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Image by Jim Surkamp
Civil War Scholars: The Powerful Experience of the War-Torn, Northern Shenandoah Valley
Newton D. Baker’s “Most” Divided Clan (Pt. 1 of 4) by Jim Surkamp
By Jim Surkamp on February 2, 2016 in Jefferson County
NEWTON D. BAKER’S “MOST” DIVIDED CLAN (Pt. 1 of 4) by Jim Surkamp
Cousins of Co_F_FINAL
Each generation rebels against the former. The Bakers of Maryland, Shepherdstown and finally Martinsburg – muddled thru traditional inter-generational discords like a schooner pitching through high seas. Elias Baker one-upped a father who deserted his children by being a good father. His son, antsy nineteen-year-old Newton D. Baker rebelled against his doting father, a soon-to-be appointed federal postmaster in Shepherdstown, by riding off and enlisting in Company F of the First Virginia Cavalry – Confederate – following the recent example of a figurative avalanche of nine of his blood cousins into that same company. Still more cousins would enlist.
Life in a wartime saddle matured him for four years: battles, imprisonment, routine heroics, his wounding, having a fine bay mare shot from under him, (and later, a suspiciously extravagant compensation package for this lost horse offered by a cousin with clout), and, finally, coming home. Bearing witness to so many in need of medical care begat Newton’s post-war calling as a doctor. He finished training, was mentored by Shepherdstown neighbor and physician, John Quigley, who transferred his practice to the young up-and-comer.
But burgeoning ambition called away the next son of a Baker – Newton D. Baker Jr. Reading voraciously and eschewing the stethoscope and his father’s beckoning practice, off Junior went to Cleveland – joking that he was being a carpetbagger invading the Northern states – ascending a skyward ladder to heights of acclaim unprecedented for the Bakers. He was the progressive mayor of Cleveland; then, after more promotions, President Woodrow Wilson approached his fellow Virginian and appointed Newton D. Baker, Jr. to be our Secretary of War, managing the best he could the American role in the calamitous First World War. Today we have the Newton D. Baker Veterans’ Hospital in Martinsburg to his fond memory.
THE BAKERS’ REGENERATION:
The Bakers once of Shepherdstown were busy each generation rebelling in full measure from the former. Each time, the new generation would reckon a new guiding star deemed a wiser calling than their parents.
The Baker generations progressed from a single outcast, who led one Baker generation, then to another family member, three cycles later, who was even considered in 1932 a potential candidate for the Presidency.
GENERATION 1: THE UNFORGIVEN ELIAS BAKER, SR. (1785-1863) IN BAKERESVILLE, WASHINGTON COUNTY, MD.:
Called by one family biographer, C. H. Cramer, “a soft spot in the family tree,” he wrote: “(They) could take no pride in this Elias Baker, an Englishman, who settled about 1760 in Maryland near the later site of the battle of Antietam. There Elias married, started a family (ten boys and five girls), and then deserted it.” – Cramer, p. 15.
GENERATION 2: ELIAS BAKER, JR. (1811-1867) – FAMILY MAN, SADDLER AND POSTMASTER:
Starting anew, Elias Baker, Jr. left Bakersville, Maryland, the family’s ancestral lands, and crossed the Potomac to Berkeley County, Va. He found his lifemate, Mary Ann Billmyer (1816-1896) living at the Millbrook farm, one of thirteen children to her prosperous parents, Martin and Susan Billmyer. She and her siblings were struggling with their farms after the death in the mid-1830s of both their parents.
She and Elias married November, 1840 and first lived in Appomatox County, Elias making and fixing saddles. The next decade brought the deaths of three of Mary Ann’s older brothers and a sister, while their own young family grew by two sons and a daughter. The first-born in 1841 had brown hair and blue eyes and he was named Newton Diehl Baker, who this story is about.
The Bakers moved in March, 1850 to Van Clevesville and closer to her large family. Susan Baker’s parents and older brothers had grown wheat and had a booming business at their own mill across the road from their home. This much-in-demand ground wheat would be carried across the toll bridge that Mary Ann’s brother, David, largely owned at Shepherdstown and was shipped by canal boats to Georgetown and overseas buyers.
