4th West Virginia Infantry

HISTORY

Lightburn

Col. J.A.J. Lightburn

The Fourth West Virginia Infantry was organized August, 1861, with the following field officers: J.A.J. Lightburn, colonel; Wm. H.H. Russel, lieutenant-colonel, and John T. Hall, major.

The regiment did its first service in the Kanawha Valley, and hard service it was, too; guard duty, scouting, fighting, was the daily program.

On the 6th of August, 1862, Major Hall, with a force of forty-eight men, at Beach Creek, near Logan Court House, encountered 200 Confederated mounted infantry, under Colonel Stratton and Major Witcher. The fight was a stubborn one, Major Hall and two enlisted men were killed and twelve wounded. Of the Confederates, Major Witcher was killed; upon the death of their commander the Confederates retreated. In the death of Major Hall, the 4th Regiment suffered a great loss. He was a graduate of West Point, was young, brave, and of course well qualified for all the duties of a soldier.

The next military experience of importance which the regiment was called upon to undergo, was “Colonel Lightburn’s retreat from the Kanawha Valley.” A few preliminary words will enable the reader to better comprehend the situation.

On July 1, 1862, General McClellan, after the battle of Malvern Hill, retreated to Harrison’s Landing. McClellan remained in camp till the 4th of August, when he received orders from General Halleck, commander-in-chief, to evacuate Harrison’s Landing, and report to Washington; the object of this move was to conform to President Lincoln’s original plan to move overland to Richmond. Pope was then in command of the “Army of Virginia,” and in the early part of August the battle of Cedar Mountain.

On the 28th, 29th and 30th of August the battle of Manassas-or Second Bull Run-was fought; Pope having been defeated, General Lee took advantage of the disaster to invade Maryland, and possibly take the capital at Washington. While these important movements were going on, General Cox was in command in the Kanawha Valley, with a force of 12,000 or 15,000 men.

In view of the danger threatening Washington, General Cox was withdrawn from the Kanawha with all the troops that could be spared to re-enforce the defenses around Washington. Cox took with him about 10,000 men, and arrived in time to participate in the battles of South Mountain and Antietam. There remained in the Kanawha of Cox’s forces the 4th, 8th and 9th West Va. Infantry, the 34th, 37, 44th and 47th Ohio Infantry, and the 2d West Va. Cavalry, with eight mounted howitzers, three rifled and three smooth-bore field pieces of artillery.

Pursuant to General Cox’s orders, August 17, 1862, Colonel Lightburn assumed command of the district. The forces were stationed as follows: 34th and 37th Ohio, with four mounted howitzers and two smooth-bore field pieces, under command of Col. E. Siber; 37th Ohio Infantry at Raleigh Court House, with two companies of infantry as a guard for trains at Fayette Court House; the 44th and 47th Ohio Infantry, with two companies of the 2d West Va. Cavalry at Camp Ewing, a distance of ten miles from Gauley Bridge, on the Lewisburg road, under command of Col. S. A. Gilbert; 44th Ohio Infantry, two companies of the 9th West Va. Infantry, and two companies of the 2d West Va. Cavalry, under command of Major Curtis, were stationed at Summerville. The remainder of the 9th and 4th West Va. and two companies of West Va. Cavalry were stationed at different points from Gauley Bridge to Charleston, including an out-post at Coal River in Boone County, with Colonel Lightburn’s headquarters at Gauley.

Early in September, 1862, the Confederate General Loring, with an army estimated at from 8,000 to 10,000, men appeared in the Kanawha Valley. Colonel Lightburn began at once to prepare for a retreat, and for the protection of his immense stores, Loring was making a forced march. About the 10th of September he was at Raleigh, and later at Fayette, where Colonel Siber and his command (who had retired from Raleigh) were strongly intrenched. Colonel Lightburn, apprehensive that Siber would be surrounded and cut off, ordered him to evacuate Fayette and fall back to Charleston. Colonel Siber did fall back, closely followed by Loring all the way to Charleston.

