The Civil War Comes to Charleston
By Roy Bird Cook
Charleston in 1861 was a straggling town of about 1,500 people. The post office was known as Kanawha Court House until 1879. It was the county seat of Kanawha County which at the time had a population of 16,150 people, of which 2,124 were listed as slaves in the census of 1860. The up-river region had a few small villages. At Gauley Bridge the James River and Kanawha Turnpike was joined by the Clarksburg, Weston and Gauley Turnpike, which came in from Clarksburg where thousands of Federal troops were to detrain from the Baltimore and Ohio for the long march over the hills into the Kanawha Valley. Down the river was located Coals Mouth (St. Albans); the important town of Buffalo; and, at the mouth of the Kanawha, the town of Point Pleasant.
The town of Charleston "fronted" on the Kanawha River along which ran the James River and Kanawha "Pike," here known as Front Street. At Clendenin Street, the Point Pleasant or Charleston and Ripley branch of the road left the Kanawha River, turned to the right, crossed "Back Street," now Virginia, and at Ruffners Branch crossed a dilapidated bridge to reach Lovell Street, now Washington. The road then crossed the Elk River by means of a suspension bridge constructed in 1852. This road continued along the foothills to Kanawha Two Mile where it again branched. The boat landing, quite important in that day, was then as now located at the foot of present Summers Street. Lumbering stages and creaking wagons boarded flat barges below here or, if the stage of water permitted, followed the ford across the river, and eventually reached the Ohio River at Guyandotte, by way of Barboursville, then the county seat of Cabell County.
The main business section of Charleston was located along the river front. The streets that ran to the hills back of the town carried names which in many cases have disappeared. Capitol Street known as Cox's Lane, Sixth Street, or Central Avenue, reached lazily across the bottom land, crossed Ruffner Branch, and passed the "Clarkson Place." At the corner of present Capitol and Kanawha stood a two-story brick, with columns reaching to the top of the second floor, which was occupied by a branch of the Bank of Virginia which had been organized in 1832. J. C. McFarland was president and Daniel Hanna was cashier. West of this was Laidley's Drug Store, and on the east corner of Summers and Kanawha Streets stood a pretentious, four-story brick, called the "Kanawha House" owned by McFarland. Below Summers was a number of buildings on both sides of the street, among them the famous Roger's Drug Store, established in 1818. Farther west stood the courthouse and jail, of antique design, both of which figured in the military post known as Camp Norton, in August 1861, when Capt. J. L. Vance, who figures in the story later, had his office in the courthouse.
On Back Street, now Virginia, stood the lovely home of the Brown family, known as "The Elms." To the east on this street was Asbury Chapel of the Methodist Church, and a sawmill. On the corner of present Virginia and Capitol Streets stood the Methodist Church, South, then in use by the army. As if to make a church street out of this early thoroughfare, east and on the north side stood the Presbyterian Church, and at McFarland and Virginia stood St. Johns Episcopal Church. Just east of McFarland, facing Dunbar, stood a rather unique home known as "Elm Grove." It had belonged to the Craik family, earlier allied with the Washingtons, but in 1861 it was the home of Col. George Smith Patton, a distinguished soldier of the Confederacy and grandfather of the late General George Smith Patton of World War II.
At the corner of present Hale and Quarrier Streets stood the barracks used as a guardhouse. Just below that and back of the Presbyterian Church stood the famous Mercer Academy, alma mater of a number of noted people, which was to become a victim of the war.
East of Capitol along Front Street and on out the "pike" stood the homes of the Patricks, Whittekers, Donnallys, Frys, Goshorns, and two unusually beautiful homes called the "Rand House" and the Ruby or McFarland home.
Near present Brooks Street stood the old log building, which as Fort Lee had served not only during the Indian wars, but was the very foundation of the City of Charleston. On east came "Cedar Grove," a Ruffner home, and Rosedale, which had a prominent place in the military operations. Out in the country stood another Ruffner place known as "Holly Grove Mansion." Here Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, and others had been entertained. By these homes and along this road, Wise marched his "Legions" in 1861, when the first Confederate troops came into the valley and moved down the river to engage the Federals in the battle of Scary Creek.
"Charleston is quite a pretty place," observed a writer in the Gallipolis (Ohio) Dispatch, on August 8, 1861. "It is located on the beautiful bottom on the northeast bank of the river and is entirely surrounded by lofty hills. There are many pretty residences but they and the public buildings are built after the old style and have not much pretension to magnificence."
