Xxxii. West Virginia.
- Convention called -- State organization effected -- McClelian advances -- fight at Rich McUntain -- Rebel rout at Carrick's Ford -- Union repulse at Searytown -- surprise at cross Lanes -- Caraifex Ferry -- Guyandotte -- Romney -- Alleghany Summit -- Huntersville.
the Virginia Convention of 1861, of which a majority assumed to vote their State out of the Union, as we have seen, had been elected not only as Unionists, but under an express stipulation that their action should be valid only in case of its submission to and indorsement by a vote of the People. How shamefully that condition was evaded and circumvented, we have seen. The vote to secede, taken on the 17th of April, and already anticipated by acts of hostility to the Union under the authority of the State, was, so far as possible, kept secret until the 25th, when it was proclaimed by Gov. Letcher that the Convention had, on the preceding day, adopted the provisional Constitution of the Confederate States, and placed the entire military power of the State under the control of Jefferson Davis, by a “convention,” whereof the material provision is as follows:
1st. Until the union of said Commonwealth with said Confederacy shall be perfected, and said Commonwealth shall become a member of said Confederacy, according to the Constitutions of both Powers, the whole military force and military operations, offensive and defensive, of said Commonwealth, in the impending conflict with the United States, shall le under the chief control and direction of the President of said Confederate States, upon the same principle, basis, and footing, as if said Commonwealth were now, and during the interval, a member of said Confederacy.Thus it will be seen that the Unionists of Virginia were liable, that day and every day thereafter, to be called out as militia, and ordered to assault Washington, seize Pittsburg, or invade any portion of the loyal States, as Davis and his subordinates might direct; and, having thus involved themselves in the guilt and peril of flagrant treason against the Union, they were to be allowed, a month later, to vote themselves out of the Confederacy and back into the Union again! The stupendous impudence of this mockery of submission was so palpable as almost to shield it from the reproach of imposture; and, as if to brush aside the last fig-leaf of disguise, Letcher, nine days thereafter,1 issued a fresh proclamation, calling out the militia of the State to repel 
President Lincoln and his Cabinet have willfully and deliberately proposed to violate every provision of the third section of the fourth article of the Constitution, which each one of them solemnly swore or affirmed, in the presence of Almighty God, to “preserve, protect, and defend.” That section is in these words:The answer to this is ready and simple: President Lincoln and his Cabinet do not regard John Letcher as Governor of that State of Virginia which is a member of our Federal Union. The Governor of that Virginia is Francis H. Pierpont; and its Legislature is that which, elected by loyal Virginians, assembled at Wheeling, and gave its free, hearty, and almost unanimous assent to the division of the old and the formation of the new State. All this must be as plain to Letcher as to Lincoln. Those who  hold that Letcher and his fellow-conspirators had a legal right to precipitate their State into treason, so as to bind her loyal, Union-loving citizens to follow and sustain them therein, will echo his lamentations; but those who stand by their country and her Government take a different view of the matter.6 All direct communication between Western Virginia and Washington was, and remained, interrupted for some weeks after the primary7 Rebel foray on Harper's Ferry. The Rebels remained in force at that point, completely controlling travel and transportation on the Baltimore and Ohio road. They finally obstructed that road altogether by destroying8 several bridges farther west; continuing to hold and to strengthen their position at Harper's Ferry. Two companies of Confederate or State militia entered the village of Clarksburg, the capital of Harrison county, on the 20th, but found themselves speedily outnumbered by the Union militia of that place, on whose demand they surrendered their arms and dispersed without a contest. Although some thousands of West Virginians had volunteered to fight for the Union, none of them were encamped on the soil of their State until after the election held9 to ratify or reject the Ordinance of Secession. The Government, assured that Western Virginia was overwhelmingly for the Union, doubtless chose not to have that unanimity attributed, even falsely, to the presence of a Union force. The Virginians who volunteered were mustered in and organized at Camp Carlile, in Ohio, opposite Wheeling, under the command of Col. Kelly, himself a Virginian. George B. McClellan, who had been appointed a Major-General and assigned to the command of the Department of the Ohio, remained at Cincinnati, his home. Three days after the election aforesaid, he issued from that city a spirited address “To the Union men of Western Virginia,” wherein he says:“New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other State, nor any State formed by the junction of two or more States or parts of States, without the consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned, as well as of the Congress.”
