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A Battle For Calhoun
Part 24; More Letters Home
by Maricia Mlynek

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We continue our series with letters and stories from the Calhoun Historical Society’s book, “Calhoun County in the Civil War.” This week begins a three-part series.


The disheartened Confederates of the Morgan raid, who had succeeded in crossing the Ohio River at Buffington under the leadership of Colonels Adam Johnson and J. Warren Grigsby, were in no mood for rejoicing over the outcome of their foray through Northern territory. The night of July 19, 1863, their commanders took charge of the week-long withdrawal across the newly formed State of West Virginia.

“Sad and dispirited, we marched to Belleville, some 14 miles,” Capt. S.P. Cunningham, Morgan’s assistant adjutant general, told a Richmond, Va., newspaper reporter on Aug. 1, almost two weeks after the Buffington encounter.

“We impressed guides, collected together some 300 men who had crossed, many without arms, having lost them in the river, and marched out toward Claysville. After leaving the Ohio at Belleville on that night, we marched to near Elizabeth-town in Wirt county,” said the officer.

Basil Duke, Morgan’s brother-in-law and second in command on the expedition, records that “two fine companies” of the Nineteenth Tennessee, led by captains Kirkpatrick and Sisson, got across the Ohio at Buffington earlier that Sunday, while two companies of Duke’s own old regiment, the Second Kentucky, under captains Lea and Cooper, succeeded in crossing within the next day or two.

In addition to the organized units, about three or four hundred stragglers from the various regiments managed to cross singly or in groups, and were rounded up by Johnson and Grigsby.

For the first part of the flight, their route roughly paralleled the course of the Little Kanawha River, later striking south toward Confederate territory.

Several years ago, Donald Starcher of Parkersburg disclosed his recollection that his grandfather, Floyd Starcher, told how some of the retreating cavalrymen came to the Perry Starcher farm on Yellow Creek in Calhoun County in the evening.

Here they rested for the night, many of the tired young horsemen bedding down on the hay in the Starcher barn. Floyd Starcher, then a boy of 13, to the end of his life would never forget how he had seen and talked with John Morgan’s feared and fabled men.

Continued next week: Ride Through Braxton.


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