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A Battle For Calhoun
Part 3
by Maricia Mlynek

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Allegiance between the northern and southern governments was almost equally divided in Calhoun County. This created a frightening battlefield where brother would stand against brother and father against son. When hostilities broke out, Calhoun became overrun with loosely organized bands of southern partisans. It is said that these bands “made war largely on their own account.” History shows that these “irregulars” were more active in Calhoun than in any other county. The self-appointed groups united under the name “Moccasin Rangers.”

No one paints a pretty picture of the Rangers. Boyd Stutler in West Virginia in the Civil War had this to say about them, “They terrorized the Union Element and kept fighting men at home to protect their families and property. It was a great time to pay off old scores, quarrels about fences and neighborhood disagreements. Many of the acts of the Rangers were more personal than political. They left a wake of looted and burned homes and rode horses ‘appropriated’ from their loyal Union neighbors.”

Due to Moccasin Ranger activity, recruitment for the old flag was difficult and slow. Men feared to leave home, but in the fall of 1861, Capt. James Simpson (Calhoun born) got enough men together to make up the major part of Company C at Camp Pierpont near Elizabeth. This is where Michael Ayers began his military career. It took until Dec. 22 for Company C (Calhoun men) and Company B (Wirt men) of the 11th West Virginia Volunteer Infantry to be commenced.

These companies, instead of being sent to a training camp to be instructed, were immediately armed and sent to combat the irregulars. Many were sent to Camp McDonald, Arnoldsburg. Outposts were set up in three counties, and regimental headquarters was established in Spencer under Colonel J. Castello Rathbone.

Lines had been drawn. Men who went to the same grade school, sat in the same pew at church, and shared memories from birth were now mortal enemies. The Civil War brought more than battles and blood shed to Calhoun; it shattered the very fabric of its people.


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