Mr. Vanderpool, This story was in the "Star" on 05/12/04 Go to the bottom section and it speaks about my grandfather Oliver and his Father Mr. Snapp at the Foundry. I still do not know if this if F R Snapp. But will let you know.
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
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The Virginia Stick Cavalry
If you love history and have lived in the northern Valley long enough — for me, it’s going on 12 years — sooner or later, you’ll hear all the twice-told tales of local lore.
Many of these, of course, relate to the not-so-recent unpleasantness, otherwise known as the Civil War. I separate these war stories into two categories — what I call “standard stuff” (the six main battles, Stonewall in the Valley, Sheridan’s Ride, etc.) and “esoterica.”
The latter grouping includes everything from those pertinent facts known only to folks here in the Valley — Winchester changing hands 72 times during the war, for example — to such fascinating (and entertaining) vignettes as Rebecca Wright’s intelligence-gathering for Gen. Phil Sheridan prior to Third Winchester.
Speaking of Sheridan, one of my favorites in this anecdotal genre has to do with a certain — and rather plucky — Charlotte Hillman, who insisted on charging the general and his command the standard fee as they passed through her tollhouse on the Valley Pike. As legend has it, Charlotte kept a careful count and then billed the federal government after the war. Supposedly, the bill was paid in full.
But one story I had not heard or read until a few days ago was that of a Confederate “unit” known as the Virginia Stick Cavalry. Based in Winchester this group of “irregulars” never numbered more than about 12 or 15 “riders.” The commanding officer was Capt. George Bowly.
At the height of the war, Capt. Bowly was all of 10 years old.
To George and his “troopers,” their little war within a war was serious business. Their “horses,” as it were, were sticks and old broom handles, but their uniforms, cut down from full-size by mothers and sisters, were the genuine Confederate article. Likewise, their sabres — real swords found on the area’s battlefields and then reduced in size and rounded off by a Mr. Snapp at his foundry on Market (Cameron) Street. Mr. Snapp’s son, Oliver, “rode” with Capt. Bowly.
One day in 1862, the cavalry, with a full complement of dogs running and barking behind them, sallied out the Plank Road (Fairmont Avenue) on “patrol.” Upon reaching the edge of town, they stopped to rest, only to snap to bare-footed attention when he appeared — a Confederate officer with a long beard, wearing a shabby uniform and an old slouch hat.
Observing the youthful band before him, the officer fixed his blue eyes on the little commander and asked for his name, and then for his sabre. George, eager but at the same time just a bit hesitant, obliged.
The officer, perhaps recalling similar days at the Virginia Military Institute and smiling only through those eyes, then moved the tousle-haired company briskly through the manual of arms. Upon completion, he solemnly returned the sabre to Capt. Bowly and told him, “You’ll be a soldier some of these days, never fear.”
Apocryphal? Perhaps. And the clues I provided probably reveal the identity of the Confederate officer. But, if the incident did happen, young George Bowly and his friends in the Virginia Stick Cavalry surely never forgot the day they learned the manual of arms from Stonewall Jackson.
Adrian O’Connor is editorial page editor at The Winchester Star.
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