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The McKays of Warren County, Virginia, 1861-1865

(Webmaster's note: The following document also appeared in The Robert McKay Clan Newsletter, Vol. VII # 2, June, 1972. MLM)

"THE MCKAYS OF WARREN COUNTY, VIRGINIA, 1861-1865",
Address given by Mrs. Dewey R. Wood
at the Mimslyn Hotel, Luray, Va., June 27, 1971

xxxxxIn 1861 at the beginning of the War Between the States the McKay Family, descendants of Robert McKay, Jr. of Warren County, (Va.) owned and occupied the greater portion of land between the mouth of Crooked Run and the village of Ninevah. It can be said truthfully that the majority of the families living in this area which extended from Guard Hill to Double Toll Gate were relatives of the McKays through marriages of McKay daughters, beginning with those of Robert McKay, Jr., on through the years up to 1861.

xxxxxIn addition to the original Robert McKay, Jr., home at Cedarville, the following homes were owned and occupied by McKays: "The Willow Bend Farm", occupied by the Joseph McKay family; "Orchard Farm" (later the John M. Bierer, Sr. place and formerly the home of Andrew & Robert S. McKay), occupied by the James Edwin McKay family; "Antrim Farm", occupied by the Joshua Antrim McKay family; "Fair View", then occupied by the Thomas Buck McKay family, and later by the Funstens but then occupied by the Jesse H. McKay family; and "The Wrens Nest", the home of Joseph Francis McKay.

xxxxxFrom these homes, eight McKay sons left to serve in the Confederate States Army:
Charles Lewis McKay, a Sgt. in Co. E, 12th Virginia Cavalry who died in Ft. McHenry, Prison, Baltimore, Md., on April 17, 1865 (8 days after the surrender and was buried in Loudoun Park National Cemetery, Baltimore, Md. /Is he still there, or was he moved?--I am wondering if Cousin Antrim Almond McKay, who lives near Baltimore could investigate this/).
Jacob Francis McKay, also served in Co. E, 12th Regiment, Virginia Cavalry.
James Edwin McKay, Sgt., served as Quarter Master in Co. E., 12th Regiment, Virginia Cavalry.
John Walter McKay, Lieutenant, Co. I, 12th Regiment, Virginia Cavalry.
Joseph Casper McKay, Co. I, 12th Regiment, Virginia Cavalry.
Jesse Clay McKay, Captain, 7th Brigade, First Virginia Cavalry.
Thomas Buck McKay, Co. B. 17th Regiment, Virginia Infantry (Warren Rifles) until a date in 1862, possibly after the experience his family was subjected to following the Battle of Front Royal when he obtained a substitute in his place. He returned home and remained there until Col. John Singleton Mosby formed his command when Thomas Buck McKay became a member of Co. B, 43rd Battalion, Virginia Cavalry and served for the duration of the war.
Alfred Almond McKay, a Corporal in Co. E, 7th Regiment of Virginia Cavalry enlisted March 25, 1862 in Woodstock, Va., at the age of 21, served the remainder of the war and was paroled in Winchester, Va. on June 8, 1865.

xxxxxThere were numerous cousins in the Confederate Army. Among these were two brothers, Captain Samuel D. Buck, a member of the "Boomerangs" of Co. H., 13th Regiment, Virginia Infantry, and William A. (Sandy) Buck, Co. H., 13th Regiment, Virginia Infantry, sons of Eliza McKay Buck of Buckton. Sandy Buck was cited for bravery at the Battle of Greenland Gap, Virginia, now West Virginia. General Early said of Captain Samuel Buck, "Buck is the bravest man I ever saw".

xxxxxAnother descendant of the McKays serving with distinction in both the Military and the Confederate States Government was David Funsten, son of Margaret McKay and Oliver Funsten, born at "Erin", May 16, 1821 (The Funsten-Meade Geneal. gives his birthdate as Oct. 14, 1819). He served first as a Colonel of the 11th Regiment, Virginia Infantry until severely wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines. Later he served as a representative from Virginia to the Confederate States Congress for the duration of the Confederate Government.

xxxxxNow that we have covered the Military participation of the McKays, let us review the civilian angle for awhile.

