West Virginia is the only state formed by seceding from a Confederate state. And its connections to the Civil War run deep. One day at a time, award-winning historian Michael Graham presents intriguing, event-driven anecdotes and history related to the state. On July 11, 1861, a Union force attacked 1,300 Confederate troops camped at Rich Mountain in a renowned battle. Confederate guerrillas raided Hacker’s Creek on June 12, 1864. Find little-known facts about the Battles of Droop Mountain, Carnifex Ferry, Harpers Ferry, Shepherdstown and a whole host of others. Read a story one day or month at a time. Celebrate an entire year of Civil War history in the Mountain State.
In early July, The Department of Interior released the final study documents of the National Park Service’s (NPS) Special Resource Study (SRS) of the Shepherdstown Battlefield. The Battle of Shepherdstown occurred on September 19 and 20, 1862 involving approximately 8,000 to 10,000 troops and resulted in 677 casualties.
The SRS concluded that the 510 acre site of the 1862 Battle of Shepherdstown would be preferably included within the Antietam National Battlefield Park. The SRS studied various options and possible boundary adjustments including an assessment of including the Shepherdstown site within the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. “As such, each of these boundary adjustment options is included in the study alternatives, with Antietam National Battlefield being the preferable option due to its historical and geographical connections to the Battle of Shepherdstown.”
The 1862 Maryland Campaign of the Army of Northern Virginia included battles of South Mountain, Harpers Ferry, Antietam and a battle ending near Shepherdstown in what is now West Virginia. The SRS concluded that: “The inclusion of the Shepherdstown battlefield into Antietam National Battlefield would provide visitors the opportunity to have an expanded understanding of the events directly following the Battle of Antietam and the culmination of the Maryland Campaign. The SRS further concludes it “would propose to adjust the existing boundary of Antietam National Battlefield to include areas of the Shepherdstown battlefield that contribute to an understanding of the significance of the Battle of Antietam and the Maryland Campaign.”
In early 2012, the NPS held two scoping meetings seeking public comments regarding the proposed SRS. “In total, approximately 136 people attended the scoping meetings. … Public response received by the National Park Service was predominately supportive of the study and enthusiastic concerning the interpretation and protection of the Shepherdstown battlefield.” The preliminary SRS was released in August 2014 and a public review period was conducted for two months. During this period, 334 individuals corresponded with the NPS. Two public meetings were held in September attended by approximately 93 individuals. “ Commenters expressed overwhelming support for” … the management option that the…“Antietam National Boundary Adjustment as the most effective and efficient way to preserve the Shepherdstown battlefield.”
“If Congress were to authorize a legislative boundary that would encompass the Shepherdstown battlefield as part of … Antietam National Battlefield, there would be no change to existing landownership…” “Any change to land ownership or use would be in the future as the National Park Service is able to acquire battlefield land from willing sellers and donors.”
The effort to involve the Federal government in helping to save and preserve the site of the Battle of Shepherdstown 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. Approximately 105 acres have been saved through conservation easements and land purchases. Aproximately $1.1 million has been raised to save battlefield land 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.
On Thursday, August 20, 2015, Dr. Michael Woods will discuss the “Emancipation and Statehood in West Virginia” in the Archives and History Library of the Culture Center in Charleston. The program will begin at 6:00 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
In the fall and winter of 1862-63, President Abraham Lincoln transformed the Civil War into a revolution by issuing the preliminary and final versions of his Emancipation Proclamation. Professor Michael Woods of Marshall University discusses the origins, development, and effects of the two-part proclamation, paying special attention to West Virginia—then in the process of statehood—in the broader story. Shrouded in myths and half-truths, the Emancipation Proclamation’s true significance and limitations become clearer by considering the relationship of the Mountain State to the politics of slavery and war.
Michael Woods is assistant professor of history at Marshall University. He completed his BA at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, and his MA and PhD at the University of South Carolina. His book, Emotional and Sectional Conflict in the Antebellum United States, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2014. He has also published articles in the Journal of Social History and the Journal of American History. Woods teaches courses on U.S. history, the Civil War era, and the U.S. South.
For additional information, contact the Archives and History Library at (304) 558-0230.
Clio not only directs users to historical sites using global positioning system on smartphones, it also provides a brief explanation and includes photos, links and other artifacts to expand knowledge of each site.
Last Days of the War Civil War Symposium – Saturday June 6, 2015, 10:00 a.m.
The Davis Center, Potomac State College, Keyser, West Virginia.
As the days of the Southern Confederacy grew numbered, Rebel fighters scattered through the Potomac Highlands kept up their struggle against Union forces guarding the B&O Railroad. The symposium will focus on these often-overlooked military actions.
Welcome – Joe Gratto
Invocation – Pastor Sally Battling
National Anthem – Ellen McDaniel-Weissler
Living Historian – Gary Carter
Introduction of Speaker – Joe Gratto
Talk: Rick Wolfe – “The Kidnapping of Generals” (Crook & Kelley)
Civil War Songs – Ellen McDaniel-Weissler
Introduction of Speaker – Joe Gratto
Talk: Steve French – “Last Gasps of the Highland Rebels”
And more… including period music and local artifacts displays. Free & open to the public.
For more information, contact Steve French: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each lecture will begin at 7:00 p.m. at #1 Valley Park Drive, Hurricane WV 25526. The speaker will talk for approximately an hour followed by Q&A and light refreshments. Authors may be selling and signing books, and additional local titles will be available as well. The event will conclude at 9:00 p.m each night.
Monday March 23, 2015: Terry Lowry – “Blueprint for War: The Battle of Scary Creek”
Mr. Lowry is the author of The Battle of Scary Creek and three additional books on the Civil War in West Virginia. A professional musician, he served as the music editor for The Charleston Gazette and as the historian/curator for the Craik-Patton House. Since 2001, Mr. Lowry has been a historian at the West Virginia Archives.
Tuesday March 24, 2015: Wayne Motts – “Fighting the Civil War: Historical Treasures of the Conflict in the Collection of the National Civil War Museum”
Mr. Motts has been a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg National Military Park for 27 years. He has worked in historical societies as a curator, artifact collections manager, and executive director. Since 2012, Mr. Motts has been the CEO of the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA. He will be speaking on artifacts from that collection including Jackson’s gauntlet and Lee’s Bible.
Wednesday March 25, 2015: Steve Cunningham – “Loyalty They Always Had: The 7th West Virginia Cavalry in the U.S. Civil War”
Mr. Cunningham has been researching the 7th West Virginia Cavalry, including four of his ancestors, for more than 20 years. He also maintains a website on the unit and hosts events for their descendants. The owner of 35th Star Publishing, Mr. Cunningham is a past president of the Kanawha Valley Civil War Roundtable and co-author of Their Deeds Are Their Monuments: West Virginia at Gettysburg.
Thursday March 26, 2015: Greg Carroll – “Freedom or Slavery and the Kanawha Valley during the Civil War”
Mr. Greg Carroll worked as a historian with West Virginia Archives 23 years where he handled research inquiries the Civil War, Native American, and African American research as well as overseeing the West Virginia Union Civil War Medal Program. He serves on the boards of West Virginia Citizen Action Group, the West Virginia Environmental Council, and the West Virginia International Film Festival.
For more information, visit Putnam County Civil War Days…
When the West Virginia Bill was introduced into the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, statehood supporters soon discovered that passage was improbable without adequate provisions affecting slavery.
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?”