MILITARY REMINISCENCES OF THE CIVIL WAR
BY JACOB DOLSON COX, A.M., LL.D.
Formerly Major-General commanding Twenty-Third Army Corps
APRIL 1861--NOVEMBER 1863
RETURN TO WEST VIRGINIA
Ordered to the Kanawha valley again--An unwelcome surprise--Reasons for the order--Reporting to
Halleck at Washington--Affairs in the Kanawha in September--Lightburn's positions--Enemy under Loring advances--Affair at Fayette C. H.--Lightburn retreats--Gauley Bridge abandoned--Charleston evacuated--Disorderly flight to the Ohio--Enemy's cavalry raid under Jenkins--General retreat in Tennessee and Kentucky--West Virginia not in any Department--Now annexed to that of Ohio--Morgan's retreat from
Cumberland Gap--Ordered to join the Kanawha forces--Milroy's brigade also--My interviews with
Halleck and Stanton--Promotion--My task--My division sent with me--District of West Virginia--Colonel Crook promoted--Journey westward--Governor Peirpoint--Governor Tod--General Wright--Destitution of Morgan's column--Refitting at Portland, Ohio--Night drive to Gallipolis--An amusing accident--Inspection at Point Pleasant--Milroy ordered to Parkersburg--Milroy's qualities--Interruptions to movement of troops--No wagons--Supplies delayed--Confederate retreat--Loring relieved--Echols in command--Our march up the valley--Echols retreats--We occupy Charleston and Gauley Bridge--Further advance stopped--Our forces reduced--Distribution of remaining troops--Alarms and minor movements--Case of Mr. Summers--His treatment by the Confederates.
In war it is the unexpected that happens. On the 4th of October my permanent connection with the
Army of the Potomac seemed assured. I was in command of the Ninth Corps, encamped in Pleasant Valley, awaiting the renewal of active operations. My promotion to the rank of Major-General had been recommended by McClellan and Burnside, with the assurance that the permanent command of the corps would be added. On that evening an order came from Washington directing me to return to the Kanawha valley, from which our troops had been driven. I was to report in person at Washington immediately, and would there get detailed directions. The order was as much a surprise to my immediate superiors as it was to me, and apparently as little welcome. We all recognized the necessity of sending some one to the Kanawha who knew the country, and the reasonableness, therefore, of assigning the duty to me. McClellan and Burnside both promised that when matters should be restored to a good footing in West Virginia they would co-operate in an effort to bring me back, and as this was coupled with a strong request to the War Department that my promotion should be made immediate, [Footnote: McClellan to Halleck, Official Records, vol. xix. pt. ii. p. 383.] acquiesced with reasonably good grace.
Going to Washington on the eth, I received my orders and instructions from
Halleck, the General-in-Chief. They were based upon the events which had occurred in the Kanawha valley since I left it in August. The information got by General Stuart from Pope's captured quartermaster had led to a careful examination of the letter-books captured at the same time, and Lee thus learned that I had left 5000 men, under Colonel Lightburn, to garrison the posts about Gauley Bridge. The Confederate forces were therefore greater than ours in that region, and General Loring, who was in command, was ordered to make at once a vigorous aggressive campaign against Lightburn, to "clear the valley of the Kanawha and operate northwardly to a junction" with the army of Lee in the
Shenandoah valley. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xix. pt. i. p. 1069; _Id._, vol. xii. pp. 940-943, 946. This correspondence fully justifies Pope's suspicion that Lee then planned to operate by the Valley of Virginia.] Loring marched, on the 6th of September, with a column which he reported about 5000 strong, expecting to add to it by organizing recruits and militia as Floyd had done in the previous year. His line of operations was by way of Princeton, Flat-top Mountain and Raleigh C. II. to Fayette C. H. His forces do not seem to have been noticeably increased by recruiting till ours had retreated out of the valley.
Lightburn's advanced positions were two,--a brigade under Colonel Siber of the Thirty-seventh Ohio being at Raleigh C. H. and another under Colonel Gilbert of the Forty-fourth Ohio, near the Hawk's Nest, and at Alderson's on the Lewisburg road. A small post was kept up at
Summersville and one at Gauley Bridge, where Lightburn had his headquarters, and some detachments guarded trains and steamboats in the lower valley. Gauley Bridge was, as in the preceding year, the central point, and though it was necessary to guard both the Lewisburg and the Raleigh roads on the opposite sides of the New River gorge, a concentration on the line the enemy should take was the plain rule of action when the opposing armies were about equal. Or, by concentrating at Gauley Bridge, my experience had proved that we could hold at bay three or four times our numbers. In either case, fighting in detail was to be avoided, and rapid concentration under one leader to be effected.
On the approach of the enemy Siber was withdrawn from Raleigh C. H. to Fayette, and Gilbert to Tompkins farm, three miles from Gauley Bridge, but the brigades were not united. On the 10th of September Loring attacked Siber at Fayette, in the intrenchments made by Scammon in the winter. Siber repulsed the efforts of Loring to drive him out of his position, and held it during the day. Three companies of the Fourth Virginia under Captain Vance, and a squad of horse were sent by Lightburn from Gauley Bridge to Siber's assistance, but the latter, being without definite orders and thinking he could not hold the position another day, retreated in the night, setting fire to a large accumulation of stores and abandoning part of his wagons. He halted on the ridge of Cotton Hill, covering the road to Gauley Bridge, and was there joined by five companies of the Forty-seventh Ohio, also sent to his assistance by Lightburn. Loring followed and made a partial attack, which was met by the rear-guard under Captain Vance and repulsed, whilst Siber's principal column marched on to Montgomery's ferry on the Kanawha.
