The purpose of this book has been to acquaint the reader with first-hand accounts of events that transpired long ago in West Virginia. Many of these events happened prior to the actual creation of the new state from Virginia's western counties and some of the authors were actively involved in either creating the new state or were just as active in attempting to prevent the severing of Virginia into two smaller states.
Civil War history should be of special interest to West Virginians, but there has been far too little of it in the histories which have been published in recent years. Unionists from the new state called her "The Child of the Storm" since the Mountain State was created as a direct result of the political maneuvering of the Federal government as Lincoln's government tried to control the Confederate rebellion. Splitting the strongest state in the Confederacy and admitting a new Northern state into the Union was both a political and military victory for the Federal government at a time when it was hard pressed by Lee's armies.
Unfortunately, very little information on the actual role of West Virginians during the Civil War has made its' way into modern histories. Legend and misinterpretation of facts leave most with a very simplified view of the history of the state and people are left with the impression that "West Virginia seceded from Virginia in order to help President Lincoln free the slaves." Soldiers drawn from Virginia's western counties have been thought to have served primarily as Union "Home Guards" or as Confederate "bushwhackers -- both of whom changed uniforms to match those of the most recent local victors.
This is far from the truth! Men from Virginia's Trans-Allegheny counties served in at least fifteen Federal regiments, frequently with distinction. They fought throughout the South for the entire war. Federal regiments raised from Virginia's western counties fought under a local commander at the first land battle of the Civil War and others fought in nearly every other major campaign during the war. Three West Virginia cavalry regiments were formed into a single brigade and were assigned to Custer's Division in which they served with distinction. They earned thirteen Medals of Honor during the last week of the war as the Confederates retreated from Richmond and Petersburg.
There were a large number of western Virginians who served the Confederate cause with equal intensity. They often fought to ensure that their "Native State" remained intact among their southern sister states. An unknown number of West Virginians served in the Confederate military in "Virginia" regiments where their area of origin was never recognized by modern historians. At least ten infantry companies serving in the "Stonewall Brigade" were composed of West Virginians -- as was their illustrious commander. Four additional entire regiments of Confederate soldiers were raised in West Virginia and most of these men served through the war, unable to return to their homes in Federally-controlled territory. They were never accorded the recognition given to the Confederate Kentuckians, who under the same circumstances, became the "Orphan Brigade" in history.
The purpose of this book is to simply let readers review the thoughts of the participants in the combat of the war -- on both sides -- from their writings. Hopefully, readers will be stimulated to use these as references as they begin their own historical research projects into the Civil War history of the "Child of the Storm", West Virginia.
Beuhring Jones should have a special place in our memories. He was a gentleman-officer who sincerely cared for the men under his command and wrote:
"...when at the close of the war, they, with streaming eyes and aching hearts, turned away from the `Conquered Banner'.... In that sad hour, not more than a dozen of the original Dixie Rifles answered at roll-call."
David L. Phillips Leesburg, Virginia