David Hart and the Hart family
in the American Civil War
By Katherine Hart Frame
(Used by special permission of the Randolph County Historical Society)
The terrific emotional tension which had been built up in this country for a number of years over slavery, states' rights, and the preservation of the Union was beginning to be released by scattered acts of violence and lawlessness; the firing on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861; Lincoln's call for 75,000 volunteers on April 15, 1861; and the final secession of eleven southern states.
Western Virginia was especially caught up in this great turmoil. It was unhappy over Virginia's vote to secede. Steps were taken to set up a reorganized government. Both the North and the South recognized the strategic importance of this section because of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad crossing the mid-section from east to west and connecting Washington with the West.
So, on April 30, 1861, General Robert E. Lee ordered Major Francis M. Boykin, Jr., of Weston to call up volunteers and protect Grafton 'and to take steps to control the railroad at Wheeling and Parkersburg.
On May 10, 1861, from Grafton, Major Boykin wrote General Lee that "this section is verging on a state of actual rebellion, and many men who are true and loyal to the State are afraid to leave their families among men who recognize as their leader John S. Carlile, who openly proclaims that the laws of the State should not be recognized."
Colonel George A. Porterfield had also been sent to Grafton. On May 16, 1861 he wrote to Richmond, "I have found great diversity of opinion and much bitterness of feeling among the people of this region. They are apparently upon the verge of civil war."
Brigadier-General R. S. Garnett replaced Colonel Porterfield and on June 26, he reported to Richmond, "The Union men are greatly in the ascendancy here, and are much more zealous and active in their cause than the secessionists." He said the country people kept the enemy informed "while we are compelled to grope in the dark as much as if we were invading a foreign and hostile country."
During this time, Randolph County, which was strong in Southern sympathy, was seeing much Confederate activity. Beverly was a military depot. Soldiers marched through and munitions and war materiel were being brought in. The Confederates were fortifying Laurel Hill and Rich Mountain in order to guard the roads leading back to Staunton. From June 15 to July 11, Lieutenant J. M. Heck, under command of Colonel Pegram, was busy throwing up fortifications at Camp Garnett, located at the foot of Rich Mountain on the West side. Thirteen hundred (1,300) men were placed here to hold it.
The Civil War came early to David B. Hart. Camp Garnett was on his father's land. His father, Joseph Hart, had lived in Beverly from his birth on July 16, 1797 until 1855, when he had moved to the top of Rich Mountain on the Parkersburg and Staunton Pike for the health of his family. David was one of ten children born to his father's second wife, Susan Pickens. He was born in Beverly on November 24, 1838. He was educated in the schools of Beverly. It is believed that he attended a school taught by Dr. J. W. Bosworth the winter before the Civil War.
David's grandmother, Nancy Ann (Stout) Hart lived until he was about six years old. Perhaps he could remember her stories of the Revolution, strengthened as his father retold them. She had married Edward Hart in New Jersey in October, 1778 when he was on a three-day furlough. About June 1, 1776, he had joined the Revolutionary Army under General Stirling. He had marched with the main army from New York to White Plains where he took part in battle with the British. From there he marched to Fort Washington and was discharged. Later, he served with the New Jersey militia under General Dickerson around Elizabethtown, and was in a skirmish with the British Light Horse, in which the Americans took some horses and prisoners. In 1778 he was stationed at Trenton. and served some months in 1779, 1780, and 1781. She remembered seeing Lord Stirling, Baron DeKalb, a French officer, and General Washington.
In June. 1778, she saw General Washington march through Hopewell, New Jersey, where her father-in-law, John Hart, lived. General Washington took dinner with John Hart, who was one of the fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Like so many of the signers, John Hart paid dearly. A short time after the signing of the now famous document, the Hessian soldiers, mercenaries of the British, had reached Hopewell. They destroyed his grist, saw, and fulling mills, and laid waste his 400 acre farm. His timber was destroyed and his stock and cattle butchered for the use of the British Army. He was forced to flee and lived in New Jersey's old Sourland Mountains for months, not daring to spend two nights in succession under the same roof. He refused to leave the state because of his sick wife. He was still in hiding when she died October 26, 1776 and his thirteen children scattered in all directions. He was unable to return home until Washington made his famous crossing of the Delaware river on the night of December 25, 1776, followed by his capture of Trenton and Princeton from the British. John Hart's health had been injured and he died May 11, 1779, aged 68, in Hopewell without knowing that independence would be gained.
