Civil War Journal is produced by the Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation and Historic Beverly Preservation in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Entries were added each week until August of 2011, after which time entries were added as historical events warranted. Beginning in March of 2012, the focus turned from the first year of campaigning toward the sequence of events that would lead to West Virginia statehood. The most recent entries are featured at the top and the oldest entry are at bottom of the columns. See this MEDIA ADVISORY for details, and see this INDEX OF ENTRIES for a linked chronological list of individual articles.
|2010||2011||Current entries - 2012 (below)|
The United States Senate passed the bill creating the state of West Virginia in July of 1862, but not without considerable debate and the surprising loss of a statehood advocate.
On July 1 Sen. Waitman T. Willey
of the Reorganized Government of Virginia moved to take up the
bill as put forth by the Committee on Territories.
No action was taken immediately, but on July 14 Ohio Sen. Benjamin Wade, chairman of the Committee on Territories, reintroduced the debate over West Virginia.
“The people of Western Virginia are entitled to what they ask and they are entitled to the good will and good fellowship of this Senate, to endeavor to do for them that which they have fairly earned,” Wade said.
The committee had called for stipulations, including emancipation of the children of all slaves born on or after July 4, 1863, a new state constitution and a public referendum to approve it.
Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts pressured for the immediate abolition of slavery within the state, while others, including Willey, favored a middle ground of gradual emancipation.
The addition of 15 counties beyond the original 48 designated by the constitutional convention also came under scrutiny. Willey argued counties added in the Valley of Virginia did not correspond to the natural, commercial, and social boundary of the Allegheny Mountains.
Willey proposed amending the bill to require that the new constitution need only be approved by the previous convention. He eventually accepted Wade’s proposal to free all slaves under the age of 21.
Later called the Willey Amendment, it read: “The children of slaves born within the limits of this State after the fourth day of July, eighteen hundred and sixty-three, shall be free; and all slaves within the said State who shall, at the time aforesaid, be under the age of ten years, shall be free when they arrive at the age of twenty-one years; and all slaves over ten and under twenty-one years, shall be free when they arrive at the age of twenty-five years; and no slave shall be permitted to come into the State for permanent residence therein.”
Throughout the proceedings
Virginia Sen. John Carlile had remained uncharacteristically
silent. An orator of some renown, Carlile was considered a lion
of the new state movement. He had served on the committee that
wrote the bill.
Carlile now spoke up, arguing against his colleague in favor of a popular referendum on the new constitution.
When Sen. Samuel C. Pomeroy of Kansas accused him of attempting to delay the vote on West Virginia statehood, Carlile defended a popular vote as the only option being in line with constitutional democracy.
“For one, I never would consent to have the organic law of a State framed for its people by the Congress of the United States,” he said.
As the debate progressed Carlile’s comments became more charged. He began to question whether state conventions, legislatures, and votes had truly been representative. He also voiced criticism of the “naturalness” of the new state’s borders and support for the enlargement of the original boundary so that other counties might join.
Carlile’s opposition was a drastic reversal and colleagues were shocked at his stance. “It takes us all by surprise, and it jeopardizes the measure,” Wade said. Willey responded that Carlile was raising “an objection which is calculated and designed to thwart this whole movement.”
“Now, sir, I have at heart as much as any man this separation, but I have other things at heart, too,” Carlile said.
In the end it was Wade who had the last word. He called Carlile’s conversion greater than St. Paul’s. “No gentleman urged the measure upon us more strongly than he,…and yet all at once, when we become earnest and see that the people want this done, we have to encounter his violent, determined, persistent opposition…. There is no reason on God's earth why, if Western Virginia is ever to be a State, she should not be admitted now.”
The bill passed later that day in the Senate. Those who opposed it included Carlile, Sumner and others who questioned its constitutionality.
Public outcry rang out against Carlile. Resolutions were passed in Marshall and Taylor Counties calling for his resignation. Some wanted him impeached. The Wheeling Intelligencer accused him of being behind the committee’s proposal of gradual emancipation. His call for a popular vote in counties with strong secessionist sentiment was seen as an elaborate ruse to derail the statehood movement.
Carlile quickly went on a public relations campaign. On July 14 he signed a majority response rejecting President Abraham Lincoln’s request that representatives from border states voluntarily consider gradual emancipation.
