Company "A" 11th West Virginia Infantry


Compiled & Written by Linda Fluharty.

John P. Baggs, from Belmont County, Ohio, led the company of Independent Scouts, "The Snake Hunters," that eventually became Company "A" of the 11th (West) Virginia Infantry. This company was raised during the early hostilities that led to war, which was at least by the early months of 1861.

Baggs mustered in as Captain of his company of Independent Scouts at Wheeling on June 29, 1861. The day before, Major James Oakes was ordered by Major General McClellan to muster into the service of the United States Captain Baggs' company, even though it fell "short of the minimum for organization." Until they became part of the 11th West Virginia Infantry in the spring of 1862, these scouts served under General McClellan, and then General Rosecrans.

June 1861 was very early in the history of the Civil War. At that time, it was thought that the war would be concluded in a few months. When that optimism was no longer warranted, regiments were formed and companies were raised. In October 1861, Lieut. Col. John Castelli Rathbone began organizing companies of the Eleventh West Virginia Infantry. He was promoted to Colonel in February 1862. The official date of organization of the 11th Infantry, stated in Loyal West Virginians, is May, 1862.

From The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies: - See Nov 29, 1861, Captain John P. Baggs and D. C. M. Shell were the two Independent companies. - See Jan 11, 1862. "Captain John Baggs' company of Snake Hunters was called the only Independent acceptance.... " The Snake Hunters were still Independent Scouts at that time, and they remained so for a few more months, until the spring of 1862.

According to an article, presented below, the men comprising Baggs' company were recruited from the river and mountain counties of West Virginia, and from Monroe County, Ohio.

Another article indicates that Baggs and his men were revered for their "snake hunting." However, Baggs was a free-spirit, not particulary interested in adhering to military regulations. He was ultimately dismissed from the service on April 4, 1863, for letting a prisoner escape.

The wife of John P. Baggs was Mary Brooks, whom he married in Belmont County 2 Jan 1849.

1850 Census, Pease Township, Belmont County, Ohio
#1231/1251 (Other family at dwelling #1231 was Noble Conaway & wife, Jane.)
John Baggs, 24, Plasterer, born Ohio
Mary Baggs, 24, born Ohio

1860 Census, Bellaire, Belmont County, Ohio
John Baggs, 24, Master Plasterer, $800, $100, born Ohio
Mary Baggs, 28, born Ohio
Alice, 5, born Ohio
Kate, 1, born Ohio

1870 Census, Ward 7, Wheeling, Ohio County, West Virginia
John Baggs, 48, Plasterer, born Ohio
Mary Baggs, 39, Keeps House, born Ohio
Alice Baggs, 17, At Home, born Va
Caharine Baggs, 11, At School, born Va.

1880 Census, Bridgeport, Belmont County, Ohio
John Baggs, 50, Widower, Boarder in Hotel, Plasterer, Ohio Ohio Ohio

In 1888 & 1889, John P. Baggs resided at 104 Virginia St., Wheeling, W. Va., according to the Wheeling City Directory.


Article 1

Article 2

Article 3

Articles 4 & 4-A

Article 5

Article 6

Article 8 (Not transcribed)

(Transcriptions of articles, 1-6)

(1) Daily Intelligencer, 22 July 1861: Captain Bagg's Snake Hunters In The Field -- We learn through Dr. Capehart who has just returned from the advance of Gen. Hill's command, that the Snake Hunters are doing valuable service acting as the advance guard to the army, dogging the rear of the retreating rebels and picking up all the stragglers who are unable to keep up with the main body. This company merits great favor at the hands of the new State Government of Virginia for by their services in connexion with the Ringold Cavalry, a company of mounted scouts from Washington county, Pa., who have covered themselves all over with glory in the campaign in Western Virginia by the valuable knowledge they have furnished our army of the rebels position, and the typography of the country. It has been freed from the danger of surprise by masked batteries or concealed forces. All honor is due to those brave fellows, who are sometimes twenty miles in advance of the column.

