By Frank Moore
(New York: G. P. Putnam, 1862), pp. 189-190
OCCUPATION OF WINFIELD, VA.
The correspondent of the Cincinnati Gazette gives the following account of the occupation:
CAMP RED HOUSE, WESTERN VA.,
October 19, 1861.
Your readers have already been apprised of the firing of the rebel cavalry upon the boat Izetta, as she was passing up the Kanawha loaded with United States horses and army stores, on the forenoon of October 11th. The firing occurred from the town of Winfield, in Putnam County, Va. As soon as intelligence of the firing was received by Colonel Piatt, at Camp Piatt, ten miles above Charleston, he ordered out five hundred men, under command of Lieut.-Col. Toland and Major Franklin, with directions to proceed immediately to Winfield, and there land the force and pursue the rebels. In one hour after the order was issued five hundred Zouaves, with all their arms and equipments, were on board the Silver Lake, making rapid headway down the Kanawha, and all eager to give the pirate rebels a taste of Government powder. We arrived at Charleston about midnight of the eleventh, and were delayed there by order of Col. Guthrie, commanding that post, until seven o'clock of the next morning. Colonel Guthrie accompanied us from Charleston, and we proceeded to Winfield, which is twenty miles further down the Kanawha, where we arrived about nine A. M. Here we were joined by two companies of the Fourth Virginia, who had been sent up from Point Pleasant. While the men were getting breakfast, Col. Guthrie took a small detachment of men across to the Red House, and captured the goods in a store belonging to one of the rebel cavalry who had fired upon the boat.
At eleven o'clock information was received that the enemy, in force about eight hundred strong, with one company of cavalry, were encamped at Hurricane Bridge, some fourteen miles from Winfield. Our column, without further delay, moved forward. When about two miles from the town the advance, under command of Adjutant Clark, encountered the mounted scouts of the enemy, who fled in hot haste toward their camp. Here let me remark, that Col. Guthrie had sent out from Charleston two companies of the Fourth Virginia regiment, who were to approach from another direction. Col. Toland now divided his force, sending a detachment under Major Franklin to attack them on the left, while he moved forward on the direct road. The boys moved up briskly, animated with the prospect of a fight. But the rebels in this part of Virginia have learned to run with such celerity, that there is no way to catch them except by coming upon them on all sides at once. The advance, moving on rapidly some distance ahead of the column, arrived at the bridge just in time to send a few shots whizzing after the last of the rebels, as they scattered away over the hills to the rear. They had fled like frightened does, and that without any knowledge of the extent of our force, as they had seen only our advance guard consisting of twenty-five men. Our forces soon arrived, to find only smoking camp fires and terrified women. The boys were highly disgusted with the rebel method of warfare, and vowed they wished they could have come in on both sides at once, so as to have acquired an appetite for supper, by capturing the whole force of the enemy.
Having failed to find any rebels, the Zouaves determined to do the next best thing, which is always, in their opinion, to get chickens for supper. The poor feathered tribe were doomed to meet a fearful end. More than a hecatomb of them were sacrificed to appease the wrath of stomachs made hungry by a fatigruing march. In less than an hour after our arrival, soldiers might have been seen in every part of our camp brandishing chicken legs and munching crackers.
During the night the rebels came back in small numbers, and fired upon our pickets. Our men returned the fire, wounding one rebel and killing another, whom we buried on Sunday morning.
Scouting parties were sent out to scour the country; also, foraging parties, to take possession of such rebel property as would be useful to the Government. Orders were issued and strictly enforced against the soldiers taking any thing without orders from the commanding officer. Occasionally, parties of rebels numbering five to fifteen, lurking in the woods, would fire on our pickets. On Monday, Col. Piatt having received orders from Gen. Rosecrans to send forward his whole force, we were joined by him with the remaining companies of the regiment.
We received reliable information from some Union inhabitants of the place, stating that the whole rebel force was only about two hundred and fifty, of which one hundred were cavalry. Had we been supplied with fifty cavalry, we could have captured every one of the enemy. Most of the people in the region of Hurricane Bridge are either unqualifiedly in favor of secession, or of that milk-and-water Union style, who never fight for the Union, and are never identified with that cause except in the face of a Union army. The cavalry company, which has been such a terror to the people of this county, numbers about eighty to one hundred men, under command of Captain Herndon, a rebel officer in the three months' service. They subsist by plundering Union men, and are paid for their service by the Confederate Government.
When Colonel Piatt came with his forces, he found our men drawn up in line, and just ready to march back to the Kanawha, they having been unable to find the enemy in any force, and having already captured a large amount of property belonging to prominent secessionists. However, he concluded to see for himself what this country produces. He ordered a delay, and sent out more parties in search of rebels and rebel goods. The success which attended these parties shows either the peculiar aptness of the Zouaves in capturing and confiscating "secesh" property, or the remarkable productiveness of the country in such goods. We started back on Tuesday, October 15, having taken seventy-five head of cattle, about fifty horses and wagons, fifteen yoke of working oxen, one hundred and fifty head of sheep, thirty barrels of flour, two thousand pounds of hams and bacon, fifty boxes of fine Virginia tobacco, and dry goods and notions from two stores.
During our stay, our scouts and pickets killed eight and wounded several of the rebels, capturing some cavalry horses and carbines - the latter weapons showing the kind of arms with which they were provided. Five prominent secessionists were taken prisoners, and marched with us back to camp.
The appearance of our regiment, on their march in return, was novel and amusing in the extreme - men, cattle, and sheep; Zouaves mounted on horses and mules; wagons loaded with every variety of "secesh" valuables; the prisoners marching under guard - the whole forming a cavalcade not unlike the old Roman triumphal entrees which attended Pompey and the Caesars in their days of regal pomp and pride. The regiment, however, came into camp in perfect order, though I imagine that our Cincinnati friends would hardly have recognized us as the same body of men which passed through that city a few weeks ago, on our departure for the field.
The whole of the confiscated goods, amounting in value to several thousand dollars, were turned over to Quartermaster Hart, for the benefit of Uncle Sam's pocket. I make so explicit a statement to show that we are in earnest. Col. Piatt and his officers fully appreciate the principle that those who are seeking to destroy our Government should not enjoy its protection.
We are now stationed at Winfield, or Putnam C. H., Va., on the left bank of the Kanawha, where the men are kept drilling daily, while detachments are constantly scouring the country in search of the rebels. Our camp is styled "Camp Red House," and letters directed to this point will reach us here.
Col. Piatt is now organizing a company of Virginians, from the Union men of this county, who promise to furnish a defence to their own homes hereafter. We promise you that the Thirty-fourth will not be behindhand in fighting or any other duty they are called on to perform.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: October 1861