to the army.

The Valley was scourged with a plague of bushwhackers —robbers and murderers who had deserted from regular commands of both armies and had turned war to their own advantage. There were verbal orders from General Sheridan to hang all those that were proved bush­whackers, and Young compiled a " blacklist " of all such in the vicinity of Winchester-their names and haunts and habits. On days when no other duties were pressing he would go out with one or two men and hunt down some of the blacklisted. The record of one such day's hunting is still remembered-as much, perhaps, for the personality of the hunted as for the unusual courage of the hunter. It was known of the hunted that he had been a member of a Virginia cavalry regiment, had had a sixty-day fur­lough in order to procure a body-servant, but that he had been absent from his command for more than nine months and was a deserter and a bushwhacker—a murderer of prisoners; indeed, by his own boasts, known as the "Prisoner-Killer"; yet he could count on a score of houses in the Valley for help and shelter, for he was a tall, hand­some fellow, cool and audacious. Captain Young in some way found out that day's hiding-place of the "Killer," and, hurrying to headquarters, he asked of Colonel Edwards a detail of two men; with his men he galloped away up the Valley. The "Killer" in some way escaped, barely escaped, and they followed, rapidly over­taking him. The "Killer" fired once, and a horse went down in a wild tangle of flying hoofs; the other riders leaped clear of their fallen comrade with never a look behind them. A bend in the road, and then out upon a mile-long straightaway; Young and the "Killer" fire almost together; the second soldier pitches backward, and the "Killer's" horse goes down in a heap in a ditch at the roadside; the "Killer" is down, then up again, and in a second is into the thicket. . . . When consciousness came to the wounded soldier he found himself alone; the faint sounds from the distant thicket told of a terrible struggle, and he stared stupidly at the point nearest the fallen horse of the “Killer."

After a long time, when there had been a protracted silence, the bushes parted, and there came forth the "Killer," white-faced and bruised and bound, with Cap­tain Young, carrying two heavy revolvers, grimly urging him forward. Neither had been able to use his weapons, but they had fought it out there in the underbrush, and by some marvel of fighting the fierce little New-Englander had conquered a man over six feet tall, and heavy in pro­portion. Somehow he got his prisoner and his two wound­ed men back to headquarters, and there the trial of the "Killer" was a short one; perhaps it had been better for him had he been killed there in the bushes! There were papers found on him that proved him beyond doubt to be the murderer of prisoners. Colonel Edwards sternly told him that he might live just so long as it took to dig his grave, and asked him if he did not want to see a chaplain.

"I do not want to see a chaplain," he answered, with as little concern as though the matter in no way affected him. "Every man has to die once, and it makes but little difference to me when my time comes." He was so wonderfully cool and brave about it that Young im­petuously interceded for his life, as did the other staff officers. And just here the story told by General Oliver Edwards—for it is General Edwards who tells the story—comes to an abrupt end, to leave one with an ever-haunting question that is to be never answered.

And now the years of preparation were at an end, and the long, gradual up-grade lay behind him; in front rose a mountain of labor—a mountain perpendicular with hardship and danger; its peak a pinnacle, to which he climbed and carved his name there.

The Northern Presidential election of 1864 was watched eagerly. The success or defeat of the Democratic party with its platform "The war is a failure" meant life or death to the Confederacy, and they did more than watch the election. Kenly's Maryland brigade, with Sheridan's army, had been permitted to vote in the field; to Colonel Mosby was given the order to capture the ballot-boxes and prevent the vote, en route to Martinsburg, from ever reaching Baltimore. The two companies of cavalry serving as escort were fiercely attacked by Mosby when but two miles out of Winchester and driven back; it re­quired an entire regiment to carry the commissioners and the ballot safely through to the railroad.

At the same time a citizen rode into Winchester and excitedly told Colonel Edwards that Breckinridge was advancing on the town with an army, and already was within twenty miles. Edwards forwarded the report to Sheridan, and then sent out scouts and prepared for battle. Sheridan in reply sent the message:

I am aware of the movement but do not know what it means. My scouts fail to bring me reliable information. If the enemy attacks Winchester, fight him if you feel strong enough; if not, start your trains for Harper's Ferry, put your back on your trains, and fight for them. Find out if possible what the movement means; the whole secret-service fund is at your disposal for this purpose.