Meanwhile Lightburn had called in Gilbert's force to Gauley Bridge during the night of the both, and placed them opposite the ferry connecting with Siber, which was just below Kanawha Falls and in the lower part of the Gauley Bridge camp. On Siber's appearance at the ferry, Lightburn seems to have despaired of having time to get him over, and directed him to march down the left bank of the river, burning the sheds full of stores which were on that side of the stream. When Captain Vance with the rear-guard reached the ferry, the buildings were blazing on both sides of the narrow pass under the bluff, and his men ran the gantlet of fire, protecting their heads with extra blankets which they found scattered near the stores. Vance easily held the enemy at bay at Armstrong's Creek, and Siber marched his column, next morning, to Brownstown, some twenty-five miles below Kanawha Falls, where steamboats met him and ferried him over to Camp Piatt. There he rejoined Lightburn.
Gilbert's artillery was put in position on the right bank at Montgomery's Ferry, and checked the head of Loring's column when it approached the Kanawha in pursuit of Siber. Lightburn had ordered the detachment in post at Summersville to join him at Gauley, and Colonel Elliot of the Forty-seventh Ohio, who commanded it, marched down the Gauley with his ten companies (parts of three regiments) and a small wagon train. He approached Gauley Bridge on the 11th, but Lightburn had not waited for him, and the enemy were in possession. Elliot burned his wagons and took to the hills with his men, cutting across the angle between the Gauley and the Kanawha and joining Gilbert's column near Cannelton. A smaller detachment, only a little way up the Gauley, was also left to its fate in the precipitate retreat, and it also took to the hills and woods and succeeded in evading the enemy. It was about ten o'clock in the morning when Loring's head of column approached the Kanawha and drew the fire of Gilbert's guns. After about an hour's cannonade across the river, Lightburn gave the order to retreat down the right bank, after burning the stores and blowing up the magazine at Gauley Bridge. Loring found men to swim across the river and extinguish the fires kindled on the ferry-boats, which were soon put in use to ferry Echols's brigade across. This followed Lightburn down the right bank, whilst Loring himself, with Williams's and Wharton's brigades, marched after Siber down the left. The over-hanging cliffs and hills echoed with the cannonade, and the skirmishers exchanged rifle-shots across the rapid stream; but few casualties occurred, and after Elliot joined the column, it marched with little interruption to Camp Piatt, thirteen miles from Charleston, where Siber met them, and the steamboats he had used passed down the river to the Ohio.
Siber's brigade continued its retreat rapidly to Charleston, passed through the town and crossed the Elk River. Gilbert's brigade also retired, but in better order, and it kept up a skirmish with the advance-guard of Echols's column which was following them. When Gilbert reached the outskirts of
Charleston, he checked the advance of the enemy long enough to enable the quartermasters at the post to move their trains across the Elk; but the haste of the evacuation was so great that the stores in depot there were not removed, and were burned to prevent their falling into the enemy's hands. Gilbert retired across the Elk, and the suspension bridge was destroyed. Loring's artillery made a dash for a hill on the left bank of the Kanawha, which commanded the new position taken up by Lightburn's troops, and the Confederate battery soon opened an enfilade fire across the river, taking the line of breastworks along the Elk in flank and in reverse. The trains and the stragglers started in direst confusion on the road to Ravenswood on the Ohio, which offered a line of retreat not subject to the enemy's fire. Siber's brigade followed, Gilbert's continued to bring up the rear. The road down the Kanawha was abandoned because it was in range of artillery from the opposite side of the river throughout its whole course down the valley. The road to Ripley and Ravenswood was therefore taken, and the flying troops were met at those towns on the Ohio by steamboats which conveyed part of them to Point Pleasant at the mouth of the Kanawha, where the whole command was concentrated in the course of a few days. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xix. pt. i. pp. 1058-1060.] Siber's loss was 16 killed, 87 wounded, and over 100 missing. Gilbert reported 9 men killed and 8 wounded, with about 75 missing; but as the enemy do not enumerate any captured prisoners in their reports except a lieutenant and 10 men, it is evident that the missing were mostly men who outran the others. Loring's losses as reported by his surgeon were 18 killed and 89 wounded. The enemy claim to have captured large numbers of wagons, horses, mules, and stores of all kinds which Loring estimated at a million dollars' worth, besides all that were burned.
It was a panicky retreat after the hot little fight by Siber's brigade at Fayette C. H., and it is not worth while to apply to it any military criticism, further than to say that either of the brigades intrenched at Gauley Bridge could have laughed at Loring. The river would have been impassable, for all the ferry-boats were in the keeping of our men on the right bank, and Loring would not dare pass down the valley leaving a fortified post on the line of communications by which he must return. The topography of the wild mountain region was such that an army could only pass from the lower Kanawha to the headwaters of the James River by the road Loring had used in his advance, or by that leading through the post of Gauley Bridge to Lewisburg and beyond. The Confederate War Department seem to have thought that their forces might have passed from Charleston to the Ohio, thence to Parkersburg, and turning east from this town, have made their way to Beverly and to the Valley of Virginia by the route Garnett had used in the previous year. They would have found, however, as Loring told them, that it would have been easy for the National forces to overwhelm them with numbers while they were making so long and so difficult a march in a vast region most of which was a wilderness.
Lightburn's position had been made more embarrassing by the fact that a cavalry raid under Brigadier-General Jenkins was passing around his left flank while Loring came upon him in front. Jenkins with a light column of horse moved from Lewisburg by way of the Wilderness Road to northwestern Virginia, captured posts and destroyed stores at Weston, Buckhannon, and Roane C. H., and made a circuit to the lower Kanawha, rejoining Loring after Lightburn's retreat. Little real mischief was done by this raid, but it added to the confusion, and helped to disturb the self-possession of the commanding officer. In this way it was one of the causes of the precipitate retreat.
