September 30, 1861
A Big River.—Yesterday morning there were 37 feet water in the channel of the Ohio river, and still rising, the stream having filled up with a rapidity during the night never before known. Drift wood by the acre floated by, together with bridges, out-houses, rafts and fences, and it is supposed that great damage has been done to the railroads in all directions. One of the guys of the suspension bridge was swept away. Hundreds of people, in skiffs, were engaged, within sight, catching rafts and drift wood, and nearly the whole population seemed to have moved down to the stream to see the big, turbulent waters.
A portion of the Island is under water, and the soldiers in Camp Carlile moved their tents from the lower grounds, and were gradually retreating before the advancing waters. More than half of the camp was completely under water, and about six o’clock last evening all hands were preparing to break for higher ground. Many families on the Island were preparing to move over to the city, and the goods were being removed from the cellars on Water street.
It is thought from the huge piles of lumber, bridges, etc., that have floated by that the destruction of property must have been immense. Enough drift wood has passed down to keep the whole Southern Confederacy in fuel for six months—perhaps.
P. S.—At a late hour last evening we learned that the river was falling rapidly at Wellsville and Steubenville, and it will doubtless be receding rapidly at this point this morning.
October 1, 1861
The Great Pumpkin Flood.—The flood which came upon us so suddenly on Sunday, and which is now receding as rapidly as it came, towards Cairo and the Southern Confederacy, is called a pumpkin flood. There has not been such a flood at this season of the year for twenty years. Consequently, nobody anticipated it, and nobody prepared for it. The water crept up like a thief in the night, wound around the low places in the cornfields, and carried away the shucks and the pumpkins, the squashes and the gourds, of which the river was full all day Sunday. Everything within thirty feet of the river, on Saturday night, was gone on Sunday morning. There is no estimating the immense damage sustained all along the river. For at least twenty-four hours, the river was black with rafts, sawed timber, coal flats, barges, and valuable property of every conceivable sort. Hundreds of enterprising men labored all day in their skiffs, and succeeded in saving a great deal that is valuable. Often a raft or boat would pass with only a single person aboard—the owner, perhaps—who stuck like grim death to his “prop,” and received hearty cheers from those upon the shore who gloried in the spunk. Some of these persons floated ten and fifteen miles before they could succeed in landing their crafts or in gaining any assistance. The river dropped down yesterday to its usually reasonable dimensions.
The Pittsburg & Cleveland Railroad Company felt some alarm for the bridge over the Big Beaver, which was recently swept away and reconstructed. A heavy train of cars was loaded with pig metal and run upon the bridge and left standing. The weight of the metal, it is supposed saved the bridge.
October 4, 1861
[For the Herald.]
Camp Carlile, Sept. 30, 1861.
Mr. Editor:--All is bustle this morning, the notes of moving and preparation are being sounded, blankets are drying, clothes washing, tents pitching, etc., etc.,--the river having unceremoniously invaded our camp and spread its elementary self over more than half our surface, penetrating every nook and corner, rudely rushing upon the ground set apart for our muslin domicils, causing the occupants thereof to speedily seek higher and dryer ground. It came up yesterday, but is now gradually receding, hence the work of renovation and re-occupation this morning. While I write in my tent I hear the din of camp life, and the decidedly blue look that the premises bore yesterday is undergoing a metamorphosis and ere long they will bear their wonted military appearance.
I wandered o’er the ground yesterday where some of the tents had been stretching. The wave of camp life had rolled high, and here lay the draft—the debris of soldier life—here a tent floor, there a bed of straw, here some cast-off meat or potatoes, there some crumbs from a rich man’s—(Uncle Sam’s table)—poor Lazarus!—here a deserted cook-house, there a forsaken dining table, in short everything that man could desire to render the routine of soldier life less tiresome. But lo! another wave came, and fresto! what a change. It was higher and broader and swifter than the other, and far outstripped it in strength, for puny man packed up his traps and made way for it. On it came and it covered all these vestiges of soldiery, and then “peace, be still,” was spoken unto it and its proud course was stayed, and now we have returned and taken up our abodes on the spot, to peacefully, I hope, prepare ourselves to meet as inveterate but not as irresistible [sic] a foe as the water of the Ohio.
