McDowell County in the Civil War
McDOWELL COUNTY, CIVIL WAR, 1861-1865
CHAPMANVILLE, Va., June 19, 1862
Lieut. P. B. STANBERRY,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Charleston, Va.:
Sir: I have ordered Company H. (Captain Brunker) to report forthwith to Major Hall at Camp Piatt. He leaves here this morning. Captain Dayton arrived yesterday from the southern part of this (Logan) county and reports all quiet. There has been considerable excitement there, resulting from reports that a rebel force was making their way in there. He found the people nearly all loyal and at home. At one time had upward of 100 Union citizens of that section with him, and mostly armed. They expressed a willingness, in fact are anxious, to turn out against the rebels, but they want confidence in themselves. With 20 regular volunteers they would go almost anywhere, but would not go by themselves. The captain learned that a man named Harman was at the head of about 100 men, near McDowell Court-House (then, at the mouth of Mill Creek), persecuting Union citizens, and in some instances killing them and burning or otherwise destroying their property. A man named Lambert has just come into camp from McDowell County, and his report is the same as Captain Dayton's. There are several citizens of that county here, who have been forced to leave their homes by Harman. One of them is the sheriff of the county. Although they did not come together they all bring the same report. Harman has been in that county for some time, but usually stays in the southern part of the county. The loyal citizens have all been forced to leave their homes, and Harman is issuing proclamations to them to induce them to return and give themselves up. Inclosed I send a copy of one sent to Philip Lambert, the father of the man who is now in the camp. Mr. Lambert handed the original to me, which I now have in my possession. I have ordered Lieutenant Mallernee to proceed to McDowell Court-House with Company D and drive the thieves from the county. I have ordered him to get as many of the citizens as possible to join him, as they are well acquainted with the country and are willing and anxious to go. He will probably be joined by at least 50 men before he reaches McDowell County. I have instructed him that if it is true that Harman has destroyed Union property the property of secessionists must suffer in a like manner, and to arrest all those who have assisted, harbored, or fed Harman and his thieving crew. He is to take hard bread and coffee sufficient to last his command eight or nine days, and to get his meat on the route, in all cases taking it from seccessionists, where it can be found. There are a number of stolen horses in that section which I have instructed him to bring out if he can find them. If Harman could be driven out of McDowell County that whole section would be quiet.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. H. H. Russell,
Lieut. Col. 4th Regt. Va. Vol. Inf., U. S. A. Comdg. Det'm't and Post.
AT PHILIP LAMBERT'S
June 13, 1862
I was here at your house and had a chat with your wife, and I want you to come in and your boys, and you shan't be hurt. If the boys wish to join the company they will have the same chance that other soldiers (have had), and you may go to work. When you come, come without your arms. You can travel anywhere on the Dry Fork without your arms and won't be hurt.
Capt. E. V. HARMAN
First Lieut. M. WALDRON
Second Lieut. A. J. (D.?) BEAVERS
Third Lieut. D. G. SAYERS
Orderly Sgt. JNO. WALDRON
Certify that any one else that wishes to join the company has the same privilege.
Capt. E. V. HARMAN
It is clear that Mr. Lambert, a farmer, had been afraid to farm or, even, to go home. It is clear that he had not been allowed to go where he wished on Dry Fork. It is clear that Harman had assumed authority made possible by the South's (and North's) suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, which, in effect, gave local military commanders dictatorial powers over ordinary citizens. Col. Russell's order to destroy seccessionists' property also makes clear that citizens on both sides suffered deliberate destruction of civilian property and lives. Among McDowell Countians, such destruction most likely spun off vicious cycles of destruction that intensified as the war dragged on for four years. No citizen in McDowell County, then, was allowed to remain neutral in this conflict, but, rather, he had to choose sides. If a citizen chose to support the Union, then the Confederates destroyed his property/life; if a citizen chose to support the Confederacy, then the Unionists destroyed his property/life. Unlike people in the deep South, who didn't experience invasion until late in the war, citizens in the Appalachian Mountains suffered war for four years among enemies who lived just down or up the creek or just over the ridge, as well as from enemies, Confederate and Unionists, who were passing through. There was no middle ground to be had, and the warfare within McDowell became not only vicious but also deadly and was largely unreported except for obscure reports that provide fleeting glimpses into McDowell County during the Civil War.
Cornell University. Making of America. War of the Rebellion. Series 1, Volume 12, Part III.
pages 412-13. 1885.
In 1860, on the brink of the Civil War, McDowell Countians lived within 254 households, many interconnected by blood or marriage. Where a person lived, as well as the family to which he belonged, dictated, more than anything else, what side he chose and what outfit he joined. McDowell Countians tended to enlist by clusters, based upon residence or family, and so very rarely did an individual enlist into an outfit in which he had no connections. McDowell's enlistments, therefore, have been traced by looking at residental proximities in McDowell before the war, by considering those to whom enlistees were related or not related, and by identifying clusters of McDowell Countians in military units. It is important to recognize that enlistees did not necessarily stay for the duration of the war in the military units into which they initially enlisted. Units and/or companies were often reassigned to different commands, and, sometimes, a few within a company requested transfers or simply deserted--perhaps to be with relatives who'd just enlisted in another outfit or, perhaps, to realize opportunities elsewhere. In rare instances, enlistees may have changed sides. Rosters compiled in this research should be regarded as works in progress and not as finished products. Indeed, not all units in which McDowell Countians served have been identified. Some Union units into which McDowell Countians enlisted include the 39th KY Mounted Infantry, especially Company I, and the West Virginia Militia, formed after statehood in 1863. One of Philip Lambert's sons, mentioned in Col. Russell's Report, joined the 39th KY Mounted Infantry (Union) shortly after his father sent Harman's letter to Colonel Russell. Some Union enlistments, then, appear to have been defensive reactions by those who suffered from Confederate abuses. Confederate enlistments exceeded Union enlistments in McDowell County. On the question of succession before the war began, McDowell County voted 196-17 in favor of succession (Tazewell voted 1406-0; Wyoming, 109-105; and Logan, 518-63.). When one considers the vote in McDowell, finding a solid block of Union enlistments from McDowell was/is unexpected.
Some Confederate units into which McDowell Countians enlisted include 34th Battalion, VACavalry, Companies C and E; 16th VA Cavalry; 22nd VA Cavalry; 10th KY Cavalry, mostly Company H; 29th VA Infantry, predominately Company H; 45th VA Infantry, Companies L and K. More Confederate McDowell Countians enlisted into the 34th Battalion, VA Cavalry, than into any other Confederate outfit, and so it was the 34th Battalion which boldly proclaimed the Confederate cause in McDowell. In fact, Company C of the 34th Battalion was known as the McDowell Partisan Rangers, headed by Cap't. Elias V. Harman, who signed the proclamation left at Philip Lambert's house.
Harman, John Newton, Sr. Annals of Tazewell County, Virginia, from 1800 to 1922. W. C. Hill
Printing Company, Richmond, 1922.
Library of Virginia. eagle.vsla.edu/cgi-bin/conros./gateway
Weaver, Jeffrey. j.weaver300/grayson/vaunit.htm
Weaver, Jeffrey. New River Notes. Is.net/~newriver/va/vasesh.htm
White, June. 1860 McDowell County Census. On-line, McDowell County, WV Genweb Archives.
This page was last updated on 10/18/09