He defended his position on statehood at the Atheneum in Wheeling July 25 and on July 30 made a speech in Indianapolis, where he said growing anti-Unionist sentiment was the result of “the determination of the abolitionists to change the purpose and objects of the war.” His political career over, Carlile would soon side with the “Copperheads,” a Northern movement critical of Lincoln and abolitionism.
The bill on West Virginia statehood went before the Senate in the summer of 1862, but the process was almost immediately stalled by the issue of slavery.
Ohio Sen. Benjamin Wade, chair of the Committee on Territories, presented Bill Number 365 on June 23. The Senate took up the bill three days later, adding a stipulation that the children of all slaves born within the limits of the new state would be free on July 4, 1863 and thereafter. The bill also required that West Virginia be created solely from land within the boundaries of Virginia.
The limited emancipation in the bill did not go far enough for Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts.
“Sir, we all know that it takes but very little slavery to make a slave State with all the virus of slavery...Enough have our public affairs been disturbed, and enough has the Constitution been poisoned. The time has come for the medicine,” Sumner said.
The senator proposed an amendment advocating the state’s admission as a free state. The bill and Sumner’s amendment would be brought up over the following days but pushed aside in favor of other business.
Wade and Sumner were members of a faction known as “Radical Republicans” for their opposition to slavery. Their views were in contrast to President Abraham Lincoln’s more moderate stance on the issue.
While slavery fueled the senate debate on statehood, Gov. Francis H. Pierpont of the Reorganized Government of Virginia noted the advantage slaves brought to the Confederate Army.
The governor had been on an extended trip to Washington, D.C. Accompanied by Ohio County politician Daniel Lamb and a number of congressmen, Pierpont travelled from the capitol to Norfolk and Yorktown, Va. to observe the area surrounding the Union’s assault on Richmond.
The Confederate Army had slaves performing physical labor, which helped prevent fatigue among soldiers during engagements. Pierpont advocated that the Union government “appropriate” local slaves, regardless of ownership, for carrying out such tasks.
Before leaving Washington for Wheeling on June 23, Gov. Pierpont met with David Hunter Strother, who used the pen name “Porte Crayon.” Strother was well known for his popular illustrations in Harpers Weekly. Born in Martinsburg, he was serving on the staff of U.S. Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks.
Strother told the governor of his hope for a Unionist Virginia. “I have traveled in every civilized country in the world, and I have been in every State in this Union, “he said, “and I tell you that Virginia as she could be, and as she will be, exceeds them all—immeasurably exceeds them.” Strother said the state’s dependence on slavery held it back from achieving its potential.
On June 26, Lincoln telegraphed generals Banks, John C. Frémont, and Irvin McDowell, ordering them to combine their forces, along with soldiers under Maj. Gen. Samuel D. Sturgis, to form the Army of Virginia. The president tasked the new body under the command of Maj. Gen. John Pope with protecting western Virginia and the capital while quickly defeating Confederates under Gen. Richard S. Ewell and Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. This was to provide relief for U.S. Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan in his campaign against Richmond.
The following day Confederate Gov. John Letcher of Virginia released a proclamation calling on Virginians to take arms to protect the western portion of the state. The General Assembly of Virginia had passed an “act to authorize a force of 10,000 men to be raised for the defense of the Commonwealth.”
Letcher said the proceedings creating the new state and its government lacked the consent of the people and government of Virginia, and were therefore illegal.
“They have authorized the raising of troops within this pretended State to war against our people and desolate the firesides of their brethren, and stimulated them to bloodshed and massacre,” Letcher said. “Will the people of Virginia tamely submit to such tyranny? If such acts are perpetrated while they have but partial control, what may we not expect when the demons have full sway and authority?”
May 1862 saw political successes for the new state of West Virginia but militarily it was a zero-sum game for both Union and Confederate forces.
In Wheeling, momentum behind the new state movement continued. Gov. Francis H. Pierpont spoke before the legislature of the Restored Government of Virginia on May 6.
“The Constitution of the United State provides that ‘no new State shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other State, without the consent of the Legislature of the State concerned, as well as of the Congress,’” Pierpont said. “Therefore, to complete the work which has been commenced, of the division of the State, it requires the consent of the Legislature of Virginia and the assent of Congress.”