The General Government has long enough endured the machinations of a few factious Rebels in your midst. Armed traitors have in vain endeavored to deter you from expressing your loyalty at the polls. Having tailed in this infamous attempt to deprive you of the exercise of your dearest rights, they now seek to inaugurate a reign of terror, and thus force you to yield to their schemes, and submit to the yoke of the traitorous conspiracy, dignified by the name of the Southern Confederacy. They are destroying the property of citizens of your State, and ruining your magnificent railways. The General Government has heretofore carefully abstained from sending troops across the Ohio, or even from posting them along its banks, although frequently urged by many of your prominent citizens to do so. It determined to await the result of the State election, desirous that no one might be able to say that the slightest effort had been made from this side to influence the free expression of your opinions, although the many agencies brought to bear upon you by the Rebels were well known. You have now shown, under the most adverse circumstances, that the great mass of the people of Western Virginia are true and loyal to that beneficent Government under which we and our fathers have lived so long.A brief and stirring address to his soldiers was issued simultaneously with the above; and, both being read  to those in Camp Carlile that evening, the 1st Virginia, 1,100 strong, Col. Kelly, crossed to Wheeling early next morning, closely followed by the 16th Ohio, Col. Irvine. The 14th Ohio, Col. Steedman, crossed simultaneously, and quietly occupied Parkersburg, the terminus of the Northwestern branch of the Baltimore and Ohio road. A rebel force, then holding Grafton, which connected the branch aforesaid with the main or Wheeling division of the railroad, had meditated a descent on Wheeling; but, finding themselves anticipated and outnumbered, they obstructed and destroyed the railroad west of them, so that the Unionists did not reach Grafton till the morning of the 30th. On the 31st, both tracks having been repaired, a force of seven or eight thousand men was collected at this point, under the immediate command of Gen. Morris; the Rebels having been pushed back, without resistance, to Philippi, the capital of Barbour county, some fifteen miles southward, and entirely off the line of the railroad. From this place, Col. G. A. Porterfield, as commander of the Virginia Rebel forces, issued the following proclamation:
fellow-citizens: I am in your section of Virginia, in obedience to the legally constituted authorities thereof, with the view of protecting this section of the State from invasion by foreign forces, and to protect the people in the full enjoyment of their rights — civil, religious, and political. In the performance of may duties, I shall endeavor to exercise every charitable forbearance, as I have hitherto done. I shall not inquire whether any citizens of Virginia voted for or against the Ordinance of Secession. My only inquiry shall and will be as to who are the enemies of our mother — the Commonwealth of Virginia. My duty now compels me to say to all, that the citizens of the Commonwealth will at all times be protected by me and those under my command. Those who array themselves against the State will be treated as her enemies, according to the laws thereof. Virginians! allow me to appeal to you, in the name of our common mother, to stand by the voice of your State, and especially to repel invasion from any and every quarter. Those who reside within the State, who invite invasion, or who in any manner assist, aid, or abet invaders, will be treated as enemies to Virginia. I trust that no Virginian, whether native-born or adopted, will refuse to defend his State and his brothers against invasion and injury. Virginians! be true; and, in due time, your common mother will come to your relief. Already, many of you have rallied to the support of the honor of your State, and the maintenance of your liberties. Will you continue to be freemen, or will you submit to be slaves? Will you allow the people of other States to govern youth Have you forgotten the precepts of Madison and Jefferson?10 Remember that “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” Virginia has not made war. War has been made upon her and her time-honored principles. Shall she be vindicated in her efforts to maintain the liberties of her people or shall she bow her head in submission