Jeff Harvey

I know that the Battle of Princeton has been a subject of discussion in this column before. This discussion courtesy of William Sanders II’s book “A New River Heritage, Volume IV” (1994, McLain Publishing) focuses on John Maxey’s discussion with Sanders on the events surrounding the battle via the former’s family memories.

First to be discussed was the skirmish at the Clark House in nearby Camp Creek. Maxey said there were too many Federals in the area for the ambush to be a success.

The Union Army’s mission in the area was to nullify the food supply being channeled to the Confederates in eastern Virginia and occupy Dublin, Va., which was a Southern railhead.

The burning of Princeton, Maxey said, doomed the Union operation because they lost the supplies stored there to feed men and 250 teams of horses.

The surviving buildings in Princeton were Aspenwald, located then at the present site of Princeton Middle School; the McNutt House at the corner of Honaker Avenue and North Walker Street where future U.S. Presidents Rutherford Hayes and William McKinley stayed while in Princeton; and a small house on West Main Street owned by a black family. Aspenwald was then owned by lawyer David Hall.

The home owned by the black family which survived the Battle of Princeton later served as a temporary courthouse after the war.

The Pearis House was partially burned but was salvaged though a Revolutionary War uniform of Colonel George Pearis was destroyed.

All the people of Princeton were ordered to burn their homes and the courthouse laden with supplies was leveled by fire.

Judge Alexander Mahood was so eager to burn his home that he killed his dog when he failed to let it out.

That house sat where Ed Wiley later had his law office and where Captain John Douglas and his wife, Mary, the daughter of Colonel Napoleon French, had their home. The house was later rebuilt by lawyer and Confederate Brigadier General James W. French, who later moved to Arizona..

Maxey stated that many Spanishburg area homes were burned during the Civil War by both sides. Josiah Maxey’s home was spared because of its importance to both sides in their maneuvers.

Jeff Harvey is a freelance reporter and columnist for the Princeton Times. Contact him at

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