Colonel Edwards answered that he did not believe Winchester to be the objective point, but if it were that he was ready. Then he waited. When his scouts came back with no definite information of the enemy's move­ments, it was then that Captain Young begged Colonel Edwards for permission to try to obtain this vital informa­tion, and Edwards reluctantly let him go. He asked only for three picked men and four Confederate cavalry uni­forms-no horses, even, for he said that he preferred to mount himself and his men after leaving Winchester. Captain Young proposed to attempt one of the most desperate of all military necessities—to join the enemy's marching column and ride with them until he had gained the information. To pass pickets and enter an enemy's encampment is, so it is said, easy; to join a column on a march-and such a march !—has been found well-nigh impossible. Jack Sterry had tried it at the second Manassas, and Jack Sterry had been hanged for it. Henry Harrison Young tried the impossible and succeed­ed. How he did it would be told here, should be told here, with every detail of every danger met and over­come, for no achievement of the Secret Service is more worthy of record—only that the story is not known. He was one who reported results, not details, and if he ever related the hidden history of that journey it has died with them to whom he told it. But this is what he did—it shall be written simply, that every word may be re­membered by all who love to honor American heroes; For two hours he rode with Lomax's cavalry or marched with the infantry of Breckinridge. Forty-five miles they rode—he and his three men, riding down three sets of horses, which they seized for reliefs as they needed them.

Yet it was all done in the short space of six hours, and when he dismounted at Edwards's headquarters he bore full information of the plans of the enemy. There had been ample time to have frustrated these plans, but that Breckinridge's return was so threatened that even then he was in hurried retreat with an abandoned purpose. Winchester had been but a feint; Hancock, Maryland-there to destroy the vote or to break up the election-had been the real objective.

Colonel Edwards himself took the report to General Sheridan.

"That is true, every word of it, I believe," Sheridan cried, vehemently. "Now, where did you get it ?"

Edwards told him how his own professional scouts had failed in the same degree as had his, and that his inspector-general, Young, had volunteered and had succeeded.

Sheridan became greatly excited: "I have been look­ing for that man for two years, and I want him."

Colonel Edwards spoke slowly: "I would rather you would take my right arm than to take him from me."

Sheridan's answer was quick, impetuous, eager: "I will make him a major and a personal aide-de-camp on my staff; I will let him pick a hundred men and arm them and command them as he likes, and report only to me. I will not take an officer of your staff from you without your consent, but—I want him!"

For a time there was silence, Edwards weighing the offer, Sheridan waiting.

Then, "I will urge him to accept the offer," Colonel Edwards answered. He had to urge him. For, though he loved the life held out to him, Captain Young refused decidedly to leave Edwards, until convinced that it was indeed a duty to accept a position offering greater op­portunities for more valuable work for the Union.

The war was within five months of the end; but into that time there was crowded more work by the Secret Service than had been done in all the years that preceded. They say of him that Major Young never rested; to have done what he has done confirms it. It was as though there had been drawn a sword, keen, high-tempered, brilliant, that for the first time left its scabbard and for the first time discovered its mission.

Major Young at once commenced the organization of his new command; the men he carefully selected from those he knew best in Colonel Edwards's brigade; also, he retained the seven who had served as scouts for Sheri­dan. The corps never numbered the even hundred; the roll-book, which was kept by and is still in the posses­sion of Sergeant McCabe, shows but fifty-eight names all told. There were few enough to answer "present" when the five months were ended. That there were any at all is the wonder after service such as this, which must have been for the trying-out of their courage; after such a test there could never again be doubt of it!

This expedition was made within a few days after the men had been selected, dressed in the gray uniform, and armed with two revolvers each—carried in the tops of the high boots—and the short, terrible Spencer carbines. Night had fallen when they left the camp, and for a long time the men rode without knowing where they were going or the work that lay before them; then Young halted and carefully instructed them and told them his purpose. Sixty men were to attack an entire brigade of Confederate cavalry! They rode on again in the dark­ness—perhaps blacker now to each man as he considered the desperate chances. After a time they halted and drew off into the edge of a forest bordering a road on which Major Young had learned the Confederate column would travel; there followed a wait that must have seemed end­less—the dreaded inaction just before battle. The well-trained horses stood with drooping heads, like statues ; the raw November night-wind chilled as though a corpse had suddenly risen and breathed upon them; and still the Confederates did not come; the strain must have been horrible. Then above the dry-bone knock and creak of the bare branches of the forest behind them there came a new sound—the sound of a distant cavalry column, trotting; the low rumble and jar of thousands of hoof-falls; the tiny jangles and tinklings of countless metal accoutrements. The advance passed in a shadowy flitting; the tired men riding in silence—only the noise of the now-galloping horses.   

