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Monroe Blue Dies at the Battle of Piedmont

June 5, 2014

Today, June 5, 2014 is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Piedmont in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. This is where Lt. Monroe Blue, a Confederate soldier (and my very distant cousin–a 4th cousin, 5x removed according to my family tree) died in battle. Up front, I want to thank Jim Ballard from Houston, Texas, with whom I have been in email conversation about this battle. Jim is finishing a biography of CSA Brigadier General William Edmondson “Grumble” Jones who died soon after Monroe Blue in this same battle and who is mentioned in the story below.

I wrote of Lt. Monroe Blue earlier describing a bit of his experience as a prisoner of war in the same camp as his cousin, John Blue. I also wrote briefly of his death at the Battle of Piedmont and am expanding that story today on the anniversary of the battle.

Scott C. Patchan has written of this battle in his book, The Battle of Piedmont and Hunter’s Raid on Staunton. He describes many of the details of this battle that took place in the Shenandoah Valley. In Chapter 6, as the battle took a turn for the Northern troops:

Campbell’s detachment quickly turned toward the Tennesseans and Virginians in front of Wells [Colonel George Wells of the  34th Massachusetts] and ripped a searing volley into their flank. At the same time, Wells steadied his left wing and directed its fire at [Confederate Colonel Kenton] Harper’s Reserves, while the rest of his regiment volleyed into Confederates  behind the fence. The pressure on the Confederates became too great, and their line began to crumble.  [Confederate General “Grumble”] Jones rode into the the midst of a group of leaderless troops and called for an officer to assume command and retake the lost ground. At first no one came forward, but a moment later, Lieutenant Monroe Blue, commanding Company K of Harper’s regiment, leapt from his horse, waving his sword in the air, and shouted, “General, I will lead them, boys follow me and we will soon have them on the run.” Blue placed his cap on his sword, raised it into the air and led the troops in a a hopeless counter charge.

"The Battle of Piedmont and Hunter's Raid on Staunton" by Scott Patchan

“The Battle of Piedmont and Hunter’s Raid on Staunton” by Scott Patchan

Campbell’s wing of the 54th Pennsylvania fired into Blue’s troops and quickly shattered what little formation they had. Blue attempted to rally them, shouting, “New Market! New Market! Remember New Market!” A captain from the 54th Pennsylvania saw the Confederates assembling around Blue and cried out, “Boys shoot that officer before he starts a rally!” A Pennsylvanian later recalled, “Several of us cut loose at him and he spun around, dropped his sword, and fell to the ground.” Blue died instantly, and those Confederates who had been gathering near him quickly vanished from the scene.

 . . . As the last vestige of Confederate  resistance evaporated, Grumble Jones succumbed to his combative nature and galloped among the fugitives in a last-grasp attempt to salvage the victory that had seemed almost certain a short time earlier. With his hat in his hand, he cheered the men and urged them to rally and hold their ground. The volume of rifle firing coming from the Federals was tremendous, and Jones soon fell, “stricken dead by loyal vengeance.” . . . Upon Jones’ death, the Confederate resistance in the immediate vicinity completely dissolved (Patchan, 109 – 110).

Private Thomas Evans of the 54th Pennsylvania made the claim of shooting the fatal shot in Monroe’s Blue’s neck. As the battle wore on, Private Evans:

 . . . suddenly found himself face to face with the 45th Virginia’s color-bearer, who at that moment seemed “about as big as a full grown grizzly bear.” For the first time in his military service, Evans suddenly found a good use for his bayonet other than as a candle holder. He whacked the flag staff so hard that it “really stung that Johnny’s hands.” When he reflexively lowered the flag, Evans grabbed it and pulled, yelling, “Let go Reb!” The two men pulled back and forth and spun around in a circle, struggling for possession of the battle flag. Their melee ended when Evans raised his rifle with one arm and commanded, “Drop that there flag or I will pin you to a tree!” The Virginian promptly surrendered the flag and Evans turned it over to an officer and sent the prisoner to the rear. The  Pennsylvanian received the Medal of Honor later that year for his capture of the flag. (Patchan, p. 112)

I learned from Jim Ballard’s research (mentioned in the first paragraph above) that, after the battle when they were cleaning up the grounds,  Private Evans went to Monroe Blue’s body in hopes of retrieving Blue’s sword as a souvenir. When he got to the body of the fallen Lieutenant, the sword had already been taken by someone else. More surprising, the private also saw his own regimental commander, Colonel Jacob Campbell, grieving over Monroe’s body. The Colonel from Pennsylvania had gotten to know the Blue family while he was stationed in Hampshire County, Virginia and was distraught at Monroe’s death.

Most of the Confederate troops who died at the Battle of Piedmont were buried on that ground. Because Colonel Campbell knew Monroe Blue, he was able to put a name on the young Lieutenant’s grave.

Two years later, in 1866, many of the bodies from the Battle of Piedmont (and several other battlegrounds) were transferred to a newly expanded Confederate soldiers section of the Thornrose Cemetery in nearby Staunton, Virginia. (My gratitude goes to Scott Patchan who emailed me this information. He wrote: The Staunton Vindicator [the local newspaper] reported in late 1866 that Lt. Blue was among a large number of Confederate dead moved from Piedmont to Thornrose Cemetery. All but six were unknown. Blue’s identity was known because Col. Jake Campbell of the 54th PA knew the family and had it marked after the battle ended.)

The monument in Thornrose Cemetery commemorating the fallen Confederate soldiers buried there.

The monument in Thornrose Cemetery commemorating the fallen Confederate soldiers buried there.

The Valley Virginian of 05 December 1866 wrote it this way:

Removal of Our Dead From Piedmont
(Column 03)

Summary: The paper reports on the removal of the bodies of Confederate soldiers to cemeteries in Staunton.
(Names in announcement: H. A.Lane, Capt.J. M.Welch, ThomasLegion, W. L.Moorehead, M.Blue, Sergt.D. W.Suttle, A. E.Tinsley, A. H.Siddlington, Marshall, DanielOwens, Samuel JohnsonGardener)

Full Text of Article:

About forty of our dead from Piedmont have been brought to the Cemetery here, among them H. A. Lane, 27th Va., Battalion, Capt. J. M. Welch, 6th N. C., Regiment, Thomas Legion, W. L. Moorehead, Co. B. 30th Va., Infantry, Lt. M. Blue, Hampshire County, Va., Sergt. D. W. Suttle, Co. E 60 Va., Infantry, Capt. J. P. B., Co. G, 30th Tenn., Regiment. The rest are unknown. The Ladies desire to thank the people of that portion of the county for the aid given by them, especially the soldiers of our Army. They desire to acknowledge the receipt of $5, from Mrs. A. E. Tinsley; $2, from A. H. Siddlington; $12,50 from Mrs. Marshall, who has so patriotically collected so much for the cause; $2 from Mr. Daniel Owens, of Baltimore. Mr. Samuel Johnson Gardener at the Western Lunatic Asylum, has agreed to plant out the trees in the Cemetery free of charge. Rich earth is needed, and our farmers should send it in at once. It is surely little to give–a cart load of earth they died for. Who can refuse the request? [Note: Remember this was Virginia, a Confederate state, still very early in its recovery from the war. It is a great experience to read the rest of the paper as it has been transmitted to us online.]

Lt. Monroe Blue was only 23 years old when he died at the Battle of Piedmont in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia 150 years ago today. There is no record of him ever marrying or having children. Yet, in his brief life he lived passionately, took great risks, and left a significant legacy associated with his name.



From → Aderman/Bates

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