Calhoun County in the Civil War from 1927
Part I
By Louis E. Ayers

(06/05/2001)

Transcribed by Norma Knotts Shaffer from microfilm of the Calhoun Chronicle dated 2/17/1927.

Calhoun County In The Civil War

Under the above heading the Chronicle will, from time to time, publish a number of articles concerning the part played by Calhoun county in the Civil war.  The articles have been prepared by Mr. Louis E. Ayers, of Grantsville, who is well known in all parts of Calhoun and Gilmer counties.  His business has taken him into nearly every home in this section, and being an entertaining conversationalist with a fine memory he has probably gathered more facts pertaining to the history of these counties than any other man.

The Chronicle and its readers are indebted to Mr. Ayers for this attempt to preserve a portion of local history that might otherwise be lost to memory.

Mr. Ayers' first article follows:

Calhoun County, during the civil war, was the scene of a few keen engagements between the contending forces.  The following narrative of the sharp action that occurred near Arnoldsburg is the recollection of the writer, as he heard it described by his father, who participated in the fight on the northern side.  There are perhaps many details connected with the affair that escaped the attention of the narrator.  The following account is his version of the engagement.

At the time of this action, Calhoun county was being occupied to a great extend by irregular troops of both armies.  To stamp out the guerrilla warfare if possible was the intent in stationing Capt. James L. Simpson, with eighty men of Company C 11th West Virginia Infantry, at a point on the Hays farm, just below the present site of Arnoldsburg.  Capt. Simpson's camp was on the broad bottom, just below the large two story log residence, occupied by the family of Col. Peregrine Hays.  The father and grandfather of the writer were members of Capt. Simpson's company.  My grandmother, accompanied by a Mrs. Barnes, the wife of Benjamin Barnes, was visiting relatives at the camp.  They had procured and set up a cook stove on which they made coffee and assisted in the preparation of meals for the troops.  Arising one morning just at dawn, they discovered the gray jackets of the Confederate Capt. Mitchell's command, defiling down the hillsides on both sides of the West Fork and almost completely surrounding the sleeping camp.  These women each took a tent row and ran the entire length of the camp shouting, "The Johnnies are coming."  The startled troopers, seized muskets and cartridge boxes and rushed from their tents.  The alarm became general and pandemonium reigned throughout the camp.  Officers shouted "Fall in!  Fall in men!  Fall into line."  But it was impossible to control the panic stricken men who made a rush for the Hays mansion, which the bulk of them entered, knocking out windows with their musket butts and opening fire on the advancing confederates.  Lieut. James Robinson, with a squad of ten men made a sortie up a wooded point and on reaching the crest came face to face with a body of Confederates under the direct command of Capt. Mitchell.  A volley was exchanged at close quarters and Capt. Mitchell, fell mortally wounded.  His men gave way.  Lieut Robinson then deployed his men behind logs and trees and engaged in sharpshooting during the remainder of the engagement.  The fire from the Hays house was steadily maintained, and after a time the Confederates withdrew.

Many of the men composing the Federal company, were from Calhoun, Gilmer and Ritchie counties.  The late William Cunningham, of Sycamore, was in Lieut. Robinsons squad and in the interchange of volleys on the hilltop, received a musket ball in the right wrist which came out at the elbow.  Lieut. James F. McDonald, Jasper Ball, Peter Booher, Oscar Kelley, Wesley Poling, Nicholas Poling and a number of others whom we cannot now recall, participated in this engagement.  And while these sterling old veterans have long since answered the last roll call, many of their descendants are embraced in Calhoun county's present population.

As the tourist or traveler motors over our splendid state road, past this daisy strewn meadow, he little dreams that in the misty past, this now peaceful valley reverberated with the roll of musketry, blended with the shouts of charging squadrons, and that its green sward was dyed with the blood of the victims of this fratricidal strife.


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