CHIEF LOGAN STATE PARK — When you think of the Logan Wildcats you think of the Logan High School sports’ team, including its famous basketball squad.
But before the Logan High School Wildcats there were another set of Wildcats.
They didn’t score touchdowns, hit home runs or put a leather ball into an iron hoop.
Instead, they terrorized the Union army during the Civil War.
The Wildcats, a part of Logan County’s Civil War lore, will be remembered this weekend at Chief Logan State Park when the Logan Civil War Heritage Weekend: Rebellion in the Hills, will be staged on Saturday and Sunday.
The story of the original Logan Wildcats began in February 1861 when the government of Virginia voted 88-55 to secede from the Union. Of the 47 that voted from the area that is now West Virginia, only 15 voted to support the new secessionist regime.
Frantic actions on part of “West” Virginians began to take place. People gathered to discuss the ramifications of secession and by May 14, 1861 the First Wheeling Convention was making headlines across the region. Foremost on the tongues of those present was the formation of a new state west of the Alleghenies.
However, there were many southern sympathizers that would break away to form Company D of the 36th Virginia Infantry, later to be known as the Logan County Wildcats.
They formed the company by consolidating men who were originally members of Company H and other men from two companies formed at an earlier date in Logan County — the Logan County Riflemen and the Chapmanville Riflemen.
The Logan County Riflemen were established under Captain Henry Beckley on May 27, 1861.
The Chapmanville Riflemen were enlisted under Captain Charles J. Stone on June 3, 1861 for one year. The first Company H members were enlisted under Captain Louis Lechenet on July 3, 1861.
It was sometime during this period when members of the Logan Wildcats met at the home of Soloman Neece that the women gathered together to create the glorious banner of the Logan Wildcats. Of those known to be present to work on the flag were Lizzie Fillinger Conley, Susan Fillinger, Jane and Valeria Morgan, Harriett Avis and Mary Casebolt.
It is said the blue of the flag was cashmere, the white muslin and the red a calico color.
On June 3, 1861, 84 men carrying the banner of the Logan Wildcats would march to Charleston and into eventual battle. While soldiers fought a civil war, politicians were busy creating a new state.
Then came the Second Wheeling Convention on June 11, 1861 to adopt a “Declaration of Rights.” This was an actuality of the Declaration of Independence from eastern Virginia. It also stated the Secession Convention of eastern Virginia had acted illegally in taking the state out of the union.
By June 19, the Second Convention had established a new government known as the Reorganized Government of Virginia. They elected Francis H. Pierpont as Governor.
So it was, for a time, Virginia had not one, but two governments.
There was one Confederate government in Richmond, which would later be the capital of the secessionist regime of the Confederate States of America, after moving from Montgomery, Ala.
And then there was another Unionist government in Wheeling.
Both claimed authority.
By August of 1861, the Convention at Wheeling was ready to deal with the problem of forming a new state. Much debate was to follow.
By a mere 47-27 vote, a new state with 39 counties was to be formed west of the Alleghenies.
By October 24, 1861, the people had approved the new state of Kanawha. But a constitution was needed for this new state. Meeting on November 26, 1861 at Wheeling, the Constitutional Convention did just that. They also decided the boundaries of the new state, adopted a plan to gradually abolish the institution of slavery and came up with a new name for the state.
They chose West Virginia.
But it wasn’t until May 6, 1862 that a session of the Reorganized Government of Virginia would approve the separation of West Virginia from Virginia.
So the Logan Wildcats would, once again, reorganize on May 26, 1862.
James M. Lawson and Hugh Toney were elected captains and Richard M. Ferrell and William A. Farley and Madison D. Stone served as lieutenants.
It was Waitman T. Willey that would, on May 29, 1862, present West Virginia’s petition for statehood to Congress.
On December 10 of that year, the House of Representatives passed the bill on to President Abraham Lincoln. It took 60 days from the time Lincoln signed the bill on April 20, 1863, making West Virginia a separate state for the proclamation effective on June 20, 1863.
A long line of flag bearers would carry the banner of the Wildcats.