(2) Daily Intelligencer, 5 Sept 1861: The Snake Hunters - It seems that Capt Baggs and his "Snake Hunters" were in the recent fight at Cross Lanes where Col. Tyler was defeated. A correspondent of the Cincinnati Commercial makes mention of him as follows: Captain Baggs of the "Snake Hunters" was in the fight, but seeing the immense force of the enemy, rushed back to save the trains. The Sutler's department (owned by Mr. Sam'l Hatch of this city) was all saved through the exertions of Mr. Edward Halsted, connected to Mr. Hatch. When Baggs gave the alarm, Halstead started his wagons, four in number and seizing a carpet sack containing $15,000 in Government orders, from one of the cheats, rode twenty miles on the tail of a wagon, anticipating the enemy, and awaiting an opportunity to disappear into the woods upon their approach.

(3) Daily Intelligencer, 11 Sept 1861: - The Snake Hunters - We hear on all sides reports of the efficient service done by Capt. Baggs and his Snake Hunters, who have doubtless traveled over more territory in Western Virginia, and done more dangerous, arduous service than any other company connected with the army. A correspondent of the Cincinnati Times, in a recent letter to that paper says: Two of Capt. Baggs' Snake Hunters have just come in and state that twenty or thirty of the rebels were killed and wounded in our skirmish on the 25th. - These Snake Hunters are daring, fearless men. They are armed with minie rifles and sword bayonets and go where and when they please. They frequently pass the rebel pickets and sometimes even enter their camp, passing themselves off as rebels. They go sometimes on foot and when it is more convenient they are well mounted. Their horses and clothes do not cost the government anything. They are the most efficient spies we have and we obtain from them much valuable information. - Baggs is now in the neighborhood of this city, or was a day or two ago, suffering severely with a rheumatism, contracted by the exposure to which he has been so constantly subject. The men comprising his company were recruited from the river and mountain counties of this State, and from Monroe County, Ohio. They left Camp Carlile with the first Virginia Regiment on foot, but have since come in possession of horses. They never, we believe, belonged to any regiment, and we are not sure that they were ever regularly enlisted.

(4) Daily Intelligencer, 7 Oct 1861: - Return of Capt. Baggs and the Snake Hunters. - The Snake Hunters, Capt. Baggs, who have acquired considerable celebrity since the commencement at the war in Western Virginia, returned to this city about 12 o'clock on Friday night, and sent over to Camp Carlile. - They are direct from Sewell Mountain, Gen. Rosecrans' head quarters and most of the men are completely worn out by their dangerous and arduous service. They come by way of the mouth of Gauley river, Charleston and Gallipolis, and were sent home by Rosecrans to recruit and restore their physical condition. Capt. Baggs took forty men, and brings back twenty seven. Some have been killed in the woods, some captured, two deserted, and the man the favorite of the company, named Samuel Davis, accidentally fell down at Gallipolis, whilst intoxicated, and his head striking a stone, his neck was broken and he died. The body of Davis was brought to Moundsville, where he resided. Capt. Baggs says he didn't want to come back home just now, but Rosecrans ordered him, and as that officer ranks him, he had no alternative. The Captain says he does his own court martialing with a club, so that all who desire to enlist, need have no fears of imprisonment or delay on this account, as punishment for their short comings.

(4-A) Daily Intelligencer, 5 Nov 1861: - Colonel J. V. Guthrie and the Snakers - Yesterday afternoon Captain Baggs brought over his Snake Hunters from Camp Carlile and put them through some of their peculiar evolutions, in honor of Col. Guthrie, who has been seen stopping at the M'Lure House for a day or two. The Colonel made the boys a little speech, saying they had served with him in the Kanawha country, and he had always found them honest and efficient. Capt. Baggs then said that certain unfriendly persons had circulated and told that the Independent Snakers were a set of cut-throats, thieves and robbers. The Captain himself had never heard any person say so. There has not been, he observed, as many funerals as there would have been this year if he had ever heard a whimper of anything of the kind. The Captain said he would not be personally responsible for the premature decease of any one who would publicly assert that his men had ever plundered anybody except in a legitimate manner, and by instructions. Col. Guthrie, in connection with this matter, bore testimony to the truth of what Capt. Baggs said, as far as his experience with the Snake Hunters was concerned. He had never known them to show the white feather or steal.

