CHIEF LOGAN STATE PARK — When you think of Civil War history you think of the epic battles such as First Bull Run, Gettysburg, Antietam, Shiloh, Chancellorsville, Vicksburg and Sherman’s March to the Sea.
You think of the great generals such as Robert E. Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Joseph E. Johnston, U.S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, J.E.B. Stuart and George Henry Thomas, “The Rock of Chickamauga.”
You think of some of the more colorful figures such as Nathan Bedford Forrest, George Armstrong Custer, George Pickett and bookish Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain of the 20th Maine, who might have saved the battle at Gettysburg and the Union itself with an unlikely bayonette charge at Little Round Top.
But when you study history you find out that there was a lot of Civil War history right here in West Virginia and Logan County in particular.
The boom of the cannon and muskets and the clash of the sabers will reverberate again at Chief Logan State Park this weekend, Sept. 29-30, as the Logan Civil War Heritage Weekend: Rebellion in the Hills, will be staged again on Saturday and Sunday.
The living history presentation, highlighted by two re-enactment skirmishes, a period “Dance Under the Stars,” and an appearance from President Abraham Lincoln, will take place at the park.
The event is free and open to the public.
The Civil War Re-enactment began in 1995 and has returned every year to the state park except one.
You might not know it but Logan County played an important part of Civil War history. Since Logan County was still part of Virginia at the outbreak of the war in 1861 and West Virginia wasn’t formed until two years later, much of the area’s residents were loyal to the South and the Confederacy.
The spark of the Civil War was the 1860 Presidential Election itself.
With long-standing support for the Democratic Party, Logan County (then combined with Mingo County), voted overwhelmingly for Vice President John C. Brickinridge of Kentucky — First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln’s cousin — in a four-way race.
The Democratic Party, however, fatally split over the issue of slavery into Northern and Southern wings — Breckinridge in the South and Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois in the North.
That opened the door for little-known Illinois Republican Abraham Lincoln, a one-term Whig congressman in the 1840s, who won the election despite not being on the ballot in most southern states. The 6-foot-4 Lincoln won the Electoral College with 180 votes as he carried most of the northern states, also taking a 40 percent plurality in the popular vote. Breckinridge had 72 electoral votes and Douglas just 12.
Third-party candidate John Bell of Tennessee, running on the Constitutional Union ticket, the last remnant of the old Whig Party together with some disgruntled border state Democrats, grabbed 39 electoral votes by taking Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee.
Following the election, South Carolina and 10 other southern states left the Union, forming together to create the Confederate States of America with Jefferson Davis being sworn in as president.
The first shots of the Civil War were fired on April 12, 1861 at 4:30 in the morning at Fort Sumter, S.C. The battle was a Southern victory as Major Robert Anderson surrendered his forces to Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, once his understudy at West Point.
It was a bloodless start to the bloodiest war in American history as no battle deaths were reported on either side.
The only casualty had been a Confederate horse.
So it was off to war and many of the able-bodied young men in Logan County went off to fight for the southern cause, dressed in butternut or whatever clothes they had on.
Three military companies went on to influence Logan County’s Civil War history.
While the “Logan Wildcats” were the most famous — or at least they were the unit recalled most by the “old-timers” of the 1920s and 30s — the other two companies were equally important.
One was the 34th Virginia Cavalry. A member of that unit was Simon Bolivar McDonald of Crooked Creek, who still has many descendants living in that area.
A third company is the 45th Virginia Infantry which was filled with many Logan County men. It was the home unit of “Devil” Anse and Elias Hatfield and their father, Ephriam Hatfield.
Ephriam Hatfield was 50 years old when the war began and could have chosen to stay on the Tug Fork raising crops for the war effort.
But that was not his nature. A legendary figure on the Tug, Ephriam Hatfield stood about 6-7 and weighed around 260 pounds. He was known as “Big Eph” since he had joined the Confederate army in 1862.
It is interesting to learn that some small battles between Union and Confederate forces took place in Logan County.
The City of Logan — then known as the Town of Aracoma — seems to have been a recruitment center for Confederate soldiers from president day Logan, Mingo, Wyoming and parts of Boone and Wayne counties.
According to a newspaper article in The Kanawha Valley Star, a “Southern Rights” publication based in Charleston, there were accounts of demonstrations in both Aracoma and Chapmanville in 1861.
Both meetings featured speeches by such local orators as George R.C. Floyd, Ira J. McGinnis and James A. Righbert.
Both ceremonies also featured a symbolic raising of the Confederate flag. The two events were highly colorful as Cora Chambers recalled in later years when she wrote of “Old Dad Brannon,” playing a martial beat on his drum at the courthouse.
Such ceremonies did much to raise enthusiasm for the southern cause.
The meetings in Logan eventually led to the formation of the Logan Wildcats, which were mustered into Confederate service as Company D 36th Virginia Infantry under John McCausland.