Pierpont said some considered the movement “revolutionary,” but those who objected on this basis, “do not understand the history, geography and social relation of our State.”
The legislature heeded
Pierpont’s call to action on May 13, granting permission for the
new state’s formation out of 48 counties. The act was then
submitted to Congress, where Virginia’s representatives were
asked to support the division.
On May 29, Sen. Waitman T. Willey presented the formal petition before Congress. Willey defended the long history of division between the eastern and western portions of the state.
“It seems to be supposed that this movement for a new State has been conceived since the breaking out of the rebellion, and was a consequence of it—that it grew alone out the abhorrence with which the loyal citizens of West Virginia regarded the traitorous proceedings of the conspirators east of the Alleghenies, and that the effort was prompted simply by a desire to dissolve the connection between the loyal and disloyal sections of the State,” Willey said. “Not so sir….The animosity existing at this time between North and South is hardly greater that what has at times distinguished the relations between East and West Virginia.”
The act would be referred to the Committee on Territories, which included fellow Virginia Senator John S. Carlile.
As the appeal for creating the new state came before Congress, battles waged in the Greenbrier and Shenandoah Valleys. Union forces moved south in an attempt to seize the Confederacy’s crucial Virginia and Tennessee Railroad.
Brig. Gen. Jacob D. Cox proceeded along the New River while Maj. Gen. John C. Frémont maneuvered into the Valley of Virginia. On May 1, future presidents Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley were among the Federal troops who engaged in a 13-hour battle with Confederates at Princeton, Mercer County.
The Rebels withdrew from Princeton to Flat Top Mountain, but not before setting fire to the town to keep supplies from falling into Union hands. Less than a dozen structures would remain.
On May 23, U.S. Col. George Crook and 1,600 men were attacked by C.S. Brig. Gen. Henry Heth and 2,200 Rebels at Lewisburg, Greenbrier County. The Federals were successful in repelling the Confederates at the Battle of Lewisburg, inflicting over 200 causalities on Heth’s force and capturing 100 of his men.
The win, however, would be greatly overshadowed by Confederate victories east of the Alleghenies, where Federal forces did not fare as well.
U.S. Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan had been making his way towards the Confederate capital of Richmond at a glacial pace since early mid-March. He finally reached the outskirts of the city in mid-May, forcing Confederate Maj. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson to take action in the Shenandoah Valley.
Jackson’s “Valley Campaign” was intended to make the Federals believe Washington was vulnerable, and encourage them to reinforce the capital with troops which would otherwise surround Richmond. Jackson and his men moved up and down the valley, outmaneuvering a larger combined Union force.
Suffering a defeat by Jackson at the Battle of McDowell in Highland County on May 8, U.S. Brig. Gen. Robert H. Milroy retreated to Franklin, Pendleton County. Frémont would arrive several days later, and stay until May 25.
Jackson continued his campaign, pushing as far as north as Harpers Ferry. Further east, a more crucial turning point in the war took place on the last day of May.
At the Battle of Seven Pines Confederate Gen. Joseph Johnston was wounded. Gen. Robert E. Lee, who began his Civil War career in western Virginia, would soon assume command of the Rebel army.
West Virginia came closer to statehood on April 3, 1862 when voters approved the West Virginia Constitution. Many counties at the same time took informal votes on the gradual emancipation of slaves.
As the cause for statehood advanced, Union troops also continued to make progress throughout the state. U.S. Maj. Gen. John C. Frémont pushed south along the New River Valley, leading Federal troops into Fayetteville and Raleigh Court House, now Beckley.
“He thinks he can move an army in these mountains as easily as he and Kit Carson would march a mule train in California; but if he don’t look sharp he’ll strike a snag,” warned a Confederate sergeant.
Union troops would reach as far as Monroe County. “The Pierpont Government having included Monroe, Greenbrier, Pocahontas, and Mercer, in their new State, it is said the Yankees are to send a force sufficient to subjugate us,” a southern sympathizer wrote to the Richmond Daily Dispatch on April 14.
He worried residents would be forced to vote in favor of joining the new state. “Of course the vote will be taken, if taken at all, by the voters being compelled by the force of arms to go to the polls.”