(5) Daily Intelligencer, 2 Dec 1861: - Captain Baggs Prisoners From Wirt - Captain Baggs of the Snake Hunters reached this city yesterday morning from Wirt County, bringing four secesh Jahawkers from the vicinity of Burning Springs. They are all young men supposed to belong to the Moccasin Rangers. There were captured in the woods by the Snake hunters with the arms in their hands, and the other at his own home on yesterday a week ago. This chap had been in the habit of spending his Sundays at home and his weeks in Bushwacking and Jahawking. Captain Baggs set a watch upon him last Saturday night week and caught him.

(6) Daily Intelligencer, 15 Nov 1861 - FUNERAL of D. Z. WATKINS - Further Particulars of His Murder. - The remains of young Watkins, who was killed by Alex. Poole, at Parkersburg on last Sunday evening were brought up on the Albemarle, on Thursday morning. The funeral took place at the residence of his father, on the Island, yesterday afternoon. The various companies in Camp Carlile, under command of Capt. Spangler, attended the funeral and buried him with the honors of war.

From Lieut. G. W. Baggs, who accompanied the corpse to Wheeling, and who is a member of the same company, we learn that after the arrival of the Snake Hunters at Parkersburg, they were quartered in the railroad depot. The captain, who had occasion to leave, left the company in charge of Watkins. Poole, having already been up in town, where he had become somewhat intoxicated, determined to go again, though contrary to express orders. It was while Watkins was endeavoring to execute his orders, that Poole drew a pistol, which he had borrowed for the purpose, and deliberately shot him, the ball entering the throat and penetrating the lobes of the right lung. A large number of the company immediately gave chase to Poole, determined to execute summary vengeance, and drove him into a house, where he was taken in charge by the Captain, and immediately lodged in jail. Gen. Rosecrans was telegraphed the next day, to order a court-martial. In the meantime, great excitement existed in Parkersburg. When our informant left, the order of Gen. Rosecrans had not been received. Watkins was a universal favorite of the company, and everything was done by the members of the company, and the officers of the hospital to alleviate his sufferings. He had already served a three months' term in the First Virginia Regiment, and was highly esteemed, as a noble young man and a valiant soldier. As we before stated, he was not intoxicated at the time of sad occurence.


Excerpts from book by former Quartermaster, Charles Lieb


     John P. Baggs is shown as captain on the muster cards of Company "A" 11th West Virginia Infantry, from 29 June 1861 through his dismissal 4 Apr 1863.

Head Quarters Dept of the Ohio
Grafton, Va. June 28, 1861
     Major General McClellan directs that you muster into the service of the United States, Captain J. P. Baggs' Company of Virginia Volunteers. - Under the peculiar circumstances of the case you are authorized to receive this company even if it falls short of the minimum organization, at the time its present station for muster. - It is purposed [sic] to fill it up by subsequent enlistments.
I am Sir Very respy
Yr Obdt Servt
(signed) T. Williams
Asst Adjt Genl

To Major James Oakes
Wheeling, Va.

Charleston Sept 12, 1861
     Dear General
As my Company is verry much worn down and some sick would you please let me recruit my Company to one hundred men and I can do a gredeal better.
     Please send me a dispach to Chrleston.
Yours truly
Capt JP Baggs.

Quartermasters Office
Cincinnati Dec 27 1861

     I deem it proper to renew a recommendation made some time since to the Department Commander, for the removal of Capt. Baggs from the station now occupied by him. I do not consider him of sufficient capacity to fill it - and from the recent reports which have come to me, of the enormous amount of forage, which he has supposed to accumulate in his hands - I fear that the public animals on the Kanawha River, run a great risk of starvation.
     A man is wanted for that place, with more energy and activity-
     I enclose a telegram I have sent him today - he has been repeatedly directed to --- time in forwarding the Forage shipped to his addup? for that River -
Your obdsvt
R E Clary