xxxxxHistorians have not recorded too much history about Warren County during the War Between the States. The main events have been very colorful, and about three in number. First, the Battle of Front Royal that extended into McKay territory, where "Brother Fought Brother", during May of 1862; second, the Mosby and Custer incident down the streets of Front Royal, in September 1864; and third, the activities of Belle Boyd, the famous Confederate Spy who claimed Front Royal as her residence during the majority of the war years, and where several of her exploits took place.

xxxxxOne would think that due to the Valley Campaign, the Cedar Creek and other battles in the main stream of the Shenandoah Valley, the many times Winchester was in the hands of the Yankees on one side, and the famous Battles of 1st and 2nd Manassas, the Wilderness and Penisula Campaigns, and the continuous attempts to capture Richmond, plus the Battles of Antietam and Gettysburg in the Northern direction--that the McKays probably lived in the area as remote from actual invasion as was experienced in certain sections of Western Virginia. One would not have thought that the McKays would have experienced anxieties of an invaded land other than worry about the safety of their boys away from home. But this was far from being the case.

xxxxxInstead of living in a quiet atmosphere the circumstances were exactly opposite, and a great part of the suffering they endured was because of a geographical situation and their closeness to Front Royal which was a cross roads used by both the Confederate Army and the Union Army. Since Virginia was the main battlefield, troops were continually on the move, going either to or from the Valley--going toward Washington, to Manassas and the northern area of Virginia or on the move toward Richmond and other battlefields in that direction. Therefore, the roads through Manassas and Chester Gaps, the Luray and Winchester Turnpikes, and all roads connecting with these were in constant use, even in going to Harpers Ferry, Sharpsburg (Antietam) and Gettysburg the McKay homes were passed.

xxxxxIn the Spring of 1861, when it was reported that 40,000 Union troops were in Washington City ready to invade Virginia, the McKays saw Confederate troops marching past their homes on the way to defend the Southland, and the spirit of patriotism was kindled in the hearts of the young McKay men, and from then on the enlistments were numerous.

xxxxxAlexandria was the first city in Virginia, and really the first Southern City to evacuate when it was learned that Union troops were entering the City. One of these families was that of David Funsten and Susan Everard Meade his wife with her servants left their home they loved so much in Alexandria and came to the home of her brother in Clarke County, for the duration of the war.

xxxxxJames Edwin McKay, of "Orchard Farm", left his wife and child (John Kenney McKay) to serve in the famous 12th Virginia Cavalry. She left her home, took her child and went to her parents' home in Harrisonburg where she remained until she moved to a property owned by her family near Fort Defiance, Va. She was living there when her second child whom she named Robert Edwin McKay was born in 1862.

xxxxxAlexandria having been taken over by the Union Army in May of 1861, troop movements of both armies continued and resulted in the Battle of First Manassas in July 1861. Thomas Buck McKay was there with the Warren Rifles. Anne Elizabeth Lehew, his wife, was home at "Fairview" with her four small children: William Buck, Charles Edward, Sallie Branson and Jonathan M. McKay, all ranging from three to seven years of age. Needless to say she was experiencing great anxiety, but little did she then know what hardships the next four years held in store for her.

xxxxxOn May 23, 1862 when the Battle of Front Royal took place, the battle just did not exactly end in Front Royal. The battle continued through the next day and ended at Ninevah on the lands of Thomas Buck and Joshua Antrim McKay. "Fair View", the home of Thomas Buck McKay was occupied as a hospital for the wounded of both sides. These McKays not only furnished battlefields, but a strip of land at "Fair View" adjoining "Antrim Farm" was used by the Yankees to bury their slain men. The bodies of these Yankee soldiers remained there until years later when they were moved by the United States Government when the National Cemetery was established in Winchester, Va.

xxxxxA dozen or more Yankee soldiers, captured by General Jackson's men, were left in the yard at "Fair View" in the custody of one Confederate guard until they were picked up by a detail and taken to prison. However this did not materialize because several Yankee soldiers had crouched in the wheat field opposite "Fair View" during the battle. After the Confederate Army had moved on, their bravery returned to them, they emerged from the wheat field, shot the Confederate guard and released their comrades in blue.

