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(A copyrighted publication of West Virginia Archives and History)

The Civil War Record of Albert Gallatin Jenkins, C. S. A.

By Flora Smith Johnson

Volume 8, Number 4 (July 1947), pp. 392-404


Albert Gallatin Jenkins was born November 10, 1830, on the plantation at Greenbottom1 which his father, William Jenkins, had owned and occupied since 1825. Between the ages of fourteen and eighteen he attended Jefferson College, at Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. After his graduation there in 1848 he entered upon the study of law at Harvard University, and in 1850 was admitted to the bar. In 1856, he went as a delegate to the National Democratic Convention held in Cincinnati, and from 1857 to 1861 he represented his district in the 36th and 37th Congresses. In April 1861, he resigned his seat in Congress, feeling impelled to ally himself at once with the Confederate cause.2

Jenkins performed illustrious services as a leader of cavalry in the border warfare that was waged in Western Virginia. An English writer regarded him as a romantic border chieftain, who had led his people in swift and inexplicable forays to wrest their freedom from an invader.3

His military experience was attended by fitting recognition and promotion. The Confederate high command called him to assist in carrying out their purposes in other theaters of war, on one occasion choosing him above all other Confederate cavalrymen for a service of major importance. The following paragraphs will attempt to trace the trend of this man's Civil War career, to give an account of some of his exploits, to present an estimate of his character as a soldier, and as an implement in the Confederate cause.

II. 1861

After leaving Washington, Jenkins returned to his home at Greenbottom where, on April 20, 1861, he was elected captain of a company composed of a hundred and one riflemen from Cabell and Mason counties. Jenkins converted the members of his company into cavalrymen and gave them the name of Border Rangers. On May 29, 1861, they were sworn in as Confederate soldiers.4

Jenkins immediately identified himself with the Virginia forces who were fighting to defend the Kanawha Valley. In the latter part of June he advanced from Charleston to Point Pleasant with a party of fifty men. There he captured several prominent citizens who had been active in the movement for the partition of the state. Colonel J. S. Norton of the First Regiment of Ohio State Troops, at Gallipolis, crossed the river and made an attempt to overtake Jenkins. Having failed in this, the Ohio officer ordered his men to make a thorough search for Secessionists. The Ohioans found thirty of these whom they held as hostages. This raid brought Jenkins to the attention of the public.5

On June 17, at the battle of Scary Creek, near St. Albans, the action of Jenkins made possible a victory which was the first success for the Southerners in an open fight, and did much to restore their confidence. Colonel George S. Patton of the Twenty-second Virginia Infantry tried to defend his position on Scary Creek against superior numbers and equipment. With the wounding of Patton, panic seized the Virginians, and many of them fell back. Jenkins and others restored order, but shortly afterward a second panic succeeded. At that point Jenkins himself took command, a rally followed, and the Federals were driven back and forced to recross the Kanawha River.6

After the battle of Scary, Jenkins was made Colonel of the Eighth Virginia Regiment of which his original command, the Border Rangers, became Company E.7

On August 25, 1861, Jenkin's cavalry was defeated at Hawk's Nest, near Piggot's Mill, by an infantry ambuscade. This was the result of his "incautiously advancing" and replacing the guards of General Henry A. Wise, who was taking every precaution for the defense of his lines. By this act of interference Jenkins unnecessarily imperiled his men, several of whom were wounded.8

On the night of November 10, 1861, Jenkins with seven hundred men made a swift surprise attack upon the Regiment of Ninth Virginia Infantry, then in process of formation at Guyandotte.9 Of the one hundred and fifty at that time comprising the body, only those escaped who fled or concealed themselves at the outset, and Jenkins captured all their papers, books, and rolls. The next morning the steamboat Boston came up from Portsmouth, Ohio, bringing two hundred of the Fifth Virginia Regiment. These soldiers turned the cannon upon the town and afterward burned the most valuable property in Guyandotte.10 From there the Jenkins command went into winter-quarters at the camp meeting ground in Russell County, Virginia.11

