On Tuesday night, March 14, 1921, peacefully passed away the gallant and heroic spirit of Col. Roger Preston Chew, the brilliant Confederate artillery officer, whose record of service in the army began at the early age of eighteen, when his diploma of graduation was handed to him at the Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Va., in the spring of 1861.
Colonel Chew, the son of Roger and Sara West (Aldridge) Chew, was born in Loudon County, Va., April 9, 1843; he came with his father and family to Jefferson County, Va., (now West Virginia), in 1848, and attended the Charlestown Academy and later, the Military Institute in Lexington.
In September, 1861, in company with Milton Rouss, a schoolmate at Lexington, he raised a company of artillery for active service, of which he was made captain. The company was attached to Ashby's Brigade until General Ashby's death, when it became a unit of Stuart's Horse Artillery. In 1864 Captain Chew was promoted to the command of the Horse Artillery, with the rank of major, under Gen. J. E. B. Stuart. A reorganization later in the year gave him command of forty pieces of artilley, with the rank of lieutenant colonel, and from that time until the end of the war he served as chief of the Horse Artillery.
Colonel Chew had in his command twelve hundred men conspicuous for efficiency and courage, considered one of the best disciplined regiments in the service; for himself the highest praise and commendation were bestowed at various times by many of the most prominent commanders in the Confederate army. In 1862, at Middletown, General Ashby ordered him to charge his guns with the cavalry, the first instance, certainly in our war, that this audacious attack with "flying artillery" was made. In 1863, Stonewall Jackson himself wrote General Lee that Captain Chew was a "remarkably fine artillery officer," and Gen. Wade Hampton considered him the best commander of horse artillery.
As the war approached the last stages at Appomattox, Colonel Chew with a small squad of daring men from his battery, eluded the forces with which General Grant sought to crush the remnant of General Lee's army. They retreated south to join Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, then in North Carolina. A flood on the Roanoke River impeded the retreat with their guns; to prevent the Federals from capturing these, the gun carriages were burned and the cannon themselves were buried along the bank of the river. The men succeeded in crossing the river and in joining General Johnston, with whom they reluctantly surrendered a few dayslater. The colonel afterwards made several visits to the Roanoke River in an effort to recover the buried guns, but never succeded in locating them. The spot was surrounded by immense stretches of pine woods, far from habitation, making it impossible to identify the location.
After the war Colonel Chew went back to the farm, following the calling of his father and grandfather, but his prominence as a man soon brought him before the people, and, in 1882, he was elected to the State legislature, was reelected in 1884, again in 1886 and in 1888, when he was chosen chairman of the finance committee.
Colonel Chew married at Blakeley, this county, Miss Louise Fontaine Washington, daughter of Col. John Augustine Washington, a descendant of a brother of the first President, and the last owner of Mount Vernon.
"Colonel Chew belongs to us in this valorous Valley of the Shenandoah; it was here that he received the distinguished service medal of a permanent place in the hearts of his own people. The war made him; in defeat he saw the end of an era, but he had the courage to pass from the old to the new and to win success both in business life and public life."
He was the last of the trio of COnfederate advisers to the Lawson Botts Chapter, U. D. C. We miss his wise counsel earnest words, and sympathetic interest. He served his country with courage and loyalty and rests with his comrades on "fame's eternal camping ground."
[Lawson Botts Chapter U. D. C., Charles Town, W. Va.]
The Lee Memorial Association passed the following resolutions at a meeting in memory of Colonel Chew:
"We the members of the Lee Memorial Association of Charlestown, W. Va., in meeting assembled on Memorial Day, May 28, 1921, desiring to express our high appreciation of Col. R. P. Chew, deceased, so long President of this Association and of the Jefferson County Camp of Confederate Veterans, and to place in enduring forms a testimonial to his work, character, and career; therefore be it
"Resolved. 1. That the ending of his fruitful life is not only a public loss, but to all of us, and each of us who knew him so well, it is a personal sorrow.
"2. When just approaching manhood he enlisted as a soldier in defense of his native State and rapidly rose as an officer in the artillery service of the Confederacy, He was cool and brave in battle, wise in counsel, and enjoyed the respect and confidence of both his superiors and inferiors in military service. It is our fixed conviction that no braver soldier rode with General Jackson or with General Stuart, with Ashby or Hampton, than our deceased comrade, and he came out of the service after Appomattox with the love and affection of not only those whom he commanded, but with the respect and confidence of all who knew him.
"3. In civil life he was conspicuous for his love of country, and he became a leader among men in all pertaining to civil good and in the upbuilding of the community in which he lived. Always alert to the intersts of the people with whom he had cast his lot, he served them with fidelity and ability in many representative positions, and held throughout his life their respect, friendship, and esteem.
"We wish this testimonial given due publicity, and a copy sent to his family with the hope that it will be some solace in ther affliction, and that they may know our appreciation and esteem of this distinguished citizen."
[S. C. Young, Adjutant Jefferson County Camp U. C. V]
SOURCE: Confederate Veteran Magazine, April, 1922.
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