|Yankees in Martinsville! How did they ever get in?
by Thomas D. Perry
Stoneman went to Georgia taking
command of Sherman's left during the Atlanta Campaign.
In an effort to redeem his reputation, Stoneman and 2000
cavalry went on a raid to free the Union soldiers at Andersonville.
On July 31, 1864, Stoneman, along with 700 of his men, became
prisoners while raiding towards Andersonville. He was
the highest ranking Union general captured during the
Exchanged in September 1864, Stoneman presented a two-phase
attack on the railroad in southwest Virginia and the Confederate
munitions factory at Salisbury, North Carolina. He raided
Saltville, VA in December 1864. In early 1865, commanding
the Department of East Tennessee near Knoxville, Stoneman
started a raid that brought his men to Patrick and Henry
Counties. Stoneman did not come to Martinsville,
but Brigadier General William J. Palmer, commanding a
brigade of Stoneman's cavalry.
William Jackson Palmer was born on September 16, 1836, on the Kinsale Farm in Leipsic, Kent County, Delaware, into a Quaker Family. In 1841, the family moved to Germantown near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
As a young boy, his fascination with steam locomotives
"spurred Palmer to learn all he could about railroads."
At age 17 in 1853, Palmer began working in the engineering
corps of the Hempfield Railroad near Washington, Pennsylvania.
Two years later, he went to England and France to study
railroading and coal mining. The next year, Palmer was
the railroad President's Private Secretary learning the
inner workings of a railroad.
When Civil War erupted in 1861, Palmer was against violence, but he was more against slavery. In July 1862, Palmer returned to Philadelphia to raise the troops that became the 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry, raising 1,200 men in ten days. During the Antietam Campaign, Confederates captured Palmer within Southern lines in civilian clothing in what is today Shepherdstown, West Virginia, a few days after the battle along Antietam Creek. Confederates sent Palmer to Castle Thunder Prison in Richmond, Virginia, suspected as a spy, but later exchanged him in January 1863.
He returned to his regiment in 1863 in Tennessee and served
in the Tullahoma, Chickamauga, and Knoxville Campaigns
and in 1864 near Chattanooga. On January 14, 1865, near
Red Hills, Alabama, leading Company A of the 15th Pennsylvania
Cavalry, Palmer's actions led 29 years later to his receiving
the Medal of Honor bestowed upon him on February 24, 1894,
stating "With less than 200 men, attacked and defeated
a superior force of the enemy, capturing their field piece
and about 100 prisoners without losing a man."