Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – West Virginia Batteries

At the close of the second quarter of 1863, West Virginia was but ten days a state.  Word of the state’s admission to the Union did not move quickly down Pennsylvania Avenue to the clerks at the Ordnance Department.  They continued to place the batteries under a heading of “Virginia.”

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The clerks allocated lines for batteries A to H.  Though Battery H had not formed at this time.  An additional line, dated August 7, accounts for a mountain howitzer in the charge of the 13th West Virginia Infantry.  Looking at the administrative details:

  • Battery A: At Camp Barry, D.C. with no cannon reported. This battery was in the Artillery Camp of Instruction, Camp Barry.  Lieutenant (later Captain) George Furst remained in command.  The battery only reported some equipment and small arms in its return.
  • Battery B: At New Creek, (West) Virginia with six 10-pdr Parrotts.  Captain John V. Keeper command this battery,  supporting Averill’s Brigade, Department of West Virginia.
  • Battery C: At Taneytown, Maryland with four 10-pdr Parrotts. Captain Wallace Hill commanded this battery.  In May, the battery transferred from Eleventh Corps to 3rd Volunteer Brigade, Artillery Reserve, Army of the Potomac.  Their Parrotts held a position on Cemetery Hill on July 2 and 3, at Gettysburg.  In the battle, Hill reported two men killed, two wounded, and the loss of five horses.  The battery expended 1,120 rounds.  “I think,” Hill concluded in his report, “I have just cause to feel proud of the part my men sustained during the entire terrible engagement.”
  • Battery D: Reporting at Hancock, Maryland with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Captain John Carlin’s battery was assigned to First Brigade, Second (Milroy’s) Division, Eighth Corps (Middle Department).  The battery was with that command during the battle of 2nd Winchester.  According to Carlin’s report, the battery had six 3-inch Ordnance rifles and 300 rounds as of June 12.  During the battle, the battery fired 265 rounds.  In the morning of June 14, Carlin received orders to spike the guns, destroy ammunition, and ride out with the horses.  He added, “Had I been allowed to do so, I could have taken my guns and equipment… and, in my opinion, could have rendered good service in covering the retreat….”
  • Battery E: Reporting at New Creek, (West) Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Under Captain Alexander C. Moore this battery supported Campbell’s Independent Brigade, Department of West Virginia.
  • Battery F: No return.  Captain Thomas A. Maulsby commanded the battery, supporting Third Brigade, First Divsion, Eighth Corps (Middle Department).  The battery reported six 3-inch Ordnance rifles in the previous quarter.  They were stationed at Martinsburg with their brigade when Confederates attacked on June 14.  In the withdrawal, Maulsby was wounded in the leg.  Lieutenant George W. Graham took over the battery.
  • Battery G: Indicated at Martinsburg, (West) Virginia with two 6-pdr field guns and two 10-pdr Parrotts.  Captain Chatham T. Ewing commanded this battery, supporting Averell’s Separate Brigade, Department of West Virginia.
  • Battery H:  The state’s Adjutant’s report has Captain James H. Holmes commissioned as commander of this battery in late September.  This was a “six months” battery, and does not appear to have entered Federal service.  The battery was reformed in January 1864.
  • “Col. 13th Infantry”:  Colonel William R. Brown commanded the 13th West Virginia Infantry, part of Scammon’s Division of the Department of West Virginia.  The regiment spent the winter split between Point Pleasant and Hurricane Bridge, West Virginia.  They tangled with Confederates in late March.  Then in late June the regiment moved to Charleston, West Virginia, arriving on June 30.  Within a few days the regiment was dispatched to assist in the pursuit of Morgan’s Raiders.  The return indicates the 13th Infantry had use of one 12-pdr Mountain Howitzer.  But I have no further details.

One “administrative” note here for clarity.  Many of these West Virginia batteries were counted as part of the Middle Department.  With the Confederate drive down the Shenandoah and into Pennsylvania, changes to the Federal order of battle occurred on the fly.  Thus some elements were gathered into the Department of West Virginia.  I don’t have space here to detail, and the subject is a bit out of scope. Hopefully readers will appreciate the context.

Turning to the ammunition.  Just one battery and the infantry section reported smoothbore cannon:

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Those were:

  • Battery G: 100 shot, 90 (or 70?) case, and 56 canister for 6-pdr field guns.
  • 13th Infantry: 92 case and 68 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.

Moving to the rifled projectiles, Hotchkiss first for the 3-inch Ordnance rifles:

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  • Battery E: 142 canister, 344 percussion shell, and 1,208 fuse shell for 3-inch rifles.

Keep in mind that Battery D, with 3-inch rifles at Winchester, expended or destroyed all it’s ammunition.  And Battery F, also with 3-inch rifles, did not file a return. Both were caught up in the debacle of the Federal retreat out of the Shenandoah.

