Excerpt from "Reminiscenses of Finch Hollow"
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by Arthur E. Crocker
Page 3 of 5
I established camp at the top of the grade one mile east of Burkes Station, had a comfortable board house built for headquarters which were occupied till late in October. This camp was named by Tom Hayes, Treakel Point View. Hayes came up almost every day with the wood trains and always stayed to dinner. We were instructed to cut any timber in sight and hundreds of acres of magnificent oak woodland were cut over.
John B. Moseby, the chief of Guerrillas annoyed us a good deal. He was very bold, and although we had a regiment of soldiers to guard us, Moseby succeeded in getting away with many of our horses and mules, and several times nearly captured me when I was out loading our wagon train. We finally moved back to Burkes Station, establishing headquarters in the Station House.
A construction corps consisting of several gangs of capenters (so called), fifty men in each gang, was organized by General McCallum* military director of U.S. Railways, and as the pay was better, several of my men left to join it.
Tom Days** took Richards from me and put him in charge of a similar camp, though much smaller, at Devereaux Station near Bull Run. Tyler became my commissary when we reorganized at Burks Station. Christmas Eve we prepared at my camp a bountiful dinner, - roast pig, roast wild turkey, oysters, and all the good things we needed and could get, and all our Finch Hollow boys and acquaintances from Richards' gang and the Construction Corps were invited. About thirty of us enjoyed the best dinner I had while in the service. I was a red letter day and is still remembered by all yet living who were present. It was in a sense a reunion and everybody enjoyed it immensely. Fat Hageman, my table waiter, a young "short cake nigger", was in good form and did much to amuse and entertain my guests. He was a bright, quick-witted lad and his quaint manner of speech and intonation amused us all greatly. Fat's salary was $10.00 per month. If he was paid in one dollar bills he was rich; if he was paid in one ten-dollar bill, he was not at all pleased. I used to saw a little on the fiddle. I bought him one of the three dollar variety with which he frightened all the rats out of camp. He did not make as rapid progress in mastering the instrument as he wished, and wanted me to hire a professor to give him instruction. I said to him "Fat, why don't you hire me?" "Oh, Mars Crocker, you can't play for no money, you can only play a few little chunes."
The reunion and dinner were over and next day all our friends left for their respective fields of labor. We never all got together again.
Sunday, the 28th, rumors were rife in camp that the rebels were at Dumfries and that we were in danger of capture. I did not believe there was any danger, so paid little attention to it.
The day was bright and all was quiet. At ten o'clock a train went through towards Washington, but it did not stop. Towards noon my colored men began to show signs of great uneasiness. They told me the "Rebs" would surely be there that night and they could not stay. Of course if they were caught they would be killed or severely punished and taken back to their old masters.
I told them if they were afraid, to take a day's rations and go into hiding till morning. In an hour there was not a colored man in sight. My wagon master told me his men were getting very uneasy. At three o'clock he again reported tht unless he moved to the protection of our troops he would not have a man to care for the stock. I assented to his moving for the night to Fairfax Court House, where he had a brigade of troops well entrenched.
The fastest work ever done by those teamsters was in breaking camp and lining out for Fairfax.
After these had left the quiet seemed oppressive. Richards, who was there to spend Sunday night with me, suggested that "discretion is the better part of valor" and maybe we should take our blankets and sleep in the pines that night.
We decided to get a bite to eat and accept Richards' suggestion.
We prepared coffee and were just sitting down to the table when the four windows in the room were quickly raised and eight confederate carbines were leveled at us, while the door was thrown open and a Confederate lieutenant commanded:
"Surrender, you Yankee devils!"
This lieutenant with fifty troopers was the advance guard of General Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry brigade, and a part of the force of General J.E.B. Stuart, who was then making a daring raid inside our lines. He actually burned Acatinek Bridge within nine miles of Alexandria that night and had the audacity to use our own telegraph wires from Burks Station for this message:
"General Van Vliet, Quartermaster
General U.S.A., Washington, D.C.
Please arrange to keep your mules in better condition.
The last lot I captured were too poor for immediate use.
Major General, C.S.A."
(Ed notes: * General Daniel C. McCallum, Military Director of U.S. Railroads
** Believe this to be Tom Hayes, not Days)
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