By this time Jenkins had reduced the territory lying between the Guyandotte and Big Sandy rivers to a state of anarchy. In December 1861 a petition, drawn up at Wheeling and signed by Governor Francis H. Pierpont, requested Abraham Lincoln to send a strong official who would be capable of stamping out rebellion in that region. The petition informed the President that it was through the highways of the Guyandotte and Big Sandy River valleys that the Confederates had from the beginning transported supplies to their armies.12 Also in December 1861, Jenkins was endorsed for the commission of brigadier general.13

II. 1862

While serving thus as a soldier in his native borderland, Jenkins had been elected to represent the Fourteenth Virginia Congressional District in the first Congress of Confederate States. He served as Congressman only from the opening date, February 18, 1862, until August 6, 1862, for at that time he was issued the commission of brigadier general and sent back to the battlefield.14

In August and September 1862, Jenkins performed his most brilliant military exploit, a raid into West[ern] Virginia and Ohio. Major General William W. Loring, commanding Department of Western Virginia, sent him out with about five hundred and fifty cavalrymen with orders to sweep around the northwest by the Cheat Valley, destroy the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and fall upon the rear of the enemy in the Kanawha Valley, about September 8.

Jenkins left the Salt Sulphur Springs in Monroe County August 22, marched through the Great Sewell settlement of Pocahontas County, over the mountain, and down the headwaters of the Tygart's River Valley. He had expected to surprise Beverly, but upon hearing that it had been heavily reinforced, decided not to make the attack. Crossing Rich Mountain by a trail leading through thirty miles of wilderness, Jenkins finally emerged from the fastness and entered the Buckhannon River Valley. The home guards of that region fired upon him constantly, but he drew near to Buckhannon and, by a skillful arrangement of his cavalry, defeated his enemy and took possession of the town.

At Buckhannon Jenkins equipped his men with valuable rifles and other supplies from the stores he captured and then destroyed the remainder, including five thousand stand of arms, and ordnance stores and clothing in large quantities. At Weston the next morning, August 31, the Sixth West Virginia Regiment escaped in the fog, leaving only a few men. Jenkins destroyed all the public property in Weston and marched on to Glenville, from which he drove the Federal guard with a single round of fire.

On September 2, at Spencer Court House he surprised and captured Colonel J. C. Rathbone and his entire command, the Eleventh West Virginia Regiment. Jenkins paroled his prisoners and rode on to Ripley. There he found a defenseless paymaster from whom he took funds to the amount of $5,525. Moving on to Ravenswood, he rested his men there, and on the evening of September 4 forded the Ohio and set up the flag of the Confederate government on Ohio soil. On a march of some distance in Ohio, Jenkins took pride in treating the citizens with consideration. He captured Racine and there recrossed the river.

General Loring pronounced this expedition a great success. He said that Jenkins had executed all but the destruction of the railroad in the time required, had marched five hundred miles, mostly within hostile lines, and had accomplished these things: Capture and parole of three hundred prisoners of war; a thousand enemy casualties; reclamation of forty thousand square miles of territory for the Confederate government; destruction of many home guard garrisons and the records of the Wheeling and Federal governments in many counties; seizure of many valuable arms for his men, and destruction of five thousand stands of small arms, one piece of cannon, and immense stores; an advance of not less than twenty miles through the State of Ohio, in which his policy of humane warfare won many friends for the Confederacy; weakening of the hold of the Federals by arriving on time in their rear.15

After his expulsion from the Kanawha Valley on October 31, 1862, Jenkins was assigned to work in Greenbrier, Pocahontas, and Nicholas counties.16 In December 1862, at the request of General Lee, he left the Department of Western Virginia and reported for duty in the Shenandoah Valley. There in the winter of 1862-63, Jenkins and others constituted the "Valley Defenses." During the winter of 1862-63 Jenkins also had charge of finding foraging places in Virginia and North Carolina for the horses and mules of that department. Moreover, he established a line of couriers between the Valley and General Lee's headquarters, and guarded the passes of the mountains.17