Nothing of especial interest has transpired in camp since our advent last Monday. The daily drill and nightly guard is kept up by most of the companies present with commendable zeal, and I think it will not take long to make good soldiers out of the material here presented.
There are at present some six or seven cavalry and some ten or twelve infantry companies full and forming on the Island, the former for Colonel Anesansell’s regiment, and the latter for Colonel Thoburn’s. Both regiments will probably be full in the course of a couple of weeks, when they will enter immediately into active service, but where at there is no telling, as they may be ordered into Western Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, or to Washington.
The men receive nearly their entire outfit as soon as they enlist, the balance is to be supplied as soon as it can be procured, which will not be long.
Of our own and the other Wellsburg company I have but little to say. Capt. White’s is full, but has not yet been assigned a place in the regiment. Capt. Melvin has some forty or fifty men sworn in, and has every assurance that his company will be filled ere long.
I would advise every man that can possibly do so to volunteer and put an early end to this wicked rebellion, and serve his country and benefit himself at the same time—for, with but few exceptions, the volunteers all come out physically improved, financially ahead and patriotically better. Come on, then, and enroll your names! “Why stand ye idle when your brethren are already in the field?”
I will close now by stating that, having enlisted for three years, and being duly sworn into the service of the U. S., for that time “unless sooner discharged.” I will undoubtedly have numerous opportunities for observation and if agreeable to you I can from time to time supply you with a few items of interest to yourself and readers.
H. J. J.
October 3, 1861
The Ohio is brim full and in some places running over its banks, caused by the recent heavy rains, which appear to have been general.—The Kanawha on Sunday last was six feet higher than was ever before known, and the sudden and unprecedented rise was productive of immense destruction of property. Houses, barns, fodder, bridges, water crafts, &c., were swept away, and the suffering at the head waters of the Kanawha must be very great. Camp Enyart, six miles above Charleston, was inundated, the water being at the top of the ridge poles of the tents, and we learn that quite a heavy stock of army clothing received a soaking.
To the inhabitants of Kanawha Valley, not the least important occurrence of the ever memorable year 1861, will be the terrible destruction of property, caused by the late rise in this river. Nothing like it has ever been known, or remembered by the oldest inhabitants. The town of Charleston was completely inundated, and indeed from all we can learn, no place escaped. The river rose with unusual rapidity, and in the night, leaving the inhabitants no time to save their property, many indeed, glad to escape with their lives. Large quantities of lumber, saw logs, staves, hoop poles, barrels of salt, oil, apples, in short every kind of property peculiar to that Valley had been placed near the river for shipment. All was swept away, and many who had been robbed in the former part of the summer by Wise and his thieves, again find themselves stripped of everything by this direful visitation of providence.
The rumored invasion of the valley, by the Jeff Davis crew, in order to obtain salt, may now be dispensed with. That resource no longer exists. The destruction of the works by the flood in many places, will prevent the manufacture for some time to come. The ruler of nations has in his over appointed way, seen fit to remove this great and essential mineral from their clutches. Whilst we sympathise deeply with our Union friends in the valley, who are thus scourged, we have none for those whose chief efforts have been directed to favoring Secession, even to the destruction of the lives and property of their fellow citizens. God is no respector of persons, and in this great calamity, those who have set his law at defiance, by encouraging murder, robbery, &c., are brought to feel his power. Truly the citizens of Kanawha valley are an afflicted people. The seat of one of the most unholy wares ever carried on, it has of cour[s]e been devastated by the armies on all sides, its substance eaten out, and chances of starvation during winter imminent, unless assisted from other States.—What was before probable is now rendered certain. Distress and famine amongst the poorer classes at least, will be great, and our people may expect to yield assistance, which we know they will be ready to do. The people could have survived the effects of the flood—it is secession which has done the work. How long shall it continue to desolate Western Virginia? Will her people longer submit to be swayed by such villains as Wise and Floyd—men whose very names are a stench in the nostrils of every honest man.
October 7, 1861
The Flood in the Mountains—Great Damage along the Tygarts Valley—Rumors—A Trophy—Life in Camp.
