The "Grafton Guards" were organized shortly after the firing on Fort Sumpter, the leading spirits in forming the company being George R. Latham, Daniel Wilson, Bailey Brown, F. A. Cather, and others, the company being fully enrolled on May 20, 1861. At the time of forming the company, the confederates were camped on the bridge across the Tygart's Valley river, on the Northwestern Virginia turnpike, nearly two miles below at Fetterman. When eighty men had been enrolled the company organized by the election of George R. Latham captain, F. A. Cather first lieutenant, and Daniel Wilson second lieutenant.
Previous to this time, George A. Porterfield, of Jefferson county, Va., who had seen service in the Mexican war, was appointed a colonel by Governor Letcher, and sent into Northwestern Virginia to organize the companies being formed under the call of the State for troops. A company from Marion county under the command of William P. Thompson, which became Company A, Thirty-first Virginia, two companies from Taylor county, one under command of John A. Robinson, that became Company A Twenty-fifth Virginia, and one under G. W. Hansbrough, that was afterwards disbanded, rendezvoused at Fetterman May 20, and on the 22d were joined by the Harrison Guards of Clarksburg under command of William P. Cooper, which became Company C of the Thirty-first Virginia. The whole force marched that evening to Grafton and then back to Fetterman. On the night of the 22d, Daniel Wilson and Bailey Brown walked down towards Fetterman, and encountered the rebel picket on the railroad in the east end of town, where Daniel W. S. Knight and George Glenn, of Captain Robinson's company, were on guard. Knight ordered them to halt. Instead of doing so, they continued to advance, Knight repeating his order, until they got close to the pickets, when Brown fired his revolver shooting Knight through the ear. Knight, who was armed with an old-fashioned smooth-bore flint-lock musket, loaded with slugs, returned the shot, killing Brown almost instantly. There were three holes in Brown's body close together, in triangular shape, resembling wounds made by buck-and-ball cartridge, one slug passing through his heart. This occurred about 9 o'clock. When the firing took place Wilson retreated, receiving the load out of Glenn's gun in the heel of his boot. Brown's body was taken to the town hall by the rebels, which. Was occupied as quarters by the Harrison Guards, and properly cared for.
Major W. P. Cooper, Thirty-first Virginia, confederate, from whom some of the facts of this shooting were obtained, relates that the next morning, in explaining to Colonel Porterfield of the affair happened, Knight said, he "halted Brown two or three times, but he didn't stop and came up and shot me through the ear, and it made me so mad I shot him. I hope I didn't do anything wrong, Colonel." The colonel told him that if he had done anything wrong it was in not shooting sooner, which seemed to relieve him very much.
A committee was sent to the confederate commander asking for Brown's body, which was refused. When the committee reported back the refusal to give up the body, Captain Latham's company started for more active measures, when they were met by the enemy nearly half way to Fetterman, with the body on a hand car.
Bailey Brown, thus early a victim to the act of secession, was the first enlisted man in the U. S. volunteer service, killed in the war. He was enrolled as a member of his company May 20, 1861, though the company was not mustered in until the 25th. His death occurred on May 22, 1 while that of the gallant Colonel Ellsworth did not occur until the 24th, two days later.
The Guards now started for camp at Wheeling, making a detour of twelve or fifteen miles around the enemy, who were closely watching them and stopping and searching all trains, and reached the Valley River Falls, about eight miles by rail west of Grafton, whence they took the train for Wheeling, where they were mustered into the U. S. service on May 25. On Monday, June 3, the company received their guns and accoutrements and began drilling, being now in sole charge of Camp Carlisle, which was relieved of all other troops then garrisoned there, which were pushed forward to the front.
In the latter part of June the company was ordered to the front, going to Mannington, where they were in camp for two days. About the first day of July they went to Grafton, and on the 4th were ordered to Phillippi and were accorded the special honor of body guards to General Morris, commanding. On the night of the 6th the command advanced on the confederates who were fortified at the foot of Laurel Hill, General Garnett in command, arriving there early on the morning of the 7th, remaining in front of the enemy until the 11th, when their forces being routed at Rich Mountain with a severe loss, our forces gained General Garnett's rear, when he attempted to make his escape through the mountains. Our command followed them, skirmishing with their rear several miles down Cheat river, overtaking them at Carrick's Ford; where a sharp encounter occurred on the 13th between the two armies, resulting, among other casualties on both sides, in the death of General Garnett, the first confederate general officer killed in the war.
