FIRST REGIMENT VIRGINIA INFANTRY.
THE feelings of the people may be judged from the foregoing; the events of local importance taken in order may be summed up thus. Early in March a noted local jurist issued a poster with the catch-line "Secession is Revolution," a respectability few in the community had attached to it. On the 11th of this month an artillery company was formed in Wheeling, the guns for which had been received from Richmond. The officers of the company as well as many of the men afterwards joined the Southern army. At this time Company C of the Virginia State Militia, a well-uniformed and fairly well-drilled body of the same city, figured prominently, drilling very industriously, and often parading the streets. A large number of the young men composing it also joined the Southern forces under the name of the "Shriver Grays," and was Company G of the Twenty-seventh Virginia Regiment, joining the regiment at Harper's Ferry in 1861. This regiment was one of the noted "Stonewall Brigade," and composed a part of that command during the entire war. At this time the following named States had gone through the form of seceding from the Union, - viz., South Carolina taking the initiative, adopting the ordinance of secession December 20, 1860, followed by Mississippi, January 9, 1861, and by Florida on the 10th, Alabama the 11th, Georgia the 19th, and Louisiana on the 26th. Texas adopted the ordinance February 1 for submission to the people, - a mere form. On the 23d, General Twiggs, commanding in Texas, surrendered the United States forces there to the Confederates, delivering over at the same time the government property, valued at more than a million dollars. On the 4th of March the people of Texas ratified by their votes the action of the Legislature, thus carrying the State out of the Union. In a short time thereafter the rebellious action of these States was followed by Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, and, as noted in another place, Virginia joined her fortunes to the Confederation.
The Union men of the neighboring States at this time were very active in raising men. The Panhandle counties were displaying their loyalty to the flag by holding meetings to give expression to their patriotic feelings. The great heart of the people was stirred up, - they were leading everywhere. The first meeting for the formation of a Union guard was held April 15 in Wheeling, and thirty names were enrolled. And on this day the President, by proclamation, called for seventy-five thousand volunteers, three regiments being Virginia's quota, - rendezvous being Wheeling and Staunton.
On the 17th the "ordinance of secession" was passed by the Virginia convention at Richmond to be submitted to the people of the State for ratification. On the day following there was a meeting held in the Fourth Ward, Wheeling, to form the Rough and Ready Guards; about forty names were enrolled, the first one being James W. Bodley. The Union men of Brooke, Hancock, and Marshall Counties also commenced organizing. On the 19th an attack was made on the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment in the streets of Baltimore. On the day following there was a rally of the Union men at the custom-house in Wheeling, where the United States flag was run up. Troops at this time from Ohio and Indiana were moving to Washington over the Pennsylvania Central Railroad. On the 23d there were five companies organized in Wheeling, also a company of homeguards, composed of men forty-five years old and upwards, who by reason of their age were exempted from service in the army. Many young men at this time were leaving Wheeling, and doubtless other towns in the State, for the purpose of enlisting in Ohio and Pennsylvania regiments. The lower part of Wheeling was alive with the Union sentiment, from the Fourth Ward down, - particularly Ritchietown, - the Germans being very active in the cause, and this activity was common in all the Panhandle counties. On the 26th the Rough and Ready Guards, through Captain A. H. Britt, tendered their services to the United States government. The Iron Guards, Captain E. W. Stephens, were the next to tender their services. This company was recruited in what is now the Sixth Ward of Wheeling, and was composed chiefly of mill men, a majority of them being workers in the La Belle Mill, - a part of Wheeling which set an example of loyalty to the older parts of the town. On the 29th of this month there was published a call for a State convention, to be held in Wheeling May 13. On May 2 a company was organized in the First Ward, Wheeling. And the merchants of the city held a meeting at the county court-house and resolved to pay no taxes to the usurpers of the Virginia government. On the 9th Major Oakes, United States army, arrived in Wheeling and inspected several companies. This officer was detailed for the service as inspector and mustering officer at Wheeling.
The political condition, which at that time might more properly be termed military condition, of the country, as may be inferred from the foregoing, was such that every State was engaged in raising, arming, and equipping men and forwarding them to the threatened points. Congress was engaged in providing the means to carry on the war, and nothing else was thought of throughout the land but war. The local events here recorded will recall to all our comrades the state of things in the Panhandle. All was excitement, - the people everywhere fed on it, - at times, on going to bed, feeling elated over the news of the day. Alas! to tile patriot this too seldom occurred those days. And, again, when the news was of disaster and destruction, retired with depressing reflections, and in many instances with the most gloomy forebodings for the future. Daily everybody was on the tiptoe of expectation, events followed so quickly that something more startling than the last was expected to follow; in short, excitement produced excitement and went on increasing. In this condition of the community the First Regiment men were raised.