Chapter XII - Organizing for War

History of Hampshire County West Virginia From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present
By Hu Maxwell and H. L. Swisher
Morgantown, West Virginia; A. Brown Boughner Printer; 1897

PART 1 State History
CHAPTER XII - ORGANIZING FOR WAR
Pages 157-165

In a work of this sort it should not be expected that a full account of the civil war, as it affected West Virginia, will be given. It must suffice to present only an outline of events as they occurred in that great struggle, nor is any pretence made that this outline shall be complete, In dealing with the military operations within the particular county under consideration, no effort has been spared to make the account as complete as possible; but, for the state at large, as the events concerned all the counties in general, only a synopsis can be given. Elsewhere in this volume will be found a narrative of the events leading to and culminating in the passage of the ordinance of secession; the formation of the provisional government of Virginia, and the creation of the new state of West Virginia and its admission into the Union. The vote on the ordinance of secession showed that a large majority of the people in this state were opposed to a separation from the United States. This vote, while it could not have been much of a surprise to the politicians in the eastern part of Virginia, was a disappointment. It did not prevent Virginia, as a state, from joining the Southern Confederacy; but the result made it plain that Virginia was divided against itself, and that all the part west of the Alleghany mountains, and much of that west of the Blue Ridge, would not take up arms against the general government in furtherance of the interests of the Southern Confederacy,

It, therefore, became necessary for Virginia, backed by the other southern states, to conquer its own transmontane territory. The commencement of the war in what is now West Virginia was due to an invasion by troops in the service of the Southern Confederacy, in an effort to hold the territory as a part of Virginia. It should not be understood, however, that there was no sympathy with the south in this state. As nearly as can be estimated, the number who took sides with the south, in proportion to those who upheld the union, was as one to six. The people generally were left to choose. Efforts were made at the same time to raise soldiers for the south and for the north, and those who did not want to go one way were at liberty to go the other. In the eastern part of the state considerable success was met in enlisting volunteers for the confederacy; but in the western counties there were hardly any who went south. That the government at Richmond felt the disappointment keenly is evidenced by the efforts put forth to organize companies of volunteers, and the discouraging reports of the recruiting officers.

Robert E. Lee was appointed commander-in-chief of the military and naval forces of Virginia, April 23, 1861; and on the same day he wrote to Governor Letcher accepting the office. Six days later he wrote Major A. Loring at Wheeling, urging him to muster into the service of the state all the volunteer companies in that vicinity, and to take command of them. Loring was asked to report what success attended his efforts. On the same day Lieutenant-Colonel John McCausland, at Richmond, received orders from General Lee to proceed at once to the Kanawha valley and muster into service the volunteer companies in that quarter. General Lee named four companies already formed, two in Kanawha and two in Putnam counties, and he expressed the belief that others would offer their services. McCausland was instructed to organize a company of artillery in the Kanawha valley. On the next day, April 30, General Lee wrote to Major Boy kin at Weston, in Lewis county, ordering him to muster in the volunteer companies in that part of the state, and to ascertain how many volunteers could be raised in the vicinity of Parkersburg. General Lee stated in the letter that he had sent two hundred flint lock muskets to Colonel Jackson (Stonewall) at Harper's Ferry, for the use of the volunteers about Weston. He said no better guns could be had at that time. The next day, May 1, Governor Letcher announced that arrangements had been made for calling out fifty thousand Virginia volunteers, to assemble at Norfolk, Richmond, Alexandria, Fredericksburg, Harper's Ferry, Grafton, Parkersburg, Kanawha, and Moundsville. On May 4, General Lee ordered Colonel George A. Porterfield to Grafton to take charge of the troops in that quarter, those already in service and those who were expected to volunteer. Colonel Porterfield was ordered, by authority of the governor of Virginia, to call out the volunteers in the counties of Wood, Wirt, Roane, Calhoun, Gilmer, Ritchie, Pleasants and Doddridge, to rendezvous at Parkersburg; and in the counties of Braxton, Lewis, Harrison, Monongalia, Taylor, Barbour, Upshur, Tucker, Marion, Randolph and Preston, to rendezvous at Grafton. General Lee said he did not know how many men could be enlisted, but he supposed five regiments could be mustered into service in that part of the state.

