Friday, May 11, 2007

Oil Creek in the Civil War

The Community:
In the 1860s there wasn't a hint of a town at the confluence of Oil Creek and Clover Fork but the community that would become Orlando was there along Oil Creek and Clover Fork and it was solid. It was a young farming community of Blakes, Riffles, Poseys, Skinners, Ocheltrees and such. We know this from the 1850, 186o and 1870 censuses. By the 1860s the first settlers' children were marrying each other and starting new households, clearing virgin forrest for farms next to their parents'.
While it was a close-knit community, it had ties with other communities and with larger institutions a well. The community that would become Orlando networked particularly with
~ the community on Knawls Creek that was to the south of Clover Fork, over the hill on the Little Kanawha water system,
~ the community over the hill on the West Fork (of the Monongahela) that kept popping up as Jacksonville/Roanoke/Arnolds, and
~ the community on Sand Fork, which empties into the Little Kanawha to the west of today's Orlando.

Its Allegiance:
One allegiance beyond the local communities was to the State of Virginia. What might the reasons for this have been? Most of the early settlers had come from Virginia, particularly the South Branch of the Potomac, but that certainly wasn't the entire reason. Whatever the reasons might have been, the tightly bound community in the Oil Creek watershed was solidly Confederate. The Civil War undoubtedly created life dramas in our community, but none of them would have been of the "brother against brother" variety.1 This was a community united.
What Happened:
The Civil War was happening all around the rugged, productive and pleasant valleys and hillsides of Oil Creek, Clover Fork and their tributaries.2 The Pike that ran by Bulltown, Sutton and Glennville was busy with military travel and very early in the war, neghborhood men formed a partisan band (or bands) set on harrassing and crippling the Union forces in the area. To the north, Weston was a link in the North's supply chain going up through Grafton. The Weston area was also a heated mix of Union and Confederate supporters and the rugged backwoods areas going south to Oil Creek was a place for "seseceshes" to hide.
Many of our community's boys joined the Confederate Army but for the most part, our boys were not part of that first enthusiastic rush of young men dashing off to war. After a year of war a number of the young men from Clover Fork joined John Imboden's Raiders, (Imboden's parents lived near Bulltown and were known to be involved with the area paritsans.). Imboden's Raiders became Companies G and I of the 63rd Virginia Mounted Cavalry. Our young men joined other units as well. Some of our boys died and some came back broken.3

A journal by a Lewis County woman mentions that Union soldiers chased two men to Oil Creek and killed them. We also know Union soldiers searched (and got lost in) the area between Weston and Oil Creek because Confederate leaders like the Bennets lived there. While Oil Creek's location held no strategic value to make it a site of military action, Flesher's Run was just over a well-traveled hill from the Pike that went through Bulltown and farther upstream, the Pike ran close to the Sand Fork community which was just over the hill from the farms on lower Oil Creek. So, Clover Fork and lower Oil Creek would have been stripped of food and farm animals and other essentials early on in the war, and repeatedly stripped throughout the war. From Jacob Heater's 1920 article in the Braxton Demcrat, we have evidence that the area also suffered the usual marauding of invading armies. He mentions murdering innocent people and hints at rape.

After the War:
We know that, for the community that was becoming Orlando, the war went on for a long time after the armistice was declared. Reconstruction was tough throughout West Virginia. A glaring example in our community was the 1869 Lewis County trials where a number of our men were convicted as Confederate Sympathizers and had their rights as American citizens revoked. After that, echos of the Civil War died slowly. A subtile indication of the area's ongoing brokenness can be seen in the delayed development of The Methodist Protestant Church. It had begun to develop in the 1850s was not built until th 1870s. Some of us think the Civil War echoes in Orlando yet today in subtle ways.