For the next page, we can focus narrowly on the Parrott columns:

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Three reporting:

  • Battery B: 483 shell and 334 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.
  • Battery C: 383 shell, 240 case, and 163 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.
  • Battery G:  80 shell for 10-pdr Parrott.

In regard to Battery C, was that the quantity left on hand after firing 1,120 rounds at Gettysburg?  Or was that the quantity on hand as of December 29, 1863 – as the report was dated?

Battery B also reported some Schenkl projectiles for its Parrotts:

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  • Battery B: 308 shell and 610 canister for 10-pdr Parrotts.

Turning to the small arms:

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By battery:

  • Battery A: Fifteen Army revolvers and seventy-five cavalry sabers.
  • Battery B: Seventeen Army revolvers and forty-eight horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery C: Ten Navy revolvers and nine cavalry sabers.
  • Battery D: Sixteen (?) Navy revolvers and thirty horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery E: Twenty-nine Army revolvers and thirty horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery G: Thirteen Army revolvers.

Circling back to the service of these batteries at this particular time of the war, the statements offered by Captains Hall and Carlin (in the administrative section above) resonate.  One battery commander lamented the lack of cannon to perform his duty.  Another lauded his men for performance holding a critical line.

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Rowlesburg, West Virginia

Rowlesburg, West Virginia was another stop on my recent trips to see Civil War sites in the Mountain State.  I’ll admit before the visit my familiarity with the battle was limited to the name, date, and leaders.    And there is not a lot out there in the way of resources.  There isn’t even a battle summary from CWSAC!

At the time of the Civil War, Rowlesburg was (and still is) a railroad town.  The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) passed over the Cheat River just east of town. Then the railroad crossed multiple viaducts over the mountains while heading west.  Both sides recognized the importance of these structures early in the war.  Federals garrisoned the town in 1861 to protect the valuable rail line.  General Robert E. Lee considered the bridges “worth to me an army.”

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Modern Railroad Bridge at Rowlesburg

In April 1863, the Confederates launched a much delayed raid into western Virginia (as West Virginia was not yet a state!).  General William E. “Grumble” Jones led a brigade to raid the rail lines between Oakland, Maryland and Grafton, Virginia.  Concurrently General John D. Imboden targeted the Tygart Valley with his new command.  The Confederates aimed to destroy facilities along the railroad, disrupt communications with the Unionist government in Wheeling, and gather new recruits.  The raid looked good on paper, but heavy rains delayed departure.*

Jones arrived outside Rowlesburg on April 26.  After assessing the situation, he opted for a two-pronged attack on the town’s garrison.  One force, seen in red on the map below, proceed up the River Road (modern West Virginia Highway 72) .   A smaller detachment, depicted in black on the map, proceeded over a hill to the east end of the railroad bridge with orders to burn the structure.

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Rowlesburg Battle Map

Major John Showalter with 250 men, reinforced with civilian volunteers from the town, defended the town at the time of the raid.  Showalter took advantage of the terrain and placed barricades along the River Road and placed artillery on a hill overlooking the town.  Their positions are shown in blue on the map above.

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Cannon Hill from Rowlesburg

A mixed force of soldiers and townspeople, supported by artillery fire, thwarted the Confederates attacking the east end of the bridge.  Meanwhile along the River Road, the 6th Virginia Cavalry under Colonel John S. Green ran into a Federal barricade.  Instead of rushing through the defenses, Green opted to dismount and skirmish.  The Confederate attack then stalled.  With terrain restricting movement, a stalemate developed.  Despite repeated attempts, Green’s men could not push through the Federal defenses.

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River Road near the Site of Barricades

Jones withdrew at night and continued his raid in the direction of Oakland.  While damaging the rail facilities there, the main targets of the raid were left untouched at Rowlesburg.  Jones laid the blame for failure on Green, pressing formal charges.  The bridges and viaduct intact, the B&O continued to support the Federal war effort in western Virginia.  And within a matter of weeks, the area would formally become West Virginia.

Touring Rowlesburg today,  five markers provide interpretation.  Four are recent additions by the Rowlesburg Area Historical Society.  I will say that, while thankful for the markers, I found them quite wordy.  Just seemed as if a dissertation was pasted onto the displays.

The community has an active revitalization movement which has also secured an overlook on Cannon Hill, occupied by Federal artillery during the war.    I didn’t make it up to Cannon Hill, saving that for another visit.  However I did attempt to view the viaducts on the west side of town.  Unfortunately heavy summer growth prevented a good photo.  An archival photo of these impressive structures will have to do for now (more are here from the Historic American Building Surveys).

B&O Viaduct near Rowlesburg

Overall I was impressed with the work done by local groups at Rowlesburg.  Reenactments and other activities have raised awareness.  The townspeople I spoke with were rightly proud of their history!

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* Recall at that same time, rains also delayed Federals launching a raid into central Virginia and way out west, rains disrupted Marmaduke’s raid on Cape Girardeau, Missouri.  Someone would do well to offer a study of how weather affected the campaigns of 1863.

