1st West Virginia Infantry

HISTORY

Immediately after the three months men were discharged, on August 30, Dr. Joseph Thoburn, the former surgeon of the regiment, received the appointment of colonel for the purpose of reorganizing the regiment, which event was consummated about October 30, 1861. The regiment began its career in the three years’ service by four companies being sent to the Little Kanawha, Wirt County, Virginia, to suppress insurrection and dispel a band of marauders known as moccasin rangers, who were devastating the country in the oil region about November 12, where they became a part of the command of General Kelley who was then occupying this advance position as a part of the defense line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Here, again, that wonderful history of which much has been written, but of which there remains much that never shall be told, was enacted. From the beginning of Kelley’s first command at Romney to the close of the last scenes of the war at Appomattox, a part of this regiment participated in every engagement fought in the valley or the great campaigns which became a part of the history of the war, other than the army of the Potomac.

A short summary may give a faint idea of what the service of this regiment was. From Romney, in the winter of 1861 and 1862, to Patterson’s Creek, where General Lander assumed the command of that grand division of men afterward known as Shields’ Division, thrown together as a distinctive army; afterwards to Paw Paw Tunnel, where the lamented Lander died and then by the coming of General Shields, they began to weave history which stretched onward, covering the first battle of Winchester, March 23, 1862, where Stonewall Jackson was routed and driven from the field.

On June 9, at Port Republic, the troops of this division won for themselves an imperishable name. No battle of the war has crowded into it so much heroism and gallantry on the field, where our forces were greatly outnumbered. Our 3000 accomplished on that field that wonderful defense which the Confederates claim was the result of 10,000 men present. In July 1862, the regiment went with a part of the divisions to join that of General Rickets, a part of McDowell’s corps, Army of Virginia, in which command it participated in the battles of Cedar Mountain, Rappahannock Station, Thoroughfare Gap and the second battle of Bull Run, August 29 and 30.

At the close of the Bull Run campaign, the regiment was assigned to duty in the defense of Washington, being stationed at Arlington Heights. At this time it is worthy of note to say that the regiment came out of the second battle of Bull Run without a commissioned officer on duty. Sergeant Major Johnson commanded the regiment and marched it from Fairfax Station to Arlington Heights.

In October, 1862, the regiment was transferred from the defense of Washington to the Department of West Virginia, where they assisted in opening the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to Harper’s Ferry, and took post at North Mountain, being assigned to the Second Brigade of the First Division of the Eighth Army Corps. During the summer of 1863, they participated in the campaigns of that department, making many long and difficult marches, co-operating with the forces on the flank of Meade’s army, during the Gettisburg campaign, taking post in August at Petersburg, West Virginia. On September the 11, at Moorefield, five companies of the regiment were captured by the Confederate forces under McNeill, with a part of Imboden’s command. These five companies were taken to Richmond, a portion of the men being exchanged during the winter of 1863-64, but the eight officers there captured, excepting Captain Reed, Company H, were held prisoners of war until the close of the Rebellion.

The winter of 1863-64 was memorable in the regiment’s history for the service rendered in the defense of the line of railroad, in resisting Confederate raids and preventing destruction of property. On the 25th of February, 1864, the regiment was sent to Wheeling on veteran furlough, and on the 1st of April it again entered active service, joining Sullivan’s command at Webster, West Virginia, where it was attached to the Second Brigade, commanded by Colonel Thoburn. In May, 1864, it participated in Sigel’s campaign in the Shenandoah Valley, taking part in the battles of New Market, May 14 and 15, and continuing in the same organization during the campaign of General Hunter, bearing an honorable part in the battles of Piedmont, June 5, and Lynchburg, June 17 and 18, retreating from Lynchburg to the Kanawha Valley.

In July and August it participated in the campaigns of General Crook against the Confederate General Early, in the Shenandoah Valley, and took part in the battle of Snicker’s Ferry, July 18, and Winchester, July 24. In the months of August, September and October, it formed a part of the Army of West Virginia, in General Sheridan’s department, and was actively engaged at Cedar Creek, August 12; at Berryville, September3; at Charlestown, August 22 and at Halltown, August 26; at the battle of Opequon, September 19; Fisher’s Hill, September 23, and Cedar Creek, October 19.