to tyranny and oppression? It seems to me that the true friend of rational liberty cannot hesitate. Strike for your State! Strike for your liberties! Rally! rally at once in defense of your mother!Gen. McClellan having ordered that Philippi be captured by surprise, the attempt was made on the night of June 2d. Two brigades of two regiments each approached the Rebel camp by different roads. They were to have enveloped the town by 4 A. M. of the 3d; but the roads were bad, the night intensely dark and stormy, and the division under Col. Kelly, which had to make the longer march--twenty-two miles--did not, because it could not, arrive in season. The Rebels, only six or eight hundred in number, could make no successful stand against the forces already in their front, and were evidently preparing  for a hurried retreat. The Unionists, under Cols. Dumont and Lander, opened with artillery and promptly charged with infantry, when the dismayed Rebels, after a momentary resistance, fled. Col. Kelly's division came in at this instant, and fell upon the Rebels, who were utterly demoralized and dispersed. Col. Kelly received a severe wound from a pistol-shot through the lungs, and two Unionists were killed. The Rebels lost sixteen killed and ten prisoners, with all their provisions, munitions, and tents, and nearly all their arms. Porterfield, gathering up such portion of his forces as he could find, retreated hastily to Beverly, and thence to Huttonsville; where the Rebel array was rapidly increased by conscription, and Gov. Wise placed in command. Gen. McClellan arrived at Grafton on the 23d, and at once issued a proclamation severely condemning the guerrilla warfare to which the Rebels were addicted. On the 25th, he issued a second address to his soldiers, exhorting them to forbear pillage and outrage of every kind, remembering always that the people were their friends. His forces were rapidly augmented, till they amounted, by the 4th of July, to over 30,000 men; while the Rebels in his front could hardly muster 10,000 in all. He therefore resolved to advance. The Rebel main force, several thousand strong, under Gen. Robert S. Garnett, was strongly intrenched on Laurel Hill, a few miles north of Beverly, the capital of Randolph county, holding the road to Philippi; while a smaller detachment, under Col. John Pegram, was intrenched upon the summit and at either base of Rich Mountain,11 where passes the turn-pike from Beverly westward to Buckhannon — his position being a strong one, three or four miles distant from the Rebel main body. McClellan, after reconnoitering, and determining by scouts tie position of the enemy, decided, first, to attack and crush Pegram; and, to this end, sent Col. Rosecrans to make a detour of eight miles through the mountains, and gain the turnpike two or three miles in the rear of Pegram. This was successfully accomplished; but a dragoon, dispatched by McClellan with orders to Rosecrans, was captured during the day, and the plan of attack discovered. The Rebels were found intrenched on the top of the mountain, with three cannon. Rosecrans, who had marched since day-light through forests and thickets of laurel, under a cold, pelting rain, by mountain bridle-paths, and, in part, through trackless woods, had, of course, no artillery. He approached the Rebel position about noon, and was immediately opened upon by their guns, which made much noise to little purpose. The vigorous musketry fire, soon opened on either side, was little more effective, because of the rain, the inequalities of the ground, and the density of the low, bushy forest. But the Unionists were largely superior in numbers, and, after half an hour of this random firing, were ordered to fix and charge  bayonets, which orders were promptly and vigorously obeyed. The Rebels at once took to flight, leaving their cannon, wagons, tents, provisions, and stores, with 135 dead. Gen. McClellan remained throughout the day inactive in front of Col. Pegram's position, awaiting advices from Rosecrans, that failed to reach him. Pegram, better advised of Rosecrans' operations, and justly alarmed for his own safety, attempted to escape during the following night, but found it impossible, and was compelled, after a day's hiding in the forest, to surrender12 his remaining force — about 600 men — at discretion. Gen. McClellan pushed on to Beverly, which he entered early next morning, flanking Gen. Garnett's position at Laurel Hill, and compelling him to a precipitate flight