Below the town of Charleston, and west of Elk River, were meadows and swamp lands. Along the rise later known as Edgewood, facing down river, were three fine homes. The first belonged to J. L. Carr. Later, when a smallpox epidemic broke out, this house became a hospital and many soldiers who died then were buried back of the home. To the west stood, and still stands, the fine home of George Summers, known as "Glenwood." In sight of these stood the home of Dr. Spicer Patrick, and from his home a road led off across the bottom to the Kanawha River, at a point known as Patrick's landing. At the junction of the Point Pleasant and Ripley Road, stood the fine Littlepage home, erected in 1841 and still standing.
On the south side of the Kanawha, opposite the town, was located "Willow Bank," the home place of the Quarriers and later the Thayers. On this property, in 1861, and around the mouth of Ferry Branch, were located military camps all through the war. Here were headquarters for Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley, both of whom were to become President of the United States.
Overlooking all the scene and guarding the junction of Elk River with the Kanawha was the hill, used by the Confederates in 1862 and fortified by the Federals in 1863, known as Fort Scammon.
In April 1861, Charleston was in a chaotic condition. Men on every side differed in opinion. They soon found themselves confronted with a sea of gray from the East. Citizens held mass meetings; local military units began to drill and polish up obsolete arms. One company, known as the Kanawha Riflemen, had been organized in 1856. It was commanded by the gallant Captain George S. Patton, a promising young lawyer, who later lost his life at Winchester, in 1864. Dr. John P. Hale organized a battery, and various other units were formed.
I. A. Welch represented Kanawha County in the Virginia Assembly. Dr. Spicer Patrick and George W. Summers were sent to Richmond to the noted Virginia Convention where they voted against secession. Summers, a most able man, asked only that western Virginia be let alone, but this could not be. After their return, Spicer's son took the opposite side from his father, and became a Confederate surgeon.
The Federal government made preparations to send troops from the West to the Ohio River, ready to cross at a moment's notice. The Confederate government, on the other hand, made preparations to oppose this advance. George McClellan arrived in Grafton with the Federal Advance. John McCausland, a young teacher of twenty-four from Virginia Military Institute, a native of the Kanawha Valley, was sent to this section to bring together the local companies that had assembled at Charleston and Buffalo. He was followed by Colonel C. Q. Tompkins, a West Point graduate from Gauley Mount, Gauley Bridge, who was placed in command of the Kanawha Valley.
The Twenty-second and Thirty-sixth Infantry Regiments, part of the Sixtieth, and sections of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Cavalry were formed in the Kanawha Valley for the Confederate service. The Union men, however, were not idle and many enlisted in the Federal Army. The Seventh Cavalry, under John H. Ohley, was especially noted.
Federal troops under General Jacob D. Cox arrived at Gallipolis. Without delay, the Confederates sent Ex-Governor Henry Wise into the Kanawha Valley with forces gathered in the East. Wise, a small thin-lipped, stern man, the "stormy petrel" of the war, rode into Charleston with a staff of twelve men. By July 8, 1861, he had gotten together 2,599 men.
Wise's main camp was established at the Littlepage home at Kanawha Two Mile. It is believed that he at once set about to fortify the junction of the Ripley-Ravenswood road with the Point Pleasant road. Entrenchments were thrown up on the rise back of the Littlepage home, making a fort about one hundred feet square. This so-called fort commanded the roads in both directions, and traces may still be seen. However, in the intervening years locust trees and other vegetation have almost covered it. Fort Fife, named in honor of Captain William Fife of Buffalo, a large landowner and commander of the company from this section, was erected on the heights across Kanawha Two Mile.
Wise had ten pieces of artillery; one, an old iron six-pounder was made at Malden. He stationed 1600 men at Charleston, and sent the remaining ones to "Camp Tompkins," located at the junction of the Winfield road below St. Albans. Wise then believed he could "whip the world."
In the meantime, Cox sent one regiment around by Barboursville, and another by Ripley. With his main command, he moved up the Kanawha River, the trains being sent by road and the men on little steamers that peacefully plowed along the river through the beautiful valley. Arriving at the mouth of Poca River, he prepared to attack the Confederates who had taken up a position along Scary Creek, on the south side of the Kanawha.