High in the mountains, troops under U.S. Brig. Gen. Robert H. Milroy marched from Cheat Summit Fort in Randolph County to the recently abandoned Confederate Camp Allegheny in neighboring Pocahontas County on April 6. Brig. Gen. Edward Johnson and his Confederates had received orders to leave the fort just three days earlier.
Federals not only took the abandoned fort, but took refuge in its cabins as an ice storm descended on the mountain. Milroy and his men would leave the mountain top to pursue Confederate Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley.
Increasingly constricted, secessionists in the state resorted to irregular warfare. Guerrilla forces were active in Braxton and Webster Counties, leading to prolonged engagements along the Holly River. Frémont ordered commanders and troops not engaged in the field to “use their utmost exertions to destroy the various bands of guerrillas now beginning to infest the department.”
In response to attacks, anti-guerrilla meetings were held in Marion and Upshur Counties. Confederate terrorists Daniel Dusky and Jacob Varner of the notorious Moccasin Rangers were brought before federal court in Wheeling April 11.
On April 4, Frémont had ordered the arrest of Brig. Gen. Alfred Beckley of the Virginia Militia at his Raleigh County home. Beckley had been serving in the militia when the Civil War broke out. Following the first year of combat, he had returned to Raleigh Court House and alerted Federal authorities of his location.
Frémont acknowledged that Beckley intended “to remain there quietly and not again to join his command in the Confederate Army.” Nonetheless, the general wrote, “He has been arrested and I will cause him to be committed to the military prison at Camp Chase, there to remain in custody to await the orders of the War Department.”
Beckley was sent from Atheneum Prison in Wheeling to Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio on April 25.
Beckley founded Raleigh Court House in 1838. The town was later renamed Beckley in honor of his father, John Beckley. The elder Beckley had served as the first clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives and the first Librarian of Congress. He was a strong supporter of Thomas Jefferson and responsible for numerous writings about the third president.
Like many men of his generation, Beckley sought to make a fortune in land speculation. His death in 1807 left the future of his only child, Alfred, uncertain. With the assistance of family friend James Monroe, Alfred Beckley graduated from West Point.
He resigned from the army in 1836 and won legal title to more than 56,500 acres around what is now Raleigh County. There Beckley and his family settled on 30 acres. Their new home, Wildwood, would become the foundation around which the community of Beckley would grow.
The Union created a new military department in March 1862 to protect transportation routes in western Virginia, while Confederates declared martial law to try to control the region.
Commanded by Maj. Gen. John C. Frémont, the Mountain Department consisted of 8,000 men in western Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Frémont was charged with safeguarding the region’s main artery, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.
“You will regard it as a special duty,” wrote the War Department on March 22, “to protect from all injury from the public enemy so much of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad as falls within your district.”
Washington suggested he assign Brig. Gen. Benjamin F. Kelley, the hero of the Philippi races, to the task. On March 29, Frémont ordered Kelley to assume command of “all of Western Virginia north and east of the counties of Jackson, Roane, Calhoun, Braxton, Lewis, Barbour and Tucker inclusive, and west of the Alleghanies, Maryland and Pennsylvania constituting the Railroad District.”
As Kelley took command of the region, the Confederacy suspended the rights of many of its citizens. On March 29, Confederate President Jefferson Davis placed Randolph and seven other western Virginia counties under martial law.
“By virtue of the power vested in me by law” declared Davis, “I do proclaim the suspension of all civil jurisdiction…and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus…,” Davis wrote. Other counties included in the proclamation were Fayette, Greenbrier, Mercer, Monroe, Nicholas, Pocahontas and Raleigh.
Responding to Union threats made in the early days of 1862, the Confederate Congress had given Davis the power in February to suspend habeas corpus “in such cities, towns and military districts as shall, in his judgment, be in such danger of attack by the enemy as to require the declaration of martial law for their effective defense.”
The act caused outrage among many Confederates, who felt that the constriction of their rights violated the cause for which they had been fighting. The law was allowed to expire a year later. Its loss would make it difficult to enforce conscription or suppress Unionist sympathizes.
U.S. President Abraham Lincoln himself suspended habeas corpus for almost two years before receiving congressional approval to do so. On both sides, the act created strong discontent and anti-administration sentiment.
Frémont had gotten into hot water with the president over the issue in July of 1861 as commander of the U.S. Western Department. Facing major setbacks in the state of Missouri, he declared martial law in the state, threatening to execute captured Confederate guerillas, seizing the property of Confederate sympathizers and freeing their slaves.
