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A Battle For Calhoun
Part 14; Skirmish at Sycamore
by Maricia Mlynek

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Skirmish at Sycamore

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.


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