Home > History of Wine > An unexpected encounter between vines and the Civil War

An unexpected encounter between vines and the Civil War


I love the history of the vine and wine because it has permeated individual lives for millennia.  I find the most compelling historical documents are from letters, diaries, and transcriptions of testimonies.  This is why I spend so much time reading through the Proceedings of the Old Bailey and the correspondence of our Founding Fathers.  I read from other sources as well, one of which is The Valley of the Shadow based at the University of Virginia.   From this archive I have found a number of personal entries that offer a different perspective than I expected on the vine, wine, and the Civil War.

 [The 1st Virginia Cavalry at a halt]. September 1862. Waud, Alfred R. Library of Congress.

[The 1st Virginia Cavalry at a halt]. September 1862. Waud, Alfred R. Library of Congress.

Today’s post features an entry from the diary of DeWitt Clinton Gallaher (1845-1926).  DeWitt Clinton Gallaher was initially a Captain detailed as aide-de-camp to General John D. Imboden.  Fearing that he would never see a “big battle”, DeWitt Clinton Gallaher resigned his commission as an officer and joined the 1st Virginia Cavalry as a Private in Company E.  DeWitt Clinton Gallaher was 19 when he wrote the quoted entry.  I must admit it caught me by surprise.  To illustrate this post I have included two images of the 1st Virginia Cavalry.  I could not find a picture of DeWitt Clinton Gallaher in uniform so I have chosen another uniformed Private of the 1st Virginia Cavalry.

Private David M. Thatcher of Company B, Berkeley Troop, 1st Virginia Cavalry Regiment, in uniform and Virginia sword belt plate with Adams revolver and cavalry sword. 1861-1865. Library of Congress.

Private David M. Thatcher of Company B, Berkeley Troop, 1st Virginia Cavalry Regiment, in uniform and Virginia sword belt plate with Adams revolver and cavalry sword. 1861-1865. Library of Congress.

September 1864

September 2nd

Encamped at an old Yankee CAMP near Winchester, our regiment ordered down on the Opequon to “picket.” Late in the night we were ordered to go on a reconnoiter towards Berryville. Saddled up and started, very dark and not knowing when or where we would run into the enemy. We were sent down there, about 10 miles, to find out if the enemy was there in much strength. Well, we found them! As we rode into Berryville, our company in advance, we ran right into a big column of Yankees starting out on a raid. It was our Regiment against a Division of Cavalry. We retreated in haste and our Company being in the front in the advance down there, of course we had to cover the retreat back towards Winchester. It was pitch dark and as we flew up the Pike some of the boys got outside of the road, for there were no fences along there (the armies had burned them all up) and in the running through the woods along the road, two boys, Newt Finley and Sam Miller ran under an overhanging grape vine (as we learned afterwards), which caught and dragged them off their horses and were captured. The enemy pursued us some miles and it was a race, sure enough. The wonder is they did not capture the whole of our Regiment! I shall never forget that ride on that dark night! It was to laugh after it was all over, but not when we were riding for our lives and away from the capture or death or both.


[1] Augusta County: Diary of DeWitt Clinton Gallaher (1864-1865). The Valley of the Shadow. University of Virginia. URL: http://valley.lib.virginia.edu/papers/AD1000

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