The Federals crossed the Kanawha and attacked the Confederates shortly after noon on July 17. Each side had two pieces of artillery on the ground, and an active engagement took place during the afternoon. Neither side gained much advantage until a flanking column which was finally sent around to the rear, was lost. Later, the Federals made a direct charge, crossing the bridge, but Albert G. Jenkins arrived on the scene with a company of cavalry and drove them back. James Welch of Hale's Battery on the Confederate side, was killed. The Federals lost fourteen killed, who were buried in a trench north of the mouth of Scary Creek. After the war, the bodies were moved to the national cemetery at Ironton, Ohio.
On the following day, a flanking party from Cox's Army moved in on Wise and his command at Tyler Mountain. Some Confederates from Camp Tompkins -- part of the body retreating up the river -- had started up stream on the steamer Julia Maffitt. They stopped near present Dunbar to gather wheat. A Federal detachment fired on the boat with artillery. The Confederates set fire to the steamer and rapidly retreated up the south side.
Wise at once brought his command together. After taking up some flooring and attempting to cut a cable on the bridge over Elk River, he moved out of Charleston in the night. On his way out of the valley, he later burned the bridge over Gauley River. Cox moved into Charleston, crossing the Elk by means of barges, and followed Wise for a short distance. Cox and his staff were met by Mayor J. H. Goshorn and some other citizens of Charleston who desired to surrender the town.
In August and September, operations continued around Gauley Bridge. Colonel Guthrie, with the First Kentucky Infantry, was in charge of the Charleston post. After the battle of Carnifex Ferry, on September 10, Major John Casement, with four hundred men of the Seventh Ohio Infantry, left the main command and marched overland by way of the Elk River Valley, to Charleston.
The first tragedy of the war in Charleston took place about this time. An order had been issued stating that no liquor be sold to soldiers. Some of the men of the First Kentucky secured liquor, and wanted still more. They went to a grocery store and demanded beer from an old storekeeper; the merchant refused to sell it, whereupon a few of the soldiers assaulted him. The man's son, who was on the second floor, grabbed a gun and went to the defense of his father. IN the encounter, a soldier was shot in the leg. A captain mounted a platform, made an impassioned speech and an appeal for vengeance, and a sort of trial was held. The next afternoon the boy was loaded in a wagon, taken up present Kanawha Boulevard and hanged. An officer recorded that men turned away in disgust, but that nothing could be done about the matter. This was Charleston's first taste of actual war.
On October 19, Colonel E. B. Tyler arrived in Charleston, assumed command, and established Camp Warren. Soldiers were not allowed on the streets of the town without a pass. This command left Charleston on December 7 for other fields where the fighting was "hotter."
The local post, from this time on, was part of the general command under various men. Sometimes the post was under the command of a brigadier general, such as Scammon or Cox; at other times, it was under the command of a major general, such as Crook. For the major portion of the time, General E. P. Scammon had command, with several regiments who policed about twenty-five counties.
Into this region and into this town, Colonel Joseph Andrew Jackson Lightburn marched his "army" in April 1862, after an uneventful voyage from Ceredo, up the Ohio and the Kanawha.
Military operations in the Valley of the Kanawha around Charleston were now to proceed at an increased tempo. On August 6, Major Hall of the Fourth Infantry with a force of forty-eight men, had an engagement at Beech Creek, in Logan County, with a force of Confederates under Colonel Stratton and Major William Witcher. In the encounter Witcher was killed and several others wounded after which the Confederate force retreated. On the Federal side Major Hall and two privates were killed and several others wounded. Hall's body was returned to Charleston where he was buried but was later moved to Point Pleasant.
In the east larger military operations were shaping up which were to have a decided influence on the local situation. Events leading to the second battle of Bull Run, or Manassas, took place. The capture of a letter book of General Pope's gave the Confederate forces information of proposed Federal operations. The Confederate forces of Robert E. Lee invaded Maryland and threatened the national capital. General Jacob D. Cox, together with half his command in the Charleston-Kanawha region was ordered to move to the eastern theatre. The following order was issued:
Headquarters District of the Kanawha
Gauley Bridge, Va. August 17, 1862
General Orders No. 31
Brig. Gen. J. D. Cox hereby turns over to Col. J. A. J. Lightburn Fourth Virginia Volunteers, the command of this district * * *
Here by a stroke of a pen the tall, handsome, soldier-minister found himself in command of the Fourth and Ninth (West) Virginia Infantry, the Thirty-Fourth and Thirty-Seventh Ohio Vol. Infantry and two companies of the Second (West) Virginia Cavalry. His district included most of Southern West Virginia as well as the Kanawha Valley, his headquarters being at Charleston and Gauley Bridge.
