Civil War Journal of
William Sewell Dunbar
So the next day was election day, and I went to the polls determined to vote my sentiments if every other man in the state was against me. When I got to the place of voting I found my neighbor there whom I had been talking to the day before. He asked me if I still expected to vote for the Union. I told him and all the company that was at the election that I would vote for it if it cost me my life.
The polls were opened, and I was the clerk who recorded the votes. The above mentioned colonel, sheriff and armed force were not there, so the fear left the people, to a great extent, and we all voted the Union ticket except the neighbor above mentioned, and he did not vote at all. The conductor of the election was a man by the name of Champion Thompson. (Chapman Thompson, 50, a native of Monroe County, settled on Clear Fork at the mouth of Sycamore Creek (Colcord), in 1837. He was one of the few of Southern sentiment in his community. His wife was Aletha, daughter of Gibson Jarrell, a native of Monroe County who also lived on Clear Fork near the mouth of Sycamore.)
Thompson delivered the polls to the courthouse and came back the day after the election. One of the strongest secession men in the county, he told us that we had all done the worst thing that we could have done by voting for the Union, that we had ruined ourselves and our country, and that all of us would be destroyed for giving such votes.
I soon found that all of the Union men would be compelled to keep their thoughts to themselves and not express them to no man, because the rebels had got to such a pitch that there were being quite a number of Union men shot and hanged. So I said as little as possible. Still, I was more confirmed in the belief that it was wrong and desperate to dissolve the Union. (A resolution adopted June 13, 1861, by the Fayette County Court reflects the sentiment of a majority of the people living in the counties in the Beckley area at the time. The resolution followed by about two weeks the movement of Union troops into western Virginia from Ohio under the command of General George B. McClellan. The troops had been requested by the loyal Union element in the northwestern counties for their protection and to protect the Baltimore and Ohio and Northwestern Virginia railroads: "Whereas our state has been invaded by a hostile army of Northern Fanatics, and we fell bound to resist said invasion to the last extremity, Resolved Therefore, First that we feel it to be our duty in accordance with an act of the Legislature passed January 19, 1861, to levy on the people of the county from time to time as may be necessary to enable us to resist said invasion successfully, such amounts of money as we shall think practicable and expedient. Resolved, 2nd that we will then after money and property are exhausted feel it to be our duty to levy for said purpose on the credit of the county and when that also is gone we will eat roots and drink water and still fight for our liberty unto death. And Resolved 3rd that should any members of this court feel friendly to the North, that we invite them or him peacefully and civilly to resign his or their commission.")
I stayed at home and attended to my work the best I could, but every day or two I got word they intended to come and arrest me as a Union man and hang me, but I still stayed at home, not much afraid of being hanged.
The rebels had made up a company of volunteers in our county by this time and I was making up another. (This Confederate company was Company E, 36th Virginia Infantry Regiment, Smithís Brigade, organized in Beckley June 3, 1861. Benjamin R. Linkous of Beckley, a native of Montgomery County, Virginia, and a lieutenant in the war with Mexico, was elected captain. He later became lieutenant-colonel of the regiment. Linkous was the countyís first surveyor, and a school teacher at one time in the Glen Daniel-Fairdale area. The Raleigh County Court authorized a special levy of $3,000 to equip the troops and support their families.)
I had a little business to attend to in Boone County, adjoining county to my own, and I wanted to see to it. While I was in Boone County a gang of rebel citizens of Boone, accompanied by a few rebel volunteers, followed me and arrested me at Augustus Ballsí on the Spurs Fork of Little Coal. (Augustus Ball, 43, born in Monroe County, was a farmer.) They has a justice of the peace with them by the name of Barker. He asked me a few questions, found no fault in men and released me. I went on after my business. There were two brothers-in-law with me and we got the company of seven other men who were acquainted with the good Union citizens of Raleigh and Fayette counties.
So the night after we were arrested at Ballís on the Spurs Fork of Coal River we stayed all night at Isaac Reances. He and his wife seemed to be alarmed, thinking we were rebels and would rob or kill them, but I told them who we were, where we were from and our business, so they treated us well and we stayed all night with them.
Just after daylight, I stepped out into the yard and saw that we were surrounded by armed men who rushed up to the house. There were about thirty to thirty-five of them. They arrested us again. Part of them were the same men who had arrested us the day before.
