By Paul Clark
On Jan. 9, 1865, men from many different units gathered at McDowell, Virginia. The weather was fairly mild. In the next two days though, it would snow, rain, thunder, and then the temperature dropped to near zero. Two privates in Company D of the 6th Regiment, Virginia Cavalry (C.S.A.), Fontaine Hite and his cousin, Cornelius B. Hite, probably had little idea where they were going, or what they had signed up to do. The mission they had just volunteered for would cover 80 miles, starting from the winter camp at McDowell just west of Staunton, over the Alleghenies and Cheat mountain, across two forks of the Greenbrier River, and eventually to the Union-held supply depot at Beverly in West Virginia. The two privates would have to share a single mount, alternating between walking and riding the entire way. They were part of a piecemeal force of some 300 Confederates who volunteered to follow their commander and attack two Federal regiments numbering some 1,200 encamped in the town. It became known as Rosser’s Raid.
An excerpt describing the event from the letter of Cornelius Hite to his friend Thomas J. Arnold, a nephew of Stonewall Jackson:
“My cousin, Isaac Fontaine Hite, of Frederick Co., Va., and I were not with our company, but were in advance because our horses had broken down, and we were afoot part of the way. To get remounted we got with the advance and were all dismounted and fought as infantry-except my company, which had not arrived because they approached Beverly on a different road, the Files Creek road. My cousin, a third man whom I did not know, and myself attacked the first huts facing the Philippi road. My cousin and the third man got four Yankees out of the first hut and I got three out of the second, fearing all the time there was another Yankee left in the hut. These men were turned over to the third man to take back to the officer in charge of prisoners.
It was then that my cousin, who approached the [t]hird hut, bidding the inmates to surrender, was shot. I was about 8 feet from him and just turning to go towards him. He turned and uttered a terrific yell and ran to me and groaned in reply to my question if he was much hurt. I am sure he was killed almost instantly, the bullet having entered his right breast, passing diagonally on.
He had a fine record as a soldier all through the war and Rosser used him in 1864 as a scout until he resigned, his plea being that his horse was too much run down, but really because he disliked Rosser. We both were members of Co. D, better known as the Clarke Cavalry, 6th Virginia Regt.” Read the full letter.
Arnold went on to describe the raid: “The Federals, such as were not captured, retreated, fighting through the streets of Beverly and across the bridge on the road to Buckhannon,” he wrote. The fight lasted 30 minutes. Six Union troops were dead, 23 were wounded and nearly 800 were captured. Some 150 managed to escape to Buckhannon. Confederate losses were 1 dead and several wounded. They captured 10,000 rations from the supply depot including 600 rifles and about 100 horses.
A similar description of “Rosser’s Beverly Raid” can be found on pg. 301 of a History of Clarke County, VA by Thomas D. Gold, Berryville, VA, 1914.
The author of the letter, Cornelius Hite, died in 1943 at the age of 101. His grandfather was Major Isaac Hite, a Revolutionary War soldier and the proprietor of Belle Grove Plantation at Middletown in Frederick County, Va. Major Hite married Nelly, the younger sister of future president James Madison. Belle Grove was the site of the battle of Cedar Creek, which occurred just 3 months prior to Rosser’s Raid at Beverly.
Over the next 80 years, many of the Hite descendants settled in and around Frederick County and nearby Clarke County. At the onset of the War Between the States the Hite men would serve their native Virginia. Some of the Clarke County men of fighting age enlisted in Company D with the 6th Regiment, Virginia Cavalry.
During the war, the 6th Va. Cavalry fought in both Shenandoah Valley campaigns, in 1862 with Stonewall Jackson, then in 1864 with Jubal Early. All told, about 2,500 men would serve in the regiment from 1861 to 1865. On April 9, 1865, three men surrendered at Appomattox. The rest of the 6th Va. Cavalry broke through the Federal lines and later disbanded on their own.
The citizens of Clarke County, and families of those who served in the 6th Va. Cavalry, were proud of the men who served in the war, and so, in July 1900, at their court house in the little town of Berryville, they erected a statue memorializing the “sons of Clarke” veterans who died during the conflict.
The statue honors the lives of men who fought for what they believed — their farms, their families, friends and neighbors. They fought for the lands and homes where they grew up, and the surrounding hills, mountains and streams where they roamed. Simply put, these men were fighting for what anyone would be willing to fight for — their freedom.
By 1861, only two generations separated the cavalrymen of Clarke’s Company D from their grandfathers. Many had grandfathers who fought tyranny for the exact same principals of individual rights and freedom they were about to risk their own necks to defend. So, when 1861 came, they recognized what the problem was right off. They also knew the danger, and the odds against them, just like many of their fellow soldiers across the south and north, should they take up arms.
Most importantly, they had been taught that men were fallible and that a time would likely come when tyranny would rear its ugly head again.
From the beginning, John Adams and his founding-father compatriots proclaimed, “We are a nation of laws, not of men”. At least that was the game plan from the beginning in the thinking of most, including northern politicians.
However, our concept of a “nation of laws” is now disintegrating in American society. Leaders on all levels have flouted their responsibility to law and order and given in to the political “minority”, in the democratic sense, which is the new form of tyranny. The result has been devastating — the minority now rules, not the majority as was envisioned from the start.