The news of the withdrawal of part of the Federal troops soon came to the attention of General Lee who was informed that only about five thousand troops were left in the Kanawha Valley. On September 6, General W. W. Loring started on his march from Giles Court House (Pearisburg) toward the Kanawha. On September 8th General H. W. Halleck warned Lightburn of the impending invasion and noted that it might be necessary to fall back to Point Pleasant. On the 9th Lightburn wired Halleck suggesting that he be allowed to take up a defense position above Malden, east of Charleston, at the usual head of river navigation.
As events proved Lightburn did not have time to do anything but move "down the road." The Confederate forces moved in rapidly, having been preceded by the expedition under General Jenkins in the north central part of the present state of Virginia. On September 11, Loring and his command attacked the Federal advance post of Fayetteville and while an attempt was made to send assistance to Col. Siber, all outposts were withdrawn to the James River and Kanawha Turnpike and the Federal forces started down the Kanawha Valley.
The retreating Federals blew up the powder magazines at Kanawha Falls and also destroyed other military stores. A number of continual skirmishes took place between the incoming and outgoing forces. In the meantime Jenkins had followed the Staunton and Parkersburg road by Weston in a flanking movement designed to draw attention away from the Kanawha but to entrap the Federal forces. Jenkins finally reached the Ohio River at Ravenswood, crossed into Ohio, recrossed and by way of Ripley made passage over the Kanawha River at Buffalo, in order to harass the Federals from the south side of the river, as the army under Loring came down the river.
The entire military operations were brought on not only to draw attention away from the East but by a dire physical necessity -- that reason being a very salty one. No salt could be secured to preserve meat in the Confederacy and the South was becoming desperate. Little wonder that attention was turned to the Kanawha regions where a short time before, 1,266,000 bushels of salt had been produced in a single year within a few miles of the towns of Charleston and Malden. General Loring commenting on the skirmish at Kanawha Falls, noted that "we took 700 barrels of salt."
The Federal troops moved down the Kanawha Valley in two divisions, one on each side of the river. Col. Siber arrived with the 37th Ohio at Brownstown (Marmet) on the morning of the 12th and here crossed the Kanawha to Camp Piatt, (Belle) where his troops joined the other wing directly under Lightburn. In the meantime the Second Brigade with Col. Samuel Gilbert of the 44th Ohio, moved down on the North side of the river arriving at Camp Piatt about 4 p.m. in a rainstorm. Four companies of the 4th Infantry were stationed at the mouth of Witchers Creek, with an outpost of cavalry. The operation served to protect the crossing of Siver's regiment and also to hold back the advance guard of the Confederates.
About 2 a.m. the morning of Saturday the 13th Gilbert's brigade moved through Charleston, crossed Elk River and took a position on the west side. Col. L. S. Elliott with a Federal detachment took position near the narrows just above Charleston but was later driven back by Col. John McCausland, with Col. Patton's 22nd, Virginia and the advance of Lt. Col. Clarence Derrick with the 23rd Virginia Battalion. A spirited engagement taking place in what is now the area around the Capital of West Virginia. The infantry of the Confederate was strongly supported by Chapman's Battery of two pieces stationed on the side of the hill back of town. About 11:30 a.m. the Federals under Elliott withdrew to the center of town, their rear being protected by a battery of small Howitzers commanded by Lieut. Fischer of the 47th Ohio.
At the same time some Federal infantry fell back along the south side of the Kanawha being driven in by the advancing Confederates under Generals John Williams and John Echols. Lightburn who had taken up headquarters at the Joel Ruffner home place on present Kanawha Boulevard (1536), had in the meantime notified civilians to get out of town. Some sought refuge on Cox's Hill (Cemetery Hill) but soon found that they were under fire from both sides, as the advancing Confederates soon occupied the higher level.
In the rear of the Ruffner home stood a log barn near a rail fence. The Federals attempted to throw up some defense with the rails, moved up a smooth bore cannon and attempted to reply to the intense firing of a Parrott gun, and that of Otey's and Bryan's Batteries, stationed along the river bank just below the present Morris Harvey campus. One shell cut down a six-inch locust tree; another passed through the roof of the Ruby House and landed near present Morris and Quarrier Streets, damaging the Rand garden. It seems clear here that the Southern gunners soon realized they were firing on "Friends" and moved the batteries down the south bank of the river, but Confederate batteries from higher points were soon playing havoc with the business section of the town.
