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Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood
October 16, 1861


Staunton Spectator
October 29, 1861

From the Virginia Free Press of Oct. 19th.
Battle Near Harper's Ferry.

Our readers are already acquainted with the fact that Federal marauders have been infesting our county for some time. They have approached within four miles of this town, committing all manner of depredations. On Friday afternoon of last week, they advanced as far as "Red Hill," two miles from Harper's Ferry, with several pieces of artillery, and fired upon the Confederate pickets who were stationed one mile below Halltown.

To give them a warm reception, the Cavalry under Col. Ashby, and Lieut. Glenn of Captain Henderson's command, and Capt. Baylor, as well as the mounted and foot Militia, prepared for an engagement on Wednesday morning the 16th instant.

Absence from home deprived us of witnessing the battle, but from all we can gather it gave evidence that our forces were not to be driven from their homes and firesides by a gang who seem to have nothing else in view than plunder.

The battle commenced about 8 o'clock in the morning--the enemy having placed themselves in the woods and surroundings at Red Hill, above the lower toll-gate formerly occupied as an encampment by the 2d Virginia Regiment, before the evacuation of Harper's Ferry. Although the enemy were in large numbers they were driven from their position with heavy loss, secreting themselves in a large brick house, unoccupied, belonging to Mrs. Wager, and other houses from which they were soon routed and scattered in all directions.

But two pieces of small artillery were used by the Confederates--a larger gun having broken the carriage upon which it was placed, and which was left and taken by the enemy--whilst they brought to bear large guns from the Maryland Heights, and afterwards Rifle cannon.

The loss upon the Federal side in killed and wounded was not less than forty-five or fifty whilst but one was killed on the Confederate side, a Mr. Zimmer of the militia from Rockingham county.

We have been furnished with the names of the wounded on our side, as follows:

Israel Jones of Rockingham, (Capt. Winfield's command,) wounded in the ancle[sic].

Henry Kern, Shenandoah, (Capt. Dinges,) wounded in privates.
George Cline, Rockingham, (Capt. Harrison,) wounded in the head. .
D. Fraley Jefferson, (Capt. Hess,) wounded in the left knee. .
A Mr. Vanarsdale, (Capt. Miller,) wounded in leg. .
John Y. Beall, and Jho. W. Rider, of this county, members of the Bott's Greys, who were in the county, on special duty were also among the wounded. .

Several others received slight scratches from splinters of trees which came in contact of those near by. .

Edgar Ross, of the Wisconsin Federal Army, was severely wounded in the leg and back, and was taken prisoner. .

A man calling himself Penaiah Pratt, a corporal of the 28th Pennsylvania Regiment, was taken prisoner, and has been sent to Richmond. .

The Rev. N. G. North, of this town who was near the scene of action as a spectator, was taken prisoner by the enemy. The horse upon which he was riding, was slightly shot, a ball passing along the line of his back bone, grooving the skin in its passage. Mr. N. is still a prisoner, but will doubtless be soon released. .

The enemy, in their flight, secreted themselves in cellars, and remained there until they were reinforced, when they returned with artillery by which they were enabled to take our broken down gun. .

But for the accident to our gun the enemy would have been cut to pieces. As it was, however, they lost in their flight upwards of 100 coats and blankets, besides other trappings. .

Great credit is due to every command; and the militia behaved with commendable bravery.


Richmond Enquirer
October 22, 1861

Enlisting at the North—The Fight at Harper’s Ferry.

To the Editors of the Enquirer:

Winchester, Oct. 18, 1861

Gentlemen:--I enclose a paragraph which I have copied from and editorial article, which I find in the N.Y. Tribune, of the 14th inst, which is some interest, as showing the utter inability of the Northern despotism to recruit its regular army enlistments.

The paper itself from which I have made the extract referred to, may meet your eye before this reaches you; but if so, so much the better. I should be glad to send it to you, but am only permitted to have it in my hands for a few minutes.

