The following is Part IV in a series of articles written in 1993 and published in this “Looking Back with Lloyd Mathews” section of The Southwest Times. The series, entitled The Battle of Cloyd’s Farm and the Skirmish at New River Bridge, May Ninth and Tenth, 1864: A series of newspaper articles written about the only Civil War action taking place in Pulaski County, Virginia, will be re-published this winter to commemorate the anniversary of this important battle.
In this the 150th Anniversary year since the battle, the Pulaski Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, the New River Rifles, and the 1st Stuart Artillery are honored to invite you to living history and reenactments on the actual battlefield, April 5th and 6th, 2014. For information: www.battleofcloydsmtn.org
The Virginia Civil War History Mobile will be located at the New River Valley Fair Grounds on April 4th and 5th, with the 4th being a day for the local schools. Event parking will be at the fairgrounds, and there will be bus transportation to the battlefield. Bus tours of the local historical sites will be available on Saturday the 5th from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m.
Part IV: The Battle of Cloyd’s Farm
Since I am not a person who is particularly interested or knowledgeable in military strategy and dispersion of troops in time of battle, I have not attempted to give a blow-by-blow description of what went on at Cloyd’s Farm on May 9, 1864. Since so much battle description has been written through the years, I have purposely dwelled on the battle from the human interest point of view.
For those who are interested in just who was there, I will list the Confederate units that took part in the battle, according to information I have gathered: 36th Virginia Infantry, 60th Virginia Infantry, 45th Battalion Virginia Infantry, 45th Virginia Infantry, Bryan’s Battery, Ringgold Battery, 17th Virginia Cavalry, and 5th Kentucky Cavalry—Morgan’s dismounted men under Col. D. H. Smith.
One unit is not recognized in any of the official records. That is those brave men of the Home Guard, and what might be known in today’s vernacular as walk-ons. One such walk-on was Rev. William Hickman, pastor of the Belspring Presbyterian Church. A unit of Confederate soldiers was marching through by his home on the day before the battle, and he, realizing that many of his parishioners were in this unit, fell in with them and ended up at Cloyd’s Farm. He was wounded in the battle and left the field when the rebels retreated. Because he was not in military uniform, the Yankees, who were moving the wounded to field hospitals, considered him a bushwhacker and left him without attention, and he later died from his wounds.
An interesting story that has been passed down concerns the removal of General Jenkins’ arm. While there were both Confederate and Federal doctors on the field, when given the choice, the young general accepted the services of a Yankee surgeon, Dr. N. F. Graham, to remove his arm. The doctor did a good job, but later on, a careless orderly, while changing a bandage, allowed the General to bleed to death.
Almost every battle of every war has its stories about lives of soldiers being saved by divine intervention, and the Battle of Cloyd’s Farm is no exception. An early Southwest Times published the following: “If J. F. Hale, great uncle of Burman Craig of Pulaski, had not pinned a Bible to his chest at the Battle of Cloyd’s Farm, he would have been killed. This Bible with the mark of a bullet still plainly visible is now being exhibited.” The exhibit mentioned was a part of the Pulaski County Centennial Celebration in 1939.
Another interesting story that has been passed down concerns Captain Christopher Cleburne. This was a young officer of General Morgan’s Cavalry, the outfit that arrived late for the battle and was called on to cover the Confederate retreat. Supposedly, Cleburne voiced a wish that should he be killed in the battle, he be buried at the spot where he fell. He was mortally wounded on May 9, 1864, and his wish was granted. Almost a hundred years later the Giles Turnpike had to be widened, causing the grave to have to be moved. It was moved approximately a hundred feet west to its present location.
On a handsome granite monument marking the grave is inscribed the following message: (The death date listed should be May 9.)
“Died May 10, 1864, at the Battle of
Cloyd’s Farm near Dublin Virginia in the
21st year of his age.
CAPTAIN CHRISTOPHER CLEBURNE
2ND Kentucky Cavalry, C.S.A.
He rests in the State
whose valor has given luster to the age
and his memory will not soon depart
from his comrades who cherish it as
that of a brave, chivalrous and true man.”