One of which was Thomas Hope Harvey, a Putnam County youth. He was a soldier of the 36th under Colonel John McCausland and after two or three other bearers of the colors had been shot at Fort Donelson, Tenn., he snatched the flag and had it shot from his hand. That hand was withered and virtually useless during the rest of his long life.
At Fort Donelson, rebel troops were trapped by Union forces.
This is the place were U.S. General Ulysses S. Grant gained his reputation. A former veteran in the Mexican-American War, Grant was a mere store clerk in Galena, Ill., at the beginning of the Civil War. But Fort Donelson is the place where Grant won his first fame and gained the nickname “Unconditional Surrender” Grant when the U.S. general gained a big Union victory over the rebels and refused all terms.
“There are no terms but unconditional surrender,” Grant said.
Some of the Logan Wildcats trapped there at Fort Donelson escaped and the unit was reformed for later war service.
John Buchanan Floyd was the Confederate commander at Fort Donelson and ordered his brigade to withdraw before the surrender under circumstances never made very clear. Some local historians believe that Ephriam, Anse and Elias Hatfield were present and escaped with Floyd, though others disagree.
Floyd was once the governor of Virginia and U.S. Secretary of War under President James Buchanan. His brother was George R.C. Floyd, who lived and died on the Tug Fork and who owned a very large amount of land in that section.
Another young man to carry the flag was Hiram Pridemore, a gentleman of Logan that was wounded and later released those dangerous duties to other soldiers fighting for the Logan Wildcats.
Then in April, 1865, another flag bearer, Lt. Astynax McDonald, was wounded but kept the flag, which was never surrendered at Appomattox Court House, Va., where General Robert E. Lee surrendered his rag-tag group of Confederates to Union General Grant, ultimately ending the long and bloody Civil War.
McDonald took the southern flag back with him to Logan County where it had been made by Logan women before the Logan Wildcats marched away to war. O.B. McDonald, a well-known Huntington Chesapeake & Ohio employee, had it as a gift from his grandfather, who often told him the story.
After Astynax McDonald’s death the flag was preserved by John McDonald, father of O.B. McDonald.
For a time, the flag was with Madge (Mrs. Wayne Hollinger), then donated to the state in 1963, West Virginia’s Centennial Year.
The 11 white stars of the Logan Wildcats flag represented the 11 states that had withdrawn from the union to form a new nation.
The 12th and largest star depicts the state of West Virginia and its loyal southern sympathizers.
The making of the flag came about at a time when a state of confusion reigned king in “West” Virginia, the nation and Logan County.
The Wildcats flag is on display at the West Virginia Division of Culture and History in Charleston.
The flag was brought home a few years ago when it was on display for a short time at Chief Logan’s Museum in the Park.
The Civil War returns to Logan County on Saturday and Sunday with the annual Rebellion in the Hills celebration.
Here’s a list of the weekend’s events:
Saturday, Sept. 29:
10 a.m.-4 p.m. Children’s Activities, Saturday only
11 a.m.-noon Ladies Tea Log Cabin - public invited
12:30-1 p.m. Mr. Lincoln speaks at the train
2:30-3:30 p.m. Re-enactment Battle; Noel Clemmons — doctor demonstrations after battle
4 p.m. Dinner for Re-enactors
6 p.m. Bright Star Theater presenting Sound Track to Freedom
8-10 p.m. Dance Under the Stars; Shelter – everyone welcome. Music by: Authentic Band of the Period
Visitors may visit the re-enactors camps anytime both days except during the battle.
Sunday, Sept. 30:
10:30 a.m. Civil War Church Services (open to the public)
1-1:30 p.m. Mr. Lincoln speaks at the train
2-3 p.m. Re-enactment Battle
In addition, all students will be given signed papers to take to their teachers to show that they participated in the Civil War Weekend for extra credit.
The Civil War event organizers would like to thank: Governor Earl Ray Tomblin; area businesses; area churches; friends of the Logan Civil War; and the Re-enactment Committee for their contribution in making the Heritage Weekend a huge success and available to the public free of charge.
— Editor’s note: Civil War historical content from Bob Spence are contained within this article.