The results of a raid in force, no matter by whom made is always the same. The story of rout and disaster, the excitement, hurry and confusion to both civilian and soldier always prevails; so, at this time we find all the people of Charleston in a condition of intense alarm. On the 13th, Colonel Lightburn had all the transportation at hand, transports and wagons loaded with the most valuable Government stores and ordered them in the direction of Point Pleasant. About 1 o’clock P.M., Colonel Lightburn crossed Elk River, and the torch was applied to the Government buildings containing the stores that could not be removed. The bridge across the Elk River was then destroyed. Charleston is situated at the confluence of the Kanawha and the Elk, the two rivers forming at this junction very nearly a right angle. A turnpike follows the course of the Kanawha, and crosses the Elk at Charleston. Colonel Lightburn then formed his line of battle to the best advantage. The enemy, under Loring in front, outnumbered Lightburn and with Jenkins on the right flank, 1200 to 1500 strong, did not present encouraging conditions for Lightburn and his command.

The Confederates opened the engagement from a battery on a hill south of Charleston, our battery replying. The Confederates had a Parrot gun on the opposite side of the Kanawha. The firing from the artillery was rapid, considering the number of pieces engaged; the fire was continued until about 5 P.M. The infantry regiments were not hotly engaged, though skirmishing was kept up until darkness put an end to it, when the enemy fell back to Charleston.

Colonel Lightburn and his command made all out of the situation it was possible to make. The enemy in superior numbers did not act with much energy; they seemed content to remain in Charleston and be let alone, where they could procure plenty of salt for their armies. The Fourth West Virginia lost in this engagement six men killed and several wounded; the total loss to the whole command in the several engagements was 25 killed, 95 wounded. Confederate loss, 18 killed, 89 wounded. From Charleston, Colonel Lightburn with his command and an immense train of 700 wagons, under cover of the night took up its line of retreat on the Ripley road, arriving at Point Pleasant on the 16th of the month.

Early in October, 1862, General Cox returned from the East and resumed command of the forces in the Kanawha, the Fourth West Virginia Infantry being a part of his command. He arrived at Charleston on the 20th of October, but found the place evacuated. In the latter part of November, Colonel Lightburn received orders to move his regiment to Fayette Court House. Upon his arrival the regiment began to prepare comfortable quarters for the winter, but, as the sequel will show, “there is nothing certain in war.” On December 28, 1862, the 4th West Virginia, the 30th, 37th and 47th Ohio Infantry, under Brigadier-General Ewing, were ordered out of the Department of West Virginia and sent to General Grant’s command on the Mississippi River, when they were attached to the 15th Army Corps. Soon following, Colonel Lightburn was promoted to brigadier-general of volunteers and was assigned to the command of Ewing’s brigade. The Fourth Regiment, besides performing military duty proper, also took a part in fatigue duty in the construction of the canal opposite Vicksburg. The brigade was in Gen’l W. T. Sherman’s corps. While the regiment was at Young’s Point, La., sickness prevailed to an alarming extent, 31 men having died there during February and March. About the 10th of May, the Fourth, under command of Colonel Dayton, received orders to march to the front with General Lightburn’s brigade, Blair’s division, 15th Army Corps. On May 19th, the memorable assault on Vicksburg occurred. The Fourth Regiment was placed in the advance of Lightburn’s brigade and charged the enemy’s works. A few men scaled the parapet, among them Capt. Finley D. Ong, of Company F, and Britton Cook, a corporal of Company E, who entered the Confederate works; they were wounded and taken prisoners and died in the enemy’s hands. The balance of the command was quickly repulsed. The regiment lost in this assault 25 killed and 10 mortally wounded. Maj. A. M. Goodspeed was among the killed. The 20th and 21st were spent in taking care of the wounded. On the 22d, the regiment participated in Grant’s final assault on Vicksburg, losing three men killed and two mortally wounded. Adjutant P. B. Stanbury was among the wounded.

The regiment did heroic service during its term in the Western army, marching and fighting. It participated in the battles of Chattanooga, Rasacca, Dallas, Kenesaw Mountain. In the spring of 1864, the regiment returned to West Virginia, and after one month’s veteran furlough, ordered to the Shenandoah Valley, and became a part of Hunter’s command in Thoburn’s division, and took part in the battles of Piedmont, Lynchburg, Kearnstown, Snicker’s Gap, Berryville, Winchester and Cedar Creek.

