May 1, 1863
The Late Expedition To Littleton – The Adventures Of A Night. – The 6th regiment of Virginia militia, under Col. T. H. Logan, and Capt. Powell, reached Littleton station about 9 o’clock on Wednesday morning. Capt. Long’s company was sent forward to feel the way, after which the train bearing the militia moved slowly up the road a distance of about four miles where it was brought to a stand by a burnt bridge, and the soldiers jumped from the cars and proceeded to select a suitable place for camping. The two bridges destroyed spanned Fish Creek, and are only three hundred yards apart. An old lady by the name of Church, whose parents died a short time ago at the aggregate ago of two hundred and fourteen, lives between the two bridges. She saw five men building a fire under the bridges on Monday night and after the flames got fairly under way she saw them run up a hill and dive into the woods. Mrs. Church is seventy-five years of age and being rather feeble she did not approach the men and is therefore unable to tell who they were, though the general impression is that the act was perpetrated by a gang of scoundrels sent there, one by one, for that purpose by the rascals who have since backed them up in their incendiarism.
Col. Logan sent Capt. Knox with a squad of ten men up the railroad as far as Mannington. The squad went within about a miles of Mannington where they met a large number of Union refugees. The Captain, very naturally, was about devising ways and means to escape with his men when he discovered the character of the supposed enemy. The refugees, some of whom were from Mannington, informed Capt. Knox that the rebels had whipped the bridge guard at Fairmont and had taken possession of the place. Nothing particularly worthy of note occurred in the camp during the day. In the afternoon the construction train arrived, an immense force was set to work and the repairs were soon in rapid progress. All sorts of rumors were afloat as to the movements of the enemy above, but as no communication could now be had nothing definite was known. In the evening a strong picket was thrown out upon the great high hills surrounding the camping grounds and upon the roads leading in different directions. The men having heard of the detention of the provision train by the collision near Moundsville, and having taken very little with them in the way of substantial refreshments some of them went angling in the creek and caught several hundred fish – chiefly chubs, silver sides and sunfish, about the size of a common sized sardine. These fish or minnows having been disembowelled [sic] and cleaned, a flat stone was well heated and greased with a piece of flitch, when the dainties were fried, in one or two cases, the stone being of slate, the fishes went up in an explosion. The men, however, by dint of economy managed to prepare a tolerable supper, immediately after several thousand feet of boards disappeared from a saw mill which stood near and instead there appeared sundry little sheds by which the men proposed to shelter themselves from the coming storm and around which the camp fires were soon burning brightly.
About 9 o’clock, P. M., just as the boys had got themselves comfortably tucked up together and prepared for a good nap, four shots were fired, a signal for calling in the pickets. We soon had our guns upon our shoulders, and upon falling into line, we learned that a dispatch had been received from Gen. Lightburn, at Wheeling, ordering us to fall back upon Cameron. The cars were ready near the camping ground, and the men soon jumped aboard, though with a manifest disinclination, to leave the bridges, upon which the workmen were still engaged, without knowing the cause of the movement. In the course of half an hour, however, the pickets having made their appearance, the train moved off towards Cameron; the boys taking a lingering look at their bright camp fires, and comfortable looking board huts. The train upon which the regiment left Littleton, consisted of seven cars. As it was passing through Broad Tree Tunnel, three of the cars, all of which were well filled, became detached from the balance of the train. As you emerge from the tunnel coming west, you descend a steep grade, about seventy feet to the mile. The engineer not being aware of the accident, pushed down the grade as usual, but soon checked up. The three detached cars in moving down the grade, had acquired a much greater velocity, and the consequence was that two passenger cars came together with a tremendous crash. One car reared clear upon the top of the other and both were badly crushed. In one of the cars half the seals were torn out, and yet strange to say, no person was seriously injured. The writer hereof was spilled from one end of the car to the other in a very ungraceful and undignified heap and nearly the whole crowd was similarly disposed of. Quite a number received slight cuts and bruises, but no serious injury was sustained. The train men went to work and in about three hours it was announced that the cars were ready. In the meantime some of the militiamen had been firing off their guns in very unpleasant proximity to the heads of fellow patriots, when an order was given to discharge all the guns then loaded for fear of accident. The guns were accordingly fired across a deep, dark gorge against a high, rocky mountain. By this time the moon had gone down and the night was intensely dark. A large number of Union refugees from the districts lately invaded by the rebels, were occupying a train of gondolas immediately in the rear of the train to which the accident had happened. The refugees, having for several days labored under much excitement and constant dread, supposed that we had been attacked by the Allemani, and they immediately abandoned the gondolas and made for the woods.
The other train now got fairly under way and again moved down the grade, but it had not proceeded more than a mile and a half before another accident, almost precisely similar to the one above described, took place, with the same results. Luckily, the second accident happened at Belton, where there is a switch. The broken cars were left upon the track and the militiamen mounted themselves upon the open gondolas which had been traveling in the rear, and upon which we entered Cameron yesterday morning at six o’clock, as dirty sooty, tired and hungry a looking set of roosters as ever went out to fight for their country. The 4th regiment, together with about three hundred regulars, under Captain Dodd, were still at Cameron yesterday afternoon, awaiting orders. While at Cameron, yesterday, we learned that scouts who had just returned from Waynesburg reported that a thousand mounted rebels had crossed Cheat river and were making their way into Pennsylvania. The Waynesburg road which comes in at Cameron, as well as other roads, were strongly picketed yesterday.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: April 1863