Special Correspondence of the Intelligencer,
September 5, 1862
Special Correspondence of the Intelligencer,
CLARKSBURG, WEDNESDAY MORNING
September 3, 1862
Your correspondent still feels a prevalent sense of having been humbugged in coming to Clarksburg to see a battle.—There has been no engagement here yet that he is aware of –at least none with the rebels. A heavy raid has been made here upon rotgut whiskey, and is still going on. Colonel Wilkinson charged on it with a printed notice to tavern keepers that if they sold whiskey to either citizens or soldiers, (which of course included everybody but officers,) the said liquor would be “confiscated.” I am led to suppose that the order was violated, for every time I happened to be in at any of the bar-rooms (which was frequently) some of the officers were there engaged in the work of “confiscation.”—The process is somewhat peculiar—a great improvement on the old style. Orpheus Kerr calls it “taking the oath.” The liquor is not poured out on the floor, or on the ground, or into the gutters by wholesale, as in some places. It is poured out into small tumblers and swallowed by the confiscators, along with occasional admixtures of sugar to make the task agreeable. One peculiarity of this confiscation was that the owners were rewarded with small quantities of lucre as the work went on: another was that the officers all came in to take turns at the task: and another was that they always came in and went out at the back door, which was inadvertently left open, though the front door was kept carefully locked. I think the job was considered arduous, for citizens were not unfrequently [sic] called in to assist—always with due caution, of course. A poor devil of a common soldier who confiscated more than he could conceal, was sent to jail. Why not? As there is quite a heavy stock of whiskey here, it will take some time to confiscate it all, but those at present engaged at it will get through the job about as soon as any that could be employed. A waggish soldier who was dry, and could get “not a drop to drink,” was cruel enough to say this morning that the confiscation order was issued because the stock of whiskey was getting low, and the officers were afraid it would give out before a fresh supply could be obtained, unless the consumption became less miscellaneous. I was much impressed by a rebuke administered by an official wearing the shoulder-straps of a lieutenant, who sways a good deal of little brief authority round her just now, to a released prisoner who had been arrested when drunk.—The released party had gone into the bar-room of the “principal hotel,” as Captain Leib styles it, to see the host on business. It so happened that the officer who released him was taking his turn at the bar in the work of confiscation. He desisted a few minutes, and recognizing the party aforesaid, turned to him and proceeded to recapitulate to him the terms upon which he had been released, on condition of which was that he should “look not upon the wine when it is red—when it giveth its color in the cup,” “for,” said he, “if I find you drinking any, or getting drunk, I will put you right back where you came from,”—after which he confiscated a tumbler full without sugar. Of course the admonished party slunk away abashed and mortified that he had ever dared harbor a weakness for “suthin’ strong.” For my part I couldn’t “see it,” and don’t yet.—These observations in regard to officers do not apply, be it said, to the officers of the Twelfth.
Believe me, confiscation is popular here, Carlile to the contrary notwithstanding, and Col. Wilkinson’s plan is considered the best.
The prevalent belief here this morning is that Clarksburg will hardly be captured for a day or two. The draft of General Jenkins on this place has been postponed indefinitely, perhaps. When last heard from, the tails of his horses were turned in this direction, and his face was set bravely westward. He had occupied Glenville, the capital of Gilmer county, and was supposed to be looking around for new towns to conquer. Some little conjecture is indulged as to where he will next graze his horses. Some affect to believe it will be on the banks of the little Kanawha and that Parkersburg will be the theatre of his next conquest. If so, it is to be hoped that somebody will lend your friend Wharton a horse, not to escape on, but that he may ride around and arouse the people to a sense of danger; and if Jenk. Does go to Parkersburg, you ought to protest that Judge Jackson shall not be blamed this time for getting up an excitement. A sufficient reason will be that the Judge will not likely be there.
