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Lt. John Blue and the Battle of Jack’s Shop

May 23, 2012

Lt. John Monroe Blue (1834 – 1903) was the son of Garrett I. Blue ( and the grandson of Revolutionary War soldier, Captain John Blue ( in Blue Family Genealogy). His grandfather had moved to Hampshire County, Virginia with his parents, probably in 1752. While many of the children and grandchildren of his Grandfather Blue had moved further west to Ohio and Illinois, Garrett I. and his son, John, stayed in Hampshire County.

A (very) brief history of Hampshire County at the start of the Civil War was included in the recent post about Monroe Blue, a great-grandson of Captain John Blue. Lt. John Blue served in the Confederate Army serving in Company D of the 11th Virginia Cavalry. He kept diaries of his war experiences and those became the basis of a series of articles he wrote in The Hampshire Review from 1898 to 1901. Those articles were collected and edited by Dan Oates in the book Hanging Rock Rebel: Lt. John Blue’s War in West Virginia & The Shenandoah Valley.

In Chapter XVII of Hanging Rock Rebel, Lt. Blue wrote of the experiences of his last battle. His regiment was sent back to the Shenandoah Valley. There in the Blue Ridge Mountains, near the Rapidan River was where the Battle of Jack’s Shop took place on September 22, 1863 with Maj. General J.E.B. Stuart leading the Confederate troops. He took on the Union’s Brig. General John Buford but the Confederate troops got trapped when the Union Brig. General Kilpatrick showed up and attacked the Confederate troops from the rear.

Here is Lt. Blue’s recounting of his experience:

I imagine every man in the command realized the fact that we were hemmed in between two heavy columns of infantry; in a trap from which, to the ordinary soldier, there seemed no avenue of escape. This trap we well knew would be sprung on us at early dawn, as further concealment would then be impossible.

[The Confederate forces attacked first; the Yankees quickly responded. Blue was sent to relay a message.] . . . I soon found the Colonel and delivered the order. The Colonel at once ordered one squadron of his regiment down through an old field grown up with low pines. I rode along with the Colonel and Adgt. Lieut. Armstead. We went down the hill on a charge firing in the air and yelling like savages not expecting to run on to Yankees, at least I was not. We had gone but a short distance when the boys in blue seemed to spring up as thick as Mullen stalks in an old pasture field, and closed around us. The morning was a very foggy one. When the smoke of battle became mixed with the fog, objects could be seen but a short distance. The Colonel, no doubt, concluded that he had carried out his orders to the letter and that his feint was a success. He turned back after having thrown his revolver in the face of the enemy, of course I could not fight Mead’s whole army, and followed the Colonel. Not over a half dozen mounted men who wore the gray were gathered around the Colonel which was all that could be seen and appeared to be all that was left of the squadron, which it always seemed to me was offered a sacrifice to save the command from capture.

Our revolvers were empty and useless. With the sabre we were making a desperate, though vain effort to extricate ourselves from the living raging sea of blue that surrounded us. It was cut, thrust and parry; parry, thrust and cut. We were slowly carving our way back to the top of the ridge; the horde that surrounded us was much thinner. I now began to hope that some of us would be left to tell the tale. The Colonel and his Adjutant had gone down, three of us were left together. We had nearly reached the brow of the hill when a regiment or brigade only a short distance to our right, which owing to the fog and smoke, had not been seen, gave us a volley, and I was alone, my two comrades went down. . . . We both came to a halt [Blue and his horse which had just been killed], my horse was dead and for some time I was almost as bad off as my horse. Only after a time I came to life again, though memory seemed to have departed. I could not tell where I was, how I came there or what had happened. Right here my experience as a soldier in the field closed, and my experience as a soldier in prison commenced.

Lt. Blue was badly wounded and taken as a prisoner of war. He gradually regained consciousness and realized his situation.

My hair and whiskers were so clotted with blood and dirt that he [the Union soldier caring for him] said he could not tell much about it but that it was in a bad fix and might give some trouble. He then asked if I had been hurt otherwise. I said that I had a bad pain in my back or side. He ordered my Yankee friends to strip me. When my coat had been removed the surgeon looked it over carefully and remarked that if my body had been as well ventilated as my coat I ought not suffer for want of fresh air. He said there was a least a dozen holes in that coat that were not tailor made. After making a hurried examination the surgeon said, “Colonel, you have received pretty bad treatment; you have at least three ribs loose from your back bone; have a bullet in your left knee and have been three times punctured with the bayonet, but your head is by far your most serious hurt.”

He was then ordered to be cared for in a basic way, was put on the ambulance and transported to Old Capitol Prison. There he laid in the hospital ward until he had recovered from his wounds. He spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war.

From → Aderman/Bates

  1. This scene does not describe the action a Jack’s Shop on September 22, 1863 – that is covered on pp.229-232 of the Oates’ edited memoirs of John Blue. The action here took place on October 13 during the Bristoe Campaign proper in the vicinity of Warrenton Junction and Catlett’s Station.

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