In March, 1857, they came to Shepherdstown and Mary Ann Baker used family inheritance to buy out brother David’s boat store at the northeast corner of Church and German Street.
In March, 1858, she also bought – seven, quick-succession doors to the west on German Street – what would become the Baker residence well into the 20th century – room enough for their family of eight children: Newton, Ann Katherine, Cora Louise, Martin Billmyer, Solomon Elmer, William Elias Fink, Alban Howard, and Henry Seaton. – A. D. Kenamond, “Prominent Men of Shepherdstown 1762-1962.” p. 21.
WAR CLOUDS AND GENERATION GAPS:
The John Brown raid and trial in October, 1859 and the subsequent hangings of seven of the raiders up to March, 1860 set the stage for the presidential election that coming fall. According to Andrew Hunter, the prosecutor in the John Brown trial, the fright that came to locals with the John Brown raid was that it was, to them really, the overture to what they plainly called The War Against Slavery. – Andrew Hunter. Sept 5, 1887 New Orleans Times Democrat.
Lincoln’s election in November, 1860 and the Deep South states’ seceding despite Lincoln’s warnings – brought the nation and Jefferson Countians to the edge of the precipice.
In Shepherdstown, the older generation, born around 1800 – such as Dr. John and Mary Quigley, Elias and Susan Baker, and even Robert E. Lee’s first cousin, Edmund Jennings Lee – strongly voiced their opposition to any such plan for Virginia to secede from the Union.
The daughter of Edmund J. Lee, teen-aged Henrietta Edmonia or “Netta,” wrote later of a run-in in early 1861 between her father and brother Edmund:
I remember very vividly a gathering when Uncle Charles Lee was present. He was my father’s younger brother and a lawyer by profession. He came from Washington to consult Father regarding his resignation of the position he was holding in one of the departments of the United States government.
My brother, Edmund, Jr. and a boy of about fifteen years, who was standing by during the conversation, said: “Why Uncle Charles, could you not get the same position in the Confederate States government?” Father turned quickly, saying: “You young rascal,” strongly emphasizing the broad “a” as was his habit, “let me hear you talk about any Confederate States and I will skin you!” – Diary of Nettie Lee, pp. 4-5.
When war became unavoidable, David Hunter Strother of Martinsburg, who was a Unionist from another divided family and later an officer in the Federal army, was observing the moods of Jefferson County’s people. The younger were excited but: “I thought I could discern in the eyes of some of the older and wiser (African-Americans) a gleam of anxious speculation – a silent and tremulous questioning of the future. . . There were also some among the white citizens who stood aloof in silence and sadness, protesting against the proceeding by an occasional bitter sigh or significant sneer, but nothing more.
But the thirst for adventure was almost unquenchable among the young, having been prepared for adventure their entire lives.
Wrote one of these young local cavalrymen in later years:
Young men of the present day, who flourish in fine buggies, smoke cigars and cigarettes, part their hair in the middle, and occasionally greet “inspiring bold John Barley Corn,” can ill appreciate the pastimes and pleasures of the youth of a generation ago, when the horse, the gun, and the dog were the ne plus ultra of masculine aspirations. Those good old days of innocent sports and recreations, are still valued as the brightest and happiest in life. Alas! of our little group, that often chased the squirrel from tree-to-tree and made the forests ring with volleys of musketry, or startled the partridge from its repose in the fields, but two are left to tell the tale. That acquaintance with the horse, which began in early childhood, soon ripened into affection, and the horse and rider were one in life and action. – Baylor, p. 15.
NOTE “inspiring, bold John Barley Corn” is taken from Robert Burns’ poem “Tam O-Shanter.” POEM’S FULL TEXT UNDER “REFERENCES.”
Wrote another local man who joined the Federal cause:
Horses and firearms are their playthings from childhood. Impatient of the restraints of school houses and work shops they seek life and pleasure in the soil, and thus early learn the topography of nature, the ways of the fields and forests, swamps, and mountains. Their social and political life, but little restrained by law or its usage, develops a vigorous individuality. For the most part, ignorant of the luxuries and refinements of cities, they prefer bacon and Scotch whisky to venison and champagne. Tall, athletic, rough, and full of fire and vitality, the half-horse, half-alligator type still predominates . . .