But, seriously, there are some apprehensions here that this daring band of rebels may take off at an angle, and run down on to the N. W. Va. R. R. , either to destroy it at some point or to move on Parkersburg, or both. It was under this apprehension that Mulligan left his tents standing and went in that direction last night. Nothing has transpired, I understand, but there is a wholesome fear that something may.
Meanwhile, Jenkins goes on conquering and to conquest with none to dispute his progress or menace his rear. He moves with such celerity that it would be at least useless to conjecture his precise whereabouts just now; for he might very unexpectedly turn up in some unlooked for direction. If I might risk a conjecture, it would be that he will neither make a descent on the Northwestern Virginia road nor a raid on Parkersburg. It was probably not the intention when he left his mountain fastnesses. Doubtless he achieved one of his main purposes when he took, carried away and destroyed the immense government stores at Buckhannon. The other he is now accomplishing, in traversing the region of country through which he is now passing, and affording an opportunity to the friends of the Southern rebellion to join his standard and escape “Lincoln’s draft.” Many are doing so.—Indeed, he must be receiving large accessions of men from all accounts, while he steals enough good horses to mount them, and plunders our posts of arms and ammunition to equip them. Without doubt, Jenkins is on a recruiting tour, and his title of “General” may have been conferred upon him for the brigade he is raising. If he makes the round of the counties—going west, say to the Ohio, or nearly so and down through Jackson, Mason, Kanawha, Putnam and to other adjoining counties, he ought to raise a pretty strong force. Then he would be ready to co-operate with Bragg (if it be true that Bragg is coming into the Kanawha Valley) by moving up again through Greenbrier, Pocahontas and Randolph, and again threatening our mountain border.
It is a matter of controversy here among outsiders whether Jenkins’ force is the one that threatened Gen. Kelly at Beverly or a part of it; or whether it is another and came from another direction. It approached Buckhannon from Webster county, yet is could easily have described a circuit from about Huttonsville and have come in that way. Certainly it was not Jenkins who made the raid into Tucker county, for he has too much sense to lead his men into a region where there was a much better prospect of starvation than plunder. Is it not probable that the main force is in Gen. Kelley’s front, and that Jenkins made this dash in the rear for the purpose in addition to those enumerated of distracting his attention and if possible creating a panic? I put it as a query, for really the unmilitary here know nothing of General Kelly’s situation or force. It is presumed the proper officers know, but they very properly keep it to themselves. You have much better means of knowing there at Wheeling that we here, as to things in that direction. Besides the orders of the War Department sometimes stand in the way of people telling what little they do happen to know.
Four companies of the Twelfth Virginia received marching orders yesterday evening, and left last night at ten o’clock under command of Lieut. Col. Northcott, for Buckhannon or Beverly, most probably the latter. They were the two companies from Harrison, Capts. Moffatt and Mercer, Capt. Tomlinson’s of Marshall, and Capt. Brown’s of Hancock. The order was very unexpected, both officers and men expecting that they were to remain at this point a few days at least for drill. But instead of that this fine regiment which never had a battalion drill or dress parade, which was organized one day and received orders to march the following night, is now divided, and no one can say when the parts will come together again.
I am not insensible that unmilitary people are presumed not to know anything about military business, but nevertheless submit it to the plain sense of common-sense people, whether such measures (if others like it are to follow) are not, to say the least, injudicious. Here is a regiment composed of as good material for soldiers as any ever organized in the State, ordered to the theatre of supposed danger before ever having had an hour’s drill in regiment.—On the way arms are for the first time put into their hands—a kind of arms to which none of them had ever been accustomed, which they cannot handle with any sort of dexterity, and can scarcely load—several of them having actually rammed home cartridges with the ball downward. More than that, fully one-third of these arms are absolutely worthless. I have seen men snap a half dozen caps before the barrel would explode, and others try the caps fully as often before exploding them. Some which would not fire at all were examined, and it was found that the cylinders (I believe that part is called which joins the tube to the barrel,) had never been drilled out at all, while in others the hollow of the tube was too small to admit the powder.—The one would not shoot at all, and the other scarcely once in a half-a-dozen trials. On all, the tubes are so large that the caps when pressed down are split open and liable to drop off the moment the cock is raised. In those guns that will not explode the caps, it is simply the fault of the lock—the main spring being too weak. These are not the weapons to which a soldier is willing to entrust his life; for the gun is to the soldier as the plank to the sailor. As long as the planks are sound and the bark is tight and trim beneath his feet, he defies the elements and laughs at fate; and while the soldier’s weapon is true and trusty he is willing to fight the world, the flesh, the devil or Jeff. Davis; but if the plank is rotten or the gun is treacherous, the sailor and the soldier alike lose heart and courage, for the chances of life are against them let them do their best.
