Union Soldiers Confiscate Supplies at Huntersville
A Federal attack deep behind Confederate lines in the early days of 1862 condemned soldiers to suffer the long, cold winter without needed supplies.
On Dec. 31 U.S. Maj. George Webster and 400 men of the 25th Ohio Infantry marched south from the Randolph County town of Huttonsville to Huntersville in Pocahontas County, acquiring 340 additional soldiers along the way. No other Union force had pushed so deep into enemy territory.
Federals skirmished with Confederates on Jan. 2 at Marlins Bottom, present day Marlinton, and engaged the Rebels again outside Huntersville.
Huntersville had served as headquarters for the Confederate Army of the Northwest before Brig. Gen. William W. Loring had moved his forces east to assist Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. Loring left 250 men and the militia to protect the town which now served as a supply center and provided access to Warm Springs, Va. and the Shenandoah Valley.
Confederates attempted to remove everything of value from the town before retreating, but did not succeed. Federals seized remaining weapons and goods. Food stuff captured included 350 barrels flour; 150,000 lbs of salted beef; 30,000 lbs of salt; sugar, rice, coffee, and bacon.
The raid on the supply depot strongly weakened Rebel moral. Without provisions, Rebel soldiers withdrew to Warm Springs and Monterey.
Leaving the U.S. flag, “Old Glory,” nailed to the courthouse, Maj. Webster and his troops left for the long march back to Huttonsville. Unable to take loaded wagons over timber barricades at the base or Marlin Mountain, they were forced to abandon confiscated supplies.
The exhausted soldiers reached Huttonsville four days later, having completed a winter march of more than 100 miles in less than six days.
As 1861 came to a close in western Virginia, the Civil War had been characterized by many such small battles and guerilla warfare.
Isolated skirmishes had continued in Gilmer and Hardy Counties. The home guard company known as the Mountain Tigers engaged Federals near the Dry Fork River; Union soldiers occupied modern-day Beckley in Raleigh County.
On Dec. 19, a secessionist guerilla unit known as the Moccasin Rangers captured the town of Ripley, Jackson County. Led by Daniel Dusky, a 52-year-old farmer and justice of the peace from Calhoun County, the group looted weapons, clothes, and supplies.
The Rangers drew members from Calhoun, Webster, and Braxton counties and had ties to the legendary Confederate spy, Nancy Hart. They had been active around the Little Kanawha River since November, attacking towns and Federal soldiers.
During the war, captured Moccasin Rangers would not be treated as enemy combatants, but instead tried as criminals. Dusky was captured and brought to Wheeling on Dec. 26, along with 34 other prisoners.
The Confederate Army would later add the Rangers as Company A of the 19th Virginia Cavalry Regiment in an attempt to legitimize the group.
On Dec. 20 the first military execution in western Virginia took place in Charleston. Charged with desertion, mutiny, and assault on a fellow officer, Pvt. Richard Gatewood of the 1st Kentucky was killed by a firing squad composed of men from his own regiment.
Confederates drove Federal cavalry out of Sutton, Braxton County, on Dec. 29. The town was highly contested during the war due to its strategic location on important transportation routes. Many soldiers had passed through Sutton, including future president William McKinley. In the absence of their commander, the Confederates set fire to the town. When the captain returned and ordered the fires put out, considerable damage had already been done.
Civil War Journal is produced by the Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation and Historic Beverly Preservation in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. For more information, please visit www.richmountain.org.