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Women Had Part in Area Battles

Looking Back with Lloyd Mathews, originally printed January 29, 1979

 

Southwest Virginia played an important role in The War Between the States, in supplying both men and materials, as well as grounds on which to fight. Although the people of the mountain empire had the least to gain (if there could be any gain in war), soldiers from this area fought gallantly. There were several strategic locations in the area that the Federals thought to be most vital to the war effort.

In Pulaski County, the village of Snowville furnished wagon parts, shoes and swords. Dublin was an important rail center, training ground, and quartermaster depot. This was the reason for northern troops marching across Cloyd’s Mountain to be met by the Confederates for the Battle of Cloyd’s Farm. from here the Federals moved into Dublin to destroy the railroad, and on to Radford to destroy the bridge across New River.

Another vital spot was the Railroad Depot in Wytheville. The Union had a three-fold purpose for marching to Wytheville. Supplies of lead from the Wythe County Lead Mines went to Wytheville to be moved out by rail, as well as salt from the mines in Saltville. Few items could be more essential to the successful operation of an army than lead and salt. Destroying the railroad at Wytheville would be a great boost to the cause of the Union.

Every war has had its interludes when women would enter for history-making performances, and this war was no exception, as we shall see. General Toland and his approximately 1,000 cavalrymen made a successful invasion of Tazewell, and were camped on a farm in that area. There was a young girl in the neighborhood by the name of Mary Elizabeth Molly Tynes, who happened to overhear a conversation between two Union Soldiers outlining plans for a surprise raid on Wytheville Depot. She related the story to her father.

Molly was a good rider, and it was decided that the 26-year-old girl would ride to Wytheville and warn the people of the impending raid. It was a long and lonely trip. Riding through the beautiful farming area of Burke’s Garden, Molly stopped at the farm homes long enough to shout, “the Yankees are coming.” Through wild and hazardous mountains; land inhabited by bear, panther and wildcats, the brave girl rode, giving the alarm to all she met along the way. The next day she arrived at Wytheville at about daybreak, and the only people she found there were women, children, and those too old for the army. They had had no warning until the arrival of Molly Tynes. They got together whatever arms and ammunition they could find, and prepared for the defense of Wytheville.

When the northern troops arrived they were surprised by the well-prepared home guard. In the battle that ensued General Toland was killed by a bullet through his heart, and the next ranking officer, Colonel Powell was critically wounded. The northern troops were forced to retreat; their three-point objective meeting with complete failure.

This is a true story and another example of the courage and bravery of the women who inhabit the mountains and foothills of Appalachia. A historical plaque near Wytheville, entitled Toland’s Raid, tells highway travelers the story of brave Molly Tynes’ ride to save Wytheville.

It is believed by many that the shot that killed General Toland was fired by a woman sniper.

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