In this last engagement, Colonel Thoburn was killed, he being then in command of the First Division of the Army of West Virginia. On October 29, the regiment was sent to Cumberland, Maryland, where the three years’ men not veteranizing were mustered out and the veterans were consolidated with part of the Fourth West Virginia Infantry, forming the Second Regiment of West Virginia Veteran Volunteers. In reviewing the history of this regiment, the field and staff, as composed at its organization, was Joseph Thoburn, colonel; Henry B. Hubbard, lieutenant-colonel, discharged on account of wounds, October 23, 1862; Isaac H. Duval, major, promoted to colonel of the Ninth Virginia Infantry, September 9, 1862; Jacob Weddel, major, November 1862, also lieutenant-colonel, December 4, 1862; E. W. Stevens, major, December 4, 1862; James McElroy was the first adjutant of the regiment, November 13, 1861. He was succeeded by John W. Dougherty. Dougherty and McElroy both succeeding to captaincies in the regiment, Henry J. Johnson became adjutant, September 23, 1862. W. T. Singleton was the quartermaster, Dr. David Bagley, surgeon, and the following named persons were assistant surgeons at different dates: A. W. D. Kraft, S. B. Stidger, James L. Gillespie, John English. Revs. Gordon Battelle and Wm. R. Howe served the regiment as chaplains.

BRILLANT SERVICES OF KELLEY AND THOBURN

The many changes which occurred in the line officers of the regiment would require too much space in this short article. Suffice it is to say that when the regiment closed its three years’ term of service, not a single captain of the original ten was mustered out with his company. Most of the companies were commanded by men who either started as lieutenants, or had been promoted from the ranks.

Some of the Names Worthy to be Mentioned as Connected with the Regiment:

Col. Benjamin F. Kelley

Col. Benjamin F. Kelley was the first colonel. Mention being made of his service and wounds, we have here to add that he was nominated by President Lincoln to be a brigadier-general of volunteers at the same time at which General Grant and a number of others who became illustrious in the War of the Rebellion were named for like positions. General Kelley was confirmed by the Senate and as a brigadier-general he commanded many important armies during the progress of the war. He was the only brigadier-general that ever commanded a department as such, through the entire war, notably the Department of West Virginia in the summer of 1864. He was brevetted major-general and leaves a record for fidelity and devotion to the cause of the Union, sharing in the establishment of a new State-West Virginia. He now sleeps among more than 14,000 of his comrades at Arlington, where future citizens shall view his resting place and talk of his lift service in the cause of liberty.

Col. Joseph Thoburn

But few names in the annals of was have clustered around them memories so strange and inexplainable as that of this gallant and loyal son of Virginia. He was on many battlefields, a leader worthy of his star, but facts over which political destinies seemed to hang, had kept from him the well-earned distinction of general, while he commanded a division of the army as a colonel longer than any man in the great Rebellions. It is said by a writer who is familiar with the records of the War Department, that this fact cannot be disputed. Colonel Thoburn was perhaps as well known as any colonel in the war; although his services were confined exclusively to the soil of Virginia, yet he came in touch and in contact with the commanders of all the Eastern armies and held subordinate positions above his rank, temporarily commanding brigades and divisions at different times. He was a man of conscientious principles, lovable in his disposition and brave to a fault. He never lacked in popular esteem among the rank and file of the army. His death was announced by General Sheridan as a great calamity. West Virginia has no greater honor to perform than that of placing, somewhere within her borders, a suitable testimonial to the character of this man.

