Civil War

February 9, 1843: Politician Nathan Goff Jr. Born in Clarksburg

Feb 9, 2018
Nathan Goff Jr.
e-West Virginia Encyclopedia

Politician Nathan Goff Jr. was born in Clarksburg on February 9, 1843. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War, rising from a private to brevet brigadier general. In 1864, he was captured at Moorefield and sent to Richmond’s notorious Libby Prison. He was released in a prisoner exchange personally authorized by President Lincoln.

February 5, 1942: Lawman Dan Cunningham Dies at 92

Feb 5, 2018
Dan Cunningham
e-West Virginia Encyclopedia / WV State Archives

Dan Cunningham died on February 5, 1942, at age 92. The legendary lawman was involved in some of the most violent and eventful moments in West Virginia history—sometimes finding himself on both sides of the legal system.

January 29, 1876: W. Va. Senate Removes Treasurer Burdett From Office

Jan 29, 2018
Senate Chambers
e-West Virginia Encyclopedia

On January 29, 1876, the West Virginia State Senate removed state Treasurer John Burdett from office. Burdett had been accused of pilfering funds in a scheme with his son and offering to deposit state funds in certain banks for a personal kickback on the interest.

Burdett’s impeachment was something of a shock given his background. The Taylor County native was one of West Virginia’s founders. At the outset of the Civil War, he’d served in the Richmond Convention and voted against Virginia’s secession from the Union.

January 22, 1810: State Founder Daniel Lamb Born in Pennsylvania

Jan 22, 2018
Daniel Lamb
West Virginia State Archives

State founder Daniel Lamb was born in Pennsylvania on January 22, 1810. Lamb’s family moved to Wheeling when he was 13. He was elected city clerk at age 21 and worked for two Wheeling banks and an insurance company.

When the Civil War began and Virginia cast its lot with the Confederacy, Daniel Lamb became a leading pro-Union figure in Wheeling. He was a member of the West Virginia Constitutional Convention and the state’s first legislature. The first codification of West Virginia’s laws, known as the Lamb Code, was begun by Lamb but finished by James H. Ferguson.

December 21, 1891: Senator Frank Hereford Dies in Monroe County

Dec 21, 2017
Honorable Frank Hereford
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

Former U.S. Senator Frank Hereford died at Union in Monroe County on December 21, 1891, at age 66. The Virginia native had gone west in 1849, during the California Gold Rush, and practiced law in Sacramento. After the Civil War, he moved back east, settled in Union, and married Alice Caperton, who came from a prominent Monroe County family. 

Hereford, a Democrat, was a leader in the successful push to restore voting rights and other political privileges to West Virginia’s ex-Confederates. Shortly thereafter, he was elected to Congress.

December 11, 1893: Governor Jacob Jackson Dies in Parkersburg

Dec 11, 2017
Governor Jacob Beeson Jackson (1829-93)
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA)

West Virginia’s sixth governor, Jacob Jackson, died in Parkersburg on December 11, 1893, at age 64. The son and grandson of congressmen, Jackson came from one of the region’s most distinguished families. His father was also one of West Virginia’s founders.

Jackson first worked as a teacher and then opened a legal practice in St. Marys. He served as the Pleasants County prosecuting attorney before and during the Civil War. His work took him occasionally to Wheeling, where he was once arrested for making pro-Confederate remarks.

US Senator Allen Taylor Caperton became the first ex-Confederate elected to the U.S. Senate and only former Confederate senator to serve in the U.S. Senate after the Civil War.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online

Allen Taylor Caperton was born on November 21, 1810, on his family’s estate in Monroe County. During the 1840s and 1850s, he served as a Whig in the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate. 

As the Civil War approached, Caperton was personally opposed to secession.  However, in April 1861, he served as a delegate to the Virginia secession convention and voted with the majority to join the Confederacy.

Abraham Lincoln
Library of Congress / Wikimedia Commons

On November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected 16th president of the United States. His election started a political cascade in which seven southern states seceded from the Union and formed the Confederates States of America. Four more states would join the Confederacy when the Civil War started five months later.

