Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood
April 1863

Wheeling Intelligencer
April 10, 1863

Death of Bill Wilson, the Guerrilla – A word to the Union Men of the Interior.

A warning example as to what domestic war will do for a community was afforded in Gilmer county the other day. The notorious Bill Wilson, formerly of Upshur county, a well known guerrilla and horse thief, together with a man by the name of Davidson, one of his partners, went to the house of Mrs. Varner, a widow lady, who lives on the Sand Fork of the Little Kanawha, on a plundering expedition. He was seen approaching the house, and, as soon as seen, a son of Mrs. Varner – quite a youth, suspecting Wilson’s errand, took out his revolver and gave it to his sister in order to prevent being robbed of it, at the same time telling her to keep close by him and be ready to hand him the pistol is he should require it. As soon as Wilson reached the house he set about looking up something valuable to steal. After rifling about for some time he found a dress hanging on the wall in the pocket of which was some sixty dollars in money. The money was sewed up in the pocket. He took out his knife to cut it open. Just as he was in the act of doing so, young Varner gave his sister the sign and she handed him the revolver. He took it and fired at Wilson, hitting him in the back near the shoulder blade but not injuring him fatally. As soon as thought Wilson turned about and attempted to draw his pistol from his belt. Before he could do so, however, young Varner got another shot, full aim at him, and struck him fatally in the breast. Wilson pitched out of the door and dropped dead at Varner’s feet.

In the meantime Davidson, Wilson’s partner, outside, who had a Union prisoner in charge, became alarmed at the fate with which Wilson had met, and got ready to escape. Before he could do so, however, his prisoner picked up Wilson’s gun, which had been left outside the house, and shot at him, wounding him slightly. Davidson, however, got off, taking to the woods, and was afterwards traced a considerable way by his blood.

The people of Gilmer and the adjoining country felt very much relieved by the death of Wilson, as he was quite a terror to the Union men. For a good while past he had led a predatory life, his business being to rob farmers of their money, cattle, horses and other stock. His death will probably be something of a warning to other guerrillas and horse thieves.

We, here at this extreme end of the State, who have never yet been invaded, cannot appreciate the condition of terror and daily alarm in which the people of the more remote counties, constantly live. There are some among us apparently, who would incite such a condition of things in our midst; who labor to break down the loyalty of the people – encourage a mischievous and rebell[i]ous spirit towards the Government – forment a contempt for the civil and military administration of the State, and seek to divide neighbor against neighbor. The people of the remote counties are feeling the hor[r]ors of such a state of things. They are almost evenly divided in their public sentiment between Union and Secession. The guerrillas are harbored by those sympathizing with secession, and in this way are enabled to prowl around by night and day, and rob, and plunder and destroy the people who are loyal. It is just such a state of things as we would have near us if the secession sentiment was dominant, or if it were not kept closely suppressed and under cow. The only hope and prospect that the people of West Virginia have in the way of exemption from the terrible calamities of domestic war, is in maintaining a determined and united loyal organization.

Every man should be careful that no word or act of his gives the slightest aid or countenance to disloyalty. Those who are disloyal should be made to feel that they have no support in the public sentiment around them, and thus be given very impressively to understand that the only security which they have consists wholly in the sufferance of their neighbors by reason of their good behavior. It will be a time that no man can contemplate without horror, when the secessionists of West Virginia attempt to defy the law or in any way oppose its administration. Such scenes as the one we have related will be re-enacted and repeated every day. The Union men of West Virginia owe it to themselves to form thorough and perfect Union organizations – just as they are doing in the loyal States. Especially ought this to be the case in the interior, so that every effort can be made to foster and encourage loyalty – to disseminate and build up a strong and intelligent Union sentiment; one that shall be able to counteract and neutralize every effort of the sympathizers with the rebellion in behalf of the cause of the conspiracy.

Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: Undated: April 1863

West Virginia Archives and History