IV. 1863 and 1864

On March 18, 1863, Jenkins started with a part of his brigade on another raid across Western Virginia. At Hurricane Bridge, now Hurricane, March 27, he arrogantly ordered the Union guard to surrender. A fight of five hours' duration came to an end with the sullen withdrawal of Jenkins and his men. On March 30, 1863, he surprised the garrison at Point Pleasant. Although he succeeded in driving these men into the courthouse there, he lacked equipment adequate to dislodge them. After a few hours Jenkins retired and crossed the Kanawha River.18

In June 1863, he was called to the Shenandoah Valley at the opening of the Gettysburg campaign and assigned to cooperate in a plan made by Major General R. E. Rodes as follows: Simultaneous attack on Winchester and Berryville; the subsequent attack on Martinsburg; the immediate entrance into Maryland, by way of Williamsport. Rode's division was to attack and seize Berryville, then to advance on Martinsburg and move on into Maryland. Other divisions were to attack and reduce Winchester. At Berryville, Jenkins drove in the cavalry, but the artillery held his brigade at bay; he demanded the surrender of Martinsburg, June 14, 1863, but the Federals held him in check for several hours before retreating. The fall of Martinsburg cleared the Shenandoah Valley of United States forces.

On June 16, 17, and 18, 1863, Jenkin's cavalry helped the quartermasters and commissaries to obtain supplies for their departments. Although he had been carefully instructed about transacting this business by regular purchases, Jenkins did not require his men to account for large numbers of horses which they seized and kept.19

Thus Jenkins led the way into Pennsylvania.20 Arriving at Greencastle, he took up his residence at the home of the editor of the Repository, in whose clover fields he pastured his horses.21 Next he occupied Chambersburg which he had been ordered to hold until the arrival of the Rodes division. But upon hearing of the approach of Federals in superior numbers, Jenkins promptly withdrew, leaving supplies that would have been highly valuable to the Southern troops. Reoccupying Chambersburg, June 22, he found that the coveted stores had been removed or concealed after his departure. On June 27, his cavalrymen were at Carlisle; and before the concentration at Gettysburg, they had reached Harrisburg, where Jenkins had made a reconnaissance of defenses with a view to an attack by Rodes.22

Jenkins was wounded on July 2 in the battle of Gettysburg. His brigade was taken by Colonel M. J. Ferguson and commanded temporarily by him.23 In the organization of the Army of Northern Virginia for the battle the Jenkins brigade is listed as included in the division of Major General J. E. B. Stuart, and as consisting of the Fourteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Regiments, and the Thirty-fourth and Thirty-sixth Virginia Battalions.24 The loss of killed, wounded, or missing, is not of record.25 General Rodes mentioned Jenkins as one of nine Confederates who had won distinction in the Gettysburg campaign.26

General Lee stated that the members of the Jenkins command were affected by a spirit of localism. In presenting a reorganization plan for the cavalry, Lee said he had not separated these men, since they claimed to have been raised for special service in Western Virginia.27 It was late in the fall of 1863 before Jenkins had recovered, and in the meantime his brigade had been on detached service in the Department of Western Virginia and Tennessee.

In 1864, Jenkins was again at his mountain work in the Department of Western Virginia. On February 11, he was organizing a large cavalry corps to be used in Western Virginia in the coming spring.28 On February 21, he was at Callahan's Station with five thousand men. On February 24, Jenkins and others had a command of seven thousand at Franklin in Pendleton County.29

By the month of May 1864, Jenkins had been appointed Commander of the Department of Western Virginia with headquarters at Dublin. Upon hearing that Brigadier General George Crook, commanding Second Infantry Division, Department of West Virginia, had advanced from the Kanawha Valley, with overwhelming numbers, Jenkins took up a position five miles from Dublin, on Cloyd's Mountain. The battle known by that name, a bloody defeat for the Confederates was one of the principal events in a Federal expedition against the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad made between May 2 and May 19, 1864.