Young gave a signal, and the men stole out from among the trees, leading the horses; at the roadside they mounted, and waited. The head of the column approached, and they fell in with it and jogged along, slouching in the saddles as did the worn, sleepy Confederates, to whom they seemed but a returned scouting party, dully noted, instantly forgotten.

Major Young gave a shrill signal, whirled his horse about, and fired his carbine in the faces of the Confed­erate troopers. His men followed him; the carbines roared like artillery; bullets raked the column, down whose bloody lanes the Yankees rode at the charge, firing their revolvers on either side without mercy. The attack coming out of their midst was a blinding shock to the Confederates; to them it was mutiny, treason, murder. The  rest is all told in one word—pandemonium. And all but one Union soldier came through that charge down the entire length of the column.

After that night terror came to the Confederates in the Valley—not to the army, but to the army's soldiers : pickets rode to their stations, and were not there when heir comrades rode to relieve them; guards fired at shadows; men about outlying camp-fires huddled together closer than the cold could have driven them; from nerve-racked vedettes would come a "Halt-who-comes­there !"-and then an instant volley; Confederate patrols and scouting parties rode back to their own lines with more trepidation than up to the lines of the enemy. Yankees in gray were known to be hovering about the army always-were known to be in the lines, within the encampments; some were captured; there were always others who took their places. Most secret plans were found sooner or later to have a hole in them.

Back at Sheridan's headquarters there was one man doing it all. It can never be told, for it was never known -the details of organizing the Secret Service of Sheridan's army of the Shenandoah, for it was all done in the head of that one man, who was ever tirelessly planning, quietly directing, inspiring. Of the work of the Service for the first two months, General Sheridan wrote in his Memoirs:

I now realized more than I had done hitherto how efficient my scouts had become since under the control of Colonel Young, for not only did they bring me almost every day intelligence from within Early's lines, but they also operated efficiently against the guerrillas infesting West Virginia.

He might have sat in a tent and from there merely directed—that in itself would have been work enough for any man; but instead, with every opportunity he was out with some party; fighting was his "leave of absence," his recreation. But there were other ways in which he was to the enemy more deadly. Woodbury (historian) says of him, "In the peculiar service in which he was en­gaged during the last year of the war he had no superior in the Northern armies." Most of all, that sentence meant the obtaining of information. At one time he lived for two weeks within the Confederate lines, boarding at a house near Winchester-as an invalid ! Through acquaintances made there he obtained the information he was seeking, and one day rode quietly away with it.

Imperturbably cool, patient, shrewd, with a quiet, easy way about him, yet frank and ingenuous—it seemed that there was nothing he could not accomplish. It must be, too, that he had a mighty sense of humor; witness the fate of the Confederate recruiting-office. He came upon it quite by accident, at a little hamlet, while on one of his restless, lonely scoutings. It was in full blast—doing a good business. He rode up and, dismounting, looked on in bucolic placidity.

"Come here!" called the sergeant. "You're a likely lookin' young feller-how about enlistin' ?" Young lis­tened to the sergeant's pleadings—" didn't know but what he would some day-well, mebbe he would then." More argument: suddenly the sergeant had him—enlisted. He swore to show up at the appointed day, and there was great applause—for the sergeant. Did he disappoint the sergeant? Never! Brought him more recruits—Young's own men—who "enlisted" the sergeant and all the sergeant's soldiers and all the assembled, hard-earned recruits, and the entire contents of the office.

So often was he outside the lines that his disguises had to be changed and varied constantly; now it was one role now another—private soldier, deserter, countryman, peddler, Confederate officer. Once, to test a disguise—that of a Confederate colonel—just before starting on a particularly dangerous mission, he allowed himself to be captured by men of his own old brigade, who marched their great prize back to camp in triumph. He demanded an interview at headquarters, and they took him there; the rebel colonel never again was seen. For a long time it was a matter of much talk and speculation as to why the escape of so important a capture should go so un­regarded by the General.