northward. Six cannon, two hundred tents, sixty wagons, and over one hundred prisoners, were the trophies of this success. The Rebel loss in killed and wounded was about 150; the Union about 50. Gen. Garnett, completely flanked, thoroughly worsted, and fearfully outnumbered, abandoned his camp at Laurel Hill without a struggle, crossing the Laurel Mountains eastward, by a by-road, into the narrow valley of Cheat river, traversed by one wretched road, which he took care to make worse for his pursuers by felling trees across it at every opportunity. It rained incessantly. This valley is seldom more than a wooded glen; whence he hoped to escape across the main ridge of the Alleghanies eastward into Hardy county. Provisions and supplies of every kind were scarce enough with the fugitives, and, for the most part, with their pursuers also. Rain fell incessantly, swelling the unbridged rivulets to torrents. Skirmishes were frequent; and four companies of a Georgia regiment, being cut off from the main body, were taken prisoners. At length, having crossed the Cheat at a point known as Carrick's Ford, which proffered an admirable position for defense, Garnett turned to fight; and, though the Union forces rapidly came up in overpowering numbers, and opened a heavy fire both of musketry and artillery, yet the strong and sheltered position of the Confederates enabled them for some time to hold the ford, twice repulsing efforts to cross it. Col. Taliaferro, commanding the Rebel rearguard, finally withdrew by order, having exhausted his cartridges and lost about thirty men. The position had by this time been flanked by Col. Dumont, with his 7th Indiana, who had fairly gained the crest on the right, when he was ordered to turn it on the left; and, marching down the bluff and through the middle of the stream, between the two armies firing over their heads, the regiment, forcing its way through the tangled thicket of laurel, appeared on the right flank of the Rebels, who thereupon fled. The road crosses the stream again a quarter of a mile below; and here a desperate attempt was made by Garnett to rally his forces for another struggle; but in vain. They received and returned one volley, when they started to run — they being, at least, 3,000, and the Indianians, directly upon them, barely 600; but there were enough more not far behind. Gen. Garnett exerted himself desperately to hold his men, without success; and,  while so doing, was shot through the body by Sergt. Burlingame, and fell dead without a groan. A slight, boyish Georgian — probably an Aid — alone stood by him to the last, and shared his fate.13 Gen. McClellan, with a large portion of his force, had not united in this chase, but had moved southerly from Beverly, several miles, to Huttonsville; whence, on the next day,14 he telegraphed to Washington that
Gen. Garnett and his forces have been routed, and his baggage and one gun taken. His army are completely demoralized. Gen. Garnett was killed while attempting to rally his forces at Carricksford, near St. George. We have completely annihilated the enemy in Western Virginia. Our loss is about thirteen killed, and not more than forty wounded ; while the enemy's loss is not far from two hundred killed; and the number of prisoners we have taken will amount to at least one thousand. We have captured seven of the enemy's guns in all. A portion of Garnett's forces retreated; but I look for their capture by Gen. Hill, who is in hot pursuit.This expectation was not realized. The pursuit was only continued two miles beyond the ford; when our weary soldiers halted, and the residue of the Rebels, under Col. Ramsey, turning sharply to the right, made their way across the mountains, and joined Gen. Jackson at Monterey. A strong Union force, under Gen. Cox, made an advance from Guyandotte simultaneously with Gen. McClellan's on Beverly, capturing Barboursville after a slight skirmish, and moving eastward to the Kanawha, and up that river. At Scarytown, some miles below Charleston, a detachment of 1,500 Ohio troops, under Col. Lowe, was resisted15 by a smaller Rebel force, well posted, under Capt. Patton, and repulsed, with a loss of 57 men. Five officers, including two Colonels, who went heedlessly forward, without their commands, to observe the fight, rode into the Rebel lines, and were captured. The Rebels abandoned the place that night, leaving their leader dangerously wounded to become a prisoner. Gen. Cox pushed steadily forward, reaching Charleston, the