Several circumstances combined to make Lightburn's disaster embarrassing to the government. West Virginia had not been connected with any military department after Pope's command had been broken up. McClellan's authority did not extend beyond his own army and its theatre of operations. Halleck could hardly take personal charge of the affairs of remote districts. Thus the Kanawha valley had dropped out of the usual system and was an omitted case. The embarrassment was increased by the fact that
Buell was retreating out of Tennessee before Bragg, Morgan had evacuated
Cumberland Gap and was making a painful and hazardous retreat to the Ohio, and the Confederate forces under Kirby Smith were moving directly upon Cincinnati. Lightburn's mishap, therefore, was only the northern extremity of a line of defeats extending through the whole length of the Ohio valley from Parkersburg to
Louisville. The governors of West Virginia and Ohio were naturally alarmed at the events in the Kanawha valley, and were earnest in their calls upon the War Department for troops to drive Loring back beyond the mountains and for an officer to command them who knew something of the country.
Halleck seems to have been puzzled at the condition of things, not having realized that Pope's retirement had left West Virginia "in the air." It took a week, apparently, to get satisfactory details of the actual situation, and on the 19th of September the first important step was taken by annexing the region to the Department of the Ohio, then commanded by Major-General Horatio G. Wright, whose headquarters were at Cincinnati. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xvi. pt. ii. p. 328.] Wright was directed to provide for the recovery of lost ground in West Virginia as rapidly as possible, but the campaign in Kentucky was the more important and urgent, so that no troops could be spared for secondary operations until the Confederates had ceased to threaten Cincinnati and Louisville.
On the 1st of October Halleck again called General Wright's attention to the need of doing something for West Virginia. Governor Peirpoint, of that State, represented the Confederates under Loring as about 10,000 in number, and this reflected the opinion which Lightburn had formed during his retreat. It became the basis of calculation in the campaign which followed, though it greatly exaggerated Loring's force. Three days later Brigadier-General George W. Morgan was known to have reached the Ohio River with the division he had brought from Cumberland Gap, and General Halleck outlined a plan of action. He ordered Morgan's division to be sent to Gallipolis to take part in the advance into the Kanawha valley, where some new Ohio regiments were also to join them. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xix. pt. ii. p. 381.] He at the same time called me to Washington to receive instructions under which I was to take command of the whole force operating on the Kanawha line. Brigadier-General Milroy had already (September 25th) been ordered to proceed thither with his brigade, which was in Washington and was part of
Banks's forces garrisoning the capital. [Footnote: _Id._, pp. 355, 359.] He was moved through Pennsylvania to Wheeling by rail, and thence down the Ohio River to Point Pleasant at the mouth of the Kanawha.
My order to leave the Army of the Potomac reached me on Saturday evening. Much business had to be closed up before I could properly turn over the command of the Ninth Corps, but I was able to complete it and make the journey to Washington so as to report to
General Halleck on Monday morning. He received me very kindly, and explained the necessity they were under to send some one to the Kanawha valley who knew the country. He was complimentary as to my former service there, and said my return to that region would meet the earnest wishes of the governors of West Virginia and Ohio, as well as the judgment of the War Department and of himself. To compensate for separating me from the command of the Ninth Corps, it had been decided to make my promotion at once and to put the whole of West Virginia under my command as a territorial district. He inquired into some details of the topography of the Kanawha valley and of my experience there, and concluded by saying that reinforcements would be sent to make the column I should lead in person stronger than the 10,000 attributed to Loring. My task would then be to drive back the enemy beyond the mountains. When that was accomplished, part of the troops would probably be withdrawn. The actual position of Milroy's brigade was not definitely known, and Governor Peirpoint of West Virginia had asked to have it sent to Clarksburg. This gave me the opportunity to urge that my own Kanawha division be detached from the Ninth Corps and sent back to Clarksburg, where with Milroy they would make a force strong enough to take care of that part of the State and to make a co-operative movement toward Gauley Bridge. This also was granted, and immediate promotion was given to Colonel Crook so that he might command the division, and a promise was made to do the like for Colonel Scammon, who would then be available for the command of the division still under Lightburn, whose retreat was strongly condemned as precipitate. No soldier could object to an arrangement so satisfactory as this, and though I still preferred to remain with the Army of the Potomac, I could only accept the new duty with sincere thanks for the consideration shown me. The General-in-Chief accompanied me to the room of the Secretary of War, and
Mr. Stanton added to my sense of obligation by warm expressions of personal good-will. His manner was so different from the brusque one commonly attributed to him that I have nothing but pleasant remembrances of my relations to him, both then and later. My own appointment as major-general was handed me by him, the usual promotions of my personal staff were also made, and directions were given for the immediate appointment of Crook to be brigadier.
