Page News & Courier

Heritage and Heraldry

James Huffman's 'Ups and Downs of a Confederate Soldier'

Article of November 4, 1999

Books pertaining directly to Page County soldiers in the Civil War are few and far between. The first (and I think only) book ever solely published about and by a Page County Confederate was James Huffman’s Ups and Downs of a Confederate Soldier. It was only at the urgings of his son, Oscar C. Huffman, that James agreed to write a memoir. However, before initiating the project James thought it absolutely necessary to have an automobile in order to drive around to the battlefields and sites throughout Virginia. So, at age 72, James began the great task of recording not only his Civil War experiences, but also his life before and after the war. A veteran of Company I, 10th Virginia Infantry, James was one of several of Page County’s Naked Creek residents that slipped into Rockingham County and enlisted in the mostly Rockingham County manned company. James fought in all the principal engagements of the war in the East except Gettysburg, was captured in 1864 at Spottsylvania Courthouse, and was held a prisoner at Point Lookout and Elmira. Though he completed the task, James never saw the work go to publication and died on April 14, 1922. James was laid to rest in the Confederate Section of the Arlington National Cemetery.

Seventeen years after the death of James Huffman, his son Oscar, then President of the Continental Can Company, Inc., submitted the manuscript to the editors of Atlantic Monthly and received a response desiring that a portion of it be published in their publication. Oscar agreed and the article “Prisoner of War – A Confederate Soldier’s Story” was published in the April 1939 issue. Later that year, the same editor remarked that the manuscript “showed considerable natural literary ability” and proposed that Oscar publish the entire manuscript in a book that would be entitle “Ups and Downs of a Confederate Soldier.” The title deriving its name from James’ father’s “Up and Down sawmill” – the same mill that James began to work on at age 8.

Finally going to press in 1940, Ups and Downs of a Confederate Soldier was published through William E. Rudge’s Sons Press in New York. Limited to 400 copies, the book was 175 pages in length and was bound in blue buckram with a paper cover label. The volume was also illustrated with several impressive tipped-in photos.

Today, the work is a rare find. Finding one in good quality and under $100 is an extreme challenge. Fortunately, several months ago, I lucked-into a volume for my personal collection. While it may be unusual to say this since I have an extreme interest in Page’s veterans in the Civil War, I am rather partial to the first chapter (pages 6 – 29) that detail Huffman’s youth and experiences in Alma and on Naked Creek. Bringing a rare sense of nostalgia into his writings, Huffman’s memories of youth are quite impressive and recall humorous accounts. In the first few sentences of the book, James recalls his father, Ambrose, selling the Huffman homestead near Alma Bridge to Charles C. Dovel in 1845 (when James was but five and a half years old). Then too, James particularly loved to take trips with his father across the river to Isaac Long’s – “I was delighted to go for he always gave me a good slice of honey bread.” There are also warm recollections regarding swimming in the famous “Deep Hole” (perhaps the same place that was once referred to as “Blue Hole”) in Naked Creek.

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