Author Archive

Hunter Lesser, the premier expert on the 1861 Western Virginia Campaign, will present “Robert E. Lee’s Feuding Generals: Wise v. Floyd” at the April meeting of the Kanawha Valley Civil War Roundtable.  The program will be Tuesday, April 17 at 7:00 p.m. at the Dunbar Public Library.  It is free and open to the public.

In the initial months of the Civil War in 1861, two former Virginia governors were named generals in the Confederate army and led Confederate troops in western Virginia–Gen. Henry Wise and Gen. John B. Floyd.  Despite pressures from Robert E. Lee in Richmond and the approach of Union troops, their old political rivalry would lead to Confederate losses in western Virginia.

“This is a riotous tale of two former Virginia governors and old political rivals who upend Confederate efforts to reclaim the western counties for the Confederacy,” said Lesser.  “General Wise and General Floyd squabble like school boys–even after they learned that Union troops are on the march to destroy them.  Robert E. Lee was no match for their antics.  It led to the loss of western Virginia and created a scandal that stretched all the way to Richmond.”

Hunter Lesser is the author of Rebels at the Gate: Lee and McClellan on the Front Lines of a Nation Divided, a comprehensive history of the 1861 Western Virginia Campaign, and The Battle at Corricks Ford.  He is also the author of the guidebook The First Campaign: A Guide to the Civil War in the Mountains of West Virginia, 1861 which features three driving tours.  He is the co-author of the soon to be released Cambridge History of the American Civil War, which is being published by Cambridge University Press.  For more than 20 years, he has worked with the Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation and other historic preservation organizations to preserve battlefields and other historic sites from the 1861 campaign.

For more information, call 304-389-8587.

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New book on Belle Boyd

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A new book on Confederate spy Belle Boyd has recently been released. Belle Boyd: The Rebel Spy is the first serious non-fiction account of her life in 34 years. Belle Boyd was from Martinsburg, Virginia (West Virginia) and considered the most notorious and deceptive female spy to operate in the lower Shenandoah Valley during America’s Civil War. Boyd fought the war in an unconventional way by using the weapons of a woman’s beauty and a woman’s wiles. During the war, Belle Boyd was imprisoned three times, banished to the South, and eventually banished from the United States, only to become an author and actress in England.

Author CW Whitehair has used various sources, unpublished letters, diaries, and period newspaper articles to chronicle the life of the most courageous female spy serving the Southern cause during the war.


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Saturday, April 7, 2018:


Noon-12:50 ……. Registration – I.O.O.F. Hall
12:50-1:00 ……. Welcome and Overview of RMBF – Rick Wolfe
1:00-1:50 ………. Shepherdstown in the Civil War: One Vast Confederate Hospital – Kevin Pawlak
1:50-2:40 ………. The McNeill Rangers in the Gettysburg Campaign – Steve French
3:00-3:50 ………. The Battle of Lewisburg – Richard Armstrong
3:50-4:40 ………. The Crooked Road to Freedom: Strange Tales of Slavery and Emancipation – Hunter Lesser

For more information, email: – phone: 304-637-7424


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Phantoms of the South Fork: Captain McNeill and his Rangers, by Steve French

Now available from Kent State University Press

February 21, 1865 – 3 a.m. – Cumberland, Maryland: A band of approximately 65 horsemen slowly makes its way down Greene Street. Thinking the riders are disguised Union scouts, the few Union soldiers out that bitterly cold morning pay little attention to them. In the meantime, in and around the town, over 3,500 Yankees are peacefully asleep.

Within the next half-hour, however, the McNeill Rangers had kidnapped Generals George Crook and Benjamin Kelley from the hotel beds and spirited them out of town. Despite a determined effort by Union pursuers to intercept the raiders, by that evening they had reached safety deep in the South Fork River Valley, over fifty miles away. Not long afterward, the generals were guests at Richmond’s Libby Prison. Southern General John B. Gordon later called the mission “one of the most thrilling incidents of the war.”

In September 1862, John Hanson McNeill recruited a company of troopers for Colonel John D. Imboden’s 1st Virginia Partisan Rangers. In early 1863, Imboden took most his men into the regular army, but McNeill and his son Jesse offered their men an opportunity to continue in independent service-seventeen joined them. In the coming months, other young hotspurs enlisted in McNeill’s Rangers. Operating mostly in the Potomac Highlands of what is now eastern West Virginia, the Rangers bedeviled the Union troops guarding the B&O Railroad line. Favoring American Indian battle tactics, they ambushed patrols, attacked wagon trains, and, from time to time, heavily damaged railroad property and rolling stock.
This book is the result of the author’s long study of primary source material, including numerous diaries, memoirs, reminiscences, and period newspaper articles. He has also used the available secondary sources, conducted many interviews of McNeill Ranger aficionados, and traveled throughout West Virginia, western Maryland, southern Pennsylvania, and the Shenandoah Valley following the trail of Captain McNeill and his Phantoms of the South Fork.