capital of Kanawha county, on the 25th. Gov. Wise, who commanded the Rebels in this quarter, had expected here to make a stand; but, discouraged by the tidings which had reached him, some days before, of Garnett's disasters, continued his flight up the river. Gen. Cox pursued, reaching, on the 29th, Gauley bridge, which Wise had burned to impede pursuit. The people of that valley, and, indeed, of nearly all Western Virginia--being Unionists — complained that the Rebels mercilessly plundered them of every thing eatable; which was doubtless true to a great extent, and, for the most part, unavoidable. In the race up the Kanawha valley, Wise succeeded, to the last, in keeping ahead, which was the only military success he ever achieved. He  retreated to Lewisburg, the capital of Greenbrier, one of the few counties west of the main ridge of the Alleghanies which, having a considerable number of slaves, and having been settled entirely from Old Virginia, has evinced a preponderating devotion to the Rebel Cause. Here he was reinforced, and outranked, about August 1st, by Gen. John B. Floyd, who, under the influence of the inspiring news from Bull Run, and the depletion of the Federal forces by the mustering out of service of the three months men, was soon able to assume the offensive. Keeping well to the right of New River — the main affluent which unites near Gauley bridge with the Gauley to form the Kanawha — he surprised the 7th Ohio, Col. Tyler, while at breakfast at Cross Lanes, near Summersville,16 and routed it with a loss of some 200 men. Moving thence southerly to Carnifex Ferry, he was endeavoring to gain the rear of Gen. Cox, who was still south of him, when he was himself attacked by Gen. Rosecrans, who, at the head of nearly 10,000 men, came rapidly down upon him from Clarksburg, nearly a hundred miles northward. Most of the Union troops had marched seventeen miles that day, when, at 3 o'clock P. M. of the 10th, they drew up in front of Floyd's strong and well-fortified position on the north bank of the Gauley, just below the mouth of Meadow river. Rosecrans ordered a reconnoissance in force by Benham, which was somewhat too gallantly executed, resulting in a short, but severe action, wherein the advantage of position was so much on the side of the Confederates that their loss must have been considerably less than ours, which was about two hundred, including Col. Lowe, of the 12th Ohio, killed, and Col. Lytle, of the 10th, severely wounded, as was Lieut.-Col. White, of the 12th. Col. McCook's Ohio brigade (Germans) at one time received an order to storm the Rebel intrenchments, and welcomed it with a wild delight, which showed how gladly and thoroughly it would have been obeyed; but it was an order which Rosecrans had not given, and which, after a careful observation of the works, he countermanded. Instead of assaulting, he directed a more thorough reconnoissance to be made, and the troops to be so posted as to be ready for decisive work early in the morning. But, when daylight dawned, the enemy were missing. Floyd, disappointed in the expected support of Wise, and largely outnumbered, had wisely withdrawn his forces under cover of the night, abandoning a portion of his equipage, much baggage, and a few small arms, but no cannon.17 He rapidly retreated some thirty miles to Big Sewell Mountain, and thence to Meadow Bluff, whither he was not closely followed. Wise strengthened the position on Big Sewell, named it Camp Defiance, and there remained. Gen. Lee, arriving from the North with a considerable Rebel force, took  command of both Floyd's and Wise's troops, swelling his army to 20,000 men. Rosecrans, after remaining several days in his front at Big Sewell, retreated thirty miles to the Gauley, and was not pursued; Gen. Lee being soon after recalled to take a command on the coast, and Gov. Wise ordered to report at Richmond. Gen. Lee, before leaving the North, had made a strong reconnoissance in force rather than a serious attack, on the position held by Gen. Reynolds on Cheat Mountain, in Randolph county, not far from the arena of Garnett's and of Pegram's disasters. There was skirmishing on the 12th, 13th, and 14th of September, during which Col. John A. Washington, one of Gen. Lee's aids, was killed, with nearly one hundred other Rebels. The Union loss was nearly equal to this, mainly in prisoners. Reynolds's force was about half that of his assailants, but so strongly posted that Lee found it impossible to dislodge him, and retired