Strother, p. 6.
Young men, who from the moment their feet could reach the stirrups were attuned for adventure and to the dismay of their sober parents, quickly responded to the call to arms when President Lincoln put out a call for 75,000 volunteers to bring all the seceding states back. By mid-April, 1861, young men in Virginia had to choose to be one of those volunteers or rebel. While about 128 African Americans from the County would join the United States Colored Troops, some Unionist County boys who were white left the area to escape the threats of imprisonment and more from the area firebrand, Turner Ashby. But most of the young men rebelled.
Wrote one who witnessed events in Charlestown, Va.:
Alas! poor boy, what sense of duty or prudent counsels could hold him in the whirl of this moral maelstrom? What did he care for the vague terror of an indictment for treason, or the misty doctrine of Federal supremacy? What did he know of nationality beyond the circle of friends and kindred? What was his sneaking, apologetic, unsympathetic life worth after all?
But according to my judgment the greater number of these young volunteers were moved neither by social pressure nor political prejudice. The all-pervading love of adventure and fighting instincts were the most successful recruiting officers of the occasion. For they had heard of battles, and had longed to follow to the field some warlike lord – so at the first roll of the drum they rushed cheerily from school house and office, counter and work shop, field and fireside, earnest, eager, reckless fellows, marching with a free and vigorous step, sitting their horses like wild Pawnees, most admirable material for a rebellion, just as good soldiers for the Government if perchance the rub-a-dub of the Union drums had first aroused their martial ardor. – Strother, Excerpted from “Personal Recollections of the War,” from “Harper’s New Monthly Magazine,” July, 1866, Vol. XXXIV, p. 141.
WHAT THE YOUNG LADIES THOUGHT WAS DECISIVE:
While there were still a few men found who stubbornly struggled against the sweeping current, the women of all ages and conditions threw themselves into it without hesitation or reserve. His schoolmates and companions who had already donned ‘the gray’ scarce concealed their scorn. His sisters, rallied, reproached, and pouted, blushing to acknowledge his ignominy. His Jeannette, lately so tender and loving, now refused his hand in the dance, and, passing him with nose in air, bestowed her smiles and her bouquet upon some gallant rival with belt and buttons. Day-after-day he saw the baskets loaded with choice viands, roasted fowls, pickles, cakes, and potted sweetmeats, but not for him. Wherever he went there was a braiding of caps and coats, a gathering of flowers and weaving of wreaths, but none for him – no scented and embroidered handkerchiefs waved from carriage-windows as he rode by. The genial flood of social sympathy upon which he had hitherto floated so blandly had left him stranded on the icy shore. Then come the cheering regiments with their drums and banners, the snorting squadrons of glossy prancing steeds the jingling of knightly spurs, the stirring blast of the trumpets. There they went – companionship, love, life, glory, all sweeping by to Harper’s Ferry! – Strother, Excerpted from “Personal Recollections of the War,” from “Harper’s New Monthly Magazine,” July, 1866, Vol. XXXIV, p. 141.
Sewing societies were organized, and delicate hands which had never before engaged in ruder labor than the hemming of a ruffle now bled in the strife with gray jeans and tent cloth. Haversacks, knapsacks, caps, jackets, and tents were manufactured by hundreds and dozens.
The gift most in vogue from a young lady to her favored knight was a headdress imitated from those worn by the British troops in India and called a Havelock, (that Gen. Jackson later forebade because it made his men easier targets.-ED). Laden with musket, sabre, pistol, and bowie-knife, no youth considered his armament complete unless he had one of these silly clouts stretched over his hat.
Woe to the youth who did not need a Havelock; who, owing to natural indisposition or the prudent counsel of a father or a friend, hesitated to join the army of the South. The curse of Clan Alpin on those who should prove recreant to the sign of the fiery cross was mere dramatic noise compared with the curse that blighted his soul. – Ibid. p. 141.
Many of these young men, including several men from the Moler clan were in the line that first, fateful day on April 18, 1861, when the local militia assembled to seize the federal armory, with the inked signatures still damp in Richmond on the voted document by Virginia to secede. The armory burned before they seized it, but hard drilling began just days later at Bolivar Heights, under the unknown, erstwhile professor at Virginia Military Institute, Col. Thomas Jonathan Jackson.