Isaac H. Duval

Isaac H. Duval, of Wellsburg, West Virginia, who entered the service as major in the three months’ service with the First Virginia Infantry, re-entered the service in the same capacity with the regiment at the beginning of the three years’ term. His genius as a soldier very soon brought him into prominence when the active hostilities of the war began to show of what metal men were made. Of all the names borne on the rolls of the First Virginia Infantry, perhaps the ideal soldier was found in the person of this man. Very early in 1862, Governor Peirpoint selected him as colonel of the Ninth West Virginia Volunteers. His soldierly bearing soon marked its characteristics upon the regiment, and it became known throughout the Army of West Virginia that there was none better than the Ninth. In the conflicts that followed in the campaigns of 1863-64, Colonel Duval was promoted to the rank of brigadier-general and upon him devolved important commands during that history made famous by Sheridan and Crook, which shall live in the annals of time. It is a strange coincidence that at the surrender of the last troops in the Department of West Virginia, it should fall to the lot of one of West Virginia’s sons to receive the sword of the commander of the capitulating forces, when the climax of war was ended. General Duval, upon whom rested the command of Hancock’s corps (General Hancock being absent), being stationed at Staunton, Virginia, at the time of the capitulation of Lee’s army, threw his troops in the way of the Confederate General Rosser, who in the command of Lee’s cavalry attempted to make his way west with a sufficient force to continue active operations, but was brought to bay and compelled to surrender. General Duval has lived to enjoy the honor and esteem of the people of West Virginia, he having represented them in the lower House of Congress, and in many ways filled places of trust and honor.

Subalterns

Among the subordinate officers there were many who entered the service as unknown striplings or boys from the schools and the shops, who placed themselves at the heads of companies and other subordinate commands that were as honorable to their service, by reason of their youth and opportunities, as though they had succeeded to greater commands.

Rank and File

In the rank and file there were men as true and loyal, as ever bore arms in the defense of liberty and free government. It may not be amiss to state that of the per cent. of battleflags captured a greater number in proportion to the troops in the filed than by the troops of any other State. The names of many of the First West Virginia Infantry are enshrined forever on fields that shall live as among the marked spots where the conflicts of men took place in the War of the Rebellion. It would be doing injustice to others that any should be named, for among the unknown who fell and sleep in unmarked graves, West Virginia’s greatest glory in unhonored and unsung, but we can all say: “All hail to the sons of the storm-born State, who gave their lives that liberty might live and that West Virginia may ever continue among the family of States.”

[Source: Loyal West Virginia 1861-1865, by Theodore Lang]

SERVICE

Organized at Wheeling, W. Va., October 30, 1861. Companies “A,” “B,” “D” and “E” moved from Wheeling to Little Kanawha, Wirt County, W. Va., October 13, and duty there till November 2, when rejoined Regiment at Romney. Regiment left Wheeling for Romney, W. Va., November 9, 1861, and duty there till January 10, 1862. Attached to Railroad District, West Virginia, to January, 1862. 3rd Brigade, Landers’ Division, Army Potomac, to March, 1862. 3rd Brigade, Shields’ Division, Banks’ 5th Army Corps, and Dept. of the Shenandoah, to May, 1862. 4th Brigade, Shields’ Division, Dept. of the Rappahannock, to June, 1862. 4th Brigade, 2nd Division, 3rd Army Corps, Pope’s Army of Virginia, to September, 1862. 2nd Brigade, Whipple’s Division, Military District of Washington, D. C, to October, 1862. Wheeling, W. Va., to December, 1862. Cumberland, Md., September 1862. North Mountain, Defences of Upper Potomac, 8th Army Corps, Middle Dept., to March, 1863. 4th Brigade 1st Division, 8th Army Corps, to June, 1863. Campbell’s Brigade, Scammon’s Division, West Virginia, to December, 1863. 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, West Virginia, to April, 1864. 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, West Virginia, to October, 1864. Cumberland, Md., to December, 1864.