Capt J G Chandler
Wheeling, Va

Assistant Quartermaster's Office
Parkersburg, Va. Dec. 26th 1861
          I have the honor to report and to complain, that on the evening of the 24th inst, a person styling himself, "Capt Baggs" arrived at this place in charge of (as he alleged) of secession horses and prisoner of war, and behaved in a most unseemly, insolent and disrespectful manner, not only to myelf but to the Agent of the Baltimore & Ohio Rail Road, publicly, before a number of persons in the bar room of a hotel ordering a negro servant to to my rooms at 10 o'clock in the evening, and saying "By God, if Capt. Huntington don't report himself, to me, in twenty minutes, I will report him to Head Quarters."
Respectfully submitted
Your obd't Servant
J. M. Huntington
Capt AQM

Capt. Geo. L. Hartsuff
Assistant Adjutant General USA
Wheeling, Va.

Cincinnati Ohio Clary, RE
Major & QM
It is recommended that the depot at Beverly be turned over to some proper Lieut. of a regt stationed there and that Capt Moulton be ordered to Gallipolis to relieve Capt Baggs who will after settling up his business be ordered to report to these Headquarters for further orders and assignment to duty.
JG Chandler
Adj & AQM

Wheeling Feby 8, 1861

By Telegraph from Parkersburg 8th 1862
     To Gen. W. S. Rosecrans
          One of my children has met with an accident. With your permission I would like to come home.
J P Baggs

At a General Court-Martial which convened at Charleston, (W) Virginia, pursuant to Special Orders No. 46, of February 26, 1862, from those Head-quarters, and of which Colonel Hugh Ewing, 30th Ohio Volunteer Infantry is President, were arraigned and tried:

[Number 12 is John P. Baggs. This is the short version from the General Order Book, Mountain Department. Through an error at the National Archives, this court martial information, as well as the long version, a total of 7 pages, cost $200. -- LCF.]

12th - Captain J. P. Baggs, 11th Virginia Volunteer Infantry, on the following charge and specification:

CHARGE - "Violation of the 83rd Article of War."
SPECIFICATION - "In this, that the said Captain J. P. Baggs did, on Tuesday, the 25th day of February, 1862, at Camp Pierpoint, Wirt County, Virginia, shamefully abuse private Edward loy, of Company A, 11th Regiment Virginia Volunteers, while he, the said private Edward Loy was under arrest and awaiting trial for the violation of the 46th Article of War."
     To which charge and specification the prisoner pleaed, "Not Guilty."
     FINDING OF THE COURT: After mature deliberation on the evidence adduced, the Court found the prisoner as follows:
Of the Specification, "Not Guilty."
Of the CHARGE, "Not Guilty."
And the Court did, "Therefore acquit him, Capt. J. P. Baggs, Co. A., 11th Reg. Va. Vol. Infantry."
Sentence Approved.

Note: Charges were brought by J. Castelli Rathbone, according to a document in the service record. Although not mentioned in the actual court-martial record, Rathbone related details from witnesses to the alleged abuse. For example, Sergeant Jason Bell said Baggs told him he would give him a gold watch worth $50 if he would take Loy under the bank and shoot him. Another man said Baggs shoved him. - In any case, he was acquitted.

The following is a record of the proceedings at a meeting held at Burning Springs, Wirt Co. Va. to take into consideration the conduct of Capt. John P. Baggs, late Commandant of that Post.