This time we were abused by almost all of them. There were three men by the name of Barrett and one by the name of St. Clare, and one Ballard. But one by the name of Thompson was the worst. They searched all of us, even to our pocket books and little papers and accounts we had. They found my class book with the several preachersí names in it whom they said they were acquainted with.
They looked over the book and names, and as they came to the eldersí and circuit ridersí names they would curse them with the most bitter oaths, and say they would hang everyone of them if they could get hold of them, calling all of them damned abolitionists. When they came to my name as the leader they turned to me and swore revenge, saying that I was a damned black abolitionist and was the captain of a band of conspirators and that the men who were with me were a part of the band and that they would hang us all.
After keeping us there a considerable time under their abuse, one of the Barretts went off with my class book and said he was going to burn the damned abolition paper and get shut of it that much. I never saw it any more and never heard what became of it. I suppose it was burned.
They kept us there all day and went through a time of mock trials before Ezekiel Miller, who was their colonel and a magistrate. (Ezekiel Miller, 48, was a native of Monroe County and a son of Colonel John and Elizabeth Miller.) They also tried to pick flaws in us by asking us questions separate from each other. They questioned me first. After they found that they could not catch me by my own talk they called in all the rest of the men, one at a time, and questioned them very closely, especially me.
I soon saw that the whole thing was aimed at men in order to condemn men and have some fun as they collected information, and then hang or shoot me, but they failed in every attempt and finally got ashamed of themselves and released us all, However, they made all the rest of the men who were with us go back home except me and my two brothers-in-law. Their names were Henry C. and Charles M. Grass. (Henry C. , 31, and Charles M., 26. Dunbar lived in the same neighborhood as his in-laws, John Grass, 73, and his wife, Susan, 64, and their family of six children.) We went on to our journeyís end and when we got ready we went home, which was about a week after that.
When we got home the colonel of our county and the same man I had called my neighbor had got up a kind of forged draft. (Colonel James Montgomery Burgess, 44, of Beckley, 142nd Regiment, Virginia militia. A son of Hiram Burgess, a native of Monroe County, and Nancy Burgess. The Burgesses settled in the Marshes (Glen Daniel-Fairdale) and later on Soak Creek and then Crab Orchard Creek. Colonel Burgess was elected a Raleigh County constable on May 24, 1860 for a two-year term. His wife was Nancy A., 42. Colonel Burgess was arrested by Union troops on May 22, 1862, and sent to the Camp Chase prison at Columbus, Ohio.)
They had made a draft for the militia company I belonged to. The day after I got home was a day appointed for the company to meet three miles below me on the river for a drill, so I went on the drill and told the colonel and the captain the draft was not a good one and I was not going to serve. They said it was good and that I would have to go but they found out that I knew about as much about it as they did and finally they gave it up as a bad job.
I was first lieutenant in the militia company that mustered on that fork of the river (Clear Fork of Coal River), and Colonel Burgess reported me back to headquarters of the rebel army, under the command of a Brigadier General Alfred Beckley of Raleigh County, as being a Union man in office under the Southern Confederacy and that I was a traitor and ought to be punished. (Alfred Beckley, 59, was born in Washington, D.C., a son of John Beckley, first clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. Alfred was graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1823. He came to what is now Raleigh County in 1837, to manage lands left to him by his father. He was the founder of the county and Beckley. Alfred Beckley entered the Confederate service but resigned his commission on February 8, 1862. He surrendered to federal authorities in Beckley on March 12, 1862, and was imprisoned at Camp Chase, but was shortly paroled and took no active part in the war thereafter. Lt. Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes, who had arrested Beckley, was convinced that his sympathies were basically with the Union. He died in Beckley in 1888 and is buried in Wildwood Cemetery.)