In 1787, just fifteen years after the first permanent settlements in Tygart's Valley, Edward Hart was known to be in the newly formed Randolph County, Virginia, and had settled in Beverly. The exact date of his coming is unknown, He acquired considerable property and was active in the life of the community. Edward Hart and Nancy Ann (Stout) Hart were the parents of nine children.
David's father was a lawyer and had been a delegate to the Virginia Assembly in, 1828, 1830, and 1831 from the district that included Randolph County. He was a strong Union sympathizer among neighbors and relatives who were Confederate in their loyalties. Naturally, his position was not a comfortable one.
David was twenty-two years old the summer of 1861. It was told in our family that his father gave him $100.00 and told him to go to his Aunt Deborah (Hart) Booth's in Illinois. Whether David had been threatened by Confederates or efforts were being made to impress him into the Confederate service is not now known. Nevertheless, he must have felt endangered, for he made a statement to the press after the Battle of Rich Mountain to the effect that he guided Rosecrans' soldiers over the same path by which he had escaped about four weeks before. This was about the time the Confederates began to build Camp Garnett, on June 16, 1861.
On his way to the West, according to my paternal grandmother, David stopped in Clarksburg to spend the night with a relative, Ira Hart, who was also a Union man. George B. McClellan had come into Clarksburg and had talked with Ira Hart, who told General McClellan that he had a cousin who knew the Rich Mountain country well and could guide soldiers to the rear of the Confederate Camp Garnett. David was asked to report to Union Headquarters to talk with General McClellan.
At the time David left home, General McClellan had not yet crossed the Ohio into Western Virginia, but it was known that he was coming. David may have made his visit to Illinois and was at Ira Hart's on his way back, or he may have remained in Clarksburg the whole four weeks, feeling safer than at home, since the former locale had stronger Union feeling than his home county.
On July 5, 1861, General McClellan reported to Washington from Buckhannon that he expected to find the enemy in position on Rich Mountain and he planned to turn their position to the south and occupy the Beverly road at the rear of the enemy. He said, "I will not throw these raw men of mine into the teeth of artillery and intrenchments if it is possible to avoid it."
By July 9th McClellan had moved his forces into Mabie, with headquarters in the old Hilleary House. He was now about two miles from Pegram's fortifications. After a second reconnaissance on July 10th, he was still of the opinion that lie would try a flanking movement to get in the rear of Pegram's forces.
In his report to Washington after the Battle of Rich Mountain, Brigadier General William S. Rosecrans said that "about 10 P. M. (night of July 10th) I came to the headquarters with a plan for turning the enemy's position. The general having considered it, and heard the information on which it was based, was pleased to direct me to carry it out . . ."
John W, Blake, Brigade inspector for General Rosecrans, gives some more information in a deposition after the war. When he was inspecting the Union picket line and outpost, he found a young civilian who said he was David Hart and wanted permission to go through the lines so that he could go to his home at the top of Rich Mountain where his father, Joseph Hart, lived. David explained that he had been away on a visit with relatives. Blake said, "I found him to be a very intelligent young man of apparently good and honest character and his feelings strongly in favor of the Union." David was taken to General Rosecrans for examination, and later to General McClellan. After they decided that David had strong Union feelings and could be trusted, they asked him to guide the Union soldiers to the rear of Pegram's forces and David accepted. This episode is undoubtedly what Rosecrans was referring to in the above report.
On July 10th, at Mabie, a Lieutenant-Colonel of the Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry wrote in his diary: "What surprises me is that a general should know so little about the character of the country, the number of the enemy, and the extent of his fortifications."
Plans were made for Rosecrans to take 1,917 men from the 8th, 10th, 13th Indiana, 19th Ohio Regiments, and Burdsal's Ohio Cavalry. They left at five o'clock on Thursday morning, July l1th, with David and Colonel F. W. Lander leading the way through the forest, keeping far down on the southeastern slopes of the mountain spurs. After eight hours of struggle over rocks, ravines, and underbrush in a cold rain, they reached the crest of the mountain, coming out at "The Lone Tree," a large maple in an open field, about one mile in the rear and south of the-Hart house.
After this long, hard march, the officers began to wonder if David was a sincere Union man. They threatened him with death if he misled them. He said "Gentlemen, go where I take you and you will not be beaten."
