Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/193

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Capture of Generals Crook and Kelly.


Rangers, led by " Dr." J. L. Vandiver, a veterinarian, who resides at Millwood, Clarke county. It was one of the most daring episodes of the war, as Cumberland was then occupied and surrounded by eight thousand Federal troops. John Fay and Sprigg Lynn, who were members of NeilPs command, lived in that city, and had been in the habit of making trips there. They suggested the plan, which was carried out by Vandiver, who had under his charge fifty-seven men. The story often narrated by Vandiver, is briefly summed up as follows :

General Crook had just been assigned to the command of the department which embraced Cumberland, and had relieved the late General B. F. Kelly. General Kelly had not yet left the city, and was stopping at the St. Nicholas Hotel, while General Crook had his headquarters at the Revere House. On that February night they slept in fancied security without the slightest idea that there were Confederates within striking distance who would be bold enough to make any attempt to enter the town. Vandiver and his band were about twenty-seven miles from Cumberland. The snow, he says, was two feet deep when they started down the valley and crossed the south branch of the Potomac. They forded the river in the run- ning ice and slush, and the water was high enough to wet every man. They captured the first pickets with which they came in contact, and, by stringing a German soldier to the limb of a tree by a bridle rein, they secured from him the countersign, which was "Bull's Gap." With this pass-word in their possession they moved on down the county road to Cumberland.

On the way they ran into a squad of thirty or forty infantry, who halted them and demanded that one dismount and give the counter- sign. They dashed into this squad and captured them, broke their guns, and, as Vandiver said, frightened them almost to death by tell- ing them that the city of Cumberland was surrounded, and that by morning their generals would be captured. He told his prisoners that on account of the depth of the snow he could not take them with him, but each agreed to take a verbal parole. They then rode deliberately into the town as cool as though they were Union troops, and, when accosted, informed the inquiring soldiers that they were scouts from New Creek.

Vandiver himself took the responsibility of securing General Crook from the Revere House, and to the well-known Kuykendall was assigned the duty of securing the person of General Kelly. Kuyken- dall took six men, and at 3:30 o'clock in the morning the scouts dis-