Chapter XLVI - Beginning of the Strife

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 2 County History
HAMPSHIRE'S PART IN THE CIVIL WAR
CHAPTER XLVI - BEGINNING OF THE STRIFE
BY HU MAXWELL
Pages 543-553

The great Civil war, which attracted the attention of the "world for four years, was felt in Hampshire during the whole time, The county was never free from soldiers from the day the ordinance of secession was passed by the Richmond convention until peace was restored. At that time Hampshire included the present territory of Mineral; and the federal forces were stationed at Keyser, then called New Creek, and at Piedmont, early in June, 1861; and on the eleventh of that month General Lew Wallace, more renowned in literature than in war, led a force against and captured Romney. Up to that time the confederates had not been idle in the county. The militia had obeyed the call of Governor Letcher of Virginia, had been under arms, and were ready for battle. Companies were being organized for service in the regular army of the Southern Confederacy; for the Virginia forces had already been placed at the service of the confederate states. The people of Hampshire were mostly sympathizers with the south, and they expressed their sympathy by taking up arms. Half the men in Hampshire were in the confederate army. The exact number cannot now be obtained, but it can be stated in round numbers at twelve hundred. In the vicinity of New Creek and Piedmont there was a strong union sentiment, and the federal army received a considerable number of soldiers from there.

To write an accurate and full history of the war in Hampshire county is no light task. Few documents exist; there is almost nothing to be had on the subject, except from the memory of the living. A third of a century has passed since the war closed, and the best memory fades with the lapse of years. Therefore, the greatest caution has been necessary in compiling data, lest errors should creep in. Conflicting accounts of the same occurrence are not unusual from persons who saw it. In such cases the historian must exhaust every available resource to ascertain the truth and reconcile the different versions, In the history, or more properly, the chronicle, of the war in Hampshire contained in this book, the aim of the author has been to present facts with as much accuracy as the available data will permit. There are gaps in the narrative which perhaps can never be filled. But the knowledge that much has been preserved from oblivion is ample reward for the months of labor spent in collecting and arranging the material. In this connection it is proper to state that valuable assistance was rendered by old soldiers, and by others, whose memories were the only store houses of the facts, or who possessed documents on the subject, Among such were Judge William H. Maloney, of McNeill's company; Lieutenant John Blue, of the Hampshire militia, and afterwards of the regular service; Captain Isaac Kuykendall, G. H. Houser, Lieutenant Philip Snarr, of Hardy county; B. F. McDonald, of Bloomery; John O. Thompson, editor of the Keyser Echo; V. M. Poling, circuit clerk; John O. Casler's book "Four years in the Stonewall Brigade;" Amos Robinson, of Grassy Lick; John Pancake, Colonel Alexander Monroe, Captain C. S. White, county clerk, and others. Special mention should be made of the valuable assistance obtained from the diaries of George W. Washington, one of the foremost citizens of the county. These books, eleven manuscript volumes, were placed at the disposal of the writer by Robert Washington. That journal was kept with remarkable regularity every day from 1833 to 1876; and while nearly the whole of it relates to individual and neighborhood affairs, yet many a date of war events has been fixed by a reference to that journal.

Committee of Safety. — Early in the spring of 1861 the people of Hampshire county foresaw trouble. The signs of the time portended evil, and no one could tell just what would come to pass. The vote at Richmond on the ordinance of secession left no doubt that a conflict was at hand; and the people of Hampshire, nearly all of whom favored secession, thought it the part of prudence to look out for themselves to the best of their ability. Accordingly, after much discussion, a meeting of citizens was held in Romney, April 27, 1861, and after a long and heated discussion, resolutions were passed, calling upon the people to prepare for the worst; and, in order that the movement might have tangible results, it was decided that a committee of safety ought to be appointed whose duty it would be to look out for the public good in any way that might become necessary. That far the movement had taken the same course as similar movements in other counties of the state; but in Hampshire something more was done. The county prepared for war, not only with men and arms, but also with money. This part of the proceeding was peculiar, for counties did not usually raise money by taxation for war purposes, but left that to the state or the general government. A second meeting of the committee of safety was held May 8, and a third on May 13. At this meeting money was subscribed to pay troops. If cannot be ascertained now how much was raised, as the records are fragmentary; but one gentleman paid on that day one hundred dollars "to equip volunteers, "and five day* later the same gentlemen paid one hundred more for the same purpose. If all contributed in the same proportion the sum must have been considerable. A full list of the members of the committee of that date is not now obtainable, but it is found on the court records as it existed a few days later. It appears that, up to that time, funds to meet the committee's expenses bad been subscribed by members of the committee, or by other citizens; but the whole matter was about to pass into the hands of the county court, as will be seen from the following order:

"At a court held for the county of Hampshire, Virginia, May 27, 1361; present, David Gibson, William Dunn, Isaiah Lupton, Robert Carmichael, J. C. Pancake, J. C. Poland, George W. Washington, John Hammack, William French, B. D. Stump, W. Donaldson, James Liller, John Starkey, Elijah Rinehart, Samuel Cooper, James Sheetz, George Spaid, N. Alkire, H. Alkire, H. Parrell, William D. Rees, E. M. Armstrong, J. W. Albin, S. Milleson, A. A. Brill and Thomas Crawford, Justices.

"It is ordered that the county court of Hampshire county doth appropriate the sum of ten thousand dollars, if so much be necessary, for war purposes, to be levied upon all the property of the county liable to state tax, except so much as is exempt from levy; that five thousand dollars of this sum be levied at this time, and the remaining five thousand dollars, together with an additional amount to cover the accruing interest, be levied at the May term, 1862; that bonds be issued, payable at the proper times, and that the bank at Romney be requested to cash the same as they may be required; and that James D. Armstrong, John M. Pancake, and Isaac Parsons be and they are hereby appointed to execute said bonds for and on behalf of the county of Hampshire; that the said sum be placed in the hands of the committee of safety, to be used at their discretion for the said purposes, and for the support of such families of volunteers of the county in actual service as may require assistance. The committee of safety are hereby directed to report their proceedings under this order to this court at its March term, 1862 The committee of safety consists of the following gentlemen: James D. Armstrong, Isaac Parsons, John M. Pancake, David Gibson, Dr. S. R. Lupton, John C. Heiskell, J. W. Marshall, W. A. Vance, R. K. Sheetz, A, W. McDonald, James Sheetz, John T. Pierce, James W. Albin, Charles Blue, John A. Smith, Robert Hook, R. B. Sherrard, G. W. Gore, George W. Washington, and John Johnson, as appears by the proceeding's of a public meeting held in Romney, Saturday, April 26, 1S61. A roll call of the court on the foregoing order shows that all the members of the court voted aye, except Lupton, Hammack, Liller, Cooper, and Albin who voted no."

It is to be regretted that no record exists of any subsequent proceedings of this committee and by some it is believed that no meeting was held after May 29, 1861. George W. Washington in his journal mentions all the meetings up to that time, but none later.

Romney's Remarkable Record. — No town in West Virginia, and, except Winchester, Virginia, perhaps none in the United States, has a record surpassing Romney's in respect to changing hands during the Civil war. If the complete record could be obtained it is confidently believed that Romney would surpass Winchester, which changed hands seventy-eight times during the war. Romney has fifty-six times to its credit; and those who are acquainted with the facts say there were many more, but no record of them can be found, and the well-established fifty-six captures of the town must suffice. It will not be presumed that there was a battle every time the town changed hands. There was no hard battle, and the skirmishes were neither severe nor numerous. At times the troops of one side would march peaceably out and the other side would occupy. Again, a few shots would be exchanged; and on two or three occasions the fighting had considerable importance.

The table which follows will show in chronological sequence the captures and recaptures of Romney between June 10, 1861, and April 15, 1865. In another part of this book the important captures will be given more in detail. Virginia militia, in the service of the Southern Confederacy, held the town from the beginning of the war till June 11, 1861. Then began Romney's vicissitudes of fortune, as follows:

June 11, 1861, captured by General Lew Wallace and held a few hours.

June, 1861, occupied by Colonel McDonald, with confederate militia.

July 21, 1861, Colonel Cain, with a federal force, took possession and remained a few hours.

July, 1861, Colonel Cummins came in with confederate troops.

September 24, 1861, Colonel Cant well, with Ohio troops, took the town after a brisk skirmish.

September 24, 1861, Colonel McDonald recaptured it and drove the federals nearly to Keyser, fighting all the way.

October 27, 1861, General Kelley marched from Keyser and captured Romney after a fight which at that time was considered severe. The confederates retreated, with loss of cannon and wagons.

January 14, 1862, Stonewall Jackson took peaceable possession, General Lander having retreated. The Hampshire militia were a day or two ahead of Jackson in entering the town.