The fighting began early in the morning of May 9. Crook found that the Southerners had settled upon a wooded spur, three quarters of a mile beyond the summit of the mountain. The Second Brigade engaged the forces of Jenkins. Crook then ordered a charge of the First and Third Brigades across an intervening meadow. As they charged, the Confederates fired heavily upon them, throwing part of the Third into temporary disorder.

Crook's men arrived at the foot of the spur upon which Jenkins had stationed his troops the preceding day. Moving steadily upward and approaching the formidable breastworks on the crest, the Federals rushed upon Jenkin's men, put them to rout, and killed and wounded them in great numbers.30 Jenkins himself fell, seriously wounded, and was captured.

Colonel John S. McCausland who had delayed departure from Dublin in order to join his forces with those of Jenkins for the battle, then took charge and effected an orderly retreat. Jenkins died on May 24, 1864 at Dublin. On May 27, McCausland was given the commission of brigadier general and assigned to command the Jenkins brigade.31


General Jenkins, then, accomplished much for the Confederate fortunes in Western Virginia, both by arduous mountain marches and by raids and forays that served to demoralize the enemy in strategic regions. He was prominent both in the campaign for the Kanawha Valley and in the attempt to destroy the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. By reason of his success, he reached the position of commanding officer of his department. He played a vital part in the Shenandoah Valley campaign and assisted materially in the invasion of Pennsylvania. He was a brilliant, brave, and clement leader, who exemplified the highest ideals of the proverbial Confederate cavalryman.


1. Major Achilles James Tynes wrote on May 24, 1864:

No more on his proud steed shall he sweep o'er the plains, cheering by his ringing voice and flashing eye his struggling cavaliers to deeds of daring, breasting with the foremost the storm of battle.

2. Major S. M. Gaines wrote on June 14, 1923 to Miss Margaret Virginia Jenkins:

Your father commanded a Brigade of Cavalry which he raised and organized. It was composed of the 14th, 16th, and 17th Regiments and 34th and 36th Battalions, (sic) all cavalry. He was a brilliant man and one of the most talented and attractive men I ever knew. he had great personal magnetism, was wonderfully winning. He served under General Stuart in the Gettysburg campaign. His command known as Jenkins Brigade.

General Lee had a very high opinion of his skill as a commander, as was shown by the fact that when Gen. Lee decided to invade Pennsylvania in 1863 he selected your father in preference to all other cavalry officers to command the force which was first to enter Pennsylvania and cleared (sic) the way for the rest of our army. This he did with great skill and success. He sometimes commanded several Brigades, a division.

3. E. F. Chapman in the Huntington Herald, June 22, 1900, has given the following account of Jenkins:

That General Jenkins was a brave man is fully attested by the circumstances of his death. During the battle of Cloyd's Mountain his brigade was charged by two Ohio regiments of Federal troops . . . and repulsed. Then came the charge of the 91 O. V. I. and 9th W. Va., I, under command of Gen. Duval of Brooke County, this state. Jenkins' brigade was broken and began a hasty retreat. The General headed the 45th Virginia and, with drawn sword, was encouraging the men to stand and cover the retreat of the other regiments of the brigade. They too fled, leaving the General alone, when he was shot from his horse and picked up by the Federal troops. He was taken to the house of Mr. Cloyd (or Guthrie) and all possible done to aid his recovery, but he died on the above date.

All in all, Cabell County never produced a more illustrious son and well may those of his comrades who still survive feel justly proud of their leader and military chieftain, who, had he lived, would have furnished material for some of the brightest pages of our state and national history. (sic.)