October 30, 1825: Feudist Randolph McCoy Born in Logan County

Oct 30, 2017
Randolph McCoy
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Feudist Randolph McCoy was born in Logan County on October 30, 1825. He married his cousin, whose father gave the couple a small farm in neighboring Pike County, Kentucky. There, they raised 13 children.

John Brown
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

As some communities consider removing Confederate monuments, the state of Vermont is formally honoring West Virginia abolitionist John Brown. 

John Brown’s 1859 raid was an important step in the events that led to the Civil War, and to the creation of West Virginia. 

October 13, 1863: Civil War Battle Fought at Bulltown in Braxton County

Oct 13, 2017
Braxton County
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On October 13, 1863, a Civil War battle was fought at Bulltown in Braxton County. The Confederate forces were led by William Lowther Jackson—a cousin of “Stonewall” Jackson with the less-inspiring nickname of “Mudwall.”

McNeill’s Rangers destroyed property belonging to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

In the predawn hours of October 3, 1864, Confederate guerilla John “Hanse” McNeill led a raid near Mount Jackson, Virginia. After a quick exchange of fire with Union cavalry, McNeill collapsed from a gunshot wound. He would die five weeks later.

Battle of Harpers Ferry
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On September 14, 1862, Confederate artillery launched the opening barrage in the Battle of Harpers Ferry, initiating perhaps the most important Civil War conflict in present West Virginia.

Harpers Ferry was key to Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee’s strategy in invading Maryland. Union forces stationed at Harpers Ferry stood in the way of Lee’s supply line. Lee dispatched “Stonewall” Jackson to capture Martinsburg, which fell without a shot, and then take Harpers Ferry.

Earthworks at Fort Milroy on Cheat Mountain Summit
Brian M. Powell

On September 12, 1861, the Battle of Cheat Mountain was fought near the Randolph-Pocahontas County line. Taking place just five months into the Civil War, the battle was a significant loss for the Confederacy.


General Robert E. Lee—at the time commander of the Department of Northwestern Virginia—was trying to protect railroad lines in Western Virginia while keeping what would become northern West Virginia in Confederate hands, thereby thwarting the young statehood movement.

E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On August 22, 1872, West Virginians narrowly ratified a new state constitution by less than 5,000 votes, while rejecting a separate proposal that would have restricted office-holding to whites only.

This 1872 version of the constitution, our state’s second, remains in effect today, with amendments. The first state constitution was approved in 1863, just before West Virginia became a state.

E-WV / West Virginia Humanities Council

Coal operator Joseph Beury was born in Pennsylvania on August 15, 1842. During the Civil War, he served as a Union captain, though he was later known as “colonel” in the West Virginia coalfields.

Beury worked in his father’s Pennsylvania anthracite mines and brought that knowledge with him to the New River Gorge about 1872. He established the Fayette County town of Quinnimont and opened the New River Coal Company mine. When the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway arrived the following year, he shipped the first load of coal from the New River Coalfield.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On July 17, 1861, Confederates won one of their first victories of the Civil War at the Battle of Scary Creek in Putnam County. Union forces had been dispatched to dislodge Confederates, who had controlled the Kanawha Valley since the war began three months earlier. On July 17, about 1,300 Union troops under the direct command of Colonel John Lowe clashed at the mouth of Scary Creek with about 900 Confederates under Colonel George S. Patton of Charleston. Patton was the grandfather of General George S. Patton of World War II fame.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

The Battle of Laurel Hill, also known as the Battle of Laurel Mountain or Belington, began on July 7, 1861. A month earlier, Southern troops had retreated south after their loss at the Battle of Philippi. Confederate commander General Robert S. Garnett had seized a key mountain pass and set up his defenses at the foot of Laurel Mountain, located in eastern Barbour County. Beginning on July 7, Union troops under General Thomas Morris attacked Garnett’s men in a series of skirmishes. The two sides fought for the next five days. In the end, the Confederates were overrun. 

WV Division of Tourism (WVDT) / David Fattaleh

July 3, 1863, was a pivotal day in the Civil War. On that day, the Union Army scored a key victory in the Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg, and Confederates offered their surrender at Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Battle of Gettysburg ended the Confederates’ last major invasion of the North and is viewed by some as the war’s turning point. The Confederate loss of Vicksburg was perhaps more important because it opened the way for the North to seize control of the entire Mississippi River, cutting the Confederacy in half.

Civil War cannon at Harpers Ferry
Cecelia Mason / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A plan to relocate a Civil War monument from Wheeling Park to a grassy area at West Virginia Independence Hall has been postponed.

The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register reports a monument committee met last week to discuss the relocation, which was announced last year.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  On May 22, 1861, Thornsberry Bailey Brown became the first Union soldier killed in battle during the Civil War. It occurred during a brief stand-off at Fetterman in Taylor County.

At the beginning of the war, both Union and Confederate forces were scheming to control the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, which had arrived in Taylor County in 1857. The railroad would be a key to moving troops and supplies.

Medals, Medallions, Harpers Ferry
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

There’s a group based in Jefferson County, West Virginia focused not only on improving health and wellness but also on incorporating the local community and history into that health experience.

E-WV / West Virginia Humanities Council

The Civil War Battle of Pigeon Roost occurred at Princeton in Mercer County on May 17, 1862. The battle ended a month-long series of engagements in which Union forces under General Jacob Cox aimed to destroy a strategic railroad at Dublin, Virginia, which was defended by Confederates under General Humphrey Marshall. Under Cox’s command were two officers who’d later become presidents, Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley.

Frank Leslie / wikimedia Commons / user: Btphelps

On April 17, 1861, Virginia politicians voted to secede from the Union. The move came just days after the Civil War had erupted at Fort Sumter and after President Abraham Lincoln had called for 75,000 volunteers. For months, Virginia and other states in the Upper South had refused to join the new Confederate States of America. But, Lincoln’s call for volunteers tipped the balance.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Statehood leader Francis Pierpont died on March 24, 1899, at age 85. He was born near Morgantown in 1814 and raised for part of his childhood in Marion County. As a young adult, he was as an attorney for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and a pioneer coal operator.

When the Civil War began, he helped form the pro-Union Reorganized Government of Virginia with its capital in Wheeling. In June 1861, he was unanimously elected the first and only governor of this government.

Sinks of Gandy
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On March 20, 1864, a Civil War skirmish occurred at the north end of the Sinks of Gandy in Randolph County. In the shootout, Union troops killed three Confederates and recaptured goods the Rebels had stolen from a Tucker County general store.

December 29, 1861: Sutton Burns

Dec 29, 2016
Suttonville, as it was known then, was strategically located on the Elk River, which ran south all the way to Charleston.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

The Braxton County seat of Sutton was nearly burned to the ground on December 29, 1861. During the first year of the Civil War, western Virginia was besieged by Union and Confederate troops vying for control of the region. Most fighting centered on important transportation routes.

Suttonville, as it was known then, was strategically located on the Elk River, which ran south all the way to Charleston. It was also located on the Weston and Gauley Bridge Turnpike, which connected the town with other key roads.

J.R. Clifford used the Pioneer Press to fight for better economic and social conditions for African Americans.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / J.R.Clifford, Pioneer Press, Martinsburg, Harpers Ferry, NAACP, Civil War, Taylor County, Grant County

Civil rights trailblazer J. R. Clifford died on October 6, 1933, at age 85. A native of present-day Grant County, he served in an African American unit during the Civil War. Afterward, he taught at a black school and founded Martinsburg’s Pioneer Press, the first black-owned newspaper in West Virginia. He used its editorial pages to fight for better economic and social conditions for African Americans.

General Jesse L. Reno
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On September 14, 1862, General Jesse Lee Reno was killed during the Battle of South Mountain in Maryland. The Wheeling native was the highest-ranking Union general from present-day West Virginia to be killed during the Civil War.

Reno graduated in the same West Point class that included George McClellan and another cadet from Western Virginia: Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. During the Mexican War, Reno served in a howitzer battery and was wounded at the Battle of Chapultapec.

Berkeley Co. WV
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On August 5, 1863, the West Virginia Legislature voted to admit Berkeley County officially into West Virginia. Three months later, the legislature also admitted Berkeley’s neighbor, Jefferson County.

Earlier in 1863, residents of the two counties had voted to join the new state. The vote was curious, though—to say the least—because Berkeley and Jefferson had been decidedly pro-Southern in their political leanings, with closer ties to the Shenandoah Valley and Virginia.