Rumbley's relic fuels mystery
December 5, 2019
Heck Rumbley of Monroe County, Alabama set down for an interview with The Monroe Journal in 1966 regarding his father, Thomas A. Rumbley, who was a surveyor, a tax collector and a Confederate veteran who lived into his 90s.
His father, Lt. Thomas A. Rumbley served in Company H, 17th Alabama. He joined at Old Scotland.
Many tales of The War Between The States were recounted to his son, yet it was one amazing story that created a decades long question for some in the Monroe County area.
In 1893, Thomas Rumbley told the following story to The Claiborne Southerner in hopes of locating the owner of a Yankee sword which had made its way to Monroe County after the war.
It was in the Spring of 1864, at the Battle of New Hope Church, Georgia when a detail of men in each company were sent to conduct a nighttime charge of a picket line of Union troops at the base of Lone Mountain.
The men were ordered to roll one large rock each ahead of them. They formed a line at the top of the mountain, Lt. Col. Morris of the 26th Alabama Regiment was their commander and Col. V.S. Murphy of the 17th Alabama, acted as their general, according to the story.
The command was given, the rocks were rolled down the mountainside and the men followed. The Yankees fired into the darkness with a devasting accuracy and killed all of the Confederate attackers except Lt. Wm. Jesse Robison, B.F. McMillan, a preacher named Belcher, Lt. Rumbley and one other.
Preacher Belcher grabbed one of the Yankees and shot him. The Yankee fell. Rumbley approached the wounded soldier and ordered him to surrender. In no position to negotiate, the wounded man turned over his Navy six-shooter and said in the darkness, "Come boys, let's surrender."
Following the Yankee officers statement, thirteen men appeared from behind large rocks at the base of the mountain and surrendered to the five Confederates from Alabama. One of the Union officers was Lt. Arbor, who was from the 154th Illinois Regiment according to The Claiborne Southerner article of 1893. As was a custom of war at the time, Arbor surrendered his sword to the Southerners.
Lt. Robison ordered McMillan and Lt. Rumbley to escort the prisoners to the Confederate camp. It was at this time one of the Yankees are said to have uttered, "I had no idea I could ever be scared as badly as I was tonight. There were only five of you and I could have killed you all."
Rumbley told the above story to The Claiborne Southerner in 1893 in hopes of finding who had ended up with the sword, or their relative, with the hope of preserving it as a relic of the war.
Nearly twenty years later, on July 13, 1911, at The Monroe Journal office, Rumbley again mentions the sword. In this article, Rumbley displays the sword to the staff of the paper. The paper refers to The War Between The States as "The Late Unpleasantness." Rumbley adds that a Union Sgt. by the name of Hatchett was among the Union dead at the previously mentioned battle.
Rumbley, in 1911 was seeking to locate the owner of the sword, "if yet living, and if dead, he would be glad to communicate with his descendants or relatives with a view to return the sword." Rumbley promised to retell the story to The Monroe Journal for republication when he was successful in finding the captured Union officer or his relatives. The article goes on to add that "Anyone having information that will assist him in his purpose will confer a favor by writing Mr. Rumbley at Burnt Corn, Ala."
Rumbley married Miss Alabama Crook after the war and resided near Burnt Corn until his death in 1928. The couple had ten children.
The fate of the sword is unknown.
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