About 3 p.m. Capt. H. T. Stanton and three men secured a boat, crossed the Kanawha and captured the garrison flag. By this time the Federals were leaving town and General Loring in person, arrived in "downtown" Charleston.
The scene of the battle of Charleston from the Federal side after 3 p.m. shifted to the west side of the Elk River. Lightburn had, in the meantime, set up as rapidly as possible his plan of defense. This in general involved the prevention of the crossing of Elk River by the Confederates and to provide opportunity for a wagon train of over 700 wagons to move toward Ripley, Ravenswood and Point Pleasant. In this operation an attempt was made to defend the west bank of the Elk and the Kanawha below the junction of the two rivers. The 9th (West) Virginia Infantry was placed along the Elk River bank, west side just above the mouth, with breastworks of logs from a local mill being thrown up hurriedly. The 34th Ohio Vol. Infantry took a position along what is now lower Kanawha Boulevard, facing the Kanawha River. With the suspension bridge and the main "turnpike" as a center the 4th (West) Virginia Infantry and the 37th Ohio Vol. Infantry took up positions on both sides of the road along Elk River. In the center of present West Charleston was a barn where the companies from the 2nd (West) Virginia Cavalry took their position. The two smooth bore guns from Col. Siber's battery of four mounted Howitzers took position on the Watts Hill. In the meantime the fighting in the main town continued.
Thomas H. Barton, later a physician, who was with the Regiment set down an account of the battle as he saw it:
On the morning of the same day (13) Surgeon Ackley met us at Brownstown, where he procured a small flat boat on which were placed our provisions and hospital supplies. He also brought with him a squad of hospital attendants to assist in taking our supplies to Charleston. The surgeon labored like a private soldier. The river was very shallow and for ten miles we had the laborious task of rowing and pushing the boat along. We reached Charleston about noon and six or seven of the hospital attendants were detailed to take the boat and cargo to Point Pleasant. Intense excitement prevailed in the city. The streets were thronged with people many of whom were preparing to follow our army or leave the town for they feared the battle of Charleston was about to be fought over their heads. All of the government property for which there was transportation was now placed on a train (of wagons) and about two in the afternoon started in advance for Ravenswood on the Ohio River. About one o'clock Col. Lightburn crossed Elk River and the torch was applied to the government buildings containing the stores that could not be moved. The Confederates opened the engagement from a battery on the hill south of Charleston, our battery replying * * * soon after the first gun was fired smoke was seen about a mile down the Kanawha. That was the boat carrying supplies.
Col. Vance with the Fourth (West) Virginia located above present west Washington Street on the west side of Elk River endeavored to protect the remaining Federals until they could cross the river. After Col. August Perry with the Forty-Seventh Ohio and Col. Sibert with the Thirty-Seventh Ohio had crossed Elk bringing up the rear, the cables on the west end of the suspension bridge were cut permitting the end of it to fall. In the meantime the Confederate artillery had reached the heights of present Fort Hill, which in 1863 became Fort Scammon. The staff of General J. S. Williams took up positions here.
The true story may never be known but in the next move between two and three p.m. the Confederates started firing "red hot" projectiles. Some passed within twelve feet of the 34th Ohio who began a retreat across the west side meadows to the "pike." One shot tore up a fence and another hit the barn mentioned before and set it on fire. The artillery on both sides kept up an unusually fierce bombardment, considering the number of guns engaged, mingled of course with continual infantry firing. Artillery kept on firing until five o'clock and the infantry engagement kept up until darkness came. In the engagement the Confederates had eighteen killed and eighty-one wounded; from Lightburn's command twenty-five were killed and ninety-five wounded and 190 were missing. During the afternoon the town suffered terrific loss from fire. The Methodist Church, South, used as a quartermaster's store, the Branch Bank of Virginia, the widely known Kanawha House, Brooks and Whittekers stores, and the famous Mercer Academy all went up in flames. Also several warehouses and cavalry barns were destroyed.