There was another side to him besides the fun-loving; a seldom-seen, terrible side of cold wrath and pitiless judgment.

A prisoner had been taken by Young and his men on one of the countless night incursions into the enemy's country; on the ride back the identity of the man was discovered by some of the men guarding him, and the whisper ran through the troop and grew into a deep, savage mutter as story after story of his cruelties and cowardice was repeated. One of the men spurred ahead to Major Young's side.

"Do you know who your prisoner is, Major?"


At the answer Young reined in his horse sharply. "What's that! That man is—"

The soldier repeated the name—the name of the leader of the most infamous guerrilla band in all that valley; a man whose name brought to mind the memory of crimes unmentionable for their atrocity.

Major Young rode back through his ranks. . . . No execution, ponderous, formal, lawful, could have been more solemn, more awe-compelling, than that swift blot­ting out, there in the night in the silence of the lonely country.

Was it only chance that, a short time later, Young was given the opportunity to snatch back from certain death =reckoned scores of Union soldiers, condemned that hour to lay down their lives for their flag? There would be given the name of the skirmish (which in any other war would be dignified by the name of battle), but the name is lost in the crowded memories of the few who knew the story. But perhaps there will be of those who wore the blue one who will read this story to whom there will come back the memory of a morning with the regiments that lay on their faces at the wood's edge, galled and torn by the shells constantly bursting among them, while they awaited, restive, the order for the charge across the open and the attempt to scale the hillside from whose all but impregnable crest the battery thundered. Others there are, of the South, who will recall with heartburnings the loss of an all but won engagement. Here, perhaps for the first time, they will learn the reason. Some may now recollect having seen in the driving smoke a boyish, gray-clad officer who, in the name of their commanding general, ordered the battery to take immediate position on the left flank—there to be utterly useless. Perhaps they recall the way he sat his horse, there amid the flying Federal bullets, until he saw the carrying out of his order; then that they had seen him gallop away—forever, leaving them, the dupes, to face their angered general.

Young had carried to the Federal regiment the order to take the battery—the key position of the engagement; he had seen the terrible slaughter which must be the price of success, and he had not given the order. Instead he had formed a plan and told it, then swiftly donning his gray uniform, and making a detour, had entered the Con- federate lines—at no one knows what hazard—and had come up behind the battery, to whose captain he had given a false order. The astonished Federal soldiers rushed the abandoned hill crest before the Confederates could replace their guns; but as for Major Young, an un­expected shift in the position of the army compelled him to remain within the Confederate lines for hours in im­minent danger of detection and capture—and death.

Capture and Death (they should be written as one word for the case of Harry Young) never had far to come, for he was always at least half-way to meet them. Once he reached too far and fell in their path, and it seemed that at last they had him; it was only the gallantry of his men which that day saved him—nothing that he himself did for himself, except that he had won the devotion of the men who saved him.

It was on one of those nights in January when the army was in quarters but he was not. There was a Con­federate picket reserve at the Edinburg bridge, another at Columbia Furnace—isolated detachments far in advance of their army. It is no story to tell of their cap­ture; there was a dash out of the night, a few scattering shots, and they had surrendered—sixty-five men in all, and many horses. There were nearly as many prisoners as captors; for of the Federals there were but a score of the Secret Service men, some in Confederate gray, some in their blue uniforms, and a troop of fifty cavalry—on their first detached service and very nervous about it. The crest of Massanutten Mountain was black and sharp against the brightening sky before they turned for the long ride back to the Union lines near Kernstown. At a little village they stopped for breakfast; Young was jubilant over the capture—it had been so easy; he was merry at the breakfast, and joked with the men about him. Rowand, one of the scouts, finished his meal and restlessly wandered out to the street; a butcher named Kuhn passed close to Rowand and whispered, "Three hundred on the 'Back Road,' coming!" The scout hurried in with the tidings, but Major Harry Young that day was foolhardy. "I'll not budge till I finish my breakfast," he said, laughing. Campbell, one of Sheri­dan's oldest scouts, added his unavailing protests; Young ate on placidly. When he finished he leisurely gave the order to mount, and then saw that he was indeed too late —that he had overtarried; the Confederate cavalry was sweeping into the upper end of the mile-long village street. At almost the first fire the raw Federal cavalrymen abandoned their prisoners, broke, and fled. The scouts galloped after them more slowly, fighting coolly for the safety of the whole party. Young was his old self again; the elation was gone with his once-prisoners; he was fighting recklessly to redeem himself for his blunder.

