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A Battle For Calhoun
Part 27; Partisan Rangers and Union Recruits
Skirmish in Calhoun

by Maricia Mlynek

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The following story is reprinted from Boyd B. Stutler’s West Virginia in the Civil War. This is the second of a three-part series. The Sycamore Skirmish reenactment will be presented to the public on Saturday and Sunday at Calhoun County Park. The third part of the series will give an account of events that occurred after the original Civil War skirmish.



On Nov. 27--a month before the muster, but acting as state troops--Captain Simpson with a detachment of 26 men of Company C left Camp Pierpont for a scouting expedition through the Little Kanawha River section in Calhoun, where the homes of many of the men were located. The object was to arrest some of the best known and most active rangers, notably those belonging to the band under Captain George Downs. The Perry Conley contingent usually operated farther to the South in the West Fork country.

Early in the morning of the 28th, the detachment swooped down upon the home of Patrick Rafferty, who lived on the river a few miles east of Grantsville, and took him into custody; then, moving quickly to a neighboring house, the troopers picked up Jackson Wright--both men well-known as raiders and marauders. Associates who lived in the neighborhood took to the hills. Simpson knew that it would be futile, and perhaps fatal, to go into the woods to flush them out. He turned to the south to pay a visit to Arnoldsburg, the county seat and the secessionist center.

At just about the noon hour, the detachment reached the home of Colonel Adonijah McDonald, late commanding officer of the county’s 186th Regiment, Virginia Enrolled Militia, who lived on the divide between the forks of Sycamore, near a log building that served the community in the dual purpose of church and schoolhouse. The hospitable colonel invited Simpson and his men to dine with him, but as the captain was somewhat pressed for time, he accepted only for himself and five of his men. The others were told to go to the homes of nearby residents for their noon meal, scattering out so that no one would be seriously inconvenienced or time lost in mass cooking.

Captain Conley had been alerted that the Federals were on the prowl and had hastily mustered his band, drawing on the men of other Moccasin groups. He got together a force estimated at from 40 to 45, but probably not more than 25--and moved out to capture or scatter the invading Union troopers. By chance, the two forces arrived in the region of the McDonald home at about the same time; Conley kept his men concealed in the dense woods nearby, and when the men started to scatter out it was a situation made to his order, but when his men moved forward, they were detected by three Company C men who were on their way to a home nearby.

Hurrying back to the McDonald home to give the alarm, Simpson was given a few minutes to prepare for defense. Conley moved in close enough to make a demand for surrender, which was refused. The rangers opened fire on the house, pouring in volley after volley, which was returned by the defenders. Then, finding the quarters too limited for action, Simpson moved his men into the yard, joined in a few minutes by others of the detachment who had been recalled by the sound of gunfire. Other Simpson men took position in the church-schoolhouse, but too far away to be of any effective use in the firefight. After some 45 minutes of brisk firing, using up most of the available ammunition, Conley signaled his men to withdraw.

(Continued Next Week)

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