March 3, 1862, Colonel Downey of the union army, occupied Romney after General Loring, who had been left here by Jackson, marched back to Winchester. For the next four captures the dates cannot be definitely fixed.

Spring of 1862 Hampshire militia occupied when Colonel Downey withdrew.

Summer 1852, Colonel Greenfield, with the twenty-second Pennsylvania regiment, was the next.

Slimmer of 1862, Hampshire militia, or troops from the regular confederate army, occupied Romney after the Pennsylvanians had retired.

Fall 1862, General Lander sent Maryland troops to Romney (federal).

November, 1862, General Imboden occupied the town with a confederate force.

December 29, 1862, General Milroy, with a strong federal force, occupied the town for a day or two, as he was marching to Winchester.

During the first four months of 1863 there is no record that troops of either side entered the town, but that was a time of military activity, and in all probability Romney changed hands several times during these months.

June 7 (probably), 1863, Captain McNeill, with a confederate force, was in possession.

June 15, 1863, Colonel Campbell came in with a federal force.

June 16, 1863, General Imboden occupied Romney on his march to Gettysburg.

June 17, 1863, a federal company was in possession of the town one hour.

June 18, 1863, a confederate force took possession, and hurried on to join the forces then on the march to Gettysburg. It is believed that these men belonged to Imboden's brigade and that they had been scouting in the mountains of Hardy county.

June, 1863, a federal cavalry company entered Romney.

June 22 (probably), 1863, Captain Sheetz. with a confederate force, occupied the town.

June 22 (probably), 1863, Lieutenant Summers, with a federal force, took possession after Captain Sheetz withdrew.

July 12, 1863, a confederate force again took possession. August 8, 1863, Romney occupied by federal cavalry. August 15 (probably), 1863, confederates entered Romney.

September, 1863, federal troops, known as Blinker's Dutch, captured the place.

October 5, 1863, a confederate force was again in possession.

October, 1863, federal cavalry held the town for a short time. There is no record of further occupation of the town in 1863.

January 5, 1864, McNeill was in possession of Romney. January 8, 1864, federal cavalry entered and took possession.

February 1, 1864, confederate cavalry held the town. February 1, 1864, New York cavalry drove out the confederates.

February 3, 1864, the town was in possession of confederates belonging to General Rosser's command.

February 3, 1864, General Averell, who was hunting for Rosser, took the town.

May 10, 1864, McNeill was once more in possession.

May 10, 1864, McNeill departed and federal troops were in possession.

May 10, 1864, the confederates, whether McNeill or not cannot be ascertained, drove out the federals, making three times in one day that Romney changed hands.

July, 1864, federal cavalry under Ringgold held the town.

August 5, 1864, General McCausland occupied Romney on his return from his raid into Pennsylvania.

August S, General Averell passed through Romney in -pursuit of McCausland, having been only two hours behind him when McCausland set fire to Chambersburg, and having' been in pursuit all the way to Romney. He overtook and signally defeated him at Moorefield, a full account of which will be found in this book.

August 29, 1864, McNeill occupied Romney.

October 31, 1864, federal cavalry from Springfield occupied the place.

November 1, 1864, McNeill occupied the town on his way to attack Springfield.

November 2, 1864, federals pursuing McNeill entered Romney.

November 23, 1864, confederates belonging to General Rosser's force occupied the town, the day that Keyser was captured.

January, 1865, federal troops from Cumberland were in the town.

February 1, 1865, a force of two hundred confederates were in possession of Romney.

February 5, 1S65, Colonel Young with a federal force were in the town. This was the force which murdered Captain George Stump.

February 7 (probably) 1865, MeNeill held the town.

February 13, 1865, the federal were once more in possession.

February 19, 1865, McNeill was once more in possession, carrying away Generals Crook and Kelley as prisoners, having captured them at Cumberland, a full account of which will be found in this book.

February 19, 1865, federal cavalry, pursuing McNeill, were in the town about one hour.

February 19, 1865, a small confederate force dashed into the town as the federals were retreating and drove out the stragglers, capturing one prisoner.

February 25 (probably), 1865, federals from Cumberberland were in possession.

April 15 (probably), 1865, the town was held for the last time by armed confederates. They were the companies of McDonald and Sheetz, which had escaped from Virginia when General Lee. surrendered.

Return to the History of Hampshire County WV Index