xxxxxAt nearby "Antrim Farm" a Confederate soldier serving in the First Regiment, Maryland Infantry captured a Battle Flag from the First Maryland Regiment, Union Army. He gave this flag to Nancy Antrim McKay and asked her to save it for him, saying that if he survived the war, he would return for it. Nancy hid the flag under the house for the remainder of the war. The soldier never returned, and years later she presented the flag to the Turner Ashby Camp, UCV, in Winchester, Va.

xxxxxBy the end of 1862, the McKays knew what living on a battlefield and in an invaded country was like. They were experiencing all the hardships an invaded land and its people suffer. The Yankees exercised the privilege of taking any fruits, vegetables and crops, either harvested or in the ripening stage, and especially grain crops which they could use for horse feed. They also took any desirable horse they could find, or any cattle that would make good beef. Soldiers in small groups camping in the area would drop in and demand that meals be prepared for them. They were also beginning to take personal items from the houses. At "Erin" Mr. Jesse H. McKay cut a section of flooring in his downstairs bedroom 34" by 38" in size and stored valuable and cherished possessions and lots of food. He covered this with a room size carpet and placed his bed over it. Since the house did not have a basement, the storage place was not suspected by the enemy.

xxxxxTroops were continuously on the move over the Winchester Turnpike. Signal posts were established at or on Guard Hill which proved to be a vantage point to watch movements from Manassas and Chester Gaps and the Luray Turnpike as well as activities in Front Royal. Federal pickets surrounded Front Royal when activity was at its height in this area and the McKays like the other people were prevented from entering the town. They were cut off from all stores, communications of any kind, and every man was continuously urged to take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. Men were arrested for no reason at all, and among those from the Cedarville-Ninevah section was Mr. Jesse H. McKay of "Erin" who was abused as was Mr. Jacobs who lived nearby and other men in his company at that time because he would not take the Oath.

xxxxxIn June, 1862, it was estimated that 100,000 Union troops were camping between Ninevah and what is now known as Crizer Road in Front Royal. They were on their way to Richmond. This movement continued on through July. On the 18th the Confederates attacked a Union train at Cedarville and captured a great quantity of valuable war supplies. Can you visualize how the landscape looked when 100,000 soldiers with their horses and necessary equipment and army supplies were occupying the territory?

xxxxxDuring 1861 and 1862 records substantiate the fact that other losses besides those connected with the war were suffered by the McKays. Book C, page 405 of Wills recorded in the Circuit Court of Warren County denotes that on September 16, 1861, the date of the will of Joshua (Antrim) McKay whose wife Ester Ann (Haycock) and his children named Nancy Antrim, Joshua Antrim and Francis H. (but more generally known as "Frank", HBM), that Jesse H. McKay and Joseph McKay were named as Executors. At that time a Joseph Casper McKay was in the Confederate Army, however I imagine he was the same one named in the will. (I think the executor named was more likely the elder Joseph McKay, son of John, who was 63 at that time, rather than the younger Joseph Casper McKay, then in the Army. HBM). One provision of his will provided for Washington Wells, a "Free Colored Man", to have the use of a house and 20 acres of land during his life, providing he paid the estate $12.00 annually. He was also asked to give all help and advise possible to his wife Esther (Ann Haycock) in operating her farms.

xxxxxOn December 26, 1862, Robert S(hinn) McKay died. James Edwin McKay, then a Confederate soldier, and R. S. McKay (Author's note: I do not have a full transcript of the will of Robert S. McKay and so cannot be positive, but I think that possibly Mrs. Wood intended to write J. C. McKay instead of R. S. McKay as one of the two executors. HBM) were named as executors of his estate. His personal property was appraised at $16,708.00 A gold watch and chain valued at $100.00, and half of a set of Queensware, valued at $21.00 were taken by his heirs at time of appraisment.

xxxxxThe returned report of his sale showed a total of $ 15,505.50. Two tracts of real estate (farm land), located in Frederick County, sold by his executors to James A. Downing; the first tract of 172 acres and the second tract containing 75 acres, brought $50.00 per acre, totaling $9,000. I wonder if the executors accepted Confederate money in cash on the day of sale as the record does not show how payment was made. The sale of this property was recorded on January 18, 1864 (two years after the death of Robert S. McKay) and the recording fee was $.30. The deceased was the son of Moses and Abigail (Shinn) McKay.

xxxxxIn September, 1862, the McKays witnessed the return of wounded Confederates and active Confederate troops from the Battle of Sharpsburg, this battle being considered by many historians as the turning point of the war. The Confederacy really suffered its first great losses in this battle.

