Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood
March 3, 1864

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.
Series 1 - Volume 33

p. 228-229

FEBRUARY 29-MARCH 5, 1864.:Expedition to Petersburg and destruction of Saltpeter-Works near Franklin, W. Va.

Report of Lieut. Col. Augustus I. Root, Fifteenth New York Cavalry.


Camp near Burlington, W. Va., March 8, 1864.

SIR: I have the honor to report to you. for the information of the colonel commanding, that in obedience to an order received from division headquarters on the 28th day of February, 1864, I moved with my command, 400 strong, at 8 p. m., on the 29th ultimo, toward Petersburg, W. Va., and arrived there at daylight on the 1st instant, meeting with no opposition and finding no enemy there. I strongly picketed all approaches to the place, and camped my command in a ravine about I mile from town.

During the day I directed the detached portions of the command that had reported to me to take three days rations in haversacks and two days forage for animals on the horses, and be prepared to move at 8 p. m. One of the wagons of my command containing supplies not coming up I could only take two days rations for men and animals for the Fifteenth New York Cavalry. The command that I had been informed would report to me at Petersburg on the 1st instant to take charge of my wagons did not arrive until 8 p. m. Before I could have formed the command, drawn in my pickets, and crossed the river, it would have been 2 o'clock, and from the bad condition of the roads it would have been impossible for me to have reached Franklin at daylight on the 2d instant, and owing to the snow-storm of the previous twenty-four hours my men and animals had been unable to obtain any rest, and upon the suggestion of Captain Pease, of your staff, I decided not to move until the evening of the 2d instant.

At 7 p. m., on the 2d, I moved forward and arrived at Franklin a little after daylight on the 3d. Finding no enemy there I moved forward, with one squadron, to the saltpeter-works, 4 miles south of the town, and completely destroyed the buildings and all the materials for carrying on the works.

Being satisfied from the information that had been obtained that there was no force of the enemy in the Crab Bottom country, and learning that the enemy's forces had been ordered to concentrate on the South Fork, I decided to move directly to Circleville, distant 15 miles. I left Franklin at 3 p. m., crossed the North Mountain, and reached Circleville at 7 p. m., and camped. Moved forward at daylight down the North Fork. Near evening I received information from a citizen (Mr. Carr) that a part of the force left in charge of my train at Petersburg had been captured and the balance of it had fallen back. I pushed forward and took up a position at the junction of the Greenland and North Fork roads, arriving there at 3 a. m. of the 5th, having marched 37 miles.

In the mean time I had sent Lieutenant Gibson, of the Ringgold Cavalry, with 10 men to ascertain what force (if any) of the enemy were in my front. I received a report from him at daylight, that he had been into Petersburg and there was no force there. I immediately moved forward, arriving there at 12 m. Finding no rations or forage there for my command I decided to move at once to Burlington, where I arrived at 11 p. m.

My command has marched, since leaving camp, 172 miles over a very rough road, and for two days with but little subsistence, the country being entirely destitute of anything but hay. My loss in material, from examination, has been 12 horses. The 6-mule wagon that accompanied the command was precipitated down a precipice and destroyed. From 2 prisoners that were captured I received information that on the day of my arrival in Franklin the enrolling officer for the Confederate Government, with a provost guard, was to have arrived there, and the men that had been conscripted were ordered to report there on that day. My arrival was verb opportune, and the destruction of the saltpeter-works must have been a loss to the Confederate Government of $8,000 or $10,000.

I desire to express my sincere thanks to Lieutenants McKenzie and Nugent, of the staff of the colonel commanding, and Lieutenant Gibson, of the Ringgold Cavalry, for the prompt and efficient manner in which they performed all the duties assigned to them, but I would particularly request that Lieutenant Crago, of the Ringgold Battalion, will not be again assigned to any command under me. To Captain Pease I am under special obligations for his assistance in the general movements of the command.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Lieut. Col., Comdg. Fifteenth New York Vol. Cavalry.

Lieut. M. J. RUSSELL,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer
March 12, 1864

The War in West Virginia

An official dispatch from Col. Mulligan dated at New Creek, March 7th, reports fourteen deserters and conscripts, arrived, had come in from the neighborhood of Staunton. They report that on the 20th of last month 110 deserters and conscripts left Mount Salem, in Augusta county, armed and resolved to fight their way through our lines.

The following dispatch from Gen. Kelly is published:

CUMBERLAND, MD., March 6, 1864,

A cavalry force, sent under command of Lieutenant Colonel Root, of the 15th New York Cavalry, has just returned from Hardy and Pendleton counties. They effectually destroyed all the saltpeter works near Franklin in the later county. There is nothing else new. Refugees and deserters are constantly coming in. General Crook reports the capture of forty rebels a few days since by his scouts in the Kanawha.

[Signed] B. F. KELLEY, Brig. Gen.

Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: March 1864

West Virginia Archives and History