From James Langhorne - Adjutant 4th Virginia, Stonewall Brigade - to his parents
Ft. Delaware, Room No. 1,
April 3d, 1862.
The commandant of this Fort has kindly consented for the prisoners confined here with me to write and relieve the anxiety of their friends and relations at home, and to give the circumstances of their capture. I was taken prison just at dark near Winchester on the evening of the 23rd of March, and nearly every man here was taken at the same time and place with myself. The minute circumstances of my capture are as follows:
Our Regiment was ordered to engage the enemy on our extreme left. Our line of battle extended over a hill, the side of which descended very abruptly. The crest of the hill prevented our seeing the right fall back. The order was not reported on the extreme left, and the men continued to fight on until the enemy in large numbers came to the crest of the hill and commenced a heavy fire right down our line, having almost turned our flank on the right. The Captains then saw that if they did not immediately order their men to fall back they would be surrounded. We retired in very good order over a hill thinly wooded immediately on the other side of which, and at the base, was a stone fence, and just over said fence, a very level field. Here the officers ordered the men to halt and form a square against cavalry, as we perceived we were only pursued in the direction we retired, by cavalry. I took the colors from the ensign of our Regiment and railed upon the 4th to rally around them. Col. Fulkerson, telling them they had only to resist cavalry, and would do that with the bayonet--all the men with few exceptions having shot away their ammunition. The men - although there were not ten from one company, formed two sides of the square as quietly and coolly as they could if no enemy had been charging upon them. Just at this moment, two very large Regiments of the enemy appeared on the crest of a modest elevation not fifty yards on our right, and drew up with our right flank, and poured a full volley into us.
Colonel Fulkerson immediately saw our hazardous situation, and ordered men and officers to make as fast as they could to a copse of wood on the right. The men saw their danger, and everyone ran with all the strength he had in him after marching 43 miles since the morning before, and fought from two o'clock until twilight. But the enemy cavalry knew the positions and designs of the infantry on our right - anticipating that when we discovered the infantry on our right we would make for the woods on the left, and sent the larger squadrons to us to cut off this means of escape. Col. Fulkerson and myself being wounded, rode at an easy gallop so as to be able to make the circle of the left wing of the enemy's infantry and keep out of the range of the cavalry pursuing.
Col. Fulkerson remarked to me, as I still held the flag of the Regiment in my hand, that he thought with the mare I was riding that I could save the colors with ease. I told him I knew I could if one of those slagued nails from the enemy's cavalry on our rear and infantry on our left, as we retired, did not make a hole in a fellow's "casemate." Just here the lane turned off at right angles to the right and just at this place, young Durham of the "Pulaski Guards" and Capt. Wright of the "Dare Devils" asked me to let them have my mare that they thought they could make their escape on her. I asked them if they were too badly wounded to save the colors-- Durham said he had only a slight wound through the right shoulder and could save himself on foot but for having been broken down by the marches and knew, with my mare, could save both Wright and himself. So I got down and helped them on my mare and I gave Durham the colors, telling him to tear them up it he thought there was a danger of their being captured. He was a cool brave fellow, and a fine horseman --- I got over the fence and threw the rider off and then got back on the side they were, took "Annie" by the bridle, drew her back from the fence, and struck her on the side with my hand saying, "Go over Annie." She cleared the fence beautifully with both of them on her back. I was more afraid of being killed just as I took the rail off the fence than at any time before during the day as the cavalry got within one hundred yards and were firing upon us withtheir minie carbines -- I jumped over the fence and started as fast as I could across the field, but before I got fifty yards the cavalry had got to the fence I had just left and I knew would shoot me in my back, so I drew my pistol and turned and fired at the front cavalry man just as his horse struck the inside of the fence. He threw both hands to his chest but I did not see him fall from his horse. The next man that came over the fence was a Lieutenant. I shot at him just as his horse was riding to leap the fence, as I saw him in the act of drawing his pistol. I think the nail must have passed through his clothes, as I was confident the sights on the pistol covered a blue uniform. He was a bold fellow and fired on me twice. As he advanced my pistol misfired or I would have killed him. He rode right up to me and asked me it I was a "sesech." I told him "No, confound you, I am a rebel." He then said "You are my prisoner, surrender." I told him I would see him d--d first and struck high guard and thrust with all my might at his abdomen. But that old sword Frizzell made me failed in the first effort and did not get through his clothes. My compliments to Mr. F. and tell him he has mistaken his calling.
To show you how cool the Lieutenant was, as I thrust at him he drew his second pistol and shot me in the side. I thought at the instant, and until the Surgeon opened my clothes at Winchester, that it was a mortal wound, as it knocked me down. Several cavalrymen rode up and seeing that I was leveling my pistol at the front, one of them, who was puffing a cartridge in his minie carbine - I tell you he dropped his cartridge the quickest I ever saw. None of these shots struck me; but one fine looking fellow rode up on my right and said, "sesech you might as well surrender, your ammunition is out." I always did hate that word "sesech" and I threw my sword in his face, but the plagued thing was so dull it did not even cut his skin. I the put the muzzle of the pistol I had, which belonged to Col. Preston, and which was given him by Colonel Echols -- on the ground and succeeded in breaking the stock off. The fellow did not shoot me for this, but just before I snapped my pistol in his face, he shot me. The ball struck the little ring I wore on the little finger of my left hand and drove it down to the bone. But the ring saved the finger from being broken.
The fellow then got down, took my pistol, unbuckled my sword belt, then come around and put his arm under my head, said he was "sorry he did not have some water to give me," and that I was wrong for fighting when I saw such odds against me. He was a brave noble fellow, and I felt it an honor to be taken by such company of men. They were Ohio men attached to Col. Copeland's regiment of, Michigan cavalry. I was taken to Winchester where we stayed unt 12 o'clock on Monday. The citizens there expressed their sympathy for us by giving us some underclothes, and exchanging our C. S. money for gold and silver. We arrived in Baltimore on the 25th, were confined in the city jail, a splendid structure, where we remained until five and a half o'clock, the evening of the 29th, where we got aboard a steamer, and arrived at this place the morning of the 30th. We have been kindly treated since we got here by all the officers.
Can't write more. I am violating the order of Capt. Gibson by having written so much but I will not trouble him with another for a good while, and trust to the generosity to let this go. Our friends in Baltimore gave us plenty of clothes and means. We would all do well if flashes of home and Jackson did not come over us, as Junkin says. Captain G's order comes over me and whispers "stop." I am a jail bird now, but a happy one, for I feel that I have done my duty. Love to every one black and white.