xxxxxIn November of 1862, General Jackson's Army camped at Ninevah and at the Confluence (now known as Riverton). But the remainder of the winter was quiet so far as troop movements were concerned.

xxxxxEarly in March, 1863, the Union Army was again on the move, either to or from the direction of Winchester, all passing through Cedarville and Ninevah. The Confederate Army was also using the same marching path. On June 12, 1863, the entire day was used up by General Ewell's Command and A. P. Hill's Division on their march to Winchester. This movement eventually ended in the Battle of Gettysburg, and immediately after this battle the armies were seen back in the Valley. For a short time after some peace was enjoyed from the continual presence of the enemy.

xxxxxBut on the other hand, the people were experiencing destitution. Stores had to close because of their entire stock being taken by the enemy and with no means of restocking with new merchandise. Money was fast becoming worthless, if even available at all. Prices had skyrocketed. The people continued to lose their entire crops to the invading enemy. The Yankees had begun to burn barns and homes. Thomas B. McKay was the first to have a barn destroyed by arson. He was then away from home, being in Mosby's command.

xxxxxAnother short period of rest from invasion was experienced for a few months, but in October, 1864, the Yankees were on the road again, plundering and looting as they traveled. They again occupied the area from Cedarville to Guard Hill or rather I should say to the Shenandoah River. All horses and edible live stock was taken. Entire crops were taken, either as food for the troops or for the horses. The last was the corn crop of 1864. A diary kept through the war years relates the following: "The last to was the season's corn crop. Out goes the bread for families in winter. The wheat crop has been taken early in the season."

xxxxxThe last great troop movement the McKays had to witness of either the Yankees or the Confederates was from late November through December of 1864 when both armies were moving on toward Richmond. These armies moved at different times through Ninevah and Cedarville, and camped on Guard Hill and at the Richards' place on the north side of the River. On the other side the camp ground extended from "Rose Hill" to Crizers. It was estimated that on December 19, 1864, that 8,000 Yankees passed through Ninevah and Front Royal. They were consumating plans to take Richmond. The Confederates were hoping to prevent this. Thus all were moving to the end of the conflict and the eventual surrender.

xxxxxThe people of Warren County evidently were too absorbed in the acts of war to take time for the recording of marriages, births or deaths in the County Court as I did not find these records for that period.

xxxxxThe only McKay births I can report for the war years was that of two infants and these came from other sources, that of Robert Edwin McKay, son of James Edwin McKay, who was born in Harrisonburg June 28, 1862 while his father was at Ft. Defiance, and Francis Wesley McKay, born at "Fair View" March 1, 1863 to Thomas Buck McKay and his wife Anne Elizabeth ("Betty") Lehew.

xxxxxI located the deaths through the wills that are recorded in the Warren County Court. The first marriage record I found after the Surrender was that of John McKay, 25 years of age, son of John W. and Mary McKay, to Lucelia Robinson, then 23 years old of Fauquier County, Va., and the daughter of Samuel and Tracey Robinson, on September 22, 1865, the minister being Thaddeus Herndon.

xxxxxThis completes the most interesting facts I could find on the McKays of Warren County, Virginia during the years of 1861 to 1865.

xxxxxI imagine that the majority of the older members of this Clan are familiar with most of the incidents I have reminded you of today. Perhaps I have been able to relate to the younger members of the family some of the history made by the McKays during the South's most trying period.

xxxxxI have enjoyed doing this research, and have made several visits with members of the family and took a personal tour of McKay lands to familiarize myself a little more with my subject besides referring to diaries of the War kept by persons here in Warren County, and to the files of Miss Laura Virginia Hale.

xxxxxxxxxxMrs. Dewey R. (Lola S.) Wood
xxxxxxxxxx355 Cloud Street
xxxxxxxxxxFront Royal, Virginia 22630

Editor's note: Thanks to Hunter McKay for retyping the talk and sending it to me to print.

(Webmaster's note: The notation 'HBM' used throughout this sketch refers to Hunter Branson McKay. Also, the above editor's note is one made by Wallace E. Shipp, former editor of the Robert McKay Clan Newsletter. I do not know if Mrs. Wood is still living or not. MLM)

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