For a time David was not in the lead. He was unarmed, and he felt he was getting too close the enemy. The marching column got lost and wasted. an hour wandering around. Then the Tenth Indiana Regiment took the lead and with the help of David and Colonel Lander got it back on the right way and continued with it until Confederate pickets fired on them, and the Union soldiers formed a battle line at a fence within sight of the enemy.
A few days after the battle, David gave the following statement to the press:
"I was with General Rosecrans as a guide at the Battle of Rich Mountain. The enemy - four thousand strong - (David was mistaken. Pegram had only 1,300 men.) were strongly entrenched at the foot of the mountain on the west side. They had rolled trees from the mountainside and lapped them together, filling in with stones and earth from a trench outside. General McClellan, after reconnoitering their position, sent General Rosecrans with the Eighth, Tenth, and Fifteenth (19th) Indiana Regiments, the Nineteenth Ohio and the Cincinnati Cavalry, to get in their rear. I went with him as guide. We started about daylight, having first taken something to eat, (but got nothing more until six o'clock next night, when some of them got a little beef) and turned into the woods on our right. I led, accompanied by Col. Lander, through a pathless route in the woods by 'which I had made my escape about four weeks before. We pushed through the bush, laurel, and rocks, followed by the whole division in perfect silence. The bushes wetted us thoroughly, and it was very cold. Our circuit was about five miles. About noon we reached the top of the mountain, near my father's farm. It was not intended that the enemy should know of our movements; but a dragoon with dispatches from General McClellan, who was sent for us, fell into the hands of the enemy, and they found out our movements. They immediately dispatched 2,500 men (Colonel Pegram's official report gives only 310 men under the immediate command of Captain De Lagnel.) to the top of the mountain with three cannon. (They left camp with two cannon, but one was upset on the way and could not be used.) They entrenched themselves with earthworks on my father's farm, just where we were to come into the road. We did not know they were there until we came on their pickets and their cannon opened fire upon us. We were then about a quarter of a mile from the house, and skirmishing began. I left the advance, and went into the main body of the army. I had no arms of any kind. The rain began pouring down in torrents, while the enemy fired his cannon cutting off the treetops over our heads quite lively. They fired rapidly. I thought, from the firing, they had twenty-five or thirty pieces. We had no cannon with us. Our boys stood still in the rain about half an hour. The Eighth and Tenth then led off, bearing to the left of our position. The bushes were so thick we could not see out, nor could the enemy see us. The enemy's musket balls could. not reach us. Our boys, keeping up a fire, got down within sight, and then pretended to run, but they only fell down in the bushes behind rocks. This drew the enemy from their entrenchments, when our boys let into them with their Enfield and Minie rifles, and I never heard such screaming in my life. The Nineteenth, in the meantime, advanced to a fence in a line with the breastworks, and fired one round. The whole earth seemed to shake. They then gave the Indiana boys a tremendous cheer and the enemy broke from their entrenchments in every way they could. The Indiana boys had previously been ordered to "fix bayonets". We could hear the rattle of the iron very plainly as the order was obeyed. "Charge bayonets" was then ordered, and away went our boys after the enemy. One man alone stood his ground, and fired a cannon until shot by a revolver. A general race for about three hundred yards followed through the bush, when our men were recalled and reformed in line of battle, to receive the enemy from the the entrenchments at the foot of the mountains, as we supposed they would certainly attack us from that point; but it seems that as soon as they no longer heard the firing of the cannon they gave up all for lost. They deserted their works, and took off whatever way they could. A reinforcement (Col. Scott's 44th Virginia Regiment), which was also coming from Beverly to the aid of the 2,500 (310), retreated for the same reason. We took all their wagons, tents, provisions, stores, and cannon, many guns which they left, many horses, mules, etc. In short, we got everything they had, and they took nothing but such horses as they were on. We found several of those in the woods. One hundred and thirty-five of the enemy were buried before I left. They were for the most part shot in the head and hard to be recognized. some six hundred, who managed to get down to the river at Caplinger's, finding no chance of escape, sent in a flag of truce, and on Saturday morning they were escorted into Beverly by the Chicago Cavalry, which had been sent after them, General McClellan having in the meantime gone on there with his main column."
