Deserter-Hunting into Floyd County
John S. Wise

About November 1, we were ordered to move to Christiansburg, and march thence into Floyd County, deserter-hunting. The mountainous regions of Southwest Virginia, western North Carolina, and east Tennessee were the places of rendezvous for runaway Confederate soldiers. So numerous and so bold had they become in Floyd County, Virginia, that they not only defied arrest, but often formed bands, seized Confederate supplies, and threatened the property and even the lives of Confederate soldiers and sympathizers. Our command was ordered there to break up some of these organizations, and to capture the ringleaders. It was a thankless task, but one requiring some ability, and not unattended with danger.

Marching out from Christiansburg to a point in the mountains of Floyd, we went into camp in the very heart of what was known as Sisson's Kingdom. That was the name of a large family residing there. Many of them had volunteered, and then deserted; and now they and their friends held sway, defied the law, invited other runaways to join them, and resisted all control of Confederate authority.

When this state of affairs, extending over a wide stretch of country, became known to me in the autumn of 1864, it caused my first misgivings concerning our ultimate success; it was so widespread, and so strangely in contrast with the loyalty of the mountaineers in the Revolution, when Washington proclaimed that to them he looked as his last reliance in extremity.

Colonel Preston, notwithstanding his genial nature, was a man of resources and firmness. If he hated one mean thing worse than another, it was a sneak. He counted these deserters among the most contemptible of the human race; and, while he was incapable of brutality towards any living creature, he knew when to be severe, and believed it was his duty to deal with them summarily, and break them up.


The End of an Era by John S. Wise
Houghton, Mifflin and Company, Boston and New York,
The Riverside Press, Cambridge, 1901, pages 385-386.