The facts stated in regard to the guns are disagreeable, but facts nevertheless, and are stated in no spirit of fault finding, and of no other purpose than to suggest to those who may be able to do so that this evil of defective arms be remedied, if possible, and as soon as possible. Certainly theses guns were never inspected by the agents of the Government who purchased them. Are there not yet a large number of the same kind in store in Wheeling for the other new regiments? If so, they ought to be examined at once, and all defective ones repaired; for it is little better than slaughter to send men into action with such weapons as some these are.
But to resume the former line of remark. Aside from the consideration of dividing a regiment while utterly raw and undrilled, it appears like a very singular order to send forward to a point of danger four companies of perfectly raw troops who loaded their muskets and filled their cartridge boxes for the first time on starting, while a large number of drilled and experienced troops were lying idle in their tents not fifty yards away. Would it not have been better to have sent them out for a little whole-some exercise and put the green ones—who couldn’t go through the facings or keep step even, but who could guard a point where there was no danger just as well—under the teaching of the drill master, to be instructed in the manual of arms, as well as the manual of legs, and all other things essential to make the confident and efficient soldier?
If our new regiments are ever to be of any account, they should be used in a way to make them so—not killed up in every sense within a month or two as such a start off would promise. The men who have volunteered to do our fighting have a right to expect that they are to be manufactured into soldiers before they can do the work of soldiers. If their lives are worth anything to themselves, their families, or to the State, that is what ought to be done. If the danger is imminent let them go on to meet it just as any other mob of citizens would go, where there are none others to do it better, but don’t expect them to do any more or better than other men of the same experience—or want of experience rather—would do. It is the firmness of step, he dexterity of grasp, the resoluteness of purpose, the confidence of certainty and the coolness of courage—that are brought out, if not in some cases absolutely created by the drill; and though men look like soldiers the day after they are uniformed, yet they are not soldiers in fact and cannot be for weeks or months.
Officers to whom is entrusted the lives of so many should attend to such considerations. The life of every soldier is presumed to be not only a consideration of some moment to himself, but is devoted to the republic and ought to be husbanded so as best to serve it. A regiment of soldiers properly organized and introduced to the service will, if other considerations are equal, be three times as efficient and last three times as long as one that is butchered, broken down and demoralized before the men are inured to the duties and hardships of a soldier’s life.
I allude to this somewhat at length in view of the policy to be pursued in organizing the new Virginia regiments. So far as the Twelfth is concerned, there is no set of men more ready to go where ordered and do whatever is required of them.—Everyone who has been with them will testify to that.
It cannot be denied that things here, in a military point of view, are at loose ends.—Discipline among the troops is lax, so appears to be an attention to duty on the part of some of the officers. It may be that their engagements around town will not allow them time to attend to drilling men and qualifying them and themselves for actual service, but if so they should tender their resignations and let others who have not so much to so take their places. Perhaps it is no worse here, however, than at other similar points.
Great surprise is everywhere expressed at the large amount of government stores destroyed at Buckhannon. Nobody outside of official circles had he remotest idea that such a tempting bait for the rebels was exposed out there on the border.—When shall the public have the figures?—And when shall we know who is to shoulder the blame? Or is nobody to blame or nobody responsible for what is either a grave fault or a great blunder.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: Undated: September 1862