I called to pay my respects to the President, but he was in
Cabinet meeting and could not be seen. I had a short but warmly friendly visit with
Mr. Chase later in the day, and was ready to leave town for my new post of duty by the evening train. The Secretary of War directed me to visit Wheeling and Columbus on my way, and then to report to General Wright at Cincinnati before going to the Kanawha valley. This was in fact the quickest way to reach the mouth of the Kanawha River, for the fall rains had not yet come to make the Ohio navigable, and from Columbus to Cincinnati, and thence by the Marietta Railway eastward, was, as the railway routes then ran, the best method of joining my command. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was interrupted between
Harper's Ferry and Hancock (about fifty miles) by the Confederate occupation of that part of Virginia. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xix. pt. ii. pp. 393, 394.] General Crook was ordered to march the division from its camp in Pleasant Valley to Hancock, where trains on the western division of the railway would meet him and transport the troops to Clarksburg. For myself and staff, we took the uninterrupted railway line from Washington to Pittsburg, and thence to Wheeling, where we arrived on the evening of October 8th. The 9th was given to consultation with Governor Peirpoint and to communication with such military officers as were within reach. We reached Columbus on the both, when I had a similar consultation with Governor Tod and his military staff in regard to new regiments available for my use. Leaving Columbus in the afternoon, we arrived at Cincinnati late the same night, and on Saturday, the 11th, I reported to General Wright.
He was an officer of the engineer corps of the regular army, a man of fine acquirements and of a serious and earnest character, whose military service throughout the war was marked by solidity and modesty. If there seemed at first a little _hauteur_ in his manner, one soon saw that it was a natural reserve free from arrogance. The sort of confusion in which everything was, is indicated by the fact that he knew nothing of my whereabouts when informed from Washington that I would be ordered to the Kanawha, and on the same day (6th October) addressed a dispatch to me at Point Pleasant whilst I was receiving instructions from
General Halleck in Washington. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xvi. pt. ii. p. 579.] Our personal consultation established a thoroughly good understanding at once, and as long as I remained under his orders, I found him thoroughly considerate of my wishes and appreciative of my suggestions and of the conduct of my own part of the work to be done.
Morgan's division, after reaching the Ohio River, had been moved to Portland on the Marietta Railroad, the nearest point to Gallipolis, which was twenty-five miles away and nearly opposite the mouth of the Great Kanawha. His retreat had been through a sparsely settled country, much of which was a wilderness, rugged and broken in the extreme. His wagons had broken down, his teams were used up, his soldiers were worn out, ragged, and barefoot. [Footnote: _Id._, pt. i. p. 990.] Many arms and accoutrements had been lost, and the command was imperatively in need of complete refitting and a little rest. The men had been largely recruited in East Tennessee and Kentucky, and were unwilling to serve in any other theatre of war. The Tennesseans, indeed, were reported to be mutinous at the news that they were to be sent to the Kanawha valley. General Wright issued orders for the refitting of the command, and promised such delay and rest as might be found practicable. He detached three regiments to serve in Kentucky, and directed their place to be made good by three new Ohio regiments then organizing. The division was permitted to remain at Portland till imperatively needed for my movement.
There were no trains running on the railroad on Sunday, and Monday morning, the 13th October, was the earliest possible start on the remainder of my journey. I left Cincinnati at that time, and with my personal staff reached Portland in the afternoon. Morgan's division was found to be in quite as bad condition as had been reported, but he was in daily expectation of the new equipments and clothing, as well as wagons for his baggage-train and fresh horses for his artillery. It was stated also that a paymaster had been ordered to join the division, with funds to pay part at least of the large arrears of pay due to the men. This looked hopeful, but still implied some further delay. Uneasy to learn the actual condition of affairs with Lightburn's command, I determined to reach Gallipolis the same night. Our horses had been left behind, and being thus dismounted, we took passage in a four-horse hack, a square wagon on springs, enclosed with rubber-cloth curtains. Night fell soon after we began our journey, and as we were pushing on in the dark, the driver blundered and upset us off the end of a little sluiceway bridge into a mud-hole. He managed to jump from his seat and hold his team, but there was no help for us who were buttoned in. The mud was soft and deep, and as the wagon settled on its side, we were tumbled in a promiscuous heap into the ooze and slime, which completely covered us. We were not long in climbing out, and seeing lights in a farm-house, made our way to it. As we came into the light of the lamps and of a brisk fire burning on the open hearth, we were certainly as sorry a military spectacle as could be imagined. We were most kindly received, the men taking lanterns and going to our driver's help, whilst we stood before the fire, and scraped the thick mud from our uniforms with chips from the farmer's woodyard, making rather boisterous sport of our mishap. Before the wagon had been righted and partly cleaned, we had scraped and sponged each other off and were ready to go on. We noticed, however, that the room had filled with men, women, and children from the neighborhood, who stood bashfully back in the shadows, and who modestly explained that they had heard there was a "live general" there, and as they had never seen one, they had "come over." They must have formed some amusing ideas of military personages, and we found at least as much sport in being the menagerie as they did in visiting it. Our mishap made us wait for the moon, which rose in an hour or so, and we then took leave of our entertainers and our audience and drove on, with no desire, however, to repeat the performance. We made some ten miles more of the road, but found it so rough, and our progress so slow, that we were glad to find quarters for the rest of the night, finishing the journey in the morning.
On reaching my field of duty, my first task was to inspect the forces at Point Pleasant, and learn what was necessary to make a forward movement as soon as Morgan's troops should reach me. General Wright had originally expected that inclusive of Milroy's and Morgan's troops, I should find at the mouth of the Kanawha, on arriving there, some 20,000 men. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xix. pt. ii. p. 402.] In fact, however, Lightburn's diminished command had only been reinforced by three new Ohio regiments (the Eighty-ninth, Ninety-first, and Ninety-second) and a new one from West Virginia (the Thirteenth), and with these his strength was less than 7300, officers and men, showing that his original command was sadly reduced by straggling and desertion during his retreat. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 522.] The new regiments were made up of good material, but as they were raw recruits, their usefulness must for some time be greatly limited.