So they threatened me more severely than ever, but I attended every call of the company drill and helped the captain to drill the men. Our drill was once every other week, but we had not drilled very long before the Union Army came into the Kanawha Valley and drove old Wise and his army out of it. (General Henry Alexander Wise, 55, Democrat governor of Virginia 1856-1860, was in charge of the execution of John Brown on December 1, 1859, one of the final acts of his administration. He was a member of the Secession Convention, and as a brigadier general occupied the Kanawha Valley, but was driven out by Union General Jacob D. Cox. General Cox, 33, an Ohio lawyer before the war, was a brigadier general of Ohio volunteers. In response to urgent pleas from residents and threats to his communications in northwestern Virginia, General George B. McClelland invaded the Kanawha Valley in July 1861. General Cox crossed the Ohio River and led the Union invading force, a brigade of 3,000 men, into Virginia from Guyandotte (now Huntington), Point Pleasant and Ravenswood, drove the Confederate defenders under Wise through Charleston to Gauley Bridge, and occupied Gauley Mountain. In contrast to the people of the Kanawha Valley, who were about evenly divided in their loyalties, a majority of the inhabitants along the New and Greenbrier rivers supported the Confederacy. Almost to a man, their officeholders were secessionists or neutralists. Cox later commanded a division at Nashville, Tennessee. After the war he was elected governor of Ohio, was a secretary of the interior in President Grantís cabinet, president of the Wabash Railroad in 1873 and served one term in the U.S. House. He died in 1900. General Wise was in command of Roanoke Island, N.C., when Union General Ambrose Burnside attacked it in 1862, and was at the surrender of Appomattox in 1865. After the war he renewed his law practice in Richmond, dying in 1876.)
Raleigh County was then in a great excitement and the cry of "the Yankees are coming" was heard from every quarter. All the South was scared terribly. They thought the Yankees were a dreadful set of fellows, having heard that the Union Army was sweeping everything before them, killing men, women and children. They were hiding and running in every direction, moving their property off to Dixie. (It was during this period that the Raleigh County government began to collapse. The County Court met in July 1861 but did not reconvene until October 26, 1862, when it held a one-day session. General Loring had temporarily cleared Union troops out of central western Virginia, entering Charleston with two brigades of 5,000 troops, via Beckley on September 13, 1862, but fell back to Lewisburg in October. The Raleigh court adjourned that October and did not convene again until the autumn of 1865 after the warís end. The court records were taken to Pulaski County, Virginia for safekeeping. During the one-day session of October 1862 the court met at the home of M. E. Woolwine, duly noting that "the courthouse, having been damaged to such an extent by federal troops during their occupancy as to render it inexpedient to use the same until repaired.")
Some of them asked me if I was going to try to stay at home. I told them yes. They said that I, my wife and children would all be killed if I stayed, and advised me to leave. I told them that I was not afraid of the Union Army, that the people who stayed home and minded their own business would before long be much better off than those who ran off to Dixie or those who raised arms against the government of the United States.
But in a few days all the militia in our county and several other counties - Giles, Monroe, Fayette, Mercer, Boone, Wyoming and Greenbrier - was called out by the rebel authorities and ordered to rendezvous at Raleigh Court House for the purpose of fighting the Yankees and driving them out of Virginia. So there was a great rally but they did not succeed in getting all of the militia out. Several companies were not at the place of rendezvous at the required time and that caused a good deal of dissatisfaction among those
who did assemble. They were enraged at those who failed to obey the orders of the great Confederate rulers to force out every man. They understood this, but found it hard to do.
The captain of our Coal River company had by this time found out the necessity of being a Union man. He found that there was but little protection under the rebel government and that Union troops were in the land and were daily expected to be all over our neighborhood. Having acted so boldly, he was afraid of both sides, so he took a notion that he would skedaddle until the militia was out. The rebel Colonel Burgess sent him a notice to bring his company to Raleigh County Court House forthwith, but he was gone.
It then fell to my lot, being next in command, to notify the company, but I did not do it. I thought I would soon be released by these bands of rebel tyrants by the coming of the Union troops, but in the course of two days they saw that the Coal River company was not out. The answer by Daniel Shumate, the clerk of Raleigh County, was that the captain was gone but that the notice was given to Lieutenant Dunbar and that the said William S. Dunbar had failed to serve notice. (Daniel Shumate III, 39, lived on Neville Street where the Beckley National Bank stands today. His wife Narcissus, 37, was a sister of Colonel Burgess. Shumate was clerk of the county and circuit courts at a salary of $100 annually. In 1860 he owned four slaves. Shumate was taken to Camp Chase as a citizen prisoner during the war, and died there. His brother, Newton, 41, went with him but survived and spent the rest of his life at Rock Creek, Clear Fork District. In 1860 Daniel Shumate went into debt to Henry L. Gillaspie for $10,934.67 and put up much of his choice property, including his home, to secure it. In 1866, after his death at Camp Chase, the property, including his home on Neville Street, was transferred to Gillaspie in payment of the debt. Gillaspie then lived there until he moved to California in the 1870s. Danielís widow moved to Wyoming County and married John Cook, 63, son of John and Jane Cook, in 1876. William T. Shumate, a son of Daniel and Narcissus, was a Confederate soldier. His cheek carried a scar where it was brushed by a cannon ball at the battle of Winchester, Virginia. William T. was a county sheriff and executed William I. Martin, the only many legally hanged in Raleigh County, on October 3, 1890. The hanging took place where Piney Avenue and North Valley Drive intersect today.)
