Chapter L - Stonewall Jackson in Romney

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
Pages 583-590

Early in January, 1862, Stonewall Jackson captured Romney. There was little opposition. General Lander left a few hours before the confederates arrived. Jackson was in command of this part of the state, and he regarded Romney as of considerable importance, and left General Loring to hold the town with a force deemed sufficient to resist successfully any union troops in the vicinity. Having established Loring in Romney, Jackson returned to Winchester, and soon after this resigned from the army of the Southern Confederacy. This is a point in history not generally known, and but imperfectly understood. A true account of his resignation, and his reasons for that step, is properly given in detail in the history of Hampshire county; for he was prompted to that action because the secretary of war for the Southern Confederacy interfered with his plans at Romney, and undid his work. Following is a history of the matter:

Jackson left Loring in Romney and returned to Winchester. Shortly afterward, January 31, 1862, J. P. Benjamin, secretary of war for the Southern Confederacy, ordered Jackson to recall Loring and his troops from Romney to Winchester, having taken this step without consulting Jackson or ascertaining what his plans were. This was resented by Jackson, who, under date of January 31, 1862, wrote to the secretary of war as follows:

"Your order requiring me to direct General Loring to return with his command to Winchester immediately has been received and promptly complied with. With such interference with my command I cannot expect to be of much service in the field, and accordingly respectfully request to be ordered to report for duty to the superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute at Lexington, as has been done in the case of other professors. Should this application not be granted, I respectfully request that the president will accept my resignation from the army. I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

"T. J. Jackson."          

As soon as the secretary of war received Jackson's resignation he sent an officer to Governor Letcher to acquaint him with the fact, and the governor hastened to the war office and urged 'Mr. Benjamin not to take action in the matter until General Jackson could be heard from further. The secretary agreed to the governor's proposal, and the resignation was laid aside. Returning to his office Governor Letcher wrote a long and earnest letter to General Jackson at Winchester, urging him to recall his letter. Scarcely was this letter finished when a letter from Jackson, written January 31, the date of his resignation, was delivered to Governor Letcher, saying:

"Governor: This morning I received an order from the secretary of war to order General Loring and his command to fall back from Romney to Winchester immediately. The order was promptly complied with, but, as the order was given without consulting me, and is abandoning to the enemy what has cost much preparation, expense and exposure to secure, and is in direct conflict with my military plans, and implies a want of confidence in my capacity to judge when General Loring's troops should fall back, and is an attempt to control military operations in detail from the secretary's desk at a distance, I have, for the reason set forth in the accompanying paper, requested to be ordered back to the institute; and if this is denied me, then to have my resignation accepted. I ask as a special favor that you. will have me ordered back to the institute. As a single order like that of the secretary's may destroy the entire fruits of a campaign, I cannot reasonably expect, if my operations are thus to be interfered with, to be of much service in the field. A sense of duty brought me into the field and has thus far kept me. If now appears to be my duty to return to the institute, and I hope that you will leave no stone unturned to get me there. If I have ever acquired, through the blessing's of Providence, any influence over troops, this undoing of my work by the secretary may greatly diminish my influence. I regard the recent expedition as a great success. Before our troops left here, January 1, there was not, so far as I have been able to ascertain, a single loyal man in Morgan county who could remain at home in safety. In four days that county was entirely evacuated by the enemy; Romney and the most valuable portion of Hampshire county were recovered without firing a gun, and before we had even entered the county. I desire to say nothing against the secretary of war. I take it for granted that he has done what he believed to be best, but I regard such a policy ruinous.

"T. J. Jackson."          

The letter which Governor Letcher wrote to General Jackson was carried by Colonel Boteler, and he returned with Jackson's reply, in which he consented to have his resignation withdrawn from the files of the war office. This was done. The resignation was entrusted to the keeping of Governor Letcher. When the confederates retreated from Richmond this paper was forgotten, and would have been lost had not the governor's mother secured it, with other papers, and carried it to, a place of safety.

