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A short story by Etta Belle Walker

Flint Hill

Title:     Flint Hill
Author: Etta Belle Walker [More Titles by Walker]

In 1861 young Albert Willis was a theological student. Like many others, he left his studies to enter the services of the Confederate Army. While he was not a chaplain in Mosby's Rangers in which he had enlisted, he did carry on his pastoral work with the men by giving them Bibles, holding some services, and writing home for those who could not write; no day passed during which he did not find an opportunity to be of service to the men.

One day in October, 1864 he was granted a furlough and was riding southward to Culpeper, hoping to reach his home in that county. Not far away from Flint Hill his horse lost a shoe, so he stopped at Gaines Mill. There was a rickety old blacksmith shop at the crossroads. It had been raining and he was very wet. While the horse was being shod, he stood near the fire to dry his boots. The beat of the hammer on the iron drowned out the sounds of approaching horses on which rode Federal soldiers.

Willis was taken captive and joined another prisoner outside. The two Confederates were told that one of them must die in reprisal for the death of a Federal soldier who had been killed the day before.

The prisoners were carried before General William H. Powell, Union Cavalry leader. Someone told General Powell that Mr. Willis was a chaplain.

"If you are a chaplain," General Powell told him, "your life will be spared."

"I am not a chaplain," the young Confederate replied, "I am a soldier, fighting in the ranks."

General Powell then told the Confederates that one of them would be hanged within an hour. They would be given straws to draw lots. In this way would one be spared.

Willis replied that he was a Christian and was not afraid to die. He insisted that the other Confederate who was a married man, be set free. The doomed man was led out to a spot on the road near Flint Hill. A rope was placed around his neck while the other end was tied to a young sapling which had been bent down by the weight of several Federal soldiers.

While the preparations were being made, young Willis knelt down and prayed. A witness said he never heard such a beautiful prayer, lacking all bitterness. When he was through, the men released the tree and it sprang into its natural position, swinging Willis high into the air, where the body was left.

When the Federals had gone, Mr. John Ricketts came by with a companion and they cut down the rope, took the body of the brave Confederate and buried it in the cemetery at Flint Hill. Today there is a stone which marks his resting place and every Spring women go and place flowers on his grave. Nearby is a small chapel named in honor of him--"Willis Chapel."

General Powell knew that young Willis was not accused as a spy, but he was carrying out an order, issued in August 1864 by General U. S. Grant, which read: "When any of Mosby's men are caught hang them without trial."

[The end]
Etta Belle Walker's short story: Flint Hill