The company then went to Beverly, where it joined other companies forming the Second Virginia Infantry, of which it became Company B upon the organization of the regiment.
Company B was then ordered to Bealington, where it went into camp and remained until January 25th, 1862; engaged in guarding the supply trains between Webster and Beverly and in sending scouting parties through the adjoining counties. One of the distinguishing features of the members of Company B was that they were crack rifle shots previous to enlistment, and were thus soon able to get all the effect out of an army gun, and they were more than ordinarily well equipped for the active and dangerous service that was required of them. Their efficiency as scouts was recognized and they were almost in constant service, in ferreting out the bushwhackers in the mountains.
On the 10th of October, C. E. Ringler, with four others of the company, went eight or ten miles out from camp at Bealington, on the lookout for a noted guerrilla in that neighborhood. Near midnight the party was fired upon by a band of bushwhackers and Joe Wright of the party was mortally wounded. Ringler and another comrade dragged and carried Wright, a very heavy man, in a speechless and insensible condition, through four or five feet of water in the creek and up hill about a quarter of a mile, where Joe had to be abandoned and died. Ringler "borrowed" a horse at the muzzle of a gun, rode to camp, returned early next morning with twenty-five more men of his company, secured Wright's body, killed the man who had harbored the guerrillas, burned the house and barn where they had slept, and cleaned the place out generally. Concerning Wright, Ringler says, "I have often found men loth to follow where I was willing to lead, but Joe did deeds of cool bravery and daring that made me tremble." While at Bealington a detachment of six of the company was detailed under Sergeant O. P. Bower to capture Paton G. Boothe, a confederate scout. Arriving at the house where he was stopping, at the foot of Laurel Hill, Boothe came out the back way and was mistaken for one of Company B by T. W. Carpenter, who asked him if he was not, to which he replied affirmatively and then jumped the fence to escape, when Carpenter saw it was Boothe and fired at him, striking him just above the knee, inflicting a slight wound. The courtesy was returned, Boothe's bullet barely missing Carpenter's head. William Bibey, of Booth's party was captured.
January 5th, '62, Cap. Latham, with eighteen of his men, was ordered to Dry Fork, of Cheat river, to search for Bill Harper's gang of bushwhackers, who were stealing and driving stock away for the use of the southern army. They were joined by Lieutenant A. J. Weaver and a detachment from Company K. The party reached the river on the 7th, when Lieut. Weaver's men stopped at Snyder's farm house, and Cap. Latham's men proceeded up the valley about two miles, and lodged with an old bachelor by the name of Armentrout. Next day they proceeded up the river about a mile to the guerrilla captain's home, but found no one there, and then started on the return. Upon reaching an open bottom, about a fourth of a mile below where they lodged for the night, they were suddenly fired on by about forty guerrillas, who were in ambush in heavy timber about twenty paces from them. Being without regular formation, on hearing the click of the enemy's guns, our men instinctively dropped to the ground as a volley was poured into them from the timber. Our party then dropped back, under cover of the river bank, where, standing and crouching in the water through a thin ice, they engaged the guerrillas for about two hours, when the latter withdrew with a loss of one killed and three wounded, our party having six men wounded, one, Fred Doph, the oldest man in the company, supposed mortally, a ball having passed through his body immediately above his heart. Company K's squad had started on the morning of the 8th to camp and were not in the fight, except two of their men who joined us. After the firing had ceased Captain Latham gathered his men together, carrying Doph to the Snyder residence, and left him in charge of the family. He was taken prisoner to Richmond and recovered, was exchanged, rejoined his company, got married, and was discharged from the service for disability February 9, 1863. The men then pressed horses of the citizens into service and started with their wounded down the river. It began to snow and rain and they were compelled to wade streams filled with ice and plod on through rain and mud until Friday night of the 11th, when they reached Rowlesburg on the B. & O. railroad, thence by cars to Grafton, where the wounded were left in the hospital. After a few days rest here, Capt. Latham rejoined his company on Cheat Mountain, where it had joined the regiment.