The evening of the 13th found Lightburn and a huge supply train on their way to the Ohio River. He had moved his troops, kept up a continual skirmish for fifty miles, fought one battle and saved over a million dollars worth of supplies. He had faced a superior force and marched his men over a hundred miles. The broken army reached Ravenswood then moved to Point Pleasant by boat. Lightburn's Retreat is one of the high points of the war in the Kanawha Valley and is still studied by arm chair military strategists.
Arriving at Point Pleasant by the 17th, Lightburn wrote out his version of the whole operation, a long detailed excellent report, the original of which is in the records on file in our State Archives.
One would have expected General Loring and his Confederate troops to move on down the Great Kanawha in an endeavor to take over the position at Point Pleasant. Loring, however, did not press his advantage and was satisfied to consolidate his gains by occupying the town of Charleston. His local operations were of great interest to the civilian sympathizers on both sides.
Down at Coals Mouth, a young woman, Victoria Hansford Teays, took in the local happenings and later recorded it in a diary. On the morning of the 13th of September wrote, "My father said I am sure I hear cannon." This was true as the sound carried easily twelve miles. A woman ran to the Teays home to tell them to come to the mouth of Coal River that everything from Charleston was "on retreat." "Such a sight I never saw before or expect to see again," Miss Teays continued, "the river as far as you could see up and down was full of boats of all kinds and when I say the river was full of boats I mean just what I say. A person could almost have crossed the river by jumping from one boat to another." This was Lightburn's retreat. On the north side of the river the road was black with wagons and citizens going down the river in front of the army. But being a "southern lady" she noted: "That all this time the cannonading was going on it was music to us."
On the other hand, Sarah Frances Young, down the Winfield road was not quite so happy about the matter. On September 14th she wrote in her diary, "Oh such bad news. We heard the Rebels were coming into the Valley with such a superior force the Federals could not drive them back and that the Union families are moving down the river fast." The next day, September 15, she continued: "We heard today that the Rebels had possession of Charleston and Pa has moved down the river somewhere." "Pa" in this case was Captain John Valley Young, widely known Captain of Company G-13th Regiment, (W.) Volunteers. He had been in command at the mouth of Coal River but joined the army movement down the river where he wrote on October 6th from Point Pleasant: "We got here without any difficulty by twenty-four hours march, the Rebels at our heels."
The occupation of Charleston was a homecoming to many of the men in the Confederate Army. Col. George Smith Patton, of the 22nd Virginia, again joined his family for a short time. Col. John McCausland, of the 36th was near his old home near Buffalo. One of the gunners in Bryan's Battery was none other than the noted Milton Humphreys educated at Mercer Academy, but fate held him up at Gauley Bridge on the day of the battle. He it was, who later, first used indirect firing of artillery near Fayetteville. Captain R. Q. Laidley, of the 22nd Virginia was back home, as was Captain McFarland, brother of the town's leading banker. General Loring, on September 22nd, wrote a message to George Randolph, Secretary of War, for the Confederacy, that he was sending some flags captured at Charleston, Gauley Bridge and Fayetteville as war trophies. In the old Whitteker home, the Confederates found a flag that had been made by the ladies of Charleston, in 1861 for the famous Kanawha Riflemen. Otey, Bryan, and Stamp lined up their batteries and for the time being the guns were silenced.
The next move on the part of the Confederate command, seems to have been to seize the printing plant of the local newspaper, of which John Rundle was or had been the editor. This it seems clear was the plant of the Kanawha Valley Star. In a few hours a long proclamation had been printed as a broadside and posted in the courthouse and other public places not seared by the destruction of fire and war.
Signed by General Loring, the long statement affirmed that the Southern Army did not intend to punish those who remained at home as quiet citizens but promised to do otherwise with those who followed the Wheeling restored government.
In addition to the several proclamations and general orders which the citizens soon received, a daily paper also appeared -- the first daily of record in Charleston. This proclamation as well as several General Orders were issued as broadsides and also printed in The Guerilla. The proclamation is rare -- in recent years it has been counterfeited and sold to collectors. See also Pictorial History of Confederacy. It was known as The Guerilla and carried this motto: "Devoted to Southern Rights and Institutions." Evidently the first copy appeared on Saturday, Sept. 29th, and states that it is published every afternoon by the Associated Printers." The printers must have been found among the Confederate forces. The price was ten cents. Little local news appears, and a statement was made that due to interruption of the mail no news was available from the East. General Loring issued an order that all persons coming into town report to Major Thomas Smith, Provost Marshal. A meeting was called of all salt producers, it was hoped that an agreeable price could be arrived at to be paid for in Confederate money, of course. Local men were urged to join a proposed "Flying Battery" to serve under General Jenkins. One hundred teamsters were needed and they were promised good wages and rations. The quartermaster also needed blacksmiths and wheelwrights.