An already contentious situation began escalating out of control. Fearing the secession of the Border States, Lincoln ordered Frémont to reverse his proclamation, and relieved him of his command.
A star among republicans and the antislavery movement, Frémont had run in the 1856 presidential election on a platform of free soil and free-labor. Although relatively inexperienced, he was considered a better choice than the republican establishment. Backed by radical republicans, Frémont carried the election in the upper Mid-West, upstate New York, and New England, but overall lost handily to James Buchannan.
On March 11, 1862, congressional
republican pressure had pushed Lincoln to appoint the
controversial Frémont to lead the Mountain Department, and would
later induce the president to transfer a division from Maj. Gen.
George B. McClellan to him. Frémont would later threaten to
divide the Republican Party, running as an anti-Lincoln
candidate in the 1864 presidential race.
The Constitutional Convention unanimously approved the first constitution of West Virginia in Wheeling on February 18, 1862. It would become the supreme law of the fledgling state less than two months later when voters accepted it by a nearly 37 to 1 margin.
In his first annual address to Congress on December 3, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln had acknowledged the progress made by Unionists in West Virginia. “After a somewhat bloody struggle of months,” said the president, “winter closes on the Union people of western Virginia, leaving them masters of their own country.”
The convention delegates had been meeting in Wheeling since late November, working to finalize a document based on the 1851 Constitution of Virginia. However, delegates made alterations to address longtime grievances of western Virginians.
These changes included equal taxation for all types of property and removed property qualifications required for voting. Population would determine legislative apportionment, and state and local governments were prohibited from borrowing money. The heavily criticized county court system of Virginia was replaced with that of New England-style townships.
The constitution also required that the legislature establish a public school system. Ohio County Delegate Gordon Battelle had been at the forefront of the push for free, universal education. Battelle had taught at the Asbury Academy in Parkersburg and served as principal of the Northwestern Virginia Academy in Clarksburg.
He is most strongly remembered, however, for his work in the larger abolitionism movement. Battelle was ordained as a Methodist minister in 1847 at a time when the church was splintering over the issue of slavery.
Northern Methodists were a major force in the creation of the new state. Their numbers included many early prominent politicians such as Arthur I. Boreman, West Virginia’s first governor.
Battelle served as a pastor for the Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, and then in Clarksburg, where he was the presiding elder. He later served in Wheeling. His failed resolutions which called for gradual emancipation were the most serious attempt to confront the taboo issue during the convention.
On February 13, Rev. Joseph S. Pomeroy of Hancock County proposed a compromise to the resolutions that would bar slaves and free blacks from coming into the state for permanent residence. The convention approved the proposal 48 to 1, and the question of emancipation was put aside until congressional discussion of West Virginia statehood the following year.
The convention adjourned on February 20th.
“The unanimity and good feeling which have characterized the Convention give assurance that the great object we had in view will be confirmed by an overwhelming majority of the people of this State; and I trust that in the providence of God a very large part of you, if not all, will be permitted to return to this city in the discharge of the high and important duty devolving on those who will be charged with putting into operation the Government of the State of West Virginia,” said convention President John Hall of Mason County.
Below are the last entries of the "First Campaign" section of Civil War Journal...
In the beginning years of the American Civil War, the greatest threat to a soldier’s life was not actual warfare but the sickness and exposure to the elements that accompanied camp life.
The winter of 1861-62 in the Virginias was among the worst in living memory at that time. The weather was most bitter high in the mountains where Confederates remained at Camp Allegheny and Union troops occupied Cheat Summit Fort.
Large snowdrifts often trapped Federal soldiers in their cabins on Cheat Mountain. “I now beg and earnestly entreat you,” wrote Indiana Congressman Schuyler Colfax to Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, “to relieve them…from that Siberia to fields where they will have a chance to fight instead of to freeze.”
The Rebels stationed at Camp Allegheny were in a worse situation, as they were not as prepared for the long winter. Men crowded into quickly built and cramped log shelters. Others, still living in tents with crudely constructed fireplaces, would often wake to interiors covered in frost.