"Rowand," he yelled, "for God's sake stop the cavalry and bring them back."

But they would not stop; Rowand rode among them and fiercely tried to turn them-he caught the sergeant's bridle rein, and drawing his pistol swore to kill him if he did not help to turn them; the sergeant was beyond further fear and paid no heed to him.

There was a shout from his partner, Campbell: "Row-and, come back; Young is down!" He looked and then spurred his horse to a run. He saw Major Young beside his dead horse, on foot, fighting savagely; he saw Camp­bell and "Sonny " Chrisman charging in the very faces of the yelling Confederates; Campbell passed Young and swung his horse across the road and stood there behind it firing over its back with both revolvers; Chrisman, without dismounting, caught Young up behind, turned, and rode bounding toward Rowand.

Together, Campbell and Rowand held back the enemy until others of the scouts were able to join them; step by step they retreated until Young and Chrisman had a good start; after that it was just a race, and the Federals won it ! Had Young in his gray uniform been captured there would never have been a chance for him.

So close a call might have shaken the nerve of some men, but if Young thought of it again at all he was not much affected by it, for within two weeks he was engaged on one of the most desperate of all his missions—not the taking of Gilmor, but that which almost immediately followed.

February 5th he and his scouts captured Maj. Harry Gilmor at Moorefield, West Virginia. The story of that terrible ride of sixty miles in the dead of winter, over the mountains and down into the South Branch Valley, and of the surprise and the capture of Gilmor, has been told in the story of "Rowand " ; but it has not been told how Young saved his prisoner from the vindictive mob at Harper's Ferry—how he held them off with his revolver, and whispered to Gilmor, "In case of attack, take one of my pistols and shoot right and left: they will have to walk over my dead body to get you!" And further along on their way to Boston and the prison of Fort Warren—when the warning came that the people of Baltimore were prepared for Harry Gilmor (he had at one time raided to within four miles of Baltimore)—Young told him that he should have arms, and added laughingly, "I should enjoy a skirmish amazingly; I think you and I could whip a small crowd by ourselves."

They were much alike, those two Harrys, and they seem to have developed a great admiration for each other. Long after the war Gilmor wrote of the man who not only captured him, but who took him to the very doors of the prison that held him till the end of the Rebellion :

He was a bold, fearless cavalry soldier, a man of remarkable talents for the duty he was selected to perform, possessing the quali­ties of quick discernment, good judgment, and great self-reliance, rapid execution of plans, made to suit circumstances as they presented themselves. Those are the essential qualities of a good scout. We never knew when or where to look for him, and yet we knew that he or some of his best men were constantly inside our lines. I have known him to pass our pickets on an old farm-horse with collar and hames and a sack of corn, as if on his way to mill, fool our pickets, and go out again without being suspected.

But it is not alone to give one on the other side the chance to pay tribute that Harry Gilmor has been men­tioned; it was because his capture indirectly brought about the most audacious of all Major Young's adven­tures.

When he stood in the sleet that February night, alone —sixty miles from the Federal army—as sentry at the door of the headquarters of General Jubal Early, com­mander of the Confederate army in the Shenandoah, he was the master adventurer of the war.

In retaliation for the capture of Gilmor, Jesse McNeill, at the head of a band of sixty-five rangers, had captured Generals Crook and Kelly from their beds in hotels in the heart of the large town of Cumberland. That, like Gilmor's capture, was done by an armed party of men—a performance all dash and excitement, and with the penalty, if taken, of merely an enemy's prison.. When Major Young set out alone for Staunton, a few days later, to capture General Early from his headquarters in the midst of his army, it was a deed that was akin to madness. By every rule of war he was a spy, and nothing could have saved him. What a story could be told by the man who faced death each moment of those six days and nights! It could be told by that man and by him alone.