McCausland would lead his men to the first Civil War conflict in southern West Virginia at Scary Creek.
Members of the 37th Ohio Volunteers later marched through Logan County early in the winter of 1862 and burned the county courthouse.
The Logan Wildcats were in other areas fighting so they were not able to defend the building.
Two other courthouses in southern West Virginia were put to the torch in the first year of the Civil War — Boone County on Sept. 1, 1861, and Mercer County on May 1, 1862.
The Boone and Logan courthouses and adjacent buildings were burned by Union troops, while that of Mercer and Princeton were torched by order of the Confederate commander on retreating from the town, despite the fact the entire area was predominantly Southern in loyalty.
Logan County had contributed heavily to the Confederate army with the Logan Wildcats, Chapmanville Greys, Logan Hunters and Captain Hugh Toney’s Company. These companies were units of General McCausland’s 36th Virginia Infantry.
Union Brigadier General Jacob D. Cox, sent Colonel Edward Siber and six companies of men into the area. The regiment was united on the morning of January 14 and the march on Logan began.
The troops passed on both sides on the river.
When the regiment reached its destination on the evening of the 14th, it was found completely evacuated by the male population, but every man that had a gun had taken position on the steep mountain side opposite the town.
A sharp skirmishing fire was opened on the advance element on both sides of the river.
The heavy rains of the 13th and 14th caused the Guyandotte to rise rapidly, and fearing that he would be cut off by high water, Colonel Siber ordered evacuation of the town and all public buildings burned.
Previously, the area around Chapmanville had witnessed its first Civil War experience in September 1861.
Logan County’s three military units were Company D 36th Virginia Infantry (The Logan Wildcats), the 34th Virginia Cavalry and the 45th Virginia Infantry. In the fall and winter of 1862 the Wildcats were engaged in fighting near Loop Mountain and Dublin Depot in Virginia.
The 34th was fighting further south, while the 45th had not been created yet.
In a nutshell, Logan County was virtually undefended and wide open.
That fact became apparent on Sept. 25, 1861, when the 34th Ohio Regiment was ordered into action in western Virginia. On Sept. 23, the regiment, including a company of Zouaves, who copied the dress, drill and combat actions of French troops that used the name — marched into the Chapmanville area under Col. Piatt, who commanded 550 men of the 34th Regiment.
Another unit, under Lt. Col. Enyart, included 300 men of the 1st Kentucky Regiment and 200 “home guards” from Virginia.
The unit marched 42 miles between Kanawha Gap and Chapmanville.
In the raid on Chapmanville, Union troops captured a Confederate flag 20 feet long with 15 stars.
The men took four horses, one wagon, 10 rifles, 12 muskets and commissary stores.
Chapmanville was occupied by union forces for some days and a military hospital tent was set up at a place just under the exit ramp from today’s Corridor G Highway.
In January of 1862, before the raid on the Logan County courthouse, Union troops were seeking a way to trap southern troops around Logan, which was then part of southwestern Virginia.
Colonel Edward Siber, commander of the 37th Ohio Volunteers, led a march from Chapmanville to Logan.
Siber wrote in his journal that his men were fired upon from nearly every house along the way.
Instead of finding support for the Union cause, Siber discovered Logan County and the adjacent region was a “hornets nest” of southern sympathizers that would make his mission extremely difficult.
He mentioned that the main opposition he faced on his journey along the Guyandotte River and his subsequent retreat from the area was the persistent gunfire from a unit centered in Chapmanville called the Black Stripe Company.
These men were believed to be from the Big Creek, Mill Creek and Upper Hewitt Creek areas.
Many believed the attack by the Black Stripe Company was the reason the Union soldiers were so hostile and that George Doss, a member of the company, was believed to have had fired the shot that mortally wounded Captain Goecke of Company B of the 37th Ohio Volunteers in an area along the Guyandotte River later described as old Henlawson.
The killing of Goecke so enraged U.S. troops that a member of them jumped into the river, swam to the opposite bank and destroyed the house from which they had been fired upon. Troops also seized a number of weapons and captured several prisoners.
The unit then moved up the river to the county seat, then known as the Town of Aracoma, which would later be the City of Logan.
Col. Siber and his men occupied the county seat, making the Logan County Courthouse their headquarters. But seeing that the local Confederate sympathizers were so unpredictable, he decided that Union control of his section of the Guyandotte River Valley would be hopeless.
Early the next morning, Siber ordered his men to burn the courthouse as they left town, recording that the building was of no benefit to the Union’s cause and was only fit as a rebel stronghold.
History leads us to believe the courthouse was burned as an act of revenge for the killing of Captain Goecke but it is not certain.
Far more serious as far as Logan County was concerned, was the fact the raid cost the county its first deedbook which had been hidden on a mountain above what is now Midelburg Island and which was never recovered.
Other skirmishes followed in the region but there were those who would never forget the first one.
— Editor’s note: Civil War historical content from Bob Spence are contained within this article.