“I have seen ice on the barrels of our guns one fourth of an inch thick,” reported Georgian Parson Parker, “I have seen the stoutest men of our regiment wrenching their hands and shedding tears from cold, in short, it’s almost a matter of impossibility to describe the sufferings of our solders on the Alleghany Mountain.”
Successes and failures on both sides had forced fortifications in the Alleghenies to remain manned throughout the winter. All were affected by a general lack of shelter and cold weather supplies. Soldiers suffered from painful frostbite. Snow, ice and mud prevented delivery of needed supplies on the turnpike. When food was in short supply, troops resorted to stealing fodder from the livestock. Periodic thaws would occur, sometimes bringing heavy rainfall that soon turned to ice.
The bitter cold tested the stamina of troops already weak and sick from months of deprivation. Illness, in fact, took many more lives than battles.
In 1861, disease killed 12 times as many men as combat related injuries. Most recruits came from rural areas and had never been exposed to common childhood diseases, often very dangerous later in life. An epidemic of measles had afflicted soldiers at Camp Allegheny. Even minor illnesses were potentially fatal due to inadequate nutrition and shelter.
In the first year and a half of the war, two percent of all Union soldiers died from illness. More poorly equipped and less accustomed to the elements, Confederates lost close to four percent due to illness during the same period. Inadequate medical care also contributed significantly to Confederate losses. Southern soldiers were one and a half times as likely to die of dysentery and diarrhea as their northern counterparts, and almost five times as likely to die from pulmonary diseases.
Colder weather brought more
illnesses, such as colds, coughs, and pneumonia.
When not sick or freezing, boredom abounded. Soldiers attempted to fill the days with menial tasks, drinking, and, subsequently, fights.
The standoff in the mountains across the upper Greenbrier Valley would remain until the spring, when Brig. Gen. Edward Johnson finally withdrew from Camp Allegheny on April 1,1862.
A rift between generals nearly cost the Confederacy one of its most outstanding military leaders early in 1862.
As temperatures cooled and snow fell, military action in the Virginias slowed. Due to the difficulties of traveling and acquiring food this time of year, it was customary practice for soldiers to move into winter quarters and wait for spring.
Maj. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was not so patient. Since taking control of the Valley District in November, 1861, he had hoped to retake the Potomac highlands and much of Western Virginia from the Federals.
Jackson planned to head north from Winchester to capture Bath (Berkeley Springs), Morgan County, cross the river to Hancock in Maryland, and from there move west to Romney, Hampshire County. His ultimate objectives were the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. Worried that the towns might be reinforced at any moment, he felt that no time could be wasted.
The general needed additional troops to accomplish his mission. On December 27, Brig. Gen. William L. Loring arrived in Winchester with his weary brigade. They had endured an arduous march through the mountains from Huntersville, Pocahontas County. The soldiers assumed they would now be able to rest.
Jackson was not sympathetic. Irritated by their delayed arrival, he launched his winter campaign on December 31.
On New Year’s Day, 1862, 8,000 Confederate men started their march north to Bath. The spring-like weather quickly turned cold and snowy. With wagons trailing the troops, soldiers were forced to camp in the bitter cold without food and winter supplies. Troops under Stonewall Jackson approached Union advance guards at the outskirts of the town on January 3.
Jackson ordered Loring to attack Bath. The general, however, ignored the command. Loring and his party had been forced to march through the night and he instead allowed the suffering soldiers, some of whom were freezing to death, to halt and bivouac. The following day Rebel forces entered and occupied Bath, along with nearby Alpine, Great Cacapon, and Sir Johns Run.
Maj. Gen. Jackson departed on January 5 for Hancock, along the way damaging a railroad bridge over the Great Cacapon River and a C&O Canal dam. However a small Confederate force was routed at Hanging Rock Pass, also known as Blue’s Gap, on January 7. Faced with Federal resistance, Jackson abandoned his march to Hancock, and proceeded directly toward Romney.
On January 13, Jackson’s troops reached Romney. Federal troops occupying the town had retreated west, leaving the town in a deplorable condition. The Stonewall Brigade remained in Romney until January 23, when they departed for the greater comforts of Winchester, leaving Brig. Gen. Loring and his brigade to occupy the town.
In less than a month, Jackson
had driven the Federals from the area and destroyed over 100
miles of railroad. However, the significance of this
accomplishment was lost on Loring, who felt his men had been
subjected to undue hardship.