THURSDAY, APRIL 18, 1861 – SHEPHERDSTOWN, VA – PRESSURE MOUNTS ON NEWTON BAKER TO ENLIST IN THE CONFEDERATE CAVALRY:
That day, nine of Newton’s cousins rode away from their farm steads in Berkeley and Jefferson County to join Company F of the newly-formed Shepherdstown Troop of 1st Virginia Cavalry, commanded by 6’2” slender, dark-haired, full-bearded 37-year-old William Augustine Morgan, who lived with his family at their home, Falling Springs, just south of Shepherdstown.
Newton’s cousins joining that day – called Company F – all were the sons of siblings of his mother: brothers Conrad Billmyer (1797–1847); John Joseph Billmyer (1802–1845), sisters Judith Billmyer Koontz (1795-1856); Susan Billmyer McQuilkin (1798-1873); and Esther Mary Billmyer Lemen (1800-1887). Other cousins followed, joining both North and South. (See “References”)
Cousins of Co_F_FINAL
So many from the family were in Company F, it at times seemed their own. The first cousins to enlist were (with service record summaries):
– Snyder, Vivian P. (1999). Twenty First Cousins in the Civil War. Magazine of the Jefferson County Historical Society. Vol. LXV. pp. 47-51; Driver, Robert J. (1991). “1st Virginia Cavalry.” Lynchburg, Va.: H. E. Howard, Inc. Print. – More. . .
1. BILLMYER, JAMES M.: b. Va. 12/4/1836. 5’11’, fair complexion, brown hair, hazel eyes. Merchant, Shepherdstown PO, Jefferson Co. 1860 census. enl. Shepherdstown 4/18/61 Co. F as 1st Sgt. 1st Virginia Cav. Horse killed Bull Run 7/21/61. Present through 1/6/62. To 2nd Lt. Present through 5/1/62. Not re-elected. Re-enl. Pvt. Fredericksburg 8/1/63. Present through 8/64. Acting Adjutant of Regt. 2/12/65. Paroled Winchester 4/27/65. d. 2/20/1913. bur. Berkeley County. – Service Record; Snyder. 1860 Census.
2. BILLMYER, JOHN T.: b. Va. 1/11/32. 5’8′, fair complexion, dark hair, grey eyes. 1st Lt., Co. F. Deputy Sheriff, Vanclevesville PO, Berkeley Co. 1860 census. enl. Shepherdstown 4/18/61 as Sgt. 1st Virginia Cav. Present until detached with baggage trains 3/4/62. Present through 10/20/62. Elected 2nd Lt. To 1st Lt. Present until WIA Five Forks 4/1/65. Paroled Mt. Jackson 4/18/65. d. 3/26/74. bur. Elmwood Cem. Shepherdstown. – Service Record; Snyder, p. 48.
3. BILLMYER, MILTON J.: b. Va. 10/10/34. Farmer, Jefferson Co. 6′, fair complexion, light hair, blue eyes. Captain, Co. F. 1st Virginia Cav., Vanclevesville PO, Berkeley Co. 1860 census. enl. Shepherdstown 4/18/61 as Pvt. Present through 7/1/61, appointed 1st Lt. Present through 10/12/62. elected Captain. Present until WIA (left thigh) Haw’s Shop 5/28/64. Absent wounded in Richmond hospital until furloughed for 30 days 7/14/64. Present Appomattox. Paroled Winchester 4/27/65. d. near Shepherdstown, W.Va. 8/31/07. bur. Elmwood Cem. – Service Record; Snyder, p. 48.
4. LEMEN, JOHN JAMES ALEXANDER: b. Va. 11/19/39. 5’7″. fair complexion, dark hair, grey eyes. Farmhand, Charles Town PO, Jefferson Co. 1860 census. enl. Shepherdstown Co. F. 4/18/61 as Pvt. 1st Virginia Cav. Present until captured 7/61. Exch. Present 9/62. Captured Smithfield 5/31/63. Sent to Ft. Monroe. Exch. 6/5/63. Present until absent sick in Richmond hospital 8/24/64. Released 6/30/64. d. 1/10/71. bur. Elmwood Cem. Shepherdstown, W.Va. – Service Record; Snyder, p. 48. 1860 Census.
