FIRST REGIMENT VIRGINIA INFANTRY.
IMMEDIATELY after the term of service of the three months' men, recruiting for the three years' regiment began in Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall, and Wetzel Counties, and among the friends of the Union cause in Martin's Ferry, which was at that time little more than a village, but notwithstanding furnished two full companies for the war and recruits for a number of other companies, artillery and cavalry service, until there was hardly a young man left in the corporation. On the 30th of August Dr. Joseph Thoburn, formerly surgeon of the First Virginia three months' men, received the appointment of colonel of the First, then to be organized under his direction and supervision. Many young men continued to leave Wheeling to join the rebel forces, each one supplied with a uniform furnished by secession sympathizers of that city. As showing the condition of affairs, political and otherwise, in the State during the time required for the organization of the regiment, it is necessary to recall some of the more important events, and even events that were looked upon as trivial incidents at the time, being more or less connected with the formation of that body.
The enemy, under Generals Wise and Floyd in the southern part of the State and General Lee in the eastern mountain district, made several desperate efforts to get a foothold, but were met by General Reynolds in the Kanawha country and beaten at Carnifax Ferry, and by General Rosecrans in the Laurel Hill and Cheat Mountain district with Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and Virginia troops, the result being the enemy foiled in all his attempts. General Lee gained no laurels in this contest; this kind of warfare was not suited to his abilities, or else he reserved his powers for larger fields. Wise was an unimportant military discovery, - his strength was among other scenes. Floyd appears to have been born under all unlucky star, Mars did not twinkle at his birth; as a soldier he was most unfortunate, his military career, so far as has been made public, was an uninterrupted series of failures from this West Virginia campaign to Fort Donelson, where it ended, so far as the writer has ever heard. His success lay in another quarter. Raids were often made on the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, but no permanent damage followed so far as the interruption of travel over it was concerned. This road during the contest became of the greatest value to the government, indeed was indispensable, and had it been destroyed the probability is the el1emy's lines would have extended as far north as the Upper Potomac River and its north branch during the greater part of the contest. Many or the so-called secessionists banded together in counties of the interior and committed all kinds of depredations and outrages, doing all the damage possible to the Unionists until routed out and dispersed by the Union troops. Some of these men were captured and taken to Wheeling, an old theatre being used to confine them in; the building stood on the corner of Market and Sixteenth Streets, since burned down. In this place they were well fed and cared for.
The authorities in treating these fellows so leniently made a great mistake. Well-known bushwhackers who had committed murders - taken in some instances red- handed, the proof of which might have been produced at the time - were treated even kindly. A parallel to this we think cannot be found. Many valuable lives might have been saved if a few of these men had been treated as their crimes merited. And this treatment no doubt would have gone further towards suppressing this barbarous warfare in the State than the presence of an army. On September 2 an alarm called out Companies A, B, E, and K of the three months' regiment, under their former officers, and two companies of the Sixth Virginia Infantry, which was organizing at the time at Camp Carlisle for the three years' service. These companies left Wheeling on the date mentioned for Fairmont, in charge of General Wheat, of the Virginia State Militia, and Lieutenant-Colonel Hubbard, to resist the attempt on the part of the enemy to destroy the fine railroad bridge at that point. At the same time about a thousand men assembled at the custom-house in Wheeling asking for arms to defend the city, it being reported that the enemy was advancing in strong force to take possession of the town. Aid was proffered by the Union people of Martin's Ferry and Bridgeport in men and material. The enemy at Fairmont, how- ever, after the display of the force he would have to meet, scattered; probably, being little better than a mob, of course would make no stand. During this month great activity was displayed in enrolling men. The First, Second, and Sixth Infantry, the First Cavalry, and two or three companies of artillery were being organized at Camp Carlisle and in various states of forwardness, being armed and equipped for the service, and officers appointed to command them, no further hesitation being shown by the officials having them in charge in forwarding arms and equipments to the camp. Captains Melvin and White were organizing two companies in Brooke County, Captain Milhouse one at Martin's Ferry, and Captain Donnelly one at Cameron. During the month a quartermaster's depot was established at Wheeling to fill requisitions for clothing, etc., for the en1isted men. Many prisoners were received this month, captured by the Union forces in the State, numbers of them being wounded. About seven hundred men were at this time enrolled in the different companies for the First Regiment and being provided for at Camp Carlisle. On the 26th Captain Weddle's Company A was filled. A large meeting of the citizens of Wheeling was held at the Atheneum, at which a guarantee was given that the families of absent soldiers would be provided for. On the 9th of October a company enlisted in Hancock County took up quarters at the camp, a1so part of a company from Wetzel County, both of which were to join the First Regiment. On this day the national loan was opened in Wheeling for subscribers, and such was the confidence felt in the stability of the government that the loan was subscribed to very rapidly. The Atheneum at Wheeling was formally opened on the 10th for the reception of prisoners, and on this day Captain Morgan's company (E) was mustered in. About the same time Captain Milhouse's company (C) was mustered in. On the 13th four companies of the regiment, A, B, D, and E, took passage on a steamboat for Parkersburg, destination being Wirt County, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Richmond, Colonel Thoburn being absent from Wheeling. At this time the three large wagon-making firms of Wheeling, Busbey, Little & Co., Joshua Bodley, and Moffatt & McNabb, were engaged on government contracts making wagons and ambulances for the army.*
November 2 the four companies that were sent to Wirt County in October were ordered to Romney, and on the 6th the muskets and rifles for the First were received. The remaining six companies of the regiment at camp having been mustered in on the 7th, were presented with a stand of colors by Governor Pierpoint. On the 8th a government hospital was established in Wheeling. On the 9th of November the First left Wheeling for the field of operations, amid the tears and followed by the prayers of the loved ones at home, - the last parting of many of them.
*The work turned out by these firms was pronounced by competent judges the best in the service of the government, and was eagerly sought after by the quartermasters in the field.