June 28, 1862
We have received the following correspondence in a printed slip from Point Pleasant:
Point Pleasant, Va., June 3, 1862.
This day I received a dispatch from Col. Gilbert, commanding the 44th Ohio Regiment, at Meadow Bluff, requesting me to look out for, and if possible arrest his colored cook, who had run off with a small mare belonging to the U.S.
June 10, 1862.
Having heard that several negroes had lately been arrested by some parties here who follow that business to some extent, I went to the jail to see if any of them answered the description of the one above referred to, but did not find any who did.—I however, found some with passes from millitary [sic] commandants of posts, one of which reads as follows:
“Gauley Bridge, June 2, 1862.
“The guards will pass George Washington and family, and J. Brown, contrabands, through the lines to Point Pleasant.
Col. Com’d’g Post and 9th Va. Reg’t.
Upon mature deliberation, I became satisfied that it was my duty to cause the above and similar passes to be respected, and informed the jailor of the fact, who seemed willing that the parties should be released, but did not seem to dare to assume the responsibility of turning them out. Desiring instructions from headquarters before assuming the responsibility myself, and supposing that the Provost Marshal General at Wheeling could either give me the requisite instruction, or refer me to the proper one to give it, I immediately telegraphed him as follows.
Point Pleasant, Va., June 12, 1862.
Maj. Darr, Provost Marshal General, Wheeling, Va.:
There are some contraband negroes here in jail, arrested and put there by some negro catchers.
The contrabands have passes from military commandants of posts, and are from Greenbrier, Alleghany and Fayette counties.
Should I cause those passes to be respected by ordering the release of the contrabands?
J. C. Wheeler,
Capt. Co. H, 9th Va. Reg. Comd’g Post.
The following dispatch was received in reply:
“U.S. Military Telegraph, June 13
By Telegraph from Cincinnati, 13, ’62.
Capt. J. C. Wheeler, C. H, 9th Va. Reg’t, Commanding Post:
Your dispatch to Major Darr received by me. Respect the military passes in possession of contrabands, and release them forthwith.
R. M. Corwine,
Major and A. D. C. and Dep’t Judge Advocate.”
I then issued the following order and served it personally on the jailor of Mason county:
“Point Pleasant, June 13, 1862.
To the Jailor of Mason County:
In obedience to orders this day received from Headquarters of the Mountain Department of the Army of the United States, you are hereby required to release from your custody and from your Jail, George Washington and family and J. brown contrabanns [sic], having passes from the Military Commandant of a Post.
By order of J. C. Wheeler.
Capt. Commanding Post and Company H, 7th Virginia Regiment.
The Jailor refused to acknowledge my authority attempted to be exercised in the above order and claimed that he had information that this act of mine was an interference with the civil power, but expressed a willingness to be governed by the advice of the civil officers of the Government, and called up Wm. E. Wetzel, Esq., Deputy United States Marshall, who forbid his obeying the order, and in violent language threatened to report me, if I insisted on enforcing it.
To be certain that this case should be thoroughly understood at Headquarters, I sent the following dispatch to the Judge Advocate:
“Point Pleasant, Va., June 14, ’62.
Major R. M. Corwine, A. D. C. & Department, Judge Advocate:
I have served a notice on the jailor for the release of contrabands.
The U. S. Deputy Marshal has commanded the jailor to retain them charging that I am interfering with the civil authority, as they were committed by the civil magistrate. The case will be reported to the District Attorney, who I believe is pro-slavery. Shall I proceed to release them by force?
J. C. Wheeler
Captain Co. H, 9th Virginia Regiment, commanding post.”
The following dispatch was received in reply:
“U.S. Military Telegraph, June 16.
By Telegraph from Vincennes, 16, ’62.
To J. C. Wheeler, Capt. Co. H, 9th Virginia Infantry:
Release them at every hazard.
R. M. C.
I then took a squad of armed men and proceeded to the jail, demanded the keys which were given up without any resistance, and I released from the cell of said jail, the said George Washington and his family, consisting of a wife and two children and J. Brown, the persons called for in the aforesaid pass and order.
George Washington and his wife are rather intelligent contrabands, having been raised in the vicinity of White Sulphur Springs. J. brown has been afflicted with rheumatism until his legs are drawn so crooked that locomotion is very difficult—he is, however, rather a sprightly darkey and can make himself serviceable in many ways. A true copy from the order book of Company H.
J. C. Wheeler, Captain.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: June 1862