Wm. E. Stafford relates how he and six other comrades of Preston county, A. C. Baker, J. G. Matlick, N. L. Lock, J. H. Dennison, R. M. Woodward and T. C. Nuzum, became members of Company B. Stafford was a captain in the militia, and went to Kingwood in May to drill, when Col. Hugh was to drill the men that assembled. They fell in line, but the colonel failing to appear, Col. John F. Martin took his place. At once Stafford stepped from the ranks, declaring he would not drill under a rebel officer, and started for home. At Fellowsville he met a crowd of union men with their rifles, banded to stop the advance of rebels into their town, whom he joined, but the alarm over he went home, and was informed that a force of the enemy was coming to compel him to muster his company into the rebel service. The party named then attempted to make their way to Pennsylvania to join a union regiment, and while at Graftpn were met by Cap. Latham, and invited to join his company, which they did.
The following is the muster out roll, showing list of members and their record. The company was mustered into the U. S. service May 25, 1861, and mustered out June 4, 1864. All the members not otherwise marked, were mustered out with the company. The recruits and veterans were transferred to the Sixth West Virginia Cavalry, when the company was mustered out.
CAPTAIN DANIEL WILSON.
Daniel Wilson was born in Guernsey county, Ohio, August 24th, 1824. His father's name was William F.; mother's, Jane - maiden name, Booth. His parents moved to Barbour county, Va., in 1825. He married Miss Naomi Reger, of Barbour county, in 1845, by whom he had seven children. She died before the close of the war, and he afterwards married a second wife, who bore him four children. He was engaged in farming till 1854, when he went to merchandizing, which he followed in Barbour and Taylor counties till 1860. He was a devoted friend of the union, never flinching from any duty, no matter how arduous or hazardous. He ably assisted Col. Latham in the enlisting of Company B, in May, 1361, went to Wheeling with the company, and was mustered in as second lieutenant. He was promoted from second lieutenant to captain on the 20th day of May, 1862. He was never very robust in health, but was in all the engagements with his company and regiment, until compelled to resign on account of failing health, April 22d, 1863. In 1864 he was appointed post master at Grafton, which position he held until 1876, when he resigned and moved to Michigan, in 1877, on account of his health, and died there in 1878. He has one son, James L., who graduated with honors at West Point, and is now first lieutenant in the Fourth Artillery; and one son, Lloyd L., who is a practicing physician at Grafton, West Va.
Amos B. Hammer was born September 23d, 1835, in what was then Monongalia county, Va. He received a common school education in the schools of Virginia and Ohio, by choice he became a machinist and at the breaking out of the rebellion was engaged on the B. & O. R. R., with residence at Grafton. He was one of the first to join in the organization of a company and became identified with the interests of Company B, of which he was made a sergeant at the organization; and having a little knowledge of tactics, took an active part in drilling the men and bringing the company to an efficient standing. He was with his company during the Western Virginia campaign of '61, and while the company lay detached at Bealington, took an active part in the suppression of the bushwhackers of that region. On one occasion, alone and in citizen's clothes, he penetrated the haunts of the noted Harper gang, and gained such information as led to the capture or driving out of most of these outlaws. In the spring of '62, at the solicitation or Gen. Schenck, the sergeant conducted the negotiations with a number of guerrilla chieftains, which were largely successful. On the 8th of May, 1862, at McDowell, Cap. Latham having been detached for staff duty, Sergt. Hammer was left in command of the company for a time, during which the company demonstrated its ability to meet an emergency, by taking a section of Johnson's battery into action, taking the guns up an almost perpendicular cliff to a plateau commanding the enemy's position. These were the only guns brought into action and determined the fate of our forces by enabling; us to hold our position until after dark. On June the 8th, 1862, at the battle of Cross Keys, the company was in command of Lieut. Wilson. When Jackson succeeded in turning the left of Fremont's line, Milroy's brigade was compelled to change front under fire, and Companies B and D were ordered to the front as skirmishers and Sergt. Hammer placed in command. The conflict was desperate for a time, but the skirmishers were held to their work by the Sergeant, until the evolution was completed. Gen. Milroy, in view of these services, asked that a commission be given to Sergt. Hammer, and a commission as first lieutenant was issued in June to date May 15th. Lieut. Hammer did staff duty with Generals Sigel and Milroy until in June, 1863, returning to the regiment, on the resignation of Cap. Wilson, and remained in command until the company was mustered out at Wheeling in '64. During the three years service of Cap. Hammer, he participated in every campaign and engagement of his regiment except the battle of Droop Mountain, and during the entire period, though slightly wounded three times, and exposed to the most trying labors, was never in hospital and never absent but once, for two weeks on sick leave. In January of 1864 Lieut. Hammer was promoted to captain of Company B. After being mustered out in '64, Cap. Hammer located in Christian county, III. Finding his health impaired and being incapacitated for his former calling, he studied law, and in 1867 was admitted to the supreme court of his adopted state. Since that time he has continued, with occasional rests, to practice that profession, removing to Kansas in 1872, and to Texas in 1880, thence to Oklahoma City in the wild rush of 1889, where he now resides.
