March to Clarksburg - Marches and Operations in West Virginia in the Fall of '62 - Incidents.
(18) The Regiment did not remain long in Camp Willey. On the day after its completed organization it was ordered to Clarksburg, W. Va., which place was then
threatened by a force under the Rebel General, Jenkins, who was then on a raid
through West Virginia. Clarksburg is an old town, the county seat of Harrison
County, situated on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and distant by rail 122
miles from Wheeling. Clarksburg will be remembered by the great abundance, in
its vicinity, of blackberries during the early fall of that year. They were so
plentiful that there seemed to be enough for the Twelfth and the citizens of
the town, too.
(19) The regiment arrived by rail at Clarksburg September 2nd, and on that day a detachment of four companies under command of Lieut. Col. R. S. Northcott was ordered to Beverly, the county seat of Randolph County, lying in a southeast direction, and distant from Clarksburg 60 miles. The detachment arrived at Beverly September 5th. This place is a small town situated on the Tygarts Valley branch of the Monongahela River, at the western base of Cheat Mountain.
(20) The remaining six companies under command of Col. John B. Klunk were ordered September 4th to Buckhannon, W. Va., county seat of Upshur County, distant 28 miles. Buckhannon is pleasantly situated in apparently a good country.
(21) The detachment under command of Col. Northcott marched from Beverly September 13th for Webster, Taylor County, distant 42 miles, arriving at the latter place the 15th. On this march the detachment was followed by slaves, some half dozen, who were striking for freedom, saying that they had run away because their master had threatened to sell them. They seemed to attach themselves to Capt. Brown's Company (I), and appeared inclined to remain with it during the stay at Webster. One or two of these slaves were nearly white, and some of the boys inclining to talk to and hang around them, Capt. Brown concluded to get rid of them; so in a few days two of the boys going to Grafton, a few miles distant, he sent them with the boys.
(22) When the boys got to Grafton, a train of Ohio soldiers was about to start for Wheeling. One of the boys informed the colonel of the presence of the slaves and their story, and asked him if he would take them aboard of the train. He refused peremptorily. It looked blue for getting them off in that way. However, the Twelfth boys in passing to rear of the train - a long freight - caught sight of, as it appeared, some of the non-commissioned staff in the rear car. They were told what was wanted. One of them having an eye to the main chance, wanted to know how much money would be given to take the "darks" on board. In a few moments some money was paid, the Twelfth boys contributing in part, and quickly and slyly the fugitives were hustled aboard; and a little later the train was off. They were never heard of afterwards. It is to be hoped, however, that the sweets of freedom were not a disappointment to them.
(23) The detachment left Webster on the 22nd and marched to Clarksburg, distant 18 miles, arriving there the same day. It remained at this place until October 1st, when it marched to Buckhannon, rejoining the other companies there. There was considerable rejoicing when the boys all got together again. In fact, the detachment met on its arrival with quite an ovation, the band coming out to greet it with stirring martial airs.
(24) The regiment remained at Buckhannon, doing guard and picket duty, and drilling until the 19th. It was at this place that a drill-master appeared, and he put the regiment through quite a course of drilling, having it out every day practicing, while he staid. Among the other exercises, he practiced the regiment considerably on forming a correct equipment. He would place the Sergeants, two from each company, in a line, say ten steps in advance of the regiment; the Colonel or the Major would then march the men forward to the line of the Sergeants; and when a particularly good alignment was made in this way, the drill-master was in the habit of remarking, to the amusement of the boys, "I say, Colonel," or "I say, Major, that is a capital line."
(25) It is remembered that more than half of the companies, while having company drill at this time and place, would, on moving by different flanks on the march, in marching to the rear, have the order of the men reversed, so that No. 1 was on the place of No. 2, and vice versa. But it was never observed that this circumstance in any way interfered with the efficiency with which the boys afterward moved upon the enemy, or in case of an emergency, with the celerity with which they could "limber to the rear," as one boy expressed it. A little story, as "Father Abraham" would have said, relating to a later period of the war, will perhaps be not impertinent in this place.
(26) We were in the Valley under Gen. Sheridan. The Twelfth and Fourth West Virginia Infantry, under command of Lieut. Col. Northcott, had been to Martinsburg, and was returning to the camp at Cedar Creek, on a four-days' round trip. The Battle of Cedar Creek was fought while we were on the return. It is a matter of history that the Army of West Virginia, or the Eighth Corps, was surprised in that battle. It was attacked before daylight, its works carried, and it put to rout almost before it knew it. The men not captured "fled to the rear, as the only thing they could do." In order to the better appreciation of the story, it may be well to say that Gen. Sheridan had employed this corps, doubtless on account of its celerity of movement, to flank the enemy at both the Battle of Opequon and the Battle of Fisher's. Hill. The Twelfth and Fourth reached the camp at Cedar Creek with a supply train on the forenoon after the battle. It should have been said that these two regiments belonged to the Eighth Corps. just as they were getting into camp, while passing some of the Sixth Corps, one of the latter yelled out, seemingly in allusion to the formers flanking movements, and its rout at Cedar Creek, "There goes some of that d----d Eighth Corps. They are always running one way or the other!"
