Skip Navigation

First West Virginia Legislature

Biographical Sketches: Lewis Ballard

Wheeling Intelligencer
July 15, 1863

The First West Va. Legislature.


Sketches Personal, Political and Biographical.

LEWIS BALLARD, from Monroe.

Lewis Ballard, the member of the House from Monroe county, is a native of Virginia, and of the county he now represents. He was born August the 27th, 1826, and is consequently 37 years of age. His ancestors were of a missed race, Scotch predominating, his grandfather being remotely descended from the Bruces. His father was a farmer, and raised him to work on the farm till near his maturity, about which time he varied the employment by teaching and "old fijod school" for about six months. He then engaged in selling books by subscriptions, and in this occupation for two or three years traveled over many counties of Western Virginia. At the age of 29 he married. Since that time he has been engaged in the business of village and country merchant, up to the time the rebellion broke out.

He opposed the call for the convention that passed the the secession ordinance, an in the face of threats of hanging voted against that ordinance when it was pretended to be submitted to the people. He did all in his power to induce others to vote against it, but when the die was cast, and he was powerless for good, he silently acquiesced in the great wrong that had been done, and quietly pursued his business as merchant and the farmer. But this he was not long permitted to do. On the evening of the day on which the first battle of Bull Run was fought, Floyd's brigade, then overrunning that region, encamped a short distance from his house. Though as stated, Mr. Ballard had been quiet and inoffensive since the breaking out of hostilities, the reels cherished deadly hostility against him. A gang of Floyd's ruffians surrounded his house, and suspended a rope on which they proposed to hang him, but he had been advised of their intentions, and made his escape. They broke open his store and robbed him of several thousand dollars worth of goods, some money and valuable papers. They broke into his cellar and carried of some 800 or 1000 gallons of apple brandy, that article being in great demand in Floyd's army. They also entered his house and drove his family from it and robbed it of everything portable.

After remaining concealed for some days, Mr. Ballard returned home upon assurance by prominent secesh citizens of protection and indemnification for loss. He sought permission to leave the State with his family, but was positively refused. In the early part of August, 1861, he was arrested for "treason to the State of Virginia." He gave bail in the sum of $4,000 to await the action of the grand jury. The jury indicted him for "treason to the Confederate States." He renewed his bail and there the matter ended. He remained at home until the federal troops approached the neighborhood, when he was arrested by order of a militia general and sent to Richmond. On the 8th of January, '62, he was landed in an old tobacco warehouse, known as "the gangrene hospital," where four other citizens were confined, amidst mud, filth and lousy deserters from the rebel army. In about a month he and several others were removed to another warehouse and finally to the notorious Libby prison, where he remained till the middle of May. When they were sent to Salisbury, N. C., where he remained till the 8th of January last, just a twelve month from the time he landed in the tobacco warehouse in Richmond. How much longer he would he would have been kept no one knows, but he and a companion took French leave by breaking out of prison. For some three days and nights they wandered around Salisbury, the weather being so cloudy they could not shape their course, and at the end of that time they were but twenty miles away, and they struck northward, and after a long and tedious journey, reached the federal lines at Fayette Court House, Va., Mr. Ballard stopping with his family a few hours.

Since Mr. Ballard's escape through the federal lines, the rebels have carried off and sold all his movable property they could get hands on. What he suffered during his twelve months' imprisonment tongue or pen could hardly tell. Fortunately he was able to procure money from home through a former partner in business, who was in the Legislature at Richmond, and who, though as enemy, could not refuse this aid. Without this he thinks he could not have lived through. While in prison he was often solicited to take the oath to the confederate government, and as often refused. No charge was ever made against him except that he was loyal to the Union.

Mr. Ballard was elected to represent Monroe county, by some fifty refugees, who held an election at Charleston, Kanawha. The Committee on Credentials have not reported on his case but he will undoubtedly be permitted to hold his seat.

He is not a member of any religious denomination, but, if looks are any index to character is evidently a man of correct moral principles.

There are about 200 refugees from Monroe within the Federal lines. The first representation this county had in any loyal assembly since the breaking out of the rebellion was in the Parkersburg Convention; the next was in the present Legislature. Yet fully one-half the population is represented as loyal, though they have no means of expressing it.

Politically, Mr. Ballard has always been an old Whig, though he strongly opposed Knownothingism and voted for Breckinridge in 1860. He was always strongly pro slavery, till convinced that the predominance of slavery and the stability of the Government are incompatible. -- He would favor indemnity to loyal slave owners in West Virginia for any real loss they may sustain by emancipation, but thinks the increase in the value of lands &c., will cover all losses. Mr. Ballard is emphatically the friend and advocate of the Union and of the new State, and is essentially anti-slavery, especially so far as that questions relates to West Virginia. It would be very strange, if after his two years experience with rebels fighting to enlarge the dominion of slavery, he was anything else.

Personally, Mr. Ballard is rather good looking, with fine regular features, of a Scottish type; about six feet in stature and of symmetrical figure; of what physiologists call sanguine temperament; complexion fresh and ruddy; eyes bright blue, and intelligent; hair inclined to reddish and whiskers and moustache pretty decidedly so; hair so much thinned on the top of his head that it utterly fails to hide a fine phrenological development. Has been rather a silent member so far, which may be owing to his being a comparative stranger to most of the members. It is evident, however, that he is not silent, as some one was noisy, "for want of thought." In manner he is to strangers somewhat reserved, but upon better acquaintance is frank and cordial and talks readily and well.

Biographies of the First West Virginia Legislature

West Virginia Archives and History