The last number of The Guerilla located discloses that Major L. Gounart had lost his watch at the Goshorn Hotel and a reward of $100.00 was offered for its return. David Goshorn inserted an advertisement for two weeks offering to buy ginseng, beeswax, and fur. This issue also carried General Loring's proclamation of September 14th. It is possible that this was printed in each issue, but enough copies have not been located to draw this conclusion.
Loring had some success at first in securing recruits and supplies. Trains of wagons loaded with salt from Snow Hill and Malden started back to southwest Virginia, over the Giles Turnpike. In his report, however, Loring recorded:
The march of near one hundred and fifty miles and the detailing of forces to guard captured stores in the rear caused such abatement and exhaustion of my command as to compell me to halt at Charleston. This place too, being the point of departure of many later roads, in any event is necessary to be held.
Some rumors were heard that the Federals were coming back. To Richmond went complaints from citizens not only as to the handling of matters by Loring, but also of General John Floyd's command in Logan and Boone counties. General Jenkins ventured to a point near Buffalo where he contacted the Federals on September 27th.
On September 24th Loring issued another "General Order" printed in the local printing office, which was as follows:
Department of Western Virginia
Charleston, Va. Sept. 24, 1862
General Order, No.
The money issued by the Confederate Government is secure, and is receivable in payment of public dues, and convertable into 8 per cent bonds. Citizens owe it to the country to receive it in trade; and it will therefore be regarded as good in payment for supplies purchased by the army.
Persons engaged in trade are invited to resume their business and open their stores.
By command of
Major Gen. Loring
Chief of Staff
No doubt some of the relatives of Henry Fitzhugh, the above mentioned Chief of Staff and member of a prominent local family, took some interest in such proclamations, but the citizens as a rule did not. The town as such was not accustomed to war and citizens were bitter about the existing conditions. Something of the situation can be gleaned from the letters and papers of J. C. McFarland, head of the Branch Bank of Virginia and owner of the Kanawha House. On December 2nd he wrote to a Mason Campbell, former newspaper man of Charleston, then living in Washington:
You are doubtless aware of the sad destruction of property here on the advent of the Southern forces on the 13th of Sept. . . . . The Federals on their retreat set fire to their large commissary warehouse, the fire taking in its range the Bank of Virginia Building, the Kanawha House, William A. Whitteker's large store, the warehouse, Southern Methodist Church, Academy, etc., myself being by far the greatest sufferer. The walls of the Kanawha House present a ghastly appearance. In the former building but very little and in the latter not a particle of furniture was saved.
The battle raging in town, the men, women and children fled to the adjacent hills and finally above Coal Branch on Elk River. . . . . The loss of my private library, my books of account, Niles Register complete, all my papers, records, precious memorials the gatherings of the last 49 years of my life -- was most deeply felt. They were all put up and neatly arranged in the office in the bank. I saved most of the valuables of the bank as they were in the vault which was fireproof.
Writing to Indiana Hornbook of Wheeling, January 5, 1863, McFarland recounted that the "Federal troops set fire to their warehouses and the Bank and the Kanawha House and others in the center of town were burnt thereby. By the coming of the Confederates two things were accomplished, viz the getting of several thousand barrels of salt and the marriage of two young girls in town." So romance and war moved hand in hand -- then as now. On March 17, 1863, still writing of the troubled days, he remarked that not a fence was standing, there were 100 teams in the streets, sidewalks were ruined. The Branch Bank of Virginia and the Kanawha House had occupied an entire block, but a big wind had blown down the fire-ruined walls of the hotel and all was one mass of rubble. The Presbyterian Church alone stood intact, but McFarland complained that its lecture room was being used for a kitchen for teamsters and, "our village presents a most forlorn and desolate appearance." Later in the summer, he wrote Governor Boreman that, "During all this period the Kanawha Valley has been in the occupancy of alternating armed forces. In September 1862, at the period of Lightburn's retreat, the banking house with its furniture and contents except those within the vaults were destroyed by fire."