Burning Springs Wirt Co Va.
March 8th 1862
     At a public meeting of the citizens of Burning Springs, at Dr. J. C. Wilson's storeroom, on motion of Col. John H. Weare of Kentucky, Dr. J. C. Wilson of Ky. was called to the chair and R. B. Upton of Va. appointed Secretary.
     Dr. J. T. Fleming of Ky. in a few brief and pertinent remarks, explained that the object of the meeting to be to take into consideration the conduct of Capt. J. P. Baggs, late commandant of this post but recently removed, under unfavorable circumstances from among us.
     Col. J. H. Weare also made a few remarks commendatory of the character of Capt. Baggs and on his motion, a committee of eight was appointed by the chair to draft Resolutions to express the feeling and sense of the meeting in his case: whereupon the chair appointed the following gentlemen said committee; - viz: - Chas. H. Shattuck of pa, J. T. Fleming of Ky., F. A. Murrey Pa, Maj. D. A. White, Ky., Chas, Gambrill Md., Saml. Herndon Ky., J. H. Weare Ky., and Chas. D'Herville N.Y.
     Whereupon said Committee retired for a short time and on their return made the following report:
     Whereas, reports prejudiced to the character of Capt. J. P. Baggs, late commandant of this post, as a gentleman and an officer have been in circulation, and which we hear are the grounds of his arrest and removal from among us, be it therefore
     Resolved 1st That we the citizens and property holders of Burning Springs Wirt County, Virginia, from an intimate association of some months bear cheerful testimony of his Courtesy and politeness as a social gentleman and his vigilence and efficiency as an officer.
     Resolved 2d That the security and protection we have felt for our persons and property since Capt. Baggs came among us, warrant us in asking the interposition of the General in Chief of this department, and if not incompatible with the public service, to return him to this post.
     Resolved 3d: - That a copy of the foregoing preamble and resolutions be signed by the President and Secretary and transmitted to General Rosencrans and to the Cincinnati commercial and Wheeling press for publication.

[Signed by all the men named above and unanimously adopted.]

Marietta Ohio April 15th 1862
     In compliance with your telegraphic instructions, I have this day examined Capt. John P. Baggs of the 11th Regt. Va. Vol. Inf. and after careful and thorough examination as to his qualifications & I find that he is thirty-nine years old, was mustered into the service as Captain of a Co. of scouts June 29th 1861 by order of Major Gen. McClelland with whom he operated during the entire campaign in Western Virginia.
     After Genl. Rosencrans assumed command, Capt Baggs reported to him for duty and was engaged in scouting & secret service.
     Recently he has been assigned to a company in the 11th Va. Inf and although I find him intelligent & well qualified, to perform the duties devolving upon him as Captain in a company still I am of the opinion that the Government would receive more benefit from his services as Captain of a company of Guides and spies, owing to his unswerving Loyalty, his thorough knowledge of the County, habits of thr people, and last but not least, his well tried courage and practical good sense.
I am Sir Very Respectfully
Your Obt Servt
W. Craig?
Capt & AQM USA

Brig. Genl B. F. Kelly

General Hospital
Gallipolis, Ohio
Feby 15th 1863
     Captain John Baggs of the 11th Reg. Va. Inft having applied for a certificate on which to ground an application for leave of absence.
     I do hereby certify that I have carefully examined this officer and find that he has Acute Rheumatism, from which he has suffered for several months, also that he has fracture of the radius of left arm, caused by the falling of his horse some five weeks since, and recently refractured by a fall upon the frozen ground - And that in consequence thereof, he is, in my opinion unfit for duty. I further declare my belief that he will not be able to resume his duties in a less period of twenty (20) days, and the strongest indications are that he will never be fit for active duty in the field - I would therefore recommend that leave be granted said officer in order to prevent permanent disability -
O. E. Davis,
Surg in charge

Granted by Special order No. 40

American Telegraph Company.
Baltimore and Cincinnati Division. Rec'd March 1st 1863
     Maj & AAG
Upon arrest of Capt Baggs please direct him to be sent under guard to you. I send charges & evidence today
Jos Darr, Jr.
Maj. & PMG

American Telegraph Company.
Baltimore and Cincinnati Division. Rec'd March 1st 1863
Please order the arrest of Capt Baggs at Parkersburg or Pt Pleasant on Liberty allowing a deserter to escape
Jos Darr, Jr.
Maj. & PMG

Charges & Specifications Agaisnt Captain Baggs.

