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A Battle For Calhoun
Part 28; 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 last of a three-part series.


Not much damage had been done, despite the tremendous waste of gunpowder. Private Sutton Cox of Company C had been shot through the leg and seriously disabled, and a few other men had received minor wounds and bruises. On the Moccasin Ranger side, there is no accurate account of the killed and wounded. The exaggerated report of the Intelligencer man said Conley withdrew “leaving four dead on the ground and carrying off two dead and all their wounded.” According to the men who were there, no dead were left on the ground. Some thought, however, that a couple or three dead men were carried away.

Certainly, one of the rangers was killed, and his death did no credit to the men of Company C. The man, whose name has been lost, had been so severely wounded that he was unable to join his fellows on their retreat. He had propped himself up against a rail fence where he was found by the Federals. Instead of rendering the aid that 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. As booty, Capt. Simpson collected several guns of nondescript character, running from squirrel rifles to heavy caliber flintlock muskets.

On taking a hasty departure, dinnerless, it was found that Private Cox was too badly injured to travel, and he was left at the McDonald home. Cox well knew that he would suffer the same fate as the ranger if found by any of Conley’s company. Painfully, he dragged himself into the woods to find a hiding place, and that night he made his way to the home of a widow, Mary Burrows--usually called “Granny”--who lived near the mouth of Steer Creek. The kind old lady dressed his wounds and cared for him about two weeks, keeping him concealed in a cliff where shallow shelter was afforded, and denying to ranger scouts that she knew anything about him.

Fearing that Cox would eventually fall into the hands of the rangers, she appealed to a neighbor, James W. Johnson, for help to get him to safety at some Federal post. “Uncle Jimmy” was at heart a Southern sympathizer, but withal a just and humane man. He abhorred bloodshed, and agreed to risk his own personal safety and that of his property by rendering aid to a wounded Union soldier so badly wanted by the Moccasin Rangers.

Johnson pondered on ways and methods, and finally decided to move openly in a resort to stratagem. Early one morning, he saddled his two horses, placing a sidesaddle on one, and rode to the home of Mrs. Burrows. Cox was clad in one of Granny’s dresses, her old poke bonnet was placed on his head, with her big, steel-bowed spectacles on his eyes, mounted the sidesaddle and with his escort started down the river. All went well until within a few miles above Grantsville when they came face to face with Robert Wilson, who was directing a squad of Ranger scouts. The two were stopped and Wilson began making inquiries. With rare presence of mind, Johnson turned to Cox and said: “You ride on, Granny, for Betsy’s powerful poorly; she’s a mighty sick woman,” indicating that his wife was sick and he had gone for help. Cox rode on and Johnson joined him in a few minutes and together they worked on through to the Johnson home, where Cox was given into the care of a Union neighbor. A few days later, he was piloted through to Harrisville, where, after a period of convalescence, he rejoined his company.

Cox fully recovered from his wound and went through the vicissitudes of nearly four years of war with Company C, and was in line of battle at Appomattox Court House on Apr. 9, 1865, when General Robert E. Lee surrendered. The company and regiment had undergone many changes. Captain Simpson had been promoted to major, but at the surrender the regiment was commanded by Major Michael A. Ayers, one of the original Company C recruits.

Rafferty and Wright were sent to Camp Chase, Columbus, Ohio, for a long sojourn as prisoners of war, and Captain Conley, whose name was a terror throughout the central counties, was killed in a fight with Federal troops in Webster County in the summer of 1862.

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