F. A. Cather was a native of Harrison county, Va., born May 12, 1840. His occupation before and after the war was farming. He was received into the membership of the Baptist church at Flemington, Va., and was baptized in 1856. He was a man of upright character, and of strong convictions in his devotion to his country. He cast his first vote in May 1861, against the ordinance of secession, and was firm and true in the trying scenes that preceded the war. He enlisted in Company B, and was commissioned First Lieutenant. He was with his company in all its service to January 1862. In consequence of exposure his health was much impaired, and he was assigned to recruiting service at Clarksburg, Va., Jan. 10, 1862. His health continued to grow worse, and May 20, 1862 he was pronounced unable to stand military duty, and he offered his resignation, which was accepted. He tried to regain his health by travel and seemed to improve, and desired to re-enlist, but his physician advised him not to do so. He was dissatisfied to remain at home while his comrades were serving their country so bravely. In March 1864, he enlisted in the First West Virginia Veteran Cavalry, and was commissioned First Lieutenant. He was promoted to Captain of Company K. February 7, 1865, and Major June 8, 1865, and was honorably discharged in July 1865. He was in the campaign with Hunter and Sheridan in the valley of Virginia, and took part in the closing battles of the war, when General Grant's forces compelled General Lee to surrender. He was in several severe battles, having his horse shot under him on two separate occasions, and proved himself to be a brave and true soldier, a worthy member of his old regiment. Major Cather was married in Grafton, W.Va., August 17, 1865, to Miss Helen V. Mallonee. His health became very poor, and in 1871 he moved to Sedgewick county, Kansas, in the hope of finding relief and health, but he died at his home in that state October 7, 1876. He was steadfast in his faith in Christ, and the evening before his death he talked calmly about it, and said hoped soon to be with those who were rejoicing.
Asbury C. Baker was born in Preston county, Va., August 3, 1839, and died August 16, 1885. At the beginning of hostilities in 1861; he was attending school at West Liberty, Va. Feeling it to be his duty to serve his country, he quit school and entered the Union army, as a private in Company B, serving with distinction, and was promoted to Second Lieutenant of the company. A few months later he was forced to resign on account of his failing health, a result of his arduous service. Soon after resigning, he was appointed adjutant of a regiment of militia of Preston county, and was appointed to an honorary position on the Colonel's staff, with the rank of Colonel. He was twice elected superintendent of public schools in Preston county, served one term in the state legislature as delegate from his county, and was twice elected prosecuting attorney of the same county, and held the office of county surveyor at the time of his death. He was a good lawyer, a fine scholar, and was deservedly popular with the people generally. His remains are interred in Bluemont cemetery, Grafton, W. Va.
Oliver P. Bower was born in Fairmont, Marion county, Va., September 3, 1836, where he worked on a farm during his early boyhood. After reaching manhood, he was engaged on the B. & O. railroad most of his time, until he enlisted in Company B, in which organization he served until the company was mustered out, bearing the rank of sergeant. He was orderly for General Benham, when that officer pursued and defeated General Garnett at Carrick's Ford, and was in the front when the confederates were defeated. He served well and faithfully. After muster out, he returned to farming, and was married August 5, 1864. He now lives at Big Bend, W. Va., his wife being an invalid, and to whom he gives his time and faithful attention.
Humphrey F. Brohard, a native Virginian, was born January 20, 1833, near Flemington, Taylor county, Va., now West Va. He remained on the farm with his father until 1855, when he followed teaching and carpentering until 1861. He enlisted in Company B, serving with fidelity and bravery until mustered out June 14, 1864. The history of the company is his history, and is therefore a noble and honorable one. He began merchandising in 1864, and has continued at that and farming ever since. He was married to Miss Mary F. Bailey December 6, 1866. Mr. Brohard was one of that noble class of Virginians to whom too much honor cannot be paid. Loyal, brave and true, they did their full duty to their country.
