Series 1, Volume 51, Part 2, p. 531-32
Headquarters District of Lewisburg,
Lewisburg, April 4, 1862.
His Excellency the Governor of Virginia:
Governor: Since my communication of the 2d instant was written and mailed, a committee of citizens from Pocahontas County (the Commonwealth’s attorney being one) waited upon me regarding the rangers. I asked them to state what they had to say in writing. The inclosed letter is what I have received in response. What is therein stated I do not doubt. Martial law having been proclaimed in my district I now have the authority to disarm the two companies of rangers now here (Downs’ and Spriggs’). Courtesy, I think, demands that I should inform you that I intend doing this at once, and I beg leave, respectfully, to request that you will not legalize the formation of any more similar organizations in this section of the country, believing the good of our cause will be promoted thereby.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
Lewisburg, Va., April 4, 1862.
General H. Heth,
Commanding District of Lewisburg:
Sir: The militia of my county have been called out. The forces at Huntersville have fallen back, and the wives and daughters and property of the men of Pocahontas left to the mercy of the enemy and the rangers. Springing full armed into existence (not from the brain of a heathen goddess but from hasty legislation), the rangers are a terror to the loyal and the true everywhere, and cannot whilst engaged in the murder of our citizens and the stealing of their property be of any service to Virginia or her cause. Need I tell you what you must know, that Virginia has armed these men to murder, rob, steal, and commit all other offenses of a less grade, and that they are doing it; that they are supreme judges of the loyalty of Virginians, and pass sentence of death or confiscation of property without evidence or the shadow of it, and execute their sentence of death and decretal orders of confiscation on any man they desire to kill and rob, or who has the misfortune to have sufficient property to be styled by them “Union men.” Surely not. You know it. Some of them have murdered citizens of Pocahontas; others have stolen their horses. Three murders, three robberies, and fifteen to twenty horses stolen sum up their offenses as reported to me in Pocahontas; but their decree has gone forth, and this is “but the beginning of the end” unless they are brought in subjection to your command and the laws of the land.
I demand that they shall be, or that the militia of Pocahontas be disbanded and sent back to defend their families and property from the depredations of these lawless banditti, since the first duty of a man in a Government that fails to protect his family and property is to God and his own household. If it be true, as alleged in our bill of rights (and I believe it), that “a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free State,” why not take the arms from these blackguards and scoundrels and place them in the hands of the militia of Alleghany, who, unarmed, stand ready in your camp to carry the flag of Virginia anywhere you may order if the weapons of warfare are placed in their hands? If power to disband the rangers or the militia of Pocahontas is not given you—if you cannot bring them into subjection to law and order, I beg that you will appeal to the Governor of Virginia for the power necessary to that end, and in the meantime that you will aid the civil authorities in arresting and bringing to justice two rangers by the name of Tuning and one Cunningham for the murder of my countymen, Arbogast, Buzzard, and Alderman, and that you will order (of course I know that they will respect the order or not just as they please) the restoration of the horses taken to the owners, all of whom are not known to me, but I have been furnished with the names following as the owner each of one horse, viz: Morgan Anderson, one; Peter Joel and Adam Hill, three; Fielding Boggs, one; James Snedegar, one; James Kee, one; Frank Armstrong, one, and ____ Young, of Stony Creek, one; or that you will aid in having the rogues arrested and brought to punishment.
Trusting that you will regard it as a pleasure and a duty to aid in ridding the State of an armed nuisance that every day shows itself powerless for good, but omnipotent for evil; that the rangers will be brought into subjection and made to obey orders, or be disarmed and sent back to Yankeedom and good men placed in possession of their guns to dispatch them on their returning raids, I am, very truly, your obedient,
Wm. Skeen, of Pocahontas,
Attorney for the Commonwealth.
P.S.—Of course I do not mean to say that there are not some good men belonging to the rangers, but neither officers nor the good have power over the vicious and the bad, and the last are daily absorbing the first. A good man and loyal citizen has no more business with them than with the inmates of the penitentiary at Richmond.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: April 1862