Since 1996, the Civil War Trust has sponsored Park Day, an annual hands-on preservation event to help Civil War — and now Revolutionary War — battlefields and historic sites take on maintenance projects large and small. Activities are chosen by each participating site to meet their own particular needs and can range from raking leaves and hauling trash to painting signs and trail buildings.
Consider volunteering at one of these West Virginia historic sites on Park Day, March 28, 2015: Shepherdstown Battlefield, Rich Mountain Battlefield, Droop Mountain Battlefield, Harper’s Ferry.
by Rick Steelhammer, for the Charleston Gazette
How do you motivate 300 battle-weary cavalrymen to voluntarily leave their encampment in the dead of winter, ride more than 75 miles across snow-covered mountains, and then attack an enemy garrison force more than three times larger?
Confederate Gen. Thomas L. Rosser faced just such a challenge 150 years ago this week at his brigade’s winter quarters near McDowell, Virginia, where food and warm clothing were in short supply following a successful Union sweep through the Shenandoah Valley the previous fall. Rosser began honing his leadership skills while a cadet at West Point, where his roommate was George Armstrong Custer, before dropping out two weeks before graduation, at the outset of the Civil War, to accept a commission in the Confederate Army, in which he rapidly advanced through the ranks. But on this occasion, hunger and discomfort likely trumped charisma in raising volunteers for the planned raid.
On Jan. 9, 1865, Rosser and 300 volunteers drawn from 9 Virginia regiments rode westward on the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike toward the Union supply depot at Beverly, guarded by two regiments of Ohioans — a force totaling nearly 1,100 troops. After spending the first night in a church and a scattering of houses atop Allegheny Mountain, Rosser’s force rode on, crossing the Greenbrier River and Cheat Mountain, where rain changed to snow, causing the Confederates’ overcoats to freeze solid and “rattle like boards,” according to Thomas J. Arnold’s “A Battle Fought in the Streets: Rosser’s Beverly Raid of 1865.”
As the Confederates approached Beverly at the end of the second day of their trek, they stopped at the family home of one of Rosser’s volunteers to rest and gather information about the Union garrison, including the fact that the federal officers had spent much of the night at a dance in Beverly’s Leonard Hotel and should be fast asleep at the time of the raid, planned to take place just before dawn. The enlisted troops, Rosser was told, were housed in a series of log huts, and were also expected to be sleeping through the subfreezing night.
When the attack began on Jan.11, 1865, the federal troops were taken completely by surprise.
“The Federals, such as were not captured, retreated, fighting through the streets of Beverly and across the bridge on the road to Buckhannon,” Arnold wrote. After about 30 minutes of fighting, 6 Union troops were dead, 23 were wounded and nearly 800 were captured. About 150 Union troops managed to escape to safety in Buckhannon. Confederate losses were one dead and several more wounded. The Confederates helped themselves to nearly 10,000 rations from the Union supply depot, along with 600 rifles and 100 horses.
By the time the Confederate raiders returned to Staunton, about 250 of their prisoners had escaped, including the garrison’s commander, Lt. Col. Robert Youart, who was later relieved of duty for his role in the debacle.
After learning of Rosser’s success, Union Army Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan wrote that he had advised Gen. George C. Crook, commander of federal forces in West Virginia, “some time ago to break up the post at Beverly; it is of no use, and is bait for the enemy, both from position and gross carelessness, and want of discipline on the part of the troops.”
The raid was the last significant action to take place in Randolph County during the Civil War.
Despite leading his cavalry against his former college roommate’s cavalry force on several occasions during the war, Rosser and Custer remained friends. In June 1864, Rosser captured Custer’s entire supply train, including the flamboyant general’s personal wardrobe, during the Battle of Trevilian Station. Custer returned the favor a few months later during the Battle of Tom’s Brook, when Rosser’s supply train, including his personal wardrobe, was seized by his classmate’s troops.
“Please accept my good wishes and this little gift — a pair of your draws (sic) captured at Trevilian Station,” Rosser wrote his friend.
“Thanks for setting me up in so many new things,” Custer replied after capturing Rosser’s headquarters wagon. “But would you please tell your tailor to make the coat tails of your next uniform a trifle shorter?”
by Rick Steelhammer, The Charleston Gazette
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Towering over rows of neatly arranged headstones at Columbus Confederate Cemetery, a tarnished bronze statue of a Southern soldier stands watch atop a granite archway on which the word “Americans” has been engraved.
An inscription on a round, three-foot-high boulder at the base of the arch informs visitors that 2,260 Confederate Soldiers, most of them prisoners of war who died of diseases that swept through Columbus’s Camp Chase, located adjacent to the cemetery during the Civil War, are buried within the grounds.
But according to a Columbus man who has been researching biographies of the cemetery’s occupants, at least seven of the graves may actually contain the remains of Union soldiers — including Pvt. Benjamin F. Fettro, of Clarksburg, and Pvt. John E. Clark, of Morgantown, — who were mistakenly interred with their former foes.