Two regiments of infantry and a squadron of cavalry with a howitzer battery were at Guyandotte, under Colonel Jonathan Cranor of the Fortieth Ohio, and the Fifth West Virginia was at Ceredo near the mouth of the Big Sandy River. They had been stationed at these points to protect the navigation of the Ohio and to repel the efforts of the Confederate Cavalry General Jenkins to "raid" that region in which was his old home. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xix. pt. ii. pp. 459, 522.] They formed, a little later, the Third Brigade of the Kanawha division under Crook.
I found General Milroy in command as the ranking officer present, and he had sent Cranor's command down the river. When Governor Peirpoint learned that Milroy's brigade had passed Wheeling on his way to the Kanawha, he applied urgently to General Wright to send him, instead, from Parkersburg by rail to Clarksburg to form the nucleus of a column to move southward from that point upon the rear of Loring's forces. Wright assented, for both he and
Halleck accepted the plan of converging columns from Clarksburg and Point Pleasant, and regarded that from the former place as the more important. [Footnote: _Id_. p. 402.] If directions were sent to Milroy to this effect, they seem to have miscarried. Besides his original brigade, some new Indiana regiments were ordered to report to him. He had, with characteristic lack of reflection and without authority, furloughed the Fifth West Virginia regiment in mass and sent the men home. I gave him a new one in place of this, ordered him to reassemble the other as soon as possible, and to march at once to Parkersburg, proceeding thence to Clarksburg by rail. The new troops added to his command enabled him to organize them into a division of two brigades, and still other regiments were added to him later. Milroy was a picturesque character, with some excellent qualities. A tall man, with trenchant features, bright eyes, a great shock of gray hair standing out from his head, he was a marked personal figure. He was brave, but his bravery was of the excitable kind that made him unbalanced and nearly wild on the battle-field. His impulsiveness made him erratic in all performances of duty, and negligent of the system without which the business of an army cannot go on. This was shown in his furlough of a regiment whilst _en route_ to reinforce Lightburn, who was supposed to be in desperate straits. It is also seen in the absence of Official Records of the organization of his command at this time, so that we cannot tell what regiments constituted it when his division was assembled at Clarksburg. He is described, in the second Battle of Bull Run, as crazily careering over the field, shouting advice to other officers instead of gathering and leading his own command, which he said was routed and scattered. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xii. pt. ii. pp. 342, 362-364.] Under the immediate control of a firm and steady hand he could do good service, but was wholly unfit for independent responsibility. His demonstrative manner, his boiling patriotism, and his political zeal gave him prominence and made him a favorite with the influential war-governor of Indiana, Oliver P. Morton, who pushed his military advancement.
The Kanawha division left the Army of the Potomac on the 8th of October and reached Hancock on the 10th. There it crossed the track of a raid of the Confederate cavalry into Pennsylvania, under Stuart. By McClellan's order one brigade was sent to McConnelsville to intercept the enemy, and the other was halted. [Footnote: _Id_., vol. xix. pt. ii. pp. 62-78.] By the 13th Crook had been allowed to concentrate the division at Hancock again, but was kept waiting for orders, so that he was not able to report to me his arrival at Clarksburg till the 20th. Colonel Scammon was on a short leave of absence during this march, and was promoted. [Footnote: His new rank dated from 15th October, that of Crook from 7th September. Army Register, 1863.] He reported to me in person in his new rank of brigadier a little later. The brigades of the Kanawha division were commanded by the senior colonels present.
The increase of troops in the district made immediate need of transportation and munitions and supplies of all kinds. The Kanawha division had not been allowed to bring away with it its admirably equipped supply train, but its energetic quartermaster, Captain Fitch, came with the troops, and I immediately made him chief quartermaster of the district. Milroy's division had no wagons, neither had Morgan's. The fall rains had not yet raised the rivers, and only boats of lightest draught could move on the Ohio, whilst navigation on the Kanawha was wholly suspended. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xix. pt. ii. p. 433.] Four hundred wagons and two thousand mules were estimated as necessary to supply two moving columns of ten thousand men each, in addition to such trains as were still available in the district. Only one hundred wagons could be promised from the depot at Cincinnati, none of which reached me before the enemy was driven out of the Kanawha valley. I was authorized to contract for one hundred more to be built at Wheeling, where, however, the shops could only construct thirty-five per week, and these began to reach the troops only after the 1st of November. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 535-537.] We hoped for rains which would give us navigation in the Kanawha in spite of the suffering which wet weather at that season must produce, and I ordered wagons and teams to be hired from the country people as far as this could be done. Similar delays and trouble occurred in procuring advance stores and equipments. Part of Morgan's men were delayed at the last moment by their new knapsacks coming to them without the straps which fasten them to the shoulders. General Wright blamed the depot officers for this, and took from me and my subordinates all responsibility for the delays; [Footnote: ., pp. 438, 475.] but the incidents make an instructive lesson in the difficulty of suddenly organizing a new and strong military column in a region distant from large depots of supply. It also shows the endless cost and mischief that may result from an ill-advised retreat and destruction of property at such posts as Gauley Bridge and Charleston. To put the local quartermasters at Gallipolis and other towns on the Ohio side of the river under my command, General Wright enlarged the boundaries of my district so as to include the line of Ohio counties bordering on the river. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xix. pt. ii. pp. 381, 421.]