In these orders sent out, General Lee expressed a desire to be kept informed of the success attending the call for volunteers. Replies soon began to arrive at Richmond, and they were uniformly discouraging to General Lee and the officers of the Southern Confederacy. It was very soon apparent that the people of Western Virginia were not tumbling over one another in their eagerness to take up arms for the Southern Confederacy. Major Boykin wrote General Lee that the call for volunteers was not meeting with success. To this letter General Lee replied on May 11, and urged Major Boykin to persevere, and call out the companies for such counties as were not so hostile to the south, and to concentrate them at Grafton. He stated that four hundred rifles had been forwarded from Staunton to Beverly, in Randolph county, where Major Goff would receive and hold them until further orders. It appears that Major Boykin had requested that companies from other parts of the state be sent to Grafton to take the places of companies which had been counted upon to organize in the vicinity of Grafton, but which had failed to materialize. To this suggestion General Lee replied that he did not consider it advisable to do so; as the presence of outside companies at Grafton would tend to irritate the people, instead of conciliating them.

On May 16 Colonel Porterfield had arrived at Grafton and had taken a hasty survey of the situation, and his conclusion was that the cause of the Southern Confederacy in that vicinity was not promising. On that day he made a report to R. S. Garnett, at Richmond, adjutant general of the Virginia army, and stated that the rifles ordered to Beverly from Staunton had not arrived, nor had they been heard from. It appears from this report that no volunteers had yet assembled at Grafton; but Colonel Porterfield said a company was organizing at Pruntytown, in Taylor county; one at Weston, under Captain Boggess; one at Philippi, another at Clarksburg, and still another at Fairmont. Only two of these companies had guns, flintlocks, and no ammunition. At that time all of these companies had been ordered to Grafton. Colonel Porterfield said, in a tone of discouragement, that these companies, almost destitute of guns and ammunition, were all he had to depend upon, and he considered the force very weak compared with the strength of those in that vicinity who were prepared to oppose him. He said he had found much diversity of opinion and "rebellion" among* the people, who did not believe that the state was strong enough to contend against the general government. "I am, too, credibly informed," said he, "to entertain doubt that they have been and will be supplied with the means of resistance. * * * * Their efforts to intimidate have had their effect, both to dishearten one party and to encourage the other. Many good citizens have been dispirited, while traitors have seized the guns and ammunition of the state to be used against its authority. 'The force in this section will need the best rifles. * * * * There will not be the same use for the bayonet in these hills as elsewhere, and the movements should be of light infantry and rifle, although the bayonet, of course, would be desirable."

About this time, that is, near the middle of May, 1861, General Lee ordered one thousand muskets sent to Beverly for the use of the volunteer companies organizing to the northward of that place. Colonel Heck was sent in charge of the guns, and General Lee instructed him to call out all the volunteers possible along the route from Staunton to Beverly. If the authorities at Richmond had learned by the middle of May that Western Virginia was not to be depended upon for filling with volunteers the ranks of the southern armies, the truth was still more apparent six weeks later. By that time General Garnett had crossed the Alleghanies in person, and had brought a large force of confederate troops with him and was entrenched at Laurel Hill and Rich Mountain, near Beverly. It had been claimed that volunteers had not joined the confederate companies because they were afraid to do so in the face of the stronger union companies organizing in the vicinity, but if a confederate army were in the country to overawe the advocates of the union cause, then large numbers of recruits would organize to help the south. Thus Garnett marched over the Alleghanies and called for volunteers. The result was deeply mortifying to him as veil as discouraging to the authorities at Richmond. On June 25, 1861, he wrote to General Lee, dating his letter at Laurel Hill, between Beverly and Philippi. He complained that he could not find out what the movements of the union forces were likely to be, and added that the union men in that vicinity were much more active, numerous and zealous than the secessionists. He said it was like carrying on a campaign in a foreign country, as the people were nearly all against him, and never missed an opportunity to divulge his movements to McClellan, but would give him no information of what McClellan was doing. "My hope," he wrote to Lee, "of increasing my force in this region has, so far, been sadly disappointed. Only eight men have joined me here, and only fifteen at Colonel Heck's camp — not enough to make up my losses by discharges. The people are thoroughly imbued with an ignorant and bigoted union sentiment."