Skirmish at Peter Poland's. — In April, 1862, a fight occurred near Grassy Lick, at the residence of Peter Poland, between a company of federals and a dozen or more men who were preparing to enter the confederate service. At that time a man styling himself Captain Umbaugh was in that part of Hampshire county raising a company for the confederate service. He claimed to have authority from Stonewall Jackson, but it was subsequently learned that he had no authority. He collected a dozen or more men and would perhaps have raised a company if his career had not been cut short. Colonel Downey of the union army, went out from Romney with one company, on April 22, 1862, looking for Captain Umbaugh's men, and any other confederates he might find. They came to the house of Peter Poland and took his son, Peter Poland, jr., prisoner. The young man was a confederate soldier and was visiting his father. Sometime after the federals left, Captain Umbaugh, with a dozen of his men, came to Mr. Poland's to spend the night. About three o'clock in the morning the federals returned and called upon the men to surrender. They refused to do so, and a fight immediately began. The yankees fired throng h the doors and windows. The walls were so thick that bullets would not come through. The members of the family protected themselves the best they could from the bullets, but one came through the door and struck Peter Poland's arm. The same bullet wounded Isaiah W. Pownall. Jasper Pownall, who was in the house, was also wounded. Peter Poland's wound proved fatal two weeks later. When daylight came the men in the house killed three federals and the others withdrew. Captain Umbaugh took advantage of the situation and retreated with his men. In a short time the federals returned with reinforcements from Romney, bringing artillery with which to batter the house, down. Troops also arrived from Moorefield and Petersburg. But there was no one in the house to oppose them, and they notified Mrs. Poland and her daughters to take their furniture out of the house. They said they would give her two hours to get the things out. She commenced removing the furniture, but in less than fifteen minutes the building was set on fire. The soldiers loaded the household goods on wagons and hauled them off. It is said there are persons in an adjoining county still sleeping on beds stolen from Mr. Poland's house. His property was destroyed or carried off, and the inmates were turned out of doors. Mr. Poland's family consisted of his sons, Richard, James C, Peter, William, Isaac, Jasper and Frank M. His daughters were: Elizabeth, who afterwards married John Haire, who was in the house at the time of the fight; Hannah, who married Isaiah Haire, and Mary C., who married Amos Roberson.

Captain Umbaugh Killed. — Captain Umbaugh, whose fraudulent claim to being an officer in the confederate service led to the death of Peter Poland and the burning of his house, continued to roam about Hampshire until he met his death and caused the death of others. In May, 1862, he was at the house of J. T. Wilson where he was surprised by the federals. He was shot and killed. At the same time and place John W. Poland was killed and William H. Poland was wounded and taken prisoner.

The Grassy Lick Militia. — When the Civil war began, the Grassy Lick militia was under Captain John H. Piles. It was the one hundred and fourteenth regiment of Virginia militia. It served one year and was then disbanded, many of the men joining the regular confederate army. Following are the names of the members of this company, as made up from memory, the official roll having been lost: John H. Piles, captain; William Pownell, first lieutenant; Mathew Combs, second lieutenant; Samuel Albright, first sergeant; J. J. Ruckman, corporal; privates: George Bowman, Andrew Bowman, Peyton Combs, Absolom Combs, James Cool, Joseph Civil, Elisha Heare, Frank Heare, Isaiah Heare, Jasper Heare, Jonathan Heare, John Heare, Lucas Hines, Jacob Hines, Henry Hines, David Hott, John Hott, James Hott, Peter Haines, John Herbaugh, William Loy, jr., Samuel Loy, Jackson Lee, Jared McDonald, James McDonald, Samuel McDonald, Archibald McDonald, Mordecai Orndoff, John Piles, Rector Piles, John Park, Samuel Park, Solomon Park, Ashford Park, Benjamin Park, Peter Poland, sr., Craven Poland, Richard Poland, Peter Poland, William Poland, James Pepper, Hampton Peer, J. T. Ruckman, James Ruckman, James Starkey, Frederick Starkey, John Swisher, George Swisher, Stephen Swisher, John Tharp, Samuel Tharp, William Timbrook, Isaac Timbrook, Joseph Timbrook, David Wolford, James Yost.