General Rosecrans reported that "among those entitled to special mention was Col. Lander who with the guide led the way into the very midst of the action." He did not mention David by name. General McClellan in his report did not not even mention that a guide was present. Consequently, historians have known little about his valuable service. If General McClellan had talked with David at Clarksburg, there is no recognition of the fact. Did David talk to General McClellan unknown to all his officers? Did they have a plan for just the two of them? The thirty-five year old McCellan was ambitious. If his Plan was successful, did he want all the glory? Was he as ignorant as the Ohio Lieutenant Colonel thought he was? Was he encamped at Mabie with his army on the evening of July 10th waiting for Providence to intervene?
On the other hand, one cannot help but wonder why David chose 10 o'clock at night on this particular night to show up. He had to know a battle was pending. There are those who think his appearance at the Union picket line was purposeful.
My grandmother married David's youngest brother, Alexander Pickens Hart on May 7, 1868. She knew his father, Joseph Hart, very well as he lived until April 4, 1881. A part of this time she lived in the old Hart house. She heard David's story many times. She was convinced David saw McClellan in Clarksburg before he came to Mabie. All the angles of his story cannot now be put together.
The Battle of Rich Mountain, although small, made the reputation of McClellan and he was soon called to Washington to take command of the army. The Confederates were driven back to the main ridge of the Alleghenies. Governor Pierpont could now move fast in reorganizing the state. Later, the State of West Virginia would be formed.
After the battle, David probably visited his father, brothers and a sister, in Beverly. (His mother had died February 21, 1852.) David may not have remained around Beverly long. Most of the people here, no doubt, felt he was a traitor to their cause. Did he now go to his aunt's home in Illinois? The family has a War Department pass which has written on it: "Grafton, July 23, 1861 - Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, and Chicago Railroad Co. - to furnish transportation to David B. Hart from Chicago to Pittsburgh - Guide on Rich Mountain for Gen'l McClellan -authorized by Gen'l Rosecrans." Of course, this pass was never used. Did David, instead of coming back, go from Illinois to Indiana to meet his friends of the 10th Indiana Regiment?
The Union Army used David's home for a field hospital, caring for both wounded Confederate and Union soldiers. The lumber on the grounds was used to make coffins, and rails were taken for fires, On December 5, 1861, Joseph Hart made a sworn statement of his losses by General Rosecrans' army as follows:
2,000 rails at $1.50 per hundred $30.00
860 pailings around garden $25.00
4,000 ft. of plank at $1.50 per hundred $60.00
garden vegetables $40.00
destroying an acre of green corn $25.00
damages done to dwelling house used for hospital purposes and burial of dead near said dwelling house and to destruction of household furniture $500.00
The said damages occurred on Rich Mountain, the l1th of July, 1861 and subsequently, Moses Harper, F. M. White, and Eli Baker appeared before Justice of the Peace, George Buckey, and made oath that the above valuation was correct to the best of their knowledge and belief,
Later, Alex Hart, Joseph's son, gave the following stock lost at the time :
15 steers $600.00
5 cows $200.00
20 hogs $100.00
John W. Blake, Brigade Inspector for General Rosecrans, was also acting commissary of General McClellan's army. Immediately after the battle, he inspected the battlefield including the Confederate fort of General Pegram. He found that Joseph Hart's house was badly damaged and partly destroyed by cannon shot and in other ways during the battle. By orders, the house was occupied by Union troops as a hospital and wounded soldiers were at once placed there for treatment.
This continued for a long time after the battle. Blake said,
battle of Rich Mountain took place, Joseph Hart had on his farm both hogs and
cattle as well as lumber, rails, and garden vegetables, all of which from
necessity were taken for the use of our army. We had no funds on hand at the
time with which to make payments and Mr. Hart was not paid for his property.
There was then in the beginning of the war no system of receipts or other records. I do not know the exact value of the property of Joseph Hart used by our army, but I believe that the property including live stork, lumber, rails, injury to building and occupation of same for army purposes was worth at least $2,000 or $2,500."
Blake said that although Joseph Hart was an avowed Union man, he was rather protected by the Confederate Army and had not lost much property or stock from southern occupancy.
