Friday, August 20, 2010

Mrs. Higginbotham's Trip down the Big Sandy River in April 1864

Mrs. Higginbotham was born Louisa Ward, daughter of William and Nancy Thompson Ward, at Ward's Cove, in Tazewell County of Virginia, March 12th, 1808. On September 8th, 1831, she married William Elliott Higginbotham, scion of a famous Tazewell family. For ten years following they dwelt at Burkes Garden, enjoying wealth and public esteem. The family were followers of the Mormon faith. Two years after her husband's death on July 3, 1862, Louisa Higginbotham began a difficult journey from Burke's Garden to Utah Territory. She was accompanied by her sons Simon Shelby (1839-1899), Francis David (1848-1911), daughter Elizabeth Letitia (1846-1938), her four year old grand-daughter Lettie and son-in-law David H. Peery, who, until recently, had served as Assistant Commissary under CS General Humphrey Marshall. In "Tullidge's Histories", Edward Wheelock Tullidge vividly recounts the dangers Louisa Higginbotham and her family encountered while traveling down the guerrilla infested Big Sandy Valley in April of 1864.

Big Sandy River, at Louisa, Kentucky

"David H. Peery's faith in the gospel had now grown active and enthralling. He and young Simon withdrew from the army and sent substitutes; but the conscription in this last epoch of the struggle had become so universal and so strict in the South, that if they departed it must be by stealth. Mrs. Higginbotham gathered the few remnants of her own property and aided her son-in-law in accumulating his available means; and then under her advice, David and Simon left Burkes Garden in the night on horseback, to travel to Catlettsburg, Kentucky, where they were to await her coming. She secured two wagons, into which she packed all the valuables belonging to Mr. Peery and herself which she could safely carry; obtained a considerable number of good horses, and secured a nephew of Mr. Peery, a young boy below the draft age, to drive one team, while her son Francis was to drive the other. She packed away under the false bottom of a trunk $1,400 dollars in coin, belonging to Mr. Peery; and $300 in gold, belonging to herself, she secreted on her own person.

One night, just before she was going to depart, envious neighbors broke into the stables, loosed her horses and drove them away. Undaunted by this disaster, she soon replaced the stock, and this time, in order to make her departure in certainty, she went to one Col. Swan, a Confederate officer of her acquaintance, and frankly told him of her troubles. She said that she was a Mormon, and that she desired to leave for Utah with such little property as the calamitous war had left to her. The Colonel gave her a military escort of fifteen men to accompany her through the Confederate lines; and she journeyed in safety to the banks of the Big Sandy, where the soldiers were obliged to leave her. This was one of the most dangerous spots imaginable, for it was directly on the line between the two opposing forces; and this was an hour, too, of peculiar peril, because all the original bitterness of the strife had been intensified by three long and bloody years. Besides, the region between the two armies was infested by guerillas, who spared neither friends nor enemies, and who had no regard for age or sex.

Sister Higginbotham was a heroine as great as any sung of in classic story. Without shedding a tear, she saw her escort depart and leave her with one dear daughter, just blossoming into girlhood, one precious little grandchild, and two young boys, to face all the dangers of that guerilla-infested region. The first night after her escort left her, her party camped on the banks of the Big Sandy. In some mysterious way she received an intimation that robbers had hovered about her path, and that they were intending to descend upon her camp, murder the boys, steal the horses, and escape with all the portables of value. Without a moment's hesitation she instructed her son and his companion to take the horses up the river, and there secure a trustworthy guide who could lead them through the mountains over to Catlettsburg, a distance of seventy-five miles, where they were to unite themselves with David and Simon. When Francis remonstrated against leaving her, she told him that she and her two girls would stay with the wagons and the property, and without any earthly protector they would still he kept in safety, and that they would join him at Catlettsburg.

Some hours after the boys had departed the guerillas assailed the little camp. They ransacked the two wagons, but failed to find any of the money. They took such things as they wanted, and Sister Higginbotham offered no resistance and solicited no favor, since she believed that either would be fruitless. But finally in overturning a trunk the robbers discovered the clothing and jewelry of her dead daughter Nancy, and these things appearing valuable, they exultingly seized and apportioned them among the members of their gang. This outrage was more than she could bear, and she screamed with pain and anger. Fortunately, she was heard by a Mrs. Blackburn, who lived in that vicinity, and who hastened from her residence to answer the call of distress. The robbers, fearing to be identified by one who could expose them to the vengeance of the military authorities, fled. Sister Higginbotham found entertainment at the Blackburn residence for a day or two, until a flat- boat came down the river; and upon this she took passage with her two girls and such of her property as was remaining after the assault of the mercenaries; and then she journeyed in comparative safety and comfort to Catlettsburg, where she found David, Simon and Francis in good health, but very anxious concerning her."

View of the steamboat landing in Catlettsburg, KY, from Virginia Point,
at the confluence of the Big Sandy River and the Ohio River

At Catlettsburg, the party disposed of their horses. They subsequently boarded a steamboat and travelled via the Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri rivers to Omaha. Mrs. Higginbotham and her family arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, Utah Territory five months later, on August 31, 1864.