What a story—of the difficulties met; the quick turns, both ways, of chance; of the unforeseen and the unex­pected that leaped out and menaced him everywhere; of the moments of elation when success seemed certain, and the lonely times when it was pit-blackness to be so very much alone with the dangers! There is little enough that he ever told. He could have taken Early; for two nights he stood sentry at his very door while the faithless Confederate guard—with whom he had changed places—went into the town sweethearting! But with nearly sixty miles to travel in an enemy's country, winter-bound, and hampered by a prisoner, he realized that some time in the ensuing pursuit he must either free Early or kill him, and he would not wish to do either—once he had him. Young afterward said to General Edwards, "Had Early been guilty of murdering prisoners or of sanctioning it, I could and would have taken his life, but I did not consider it civilized warfare to kill him under the circumstances." Did General Jubal Early ever learn who had guarded him as he slept ?—and ever after see in each sentry at his door a living sword of Damocles?

Young swung from plan to plan, but at last gave back the Confederate musket, and returned as quietly as he had come, empty-handed as to prisoners, but with much very valuable information.

The spring campaign began; the end of the war was al­most at hand. Sheridan and his ten thousand cavalry commenced the Second James River Canal Raid. The war in the Shenandoah was ended. It was monotonous work for the army—the wrecking of railroads and the ruining of canals; the rain fell constantly, the roads were sloughs, the fields bogs; but all knew now that the end was coming, and it gave them heart to endure anything. Though there were no battles for the army to fight, there was desperate work for the men of the Secret Service. Not in many pages could the stories be told, but in two-score words Sheridan has written an imperishable record:

To Maj. H. H. Young, of my staff, chief of scouts, and the thirty or forty men of his command who took their lives in their hands, cheer­fully going wherever ordered, to obtain that great essential of success, information, I tender my gratitude. Ten of these men were lost.

March 27th the cavalry joined Grant, and very soon there commenced a whirlwind of fighting; not a day without its battle, not an hour without a skirmish; night-time and dawn and noonday, fighting, fighting. There was one chance for Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia—one chance to prolong the life of the Con­federacy; to join Johnson in Carolina. And then Sheri­dan's ten thousand troopers at Dinwiddie Court House suddenly blocked the only way to the south; April 1st at Five Forks they drove them back, turned them west, ruined them. Petersburg fell on the 2d; the capital, Richmond, was next day evacuated; the Confederacy was down; Lee's army futilely struggled westward—a fugitive army. All the time there was fighting going on, every move meant fighting, there was always fighting. It was no rout; when the Confederates turned on their pursuers, and the forces were at all equal, the Federals were nearly always driven back until reinforcements —always the inevitable reinforcements—came up; then the pursuit would begin again.

Neither seemed to know exhaustion. One was nerved by desperation; the other, exultant, buoyed up by triumph. Troops that had marched all day marched again nearly all night, and fought at dawn; and there were days of that. There were troops-night marching they were, too—rushing to the support of a single corps that had been turned on and was being crushed by Lee's army, who made the night aglare with their improvised torches of straw and pine knots and great fires by the roadside; and as they marched they sang and cheered like mad, and the marching bands crashed and blared to their singing. God! Was there ever such a war with such an ending!

And here, if never before, Young and his men served the army. There were a dozen roads the Confederates might follow, a score of turns to take that might lead to no one knew what objective; but fast as the fugitives moved, there were on each road, at every turn, always the gray-clad Federal scouts, hidden, watchful; they all but lived with the Confederates; so close did they keep they might as well have marched with them, slept with them; for they returned to their own lines only to report newly discovered movements. They had ever been brave, these scouts; now they seemed the personification of courage. It was not because of any change in the Confederates—the peril was as great or greater than ever: witness—on the very morning of the surrender two of Young's men were condemned to be hanged, and only the surrender saved them.

Humorous incidents there were, too—comedy cheek by jowl with tragedy, because it was life, not a story. There was the capture of Barringer—Brigadier-General Rufus Barringer of the North Carolina Brigade—who was captured behind his own lines the day after Five Forks. Dignified General Barringer!—who drew him­self up so haughtily and replied so coldly to Confederate-private Young's cheery, "Good afternoon, General," with a, "You have the advantage of me, sir."

"You're right I have, General!" laughed the Major, as he drew his revolver and demanded the astounded Confederate's surrender. The whole Southern army was between Young and the Union lines, yet he and his men led General Barringer and his staff to a Federal prison, although it took from two o'clock in the after­noon until dark to reach safety. And the very next day Major Young and party—the major resplendent inthe captured uniform of a Confederate colonel—met in the enemy's lines a colonel from North Carolina and his orderly, and, as was fitting for two officers of such high rank, he stopped to pass the time of day with him. The colonel from North Carolina told of General Barringer's capture by the Yankees--one of the staff had escaped and spread the tidings. He, the colonel, did not exactly bewail the fate of Barringer, "for," said he, "I am to command; I take his place."

