Speakers encourage audience to remember Confederate soldiers

By Megan Davis
May 30, 2011

To a crowd of about 100 gathered in Thornrose Cemetery on Sunday to honor Confederate soldiers, Sharon Loving stressed the importance of remembrance.

“We have an obligation to continue to honor them,” said Loving, recording secretary of the Virginia Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. “They’re worthy of our remembrance.”

With that goal in mind, wreaths were placed at the cemetery’s Confederate monument during the annual memorial service.

Re-enactors appeared in period dress, fired a salute and presented the colors.

Keynote speaker Eric Buckland, a military historian and author, also helped keep the memory alive by telling the story of two of about 4,000 to 4,500 Confederate soldiers buried at Thornrose.

After reading an inaccurate account of John Willis McCue’s life, published after his death in 1911, Buckland set the record straight.

McCue entered Virginia Military Institute at age 17 in 1863, only to be dismissed for general neglect of duties the following March, Buckland said.

“I don’t hold that against him,” he said. “I imagine he was hankering to get into the fight.”

The first record of McCue’s service indicates that in August 1864 he belonged to the 43rd Battalion, First Virginia Calvary, commanded by John Mosby, and took part in the Berryville Wagon Train Raid.

After scarce food forced McCue and several comrades north, he and two others attempted to capture a Maryland post office. They met resistance from four armed Union detectives and a postmaster carrying an axe.

After the two other soldiers fled, McCue fought and wounded two detectives, one mortally.

Through pressured by his captors, McCue refused to admit guilt or confess he was a guerrilla.

“He would rather take hanging over admitting he was a criminal or not an actual Confederate soldier,” Buckland said.

Found guilty of murder, McCue received a life sentence in solitary confinement at hard labor. However, at the urging of Ulysses S. Grant, McCue was pardoned.

Buckland told the story of Andrew Hetherton “Hard” Knot, who also served under Mosby and took part in the Berryville Wagon Train Raid.

When Knot and several other rangers traveled to Winchester after the war ended, thousands of Union soldiers awaited them.

When a Union officer recognized and greeted him, Knot said, “I know no contemptible Yankee.”

The officer said Knot offered to trade him his own heavier boots and some money for the Union soldier’s nicer boots. The soldier refused and another Confederate soldier later took the boots, offering no trade.

Later, another Union soldier accused Knot of hitting him. Knot picked the man up by his collar, pushed him against a wall and raised his fist. A Confederate soldier grabbed his arm to stop him, and Knot turned to him and said, “Let me go, or I’ll hit you, too.”

An author later referred to Knot as a “skulking character” and accused him of several misdeeds. However, his account contained several factual inaccuracies, Buckland said.

“I take great exception to that,” he said. “Andrew, you may have had your problems, but I’m not buying it. He was probably a good man who lived a productive life, and I just wanted to stick up for him.”

At the conclusion of his speech, Buckland encouraged those in attendance to seek out a Confederate soldier buried in Thornrose and research his story.

“They were all somebody’s son, somebody’s husband, somebody’s father,” he said. “They’re worth remembering. We have to. It’s who we are, and who we want to continue to be.”

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