Cyrus E. Ringler was born in Johnstown, Pa., September 20, 1835. His father, Jonathan Ringler, a descendant of the Philadelphia Quakers, was killed on the railroad between Johnstown and Hollidaysburgh, Pa., in 1837. His mother was a native of Stoystown, Pa., and soon after the death of her husband migrated with her two little boys to the southeastern part of Maryland, where she married a Virginia carpenter, with whom she followed up the construction of the Chesapeake and Ohio canal, and then the extension of the B. & O. railroad, west of Cumberland. Mr. Ringler learned the printing trade before reaching his majority and applied himself to the improvement of his education. He grew up a strong pro-slavery Democrat, and held a military commission under Governor Henry A. Wise, of Virginia, but with the first acts of secession, he took a decided stand for the Union and was probably the first man in Harrison county, Va., to procure names for the Union service. He sought the first opportunity of becoming a soldier, a desire that had haunted him from boyhood, and became a member of Captain Latham's company in May, 1861. He was offered command of a company of volunteers as well as other positions, but preferred to remain in the ranks of his own company. He was the first member of the company inside of the confederate lines at Laurel Hill, as a spy, near to General Garnett's headquarters, and only escaped capture by riding down the middle of the creek at night, and after scrambling in the brush and obstructions about the enemy's position, in the dense darkness and rain, and narrowly escaping being shot, he reached his camp at Phillippi the next morning.
October 10, 1861, he took four others of his company at Bealington and scouted on the lookout for a noted guerrilla, resulting in a combat with bushwhackers and the death of Joe Wright, an account of which is given in the history of the company. At Monterey he was detailed to the brigade department, yet at McDowell he was in the skirmish line with his company, and was stunned by a musket ball that shot the cord off his hat. At Cross Keys he was stunned by a rebel shell and later in open ground, he became the target for fully a hundred hostile muskets, escaping with a scratch on the face and a sting on the back of the neck. At Cedar Mountain he was chased back to the Union lines by five confederate cavalry, and was arrested on suspicion by the Union pickets. The next day he was accosted beyond the lines by a confederate general, who was reconnoitering, as to his regiment. "Second Virginia," he replied. "You're a little too far from your command, you'd better get back," was the general's response. There were, two Second Virginia regiments there. In hunting for his regiment in line of battle on the Rappahannock, he rode down to the river in front of a rebel cannon, and seemed as little disturbed as if a fly had buzzed between him and his horse's ears, instead of a cannon ball. Within ten minutes after Colonel Latham had asked him to help hunt up his scattered regiment, after the terrible repulse at the railroad cut, Bull Run, he was shot in the stomach and in the right hand. When asked to occupy an ambulance he replied "wait till I fall down," and the next day he was in a storm of grape and canister. He asked the surgeon for a pass that he might go where he pleased without being molested. "My God!" said, the surgeon, "If you want any better pass than you have, I can't give it to you." Two days afterwards he succumbed to his wounds, helplessly prostrated in a hospital at Alexandria.
Back in West Virginia, when Confederate General Jones raided part of that state he obtained leave to go to Grafton, where he and a comrade of his regiment went on a scout, and among other services captured two of General Jones' cavalrymen, whom he turned over with their horses to General Mulligan at Grafton, and on returning to his command at Beverly soon after, he was confronted with charges of desertion. Subsequently he was acting on the provost staff and employed in ferreting out and breaking up guerilla dens in the mountains, and participated in the succeeding battles of Huntersville, Droop Mountain and the Salem Raid.
From January till April, 1864, he acted on courts martial and enquiry at Martinsburg, being no longer fit for active duty and was mustered out in June, 1864, and in about two months accepted a lieutenancy in the Seventeenth West Virginia Infantry, from Governor Boreman. Mr. Ringler often declared that he would rather be a private soldier in front of battle, than anything else, and his conduct fully verified his statement. He is a studious Bible reader, is identified with the Methodist Protestant church and believes in a full, free, personal salvation, in the loftiest and most liberal sense.
S. J. Boyles was born in Marion county, Virginia, Jan. 21, 1835. He was one of the early members of the company, and served with honor as private soldier, until the company was mustered out in 1864.
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