"Oh no!" said Harry Young. "You do not take his place; you go to the place where he is!" And, sure enough, he joined his general.

It is the last night of the war, but no one knows it. The countryside is full of aimlessly wandering soldiers, lost from their regiments by the rapid manceuvers, lost from their very armies. A small party of Federal officers struck the railroad—the great foot-path for the strayed Confederates—and in the dusk sat watching the passing groups of stragglers—weary, dejected, men without arms for the most part, who had flocked together for company; here and there were cavalrymen, armed and mounted, yet they, too, rode as dejected and listless as any part of the procession. The officers drew nearer; the cav­alrymen eyed them with uneasiness, and finally in the growing darkness one of them stole up to the offi­cers.

"Get back a little—you might spoil it," he said. "We're some of Major Young's men, and we're leadin' these Johnnies down the road a piece to where the Major's got a whole corral of 'em." The staff party, hugely amused, circled into the woods and soon came upon Major Young and some twenty of his men with cocked carbines—holding passive and silent several hundred prisoners, to which the decoys constantly added.

Farther down that very railroad—at Appomattox Station—others of Young's scouts had discovered the Confederates' four lost supply trains. Men of the Secret Service found them—that is repeated, because it is usual only to remember that Custer fought for the trains and took them. Sergeant McCabe was in charge of the de­tachment that found them; he sent Jim White to report the find, and White has had the credit! Perhaps White saw the supply trains first, and so claimed the honor of reporting them. But Sergeant McCabe was in charge of the detachment, and this is written that he may read it, and in it see an attempt to induce history to give him the place that, forty-seven years, he has grieved for.

It has been said that Lee surrendered because of the capture of those supply trains—that their capture fixed the day of the surrender. General Lee did not know of their capture until after he had written and signed that last letter. To General Grant he then said:

"I have, indeed, nothing for my own men. . . . I telegraphed to Lynchburg, directing several train-loads of rations to be sent on by rail from there, and when they arrive I should be glad to have the present wants of my men supplied from them." At this remark all eyes turned toward Sheridan, for he had captured these trains with his cavalry the night before. .. ” .-GENERAL HORACE PORTER, in Battles and Leaders.

Presently, at about four o'clock of that April Sunday, General Lee rode away from the McLean House; rode back to his men after signing the letter in which he sur­rendered the Army of Northern Virginia, from signing away the existence of the Confederate States of America.

Thus was the end of the Civil War; and as an end to Major Henry Harrison Young's Civil War service there stands this record—no, not as an end, but framing it, just as a simple frame of dull gold completes and focuses a picture, so with these words of Sheridan's :


Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.

SIR,- . . . I desire to make special mention of the valuable services of Major H. H. Young, Second Rhode Island Infantry, chief of my scouts during the cavalry expedition from Winchester, Virginia, to the James River. His personal gallantry and numerous conflicts with the enemy won the admiration of the whole command. In the late cam­paign from Petersburg to Appomattox Court House he kept me con­stantly informed of the movements of the enemy and brought in prisoners, from brigadier-generals down. The information obtained through him was invaluable. I earnestly request that he be made a lieutenant-colonel by brevet. . . .

Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

(Signed) P. H. SHERIDAN, Major-General, Commanding.

What remains to be told is all too brief. He did not go back to Providence with the men of the Second Rhode Island; there came the chance to prolong for a few months the life of adventure, and he hailed it gladly.

With the end of the Civil War, the administration turned its attention to the French in Mexico. The Liberals, defeated at nearly every point, impoverished, split into factions, were in a desperate plight; Maximilian and the Imperialists were everywhere in the ascendant.

Sheridan at the head of an army of observation was sent to Brownsville at the mouth of the Rio Grande; and Colo­nel Young, taking four of his most trusty men, went with him.