5. LEMEN, THOMAS THORNTON.: b. Va. 8/15/42. Student, Charles Town PO, Jefferson Co. 1860 census. enl. Co. F Shepherdstown 4/18/61 1st Virginia Cav. Pvt. Present until WIA Aldie 6/17/63. POW Middleburg d. 6/20/63. bur. Elmwood Cem., Shepherdstown. – Service Record; Snyder, p. 48. 1860 Census.
6. LEMEN, WILLIAM THORNBURG: b. Va. 6/15/35. 5’10”. fair complexion, brown hair, grey eyes. Farmer, Charles Town PO, Jefferson Co. 1860 census. enl. Co. F 1st Virginia Cav. Shepherdstown 4/18/61. Present through 8/61, promoted 3rd Sgt. Present through 8/62, promoted 2nd Sgt. Promoted 1st Sgt 10/20/62. Present 10/63. Present through 8/64. Paroled Winchester 4/18/65. d. near Hedgesville, W.Va. 4/17/99. bur. Elmwood Cem., Shepherdstown, W.Va. – Service Record; Snyder, p. 48. 1860 Census.
7. LEMEN, WILLOUGHBY: b. Va. 11/20/44. 5’10”. enlisted 4/18/61 Co. F, 1st Virginia Cav. under William A. Morgan. Present thru to 10/20/1862. Promoted to 1st Sgt. 1st Virginia Cav. Present thru 11/1863. Service records show name change from “William T. Lemen” to Willoughby N. Lemen 11-12-63. Captured 4/65. 12/28/64 promoted to Junior 2nd Lieut. Paroled 4/18/65. d. 7/19/1913. buried Elmwood Cem. – Tombstone Inscriptions, p. 170; Kenamond, p. 74; Service Record (pp. 15-28, start @ p. 15); Snyder, p. 48. 1860 Census.
8.MCQUILKIN, WILLIAM H.: b. Va. 1841. Laborer Charles Town enl. Co. F. Shepherdstown 4/18/61 as Pvt. 1st Virginia Cav. Fell ill with pneumonia and was granted sick furlough August 31st, 1861; sent to hospital December 26th, and died January 6th, 1862 at Manassas. – Service Record; Snyder, p. 48.; 1860 Census.
9. KOONTZ, THORNTON: b. Va. 12/16/21. enl. 4/18/61 Co. F, 1st Va. Cav. Sgt. Present through 4/62. Reassigned under Milton J. Billmyer. Pvt. substitute for Robert K. Wilson. POW paroled 4/18/65. d. 5/12/86. bur. Elmwood Cem. – Tombstone Inscriptions, p. 168. Service Record; Snyder, p. 47. 1860 Census.
APRIL 19, 1861 – Martinsburg: Two more cousins of Newton’s enlist in Company B of the 1st Virginia Cavalry:
10.NOLL, WILLIAM T.: Va. b. 10/2/32. enlisted Co. B, 1st Virginia Cav. Martinsburg 4/19/61, promoted to 2nd lieutenant. Present until 5-6/62 sick. Bay mare killed 8/21/64 Berryville, Va. Present 7/62-4/65. Paroled 4/18/65 Winchester. d. 2/27/03. – Service Record; Snyder, p. 47. 1860 Census.
11. LEMEN, WILLIAM MARTIN: b. Va. 12/6/31. enlisted Co. B, 1st Virginia Cav. Martinsburg 4/19/61. On daily duty attending to the sick. Present until 2/11/62 on furlough. On detached service with regimental medical dept. Paroled 4/26/65 Winchester. d. 5/2/03. Service Record; Snyder, p. 48. 1860 Census.
