Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 21.djvu/352
344 Southern Historical Society Papers.
In that isolated, mountainous country, forty miles from the nearest railroad, their names are famous. They were the last men slain during the last. war.
Forty-three days after the surrender of General Lee they gave their lives on the altar of the dead Confederacy. Nor is it the fact that they were the last men killed in the rebellion that has made their names famous in that community. History does not record the battle in which they were killed. The engagement took place May 23, 1865, or forty-three days after the close of the late conflict. It was a most daring attack of rebel soldiers on Northern troops. It was also disastrous to the entire attacking party, every one of them being killed.
After General George Stoneman's return to Greensboro, N. C., from his successful Knoxville expedition, he was ordered to take com- mand of Thompson's cavalry, and advance eastward and destroy the Virginia and Tennessee railroad, now the Norfolk and Western. On March 2oth, he started on his expedition, but turned north at Boone, N. C. Entering the valley at New River, in Virginia, he captured Wytheville and continued along the railroad, destroying it nearly to Lynchburg. On this raid he laid waste miles of adjoining country. As this had been the first invasion of Northern troops into Floyd and Wythe counties, the inhabitants of them were very bitter against General Stoneman. The more the raid was talked of, the more bitter became the spirit of the people, and many were the threats made against Stoneman and his troopers. William Beaden, who gave the writer the fact while standing at Bordunix's grave, said that a secret organization, whose object was to be revenged on General Stoneman, was formed directly after the surrender of General Lee of all the young men who had not previously taken active part in the war, and of rebel soldiers home on leave of absence.
In the meantime Stoneman continued on his raid, which ended at Salisbury, N. C., a rebel prison camp, three days after General Grant's victory. Instead of remaining in North Carolina, as he had been ordered by General Sherman, he left and entered Jonesboro', in the eastern part of Tennessee, April i8th, where he received the news of Lee's surrender.
All this time the ranks of the secret organization in Floyd and Wythe counties had been considerably increased in numbers by the enlistment of discharged soldiers from Lee's disbanded army. When