Entries About Orlando In The Civil War:

July 19, 2007 The Reverend Captain John Elam Mitchell
May 13, 2007
Big John Riffle
March 12, 2007 Reconstruction: After the Civil War on Clover Fork
March 11, 2007
Two Confederate Soldiers
March 03, 2007
A Bountiful Repast At Old Col. Yancey's
February 20, 2007
A Family Torn by the Civil War

Map of the Civil War RE: Orlando

This map came from

Orlando's Civil War Timeline:

12 April . . . . . War was declared
17 April . . . . . Virginia state convention voted to secede.
31 May . . . . . Gilmer Rifles organized in Glenville
. 3 June . . . . . Battle of Philippi, first land battle of the Civil War.

. ? Jun . . . . . . Tom Stout killed by Union Soldiers.
. ? June . . . . . Gilmer Rifles ate at the Yancys on their way to war. (see
A Bountiful Repast At Old Col. Yancey's)
12 Aug . . . . . John Riffle was shot (see
Big John Riffle)
29 Dec . . . . . Sutton burned

. 9 May . . . . . Henry Kuhl & Hamilton Conrad were hung in Sutton (see A Family Torn by the Civil War ).
20 Aug . . . . . 62nd Regiment Recruitment Day in Braxton.
. 4 Oct . . . . . .The Capon Bridge Desertion

29April . . . . . Jones-Imboden Raid on Weston
20 June . . . . West Virginia received into the United States
. 3 July . . . . . Battle of Gettyburg
13 Oct . . . . . . Battle of Bulltown

15 May . . . . . Battle of New Market

18 Apr . . . . . Lee surrendered at Appomattox

24 May . . . . . Constitutional amendment denying citizenship to Confed Sympathisers.

.4 Oct . . . . . Confederate Sympathizers in Lewis County tried (see Reconstruction: After the Civil War on Clover Fork.)

As folks moved into the growing town of Confluence and then Orlando, many of the new citizens would be Union supporters. For example, the Roman Catholic priest who served St. Michael, Thomas Quirk, had served in the Union Army and the parents of Orlando's new Irish Catholic settlers had felt their allegiance to the United States rather than Virginia. The Micks had Union soldiers in the family. They were in Braxton and Gilmer Counties during the war, but didn't come to Orlando until later. The Cole family, who moved from Gilmer County to Three Lick about 1900, had been torn apart by the Civil War. See the Feb '07 entry A Family Torn by the Civil War

2. Cook, Roy Bird. The West Virginia Review, June 1933 pp 254-56. Battle of Bulltown

3. Jackson Skinner, One of Imboden's Raiders

4. One rather mild first person description of the way civilians were treated by both sides can be found near the center of Christian Kuhl's memiors.

5. See the May '07 entry Big John Riffle

6. See the May '07 entry Big John Riffle

comment 1
David Parmer
Re: the Jones-Imboden raid which occurred in early 1863.
General Lee had been planning a military offensive into Pennsylvania for mid 1863. This plan resulted in the Battle of Gettysburg. In order to divert Union forces from the east, he planned a diversionary raid into western Virginia to draw away Union forces and also to gather much needed military supplies. For this plan he chose General Jones and General Imboden to lead the raid into our part of Virginia. General Imboden's role in the raid was significant because he had family which lived in the neighborhood of Knawl's Creek and he was familiar with the land. (Portrait of Brigadier General John Imboden is to the right.)

At that time the primary route of travel was the Gauley Bridge-Weston Turnpike which went through the area of Knawl's Creek. This was the route the Southern army used in the raid. As you know the Confederate forces for a brief time controlled our part of the state and went as far as Burning Springs in Wirt County where the southern army attacked the oil producing industry. This was about the northern most advance made by the Confederate army.

The Jones-Imboden raid did cause some consternation in the northern panhandle area of Virginia which was pro-Union and the site of the government of the Re-Organized State of Virginia (which was the predecessor of the State of West Virginia). The raid also caused concern in Ohio. Perhaps the raid was of some benefit to Lee in the Gettysburg campaign, but of course you know how that turned out.

1 comment:

  1. I'm reading these articles with great interest as my great great grandfather Eli Sanders was one of the recruits to join Imboden's unit in August 1862. He was killed in battle at New Market,Va. 0n May 15th 1864.