Angry with Jackson for his preferential treatment of his own men and the winter campaign, Loring and his officers circumvented the chain of command and petitioned the central authorities in Richmond to recall them from Romney.
On January 31, Jackson received orders from Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin to recall Loring from Romney. Furious, Jackson penned his resignation.
“With such interference in my command I cannot expect to be of much service in the field; and accordingly respectfully request to be ordered to report for duty to the Superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute …’ Jackson wrote. “Should this application not be granted, I respectfully request that the President will accept my resignation from the Army.”
Maj. Gen. Jackson would later,
at the urging of friends including President Jefferson Davis,
withdraw his resignation. However, he did file seven charges of
insubordination and dereliction of duty against Loring, which
were ignored. Brig. Gen. Loring would ultimately be promoted,
transferred to a different district, and his division
A Federal attack deep behind Confederate lines in the early days of 1862 condemned soldiers to suffer the long, cold winter without needed supplies.
On December 31 U.S. Maj. George Webster and 400 men of the 25th Ohio Infantry marched south from the Randolph County town of Huttonsville to Huntersville in Pocahontas County, acquiring 340 additional soldiers along the way. No other Union force had pushed so deep into enemy territory.
Federals skirmished with Confederates on January 2, 1862 at Marlins Bottom, present day Marlinton, and engaged the Rebels again outside Huntersville.
Huntersville had served as headquarters for the Confederate Army of the Northwest before Brig. Gen. William W. Loring had moved his forces east to assist Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. Loring left 250 men and the militia to protect the town which now served as a supply center and provided access to Warm Springs, Va. and the Shenandoah Valley.
Confederates attempted to remove everything of value from the town before retreating, but did not succeed. Federals seized remaining weapons and goods. Food stuff captured included 350 barrels flour; 150,000 lbs of salted beef; 30,000 lbs of salt; sugar, rice, coffee, and bacon.
The raid on the supply depot strongly weakened Rebel moral. Without provisions, Rebel soldiers withdrew to Warm Springs and Monterey.
Leaving the U.S. flag, “Old Glory,” nailed to the courthouse, Maj. Webster and his troops left for the long march back to Huttonsville. Unable to take loaded wagons over timber barricades at the base or Marlin Mountain, they were forced to abandon confiscated supplies.
The exhausted soldiers reached Huttonsville four days later, having completed a winter march of more than 100 miles in less than six days.
As 1861 came to a close in western Virginia, the Civil War had been characterized by many such small battles and guerilla warfare.
Isolated skirmishes had continued in Gilmer and Hardy Counties. The home guard company known as the Mountain Tigers engaged Federals near the Dry Fork River; Union soldiers occupied modern-day Beckley in Raleigh County.
On December 19, 1861, a secessionist guerilla unit known as the Moccasin Rangers captured the town of Ripley, Jackson County. Led by Daniel Dusky, a 52-year-old farmer and justice of the peace from Calhoun County, the group looted weapons, clothes, and supplies.
The Rangers drew members from Calhoun, Webster, and Braxton counties and had ties to the legendary Confederate spy, Nancy Hart. They had been active around the Little Kanawha River since November, attacking towns and Federal soldiers.
During the war, captured Moccasin Rangers would not be treated as enemy combatants, but instead tried as criminals. Dusky was captured and brought to Wheeling on December 26, along with 34 other prisoners.
The Confederate Army would later add the Rangers as Company A of the 19th Virginia Cavalry Regiment in an attempt to legitimize the group.
On December 20 the first military execution in western Virginia took place in Charleston. Charged with desertion, mutiny, and assault on a fellow officer, Pvt. Richard Gatewood of the 1st Kentucky was killed by a firing squad composed of men from his own regiment.
Confederates drove Federal cavalry out of Sutton, Braxton County, on December 29. The town was highly contested during the war due to its strategic location on important transportation routes. Many soldiers had passed through Sutton, including future president William McKinley. In the absence of their commander, the Confederates set fire to the town. When the captain returned and ordered the fires put out, considerable damage had already been done.
|Entry Title||Date Published|
January 2, 2012
January 16, 2012
January 30, 2012
February 27, 2012
March 30, 2012
April 23, 2012
May 25, 2012
June 25, 2012
July 23, 2012