OTHER COUSINS ENLIST LATER:
BILLMYER, ROBERT LEMEN (1843-1910) – Another son of Newton’s uncle, Conrad Billmyer (1797–1847), enlisted June 28, 1861 at Shepherdstown:
12.BILLMYER, ROBERT LEMEN: b. Va. 9/25/43, Student, 5’6″. fair complexion, brown hair, hazel eyes. Vanclevesville PO, Berkeley Co. 1860 census. enl. Shepherdstown 6/28/63. Pvt., Co. F. 1st Virginia Cav. Present through 12/63. Absent on detached service 1/25-2/28/64. Present through 8/64. WIA (head) Winebrenner’s Cross Roads near Shepherdstown 9/64. Present Appomattox 4/9/65 and carried flag of truce to the enemy. Paroled Winchester 4/18/65. He lived in the county after the war. d. near Shepherdstown, W.Va. 3/19/10. bur. Elmwood Cem. Service Record; 1860 Census.
Newton’s other uncle, John Joseph Billmyer (1802–1845)’s wife, Eliza Williamson Lemen Billmyer (1806-1886), had two brothers and a sister who provided four more (2 Joneses, 2 Williamsons) enlistees into the 1st Virginia Cavalry and a second brother of Eliza’s provided three soldiers for the Union. – Snyder, pp. 48-51.
Eliza Billmyer’s sister – Mary O. Lemen (1811-1909) married Adrian Wynkoop Jones (1805-1877).- Snyder, p. 49. Their sons who enlisted were:
13. JONES, JOHN REYNOLDS: b. 1844. enl. 8/20/64 Shepherdstown Co. F. 1st Va Cav. under M. J. Billmyer. POW. Paroled 4/21/65 Winchester. d. 1887. – Service Record; 1860 Census.
14. JONES, THOMAS J. or F.: b. 1839 record only confirms being in Co. F. of 1st Va Cavalry. d. 1923. fold3.com 6 September 2011 Web. 1 December 2015. – Service Record; 1860 Census.
Eliza Billmyer’s brother, Jacob, married; they had two sons; Jacob died and his widow raised the two sons with an uncle of Eliza Billmyer’s named Williamson, who adopted the boys. – Snyder, pp. 49-50. The young men enlisted as:
15. WILLIAMSON, MATTHEW WHITE: b. 1845. enl. 8/13/1861 at New Market, Va. with Captain Morgan, Co. F 1st Va. Cavalry. Present sent on detached service 1/20/1864. Present 7-8/64. Paroled 5/9/1865. Winchester. d. 1930. Service Record; 1860 Census.
16. WILLIAMSON, THOMAS LEMEN: b. 1847. Only record is being a prisoner of war, being in Co. F of the 1st Va. Cavalry and having been paroled 4/9/1865 at New Market, Va. Description: height 5’9”, hair: light, eyes: blue. d. 1875. Service Record; 1860 Census.
Eliza Billmyer’s second brother, Robert Lemen (1813-1898) and his wife, Sarah Elizabeth Light (1816-1883), had three sons who went with the Federal Army’s First Maryland Cavalry: In Co. I, Peter (1840-1921); In Co. H, Jacob F. (1842-1922), and Thomas J. (1843-1908). – Snyder, pp. 50-51. The boys enlisted as:
17. LEMEN, PETER L.: b. 1840. 5’9.5” dark complexion, blue eyes, light hair. enl. 9/3/61 Camp Lamon, Williamsport, Md. for three years. Pvt. Capt. Russell’s Co. 1st Va. Cav.(later Co. I. First Md Cav.). 12/30/61 on detached service Williamsport, Md. 5-6/62 detailed at the Ferry at Williamsport on Potomac. 3/9/64 on detached service, clerk in the Provost Marshall’s office Baltimore City, Md. by order of Brig. Gen. Lockwood S.O. No. 61, Par 9. 9/3/64 mustered out, term of service expired. d. 1921. Service Record; 1860 Census.
18. LEMEN, JACOB F.: b. 1842 enl. 9/6/61, mustered in 12/31/61 Williamsport, Md. Pvt. Capt. Zeller’s Co. 1st Reg’t Va. Volunteers (later Co. H. First Md Cav.). Present 1/61-4/63. POW 5-8/63. Present 9/63-12/64. Discharged 12/3/64 term of service expired. d. 1922. Service Record; 1860 Census.
