The Battle of Rutherford’s Farm


In July of 1864, Union and Confederate forces clashed in a little remembered skirmish outside of Rutherford’s Farm in Virginia. Noted mainly due to the morale boost it gave to the embattled Union army, who had been handed a series of defeats leading up to this moment, it has a greater significance for my family.

As related by Lee Sherrill in his book “The 21st NC Infantry,” Andrew J. Nunn, my third cousin (three times removed) was serving as a second lieutenant of F Company, 21st North Carolina. After the battle, which resulted in a full retreat of the Confederate forces, “the dead and wounded littered the grounds and house of Rutherford Farm. Such wounded that could be moved had been cared for and removed to Winchester, but this core battlefield lay far behind Union lines and with dark, most nurses retired to town.

When the ladies returned to the area the next day, 21 year old Miss Kate McVicar came upon Lieutenant Nunn lying paralyzed with a ball through his lower spine. Nunn complained painfully about the radiation shooting up and down his body from the awkward position in which he lay. Without hesitation, Kate took young Nunn into her arms and held him in a position to relieve most of his suffering until well after midnight.

In the bright moonlight the young nurse managed to steal away from time to time to soothe other Tar Heel soldiers, each time returning to help Lieutenant Nunn.” Unlike many others, with Nurse McVicar’s care, he survived the night, and would spend the rest of the war as a prisoner confined at Fort McHenry. Upon his release, he returned home to Stokes County where he married and resumed his life as a citizen farmer.

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