Remembering the Mill: 1862 – 1926 (Part Two)

Modern View of Avenel, The Plains, VA.

The following is an excerpt from a circa 1926 piece written by Mary Susannah Walker McDarment.  It was transcribed by her daughter, Sarah M. Turner in 1993.  In this the second part of her article, Mrs. McDarment relates William Beverley’s reminiscences of the Battle of Thoroughfare Gap.

“When I was a small boy I went with my mother, who was a near relation of the Lees, to visit at Arlington, the old Lee home.  I knew the General when I was a student at The Virginia Military Institute.  I was at Lexington when he died and saw him laid in his last resting place.

I can remember incidents connected with the Second Battle of Manassas, fought in August, 1862.

Just after McClellan’s defeat on the peninsular, he was ordered to withdraw from the peninsular and go to the aid of General Pope who was in command of the Federal forces before Washington.  Lee, hearing McClellan was ordered to reinforce Pope, gave orders to Stonewall Jackson to make a forced march and strike out Pope’s army before McClellan could reach him.

Jackson, leaving Culpeper, made a rapid march to Marshall – then called Salem – from there via The Plains through Thoroughfare Gap, and was at Manassas capturing General Pope’s provision train before Pope knew that Jackson was within a hundred miles of him.

When General Pope, who had headquarters near Warrenton, Virginia, was informed that Jackson was at Manassas, he at first discredited the information but a second courier informed him that Jackson was at Manassas and had captured his (Pope’s) provision train.

Pope gave orders at once to General Ricket, who commanded a Pennsylvania Division to occupy Thoroughfare Gap and cut off Lee, who was following Jackson from Culpeper on the same route, through Marshall and The Plains.

On the night before the Second Battle of Manassas General Lee with his army had reached the Western entrance to Thoroughfare Gap, his army going into camp along Broad Run Creek and near the present Broad Run station.

General Lee and his staff spent that night at my old home “Avenel.”

Being anxious about Jackson, General Lee walked the floor until midnight when a courier arrived with a dispatch from Jackson assuring the General that Jackson was in no immediate danger and could hold out until Lee’s army could reach him.  This courier was Lieutenant Tom Turner who was reared at Kinlock, the old Turner home near Avenel and who was a nephew of Admiral Turner of the United States Navy. Lieutenant Turner knew every inch of the ground and reached Avenel from Manassas by making detour from Jackson through Hopewell Gap to Avenel to General Lee, and was later awarded a beautiful sword.

Early the next morning General Lee mounted his grey horse, “Traveller” and with his staff rode toward Thoroughfare Gap, and gave orders to General Longstreet to drive back the Federal forces and to take the Gap.

General Longstreet sent a regiment over the mountain North of the Gap, one South of it, and a body of troops along the road leading through it.

Ricket’s Divsion had a battery on a ridge a quarter of a mile from the East side of the Gap and shelled both sides of the Gap continuously in front of his advance. General Ricket’s Pennsylvanians were hard fighters and brave men. After hard fighting General Ricket was forced to retreat and was driven back in the direction of Washington.  General Lee then pushed rapidly forward, joining Jackson and inflicting a disastrous defeat on Pope’s army.

Next week: A soldier visits the Thoroughfare Gap Battlefield after the war.

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