4. In a letter written from Salem, Virginia, January 28, 1863, to Zebulon B. Vance, Governor of North Carolina, Jenkins says:

. . . . In thus distributing these animals, and after overstocking almost every part of Virginia, it became a matter of necessity to send some of them to portions of North Carolina where both grain and long forage were abundant. But unfortunately, there is great indisposition on the part of the people there to sell their produce for Confederate money at any price, and I desire to ask relief at your hands in the form of authority of some kind for impressment. This authority you can limit with such restrictions as will make it entirely certain that no injustice will be done to your people. If some step of this kind is not taken promptly, and we should be compelled in this portion of Southwestern Virginia to bring the horses in the service of the Government back to this section, and thus consume the forage which is essential to the wants of our armies elsewhere, it is manifest that most serious detriment to the public service must occur.

Knowing your disinterested patriotism, not only from your public character but also from a personal acquaintance which I had the pleasure of having while we were both members of the old Federal Congress, and your full and entire devotion to our cause (which is not the cause of a State, but of the whole South), I have taken the liberty of addressing you upon the subject. . . .

5. Correspondence of Jenkins with Colonel B. F. Smith:

Headquarters, Camp near Martinsburg,

June 14, 1863.

The Commanding Officer U. S. Forces near Martinsburg:

Sir: I herewith demand the surrender of Martinsburg. Should you refuse, you are respectfully requested to notify the inhabitants of the place to remove forthwith to a place of safety. Small-arms only will be used for one hour upon the town after your reception of this note. After that, I shall feel at liberty to shell the town, if I see proper. Should you refuse to give the necessary notification to the inhabitants, I shall be compelled to hold your command responsible.

Very truly yours, (sic)

A. G. Jenkins,

Brigadier General, etc.

P. S. An immediate reply is necessary.

Headquarters, U. S. Forces

Martinsburg, W. Va., June 14, 1863.

A. G. Jenkins, Brigadier General, etc.

General: Martinsburg will not be surrendered. You may commence shelling as soon as you choose. I will, however, inform the inhabitants of your threats.

Very respectfully, yours, (sic)

B. F. Smith

Colonel, Commanding U. S. Forces.

6. James D. Sedinger, a Border Ranger, has written as follows in an account of the regiment's activities while on duty in Tennessee:

. . . We stayed in Tazewell and Mercer Counties, Virginia, until October 7th, '63, when we were ordered to Abingdon, Virginia, to report for duty to General Wm. E. Jones. The regiment was sent to Bristol, Tennessee, with orders to do picket and scout on all roads leading to Bristol. . . . One day while moving out with part of the Company under Lieutenant Thompson, our orderly Sergeant, Daniel Ruffner, who had been drinking, struck a citizen with his revolver. The man who was armed shot the orderly and killed him. He made his escape and was hid by his friends. We never could find him. . . .

On another occasion 8 of the boys went on a little scouting expedition of their own into Sullivan county Tennessee. There was an old gentleman of well-known Union sentiments in that part who had some pretty daughters and some old apple brandy. The boys slipped by our pickets in round about way and struck the road about mile from the Yankee guard and came up and charged the old man's house about 12 o'clock at night waking the gentleman and all his family. He thinking we were Yanks ordered the whole family to get up and give the best the house afforded. We had a splendid supper and plenty of fun with the girls. He gave us all the brandy we wanted and filled our canteens when we left. Told us to call at any time we was in that part of the country, and each one of us should have one of his daughters as they should not marry anyone but a Union soldier. We thanked the old gentleman, kissed the girls and left, going the way we came toward the Yankees. I don't think he ever knew any better.

On November 6th was ordered to prepare 3 days rations and march to Rogersville, Tennessee. On the morning of the 8th the old company was ordered to the front and told to form by 4's as we were to charge a house that was full of militia and Company A was to support us. We formed with our revolvers in our hands and started ready for action at any time. On topping a little hill we found ourselves within 20 feet of a company of Yanks. Captain Everett ordered a charge, and at them we went head foremost. They started to run and it was a horse race for 3 miles in the mud. We did get them all but the Captain -- his horse was too fast for us or we would have gotten him. They was the muddiest set of Yanks when we went back to see how many there was of them, we think, that was ever captured. We re-formed after the charge, went into Rogersville and gobbled about all of them that was there. Our captures that morning amounted to 800 prisoners and one battery of artillery and a large amount of stores. The boys was pretty well clothed and shod when we had finished up for the day. We had plenty to eat for a Confederate soldier -- sardines and hardtack. Several of them had their haversacks well filled and the canteens was not forgotten. . . . (sic)

