Wartorn Refugees….or Union Sympathizers???

Virginia was a very tumultuous area to live in during the 1860’s. The talk of secession, the fast approaching war, and rumors swirling about it all. The average citizen living in the rural portions of the state at that time were more often farmers or day laborers than any other profession. To say the least, life was much more “bib overall” than “blue collar” for most.

Matthew "Mathy" & Nancy "Annie" (Meadows) Lamb

Matthew “Mathy” & Nancy “Annie” (Meadows) Lamb

My Great-Great Grandfather Matthew “Mathy” Lamb was born in January of 1833 making him the prime age for a soldier during the breakout of the war. Just over a year later in February of 1834 my Great-Great Grandmother Nancy “Annie” also drew her first breath. Annie’s parents were Thomas W. Meadows & Elizabeth (Breeden) Meadows whom also were the parents of about 13 other children. Not much is known of Mathy & Annie’s youth, but one thing we do know is that Mathy & Annie were joined in Holy matrimony on August 23, 1853. The following year; 1854, Annie gave birth to their first son: Emanuel Hezekiah Lam. This would be the beginning of a rather large family by today’s standards.

Just a short 5 years after the birth of their first son the state of Virginia would be thrown into a raging war between the states. The exact timeline over the next 3 years becomes a bit blurry but one oral history given by a descendent of Mathy states that Mathy was involved in the war in some capacity. We can’t be sure one way or another, but one thing we can be sure about is that Annie loaded her family up in June of 1864 and headed for Pennsylvania. The following article was published in a Franklin County, PA newspaper on June 28, 1864…

Union Refugees-The Greencastle Pilot gives an account of a number of Union Refugees from Virginia. It says that owing to the impoverished condition of the country, and impelled by the natural desire to be with their husbands again, four married women (with 18 children) set out from the vicinity of Hensley’s Methodist Church, Rockingham County, Va on Wednesday, the 8th of June for Pennsylvania, where they expected to meet their husbands who had left some months previous for the freer and purer atmosphere of the loyal stotes (sic).

The names of the party are as follows, Mrs. Wesley Hensley with seven children, Mrs. Rob’t. Hensley with five children, Mrs. Matthew Lamb with six children, and Mrs. Hiram Hensley, making 22 persons in all. They had, when they started, 2 two-horse wagons and when three miles from Edinsburg, a party of guerillas came out from a dense wood on the road, and took the best horse from them. They were then compelled to load up their effects and the small children in one wagon and abandon the other. The women and large children had to walk all the way from that place, and met with no further interruption on the road. At Martinsburg they readily procured a pass to cross the Potomac. On last Thursday the party, way-worn and foot-sore, reached the vicinity of Greencastle, and were hospitably entertained by Mr. Mickley.

Their destitute condition becoming known to our citizens, contributions were at once made, and these women and children sent by railroad to Harrisburg. Their horses and wagon were sent in charge of one of their friends in the same direction.

Our readers will remember that some months ago we published a statement that a band of 24 men, Union Refugees from Rockingham County, Va, had passed over the South Mountain into Adams County, where they were engaged in cutting timber. Here the small pox broke out among the party, and some of them died, and the rest scattered: among those who died was a son of the elder Mrs. Hensley, the husband of the younger woman of that name. The first intelligence they had of this they received here, and were distressed very much in consequence.

Why Harrisburg you ask? We need not look any further than a wonderful piece written by Robert Moore on the Southern Unionist Chronicles here: http://southernunionistschronicles.wordpress.com/2008/10/29/the-story-of-the-meadows-family/

While I don’t doubt the content of the Greencastle newspaper article, I am curious of the origins of family oral history in depicting Mathy as involved in the war in some capacity. Up until 6 months ago I had nothing to back up this story until I stumbled across quite a find. What I found through research on the internet uncovered a scan of an “Oath of Allegiance” signed by a Matthew Lamb of Page County, in the same time-frame as our story.


According to Civil War historian: Robert Moore, the Union officer who signed Mathy’s oath was stationed in the vicinity of Fredericksburg during the date listed. Anyone who is familiar with the geography of Virginia will know that Fredericksburg is a good distance out of the way when traveling from the Page County area to Pennsylvania. That’s where the head scratching begins. Is it possible he was captured there? Or possibly wandering aimlessly looking for work? We may never know the true answer but we’re certain he made an appearance in the area at least once, although his reasoning may never come to light.

We’re not sure when Mathy & Annie decided to leave Pennsylvania but by the 1870 census they’ve made their way back home and Mathy is listed as a “Physician” no less. This occupation never appears beside his name again and it’s possible that census workers wrote something wrong (as they occasionally did). According to a family story, Mathy was known for working with herbs and remedies and it’s possible that he was listed under that occupation for that reason.

Some years later, long after Mathy & Annie’s death; their third son: William Zebedee “Zeb” Lam would be featured in a Page News & Courier article that references the family’s Union devotion.

William Zebedee "Zeb" Lam with apple tree

William Zebedee “Zeb” Lam with apple tree

Page News & Courier, Friday 31 Jul 1936

Zeb Lamb, a patriarch of the Weaver Hollow section near Jollett, who is 80 years old, spent the night with his young friend Grover C. Miller recently. Mr. Lamb was in Luray to attend court and saw the movies for the first time in his life as well as spending his first night here.

This sturdy old mountaineer, who is still a giant in stature was ten years old when the war broke out between the states. The Lam family, who were Nothern sympathizers, moved to Pennsylvania in covered wagons at the outbreak of the conflict. He distinctly remembers these stirring days and relates the incidents of that day quite clearly. While camping out one night on their way north a party of Confederates stole one of their best horses. After the conflict had ceased they returned to their old mountain home where he has prospered and reared a large family.

He was one of the leading characters for the pay given by the school at Stanley several years ago depicting the eviction of the Park dwellers. It is needless to add that he enjoyed his visit in Luray.

This is a story that may never be finished, a story with no ending, so to speak. The real story behind Mathy’s involvement in the war may never be known. Was the Greencastle article accurate? Will we ever be able to close the cover on this story? The only thing certain is that a little mystery keeps us digging for more.

A special thanks to Jan Hensley & Robert Moore for their research


About Blue Ridge Ramblings....

For as long as I can remember history has always held a special place in my heart. Genealogy has always played a large part in my history research....
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