Col. Ashby, with a detachment of the militia from some of the neighboring counties, administered a pretty severe castigation on Wednesday last, to a body of some twelve or fifteen hundred of Lincoln’s ruffians, who had crossed the Potomac at Harper’s Ferry. I am not sufficiently informed of the particulars to undertake to detail them further than to state, that it resulted in the enemy’s re crossing the Potomac to the Maryland side, with a considerable loss in killed and wounded. A reliable gentleman, who participated in the affair, states that he counted 17 of their dead on the field, and before the action closed saw them removing a number of bodies. On our side there was one killed and some twelve or fifteen wounded. The Rev. Mr. North, of Charlestown, who was upon the field as a spectator, is said to have been captured and carried off by the enemy in their flight across the river. But for an unfortunate mishap which befell our men in the early part of the action, in the loss of a 24 pounder by the breaking down of the gun carriage, our victory would have been more effective.

A gratifying feature in the day’s work was the spirit and courage displayed by the militia, who, it is agreed on all hands, acquitted themselves with the highest credit.

. . .


Richmond Daily Dispatch
October 19, 1861

Fight near Harper's Ferry.

Col. Asbby's Successful encounter with the enemy — gallant charge of the Militia — the Federals Repulsed at the Point of the Bayonet.

Official advices have been received at the War Department of an attack, by Col. Turner Asbby, commanding a small force, with a superior body of the enemy, on Wednesday, the 16th instant, at a place called Bolivar, contiguous to Harper's Ferry. The Federals, numbering, with subsequent reinforcements, from 800 to 1,000 men, were sent over to protect the transportation of grain from Butt's Mill, on Shenandoah Island, and Col. Ashby, with 550 men, 200 of whom were militia, met and drove them back with considerable slaughter. The action commenced at eight o'clock in the morning, and terminated about eleven. It is to be particularly noted as the first in which the Virginia militia have been engaged in a hand-to- hand encounter with the enemy, and the result reflects the highest credit upon that branch of the service. At a charge bay onces, they drove the Hessians before them down the hill into the village of Harpers Ferry, at which point in the pursuit they were checked by a detachment of artillery, supposed to have been Doubleday's battery, stationed on the Maryland Heights Col. Ashby now withdrew his troops to a point behind the hill, for the purpose of protecting them from the shot and shell, which fell thick and fast around them, but fortunately with little effect. The loss of the enemy in the engagement, as reported by a woman who afterwards came out from Harpers Ferry and saw the dead carried away in wagers, was at least fifty or sixty, in addition to which our men captured twelve or fourteen prisoners. Among the latter are some Union men, who had been particularly busy to aiding the Federals by means of signals. Our loss was one killed (Zamper, of the Shenandoah militia,) and ten wounded--two supposed mortally.

A painful incident attended this brilliant affair. Three members of the Botts Greys, of Jefferson county, who were at home on furlough, participated in the fight as volunteers, and two of the number were wounded--one (named Bell) desperately, and his life despaired of.

Col. Ashby's success would have been much greater but for a lack of cannon, and very few of the enemy would have escaped from the field of battle. He had but one efficient gun, and another improvised for the occasion — a 24 pounder mounted on wagon wheels, which, any artillerist will readily concede, was very difficult to manage. Justice to this brave and gallant officer demands that he should be amply supplied with every facility for successful warfare, to increase his influence on that border as a terror to the invaders. By a curious coincidence, this fight took place on the second anniversary of the John Brown raid, and in the very locality of that notable event.

Rev. James B. Averick, captain of Col. Ashby's regiment, who reached the city yesterday afternoon, is bearer of dispatches to the War Department.


Richmond Daily Dispatch
October 22, 1861

The engagement near Harper's Ferry.

We have information that the enemy evacuated Harper's Ferry on the night of the 16th inst., after burning the foundry at the Gulf Mills, and retreated to the Maryland side.--A volunteer who participated in the late engagement under Colonel Ashby furnishes us the subjoined account of that affair:

"On the anniversary of Brown's raid, 16th of October, the gallant and brave Colonel T. Ashby, with about 300 cavalry and 700 militia, (infantry,) and two pieces of artillery, marched down the turnpike to what has been called Moler's hill, (now the School-house hill,) where the enemy had pickets the day before. They fell back if they were there, when a company of cavalry, commanded by Captains Winfield and Baylor, wheeled to the right, and another company wheeled to the left, commanded by Captains Mason and Glenn. A company of infantry, from Rockingham, also went to the right. Thus in order they were to cross a valley about one mile wide, and ascend a steep hill or mountain called Alistot's hill, on which were two forts or batteries of large pine logs, constructed by the Yankees as their standing point of defence. Our two cannon fired several rounds at them, they answering our fire, when the daring Col. Ashby, with his officers and men — militia, infantry, and cavalry, made a gallant and hold charge across the valley and up a long and steep hill in the face of the enemy, and under their fire. The Yankees gave way, leaving their fortifications for shelter in the houses at Bolivar and Harper's Ferry. That charge for the distance of near one mile up the hill, must have been a grand move to test the and courage of the troops. It was equal to any charge in history. The officers and men pressing up the mountain, driving the enemy before them from their strong fortifications, was a grand sight.

"The writer (sixty years of age) was with the cavalry that moved to the right, with a company of infantry from Rockingham. We crossed the valley to the railroad at Keye's switch or depot, then on the heights, and thence with cavalry and the company of infantry, descended the mountain to the railroad through the narrow pass at Bulls falls to the Gulf mills; then up the mill road in the mountain to Bolivar. We captured some citizens on the hills giving signals to the enemy, and drove in a body of pickets.

"On reaching the open ground of Bolivar, in the rear of the enemy's fortifications, we expected to cut off their retreat to the ferry, but were disappointed. They were on their retreat, with Col. Ashby's column after them, when our cavalry ordered a charge, and such a shout went up! Away they dashed after the Yankees under a heavy fire from their infantry, the balls passing us with a most singular sound — music that I never heard before. Near by was Colonel Ashby's artillery, with the infantry in Strider's field, both sides firing constantly. After one hour's engagement the fire ceased, and the enemy returned on our left flank, north of Bolivar. The infantry formed near the breastworks in the woods, and when the enemy left their shelter in the houses and advanced on our force, a severe engagement, the heaviest firing of the day, occurred. Our men must have thinned their ranks, as they retired a second time. Just then I left my horse to aid in conveying the wounded from the field. I saw persons passing with blankets, coats, and cartridge-boxes, left by the enemy; and along came young Mr. Pennybacker with a prisoner he had captured in Smallwood's field. I next met persons bearing along a young man wounded in the leg, also a prisoner. I have since heard that there were about twenty-five of the enemy killed besides the wounded. "At this time the artillery opened on the enemy from the Loudoun Mountain, but again ceased a short space, when it was evident the enemy had been reinforced either by the railroad from Shepherdstown or Shapsburg. The balls and bombs passed over and fell around us at a dangerous rate, and the outsiders, lookers on, commenced a hasty retreat. This had a bad effect, making the artillery horses hard to manage; indeed, one team was running at large. I think, in future, all persons not in active engagement should be excluded from the vicinity of an army or column of attack. Our only loss was one noble soldier, from Woodstock, killed, and ten wounded. I look at it as a miracle, or wonderful interposition of Divine Providence, that more were not killed or wounded. We had to leave our large cannon, which broke down on Allstot's hill, just below the enemy's battery. As the enemy had evidently been reinforced they pressed forward, when our troops retired to Moler's Hill, where they formed in line and let them hear from our artillery in several rounds, when they ceased firing for the night.


Richmond Daily Dispatch
October 22, 1861

The late fight near Harper's Ferry.

A correspondent of the Lynchburg Republican, writing under date of "Front Royal, Oct. 18th," says:

Col. Ashby attacked the Federal troops about a mile and a half south of Harper's Ferry yesterday, and drove them back to Bolivar, where the fight continued for three hours and a half. Ashby had a portion of four companies of the McDonald cavalry, and about three hundred and fifty militia — making a force of five hundred and fifty men. The Yankees were forced to retire beyond the river. Col. Ashby lost one man (militia) killed, and eight or nine slightly wounded. A 24-pound cannon, after it had been spiked and the carriage broken, fell into the hands of the enemy. The Federal force was estimated at fifteen hundred men, aided by a portion of Doubleday's battery. They lost two hundred in killed and wounded and twelve taken prisoners. The victory was complete, notwithstanding the Federals forced women and children to come in front of our lines to protect themselves from our fire.

The result of yesterday's battle has doubtless saved Jefferson county from being pillaged by the Yankees.