Joseph Hart was sixty-four years old a few days after the battle. The loss of property was a blow to him. He made some effort to collect damages from the government, but never received any compensation. Of course, this was a small beginning of what the American people would pay for the Civil War. In 1862, Joseph Hart was made prosecuting attorney of Randolph County, probably appointed by Pierpont's Reorganized Government. He must not have served long for this same year it is believed he went to his sister's home in Illinois. How long he remained there is not known but -his youngest son, Alexander, enlisted in Company E, Fourth West Virginia Cavalry on July 7, 1863, when he was barely seventeen. His father likely returned to West Virginia with him, as he was a delegate from Randolph County to the First State Convention of Union men, held at Parkersburg, (West) Virginia on May 6, 1863.
The Union men who fought at Rich Mountain were three month volunteers. David must have taken a fancy to the 10th Indiana Regiment, which was foremost in the battle. This regiment camped on the battleground the first night after the battle and marched into Beverly the next day where it remained until July 24th. David either went back with it or joined it from Illinois, as he helped Colonel Manson in re-enlisting the regiment for three years service.
According to John W. Blake, acting Commissary for General McClellan's army, Colonel Manson promised David,
would try and give him a commission in some company, but failed, from some cause
to do so and he only, was appointed Commissary Sergeant, which position he
filled as a faithful soldier until he was attacked with disease and died in a
hospital at Nashville, Tennessee, on or about the 29th day of March, 1862.
During the time we were in Indiana at home re-enlisting the 10th Indiana for 3 yrs, Gen. Manson, myself and several others advised David Hart to apply to the authorities at Washington for a recognition of his valuable services as guide to our forces at the battle of Rich Mountain, but in the excitement of re-enlisting and the hurry of the war nothing was done at the time, nor has his services ever been recognized or rewarded."
Records in the Indiana Adjutant General's Office show that David B. Hart was enrolled as Commissary Sergeant of the 10th Regiment Indiana Volunteers on September 18th, 1861 by Colonel Manson at Indianapolis. On the same date he was mustered into the military service of the United States by Major General Thomas J. Wood.
David was one of the seven-member noncommissioned staff. There were eleven field and staff officers. The ten companies of the 10th Indiana Regiment had 979 men. One hundred and eighty-four recruits were received during the three years service, making a total for the war of 1163 men.
The 10th Indiana became a component of a brigade commanded by Brigadier General George H. Thomas. This brigade was made up of the Tenth Indiana, Fourteenth Ohio, Fourth and Tenth Kentucky Infantries, and Battery C, First Ohio Light Artillery. It was known as Second Brigade, First Division, Department of the Ohio.
After the Battle of Logan's Crossing (Mill Springs), Kentucky, where David Hart's unit participated January 19, 1862, Lieutenant Colonel William C. Kise of the Tenth Indiana Infantry had the following in his official report: "Commissary Sergeant David B. Hart, our Rich Mountain guide in three months service was present in the line of his duty."
After General Grant took Fort Donelson at Dover on the Cumberland River, Confederate Albert Johnston evacuated Nashville, and went south toward Corinth, Mississippi, leaving great stores of supplies -- bacon, bread and flour, and many tents.
The Indiana soldiers, including the 10th Regiment, found the streets of Nashville deserted because the white people believed the Yankees would rob their stores, murder their men, and insult their women. The colored people told the soldiers that merchants had opened their stores and told the people to help themselves. These soldiers were having their first experience in occupying a southern capital. They marched past the home of ex-President James K. Polk, who was buried in the yard. The President's widow came out to greet them and they gave her a cheer. They marched on the Hardin Pike about four miles beyond Nashville where they camped until March 20th when marching orders were received to proceed to Shiloh to join Grant.
It must have been about now that David Hart became ill with the measles. He took cold on them and died in a Nashville, Tennessee, hospital on March 29, 1862, after 6 months and 2 days of military service, and was buried there.
The men of the Tenth Indiana Regiment went on to see much service, leaving their comrade behind. General Thomas thought very highly of their patriotism and fine fighting qualities. The family and friends of David B. Hart believed that he served his country well. Like his great grandfather, John Hart, he did not live to see his cause succeed.
1. War of the Rebellion, Official Reports --Series I, Volume II
2. History of the Tenth Regiment Indiana Volunteers, James Birney Shaw
3. Memoirs of a Volunteer, 1861 to 1863, John Beatty
4. Hart family papers and records
5. Newspaper clipping of David Hart's statement to the press in possession of Dr. Roy Bird Cook, Charleston, W. Va.
6. "Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor," by Henry Lee from Reader's Digest, July, 1955.