Captain Piles' Company. — When the Grassy Hick militia disbanded in the second year of the war, Captain John H. Piles and a number of his men entered the regular army of the confederacy as Company K, electing John H. Piles as captain. The company became a portion of Colonel George Imboden's regiment, and belonged to General John Imboden's cavalry brigade. The roll of Company K, gathered from the memory of those living and from a partial record kept by B. F. McDonald, was as follows: John H. Piles, captain; Jere Monroe, first lieutenant; Jefferson Carter, second lieutenant; Jacob Carvell, third lieutenant; Benjamin F. McDonald, first sergeant; Benjamin Monroe, second sergeant; B. F. Klump, third sergeant, Bond Hook, fourth sergeant; Henry Hiett, fifth sergeant. Privates, Joseph Brill, J. T. Ruckman, S. H. Williams, Isaac Brill, W. P. Brill, Andrew Bowman, H. Brill, Mr. Bean, son of Aaron Bean; L. E. Brill, Lon Burch, Samuel Burch, L. P. Brill, Walker Saville, O. Bowman, Joseph Saville, Peter A. Saville, W. Garner, John W. Haines, James Haines, Bond Hook, Benjamin Hott, John Hott, David Hott, Edward Heare, Jasper Heare, Jonathan Heare, Velentine Kump, Amos Kump, Jonathan Lupton, James G. Lupton, George W. Maphas, Banjamin Monroe, Jared McDonald, George W. McDonald, Rector Piles, Hampton Peer, Peter Poland, William Poland, James Pepper, J. J. Ruckman, John W. Ruckman, Velentine Ruckman, Thomas Ruckman, Joseph Swisher, S. W. Swisher, Gibson Timbrook, Washington Walker, Jacob Emmart, Courtney Garvin, G. W. Haines, Benjamin Heare, Benjamin Hott, S. J. Kump, W. B. Pepper, W. Pownall, J. W. Stump, Joseph Timberlake, G. Timberlake, William Hengleshee, S. H. Williams, Richard Poland, Joseph Pepper.

McMachin's Militia. — A company of militia, about eighty in number, was organized early in the war under Thomas McMackin as captain, Joseph Berry, lieutenant, and Conrad Wilbert, second lieutenant. No roll of the company exists, but among the members were Robert Noland, Henry C. Swisher, Adam Kaylor, William Ginevan, Peter Stump, Jacob Stump, John Stump, William Hass, Hugh Cowgill, James Saville, William Blaze, John Largent, William Sherwood, Luther Burkett, Kennison Bonham, George S. Arnold, Charles French, James I. Taylor, Thomas Kaylor, Andrew Kaylor. This company was delegated to guard the district along North river, and was occupied with that work during the summer of 1861 and the early part of 1862. After about one year of service the company went to Winchester, where it disbanded. Some of the men joined other companies and some returned to their homes.

A Sentinel's Mistake. — Rising several hundred feet above the channel of North river is a rock jutting out from the summit of Ice mountain. McMackin's militia company's camp was near the river at the base of the mountain. It was the custom to place a sentinel on that pinnacle, which is called Raven Rock, at daybreak and keep him there all day. It was his duty to watch the surrounding country for the approach of enemies. From that elevated station the region for miles around lies in full view; and a sentinel with a good glass could easily discover troops approaching and could give the alarm in time for the militia in the camp below to prepare for action. The duty of standing guard on the pinnacle usually devolved upon H. L. Swisher; but on a certain day, which the militia had occasion long to remember, an inexperienced man was placed on the rocky watch tower, while the experienced sentinel accompanied by William Sherwood, went hunting. The new man had not been long on his elevated post when he saw an unusual object rising over an eminence where one the country roads crossed a ridge in the direction of Springfield. He had not long to wait before he satisfied himself that yankee cavalry was approaching. Down from the rocks he went to give the alarm in the camp below where the rebels were whiling away the time, unconscious of their danger. The startling intelligence produced the greatest consternation. The militia had been waiting a long time for a chance to fight the yankees, but they did not care to rush into the jaws of death by meeting the advancing cavalry, which, as the sentinel declared, "made the road blue for miles." They accordingly rushed the other way. They broke camp double quick, abandoning what they could not carry away, and up the road they went on a run, crossed the mountains and continued their retreat till they reached Sandy Ridge, several miles distant. Major Devers, who resides at the foot of Ice mountain, finally succeed in rallying them, and they made a stand. But the yankees never put in an appearance, and a battle was averted. The yankees came suddenly upon William Sherwood and Henry Swisher, who were absent when the retreat began, and took the former prisoner, but the latter made his escape. Great was the mortification of the confederate militia when they learned that the federal cavalry which had "made the road blue for miles," consisted of only seven men. But these seven men had accomplished wonders. They had driven eighty militia and had burned a number of houses about North river mills, and then retired unpursued.

Return to the History of Hampshire County WV Index