July 18, 1861
The Fight at Barbourville [sic], Cabell County between the 2d Kentucky Regiment and the Command of Jenkins.
[From the Cincinnati Commercial of last night.]
CAMP WOODRUFF, NEAR CABELL C.H., Va.
July 14th, 1861.
You have probably been advised of the great activity of the 2d Kentucky Regiment since its putting foot upon the soil of Virginia, an activity which has been attended with such fortunate results that waiting to starve them out begins to look like fallacy as it certainly is in Western Virginia. My last hurried letter left us in occupancy of the troublous town of Guyandotte. We remained there but a few hours, a number of companies moving out to Camp Crittenden , as it was christened, the same afternoon the town was captured. Camp Crittenden was situated on the Charleston road, about two miles from Guyandotte and was pitched on the wheat field of Col. Everett, now in the Secession army. His mansion adjoined the field, and his family was one of the few of that persuasion that did not flee when we landed.
Our position there was not a strong one, and much apprehension was felt the first night, concerning an attack from the rebels encamped some six miles distant, at Cabell C. H. (or Barbourville [sic], as the town is called.) Our men were aroused by the long roll half a dozen times before daylight, and formed in line of battle on the parade ground, and the pickets alarmed by stragglers through the adjoining wooded hills, fired their guns and withdrew to camp. No enemy appeared, however, and the next day our position was made comparatively secure, by the arrival of the balance of the regiment, which evacuated Guyandotte, leaving a small detachment to hold the place.
Once encamped, scouts and skirmishing parties were constantly sent out. Of all the small detachments of infantry that left camp to reconnoiter, not one returned, although we were always joined the same day by corresponding parties of cavalry, mounted on secession nags left standing in stables, uncurried and unfed, or rambling through neglected fields. The most scrupulous respect has, however, been evinced for the property of the Unionists, whilst they in turn cheerfully volunteer, both their chattels and their services, in our advance. Colonel Woodruff was, in the meanwhile, turning attention to the rebel camp at Barboursville; gleaning such information as he could from scouts and loyal residents. He found they were receiving reinforcements so rapidly, that a most vigorous action on his part would be necessary. He could learn nothing positive concerning their number, or the military strength of their position; but he planned an immediate attack. Accordingly, at mid night, on the night of the 12th, companies A, B, D, F, and K were aroused from their slumbers, and placed under the command of Lieut. Col. Neff, and, with one day’s rations in their haversacks, they proceeded on their march after a short but stirring address from Col. Woodruff. The column was conducted by a strong Union man, a resident of Barboursville, who had been driven thence some weeks since.
It was proposed to make the attack at early daylight, but the deep silence observed along the route, together with the halts to send forward scouting parties, deferred their coming into sight of the enemy until the sun was two hours high. When they did catch a first glance, if there had been any fear in their composition, it would have overpowered them at once. The rebels were drawn up in line of battle on the brow of a high hill, apparently inaccessible on all sides, and commanding a view for two miles around of a magnificent level plain, with all its roads in full sight, until they dwindled into the distant forests.
Near the base of the hill wound the Guyandotte river, and within pistol shot of their position was the only bridge which spanned it from the side on which we were advancing. Our brave boys took but one glance and marched on.
As they neared the bridge, they discovered a large body of cavalry on the road which wound around the base of the hill on which the enemy was ranged, retreating and dividing in order to intercept out flight—a natural inference, but a matter of opinion nevertheless. The rebels very considerately reserved their fire until the head of our column had set foot upon the bridge, and then they fired a terrific volley, killing one man instantly, and wounding a number of others.
To escape this terrible shelving fire, our men were double quick into the covered bridge where the bullets pelted, pattered, and whistled like a leaden hail-storm. They rushed onward, however, until they halted with such a sudden shock, that it sent the whole column into disorder. The planks of the bridge had been removed on the opposite side, and the mule on which the guide was mounted had fallen through, and he barely escaped sharing its destruction, by clinging to the timbers.
