Series 1, Volume 12, Part 1, p. 489-91
Report of Maj. Benjamin M. Skinner, Ninth West Virginia Infantry.
Charleston, May 22, 1862.
Colonel: I have the honor to submit the following report of my scout into Roane and Clay Counties.
In pursuance to your order we left camp on Elk River on Thursday, the 8th instant, at 11 o’clock, and marched that day to John D. Young’s on Elk River, a distance of 17 miles, when we encamped for the night. The next day we marched up the upper left-hand fork of sandy, knowing it to be the neighborhood where Comly ranged last season, and encamped at Vineyard, having marched a distance of 28 miles.
That night I threw out scouting parties, who scoured the country around about all night. Hearing there that the rebels had gone to Spencer I marched direct for that place, a distance of 19 miles, where I arrived on Saturday, the 10th instant, at 4 p.m. I rested my men there until Monday morning; found no provisions there except flour and pork. I learned there that the rebels had not been at Spencer, but had changed their course and gone down West Fork to Big Bend, on Little Kanawha.
On Monday morning I left 75 of my men, who were foot-sore, to guard the place, and in their stead I took a company of 40 men, under Lieutenant Bukey, of the Eleventh Virginia Regiment, whom I found stationed at Spencer, and marched with my command to Burning Springs, on Little Kanawha, a distance of 19 miles, arriving there at 6 o’clock Monday evening, 12th instant.
I there found that the rebels had escaped in small squads, finding themselves nearly surrounded. I found General Kelley at Burning Springs, with the Ringgold Cavalry and about 300 infantry; found also Colonel Rathbone, of the Eleventh Regiment Virginia Infantry, they having arrived there a few hours previous. I was ordered by General Kelley to remain with my command at Burning Springs, but upon representing to him the condition of my men, they having no blankets, camp equipage, cooking utensils, &c., and that one detachment of 75 men was at Spencer, I gained his consent to leave one company only at that point, and on Wednesday, 12 m., I left Lieutenant Bukey, with his company, at that place, and with the balance of my command marched up the West Fork of Little Kanawha to within a half mile of the Greathouse settlement (where we intended to encamp), when I heard firing at a distance of about 2 miles in front of us. I then ordered my men on double-quick to the place where the firing was supposed to be, but found nothing, and marched on to the Hiram Chapman place, a distance of 21 miles from Burning Springs, where I expected to find a company of the First Virginia Cavalry encamped, from which I supposed the firing I had heard a few miles back had originated. My advance guard was cautioned to march carefully, as there was danger of encountering their pickets, but the cavalry not having any guards out, my men could have surprised them very easily, taken their horses, and captured the whole company, who were asleep in the house. I then encamped for the night and learned from the cavalry that they had been fired upon by guerrillas at a distance of 600 yards. They returned the fire, but knew nothing of the effect it had on the rebels except to disperse them.
The next morning I broke three squads from the two companies of the Ninth Virginia Regiment, and sent them, under command of officers, to scour that country, which resulted in the bringing in of 2 prisoners, one of whom was a deserter from Captain West’s cavalry; the other was a guerrilla, fully equipped, belonging to Captain Downs’ company.
I marched from that place to Spencer, where I arrived at 2 o’clock p.m. Thursday; found there from 600 to 800 infantry and two companies of cavalry. Met General Kelley, who gave me orders to remain there, under the command of Colonel Rathbone.
General Kelley informed me that there was an order for me in possession of Colonel Rathbone from Colonel Lightburn, of the Fourth Virginia, for me to report with my command at Charleston, which order Colonel Rathbone refused to give me.
Friday morning General Kelley left Spencer for Weston, Va. Saturday evening, 17th instant, three guerrillas, named Captain Downs, Perry Hayes, and Silcott, came into Spencer under a flag of truce, stating that they had been requested to do so by a messenger from General Kelley. General Kelley being absent, Colonel Rathbone entered into an agreement that they should cease fighting on both sides for eight days, and that Captain Downs’ men should have the privilege of going home to see their families, and that they should not be molested either by the military or civil authority, and at the expiration of eight days they would either give themselves up with their whole command as prisoners of war or take themselves off out of the country to the rebel army, and whatever the rebels decided upon they were to have twenty days after the expiration of the eight days to accomplish. Messengers from each party were to meet at the mouth of Henry’s Fork every other day and exchange communications.
On Sunday morning, 19th instant, Colonel Rathbone furnished a company of cavalry to escort the rebel messengers out of the lines to their camp, which company of cavalry returned on Monday morning, bringing with them a lieutenant from the rebels under Captain Downs, who wished a pass, that he might go into Braxton County to see another company of guerrillas, which pass Colonel Rathbone granted. The same day a notorious guerrilla named Dick Greathouse, who had been engaged in fighting at every skirmish had in that country, and had stolen a large number of horses in that section of country, was arrested by the sheriff of the county within a mile of Spencer. The court being in session, he was examined and committed to jail. Colonel Rathbone, hearing of it, ordered his release, and he was escorted out of town under guard.
On Tuesday morning, May 21, I received an order from Colonel Rathbone to report to Colonel Lightburn at Charleston, which order read as follows:
You will report yourself and your command to Colonel Lightburn for duty at Charleston, Kanawha County, Virginia.
By order of Brigadier-General Kelley:
J. C. Rathbone,
I notified officers in command of companies to draw three days’ rations and prepare to march for Charleston the next day, intending to be three days on the march, but at 9 o’clock on Tuesday I was shown the order from General Kelley, stating that Colonel Lightburn was threatened with an attack from cavalry at Charleston, and ordered to move with haste for that place, which I did, leaving Spencer at 9:30 o’clock Tuesday morning, arriving at Charleston at 5 o’clock on Wednesday p. m. with my command, having taken the nearest route,a nd marching a distance of 50 miles.
B. M. Skinner,
Major Ninth Regiment Virginia Volunteer Infantry, U. S. A.
Col. J. A. J. Lightburn,
Commanding Fourth Brigade.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: May 1862