Orders were given to arrest me, bring me to headquarters and let them see what was the reason I did not notify the men. So sheriff Riffe and a deputy sheriff and six rebel soldiers came to my house, arrested me and asked what was the reason I did not notify my men and bring them out according to orders. I told them the notice was not to me but to my captain, and therefore I did not do it. So they thought it was ignorance in me and told me their orders were to bring me to headquarters, but as I did not know my duty that if I would promise to go and serve the notice, they would release me. I told them that I would start that evening and notify all the men to meet me at John Stoverís the next day, and they rode off and left me. (John Stover Jr., 36, a farmer and son of John Stover and Nancy (Harper) Stover, lived on Clear Fork of Coal River. Deputy Sheriff Jacob Harper was his cousin. John Jr. was a "gentleman justice" (county commissioner) of the Raleigh County Court and had voted to equip a county company for the Confederate Army when the court met for that purpose on June 3, 1861. He died in 1900.)
I did as I had promised. I told every man my business and what had happened, and after I had notified them I took care to tell each one that they could do as they pleased - go or let it alone - giving them to understand that I did not care about their going, and if they did not go that I had no intentions of trying to force them to. So the next day I went to John Stoverís as I had told the men I would, and most of the men who belonged to the company met me there. Colonel Burgess had been there all day waiting for me, but had left, leaving orders for me to bring the company to Raleigh Court House as soon as I got them together.
It was nearly night when all the men met, so I told them to stay at Stoverís and in the neighborhood that night and that I would go back home and then meet them there in the morning as soon as I could get there. I met them early the next morning at John Stoverís. Several of the old men had gathered to go with their sons to the "great scene of danger," as they termed it. After all the men had assembled with their blankets on their backs, ready to start, the women began crying and hollering around and children screaming.
An old rebel by the name of Thomas Warden who lived near Raleigh Court House had been sent down to try to influence as many as he could to come out and fight Yankees and drive them back. ( Thomas Warden, 60, farmer, a native of Pulaski County, Virginia, settled first at Cranberry in 1833 and then established a large farm at Skeleton in 1852, near where the Beckley Plaza shopping center is located today. He died in 1881 and is buried on the family farm. His son Hughes was a Confederate soldier. He was reported missing and never heard from again. Thomas Wardenís daughter, Mary, was the wife of John Stover Jr.)
Warden asked me to make a speech to encourage the men to go as cheerfully as possible. I made a speech but it was short and entirely different from what Warden expected. I told them that it was folly for us to go out and fight because the South could not establish her Confederacy, and that if we ran off from our homes and joined the rebels that when the Yankees, as they called them, came they would not protect us or our property and not only that but that it was wrong to rebel. I also told them that they could do just as they chose, but for my part I was not going out, nor was I going to fight for the South, and if I had to fight it would be for the Union. I said I was going to Charleston forthwith to join the federal army. I got off the post I was standing on and started down the road in the direction of Charleston. The company all stood and looked after me, and old Warden, the above mentioned rebel, looked amazed as I spoke and left.
After I got about 100 yards, a man by the name of Charles Stover, a truly loyal and good man, followed me. After he started, first one and then another followed until nearly all left and not a man went to the rebels. We knew then that we had to make our escape as soon as possible, and the best way we could, because we would be followed. (Charles A. Stover, 24, a son of Samson and Juda Stover. His wife was Mary Ann Maynor, a daughter of Joseph and Elizabeth Maynor. Their son, D.L. Maynor, was a Union soldier. Stover enlisted in Dunbarís company the same day as Dunbar, November 20, 1861, and was mustered out August 1, 1865. He was promoted from sergeant to second lieutenant June 23, 1863, and then to first lieutenant to fill an original vacancy, on September 26, 1864, and was commissioned as captain April 29, 1865, after the war had ended. He died in 1877 on Clear Fork of Coal and is buried in Workmanís Creek. Captain Stover and John Stover Jr. were first cousins.)