Steve French is a former middle school teacher and graduate of Hedgesville High School and Shepherd College. His other works include the multiple-award winning Imboden’s Brigade in the Gettysburg Campaign, Rebel Chronicles: Raiders, Scouts and Train Robbers of the Upper Potomac, and Four Years Along the Tilhance: The Private Diary of Elisha Manor. He is also the author of over eighty historical articles that have appeared in numerous publications.

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The Battle of Lewisburg, now available

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The Battle of Lewisburg, by Richard L. Armstrong, is now available from 35th Star Publishing.

The early morning hours of May 23, 1862 brought the horror of war to the residents of the small, mountain town of Lewisburg, Virginia (now West Virginia). A brigade of Union troops, commanded by Colonel George Crook, had occupied the heavily Confederate leaning town less than two weeks earlier. Now, Lewisburg felt the fury of a battle waged in her streets. Bullets flew in every direction. Cannon balls whistled overhead and occasionally struck the homes and other buildings of the town. Confederate soldiers, some of whom grew up in Lewisburg, fought and died in their hometown.

A few hours later, 240 Confederates were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner. The victorious Union troops suffered the loss of 93 men killed, wounded, and captured. Confederate Brigadier General Henry Heth, with a superior force, now found himself forced to retreat in complete disarray. Colonel George Crook would soon be promoted to brigadier general, largely because of his conduct at Lewisburg.
This carefully researched book by historian and author Richard L. Armstrong contains 248 pages, 34 images, and 13 maps (including a detailed map of the town the day after the battle by Captain Hiram F. Devol of the 36th Ohio Infantry). The cover features the beautiful painting of Lewisburg in the 1850s by renowned landscape artist Edward Beyer.

Lewisburg, now a part of the state of West Virginia, is the county seat of Greenbrier County, and is named for Revolutionary War period General Andrew Lewis. A previous winner of the “Coolest Small Towns in America” award, the town offers many quaint shops, restaurants, galleries, and other attractions. Walking tour brochures, including one focused on the Battle of Lewisburg, are available at the Greenbrier Valley Visitors Center, located downtown on the corner of Washington and Court Streets.

Click here for more information…

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Delegates Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson; Riley Moore, R-Jefferson; Jill Upson, R-Jefferson; and Harpers Ferry resident Scot Faulkner proudly stand in front of the bridge they were successful in naming the “Major Martin Robison Delany Memorial Bridge” after the highest ranking African-American officer in the Civil War. (Journal photo Jeff McCoy)

From The Journal, April 20, 2017

Building Bridges: African-American Civil War major’s name lives on

CHARLES TOWN — Martin Robison Delany was a physician, journalist, abolitionist major in the Union Army and newspaper publisher. He was also an African-American, and accomplished all that before, during and after the Civil War.

Born free in Charles Town, Virginia — now West Virginia — Delany was taught to read and write from an early age by his mother, who was also free. His father was a slave working as a carpenter. At that time in Virginia, it was illegal for any slave or African-American to learn to read or write. Delany’s mother fled to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania with her children after it was discovered she was teaching them to read. Delany’s father purchased his freedom a year later and joined them there.

Major Martin Robison Delany

Delany grew up and was one of three African-Americans accepted to Harvard Medical School. In short order, he had to leave after students and others protested their attending. Undeterred Delany ended up in Pittsburgh where he studied medicine and was apprenticed to several doctors. He also began writing articles supporting the abolitionist movement and founded the newspaper The Mystery. Later he went to work with Frederick Douglas on the famous North Star Newspaper.

During the Civil War, he spoke to men about enlisting. He also wrote to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton requesting “to command all of the effective black men as Agents of the United States.” His request was ignored. In 1865, Abraham Lincoln met with Delany and found him “a most extraordinary and intelligent man.” Within weeks he was commissioned as a major in the Union Army. He spent his life fighting for rights of ex-slaves.

Today, local citizens and political leaders have come together to make sure that Delany will not fade into history. Harpers Ferry resident Scot Faulkner contacted Delegate Jill Upson, R-Jefferson, and asked for help on getting a bridge named after the accomplished man. The bridge crosses the Shenandoah River and is higher than the Washington Monument at its tallest point.