7. T. B. Summers, of Milton, in a poem called Cabell County's Hero, has written the following lines:

Where the Ohio gently flows,

Lived a man, as history knows,

Full of life, and at his ease,

Yet he choose to give up these,

And bestir himself in might,

Planning for the seeming flight,

That was hovering o'er the land,

Seeming Peace could not command.

Wild the tempest of the day,

Telling of the coming fray,

When the sons of North and South,

Would each face the cannon's mouth.

In the Blue, or in the Gray,

As the surge held forth its sway;

Then no heart would fail to swear

Both to Do and Bravely Dare.

Then Four Years of Strife and Strain,

Brave Old Heroes Without Stain.

Back again to friends and home,

But so many could not Come;

In the battle, they Were Slain,

So could never come again,

By Ohio's rippling shore,

Gen. Jenkins walks no More. (sic)

1. Greenbottom is the name given to a stretch of land lying east of Guyandotte along the Ohio River. "The Jenkins farm consisting of 4441 acres extended seven miles along the river front and as far back into the hills as they would pay taxes." (See Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. X; also Roy Bird Cook, "Albert G. Jenkins, A Confederate Portrait," West Virginia Review (May 1934).

2. Robert Douthat Mead, "Albert Gallatin Jenkins," Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. X.

3. Editorial in The London Index, July 14, 1864, (Typewritten copy of the original), 3.

4. James D. Sedinger Diary, (Typewritten copy, 19 pp., n.d.), Roy Bird Cook Collection, Charleston, 1.

5. The War of the Rebellion: Official Records, Ser. 1, II, 757.

6. Official Records, Ser. 1, II, pp. 291-93; also Robert White, "West Virginia," Confederate Military History, II, 29.

7. Sedinger, op. cit., 2.

8. Official Records, Ser. 1, V, 115-16, 157, 816.

9. Guyandotte was the western terminus of the James River and Kanawha Turnpike and was one of the most important river points in Western Virginia. In the burning of the town, two deluxe hotels, appropriate for the accommodation of fashionable travelers, were destroyed. (See Charles Henry Ambler, A History of Transportation in the Ohio Valley, 138; George Selden Wallace, Cabell County Annals and Families, 326-36, et passim.)

10. Official Records, Ser. 1, V, 411-12.

11. Sedinger, op. cit., 3.

12. Official Records, Ser. 1, V, 674-75.

13. Ibid., 1001-1002.

14. Official Records, Ser. 4, III, 1189.

15. Official Records, Ser. 1, XII, Pt. 2; 756-61.

16. Official Records, Ser. 1, XIV, Pt. 2; 690.

17. Ibid., 879.

18. Official Records, Ser. 1, LI, Pt. 1; 176.

19. Official Records, Ser. 1, XXVII, Pt. 2; 17, 442, 547, 550.

20. While attending college in Pennsylvania (supra) Jenkins was a founder and charter member of the Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity. It is claimed by members of this order that certain city officials, members of a rival fraternity, asked to be spared the rigors of war on the strength of a common Alma Mater; but that Jenkins replied in the negative, adding that they did not "wear the Delta badge." (See History of Phi Gamma Delta, II, 328.

21. S. P. Bates, Martial Deeds of Pennsylvania (Extract), 1.

22. Official Records, Ser. 1, XXVII, Pt. 2; 551.

23. Ibid., 698.

24. Ibid., 290.

25. Ibid., 346.

26. Ibid., 559.

27. Ibid., Pt. 3; 1068-1069.

28. Ibid., XXXIII, 552-53.

29. Ibid., 592.

30. Ibid., Pt. 1; 723-24.

31. Ibid., 9-11, 44, 50, 721, 747.

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