Taylor County WV in the Civil War
|The military significance of Grafton, Taylor County, was readily
apparent to both the North and the South. Grafton controlled the main junction of the Baltimore
and Ohio railroad and thus commanded access to the great coal fields and steel mills of Pittsburgh
and Wheeling. Just days after Fort Sumter, both sides began operations to secure control of Grafton
and the railroad.
Governor Letcher of Virginia sent Colonel George Porterfield to Grafton to organize companies for Confederate service. Southern recruiters had such a difficult time recruiting in Grafton, which was highly populated with Union sympathizers, that they set up operations in Pruntytown, just west of Grafton. In defiance of the Confederate recruitment, George R. Latham of Grafton nailed an American flag over his door and began to enlist troops for the Federal cause. With both sides operating simultaneously less than five miles apart, the situation was obviously highly explosive.
By May 15, 1861, Latham had enrolled a full company and used the streets of Grafton as a drill ground. On May 21, he was called to Wheeling to arrange to have his "Grafton Guards" mustered into service. While Latham was in Wheeling, two Confederate companies from Taylor County, one under the command of Captain John A. Robinson and one under George W. Hansbrough, and a company from Clarksburg under the command of William P. Cooper, rendezvoused at Fetterman. Led by Colonel Porterfield, the whole force marched through the streets of Grafton to demonstrate the strength of the Confederacy. Upon arriving at Latham's residence, Captain Robinson stopped and ordered a detail to tear down the flag waving over the door. Upon hearing this insult to the flag, a young man named George Jordan standing on a nearby porch, hurled a chair at Robinson, knocking him off his horse into the dust of the street. As Robinson angrily picked himself up, he noticed numerous rifles pointed out windows and from rooftops and decided at once to retreat back to Fetterman.
On May 22, two members of the Grafton Guards, Daniel Wilson and T. Bailey Brown went from Grafton to a rally in Pruntytown to recruit forces for the Union army. On their return that evening, the two men were ordered to halt by three Confederates, George E. Glenn, Daniel S. Knight, and William Reese, who were doing picket duty at the Fetterman Bridge where the Northwestern Turnpike crossed the tracks of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad. Brown answered their demands with pistol fire, injuring Knight in the ear. Knight fired at Brown, killing him almost instantly. Thus, T. Bailey Brown became the first casualty of the Civil War. A few days later, June 3, 1861, the first land battle of the Civil War was fought at Philippi, sixteen miles south of where T. Bailey Brown fell.
The Grafton Guards later became Company B of the Second West Virginia Infantry Volunteers. This regiment was later mounted and designated as the Fifth West Virginia Volunteer Cavalry.
Grafton remained in Union control throughout the remainder of the war. Isolated incidents flared up around the neighboring hills, but no other major military action occurred in the region.
Charles Brinkman, "Early History of Grafton,"
The Grafton (W. Va.) Sentinel, (September 3, 1929 - December 31, 1929).
Brinkman, "The History of Taylor County,"
Grafton and Taylor County during the Civil War Days and Points of Interest. Prepared by George A. Shingleton, 1961.
Frank S. Reader, History of the Fifth West Virginia Cavalry, formerly the Second Virginia Infantry, and of Battery G, First West Va. Light Artillery, 1890.
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