SERVICE.–Expedition to Blue’s Gap January 6-7, 1862. Hanging Rock Pass, Blue’s Gap, January 7. Moved to Patterson Creek January 10, and duty there till February 6. Moved to Paw Paw Tunnel February 5-13. Advance on Winchester March 1-15. Reconnoissance to Strasburg March 18-21. Battle of Winchester March 22-23. Pursuit of Jackson March 24-April 4. Edenburg March 27. Occupation of Mt. Jackson April 1. New Market April 17. Columbia Bridge May 5. March to Falmouth, Va., May 12-21, and to Port Republic May 25-June 7. Gaines’ Cross Roads, near Front Royal, May 31. White Plains June 1. Front Royal June 3. Port Republic June 9. March to Cloud’s Mills, near Alexandria, June 10-27. Camp there till July 24. Battle of Cedar Mountain August 9. Pope’s Campaign in Northern Virginia August 16-September 2. Rappahannock Station August 20-23. Sulphur Springs August 26. Thoroughfare Gap August 28. Groveton August 29. Bull Run August 30. In the Defences of Washington till October 11. Moved to Wheeling, W. Va., October 11-13, and duty there to November 27. Moved to Cumberland, Md., November 27-28, thence to Romney December 8. Moved to North Mountain, and duty there till March 6, 1863. At Mechanicsville Gap till June 14. Moved to New Creek Station, thence to Cumberland, Md., June 14-20. Moved to Hancock, thence to Williamsport July 13. At Back Creek July 28. To Winchester August 3, thence to Romney and to Petersburg August 15. Operating against guerrillas and Imboden’s and McNeil’s forces till January 10, 1864. Moorefield September 5 and 11, 1863 (Cos. “B,” “D.” “E,” “F” and “H”); mostly captured by McNeil. Descent on Salem December 16, 1863. Guard train from Petersburg to McDowell December 10-23. Retreat from, Petersburg to New Creek January 10-12, 1864. Operations in Hampshire and Hardy Counties against Rosser January 27-February 7. Veterans on furlough February and March. Moved to Grafton April 18, thence to Martinsburg April 19-22. Sigel’s Expedition to New Market April 30-May 16. Mt. Jackson May 14. New Market May 15. At Cedar Creek May 16-June 1. Advance to Staunton June 1-6. Piedmont, Mt. Crawford June 5. Occupation of Staunton June 6. Hunter’s Raid on Lynchburg June 10-July 1. Lexington June 11. Lynchburg June 17-18. Retreat to Gauley Bridge June 18-29. Moved to the Shenandoah Valley July 5-17. Snicker’s Ferry July 17-18. Battle of Winchester July 23-24. Sheridan’s Shenandoah Valley Campaign August to November. Cedar Creek August 12. Charlestown August 22-24. Halltown August 26. Berryville September 3-4. Battle of Opequan, Winchester, September 19. Fisher’s Hill September 22. Battle of Cedar Creek October 19. Ordered to Cumberland, Md., October 29, and duty there till December.

Consolidated with 4th West Virginia Infantry to form 2nd West Virginia Veteran Infantry December 10, 1864.

Source: Compendium of the War of the Rebellion, by Frederick Dyer]

LOSSES

Regiment lost during service 3 Officers and 51 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 2 Officers and 136 Enlisted men by disease. Total 192.

See also 2nd West Virginia Veteran Infantry.

[Source: Compendium of the War of the Rebellion, by Frederick Dyer]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

McKee, Thomas H.; “The Text of Loyalty in the State of Virginia in 1861.” In War Papers (MOLLUS, DC, Paper 90). 10 p. (10 photocopied pages). E464M5.1991v45. U.S. Army Military History Institute, Carlisle, PA.

“Views and Reviews of the Civil War.” In War Papers (MOLLUS, DC, Paper 63). 11 p. (11 photocopied pages). E464M5.1991v45. U.S. Army Military History Institute, Carlisle, PA.

Rawling, Charles J.; History of the First Regiment, Virginia Infantry Being a Narrative of the Military Movements in the Mountains of Virginia…. Phila: Lippincott, 1887.

History of the 1st West Virginia.  Online Version.  Courtesy of Linda Fluharty Cunningham.

Winters, Joshua; Civil War Letters and Diary of…: A Private in the Union Army, Company G, First Western Virginia Volunteer Infantry. [Ed by Elizabeth D. Swiger] Parsons, WV: McClain, 1991.