The Sutton Expedition
January 20, 1862
The Sutton Expedition
Perhaps before this reaches you, you may have received a grandiloquent account of the Sutton expedition, as there seems to be a disposition in certain quarters to glorify some parties connected with it, to the disparagement of others. I propose therefore, to give you a matter-of-fact statement of the whole affair, in doing which I will "noting extenuate nor set down aught in malice."
It is well known that a few days before the close of the last year, a force of secessionists attacked Sutton; and, after some fighting (in which no body got hurt) drove away a company of Cavalry, belonging to the First Virginia Regiment, (Col. Anisansel's) and burned a considerable portion of the town. It now appears that the attacking force was a party of Bushwackers, about one hundred (or less) strong, that the Cavalry company was without a suitable commander; the Captain and 1st Lieutenant being at the time in Weston Lewis County; and there were no arrangements whatever to prevent a surprise of the camp. The attack was made in the morning, and before night the Cavalry men were in Weston.
The news of the burning of Sutton spread alarm through the country. Every item was exaggerated, and the most urgent appeals were made for forces to repel the invaders and thus protect other towns which were exposed. On the 31st of December orders were received by Col. Hewes, of the 3rd Regement [sic] Va. Vol. Infantry, to send or take forward three or four companies, to Sutton and recapture that place, [sic]
This order was issued by Gen. Milroy. The Colonel made arrangements to obey it forthwith; but while the few preparations were in progress another order was received, coming from Gen. Rosecrans, directing that two or three companies of the 3d Virginia infantry should be sent forward to join a similar number of the 1st Virginia cavalry, under command of Col. Anisansel. Accordingly on New Year's day, two hundred men, who volunteered from companies B, I, I and K, were put under command of Capt. Purdy and proceeded towards Bulltown, near which they joined the above cavalry and a company of Col. Harris' regiment, under Capt. Darnall, next day. On the 3d inst. the column came near the town, early in the afternoon, the usual order of marching being reversed, as the infantry were in front. When within two or three miles of the place the forces were divided, Capt. Purdy taking about one hundred and fifty of his men and deployed to the right, so as to come on the rear of the fortifications, which were said to be manned by about seven or eight hundred of the enemy. The balance of the troops keept [sic] the road, the infantry still a long way in front, until they had passed the point where a fire from the breastworks would have assailed them, when the cavalry came dashing forward with a flourish of trumpets and rushed unharmed, of course, into the town, for the rebels had incontinently fled as soon as their incendiary work was done, and not one had been seen in the place for two or three days.
The troops rested on the 4th. On the 5th, Col. Anisansel sent out a scouting party, consisting of one hundred cavalry and the same number of infantry, to scout the "Nicholas Glades," in Webster county.
The other parties - those sent to the Glades - were resolved not to be idle. They passed through the country like a basom of destruction, burning houses, killing men, and capturing property. No doubt they killed some arrant scoundrels, and destroyed some hideous dens of iniquity, that had harbored many a bushwhacking rebel. But of course they had no time to determine nice points of ethics or other dry casuistry; and hence they perhaps killed some poor creatures who were running for terror, rather than guilt; and possibly they left squalid, shoeless children, (most of the children in that country are shoeless,) and helpless, innocent women, without shelter for the rest of the winter.
A large amount of the stores stolen by the rebels were re-captured, and other property taken, sufficient to recompense for the property destroyed by them. It is believed that the Sutton forces killed sixteen men, and a party of Ohio boys from Summersville killed six more; in all twenty- two.
Camden, brother of the judge of that name, and also a secesh, the rebel par excellence of that country, and who above all should have been killed, was not only spared by special interdiction, but was even cared for to such an extent that he was moved to Weston, to preserve his precious life from further danger.
WESTON, January, 1862