Today, this is done on purpose, for political ends. The first casualty, our American history, is to be replaced, re-written, and sacrificed at an astounding pace. It is actively being removed everywhere in favor of the ‘new’ history, based not on facts or truth, but on political correctness. Think of the 1619 Project, Marxist front movements such as Antifa and Black Lives Matter, and the popular desire to re-frame and discredit any slave-holding Founding Father. The narrative is to drive home that these were white supremacists connected to SLAVERY! SLAVERY! SLAVERY! The need to re-write history is an insatiable quest driven by hatred, ignorance and a desire for power and control.
An example of this expedient, purposeful destruction of history is occurring in the little town of Berryville in Clarke County, Virginia. Founded over 200 years ago in 1798, the town sits quietly with a magnificent view of the Blue Ridge mountains, just west of the Shenandoah River and just east of the city of Winchester.
The town’s citizens, like so many towns in the North and South, have dedicated statues to their war dead, their heroes and veterans from throughout American history. But why is it that only statues to Confederate veterans are the object of such triggering and gnashing of teeth? The hatred directed at a people who are no longer here to defend themselves is very peculiar.
In Berryville, a few citizens who disagree with the existence of the 1900 statue of Confederate veterans, want it gone. These few citizens are in fact the minority. A few of these people believe the statue is about racism and oppression, ignoring the very inscription on the statue itself. But why and what is the motivating factor here? Is it really all about racism and white supremacy, the claim of the new minority? No, that’s a calculated fabrication and a means to a political end.
It’s about control. The purpose for undoing the past is about control and who has it. It’s not about racism or oppression, or slavery, or white supremacy, the common gibberish of the day — it’s about political will and power. And why not? In today’s climate, crying racism every time some piece of history offends you is quite an effective political weapon.
The new politicians that represent people in towns like Berryville do not have the will to stand up when the scarlet ‘R’ of racism is waved by a minority political voice. The majority is easily cowed into submission when they see the false flag hoisted and amplified by a complicit media. It’s a tactic that is being cleverly and purposely employed everywhere.
No longer are the people of Clarke County, or many other counties in Virginia, willing to stand up to this shrill cry of racism! Is it possible that an entire cultural heritage of a region, or a nation, is on the verge on being wiped out because of the tyranny of the few?
The once unquestioned will of Americans across the nation in countless towns and locales is now faced with the same historical extermination as other societies of the past. But it seems this is different, more internal than external. Small towns and communities in America are inflicting this destruction on themselves because the will to fight, that is the will to save cultural and historical legacy, has flickered out. The weak answer now is, ‘oh, it’s just the Confederate stuff, we can sacrifice that and make this go away.’ A country that has no past to reach to, no history, and no stone foundation of experience in which to draw from, is doomed to die. Even a small town like Berryville is on the verge of losing its soul.
Now, all of the citizens of Clarke County are on the front lines, whether they like it or not. These citizens have a say about the legacy of simple soldiers who went to war to fight, and to die, for their country. They have a say about American history, the good or bad, right or wrong. For a country that no longer cares about its history, or its veterans, is wasting a wealth of knowledge and missing an opportunity to teach future generations about their town, and its place in American history. Clarke County folks have a say, and a choice, to make.
The Berryville soldier stands pensive looking off with arms crossed. He is disarmed and humble, clutching his hat. He stands off to the side of the Old Courthouse. The statue is mounted on a strong granite foundation, well-maintained, just like the old red-brick building and grounds. In fact, standing from the road the view of the whole scene seems right.
It looks dignified and handsome. Although prominently displayed it’s hard to see how it would even draw much attention; most people passing by from day-to-day would likely not even notice it.
Perhaps that was the vision the creators of the statue had prior to funding and erecting it in 1900, that is, to create a memory and impression that stands the test of time. For 121 years it has stood in the same position, unmoved, now a true historical artifact of the town.
Swirling around the statue there is a great philosophical debate about the statue’s existence which seems so trivial and unnecessary.
In Berryville, the political powers have heard from a few who proclaim the statue is about slavery, oppression and racism. The town’s Board of Supervisors has been quick to create a committee; schedule a public hearing. They are under pressure from a few and they are in reaction mode. But they have not heard from the majority of Clarke County, or the descendants of the Company D veterans of the 6th Va. Cavalry.
Then there is the law. The ground upon which the statue rests is private property. There is no hidden clause or stipulation in this law. The clock does not run out on the statue’s legitimate and lawful place on the deeded 25-foot strip of ground where it stands. The rule of law through due process is guaranteed by the Constitution. No court shall abridge the law.
It is this rule of law, a very founding principal, for which the Clarke Company D men fought for, and for which the statue memorializes in words: “erected to the memory of the sons of Clarke who gave their lives in defense of the rights of the states and of constitutional government. Fortune denied them success but they achieved imperishable fame.”
Will historians speak up? What will people say about our history, or is it to be re-written by the few who disagree? The statue should stay right where it is. Any attempt at its removal would be a violation of law, but more profoundly, a violation of the true history of America.
One lone statue doth not make history. It is odd why there is a cry to remove or displace this one. Why do not the few who protest fund and erect another if the sentiment is truly so high? Many of we students of history know exactly why. We’ve seen this game before and it does not end well.
Pvt. Fontaine Hite died on that bitter cold January 11th in 1865 at Beverly. His cousin Cornelius raised his pistol and ordered one of the prisoners to help him carry the body of his cousin back to the surgeon. He died of his wounds a couple of hours later and was buried in a marked grave near Beverly. The burial spot is unknown and all that remains is the inscription of his name, “F. Hite”, which appears in granite alongside the other fallen soldiers at the Clarke County Confederate statue at Berryville.
The author is a descendant of the Hite’s of Frederick County, Virginia.