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

SERVICE

Organized at Mason City, Point Pleasant and Grafton, W. Va., June 17 to August 22, 1861. Served unattached, District of the Kanawha, W. Va., to March, 1862. 4th Brigade, Kanawha Division, West Virginia, to September, 1862. Point Pleasant, W. Va., District of the Kanawha, W. Va., Dept. of the Ohio, to January, 1863. 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, 15th Army Corps, Army of the Tennessee, to October, 1863. 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 15th Army Corps, to May, 1864. 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, West Virginia, to December, 1864.

SERVICE.–Skirmish at Grafton, W. Va., August 13, 1861 (Co. “A”). Moved up the Kanawha Valley August 22. Operations in the Kanawha Valley and New River Region October 19-November 16. Mill Creek Mills October 26. At Ceredo till January, 1862. March to Louisa Court House and operating with Garfield in operations against Humphrey Marshall in Eastern Kentucky January, 1862. March up the Kanawha Valley to join Gen. Cox April 3. At Flat Top Mountain till August. Operations about Wyoming Court House August 2-8. Wyoming Court House August 5 (Cos. “H” and “I”). Beech Creek August 6. Campaign in the Kanawha Valley September 2-16. Repulse of Loring’s attack on Fayetteville September 10. Cotton Hill and Charlestown September 11. Gauley Ferry September 11. Gauley Bridge September 12. Charlestown September 12-13. At Point Pleasant till October 19. Bulltown, Braxton County, October 3. Salt Lick Bridge October 14. Expedition up the Kanawha Valley to Charlestown October 21-November 10. At Fayetteville till December 30. Ordered to Napoleon, Ark., thence to Young’s Point, La., January 21, 1863, and duty there till March. Expedition to Rolling Fork via Muddy, Steele’s and Black Bayous and Deer Creek March 14-27. At Milliken’s Bend till April. Expedition to Black Bayou April 5-10. Demonstration against Haines and Drumgould’s Bluffs April 29-May 2. Moved to join army in rear of Vicksburg, Miss., via Richmond and Grand Gulf May 2-14. Siege of Vicksburg, Miss., May 18-July 4. Assaults on Vicksburg May 19 and 22. Surrender of Vicksburg July 4. Advance on Jackson, Miss., July 5-10. Siege of Jackson July 10-17. At Big Black River till September 26. Moved to Memphis, Tenn., thence march to Chattanooga, Tenn., September 26-November 20. Operations on Memphis & Charleston Railroad in Alabama October 20-29. Brier Creek, Tuscumbia, October 27. Chattanooga-Ringgold Campaign November 23-27. Tunnel Hill November 23-24. Mission Ridge November 25. Pursuit to Graysville November 26-27. March to relief of Knoxville, Tenn., November 28-December 8. Regiment reenlisted February 3, 1864, and Veterans on furlough March 15 to May 3. Joined Hunter at Cedar Creek, W. Va., May. Hunter’s Expedition to Lynchburg, Va., May 26-July 1. Piedmont, Mt. Crawford, June 5. Occupation of Staunton June 6. Lynchburg June 17-18. Retreat to Martinsburg June 18-July 1. Moved to the Shenandoah Valley, Snicker’s Gap, July 17-18. Kernstown or Winchester July 24. Shenandoah Valley Campaign August-September. Berryville September 3. At Stephenson’s Depot till December. Moved to Cumberland, Md.

Consolidated with 1st West Virginia Infantry December 21, 1864, to form 2nd West Virginia Veteran Infantry.

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

LOSSES

Regiment lost during service 3 Officers and 80 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 2 Officers and 156 Enlisted men by disease or accident. Total 241.

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

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Barton, Thomas H.; Autobiography, Including a History of the Fourth Regiment, West Virginia Volunteer Infantry. Charleston, WV: WV Print Co, 1890.

Vance, John L.; “The Retreat of the Union Forces From the Kanawha Valley in 1862.” In Sketches of War History (MOLLUS, OH, Vol. 4). Cincinnati, OH: Robert Clarke, 1896. pp. 118-32.

Pomeroy, Arthur Watts (Letter) – LeighColl Bk 21: 46, U.S. Army Military History Institute, Carlisle PA.