(27) On the 19th six companies under command of Col. Klunk marched to Beverly, and November 1st they were rejoined there by the other four companies. At this period of our service we had Sibley tents, which were circular in form, having a center pole, and a hole at the top of the center of the tent. They were capable of holding about sixteen men. We had tin-plates, tin- cups, knives and forks, one of each for each soldier, and a camp-kettle for, say each mess of ten or fifteen men. We had also a mess-box, in which to pack the plates, etc., for transportation. When in camp during pleasant weather the boys would eat in the open air on tables erected for that purpose. In fact, there was considerable style put on in the outset of the regiment's service. It took time to pack mess-boxes, strike tents and get ready to march. It took six wagons to carry the camp equipage. A large army having a proportionate number of wagons would have had enough to seriously embarass it, and it might be, to whip it, in an engagement. Later in the war, the last year or more, the camp equipage for the men was reduced to a piece of shelter-tent and a tin-cup. This was a deprivation, but it had its advantages, for the men did not have to wait on the wagons, as they had to do sometimes when the camp equipage was hauled; but they could pitch their tents and make their coffee whenever and wherever they stopped, for they carried their tents and tin-cups in which to make their coffee.
(28)At the time of this second march to Beverly, the regiment was pretty nearly full, not having been reduced by sickness or otherwise, there being not far from 800 men present for duty, and it made rather a formidable showing on the route. The imperssion that it made at that time upon a private soldier, as to its formidableness, may be here spoken of. "I used to think," said he later in the war, when he had had more experience, "that when I would take a survey of our regiment on the march, from some point on the route, we were not likely to meet any enemy that could withstand us." This shows that he, like thousands of others, who were under a mistake in a less degree as to the magnitude of the Rebellion, had a ridiculously inadequate idea of the numerical strength of the enemy, or of the vastness of the force necessary to overcome it, there being, if not just then, not long afterward, the equal of more than a thousand such regiments required to achieve that purpose.
(29) On our way to Beverly we passed over the battlefield of Rich Mountain, the first view we had of the sad havoc of war. Quite a number of Union and Rebel dead were buried here at the side of the road. It was said that when our forces drove the enemy from this position they found a trench dug at the side of the road over which this inscription was placed: "TO HOLD DEAD YANKEES." But the trench was utilized by filling it with dead Johnnys, about sixty of whom were buried here. A few of our men belonging to Ohio and Indiana regiments were buried in the corner of a garden nearby. The surrounding trees gave evidence of the struggle at this place.
(30) The regiment as a whole remained at Beverly only a few days. The stay at this place of the six companies first there was over two weeks. The Eighty-seventh Pennsylvania-Infantry and the Ninth West Virginia Infantry were there with us at the same time. The Eighty-seventh and the Twelfth were camped near together, a short distance north of the town on the bank of the Tygart's Valley River. Col. Hay of the Eighty-seventh was a very pleasant man, and a good tactician; and while we were here used to drill the Twelfth; and a friendship sprang up between his boys and ours that was strengthened and never lost by after association in the same brigade or division.
(31) While we were at this town an unfortunate occurrence took place. A detail of the Ninth West Virginia was on guard in the town with orders to not allow any soldiers enter it without a pass. Some of the Eighty-seventh boys undertook to force past the guards, when one of the former was shot, it is not remembered whether fatally or not. When the news of the shooting came to camp there was a great commotion, like that of a disturbed hive of bees, in the camp of the Eighty-seventh. The boys went rushing to their tents, many of them from the river where they were washing clothes, to get their guns to avenge the shooting of their comrade. The aspect of things looked quite threatening for awhile. Finally, however, the officers of the regiment managed to quiet the men down, and further trouble was prevented.
(32) Sergeant Thomas J. Orr of Company D thus relates a couple of incidents of our stay at Beverly:
(33) Provisions being a little short, our larders were sometimes replenished from surrounding flocks and herds. An effort in this direction came near being attended with serious consequences. Jake McCormick of Company K concluded that bull-beef was a great deal better than no beef; so he and a chosen comrade or two walked deliberately down to the river, where a herd of cattle was quietly grazing, and selecting the patriarch of the herd, proceeded to extreme measures by shooting him to death, after which they dispossessed him of his hide, quartered and divided him among their hungry chums. Shortly an order was issued for Jake's arrest, but as the whole regiment was particeps criminis, the authorities concluded that it was too big a contract, and Jake escaped punishment, and went his way rejoicing.
(34) On another occasion a fine flock of sheep was reported a mile or two down the river. A squad from Company D concluded to sample the mutton of that part of the country. Selecting a fine moonlight night, and led on by Tegard and King, who located the flock, they soon arrived at the objective point. But here a difficulty arose that they had not anticipated. How would they get the sheep captured? For they were wild as deer. After thinking the matter over and discarding many proposed plans, King, who stuttered, said: "B-b-b-boys, I have it. Tegard and I will go down to the lower end of the field, make a gap in the fence, and the rest of you drive the sheep through. Tegard and I will lie down just inside the gap and catch our sheep as they go through." This being a feasible plan, the boys proceeded to carry it into execution. Tegard and King laid down the fence and laid themselves down just inside, to await coming events, or rather the coming of the sheep. They had not long to wait; the sheep, frightened by the other boys, made a drive for the gap in the fence, the largest and strongest, of course in the van. Now here was where the fun commenced. King was greedy and concluded that one would not be quite enough for him; so he grabbed two of the first that came through by the legs. Being large and strong, they dragged him a short distance from the fence, where the rest of the flock would light on him as they jumped through the gap. King held on to the mutton, but he was a sorry looking King when he got straightened up. And an inventory being taken of him, it stood something like this: