Civil War Daily Gazette

A Day-By-Day Accounting of the Conflict, 150 Years Later

‘Harper’s Ferry’

Rebels Attack B&O Where No Rebels Should Be; Jackson Marches

John Carlile, Virginia Senator and western Virginia Delegate

Wednesday, June 19, 1861 Through the pre-dawn haze, two companies of Rebel troops from Tennessee peered out from the hills surrounding the small Piedmont town of New Creek [now called Keyser], along a bend in the Potomac River, 20 miles west of Cumberland. A small B&O Railroad depot was guarded by a 200 – 300 Yankees with a couple of cannons. When all was ready, the Rebels charged the unsuspecting Union troops who were able to fire a few shots as they scattered into the streets. In their hasty retreat, they left behind the two cannons and their colors. The Tennessee boys moved on Bridge Twenty-One, a mile or so downriver from New Creek, and set it ablaze. In a few minutes, only the stone foundation remained. The Rebels rejoined the rest of their brigade,under the command of Col. A.P. Hill, 20 miles east, in Romney. 1 __________________ McClellan’s Overreaction Bears Little Fruit Union General George B. McClellan began his day with another telegram warning of more threats to Col. Lew Wallace near Cumberland, Maryland.… Read More

Patterson Confused While Scott is Silent

Garnett's Position at Rich Mountain near Beverly, western Virginia

Tuesday, June 18, 1861 As dawn rose behind him, Union General Patterson in Hagerstown, Maryland was filled with apprehension and questions. The night before, it was reported to him that 15,000 Confederates under General Johnston were marching from Martinsburg to attack him at Williamsport, a distance of only 15 miles. If true, General-in-Chief Winfield Scott’s orders for troops and artillery to be drawn from Patterson’s force, in light of this coming attack, would have to be superseded by necessity. Still, that was not Patterson’s call. He wrote to Scott for instructions and to tell him his plan for rebuilding the Harpers Ferry bridge “to keep the volunteers employed.” Once Harpers Ferry was occupied, Patterson could easily send a force to attack Johnston near Winchester, Virginia. The communications (actually a series of three) moved quickly from panic about soon being attacked, to uncertainty over what to do with the troops and finally to future plans easily accomplished as if there were no enemy force anywhere near him. Patterson, however, did bring up a valid point. All… Read More

Skirmishes at Boonville, Pooleville and Vienna; Johnston to Attack!

Battle of Vienna

Monday, June 17, 1861 Missouri’s capital had fallen to the Union. Governor Jackson and General Price, pro-secessionists both, had fled with the state government and the Missouri State Guard, to Boonville, 40 miles up the Missouri River. When Union General Lyon discovered their new base, he and his 1,700 men steamed towards them. The camp of the Missouri State Guard was four miles down river from Boonville. In the early and dreary dawn, Lyon docked the steamers a few miles away from the camp, disembarked and began to march toward their enemy. Skirmishers were thrown out in front of the column to detect any State Guard outposts. After two miles, the Union skirmishers were fired upon by an advance party of the Guard, who quickly fell back towards the main body. Lyon placed several companies on either side of the road and advanced towards the camp. Two pieces of artillery and more infantry were added to their numbers. Another mile forward found the Missouri State Guard in force, anchoring their defense upon a house upon… Read More

The Great Bloodless War in the East; Preparing for Blood in the West


Sunday, June 16, 1861 Troop movements in the face of an enemy can be just as confusing for the pursuer as they are for the pursued. As Confederate General Johnston’s men evacuated Harpers Ferry, making Bunker Hill , Virginia their new home, Union forces under General Patterson nuzzled into their positions around Hagerstown and Williamsport, Maryland. Rather than sit around on the Northern side of the Potomac, Patterson had a plan. He believed his army, pushing south towards Harpers Ferry, would be the most important. So much so that it would require General McClellan’s troops in western Virginia, to follow his lead. While Patterson’s men, along with Lew Wallace’s 11th Indiana, pushed south, McClellan would hold the Confederates [under Garnett] near Grafton. This would ensure that Maryland would have no connection to Virginia. He also believed the entire affair would be relatively bloodless. After all, many believed the decisive battle would be fought at Harpers Ferry, which was once again in Union hands without so much as a shot being fired. To accomplish this, however,… Read More

Union Troops Move into Maryland, Confederates Take Defensive

Where is Beauregard?

Saturday, June 15, 1861 As Harpers Ferry still smoldered from the Rebel evacuation of the day before, Union General Patterson set into motion his advance from southern Pennsylvania into Maryland. The march was lead by General Cadwalader, who was ordered to attack Maryland Heights opposite Harpers Ferry. There, Patterson believed, the Rebels would make their stand. Rumors that Harpers Ferry was abandoned were held in a suspicious light. It was possible that the Rebels left their position as a decoy. Cadwalader was allowed to throw his entire brigade across the Potomac at Williamsport and to reconnoiter as far west as Martinsburg, if he found the area abandoned. If Harpers Ferry was vacant, he was to occupy it with a small force. Cadwalader’s brigade halted in Williamsport, where the General made his headquarters. A scouting party reported that 500 Rebel troops were in Harpers Ferry. They were the rear guard to Confederate General Johnston’s move west, and were breaking camp and abandoning the post. As Cadwalader was en route to Williamsport, Col. Wallace in Cumberland requested… Read More

Harpers Ferry Burned and Evacuated!