On visiting Lightburn's command at Point Pleasant, I ordered a brigade to be sent forward next day (15th) to Ten-mile Creek, repairing the road and bridges, whilst a scouting party of experienced men started out at once to penetrate the country by circuitous ways and to collect information. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 433.] In two or three days bits of news began to arrive, with rumors that Loring was retreating. The truth was that he in fact withdrew his infantry, leaving Jenkins with the cavalry and irregular forces to hold the valley for a time, and then to make a circuit northward by way of Bulltown, Sutton, etc., gaining the Beverly turnpike near the mountains and rejoining the infantry, which would march to join Lee by roads intersecting that highway at Monterey. Such at least was the purpose Loring communicated to the Confederate War Department; but he was not allowed to attempt it. His instructions had been to march his whole command by the route Jenkins was taking and at least to hold the valley stubbornly as far as Charleston. On receipt of the news that he was retreating, orders were sent him to turn over the command to Brigadier-General John Echols, the next in rank, and to report in person at Richmond. [Footnote: ., pp. 661, 667.] Echols was ordered immediately to resume the positions which had been abandoned, and did so as rapidly as possible. Loring had in fact begun his retreat on the 11th, three days before I reached Gallipolis, but the first information of it was got after the scouting had been begun which is mentioned above. By the 18th I was able to give General Wright confirmation of the news and a correct outline of Loring's plan, though we had not then learned that Echols was marching back to Charleston. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xix. pt. ii. p. 449.] We heard of his return two or three days later. As evidence of the rapidity with which information reached the enemy, it is noteworthy that Lee knew my command had left the Army of the Potomac for West Virginia on the 11th October, three days after Crook marched from camp in Pleasant Valley. He reported to Richmond that four brigades had gone to that region, which was accurate as to the number, though only half right as to identification of the brigades. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 662, 663.] On the 13th he sent further information that I had been promoted and assigned to command the district.
By the 20th there had been a slight rise in the Kanawha River, so that it was possible to use small steamboats to carry supplies for the troops, and Lightburn was ordered to advance his whole division to Red House, twenty-five miles, and to remove obstructions to navigation which had been planted there. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 456, 459.] One brigade of Morgan's division was in condition to move, and it was ordered from Portland to Gallipolis. The rest were to follow at the earliest possible moment. The discontent of the East Tennessee regiments had not been lessened by the knowledge they had that powerful political influences were at work to second their desire to be moved back into the neighborhood of their home. On the 10th of October a protest against their being sent into West Virginia was made by Horace Maynard, the loyal representative of East Tennessee in Congress, a man of marked character and ability and deservedly very influential with the government. [Footnote: _Id_., vol. xvi. pt. ii. pp. 604, 635, 651.] Maynard addressed Halleck a second time on the subject on the 22d, and on the 29th
Andrew Johnson, then military governor of Tennessee, wrote to
President Lincoln for the same purpose. It hardly need be said that the preparation of those regiments would proceed slowly, pending such negotiations. Their distant homes and families were at the mercy of the enemy, and it seemed to them intolerable that their faces should be turned in any other direction. I suggested an exchange for new Ohio regiments, but as these were not yet filled up, it could not be done. General Wright assured them that they should be sent to Kentucky as soon as we were again in possession of West Virginia. Most of these regiments came under my command again later in the war, and I became warmly attached to them. Their drill and discipline were always lax, but their courage and devotion to the national cause could not be excelled.
It was not till the 23d that any of Morgan's men really entered into the forward movement in the valley. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xix. pt. ii. pp. 474, 475.] On that day the brigade of Colonel John F. DeCourcey (Sixteenth Ohio), composed of Ohio and Kentucky troops, reached Ten-mile Creek and was ordered to march to Red House the day after. [Footnote: Colonel DeCourcey was an Irishman of good family, who took service in our army, and was a good officer. He afterwards inherited an Irish baronage.] Lightburn was busy clearing the river of obstructions and preparing to move to Pocataligo River as the next step in advance. Of the other brigades belonging to Morgan, that of Brigadier-General Samuel P. Carter, composed partly of Tennesseans, was at Gallipolis, intending to enter the valley on the 24th. The remaining brigade, under Brigadier-General James G. Spears, was entirely Tennessean, and was still at Portland where the paymaster had just arrived and was giving the regiments part payment.
My purpose was to concentrate the force at Pocataligo, assume the command in person, and attack the enemy in the positions in front of Charleston, in which Wise had resisted me in the previous year. I should have been glad to make the expected movement of a column from Clarksburg under Crook and Milroy co-operate directly with my own, but circumstances made it impracticable. The operations of the Confederate cavalry under Jenkins were keeping the country north of the Kanawha in a turmoil, and reports had become rife that he would work his way out toward Beverly. The country was also full of rumors of a new invasion from East Virginia. Milroy's forces were not yet fully assembled at Clarksburg on the 20th, but he was ordered to operate toward Beverly, whilst Crook, with the old Kanawha division, should move on Summersville and Gauley Bridge. Both had to depend on hiring wagons for transportation of supplies. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xix. pt. ii. pp. 459, 481, 482.] Separated as they were, they would necessarily be cautious in their movements, making the suppression of guerillas, the driving out of raiders, and the general quieting of the country their principal task. Their role was thus, of course, made subordinate to the movement of my own column, which must force its own way without waiting for results from other operations.