Wheeling, Va March 1st 1863
     This day personally appeared before me Garret/Garnet Jackson of Capt Hamilton's Provost Guards, and made oath to the following statement:
          On the 28th of Feby I was sent as guard to a Deserter, the deserter being handcuffed. About half an hour after being on the boat, a man came to me and said, "I am Captain Baggs, this man (the Deserter) has stood picket for me that Major Darr, or no other man in Wheeling could stand," and said that "none but a set of mules and jackasses are in Wheeling as officers, and these hand cuffs on the prisoner, by the eternal God, shall and must come off." He also said that the prisoner was in charge. Capt Baggs told me to report myself and state that the prisoner escaped through his neglect. He demanded the key of me, and on my giving it to him he took the hand cuffs off. He told me to report that it was his fault that the prisoner escaped, for he said he "believed I would have guarded the prisoner closer if he had not interfered." The prisoner escaped at Benwood.
     I was detailed as guard to take the said prisoner to Point Pleasant. The Deserters name was Wash Venom, Co "C" 34th O. V. I.
(Signed) Garnet (hisXmark) Jackson
Witness - David Holmes

Sworn to and subscribed before me this 1st day of March 1863.
(Signed) Joseph Darr, Jr.
Maj & PM Gen'l
State of Va.

American Telegraph Company.
Baltimore and Cincinnati Division. To G M BASCOM Maj. AAG
Please inform me where Capt Boggs is arrested - have reported him to secretary of war have captured the deserter
Jos Darr, Jr.
Maj. & PM

Head Quarters District Kanawha.
Charleston, Va., March 10, 1863.
     I have the honor to forward resignation of Capt. J. P. Baggs Co "A" 11" Reg Va.Vol. Infy accompanied by Surgeon's Certificate. - also charge and Specifications preferred against said Capt Baggs for the consideration of the General Commanding Dist W. Va.
Very respectfully
E. P. Scammon
Brig Gen Comd'g
Dist Kan.

Major G. M. Bascom

     The Service Record said Captain J. P. Baggs was "Dismissed the service with forfeiture of all pay, by order Sec War Apl 4/63."

     Captain Baggs was an activist in the temperance movement. This article is one of many that names him as participant. His brother, George, was also an advocate of temperance.


The Wheeling Register, 12 Sep 1889

At 9:50 o'clock last night, Captain John T. [P.] Baggs died at his residence, on Zane street, Island, in the sixty-fourth year of his age. He has been suffering for some time past with inflammation of the bowels, and the chances of his recovery were very slim indeed, so that his death was not unexpected.

Capt. Baggs and his company, the "Snake Hunters," had a national reputation during the war, and they did some hard fighting. It was an independent organization, and when the Captain desired to call them to arms he fired a revolver five times in rapid succession.

Capt. Baggs' wife preceded him some years ago, and his two daughters are all who survive him. The funeral will take place from his late residence on Zane street, Island, Friday afternoon at 2 o'clock.

Captain Baggs' brother, George W. Baggs, died a short time later.


The Wheeling Register, 5 Feb 1890

G. W. Baggs Expires At St. Paul, Early Yesterday Morning.

At noon yesterday a brief telegram reached the city from St. Paul, announcing that G. W. Baggs had died very suddenly in that city. There were no details, and no information could be given the many anxious enquirers who wanted news concerning the sad event.

Later it was learned that while Mr. Baggs was in St. Paul, where he went about ten days ago as a delegate to the National Organization of the Builders' League, representing the Wheeling organization, he was attacked by the "grippe," and advised his family and friends here of his illness. A day or two ago he telegraphed that he was better, but it is supposed that he had a relapse, and that his heart, which organ had previously given him trouble, became affected, and that this was the immediate cause of his death. The body will be sent home at once.

G. W. Baggs was perhaps the best known resident of this city, he having taken an active part in many semi-public matters during the past twenty or twenty-five years. He was born near Cadiz, O., about 1837, and the family removed to the vicinity of the city some time previous to the breaking out of the war. For a time they lived at Bridgeport, but later removed to the city. When the war came Mr. Baggs enlisted in the Eleventh Infantry, but later the First Cavalry. He served through the war, and has since been very prominent in G. A. R. matters. As a temperance lecturer he made many forcible speeches throughout the city.

He was a plasterer by trade, and during late years has had many large contracts, one on hand at the time of his death being the Seventh ward school house.