If more time was required to ascertain the sentiment in the Kanawha valley than had been necessary in the northern and eastern part of the state, it was nevertheless seen in due time that the Southern Confederacy's supporters in that quarter were in a hopeless minority. General Henry A. Wise, ex-governor of Virginia, had been sent into the Kanawha valley early in 1861 to organize such forces as could be mustered for the southern army. He was one of the most fiery leaders in the Southern Confederacy, and an able man, and of great influence. He had, perhaps, done more than any other man in Virginia to swing that state into the Southern Confederacy. He it was, when the ordinance of secession was in the balance in the Richmond convention, rose in the convention, drew a horsepistol from his bosom, placed it upon the desk before him, and proceeded to make one of the most impassioned speeches ever heard anywhere. The effect of his speech was tremendous, and Virginia wheeled into line with the other confederate states. General Wise hurried to the field, and was soon in the thick of the fight in the Kanawha valley. He failed to organize an army there, and in his disappointment and anger he wrote to General Lee, August 1, 1861 saying: "The Kanawha valley is wholly disaffected and traitorous. It was gone from Charleston to Point Pleasant before I got there. Boone and Cabell are nearly as bad, and the state of thing's in Braxton, Nicholas and part of Greenbrier is awful. The militia are nothing for warlike uses here. They are worthless, who are true, and there is no telling who is true. You cannot persuade these people that Virginia can or will reconquer the northwest, and they are submitting, subdued and debased." General Wise made an urgent request for more guns, ammunition and clothing.

It may be stated as a matter of history that one of the first companies to uphold the cause of the Southern Confederacy in this state, was at Clarksburg, under the captaincy of Uriel M. Turner. It was organized in January, 1861, and at the fight at Philippi contained one hundred men. This company killed the first union soldier in the state, at Fetterman, Taylor county, May 24, 1861. It was in the whole war; fought in more than thirty hard battles; and of the one hundred men who received their baptism of fire at Philippi in 1861, only six surrendered at Appomattox in 1865. The town of Clarksburg contributed more toward the success of the south than any town in the whole country, in proportion to size. Not only did it furnish Stonewall Jackson, but it gave the confederacy twenty-six other officers, of lower rank. It may be said that Clarksburg was the war center of West Virginia. The strongest advocates of the union, and the most zealous adherents of the south came from that town and vicinity.

While the confederates were doing their utmost to organize and equip forces in Western Virginia, and were meeting discouragements and failure nearly everywhere; the people who upheld the union were also at work, and success was the rule and failure almost unknown. As soon as the fact was realized that Virginia had joined the Southern Confederacy; had seized upon the government arsenals and other property within the state, and had commenced. war upon the government, and was preparing to continue the hostilities, the people of Western Virginia, who had long suffered from the injustice and oppression of the eastern part of the state, began to prepare for war. They did not long halt between two opinions, but at once espoused the cause of the United States. Companies were organized everywhere. The spirit with which the cause of the union was upheld was one of the most discouraging features of the situation, as viewed by the confederates who were vainly trying to raise troops in this part of the state. The people in the Kanawha valley who told General Wise that they did not believe Virginia could reconquer Western Virginia, had reasons for their conclusions. The people along the Ohio, the Kanawha, the Monongahela; in the interior, among the mountains, were everywhere drilling and arming. Sometimes a company was organizing for the confederate service and one for the union service in the same vicinity at the same time. Occasionally there were collisions; usually not. This was particularly the case early in the war. At Clarksburg in May, 1861, a company had drilled and armed for the confederate service, and was about to take the field. A union company was also organizing and drilling there, and they occupied the court house night about with the confederates. Finally, however, as the war grew more furious in the east, the two Clarksburg companies could not occupy the same town without collision. The union company was the stronger, and compelled the confederates to surrender their arms. But on the next day the arms were restored to them on condition that they would leave the town at once. They did so, and marched to Grafton. This is the company above spoken of which surrendered the six men at Appomattox.

There was some delay and disappointment in securing arms for the union troops as they were organized in West Virginia. Early in the war, while there was yet hope entertained by some that the trouble could be adjusted without much fighting, there was hesitation on the part of the government about sending guns into Virginia to arm one class of the people. Consequently, some of the first arms received in Western Virginia did not come directly from the government arsenals, but were sent from Massachusetts. As early as May 7, 1861, a shipment of two thousand stands of arms was made from the Watervleit arsenal, New York, to the northern panhandle of West Virginia, above Wheeling. These guns armed some of the first soldiers from West Virginia that took the field. An effort had been made to obtain arms from Pittsburg, but it was unsuccessful. Campbell Tarr, of Brooke county, and others, went to Washington as a committee, and it was through their efforts that the guns were obtained. The government officials were very cautious at that time lest they should do something without express warranty in law. But Edwin M. Stanton advised that the guns be sent, promising that he would find the law for it afterwards. Governor Pierpont had written to President Lincoln for help, and the reply had been that all help that could be given under the constitution would be furnished.

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