[Correspondence of the Intelligencer.]
Beverly, Va., Oct. 1st, 1861.
* * *There were heavy rains in the mountains last week, and the river hear, though small, did immense damage, sweeping away bridges, fences, hay and corn shocks at a fearful rate. A train of Government wagons was surrounded by water in the night and one wagon swept away and 18 mules drowned. I am told the damage along the river above this place will not fall short of thirty thousand dollars. At first it was feared that the loss of bridges along the road between this place and the depots along the railroad, would seriously embarrass the Government and perhaps cause our army in the mountains to suffer for subsistence; but, as soon as the waters fell trains passed up and down as usual, the bridges were soon rebuilt, and no embarrassment was felt from their loss.
Our boys are enjoying themselves hugely since we have been here. For two days last week everything looked dismal enough; it rained incessantly for 36 hours. The whole camp was flooded with water, and I thought it cold enough for snow. You have some idea of what a rain is up here. The clouds settle down on everything like a fog. That rain is all past now, and this week the sun has come our bright regularly every morning, and the consequence is happiness and desire for long life. You have no idea how we watch the weather and what changes of countenance a few clouds will produce.
As to news, we are in blissful ignorance and I have ceased to believe anything that I hear. We have exciting rumors every day. To-day it is said there is a battle going on up at Cheat Summit, about 20 miles above here. Some wagoners who came down report that a heavy firing was commenced there this morning at daybreak and has been kept up ever since. I was out in the country a couple of miles above here this afternoon and thought I heard the report of artillery. A negro boy who left there yesterday afternoon stopped at our tents this evening, says this morning at day-break, while five miles from the Summit, he heard the firing distinctly. There are various other rumors afloat to the same effect. Per Contra, a wagoner, who says he left Huttonsville this morning at 10 o’clock, reports that he heard no firing to-day and that there is nothing of it. Another rumor has it that General Rosecrans with a heavy force has got into their rear and is driving them down this way. I don’t believe any of it. I think there has been no fighting there to-day, and I think when the fight comes off, which we are expecting every day, the federal troops will act on the offensive. As the newspapers say, “you may rely on it, a forward movement is hourly expected.”
I have secured a trophy, in the shape of a secesh musket, of Harper’s Ferry make. I found it in the creek just below the bridge, at the upper end of town. I imagine some chivalrous southron who went to Rich Mountain to defend the sacred soil, on his return having, perhaps, performed more double quick than was conducive to his comfort, and finding the weight of a musket calculated to impede locomotion, had deposited it where I found it, and thinking perhaps some “cussed Yankee” might find it, he had bent the barrel nearly double.
The main body of Gen. Reynolds’ command is at Cheat Summit and Elkwater. I am not informed as to their force there, and if I was I presume would not be allowed to communicate it. The secesh force is supposed to be greater than ours, and when a battle does come off up there, the result is considered very doubtful.—There are a good many troops here, and as I write here in the open air, using our old bass drum as a desk, the shrill not of a bugle, the thunder of cavalry, and the rumbling of army wagons, strike painfully on the ear; and as the sun sinks in the west, and the mountains cast their shadows over the camp, the band strikes up a well-known melody, and I muse perhaps sorrowfully on the past—of the cheerful hearth, it may be saddened by my absence, of the dear ones at home, who perhaps are anxiously awaiting my return, without the most distant idea of the time when we may be again reunited; of the blighted hopes, of happiness frustrated by the demon secession—and I feel that no punishment is adequate for the man who, to satisfy personal ambition, would plunge a nation into civil war. But as the shadows deepen into twilights, and twilight into dark, the city of canvass, with its thousand lights, once more assumes a cheerful appearance, and from the hundreds of tents come peals of laughter and mirth, driving away the gloomy shadows and forebodings of twilight.
So it is from day. The excitement of the first few days in camp wears off, and whatever at first was interesting becomes monotonous after a week or two. It is reveille and tattoo, on ad infinitum; but we soon come to enjoy the indolent life of the soldier, and I venture the prediction that out of the five hundred thousand soldiers of the Federal army, four hundred and ninety thousand will be rendered useless for life by habits of indolence contracted while in the service.
V. B. H.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: September 1861