Summers-Koontz Monument Rededicated
A monument to honor two Confederate soldiers executed by Union troops after the surrender at Appomattox was rededicated today on a hillside just north of New Market, Va., as a color guard dressed in gray held flapping flags and taps was played.
In the world of Civil War monuments, this nine-foot-tall, weathered, white marble obelisk is unusual because it marks the site not of a battle or a hospital but a small patch of ground where two Confederate soldiers were shot to death for the crime of stealing horses. The twist is that they had already returned the horses and had received a pardon.
The story of the deaths of Capt. George W. Summers and Sgt. Isaac Newton Koontz is well known among older residents of the northern part of the Shenandoah Valley, kept alive by numerous recitations of the event. One of the two Sons of Confederate Veterans camps hosting the ceremony is named for the men: Summers-Koontz Camp No. 490, Luray. The other is named for the veteran who led the movement to build the memorial in 1893: Captain Jack Adams No. 1951, Mt. Jackson, Va.
The story is told of Summers and Koontz and two other young soldiers returning home to Luray, Va., after the surrender at Appomattox, where their unit, Co. D of the 7th Virginia Cavalry, was disbanded rather than join in the surrender. The four knew they had to take the oath of allegiance to the United State government in order to stay in the area, now occupied by Union troops. While en route to do that, the men came upon six Union cavalry men near Woodstock. Words were exchanged, guns drawn and the occupiers were forced to give up their horses and possessions.
The local men turned around and went back home where their families were horrified at what they had done, fearing the wrath of the Union army would come down on all of them. The horses were returned the next day to the 192nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry at Rude's Hill by the young men, accompanied by older men of the community.
Col. Francis W. Butterfield met with the delegation and, according to the father of Summers, who had the same name, negotiations were successful. The horses were returned and the Luray men, who were given receipts for the property returned, were told the matter was closed. However, no account of the transaction was made in the official Ohio regiment logs.
Things get a bit hazy here but the belief is that a neighbor of the four Luray men, a Unionist, got into a verbal fight with them and threatened to get revenge for their theft of the Union horses. Several days later, Lt. Col. Cyrus Hussey, who was in charge of the Rude's Hill camp in the absence of Butterfield, issued an order for the Luray men to be arrested and immediately executed for stealing the horses.
When the Union troops arrived in Luray on June 27, Jackson Kite and Dallas Koontz escaped but Summers and Isaac Koontz were arrested. They were brought back to Rude's Hill where their story of returning the horses and receiving a pardon was ignored. They were given time to write letters to their families before they were shot to death.
For decades, no one could visit the little monument in the farmer's field because it was grazed by cows and protected by an electric fence. In 2004, the
Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation purchased the land and with the assistance of the local Sons of Confederate Veterans camps and others, had the monument restored and a pathway cut into the field.
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