Yankees in Martinsville! How did they ever get in?
by Thomas D. Perry
During George Stoneman's Raid, Palmer received an appointment
as Brevet Brigadier General at age 29. Only George A.
Custer became a General at a younger age. One commander
said Palmer was worth "a whole brigade of most
Colonel William J. Palmer's First Brigade of cavalry
included the Tenth Michigan Cavalry Regiment under the
command of Colonel Luther Trowbridge, the Twelfth Ohio
under Colonel Robert H. Bentley and the Fifteenth Pennsylvania
under Lieutenant Colonel Charles M. Betts.
On March 21, 1865, Stoneman with 4,500 men left Mossy
Creek, Tennessee. Stoneman reached Boone, North Carolina,
on March 28. The flooding Yadkin River separated Palmer's
men, who crossed to the north side, from the remainder
of the force on March 29. On April 1, the commands still
divided by the Yadkin River reached Elkin on the north
side of the river and Jonesville on the south side respectively.
Stoneman reunited his entire command on the north side of the river in Surry County at Rockford on April 2. On April 2-3, Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia evacuated Richmond and Petersburg. Stoneman raided Mount Airy.
A native of Surry County, James Gwyn, commented on the
Yankee raiders as they came by his place on the north
side of the Yadkin. "The Yankees passed along on
both sides of the river…Those who passed acted
very well…Treatment of citizens by Palmer's Brigade
on the north side of the river evoked the surprise of
the residents who feared much harsher treatment."
As Abraham Lincoln walked the streets of Richmond with his youngest son, Stoneman moved to Christiansburg by midnight of April 4-5. Palmer's Brigade destroyed railroad track of the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad east of Christiansburg. The journey to North Carolina came next and began on April 7. The route led through Patrick and Henry Counties. The direct route ran through Patrick County, where Stoneman and two brigades under the overall command of Alvin Gillem traversed.
On the return journey of Stoneman's command Palmer came
through Martinsville and Henry County fighting a battle
along Jones Creek when he ran into 250 Confederate cavalry
under the command of James T. Wheeler. General Gillem
in his report said, "Colonel Palmer, commanding
the First Brigade had been directed to send the Tenth
Michigan directly on the railroad to Martinsville, by
some misunderstanding he marched with his entire command."
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