Richmond Daily Dispatch
October 23, 1861

The fight at Harper's Ferry.

[Correspondence of the Richmond Dispatch.]

Charlestown, Jefferson Co., Va., October 19th, 1861.

The anniversary of the attack on Harper's Ferry, by old Ossawattomic Brown, which may be said to be the beginning of this terrible war, in which we are now engaged, was celebrated on Tuesday last (the 16th) by a very spirited fight, between Col. Ash by and those under his command, numbering about 500, and a body of Federalists, supposed to be 1,000 strong. As I told you in a former letter, the enemy had taken possession of a hill two miles this side of the Ferry, upon which they had erected fortifications. Col. Ash by having received information, through a courier, that a considerable force, with several pieces of cannon, would march from Leesburg and take possession of the Loudoun heights, in order to assist him in driving the enemy from their stronghold, made preparations to commence the attack on this side of the town. These intentions becoming generally known, every one was on the qui and between seven and eight o'clock on Tuesdaymorning, a rapid discharge of musketry and the deep booming sound of the cannon, told that the fight bad begun. The road leading from this place to the scene of conflict was lined with strong men, wending their way to the nearest point of view consistent with safety. Had they been patriotic and courageous enough to have taken their guns, pistols, pitchforks, or any other death-dealing implement they could find, they might have rendered most efficient service, and by their presence and co-operation, inspired our military with fresh courage; but, being mere curious spectators, they were very serious obstacles in the way of those actually engaged in the conflict, for when the balls fell thick and fast around them, they scampered off without regard to consequences, which might have been very disastrous, as their stampede had the effect of starting the militia, and it was with difficulty that their commander could rally them again. However he did succeed in doing it, and they fought well, and drove the enemy from their position upon which our cannon was then planted, consisting of one twenty-four and one six-pounder.

Our guns from the Virginia mountain then opened fire in order to drive the Yankees from the houses in which they had taken refuge. Some of these shot took fatal effect, others fell short; but it drew upon them the fire of a concealed battery, the Federalists had on the Maryland heights, and their guns being managed by accomplished artillerists, soon obliged our men to fall back, and in so doing one of their principal guns broke down, rendering it entirely useless.

On the other side of the village the fight was very desperate and again we had the misfortune to lose the use of our largest cannon by its breaking down. These two casualties lost us the victory; for our men were obliged to retreat, leaving the hill and one twenty-four-pounder in the hands of the enemy. It is greatly to be regretted that we had not force enough to pursue the advantages we first gained; but our object has been accomplished, for the Federalists have evacuated the Ferry, and returned to their encampment on the other side of the river.

I will leave a more military description of this fight to be given by those more competent than I am, being a lady. I, of course, was not present, and only give the facts as I heard them from others; and as each gave a different version of the affair, it was with difficulty that I was enabled to get as near the truth as I think I have done.

We had one man killed and nine wounded All of the latter, including one Yankee, were brought to this place, where they are being kindly cared for, and every effort made to alleviate their sufferings. The loss of the Federalists it is impossible to estimate accurately, but we hear it was heavy.

The Rev. Green North is a prisoner in the hands of the enemy. His non-appearance on the evening of the fight and the return of his horse badly wounded, caused his friends great anxiety, and early the following morning a flag of truce was sent over the river, when it was ascertained that he was a prisoner, but unhurt. He is a true-hearted Southerner and will not conceal his sentiments even to procure his release; but I hope that after examining his case, and finding him a non-combatant, they will have the magnanimity to release him without insulting him by requiring him to take the oath of allegiance.

There is one who was engaged in this fight and was desperately wounded, who deserves special mention. John. T. Beale, a member of Captain E. L. Moore's company, from this place, has been faithfully serving his country ever since the beginning of the war, and had returned the evening before on a visit to his home for the purpose of recruiting his health; but hearing of the movement contemplated, he unhesitatingly offered his services, and was, by one of those mysterious acts of Providence, cut down in the midst of his usefulness. We sincerely trust that his wound will not prove fatal.

Too much praise cannot be bestowed upon our officers and men, and in the name of the ladies I return them thanks for the noble manner in which they have sustained the honor of the service, and for the energy and determination they have shown in our defence.