to his camp at Greenbrier. Here Reynolds, whose forces were equal, if not superior, to those in his front, after Lee's departure for the South, paid a return visit to the Rebels, now commanded by Gen. H. R. Jackson, of Georgia, on the 3d of October. Reynolds, in turn, found his adversary's position too strong to be carried by assault, and retreated unpursued, after a desultory contest of several hours. On the 10th of November, at 8 P. M., Col. Jenkins, with his regiment of Rebel cavalry, which had been engaged for some time in guerrilla warfare, dashed into the village of Guyandotte, on the Ohio river, near the Kentucky line, surprising the Union forces stationed there and taking over a hundred prisoners. All who resisted were killed by the guerrillas, who left hastily next morning, with all the plunder they could carry. Col. Zeigler, of the 5th [loyal] Virginia, who arrived early next morning, ordered the houses of the Secessionists to be burned, on the assumption that they had instigated the Rebel raid, and furnished the information which rendered it safe and successful; and, the leading citizens being mostly rebels, the village was mainly consumed. This destruction was generally condemned as barbarous, though the charge was probably true, and would have justified any penalty that might have been inflicted on those only who supplied the information. Rosecrans having posted himself at Gauley Mount, on New River, three miles above its junction with the Gauley, Floyd and Wise, after Lee's departure, took position on the opposite (south) side of New River, and amused themselves by shelling the Union teamsters engaged in supplying our army. Here Rosecrans attempted to flank and surprise them, but was first defeated by a great flood in the river, rendering it impassable; and next by the failure of Gen. Benham to gain Floyd's rear and obstruct his retreat, as he had been ordered to do. The attack in front was duly made,18 but Floyd retreated unmolested by Benham, and but faintly pursued. On the 14th, his rear-guard of cavalry was attacked and driven by Benham; its Colonel, St. George Croghan, being killed. No further pursuit was attempted. Floyd retreated to Peterstown, more than  fifty miles southward. And thus died out the campaign in the southern part of West Virginia. In the north-east, Gen. Kelly, who held and guarded the Alleghany section of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, starting from New Creek on the night of October 25th, advanced rapidly to Romney, the capital of Hampshire county, driving out a Rebel battalion and capturing two cannon, sixty prisoners, several hundred stand of arms, with all the camp equipage, provisions, and munitions. By this spirited dash, West Virginia was nearly cleared of armed Rebels. Gen. R. H. Milroy, who had succeeded Gen. Reynolds in command at Cheat Mountain, attempted, soon afterward,19 a similar dash on the Rebels in his front, strongly posted at Alleghany Summit, twenty-two miles distant, on the turnpike to Staunton. To this end, he moved forward with 3,200 men, nearly half of which were directed to make a detour by the old Greenbrier road, to assault the enemy's left. The combination failed. The flank movement, under Col. Moody, of the 9th Indiana, was not effected in time. The Rebel forces, consisting of four regiments, under Col. Edward John-son, were neither surprised nor dismayed; and the attack in front, led by Col. James A. Jones, of the 25th Ohio, though gallantly made, did not succeed. The Rebels, finding themselves superior in numbers as well as position, attacked in turn, and were likewise repulsed, as also in an attempted flank movement. Still, Milroy, having lost 150 men, with his ranks still further depleted by the skulking of his raw troops, had begun to retreat before Col. Moody, at 8 A. M., commenced his flank attack, which was of course a failure. Milroy retreated unpursued to his old camp. But, not discouraged, he dispatched Major Webster, of the 25th Ohio, with 800 men, on the last day of the year, to break up a Rebel post at Huntersville, fifty miles south, on the Greenbrier. The weather was cold; the ground covered with snow; yet the march was made in three days, the Rebel force driven out, and six buildings, filled with provisions and forage, destroyed by fire; the expedition returning without loss or accident. Here closed the campaign of 1861 in Western Virginia, with scarcely a Rebel uniform or picket to be seen, on that side of the Alleghany Mountains.20