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A Battle For Calhoun
Part 15; Granny and Uncle Jimmy
Help a Union Soldier

by Maricia Mlynek
     

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Granny and Uncle Jimmy Help A Union Soldier

The days that followed the Sycamore Skirmish were more frightening for Private Sutton Cox of Company C, than for any other Union soldier. Cox had been shot through the leg. He was too badly injured to move on with his fellow soldiers, and was left at the McDonald house.

Afraid that he would see the same treatment from the Moccasins that his company had dealt upon the killed ranger, Cox crawled into the woods for cover. By nightfall, he made it to the mouth of Steer Creek, which was the home of Mary Burrows, known as “Granny” to most.

Granny hid Cox from Ranger scouts in the shelter of nearby cliffs. History books say that she fed him, dressed his wounds, and cared for him for two weeks. This was a risky move for anyone at the current stage of conflict in Calhoun. Granny was aware of the risk, but feared more for the young man and his future. She also knew that, if found, he would not be spared; therefore, she went to see a neighbor, James W. Johnson.

Johnson, known as “Uncle Jimmy,” was a southern sympathizer at heart, but Granny knew that he was a good and decent man. The story says that the man “abhorred bloodshed.” Uncle Jimmy knew that, if caught aiding a Union Soldier who was wanted for the bloodshed at Sycamore, nothing would save either him or Granny from the revenge of the Rangers.

Risking his own welfare and property, Johnson devised a plan to move Cox out of the county. He and Granny disguised the private in an old poke-bonnet, Granny’s steel-bowed spectacles, and one of her dresses. Cox was mounted on a side-saddle for the journey along the Little Kanawha River.

Initially, it seemed that the plan would work. Johnson stayed calm as the two traversed the road to safety. Only a few miles out of Grantsville, they were stopped by a squad of Ranger scouts led by Robert Wilson. Thinking quickly, Johnson urged Granny to keep moving. Johnson is quoted in the book, West Virginia in the Civil War, as saying, “You ride on, Granny, for Betsy’s powerful poorly; she’s a mighty sick woman.” The lie was to indicate that Granny had been fetched to care for Betsy, Uncle Jimmy’s wife. Cox was permitted to ride through the scouts.

Cox and Johnson made it to a Union home, where Cox was given more care and a safe passage into Harrisville. The private fully recovered and spent four years with Company C. He was present at the Battle of Appomattox Court House on Apr. 9, 1865, to see General Robert E. Lee surrender. His commander at the time was an original Company C recruit, Major Michael A. Ayers.

“Granny” and “Uncle Jimmy” may not be remembered by many, but their valor and humane actions changed the course of history for one young man.

 

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