April 4, 1865 dawned dry and clear. “Boots and Saddles” brought the Federals tumbling out of their blankets at daybreak. There was no time for breakfast; officers ordered everybody into the saddle immediately. Stoneman wanted to get to Jacksonville, a village about forty-five miles northwest of Danville, as quickly as possible.
At about 6:00 a.m., the weary cavalrymen began the third week of the raid. Fortunately, the scenery helped some to forget their empty stomachs. “Beautiful country through this valley,” Septimus Knight declared. Not everybody in the column was comfortable, however, especially Eber Hendricks of the 10th Michigan. His foot was still sore from the coffee pot accident back at Deep Gap. “It is with great discomfort [that I] keep my place in the ranks,” he complained.
Rumors of the approaching raiders swept through the countryside. In response, blacks ran away and whites hid their valuables. Everyone chattered or whispered nervously about the raiders. At their Jacksonville home, young Waitman Stigleman realized something was wrong when his father passed him in the hall without noticing him. “He was very pale and had a look on his face which frightened me,” Stigleman recalled. Entering the room his father had just left, he found his mother crying. She ran to her son and held him close. “The news has been brought to your father that the Yankees are coming,” she said. “They will burn up the town and take everything we have. They are welcome, if they just spare my husband.”
The boy’s father, Col. William Stigleman, was the highest-ranking officer in Floyd County, so he planned to meet the raiders and formally surrender Jacksonville. Unfortunately for the locals, there was a complication. As some Federal cavalrymen approached the town, a dozen young men fired on them. “This had inflamed the Yankees. They were terribly incensed,” young Stigleman recorded. The angered troopers returned the favor and killed Confederate Lt. James Madison Howard. The rest of the rebels retreated, chased by the Federal contingent. In town, Unionist citizens trembled.
To read what happened next, see Chris J. Hartley, Stoneman's Raid, 1865.
Excerpt from Stoneman's Raid, 1865, (c) Chris J. Hartley