Map! Click to expand!

Friday, June 14, 1861 As soon as Confederate General Johnston got the word that he could use his discretion on whether or not to evacuate Harpers Ferry, he ordered Colonel Thomas Jackson to ready his brigade to move to Winchester. Everything movable in the town that could be used for the army was to be moved. Everything else was to be destroyed. Throughout the night, the Confederate troops loaded explosive charges into buildings and under the iron B&O Railroad bridge that crossed the Potomac River into Maryland. At 5am, the explosion rolled through the valley, blowing apart the bridge, cutting off Harpers Ferry from the Maryland side of the river. Other buildings in the town followed suit, as did the bridge across the Shenandoah River. By afternoon the town was a smoldering, empty shell. Johnston and his men marched along the Charlestown Road [modern US 340 – more or less] towards Winchester, thirty miles away. A quick pace was kept as rumors of the invasion of Union General Patterson’s men from Pennsylvania swept through the… Read More

Skirmish in Romney; Movement in Missouri

Wheeling Customs House

Thursday, June 13, 1861 Hearing that several hundred Rebel troops were drilling and “oppressing loyal citizens” in Romney, Virginia [now West Virginia], Union Colonel Lew Wallace and his 11th Indiana Zouaves, about 500 strong, took a train from Cumberland, Maryland to New Creek Station, 21 miles south. They began the 23 mile march east over the mountains to Romney at four in the morning. Through narrow passes and along harrowing bluffs, his Zouaves marched towards Romney and the Rebels [along modern US 50]. About a mile and a half west of the town, Wallace’s advance guard was fired upon by a Confederate scout, who quickly rode into town to alert the rest of his comrades. Wallace saw the Rebels on a hill just west of town, but to get to them, he would have to cross a bridge over the South Fork of the Potomac. Two Rebel artillery pieces could sweep the road to his front. He ordered a company to take the bridge, but as they crossed it, small arms fire rattled from a… Read More

Western Virginians Meet to Form a New State; War Against Missouri

New Virginia

Tuesday, June 11, 1861 Following the defeat of the Rebels at Philippi, the movers and shakers in western Virginia politics met to decide the fate of their counties. They had met previously in May and resolved to hold a secession convention of their own, should Virginia leave the Union. Over 400 delegates met on May 13, many desirous for a state of their own. A contingent from Wood County flew a banner that read, “New Virginia, Now or Never!” Others, however, thought it best to wait, fearing they would be committing “triple treason” first against the United States, then Virginia and then the Confederate States. At the First Wheeling Convention, a compromise was agreed upon. They would adjourn, wait for Virginia’s secession and, if it came, they would elect delegates to meet again on June 11.1 The thirty-nine counties of western Virginia were represented by seventy-seven representatives. Of the 44,000 western Virginia citizens who voted on June 4 May 23, 40,000 were against secession. In some counties along the Ohio River, the ratio was 22:1… Read More

Scott Plans a Diversion in Force; Lee is Somewhat Unemployed

Burnside with the officers of the 1st Rhode Island

Saturday, June 8, 1861 Union General-in-Chief Winfield Scott had long been evolving his plans against Harpers Ferry and finally, they were coming together. General Patterson was beginning his movements from Chambersburg to Greencastle in southern Pennsylvania. To aide the troops in Pennsylvania, Scott added a regiment from Rhode Island, which, along with its attached battery, numbered 1,200. These men were under Colonel Ambrose Burnside, an Army veteran who served in the West and more recently worked for the Illinois Central Railroad under George McClellan. Patterson would have nearly 9,000 men under his command. Not only was Scott sending Burnside, but he was also organizing a diversion under Colonel Charles Stone of the 14th US Infantry. Stone, based in Washington, was to move with his Regular Army regiment, plus several regiments of District of Columbia Militia (about 2,500 in all), to Edwards Ferry, and then, if practicable, to Leesburg, Virginia. Both Patterson and Stone were to share information with each other and, perhaps sometime in the future, join together as needed. Scott wished for Stone to… Read More

Lee Warns Johnston to Hold Harpers Ferry; The Union Advance


Friday, June 7, 1861 General Lee had received General Johnston’s letter arguing that his command at Harpers Ferry was in danger and should be moved south. Lee strongly disagreed, but to break the impasse, he demurred to President Davis in Richmond. Davis, said Lee, placed “great value upon our retention of the command of the Shenandoah Valley and the position at Harpers Ferry.” Keeping it in Confederate hands meant that a steady stream of communication with Maryland could be kept open. Abandoning the Ferry would also cut off the western Virginia rail access. It was also not thought that McClellan and his Ohio troops would attack Harpers Ferry. To make certain that no attack was made upon the town, Lee ordered four thousand troops under General Robert Garnett to Beverly, where Colonel Porterfield, still licking his wounds from Philippi, would be relieved of his command. This force would become the Army of the Northwest. Also, Col. Angus McDonald was ordered to disrupt troop movements over the B&O line, mainly near the Cheat River Bridge. Lee… Read More

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