FIRST REGIMENT VIRGINIA INFANTRY.
AFTER this action part of the First was sent to Rowlesberg, part remained at Grafton, and the remainder at Phillipi. Major I. H. Duval joined the regiment on the 6th. It is deemed important to enter thus particularly into details respecting this affair, as it was practically the opening of the war in Virginia, the fight at Big Bethel taking place a week afterwards. And to the citizens of the Panhandle counties, where the men of the First were recruited, as well as to the participants in this opening action, it was looked upon as an event of the first importance. But now, after the lapse of years, when fights and battles are measured by the amount of blood spilled, it is almost lost sight of, being in the shadow of much more important as well as sanguinary contests, though in many instances less decisive.
On the 14th of June Lieutenant-Colonel Hubbard was appointed to the regiment, joining on the 15th. The enemy at this time had fallen back on Huttonsville. During July four or five Companies of the regiment advanced to Laurel Hill, leaving Company G as a guard at Philippi. At this time there was considerable skirmishing around Laurel Hill, many of the enemy being killed, chiefly belonging to Virginia and Georgia commands; the battalion occupied Beverly. Such were the duties required of the regiment in July and August that it was divided into separate commands and scattered throughout the country, at no time in the short campaign acting as a regiment. This service was very unsatisfactory to the men, but such was the character of the warfare adopted by the enemy that it became necessary to meet him in small detachments. Part of the regiment guarded the bridges and other important points from Fairmont to Cheat River, - a very arduous duty at this time, there being many active sympathizers of the rebellion along the line of the railroad, who were exceedingly annoying to the guards. Three of the companies, A, D, and F, were taken as far east as Oakland, in an effort to intercept the routed forces of the enemy from the Cheat Mountains; but, in the opinion of the commander, General Hill, too late to be of any service. This general had under his command a full regiment of Ohio troops besides the three companies mentioned, and it was believed at the time, if properly placed and handled, might have struck the enemy a very severe blow, demoralized as the force was after their defeats as will be mentioned. General Hill, however, was too cautious, and the opportunity passed. General McClellan arrived on the ground shortly afterwards, and it was said remarked to General Hill, "General Hill, you have lost a fine opportunity to do your country good service and to add a brilliant action to your record as a soldier." Early in July a large portion of the regiment received uniforms and tents long promised, but were without knapsacks, which are almost indispensible articles to soldiers. In June and July the enemy was busy intrenching at Laurel Hill. On the 11th of July was the battle of Rich Mountain, in which the enemy was defeated, and on the 14th was the battle at Carrick's Ford, General Garnett being killed, and ending in the complete rout of the enemy. It was after this action that General Hill failed to attack the retreating forces before mentioned. These operations practically cleared Western Virginia of all large organized bodies of the enemy. General Wise afterwards made an attempt to hold a small part of it, but it resulted in his discomfiture, and a repetition of the attempt ended in his being compelled to withdraw. On the 21st was the battle of Bull Run, which raised the spirits of the Southern people to a very high degree, all and for a short time depressed the spirits of the North correspondingly; but in the end resulted in showing the government and people that they had a very serious business on hand, and causing them to rise to the occasion.
At the end of July the First was in possession of Beverly and Sutton. Nothing further of importance occurred except scouting for guerillas - or, in mountain parlance, "bushwhackers" - and capturing rebel sympathizers, until about the 19th of August, when orders were issued for the regiment's return to Wheeling, the time of the enlistment of the men having expired. The companies at Beverly had left there for Grafton on he 14th. The regiment arrived in Wheeling on the 2lst, and was given a cordial reception by the citizens, - it was, in truth, the grandest reception that had ever been extended to any body of men by the people of that city. On the 27th and 28th the men were mustered out of service and paid off. In taking leave of the three months' organization it is proper to say that the regiment was a foundling, being denied a parentage, meeting with insult and contempt from the State government at Richmond, and quietly ignored by a large and influential class in Wheeling and the counties of the Panhandle, the community, as was supposed, being divided in sentiment during the period of service, as also at the time of the enlistment of the men, as noted before. The service performed by the three months' men, while not of the character of that of the three years' volunteers, was extremely valuable, as opening for future operations the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which remained open after this during the entire war, excepting at times of inroads by strong forces of the enemy, when it was damaged more or less, and for the time being crippled. Pushing the lines of the enemy far into the interior of the State, and after the victory at Carrick's Ford driving their forces to the eastern ranges of the Alleghanies, freeing a large portion of the western part of the State, never to be recovered by them. This transfer of the disputed line so far east relieved the Ohio Valley entirely and all that portion of the State drained by that river's tributaries of all serious danger from their light troops and partisan bands, so far as the possession of the country was concerned, thus securing the free and uninterrupted navigation of the Upper Ohio, - a valuable aid in the movement of troops and supplies. These results it is believed fully met the expectations of the originators of the movement, and most assuredly had a salutary and lasting influence on the conduct of the war in Virginia. It may not be out of place here to mention as evidence of the value placed on this section of the State, that many regiments of the army of the rebellion were composed of Western Virginians, and the most brilliant and dashing leader, the Ney of the Southern army, was a native of this part of the State; and, further, to show their expectations of again occupying it, they about this time sold several of the well-known mills and factories in Wheeling to parties in Richmond knowing their value. It may be added, however, that they never delivered the goods. The highest meed of praise is due these men, who had shown by their conduct on all occasions that they were of the right material of which to make good soldiers. Many of them re-enlisted for the three years' service.