Half of Carter's brigade was, at the last moment, delayed at Gallipolis, the clothing and equipments sent to them there being found incomplete. Just half of Morgan's division with two batteries of artillery were in motion on the 24th. On that day Lightburn was moved to Pocataligo, about forty miles from the river mouth, where I joined him in person on the 27th. A cold storm of mingled rain and snow had made the march and bivouac very uncomfortable for a couple of days. General Morgan accompanied me, and during the 28th the active column of three and a half brigades was concentrated, two or three other regiments being in echelon along the river below. Tyler Mountain behind Tyler Creek was, as formerly, the place at which the enemy was posted to make a stand against our further progress, though he had no considerable force on the south side of the river at the mouth of Scary Creek. Reconnoissances showed nothing but cavalry in our immediate front, and it afterwards appeared that Echols began a rapid retreat from Charleston on that day. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xix. pt. ii. p. 685.] He had called to him Jenkins with the greater part of the cavalry, and entrusted to the latter the duty of holding us back as much as possible. Suspecting this from evidence collected at Pocataligo, I determined to put Siber's brigade and a battery, all in light marching order, on the south side of the river, accompanied by a light-draught steamboat, which the rise in the river after the storm enabled us to use as far as
Charleston. This brigade could turn the strong position at Tyler Mountain, and passing beyond this promontory on the opposite side of the river, could command with artillery fire the river road on the other bank behind the enemy in our front. The steamboat would enable them to make a rapid retreat if the belief that no great force was on that side of the river should prove to be a mistake. Siber was also furnished with a battery of four mountain howitzers, which could be carried to the edge of the water or anywhere that men could march. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 504, 509, 530.]
On the right bank of the river (north side) the principal column of two brigades (Toland's and DeCourcey's) advanced on the turnpike near the stream, having one six-gun battery and a section of twenty-pounder Parrots with them. What was present of Carter's brigade was sent by the mountain road further from the stream, to cover our left and to turn the flank of the Tyler Mountain position, if a stubborn stand should be made there. A light six-gun battery accompanied it. All moved forward simultaneously on the morning of the 29th. [Footnote: _Ibid_.] The dispositions thus made rendered it vain for the enemy's cavalry to offer any stubborn resistance, and Jenkins abandoned Tyler Mountain on our approach, thus giving us certain knowledge that he was not closely supported by the infantry. Our advance-guard reached the Elk River opposite Charleston in the afternoon, and I made personal reconnoissance of the means of crossing. The suspension bridge had been ruined in Lightburn's retreat, and the enemy had depended upon a bridge of boats for communication with their troops in the lower valley. These boats had been taken to the further bank of the river and partly destroyed, but as the enemy had continued his retreat, we soon had a party over collecting those that could be used, and other flatboats used in the coal trade, and a practicable bridge was reconstructed before night of the 30th. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xix. pt. ii. p. 530.] Meanwhile I entered the town with the advance-guard as soon as we had a boat to use for a ferry, and spent the night of the 29th there. We had friends enough in the place to put us quickly in possession of all the news, and I was soon satisfied that Echols had no thought of trying to remain on the western side of the mountains. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 515, 520.]
The column crossed the Elk late in the afternoon of the 30th, and I pushed Toland's and Carter's brigades to Malden and Camp Piatt that evening, Siber's brigade advancing to Brownstown on the other side of the Kanawha River. Lightburn's division was ordered forward next day to Gauley Bridge, Carter's brigade at Malden was ordered to send strong parties southward into Boone County, to reconnoitre and to put down guerilla bands. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 530.] DeCourcey's brigade was halted at Charleston, and Spears' Tennessee brigade was directed to remain at Gallipolis till further orders. Communication was opened with Crook, who was ordered to press forward via Summersville to Gauley Bridge as quickly as possible. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xix. pt. ii. p. 520.] The retreating enemy had burned the bridges, obstructed the roads with fallen timber, and cut and destroyed the flatboats along the river; so that the first and most pressing task was to reopen roads, make ferries and bridges, and thus renew the means of getting supplies to the troops. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 536.] The river was still low, unusually so for the season, and the water was falling. Every energy was therefore necessary to get forward supplies to Gauley Bridge and the other up-river posts, for if the river should freeze whilst low, the winter transportation would be confined to the almost impassable roads. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 537.] I reported to General Wright the re-occupation of the valley, our lack of wagon-trains for further advance, and all the facts which would assist in deciding whether anything further should be attempted. I did not conceal the opinion which all my experience had confirmed, that no military advantage could be secured by trying to extend operation by this route across the mountains into the James River valley.
On the 2d of November Brigadier-General Scammon reported for duty, and I ordered him to Gauley Bridge to assume command of the division which was then under Colonel Lightburn, who resumed the command of his brigade. [Footnote: _Ibid_.] Scammon was directed to inspect carefully all our old positions as far as Raleigh C. H., to report whether the recent retreat of troops from Fayetteville had been due to any improper location of the fortifications there, to examine the road up Loup Creek, and any others which might be used by the enemy to turn our position at Gauley Bridge, to state the present conditions of buildings at all the upper posts, and whether any storehouses had escaped destruction. In short, we needed the material on which to base intelligent plans for a more secure holding of the region about the falls of the Kanawha, or for a further advance to the eastward if it should be ordered.
The information which came to me as soon as I was in actual contact with the enemy, not only satisfied me that Loring's forces had been greatly exaggerated, but led me to estimate them at a lower figure than the true one. In reporting to General Wright on 1st November, I gave the opinion that they amounted to about 3500 infantry, but with a disproportionate amount of artillery, some twenty pieces. The cavalry under Jenkins numbered probably 1000 or 1500 horse. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xix. pt. ii. p. 531.] About the first of October Loring, in a dispatch to Richmond, stated his force at "only a little more than 4000," [Footnote: _Id_., p. 635.] which probably means that the 5000 with which he entered the valley were somewhat reduced by the sick and by desertions. He seems to refer to his infantry, for Jenkins's command had been an independent one. It would be reasonable, therefore, to put his total strength at some 6000 or a little higher. On our side, the column with which I actually advanced was just about 9000 men, with 2000 more of Morgan's command within reach, had there been need to call them up from the Ohio River.
