Civil War

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.

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

Dec 21, 2016
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.

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.

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.

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.

Gen. John Lightburn, USA
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On June 22, 1865, two months after Civil War hostilities ended, General Joseph A. J. Lightburn resigned from the U.S. Army, ending his military service.

The Pennsylvania native had moved with his family to Lewis County in 1840. As a young man, he was friends with Thomas Jackson—later to be known as “Stonewall.” Lightburn wanted to attend West Point, but Jackson received the appointment from his region instead.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On June 3, 1861, one of the opening acts of the Civil War unfolded in the town of Philippi. At daybreak, the roar of Union cannons shook some 800 slumbering Confederate soldiers from their tents. The routed Confederates made a hasty retreat, derisively remembered as the “Philippi Races.” The brief engagement was the first land battle of the Civil War involving organized troops. And it probably was the first time in history that railroads had been used to bring together troops for battle.

May 24, 1896: Former Confederate General John Echols Dies in Staunton

May 24, 2016
e-WV Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

Former Confederate General John Echols died in Staunton, Virginia, on May 24, 1896. In 1843, the Lynchburg, Virginia, native had moved to Union in Monroe County to practice law. He remained in Union until the Civil War began in 1861.

Waitman T. Willey
e-WV Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA)

On May 13, 1861, political leaders, mostly from northwestern Virginia, gathered in Wheeling to address Virginia’s recent secession from the Union. At the start of the Civil War in April, delegates to the Virginia secession convention in Richmond had voted to leave the Union and join the Confederacy. However, the measure wouldn’t become official until voters approved it later in May.

Oil wells near Parkersburg around 1910
e-WV Encyclopedia

On May 9, 1863, Confederate raiders set fire to the prosperous oil works at Burning Springs in Wirt County. Just two years before the Civil War, Burning Springs had become the birthplace of Western Virginia’s oil industry. When the war began, it was one of only two oil-producing fields in the world.

April 20, 1963: W.Va. Legislature Meets at the Custom House in Wheeling

Apr 20, 2016
e-WV Encyclopedia / WV Division of Tourism via Steve Shaluta

On April 20, 1963, the West Virginia Legislature met in a special ceremonial session at the old U.S. Custom House in Wheeling. It marked the 100th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation certifying that West Virginia would become a state.

The Main Hall at West Liberty
e-WV Encyclopedia

On March 30, 1837, the Virginia legislature chartered a private academy at West Liberty, north of Wheeling. The first 65 students met for classes the following year. In 1857, public-spirited citizens completed the red-brick Academy Hall, which survived until the mid-1970s.

March 24, 1890: Confederate General William Lowther Jackson Dies at 65

Mar 24, 2016
Mudwall Jackson
e-WV Encyclopedia

On March 24, 1890, former Confederate General William Lowther Jackson died at age 65. Prior to the Civil War, the Clarksburg native had served as a Ritchie County judge, Virginia’s lieutenant governor, and president of the Virginia state senate.

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

Feb 9, 2016
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, 2016
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.

February 4, 1861: Peace Conference Opens in Washington

Feb 4, 2016
George William Summers
e-West Virginia Encyclopedia / WV Regional and History Collection

On February 4, 1861, a Peace Conference was held in Washington as a last-ditch effort to avert the looming Civil War. The deep divisions between the North and South carried into the conference, which failed to find a compromise. The Civil War started two months later.

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

Jan 29, 2016
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.

January 28, 1864: State Legislature Authorizes W.Va.'s First Flag

Jan 28, 2016
West Virginia State Flag
DollarPhoto Club / DollarPhoto Club

On January 28, 1864, the state legislature authorized West Virginia’s first flag. The new flags were presented to each of the state’s military regiments before the end of the Civil War. Consequently, these first state flags are commonly referred to as regimental or battle flags.

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