By noon on Nov. 28, 1861, Perry Conley had mustered
together enough men to meet Captain Simpson’s invading Company C, which
was estimated to be about 26 local men coming from Camp Pierpont.
Conley’s gang was probably the same size, but some tales read that the
Rangers’ numbers reached into the seventies.
The two groups met in the forks of Sycamore near the
McDonald house. The Rangers kept themselves hidden in the dense woods to
wait for an opportune moment to ambush. Company C was no longer the
hunter on this trip into Calhoun. They had quickly become the prey.
Luckily for Simpson’s men, the Rangers were detected
before the attack. Simpson was given a few moments to prepare for the
encounter. Conley, aware that his position had been compromised, moved
in to demand the surrender of the 11th (West) Virginia. Simpson refused.
Thus, the Rangers opened fire on the McDonald house.
Aware that the home was too small for his men to react, Simpson moved
Company C into the yard to be face-to-face with Conley’s Ranger band.
Smoke from the gunfire filled the air as the skirmish lasted 45 minutes.
The reason that the Rangers retreated was that they had fired all of
their ammunition. Conley signaled his men to withdraw as the last few
muskets went off.
It is hard to say what the results of this skirmish were
for the Rangers and Company C. The outcome has been exaggerated many
times over the years. Some claim that at least six Rangers were killed
and many wounded, but according to other accounts only two or three were
probably killed in the conflict. One Ranger was killed for certain, but
the soldier remains unknown.
The story ends with no credit to Simpson’s Company C.
The unnamed ranger was wounded too severely to retreat with the
Moccasins. He propped himself up against a fence rail, where he was
found by the boys in blue. Historian Boyd Stutler said this about the
situation, “Instead of rendering the aid humanity dictates, even to an
enemy on the battlefield, four or five of the men leveled their guns and
fired on him, killing him instantly, an incident that could not but
enrage the partisans and spur them on to like atrocities.”
The skirmish paints a different picture of Simpson’s
Company C. This time, it wasn’t the Moccasin Rangers that left a dark
mark on the pages of history.