On Sunday afternoon, November 16, a sign was erected and dedicated to commemorate the purchase and preservation of two properties totaling 2.2 acres on the site of the 1862 Battle of Shepherdstown. The properties are contiguous to the historic Cement Mill property which was saved and preserved in 2011.
In late 2011, the Civil War Trust (CWT) purchased 18 acres of the Cement Mill property and in late 2013, another small parcel, contiguous to the Cement Mill property, was purchased. Early this year the CWT purchased another property contiguous to the Cement Mill property. All the properties were deeded to the Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission (HLC). Ultimately, the HLC intends to donate the parcels to the National Park Service (NPS). A conservation easement has been placed on the properties and they have been included in the National Register of Historic Places.
The total cost of all the land purchases was $536,000. The funds to complete the recent purchases came from the Land and Water Conservation Fund administered by the NPS, Save Historic Antietam Foundation Inc., and the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association Inc. Importantly, all the properties purchased by the CWT are contiguous to 59 acres already saved through the use of conservation easements. In total, 104 acres of the core of site of the Battle of Shepherdstown have been saved and preserved.
This effort has been the result of the work of the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association Inc (SBPA) and its individual members. SBPA is a non-profit corporation, organized in 2004 dedicated to saving and preserving the core of the site of the Battle of Shepherdstown. Almost $1.2 million has been raised through grants and membership contributions during the last ten years.
If you would like to help save more of the battlefield and learn more about SBPA, please go to: www.battleofshepherdstown.org.
The History Press publishing company has released a new title, The Coal River Valley in the Civil War by Michael B. Graham.
About the book
The three rivers that make up the Coal River Valley—Big, Little and Coal—were named by explorer John Peter Salling (or Salley) for the coal deposits found along its banks. More than one hundred years later, the picturesque valley was witness to a multitude of bloody skirmishes between Confederate and Union forces in the Civil War. Often-overlooked battles at Boone Court House, Coal River, Pond Fork and Kanawha Gap introduced the beginning of “total war” tactics years before General Sherman used them in his March to the Sea. Join author and historian Michael Graham as he expertly details the compelling human drama of West Virginia’s bitterly contested Coal River Valley region during the War Between the States.
About the author
Michael B. Graham, PhD, is adjunct professor of history, security and global studies at American Military University, Charles Town, West Virginia. He is senior vice-president for management and chief financial officer at the United States Institute of Peace, Washington, D.C. He graduated from the Air War College and attended the Naval War College and Marine Corps Command and General Staff College, the Foreign Service Institute, Management Concepts Institute, USDA Graduate School and the Academy for Conflict Management and Peacebuilding. He has written or contributed to many books, including Liberating a Continent: The European Theater (Vol. 1) and Fall of the Rising Sun: The Pacific Theater (Vol. 2) in The Faces of Victory: The United States in World War II (Addax Publishing, 1995). He authored Mantle of Heroism: Tarawa and the Struggle for the Gilberts, November 1943 (Presidio Press, 1993), the October 1993 Main Selection/Book of the Month of the Military Book Club.
On Tuesday, September 2, 2014, Brian Stuart Kesterson presented “Incidents of Morgan’s Raid with an Account of Stovepipe Johnson’s Retreat through West Virginia” in the Archives and History Library in the Culture Center in Charleston.
Kesterson focused on the ill-fated 1863 raid of General John Hunt Morgan and Colonel Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson’s retreat through West Virginia. Several years ago, he traveled over roads and lanes that Col. Johnson and his 300 retreating Confederate cavalrymen traveled. The remoteness of the retreat route largely factored in the preservation of a substantial part of the route, according to Kesterson. “Some of these roads were little better than wagon paths and they have changed very little since the time of the Civil War. About 90% of Johnson’s original retreat route still exists, which is amazing to think about since he and his men retreated over eight counties in West Virginia and two counties in Virginia.”
A native of Wood County, Brian Kesterson received a bachelor’s degree from Marietta College and his teaching certification and master’s degree in education from Ohio Valley College. He currently is a history teacher at Parkersburg High School. He also is a member of the 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, which has provided living history, boot camp programs for the school children of West Virginia and Ohio since 1990, and serves as chief musician/bugler for the general staff of the United States Volunteer Infantry.
Kesterson appeared in the in the movie The Patriot (2000) as a special abilities re-enactor for the Revolutionary War time period and has appeared in documentaries on Civil War and other historical topics. He is the author of The Last Survivor: The Memoirs of George William Watson, A Horse Soldier in the 12th Virginia Cavalry (1993); Campaigning with the 17th Virginia Cavalry Night Hawks at Monocacy (2005); Dear Sir . . . Dear Miss . . .: The Letters of Granville B. Mann, Company A, 30th Battalion Virginia Sharpshooters & Miss Lucinda Maria Virginia (Chandler) Mann (2007); and Incidents of Morgan’s Raid with an Account of Stovepipe Johnson’s Retreat through West Virginia (2013).
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
National Park Service News Release
National Park Service Seeks Public Comment on the Shepherdstown Battlefield Special Resource Study/Boundary Study/Environmental Assessment
WASHINGTON – Today, the National Park Service (NPS) released the Shepherdstown Battlefield Special Resource Study/Boundary Study/Environmental Assessment for public comment through October 3, 2014. The NPS will hold two public meetings during the comment period.
