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Account of the Lost Cannon on Cotton Hill
As told by Captain J. H. Abbott.

Captain Abbott, CO. H 8th Virginia Cavalry, Salem, Virginia 1864

From memory, I will try and give you a statement of what occurred in Fayette county during the Civil war, commencing with the battle of Cross Lanes, Nicholas county, which was fought September 11, 1861.


I was then second sergeant of Company K, 22nd Regiment, Fayetteville Rifles.  I volunteered to carry a dispatch to General Chapman, commanding the militia of Monroe, Raleigh and Fayette counties, at Fayetteville, and was detailed to help organize and drill his troops which were stationed at Fayetteville and Cotton Hill.


About ten days after my arrival at General Chapman's headquarters, we received information that General Cox was marching up the valley and that his advance guard had reached Kanawha Falls.  Captain Herndon's company of the 8th Virginia cavalry, acting as our scouts, was ordered over Cotton Hill.  Nine of his men were killed from ambush on Falls Branch and were hauled over Cotton Hill on sleds drawn by oxen and buried on a knoll at the foot of Cotton Hill on the farm of T. S. Robson.


Two days later three companies of the militia were ordered on a scouting trip over the mountain to Kanawha Falls.  I commanded one company, Lieutenant Loughborough, adjutant for General Beckley's brigade, commanded the second, and Captain Richards had charge of the third.  We met the advance guard of the Federal troops on Falls Branch, near where Captain Herndon's men were killed.  Captain Hunt, who was in charge of the Federals, surrendered to Lieutenant Loughborough when ordered to do so; but he picked his chance, drew a revolver, fired and killed our officer and then made his escape with his men.  We brought the Lieutenant over the mountain and buried him with the others.  The Cox army crossed Cotton Hill and a fight ensued.  We retreated to Fayetteville.  There being no field officer for the Fayette regiment, I was appointed lieutenant colonel and was in command until we disbanded at Beckley.


The first Union officer that came into Fayetteville rode to the court house square and down to the old well in the corner, where he was shot and killed by one of our own men.


Late in the fall the militia was disbanded at Raleigh court house.  I then reported to General Heath, who made me a member of his staff with the rank of captain.  We wintered in the narrows of New river.  At the re-organization of the army in April 1862, I was elected second lieutenant of Company H, 8th Regiment, Virginia Cavalry, known as the Tazewell Troopers, but remained with General Heath until after the battle of Lewisburg, May 23, 1862.


General Loring, about September 9th, moved down on General Cox's army then located at Fayetteville, where he built fortifications.  I was ordered to pilot a detachment of cavalry through the woods to Cotton Hill, cut the wires, and hold the road until forced away.  We got axes from David Harshbarger and cut the poles and wires to the top of Cotton Hill, then went up the road to the red bank on George Tyree's place where we could see the road leading down to Miller's ferry.  All day they went down the Hawks Nest road, crossed the river at Miller's Ferry, and went down the other side of the river to Gauley Bridge.  Cox's men made no effort to dislodge us.  And all day the battle at Fayetteville raged.


Late in the evening of September 10th, a regiment of Federal infantry crossed Cotton Hill and came up on our rear, cutting off our escape up Laurel creek.  We had but one way to retreat, and that through the woods back to our army, which we did with great difficulty.  The fighting was still going on and continued till long after dark when all became quiet.  Some of the men laid upon their arms and slept.


The next morning, September 11th, General Cox's army was gone, and our army followed as quickly as possible.  At the top of Cotton Hill, General Loring ordered a brass cannon to be taken down a long ridge to the top of the cliffs overlooking Gauley Bridge.  We planted the gun and knocked down the temporary bridge across Gauley and blew up the magazine in the mouth of Zoll's Hollow, and then trying to get the gun back and finding it a difficult job, we hid it in a deep ravine, and it is there yet.  General Loring continued his pursuit of General Cox and fought the battle of Charleston, September 13th.  The army retreated back through Fayetteville about November 15th, in a continual fall of rain, and many of the soldiers died from exposure.  Several died of pneumonia and measles.

During the summer of 1863, General J. B. McCausland made a raid on Fayetteville with three regiments of infantry, the 22nd, 36th, and 45th, and three companies of Cavalry.  We advanced into Fayette county without any trouble until we were about two miles below Mount Hope, where we dismounted and sent our horses to the rear.  We formed behind a rail fence running up the ridge by a large chestnut tree standing on a knoll above the Warner log house.  We did not have long to wait.  They came up, jumped their horses over the fence, and wound their way up the hill.  When they got within close range, we fired, and seven or eight of them fell from their horses and rolled down the hill.  These men were buried under or near the large chestnut tree.


   That evening Captain Phil Thurmond dropped into our camp and said that his men were on Arbuckle creek and that he would throw the plank off the bridge above Rook Huddleston's mill, if we would run the cavalry into it.  The next morning we came on the pickets at the Hickman place, and one man was killed.  We next met them in force on top of the hill above Oak Hill and charged them into the bridge.  The first horses went in on the sills and stuck fast.  Some ran over the cliffs below the mill and were killed.  We rescued sixteen live horses wedged in the bridge, and about fifty revolvers and as many carbines were captured.  About twenty-five men men were killed on both sides.  We arrived near the town that evening and went into camp.  I was ordered to take a few good men to Cotton Hill and cut the wires, which we accomplished.  We captured three fine teams and returned safe.  The firing continued on the fortifications until late in the evening, when our retreat commenced.


   About the first of November our cavalry was left in Raleigh to guard the road and to use some forage on the Ferguson and other neighboring farms.  Captain Irvin Lewis with part of his three companies made a raid down lower Loop creek to its mouth, surprised and captured sixty-five men and seventy-five horses and equipment.  We retreat out up Armstrong creek, crossed over Payne's mountain, where we rested and ate up everything we had.  We went down a ridge to Paint creek and the to Raleigh court house.  The prisoners were sent to Dublin depot.

In 1864, I was stationed at Princeton, and on July 4th, I raided Fayetteville and captured four sutler wagons and a large quantity of all kinds of goods, and carried the goods out on our horses.  These wagons were placed outside of the lines for the purpose of trading with the people on that day.

I wish to add that I became captain of my company by the promotion of Captain Henry Brown to the rank of major.





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