In Brownsville, Sheridan met Caravajal, wily and sub­tle and old, then leader of the Liberals; and to him he recommended Young "as a confidential man, whom he could rely upon as a 'go-between' for communicating with our people at Brownsville, and whom he could trust to keep him informed of the affairs in his own country 'as well." Caravajal saw Young, and, first assuring him that his plan had the concurrence of General Sheridan, proposed a scheme which, God knows why, won him; it was that Young should raise, equip, and command a band of picked men to act as body-guard for Caravajal. Perhaps the plan awoke in him the sleeping spirit of a soldier of fortune; perhaps it was a nobler, more Quixotic desire to aid the struggling Mexican patriots. But he took the seven thousand dollars furnished him and hurried to New Orleans, where he quickly raised and equipped his company.

Then Sheridan, who for a fortnight had been in the interior of Texas, came back to New Orleans. Of their interview Sheridan writes in his Memoirs:

I at once condemned the whole business, but . . . [he] was so deeply involved in the transaction, he said, that he could not withdraw with­out dishonor, and with tears in his eyes he besought me to help him. He told me he had entered upon the adventure in the firm belief that I would countenance it; that the men and their equipment were on his hands; that he must make good his word at all hazards; and that while I need not approve, yet I must go far enough to consent to the depar­ture of the men, and to loan him the money necessary to provision his party and hire a schooner to carry them to Brazos. It was hard, indeed, to resistthe appeals of this man, who had served me so long and so well; and the result of his pleading was that I gave him permission to sail, and also loaned him the sum asked for; but I have never ceased to regret my consent, for misfortune fell upon the enterprise almost from its inception.

At Brownsville, over across the Gulf, Young and his men, about fifty in number, were met by the first hot breath of disaster. Caravajal had been deposed, and his successor, Canales, refused to accept their services. After that all is confusion to the very end. Young was without money to take his men back to New Orleans, without money to buy even food for them. He and his men pushed on desperately to reach the camp of General Escobedo, leader of another faction; they kept on the American side of the Rio Grande, proposing to cross into Mexico near Ringgold Barracks.

Far in advance there had been spread their story-who they were and what they did there, and where and why they were coming. They stood absolutely alone; the law of neutrality cut them off from all succor from their countrymen as completely as though they were outcasts; for the time they were men who had no country.

Renegade Mexican rancheros, ex-Confederates, mer­cenaries, bandits-all swarmed down to the river to head off the desperate little band. From the ensuing battle there came back—rumor, only rumor. Whether they were at last attacked and turned on their pursuers, whether in despair they tried to cross to cut their way through—it is told one way, it is told the other.

The little girl who drove that day in the Blackstone Valley has written of the years that she and the mother waited for tidings. They had seen the report first in a newspaper—had read it together; neither would believe it, and for years each buoyed up the other.

It was a sad time indeed when his letters ceased coming, and when all efforts to find him proved unavailing. . . . Although I know that no tidings of him have cheered us in thirteen years, still I cannot conscientiously say that I believe him dead. I have no foundation on which to build hope, indeed, unless it be the private conviction of General Sheridan.

Sheridan, indeed, seems to have been as stubborn as they in his belief that Young had in some way crossed the river. He had immediately contradicted the first report that he had been killed: Young had been seen in Monterey. To General Edwards he wrote, "I cannot bear to think of him as dead, and yet hope to see him."

And even after more than two years, in a letter to the mother, he said: "Still . . . I am inclined to the belief that he is living. I merely state that as my conviction." But as the years passed and brought no definite tidings he gave up, and in his Memoirs, written some twenty years later, he sets down the siftings of rumor:

They were attacked . . . Being on American soil, Young forbade his men to return the fire and bent all his efforts to getting them over the river; but in this attempt they were broken up and became completely demoralized. A number of the men were drowned while swimming the river. Young himself was shot and killed, a few were captured, and those who escaped—about twenty in all—finally joined Escobedo.

But there are other versions equally positive as Sheri­dan's—only different. And thus it must remain, per­haps till the end of time—like an unfinished picture, abandoned, forgotten by the artist. There is the hot, glaring sand, and the hot, empty sky; between, the cruel and sparkling river; but of the figures that were to have peopled the painting and given it life and told its story, there is but a blur of meaningless paint and raw, un­covered canvas







The Novel
Letters Home by Arch Rowand
Scout Accounts
Reports and Dispatches You Are Here
Research Home Page
Mexican Operations

Hosted by Gauley River Book Company
Copyright 2007 GRBC All Rights Reserved

Site by:  RK Graphics