19. LEMEN, THOMAS J.: b. 1843. enl. 9/3/61 Camp Lamon Pvt. Capt. Russell’s Co. 1st Va. Cav.(later Co. I. First Md Cav.) for three years. Present 3-4/62-8/63. Promoted to corporal. 3/26/64 Reduced to Pvt. Present 4/64. 9/3/64 mustered out, term of service expired. d. 1908. – Service Record; 1860 Census.
William Morgan’s son, Augustine, with Mrs. Anna Morgan Getzendanner, recounted that fateful “join-up” day of April 18th, as his father left home:
For some time, the ominous cloud of war hung over us, only to burst at length with all its stern reality. Though but six years of age, I can clearly recall the great anxiety and gloom that predominated. Owing to my extreme youth, I could not comprehend the fact that we were upon the verge of a great conflict. My parents solemnly conversed in low tones and all about the house seemed confusion for what my father informed me was the getting ready for his departure from home, and with his Company, of which he was Captain, to enter the Confederate Army. He said that there would be a great war and that his services were needed and that he must not shirk his duty. He also told me that I would be the only man left to protect my mother and little sisters. I inquired the meaning of war and Father made me understand – that war was fighting, killing, one army against another, cruel and barbarous but often a necessary evil and unavoidable. In good faith I was ready to accede to my father’s demands and my bosom swelled proudly at the confidence he imposed in me.
The eventful day arrived when my Father mounted upon George, a beautiful grey horse, at the head of his company, left for the war. We stood at the gate, my mother, little sisters and I, also Mammy Liza and Uncle Ned, servants of our home. We waved farewell and Mother wept though she little realized that war would endure for months and years. The parting from Father was painful and the responsibilities of protection of the house and family seemed in my childish idea, a heavy one. Father was a splendid equestrian and sat his horse with ease. Tall and slender, blue of eye, his hair dark as the raven’s wing, my father seemed to me a perfect type of what a soldier should be. – Getzendanner, Anna Morgan and Morgan Augustine C. “A Boy’s Recollections of the Civil War – 1861-1865.” Shepherdstown, WV: Self-published. pp. 1-2.
Morgan’s younger brother, Daniel (1835-1865) who was living on Shepherdstown’s German Street with their widowed mother, enlisted in Co. F the same day as William. Their brother, “Jack” Smith Morgan (1838-?) enlisted in Company F on May 11, 1861. Both in 1862 would seek places in other companies in the 1st Virginia as their brother became the commander of Company F. – Driver, p. 210.
SATURDAY, JUNE 15, 1861 – CHARLES TOWN: NEWTON BAKER BREAKS WITH HIS PARENTS AND JOINS MORGAN’S AND HIS COUSINS’ CONFEDERATE COMPANY:
Spending his days clerking in his father’s store that would in a year become the official Federal post office at that northeast corner of Church and German Streets in Shepherdstown, and daily with his mother and his prosperous, pro-Union uncle, David Billmyer – the stark choice weighed heavily upon nineteen-year-old Newton. Five more of his cousins would enlist later in Morgan’s Company F; while, still, three other kin of Newton’s would enlist in the Federal 1st Maryland Cavalry Regiment. – Snyder, pp. 49-51;
On the warm, clear Friday of June 15th, when the encamped Confederate soldiers and cavalry at Harpers Ferry rose to reveille at 4 AM and began leaving, most for Charlestown – up the road, Newton rode a fine bay mare from home toward Charlestown, joining, late that day, Morgan and his cousins at a campsite on the Bullskin Run a few miles south of Charlestown. Newton Baker became Private Baker of Co. F with a lot to learn. – Vairin; Service Record N. D. Baker.
Father Elias was a northern sympathizer and was not pleased to have his son Newton Diehl serving the Confederacy. Father Elias spoke to his son only once during the war. Records suggest that when his son was held prisoner at Fort McHenry, Baltimore, that that was the most likely moment Elias Baker went to bring his exchanged son out of prison. – Kenamond, pp. 21-22; Service Records.
In fact, by 1862 with the townspeople’s sympathies also splitting into two camps, Elias Baker, who would be appointed by President Lincoln to be Shepherdstown’s postmaster, a post he would hold until well after the war, diplomatically split mail delivery duties with his Confederate counterpart and fellow townsmen, Daniel Rentch.
Father Elias Baker’s postmaster job, starting in 1862, almost required him to shun his son.