On the 8th of November Halleck telegraphed to General Wright that no posts need be established beyond Gauley Bridge, and that about half of my command should be sent to Tennessee and the Mississippi valley. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 556, 557.] On the same day General Wright formally approved my views as submitted to him, and ordered Morgan's division to be sent to Cincinnati at once. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 537.] It was thus definitively settled that my task for the winter would be to restore the condition of affairs in West Virginia which had existed before Loring's invasion, and organize my district with a view to prompt and easy supply of my posts, the suppression of lawlessness and bushwhacking, the support of the State authorities, and the instruction and discipline of officers and men. My first attention was given to the question of transportation, for the winter was upon us and wagons were very scarce. The plan of using the river to the utmost was an economy as well as a necessity, and I returned to my former arrangement of using batteaux for the shallow and swift waters of the upper river, connecting with the movable head of steamboat navigation. A tour of inspection to Gauley Bridge and the posts in that vicinity satisfied me that they were in good condition for mutual support, and for carrying on a system of scouting which could be made a useful discipline and instruction to the troops, as well as the means of keeping thoroughly informed of the movements of the enemy.
The line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was kept under the control of
General Kelley, and his authority extended to active co-operation with the Army of the Potomac in keeping open communication with Washington. In case of need, the commander of that army was authorized to give orders to General Kelley direct, without waiting to transmit them through my headquarters. General Milroy was established on the Beverly front, communicating on his left with General Kelley and on his right with General Crook, at Gauley Bridge. General Scammon had his station at Fayette C. H., covering the front on the south side of New River, whilst Crook watched the north side and extended his posts in Milroy's direction as far as Summersville. Colonel Cranor remained on the Ohio near Guyandotte, scouting the valley of the Guyandotte River and communicating with Charleston and other posts on the Kanawha.
On the 12th of November reports were received from General Kelley that authentic information showed that Jackson was advancing from the Shenandoah valley upon West Virginia. Similar information reached army headquarters at Washington, and in anticipation of possible necessity for it, I directed Milroy to hold himself in readiness to march at once to join Kelley, if the latter should call upon him. I telegraphed General Wright that I did not think the report would prove well founded, but it put everybody upon the alert for a little while. Kelley had beaten up a camp of Confederates under Imboden about eighteen miles above Moorefield on the south branch of the Potomac, causing considerable loss to the enemy in killed and wounded and capturing fifty prisoners. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xix. pt. ii. pp. 572, 573, 578, 585, 586.] Some movement to support Imboden probably gave rise to the story of Jackson's advance, but Lee kept both corps of his army in hand and moved the whole down the Rappahannock soon afterward, to meet Burnside's advance upon
The invasion of the Kanawha valley by Loring had stirred up much bitter feeling again between Union men and Confederates, and was followed by the usual quarrels and recriminations among neighbors. The Secessionists were stimulated to drop the prudent reserve they had practised before, and some of them, in the hope that the Confederate occupation would be permanent, persecuted loyal men who were in their power. The retreat of the enemy brought its day of reckoning, and was accompanied by a fresh emigration to eastern Virginia of a considerable number of the more pronounced Secessionists. I have said [Footnote: _Ante_, p. 154.] that Mr. George Summers, formerly the leading man of the valley, had studiously avoided political activity after the war began; but this did not save him from the hostility of his disloyal neighbors. Very shortly after my re-occupation of Charleston he called upon me one evening and asked for a private interview. He had gone through a painful experience, he said, and as it would pretty surely come to my ears, he preferred I should hear it from himself, before enemies or tale-bearers should present it with such coloring as they might choose. During the Confederate occupation he had maintained his secluded life and kept aloof from contact with the military authorities. Their officers, however, summoned him before them, charged him with treason to Virginia and to the
Confederate States, and demanded of him that he take the oath of allegiance to the Southern government. He demurred to this, and urged that as he had scrupulously avoided public activity, it would be harsh and unjust to force him to a test which he could not conscientiously take. They were in no mood to listen to argument, and charged that his acquiescence in the rule of the new state government of West Virginia was, in his case, more injurious to the Confederate cause than many another man's active unionism. Finding Mr. Summers disposed to be firm, they held him in arrest; and as he still refused to yield, he was told that he should be tied by a rope to the tail of a wagon and forced to march in that condition, as a prisoner, over the mountains to Richmond.
He was an elderly man, used to a refined and easy life, somewhat portly in person, and, as he said, he fully believed such treatment would kill him. The fierceness of their manner convinced him that they meant to execute the threat, and looking upon it as a sentence of death, he yielded and took the oath. He said that being in duress of such a sort, and himself a lawyer, he considered that he had a moral right to escape from his captors in this way, though he would not have yielded to anything short of what seemed to him an imminent danger of his life. The obligation, he declared, was utterly odious to him and was not binding on his conscience; but he had lost no time in putting himself into my hands, and would submit to whatever I should decide in the matter. It would be humiliating and subject him to misconstruction by others if he took conflicting oaths, but he was willing to abjure the obligation he had taken, if I demanded it, and would voluntarily renew his allegiance to the United States with full purpose to keep it.
He was deeply agitated, and I thoroughly pitied him. My acquaintance with him in my former campaign gave me entire confidence in his sincerity, and made me wish to spare him any fresh embarrassment or pain. After a moment's reflection, I replied that I did not doubt anything he had told me of the facts or of his own sentiments in regard to them. His experience only confirmed my distrust of all test oaths. Either his conscience already bound him to the National government, or it did not. In either case I could not make his loyalty more sure by a fresh oath, and believing that the one he had taken under duress was void in fact as well as in his own conscience, I would leave the matter there and ask nothing more of him. He was greatly relieved by my decision, but bore himself with dignity. I never saw any reason to be sorry for the course I took, and believe that he was always afterward consistent and steady in his loyalty to the United States.