The rebels, encouraged by our delay at the fearful impediment, broke into wild shouts and cheers. Fired by their assurances of Victory, our boys could be restrained no longer; they answered with terrific yells, some ran to the pathholes of the bridge, and discharged their muskets at their foe, and Co. A, led by Capt. Brown, made a dash in single file across the bare stringers and rafters of the bridge, followed by Company D (Woodward Guards) and the remaining companies. As they emerged from the bridge, the rebels flanked and charged front from the mouth of the bridge, to the road which encircled the base of the hill, and sent another bitter volley at our men, which luckily was aimed too high, and did but little damage. Our men by this time had all cleared the bridge, in total disorder, but blazing away with excitement, yelling and leaping like madmen. They turned suddenly up the side of the hill at a charge bayonets, and literally dragging themselves up by bushes and jutting turf. They cleared in a few moments, rushed at the enemy who had, as they commenced the ascent, fired again with effect. It was their last volley. As the glistening bayonets reached the top of the hill, and met their wavering gaze, and those yells continued, which meant victory if there had been a thousand opposed. The enemy swayed for a moment , a leap was made from their flank and rear, and then the whole body scattered like sparks from a pin-wheel, down the rear lot of the hill, streaming in every direction in the fields below, at full speed, with white faces and an impulse of fear which I heard compared to the fright of a hundred horses in a conflagration. Our men were too breathless for pursuit, but they cheered as only men who have conquered can cheer, and planted immediately the stars and stripes on the summit of the hill.
There was some firing at the retreating foe, and their commander, Col. Mansfield, was hit and fell from his horse, but was immediately seized and carried off by his companions, as is supposed others were. They left but one on the field, an old gray haired man, whom we are informed, was pressed into the service, as many of his companions had been. He was taken care of by our troops, but he died in the afternoon.
The victorious battalion, when the rebels had disappeared, marched through the town with the banners flying, and bands playing airs which the inhabitants never hoped to hear again. The Woodward boys planted their flag on the cupola of the Court House, and seemed to regard as coincidence that precisely two months after it was presented it was streaming from a spire in one of the hot-beds of secession.
From Logan County.
July 29, 1861
From Logan County.
Rumors having reached here (says the Abingdon Virginia,) that the Lincolnites had entered Logan county, burnt the Court-House, killed two women and committed other depredations, great uneasiness and excitement exists throughout this and the adjoining counties. The following extract of a letter from Mr. M. L. Comann, of Tazewell C. H. to a friend in this place, settles the question:
Tazewell C. H. July 21, 1861.
Last Tuesday morning a messenger from McDowell county came to our town with a report that the Northern army were in possession of Logan C. H. Mr. Clark and myself were dispatched forth with to find out the correctness of the report. We had to go to within 13 miles of the Court-House before we could find out whether the report was true or false. Or course it was not as reported. The excitement all along the route was greater than any one could imagine Men, women and children seemed almost deranged. But to the news from that section.
When we reached Logan C. H. we found that the enemy had taken Barboursville, the county seat of Cabell, some 46 miles from Logan C. H. Before doing so, our forces gave them battle. Our number was small, consisting of only three companies, two of which only were in the fight. The enemy marched upon the place early in the morning. (six o'clock,) which surprised our forces, of course. When the cry was given that the enemy was coming, some confusion among our men took place, but for which the loss of the enemy would have been much larger. The mishap was that, in seizing the guns and shot pouches, some of our men took others instead of their own, which they did not discover until after the first fire. Our forces took their position upon a small hill near a bridge just in front of the town, and as the forces of the enemy marched across the bridge our little force commenced firing upon them. I ought to have said before that their number was 1,500, ours not quite 200. Our men fired three rounds at them, and then retreated in double quick time. They killed and wounded 150--about 120 of them killed. Strange to say, our loss was nary one. Two of our men were slightly wounded. I was told that in the retreat, the Northern Colonel rushed to the top of the bill, and as he rode down calling upon his men with an oath to kill the rebels, one of our men took from another his gun, turned upon, he Colonel and shot him from his horse — The names of the Captains that commanded our men are Mansfield and Ferguson--one from Wayne and the other from Cabell.
The Northern forces have possession also of Wayne Court House and a place called Silver Creek, between the Court-Houses of Logan and Boone.
We saw a gentleman direct from Governor Wise's camp. He represents the Governor in a very critical condition. His force is only about 4,000, while he is being approached from three different directions by about 10,000 Federals. He is calling for troops to come to his aid. On our way home we started two companies from Wyoming, two from McDowell, and now learn that two left Buchanan county on Friday last. I could tell you a great deal more, but will desist. Our militia is called together to-morrow to raise men to march to the relief of Gov. Wise. I think we will raise about three companies, who will start for Charleston on Tuesday morning.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: July 1861