UNRAVELING A HIDDEN STORY

Posted By : manager

Posted : January 30, 2024

By Michael Thomas

A soldier’s Compiled Service Record can provide a wealth of information on a man’s service experiences but all too often leaves a researcher with more questions than answers. A prime example of this is found in the service record of Private William B. Morrow of Company G, 2nd SC Cavalry. Morrow, a native of Greenwood SC, was mustered into Confederate service at age 25 in April 1862. His records show he was wounded and captured at Accotink, Virginia 19 July 1863, barely 2 weeks after the battle of Gettysburg. And this is where multiple questions arise.

A glance at a map shows Accotink to be about 7 miles from Alexandria, VA outside of Washington D.C. Mor-row’s capture occurred just 3 days after the Army of Northern Virginia completed its withdrawal from Gettysburg by crossing the Potomac into Virginia. What was Morrow doing in Accotink when his regiment was nearly 100 miles away? Not a hint is given in his records.

Further, what was happening at Accotink at this time? A search of the Official Records and contemporary Washington D.C. newspapers attests to a great deal of Confederate guerrilla activity in the surrounding area causing much concern to the Yankees. They attributed it incorrectly to Mosby’s Rangers but Mosby was nearly 40 miles away and relatively inactive at this time. In short, Accotink and Alexandria were hotbeds of Confederate guerrillas and spies. 

Though we may never know with absolute certainty what Morrow was doing in Accotink, the known facts coupled with circumstantial evidence provide a plausible scenario. Indeed, it is the only logical one. Morrow was carrying a message of great urgency from General J.E.B. Stuart to one of Stuart’s intelligence operatives near Alexandria. Stuart was known to possess a superb spy network and his stable of experienced couriers was unavailable for this assignment. Accordingly, Stuart would have sought a man for this mission who was dependable, blessed with good judgment, courageous and cool in tense situations, and able to operate independently. Stuart must have seen these traits in Morrow.

The next question is, Was Morrow successful? No incriminating documents were found on him so he probably had delivered Stuart’s dispatch and was in the act of departing the area when shot and captured. His service record states he was hospitalized in the D.C. area for a month, sent to Baltimore on 23 August, and exchanged at City Point the next day.

The final question relates specifically to Morrow. Does his subsequent record reflect the same traits Stuart saw in him? Absolutely! Morrow’s return to his command immediately upon ex-change shows he was not one to shirk his soldierly duties. He saw much more hard riding and fighting until his regiment was returned to South Carolina in February 1864. Two months later, Morrow voluntarily left the comparative quiet of the Palmetto State to return to war-torn Virginia to serve as one of Wade Hampton’s famed “Iron Scouts.” He served in this vital and extremely dangerous capacity until the war’s end. Morrow neither accepted parole nor took the Oath of Allegiance after the war’s end. There can be no doubt whatsoever that Morrow possessed and used all the soldierly attributes Stuart recognized in him.

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