Julian Edwards' detailed letter to his parents describes a scouting raid into Franklin and Adams counties in Pennsylvania. Edwards gives an account of his impressions of the local population, as well as his reaction to the behavior of his fellow soldiers during the conduct of the raids.
My dear Parents,
I received your very welcome, & interesting letter just as we were preparing to go on a grand scout into Pennsylvania, and in rear of the ever watchful, and impregnable Yankee army. Of course I could not then answer it, and as I have just got back to camp, I now hasten to let you know I am here in our own Virginia all safe, and sound, in order to relieve you of any feelings of anxiety in regard to me, as Coly wrote you in his last that he heard we were in Pennsylvania.
Knowing as I do the almost ever existing doubt in mother's mind, of my safety, I am ever on the lookout, and shall always endeavor to remove any ground she may have for feelings of apprehension in regard to it, and as a scout of such a nature as the last we went upon is of course attended with great danger, I shall write you a letter this morning though I am quite fatigued yet from our long ride. As news from other points, and sources is very scarce I will endeavor to give you something in detail a history of our trip, thinking it will interest you as much as any thing else I can write.
Well to begin at the beginning - last Wednesday an order came to our camp for a detail of 120 of the best horses, & men from our Regt. of which number our Company furnished 12. Bill, myself among the number. We were then issued five days rations to carry with us, and have them all ready cooked to start next morning, and report to Genl Stuart at Darksville, some 6 miles from our Camp. Of course when we received the order, every body wondered which way we were going, and I recon 1001 conjectures were made as to what was the object of the scout, and where we were going to turn up. Some said one thing, and some said another until in the confusion of opinions, and ideas the mystery was made deeper, and deeper and the excitement grew higher, and higher because no one among us could get up and say "I declare unto you this scout shall be for this purpose and to this end". But as we all now know I will let the conjectures drop, and proceed to relate it to you just as it was revealed to me. Thursday morning we were quite busy cooking rations, and something interesting, and pleasant could be seen in the eye, and smile of nearly every man; which betrayed to the observer, that something of interest was going on and that a bright prospect was before them; which though it had not opened, promised excitement - risks to run - dangers to escape - deeds to do, and a field for the display of valor; all of which I am constrained to say; youth alas! is too fond. After a short time all the rations were cooked, and the horn sounded the notes to horse; we all then were soon in our saddles, and having formed into line, and then into platoons, the notes were sounded to forward, and off we went amid many exclamations, injunctions, and also cheers from our comrades who were left behind. We then went on to Darksville where we halted a few minutes to let a column pass on before us consisting of details of other Regts. We all then formed a long column in the road; representing in our force Genls. Hampton's, Robinson's and Lee's brigades of Cavl., and perhaps one, or two batalions making in all about 1800 Cavalry, and six pieces of Artillery. We then marched down the Winchester turnpike till within about 1/2 mile of Martinsburg, when we turned to the left into a small road, and proceeded till within about 3 miles from the Potomac, where we halted till about 2 1/2 o'clock. About 2 1/2 o'clock Friday morning we were up, and off again, and crossed the Potomac at Hedges ferry driving in the yankee pickets wounding, and taking one prisoner. We then went on through, or rather cross Washington County, Md. and then into Franklin Co., Pa. where we soon learned the object, or one of the objects at least of the scout, for having halted the column Genl Stuart ordered a detail from each Regt. to catch horses which orders was accordingly carried out to the letter, and parties of men could be seen in almost every direction chasing, and leading horses. Of course the citizen could do nothing, and said little. They were so much surprised, and so badly frightened they seemed perfectly willing to let us take every horse if we would just pass on. Our Column did not stop at all, but proceeded in a slow walk, so the men who went out from the road to capture horses could overtake us easily. We proceeded on our way unmolested, passing through Mercersburg, a little town of about 1200 inhabitants, and abounding in Union flags (I suppose) all of which were torn down as I saw the shreds hanging to several flag staffs. Here we got a good many horses from the livery stables, and some stores were broken open, and goods taken by some of the men. Hats, boots, shoes, & rolls of goods could be seen tied to the saddles of good many men when we got back. The citizens stood by looking on without saying a word, and if ever I saw wonder & surprise mingled with fear depicted upon the countenances of any one I certainly saw it upon the countenances of the citizens of Pa. when the "Rebel Col". passed through there. We stopped only a few minutes in towns and then went on again. The next place was a little village called St. Thomas where pretty much the same thing took place. We then came to Chambersburg, quite a large town. Though we rode quite fast we did not get to that place till late at night. The body of Cavl. halted till about 1 hour of sunrise about 1 mile from the town. We spent a miserable night of it, for it rained a cold drisley rain, and we did not sleep, and scarcely, Saturday morning about 1 hour of sun we were up again not much refreshed, and passed on through Chambersburg. When about a mile beyond the town we halted till we could destroy the Depot, and some government stores which were there. We found some 500 hundred pistols, and 15,000 sabres. The pistols we took, and some few of the sabres. The rest we destroyed, also the railroad, and all public property we could get hold of. At first the home guard were called out to resist our passage through the town, and our officers went in under a flag of truce to meet the mayor, and one or two other officials, and he gave them a short time to consider the matter telling them he intended to march into the town, and after a short deliberation they came to the conclusion that discretion was the better part of valor, and discreetly surrendered to us. Here also some things were taken but, very few as we stationed guards in all parts of the town where we were likely to go, and this prevented the men from breaking open the stores. After leaving Chambersburg we went on down the Baltimore and Pittsburg turnpike, taking all the horses we could find. We marched all day Saturday passing through a good many little towns, and villages the names of which I do not remember, and crossed into Md. again about 5 o'clock Saturday evening. The two counties through which we passed, Franklin and Adams, seemed to be quite wealthy, but I cannot say a great deal for the refinement of the citizens. As for the county I think it was as fine a section as I have ever seen. It was a continuation of the the Valley of Va., and presented many very beautiful farm scenes. The lands were well laid out, and well worked. The fields were smaller than the fields in Va. but they were more productive I dare say, as they are worked principally by the owner, and of course have better attention paid them.