The year 1863 opened with the new state of West Virginia in formation. Brigadier General Eliakin Parker Scammon was in command at Charleston with 7,001 men and sixteen larger guns. During this month the old command of Scammon, then under Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes, moved from Gauley Bridge to Charleston. The noted Twenty-third Ohio Infantry was with this division. Camps were established on the bottom lands across the mouth of Ferry Branch, and near the Littlepage home on the lower west side. The upper camp was named Camp White in honor of Colonel Carr B. White, the popular commander of the Twelfth Ohio Infantry.
Little happened to vary the monotony of camp life. Colonel Hayes wrote: "This is a beautiful valley from Piatt down. Make West Virginia a free state, and Charleston ought to be a sort of Pittsburgh." One day, Colonel Hayes, his brother-in-law, Dr. Webb, and a young Lieutenant William McKinley, rode out the Davis Creek road. Hayes wrote of McKinley: "He was an exceedingly bright and intelligent and gentlemanly young officer; he promises to be one of the best." And these promises were kept. In 1898, the sons of the Blue and Gray gathered in Charleston to carry out the commands of this young lieutenant, who had then become President of the United States.
In April, General Jenkins stirred up a little trouble at Hurricane bridge. A short time after this, Hayes rented a little cottage belonging to the Quarriers and brought his family to Charleston. While the family was here, a small son died, causing great gloom in the camp.
During May attention was turned to fortifying the position. A good-sized fort, known as Fort Scammon, was completed on what is now Fort Hill. It provided emplacements for twelve guns, with an ammunition magazine in the center. Several hundred yards down the face of the hill there was another set of entrenchments where four pieces of artillery were mounted.
A big celebration was held on the Fourth of July. News of the fall of Vicksburg came in. The batteries in Fort Scammon saluted, probably the only time the guns were fired from that position. On July 16, news reached Charleston that John Morgan was making a raid through Ohio and would come into the Kanawha Valley by way of the ford at Ravenswood. Consternation set in. Local Federals were sent to the scene where they captured a large number of prisoners. Morgan had moved on to another place. It is said that about 100,000 men were required to capture the elusive Morgan, who later escaped after he was placed in the Ohio Penitentiary.
In October, General B. F. Kelley rode in Charleston to review the local troops. The command under Hayes moved to the East. In November, a call for help came from Droop Mountain where the Confederates made their last stand in West Virginia in a battle waged almost entirely by West Virginians. Troops moved out of Charleston, but they arrived in Lewisburg after the Confederates had passed through the town.
By the opening of the year 1864 the counties in West Virginia had begun to function. Colonel J. Milton Ferguson, of the Confederate Army, attempted to break up the organization of Putnam County. This called for action on the part of the men at Charleston, and General Scammon made a trip from Charleston to Point Pleasant. The boat on which Scammon and his staff were returning to Charleston was boarded by the Confederates at Red House Shoals on February 3. Scammon was captured and taken to Charleston, South Carolina instead of Charleston, West Virginia. The boat, with about $100,000 worth of supplies, was burned. Scammon was held in high esteem by Charleston people. The Confederates respected him so much because of his fair treatment that they paroled him and sent him to Washington to make an exchange.
In July 1864, General Hunter and his army came into Charleston on their way out from the noted raid in the Valley of Virginia. He was not received with great acclaim by supporters of either side, but there was a battery with the command that camped here which achieved considerable distinction on account of the actions of the young commander, Henry A. duPont. He did not agree with the campaign of destruction, and due to his entreaties the "famous old hotel at White Sulphur was not burned." Little did he know as he rode down the road by present Belle, and paused at Camp Piatt -- while a struggling mass of men, horses, wagons and field pieces passed by -- that his family should some day come to that very spot in connection with the development of the chemical industry today.
After Hunter's army left for Parkersburg, matters drifted slowly until that April day when news flashed in over a little single telegraph line that Lee had surrendered. General John H. Ohley was placed in command of the district, and he disbanded his famous Seventh West Virginia Cavalry and other Federal organizations. Through his office passed almost 5,000 men who had fought for the cause they loved and lost. Men on both sides then set to work to build on the embers of the old, a new State, and by 1872 the men who had worn the Blue and the men who had worn the Gray were working hand in hand to establish, on a firm basis, the state of West Virginia.
1. This paper was read before the West Virginia Historical Society in annual session at Charleston on October 7, 1961. Dr. Cook passed away on November 21, 1961.
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