The NPS preferred alternative -Alternative 2A- proposes a boundary adjustment of Antietam National Battlefield to include the Shepherdstown battlefield. The special resource study determined that the battlefield does not meet NPS criteria to become its own stand-alone unit of the national park system.
During the public meetings the NPS planning team will explain the study outcomes, answer public questions and take public comments. Historian Thomas McGrath, author of Shepherdstown: Last Clash of the Antietam Campaign, September 19-20 1862, will present research on the events that occurred during the two-day Shepherdstown battle. McGrath served as an advisor to the NPS planning team, providing historical information and research.
The meetings are as follows:
Tuesday September 9, 5 to 8 p.m.
(with presentations at 5 and 6:30 p.m.)
Antietam National Battlefield Visitor Center
5831 Dunker Church Road, Sharpsburg, Md.
Thursday, September 11, 5 to 8 p.m.
(with presentations at 5 and 6:30 p.m.)
Clarion Hotel & Conference Center
233 Lowe Drive, Shepherdstown, W.Va.
Congress directed the NPS to complete the special resource and boundary studies to evaluate the national significance of Shepherdstown battlefield and its suitability for inclusion in the national park system. The law specifically directs the NPS to assess the suitability and feasibility of designating Shepherdstown battlefield as a stand-alone unit of the NPS or adjusting the boundary of either Antietam National Battlefield or Harpers Ferry National Historical Park to include Shepherdstown battlefield. The special resource study evaluates Shepherdstown battlefield as a potential new stand-alone unit while the boundary study evaluates its potential addition to Antietam or Harpers Ferry.
The public comment period is open August 8 to October 3, 2014. The NPS invites the public to share thoughts on the alternatives, the proposed boundary and to identify concerns with the study. Comments will be accepted electronically at www.parkplanning.nps.gov/SHBA, orally or in writing at the public meetings and written comments can also be by mailed to:
Regional Director, National Capital Region
C/O Jordan Hoaglund-Planning
National Park Service, Denver Service Center
12795 West Alameda Parkway, PO Box 25287
Denver, CO 80225-0287
Mailed comments must be postmarked by October 3, 2014, to receive consideration.
Before including a personal address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in a written comment, commenters should be aware that their entire comment-including their personal identifying information-may be made publicly available at any time. While anyone wishing to comment may ask the NPS in their comment to withhold their personal identifying information from public review, the NPS cannot guarantee it will be able to do so.
For more information visit parkplanning.nps.gov/SHBA.
For more information on the Shepherdstown Battlefield, visit Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association.
Citizen-General: Jacob Dolson Cox and the Civil War Era
New biography by the Ohio University Press
The wrenching events of the Civil War transformed not only the United States but also the men unexpectedly called on to lead their fellow citizens in this first modern example of total war. Jacob Dolson Cox, a former divinity student with no formal military training, was among those who rose to the challenge. In a conflict in which “political generals” often proved less than competent, Cox, the consummate citizen general, emerged as one of the best commanders in the Union army.
During his school days at Oberlin College, no one could have predicted that the intellectual, reserved, and bookish Cox possessed what he called in his writings the “military aptitude” to lead men effectively in war. His military career included helping secure West Virginia for the Union; jointly commanding the left wing of the Union army at the critical Battle of Antietam; breaking the Confederate supply line and thereby helping to precipitate the fall of Atlanta; and holding the defensive line at the Battle of Franklin, a Union victory that effectively ended the Confederate threat in the West.
At a time when there were few professional schools other than West Point, the self-made man was the standard for success; true to that mode, Cox fashioned himself into a Renaissance man. In each of his vocations and avocations—general, governor, cabinet secretary, university president, law school dean, railroad president, historian, and scientist—he was recognized as a leader. Cox’s greatest fame, however, came to him as the foremost participant historian of the Civil War. His accounts of the conflict are to this day cited by serious scholars and serve as a foundation for the interpretation of many aspects of the war.
About the Author: Eugene D. Schmiel is a retired U.S. Department of State Foreign Service officer. He was an assistant professor of history at St. Francis University (PA) and has taught at Marymount, Shenandoah, and Penn State universities. He holds the Ph.D. degree from The Ohio State University and coauthored, with his wife Kathryn, a book on life in the Foreign Service.
In 1783, Thomas Jefferson stood in awe of its beauty. Abolitionist John Brown raided the U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry in 1859, only to be captured by U.S. Marines led by Col. Robert E. Lee and Lt. J.E.B. Stuart. In 1861, General Thomas J. Jackson occupied Harpers Ferry, then returned in 1862 as “Stonewall,” bringing about the largest mass surrender of U.S. troops of the Civil War.
Today, the Civil War Trust has the opportunity to save 13 acres at Harpers Ferry. This tract—the site of the historic Allstadt’s Ordinary—played a pivotal role in John Brown’s raid and was at the heart of the battlefield in 1862. Now, thanks to a phenomenal $19.41-to-$1 match, we can protect this crucial piece of American history and preserve it for future generations.