A biographer of Newton’s son, wrote of the relationship between Elias and Newton when peacetime came:
Elias Baker was devoted to the Union, received an appointment from President Lincoln as postmaster at Shepherdstown, and retained the Federal office throughout the War. Son Newton Baker, as a member of the Cavalry commanded by Jeb Stuart, fought at Gettysburg, was captured, and exchanged to fight again at Richmond. . . but had a tolerant attitude that was one of his strongest qualities. He felt that the War ended with Lee’s surrender and he was willing to accept the Northern victory. Cramer pp. 13-15.
BAKER, NEWTON DIEHL: b. Washington County, Md. 10/3/41. 5’6″ fair complexion, brown hair, blue eyes. attended Wittenberg College one year. clerk Shepherdstown post office, Jefferson County. enlisted in the 1st Virginia Cavalry Charles Town 6/15/61 as Pvt. in Co. F. Present until detached to Gainesville 12/10/61. Captured Smithfield 5/31/63. Sent to Ft. McHenry. Exch. 6/63. Promoted 2nd Corp. Present until detailed as ordinance sgt of regt 11/15/63. Horse killed 8/19/64. Wounded in thigh Fishers Hill 9/22/64. Paroled Winchester 4/23/65. medical school 1868. surgeon for the B&O railroad. d. Martinsburg 1909. – Driver, Robert J. (1991). “1st Virginia Cavalry.” Lynchburg, Va.: H. E. Howard, Inc. Print.
HOW COMING WAR DIVIDES, THEN DESTROYS FRIENDSHIPS AND MINDS:
By the month of June the circle of more robust characters that still retained their political sanity was small and diminishing daily. They did not drop off now after long and lingering arguments, painful doubts, rallyings, and relapses as formerly; but a normal mind would fall suddenly into incoherence and frenzy. Principles based upon the education and habits of a lifetime, sustained by the clearest views of interest, the pride of consistency, and every sentiment of honor, would perish in a night, like the gourd of Jonah. This change was easily discernible in the countenance and demeanor of its victims. Yesterday your friend looked in your face with a clear and earnest eye, and discussed questions calmly and logically. To-day he shunned you, his eye was restless and unsteady, his manner painfully excited, his talk full of incoherencies; in a short time you would perceive there was a total absorption of all his previous opinions, idiosyncrasies, social sympathies, and antipathies, moral and intellectual characteristics, in the prevailing frenzy. These phenomena, which at first excited indignation, grief, and amazement, in the course of time ceased to surprise, and became subjects of merriment. Among ourselves we speculated jocosely as to who would go under next; and in the privacy of our own souls entertained the question, whether it was the world around us or ourselves that was mad. It is useful, perhaps, but not the less humiliating to human pride, to test the depth and power of individual principle and will, to ascertain precisely for how many days and hours ones best-founded opinions and most positive convictions will maintain themselves unsupported against the current of society and the menaces of power. From the observations of these few months I have become convinced that no amount of clear conviction, rectitude of purpose, or moral heroism can long maintain a passive defense against the assaults of an active and fiery enthusiasm. Organization must meet organization; passion blaze out against passion; the audacious and unscrupulous spirit of revolution must be counteracted by a spirit as bold and remorseless as itself. The idea is expressed with more point and brevity in the popular epigram, “One must fight the Devil with fire.” The National Government had thus far lost every thing by its temporizing and conciliatory policy. –
Strother, David H. (July, 1866). “Personal Recollections of the Civil War.” Harpers Magazine. Cornell Digital Library – The Making of America. 19 July 2011. Web. 29 January 2014.
1. NEWTON BAKER’S “MOST” DIVIDED CLAN (Pt. 1 of 4) (above) by Jim Surkamp
2. NEWTON BAKER “SEES THE ELEPHANT” MANASSAS, VA (Pt. 2 of 4) by Jim Surkamp
3. NEWTON BAKER’S LIFE IN THE FAMED FIRST VIRGINIA CAVALRY 1861-1865 (Pt. 3 of 4) by Jim Surkamp
4. NEWTON BAKER”S REMARKABLE SON (Pt. 4 of 4) by Jim Surkamp
For References and Image Credits:
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