Philippi, West Virginia

Over the last month, I’ve spent several weekends exploring the early war battlefields in West Virginia.  So it is time for some trip reports!  Philippi is a good start point.  As everyone knows the town is the answer for the Civil War trivia question, “Where was the first land battle of the war?”  But the battle featured several other “firsts” and quite a number of notables.

Philippi is the seat of Barbour County, situated on the Tygart Valley River.  The Beverly-Fairmont Turnpike passed through the town, using a wooden bridge to span the river.  That bridge, built in 1852 by Lemuel Chenowith, made Philippi an important point, strategically speaking.

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Philippi Covered Bridge

The strategic setting which lead to the battle is well covered in other articles on the web, so I’ll direct the reader in that direction to avoid repetition.   Colonel George Porterfield, commanding the small number of poorly equipped Confederates in the region, had fallen back to Philippi in reaction to Federal advances along the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.  On the Federal side, General George McClellan’s key subordinate, and fellow railroad man, General Thomas Morris drew upon a plan from Colonel Benjamin F. Kelley.  Kelley, another railroad man and a commander of Virginia unionists, opted for the maneuver favored most by inexperienced commanders of inexperienced troops – the double envelopment. Advancing on both sides of the Tygart Valley River, Kelley’s plan called for a convergence at Philippi to cut off Porterfield’s line of retreat.

In Philippi, the Confederates believed a rainstorm would prevent any Federal activities, and relaxed their pickets.  Marching through the weather, the Federal columns made the schedule.  Just before dawn, the Federal column on the west side of the river reached the heights overlooking Philippi and positioned artillery.  That’s about when all semblance of a plan fell through.  The agreed upon “signal” that all were in position and ready to attack  was the sound of a pistol shot.   A local Confederate sympathizer, Mrs. Thomas Humphreys, sent her son to warn Porterfield of the Federal presence.  When her son was detained by the Federals, Mrs. Humphreys provided the “signal” before the infantry was in place.

Thus alerted to the Federal presence, Porterfield’s men woke, made a brief stand, then fled to the south.  The Federals could not organize a proper pursuit, and the Confederates finally reformed south of town and continued their retreat in a more orderly manner.  Not much in the way of a formal, pitched battle, but none the less the town of Philippi could lay claim to the “first” of the war.  In terms of casualties, those of both sides numbered around 30.  A light affair considering others which would occur over the next four years.

Several other “firsts” of note.  As part of the first leg of their advance, portions of the Federal forces used the B&O.  Thus the battle is the first in which troops used the railroad to move towards combat.  And of course the battle was the first Union victory (if you don’t count activities at Pensacola and some minor naval affairs).  Among many who first “saw the elephant” at Philippi was a soldier in the 9th Indiana Infantry – Ambrose Bierce.

Two of the Confederate casualties received amputations, the first such due to combat wounds in the war (and countless more would follow).  However, one of those amputees, James E. Hanger, was later dissatisfied with the false leg he received.  After some work, he developed a better fitting and functioning prosthesis.  Hanger went into business supplying the prosthetic legs to the Confederacy, and post-war continued to develop and refine the product.  The company remains one of the industry leaders today.

But for a perhaps a few inches one way or the other, Philippi may have witnessed another Civil War first.  Colonel Kelley was badly wounded in the chest during the pursuit.   Although considered mortal, Kelley recovered and received a post-dated promotion to Brigadier-General.  Had the wound indeed been mortal, Kelley would have been the first commander killed in the field during the war.  Instead that grim honor would befall another officer later in the campaign.

Within the operational perspective of the Civil War, the victory at Philippi gave the Federals a firm hold on western Virginia.  Further victories during the summer would further establish Federal control and eventually lead to the separate state of West Virginia.  Newspaper accounts gave high praise to McClellan (who was not even on the field!) and Colonel Frederick Lander, who had made a remarkable ride downhill during the battle.

Lander's Ride, as Depicted in Leslie's Weekly (Wikipedia commons)

Lander would go on to lead important commands during the first year of the war, but die of pneumonia in March 1862.  McClellan’s star, as you likely know, would rise much further.

Today a visitor will find Philippi retains much of its old character, mostly thanks to the wooden bridge still spanning the Tyart Valley River.  A small park on the west end of the bridge allows visitors to take in the bridge, and includes an marker detailing the order of battle.  On the east side, a Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park contains another marker discussing the Confederate retreat.   A small museum, inside a post-war railroad station, on that side houses artifacts from the Civil War (both from the battle and other notable local activities).   To visit the Federal artillery position, a marker on the campus of Alderson-Broaddus College indicates the area where cannon fired on the Confederate camp.

All told, six markers in the town interpret the battle.  You will find it listed on my Battlefields by Markers page.

And one additional note.  Guidebooks report at least one marker in town at the church were James Hanger’s amputation occurred.  I did not locate the marker, so it awaits another marker hunter.

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