“It was Mr. Faulkner who contacted me about the naming of the bridge and said he had been working on it and wasn’t having any luck in previous years, and so he asked if I would help with it,” Upson said. “I was able to not only introduce the resolution, but I had enough support from members of leadership that it actually went somewhere this year.”

For Faulkner, it was an important accomplishment.

“The only way we are going to keep our civic culture intact for future generations is for them to have these physical touchstones that show us and remind us of who we are and why we are,” Faulkner said.

Delegate Riley Moore, R-Jefferson, helped pass the resolution. The 1,400-foot bridge is in his district.

“I’m proud to have the largest bridge in Jefferson County named after, and immortalized, in the memory of such a monumental resident of our county and an American patriot, Maj. Delany,” Moore said. “I think it’s fitting to have a structure of this size named after someone with such monumental accomplishments for our country and I’m proud to count him as a Jefferson County resident and native.”

Delegate Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, also helped push the resolution through.

“There are a lot of resolutions introduced each year, but I think the resolution that Delegate Upson helped draft just really outlined what an exceptional individual Maj. Delaney was,” Espinosa said. “I think the fact that even President Abraham Lincoln was so impressed, in such a short period of time that he had a chance to speak with Mr. Delany, was so impressed that he subsequently recommended his appointment as major.”

Upson said the idea of the resolution was well-received.

“Actually I got a lot of kudos from around the Capitol saying this is really a good idea, we just read about him, we think it’s great,” Upson said.

Faulkner said naming the bridge for such an important person in history means a lot to the county as a whole.

“If you look at a lot of bridges in this area, they are named after highway commissioners and bureaucrats down in Charleston,” Faulkner said. “We had an opportunity to take a person that truly had national significance. He was a major abolitionist and of course the highest ranking African-American during the Civil War. He is a person that was born free and he had to flee the area. The largest bridge in the county should be named after a large figure in the county.”

Read the text of the bill – HCR41…

Read more about Major Martin Robison Delany…


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Phil Caskey explains the birth of West Virginia, and how the newly formed state affected the outcome of the Civil War.

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A Confederate-dug trench line makes an ‘S’ turn as it follows a hillside contour at the former Camp Bartow.

by Rick Steelhammer, for the Charleston Gazette, February 11, 2017

The core section of Camp Bartow, a fortified encampment with still-visible earthworks built by 1,800 Confederate soldiers, has been preserved and will eventually be opened to the public following its recent purchase by the West Virginia Land Trust.

The encampment was built by soldiers from Georgia, Arkansas and Virginia who occupied the site for several months during the opening year of the Civil War, and it was used to fend off an attack by a much larger Union force during the Oct. 3, 1861, Battle of Greenbrier River.

The 14-acre tract, bought with assistance from the national Civil War Trust, Pocahontas County Commission, state Division of Highways, Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Alliance and First Energy Foundation, overlooks the East Fork of the Greenbrier River and borders a still-used segment of the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike, a strategic east-west supply route during the Civil War.

The site also overlooks Travellers Repose, a 19th-century inn serving Turnpike users that was torched during the Civil War but rebuilt on the same site a few years after hostilities ended.

Read the entire article….


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Medal of Honor Recipient, Lt. Col. Charles E. Capehart, 1st West Virginia Cavalry

Antietam Camp #3, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) will hold its Ninth Annual Medal of Honor Ceremony on the National Medal of Honor Day, on Saturday, March 25th, 2017 at 10:00 AM at Monterey Pass Battlefield Park.

This year’s honoree will be LTC Charles E. Capehart, of the 1st West Virginia Cavalry, who earned his Medal of Honor during the Battle of Monterey Pass on July 4th, 1863 following the Battle of Gettysburg.

The guest speaker will be Mr. John A. Miller, Washington Township Historian, and Operations Director of Monterey Pass Battlefield Park, who will give an overview of LTC Capehart and of the action that day leading to his Medal of Honor. The program will conclude with a wreath-laying ceremony honoring LTC Capehart, featuring a Civil War Color Guard and Bugler, who will play “Taps.”

Following the ceremony, an informal lunch will be held at “The Keystone Family Restaurant,” 10530 Buchannan Trail East, Waynesboro, PA 17268.

The ceremony is open to the general public.

For more information, please contact Stuart D. Younkin, Camp Commander, at (540) 931-4679; or George Tommy Chapman, Senior Vice-Commander at 540-454-5560.

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Symposium to be held at Beverly

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