The barns on the farms are by a long deal the best I have ever seen. They are built upon a stone wall about 6 feet high which under room is used always for stable. The barns are made very large, and the room under neath is generally large enough to accomodate from 20 to 50 horses. It is frequently the case that the barns are taken for the dwelling house they are so much larger, and generally better built. These two generally compose the dwellings of a farm, and are very close together for convenience. The male citizens have generally the dutch build, and are hard looking customers, being all hard working men, they are generally though (I think) very hospitable, and kind to travelers, and strangers. We might infer this from the fact that for every 5 odd miles you will see an inn, which would call to the minds of men of modern day, stories of olden times and scenes in old English Inns. The ladies are round rosy faces, which though they betoken health, and good spirits, are sadly wanting in those qualities peculiar only to the southern girl, and which are so attractive to the southern youth, but enough of the Pa. men and girls. During our whole march through the State we met with no smile of welcome, but were greeted every where with sour looks, and dark frowns from those who were bold enough to show even in that way their hatred to all from "rebeldom". While passing through one little village the Lieut. in charge of our platoon, says to a very large fat farmer standing n the corner of the street "How do you do sir". "How are you tory" was the gruff reply, we all laughed heartily, and the old farmer only looked a little more glum. I cannot say that I approve of such a course on the part of our Government. I am not fond of horse stealing and, did not enjoy the trip much when I found out that such was the object of it. We stopped wagons in the road and took every horse. Often I passed large 4 horse wagons, from which the horses had been taken, and the gear left in the road. Little carriages were taken and driven off, and men were left to foot it home. Horses were taken from harrows in the field, and farmers were left gazing in mute astonishment after our men as they rode off leading his horses. Women came to plead for a favorite, and follow it down the road begging for its restoral, but all in vain. Men in mere wantoness, and cruel feeling, when they heard a lady pleading for the horse, stopped as if he intended to let her have it, and when she came up, whipped up the horses, and then stopped again and waited for her to come up. This he did several times and after having taunted her long enough, rode off leaving her standing in the road. This one man boasted of having done. While some men were stealing the horses from the stables, and leading them off in view of the owners, others were receiving bread, apple butter, etc. from the ladies of the house, and they even expressed sorrow if they did not have more to give, after they had fed some 30 perhaps. Bill & myself stopped to get some bread and butter after the lady had given us all she had, she begged us to say to others who were coming in that she had no more, and as proof of the statement opened her dairy to show us all had been given away. She even expressed sorrow because her butter was not very good though I thought it very good myself, and seemed anxious to do us all the good she could for us. At another place I saw old age abused - old men bearing the frost of years, and tottering beneath the strong hand of time insulted by those who were living in the bloom of youth & manhood. Yet those old men gave of their stock of bread, butter, and whatever they had, and were threatened with violent entrance into their house, and siezure of all they had because the steps of age were slow. Oh! Pa I did not think that human nature could partake so much of the nature of the beast. I did not think that man could be so lost of all feelings of humanity, as to trample upon humble old age, for oh! these two men were humble, humbled nearly to earth by the stem, and heavy hand of time. I thank you my parents, and I praise my maker, & I give him thanks that within my heart I still carry a tender, and sympathetic feeling which is always awakened for the old man, and my fellow beings in misfortune. Pa I do not think I could do a cruel act towards any of my fellow creatures though he were my bitterest enemy. In following our army when I have seen a poor horse lying down starving by degrees, and knew he would die, so much have I been moved to pity, that when I could I would shoot him through the heart to end his misery. But I must go on with the history. After we crossed into the Md. the detail to catch horses was called in, and we made our way back to the Potomac. We passed through Emitsburg, Md. first, and to our surprise were loudly cheered for it is very near the Pa. line. We marched on passing through a good many little towns in Md. among them Woodsborough, Liberty, New London, New Market, Barnsville, etc. but through all of these we passed at night for we marched the whole night Saturday night, passing Barnsville the last town a little after sunrise, and then towards the river. We had been at most of the places named while we were in Md. before, and at New Market a man put his head out of the window, and calling loudly to Miss Mollie exclaimed "Here are these Rebels again". Miss Mollie answered from across the street she was looking at them. The place is loyal to the southern Cause, and the citizens told us we would have something to do to cross, but we still went on, and on coming near the river, Stuart as a feint, made an attack on the yankees higher up the river, and sent his lead horses lower down to cross while he was fighting the yankees above. From his attacking them at that point they thought he intended to cross the river there but he had no such idea, and while he was engaging them with on or two pieces of artillery he was preparing to cross about 1 mile below. But there was a Regt. of yankees also at the very place he intended to cross for they were determined to catch us if possible. Stuart then ordered up a piece and opened on them. Our Sharpshooters pitched into them at the same time and drive the whole Regt. hurriedly down the river. We were then ordered to cross hastily, and such running to and fro I have seldom seen. We all made a rush for the river, yet in regular order, the Regts. in front first, and succeeded in getting every one and every thing over but one of Genl. Stuart's couriers, I think was cut off. We had just got all over when we could see from this side 2 large columns of yankees who had just got up from Coolville. Had they have got there in time we would probably have lost 1/2 at least of our command in the attempt to cross. After all was safe in Va. we halted a short time to give our horses a little hay to eat and then proceeded on to within a mile of Leesburg.