The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

A Civil War Story

By Ulysses J. Morris © 1985

Issue: June, 1985

My great-grandfather, James Morris came from the Blue Ridge mountains about the middle of the Civil War (1861-1865). He, along with a number of young men of the Southern Army, while along the borderline between Rockingham and Hardy Counties (now West Virginia), decided they had had enough of the War. They deserted and came over to what is now Grant County, Jordan Run, West Virginia.

These young men went to a couple of different homes. It was in the middle of winter, a bitter cold evening with snow on the ground. The most of them came to the home of my great-g-g-grandfather, Michael Goldizen (1795-1878), where they asked for something to eat. They were cold, hungry and their clothes were torn to bits. They said that they had endured such hardships and wanted to get away from it all if they had to go to Canada. Michael Goldizen consented for them to stay all night, if they promised to leave before daybreak.

A while after they had bedded down for the night there came a knock at the door. When Michael answered the door, there stood what was supposed to be soldiers and officers of the Southern Army. These men told Michael that they wanted the deserters that were in his house. He told them that no one but his family were there. They told him that he was lying for they had tracked them in the snow. They were going to take him out to be shot if he didn't produce the men. Michael told them that the men were there. The men took them out on a moonlight night a short distance down the road to Hopeville Gap, where they were put before a firing squad. However, James Morris and a young man by name of Jackson VanPelt (born in Harrisonburg, Va.) escaped from them, during which VanPelt was shot in the back. VanPelt lived to be an old man, but carried a minnie ball against his spine until his death.

After the firing squad was over, those men of the Southern Army appeared back at Michael's home in the middle of the night and told him that they wanted his money. He said he had no money. They told him he was lying, for he had driven cattle across the mountain a short time before and had received $400, in gold and they wanted it or they would kill him.

Then his youngest son, Martin who was about 14 years old said, "Pap, give them the money for they mean to kill you." Michael went outside to a hollow stump where he had the money hidden and gave it to them. After this episode, everybody in the community around about became enraged over the treatment of these young men. All the able bodied men in the different communities went down to Greenland Gap where Captain Isaac Alt and Adam Yokum had set up a recruiting tent and enlisted in the Northern Army, including James Morris. Even though his father was in the Southern Army, he served the duration of the war on the Northern side.

After the war was over, James Morris married Rachael M. Rohrbaugh of Jordan River, W. Va. and Jackson VanPelt married Mary Goldizen, a daughter of Michael and aunt to Rachael M. Rohrbaugh.

James Morris was never known to say much about his people in Virginia. However, in the year of 1906, he decided he would go back to visit his folks, only to learn that all of them were dead except a brother, William, who was living in Albemarle Co. near Rock Fish Gap. He was there welcomed by his brother.

In West Virginia, there are still many people living today who always knew him as "Daddy Morris." He was often chided as to how many [of the enemy] he killed in that Civil War. His answer was, "We did not kill any more of them than they did of us." He was born in 1843 and died in 1915.