William Patteson was 15 and living near Culpeper Court House when the war, quite literally, came home. Fleeing ahead of a Union army charged with confiscating or destroying civilian property, Patteson joined up with the 21st Virginia Infantry and went into combat just two days later, on August 9, 1862, at Cedar Mountain.

Men were ordered to put double charges in their guns. I had shot my gun so often (and wiped it out but once) that when I rammed down one Minie ball and nine buckshot I thought I would put in some more….In ramming down the extra charge the ramrod stuck fast. I could not move it up or down. Augustine said: “If you fire your gun in that condition, it will burst. Turn it up and drive the ramrod down on that rock.” I did so, but as the enemy were about to charge I had to leave the ramrod in. Thinking the gun might kick me over, I knelt down, so I wouldn’t have far to fall. It was well that I did.

When the enemy came out of the woods, moving straight toward us, I said to my cousin: “Watch that Yankee on the dark sorrel horse.” Well, when she went off, I fell one way and the gun another, the horse had no rider, and a gap was cut through their lines. That ramrod, the eighteen buckshot, and the Minie ball did the work. My captain said: “See here, young man, where did you get that piece of artillery?” I replied that it was a gift from General Jackson. “Well, now,” said he meditatively, “General Jackson should have it mounted on wheels, so it wouldn’t kick you over.”


Originally published in the August 2006 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here

Private William W. Patteson, Voices of the Civil War: Second Manassas