Source: Tullidge's Histories, (volume II), Containing the History of All the Northern, Eastern and Western Counties of Utah: Also the Counties of Southern Idaho. With a Biographical Appendix of Representative Men and Founders of the Cities and Counties; Also a Commercial Supplement, Historical; By Edward Wheelock Tullidge;
Published by Press of the Juvenile Instructor, 1889; p. 211/212

Transcribed by Marlitta H. Perkins

Monday, August 2, 2010

Lt. Col. William Henry Eifort, 2nd KY Cavalry [Union]

The following article appeared in a book titled "Marietta College in the war of secession, 1861-1865, Volume 17", published by Marietta College, Ohio in 1878, pp. 74-78.

Lieutenant Colonel William Henry Eifort
Preparatory Student.

William Henry Eifort was a son of Sebastian Eifort, Esq., and Rachel Jackson Eifort, of Hunnewell, Kentucky.

He was born at Jackson Furnace, Jackson County, Ohio, December 26th, 1842. He was brought up in Scioto County, Ohio, where his father was engaged in the manufacture of iron.

In his thirteenth year his father moved to Carter County, Kentucky, where he built Boone Furnace. Here his son Henry was engaged as clerk and storekeeper, with the exception of the time spent in school. In the Spring of 1859, he came to Marietta, and entered the Preparatory Department. He was distinguished here for a peculiarly bold and generous spirit, impulsive and frank in a high degree.

At the breaking out of the war he found himself in a state which assumed the attitude of neutrality, but he was too straight-forward and too spirited a youth to be beguiled into any imaginary path between loyalty and disloyalty. He promptly espoused the cause of the Government, and with two or three friends of like spirit, attempted to raise volunteers for the Union Army. It was a perilous undertaking; they found that " neutrality " meant war upon all who should dare to rally men to the old flag on the soil of Kentucky. Their lives were threatened, and they were targets for the rifle and revolver as they rode through the country.

But Eifort was one of those bold spirits who seem insensible to fear. Danger only roused him to his best. He and his friend raised a company, which, on its organization, chose him first Lieutenant, his friend Thomas being made Captain. At this time Lieutenant Eifort was but eighteen years of age. The company could not camp on neutral soil, but crossed to Indiana to Camp Joe Holt, where they were mustered into the United States service, July 18th, 1861.

Enlisting first as Infantry, they were invited to change their organization, which they did, forming a company of the Second Kentucky Cavalry. The Regiment was under Sherman in his first campaign in Kentucky, in the Fall of 1861, and served in the Army of the Cumberland through the war. It fought many battles, and almost numberless skirmishes.

Request for leave of absence
(Compiled Service Records)

Everywhere Eifort was conspicuous for his courage, continually getting in advance of his men when there was an enemy in front. He attempted exploits which were almost unheard of even in cavalry charges; not from vanity or ambition, nor as the result of stimulants, being strictly temperate in his habits. He never seemed to appreciate his own personal danger, but fixing his eye on the end to be reached, forgot himself till success was assured.

An instance of his courage is given just before the battle of Shiloh, in the Spring of 1862. He with a detachment of thirty men was sent forward on the pike near Franklin, Tennessee, when the rebels in their retreat were burning bridges behind them. Coming in sight of a bridge which they had just fired and fled from, Eifort spurred on ahead of his men, blind to danger or impossibility, plunged into the smoke and flames with his thirty men after him, crossed it as by a miracle, and suddenly appeared among the astonished rebel pickets, whom he made prisoners. In a few moments after the crossing the bridge was a mass of fire.

Eifort rose steadily through the grades of promotion, being made Captain, April 26th, 1862; Major, December 14th, 1863; and Lieutenant Colonel, June 22d, 1864, when he was but twenty-two years old. His extreme daring cost him his life. This occurred in a skirmish at Triune, a small village between Murfreesboro and Franklin, Tenn., September 4th, 1864.(*)

In this engagement his zeal and daring led him many yards in advance of his men, when he was mortally wounded, living a few hours, and sending home the message that "he had died as a soldier ought," that "he was the first man in, and the last man out of the charge."

His body is buried at Portsmouth, Ohio, by the side of his grandfather, who was for fifteen years a commissioned officer in the French and German wars of Napoleon.


(*) The Compiled Service Records indicate that William Henry Eifort was mustered in as 1st Lieutenant in Captain Thomas' Company, 1st KY Cavalry, which subsequently became Co. C, 2nd KY Cavalry. He was promoted to Captain of Co. H and mustered to date August 23, 1862. This date was later amended to date April 27, 1862. Eifort was promoted to Major, mustered in to date January 27, 1864. His final promotion was Lieutenant Colonel of the 2nd KY Cavalry, dated June 22, 1864. He was killed in action near Triune, Tennessee, on September 3, 1864.

Major William Henry Eifort Military Record
(Compiled Service Records)

Major General R. H. Milroy noted in his report, "It is with pain that I mention death of the brave Lieutenant-Colonel Eifort, of the Second Kentucky, who received a mortal wound while gallant leading a charge on the rebel battery and rear guard about noon on the 4th instant, of which he soon afterward died. The Tenth Tennessee Cavalry had been ordered to move around to the left of the rebel position and charge them in flank, while Colonel Eifort, with the detachment of his own regiment and a portion of the Fifth Tennessee, went to charge them in front. After a sufficient time had been given the Tenth to get into position Colonel Eifort charged forward in the most gallant style, but the Tenth had failed to get into position and charged simultaneously, as was intended. The consequence was that Colonel Eifort was repulsed and driven back; and while the colonel was bravely trying to hold his men in the unequal fight, amid the enemy's guns, he was shot through the body. In this death society lost an ornament and the country a brave young officer of much promise."