The fate of Harper's Ferry is sealed, and before many days it will be a heap of smouldering ruins, and there will be very few in this county who will not rejoice over its destruction. A Jefferson Lady.


Richmond Daily Dispatch
October 26, 1861

The Harper's Ferry fight.

Col. Ashby's order to march — the enemy's balls Flying thick and fast — coolness of Confederate officers — the Yankees repulsed with a loss of eighty killed, &c.

[Correspondence of the Richmond Dispatch.]

Camp Flowing Springs, Jefferson county, Va., Oct.17, 1861.

Having been engaged in the battle on Bolivar hill on yesterday, the 16th inst., we have concluded to give you a true statement of the same. Early on the evening of the 15th we received orders from Col. Ashby to have one day's rations cooked, and placed in our haver- sacks, ready to take up the line of march at daybreak. Accordingly we were all early on the line of march on the morning of the 16th, and ready to meet the enemy. About 8 o'clk A. M., we came in sight of the enemy, who were encamped on Bolivar hill, having their breastworks made with heavy logs. We planted our cannon, consisting of one twenty-four pounder and one six-pound rifle cannon, upon the hill about half a mile this side of Bolivar hill, and commenced firing upon the enemy, they firing upon us with their small arms without any effect. We soon drove them from their breastworks. We then attacked them on the right and left, the first regiment marching through the field to the right; the second, straight forward, at double-quick time, from our position to the ground the enemy occupied a few moment's before. The second regiment then marched on through a strip of woods and a field, in plain view and in range of the enemy's guns, the bullets falling like hail in our midst and around us. But through the interference of a kind Providence we all gained the cover of the hill, except one man, who received a slight wound upon the hip.

After gaining the cover of the hill, we all lay flat on the ground whilst the balls of the enemy were whistling fast and thick over our heads. The cavalry that were with the second regiment, kept up a fire upon the enemy, whilst they were firing upon us from the windows of the buildings in Bolivar. It was (here) on this hill that several of the cavalry fell belonging to Col. Ashby's regiment.

It is due here to state that Maj. Finter and Adjutant Grayson acted with the greatest coolness and bravery, riding backwards and forwards on the top of the hill in plain view and in range of the enemy's fire, watching the movements of the enemy. Major Finter here seeing the first regiment on the right retreating, gave orders for the second regiment to fall back to the ground we first drove the enemy from, and in a few moments the Yankees came up the pike charging and yelling like so many devils.

The second regiment here being joined by two companies (Captains Mauck and Taylor's) of the first retreating regiment, opened fire on the Yankees, and repulsed them with considerable loss, our regiment not losing a single man, and having only one slightly wounded. It is due here to say that the men of the first regiment are not to blame for retreating, as they had orders from their Col., who retreated with them.

The enemy, by this time, having received reinforcements and cannon, commenced firing bombshells in our ranks, and our force being very much weakened by the greater portion of the first regiment retreating, the handful of men that were left, by order of Colonel Ashby, fell back on the hill where we first made the attack in the morning.

We here opened fire upon them again with the small rifle cannon. The enemy occupying the same ground that they did in the morning, commenced firing upon us again with bombshells. Our ammunition in the meantime giving out, and the 24-pounder being of no more use to us, (its axletree having been broken in the commencement of the engagement,) was spiked, thus rendering it useless to those whom it fell in the hands of.--The evening being now far spent, we were ordered back to our encampment. There was only one killed on the Confederate side--a Mr. Zimmer, of the militia, from Shenandoah, and seven or eight wounded.--The loss upon the Federal side, according to their own acknowledgment in the Baltimore Sun, is about eighty killed. But for the accident to our gun, the enemy would have been cut to pieces. As it was, however, they lost in their flight upwards of one hundred coats and blankets, besides other trappings, and a number of fire-arms. The victory on the Confederate side was complete, the enemy making tracks in hot haste to Maryland. The Confederate force was 300 militia and about 250 cavalry, and that of the enemy 800 or 900, but were subsequently reinforced to about 2,000. We captured seven of the enemy in the engagement. The prisoners say that "the d — d militia fooled them," and that "they fought like devils without any officers." The Yankees took it for granted that we had no officers, as they had laid aside their uniforms, and taken guns as common soldiers.

J. J. P. & J. W. T. S.


Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: October 1861

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