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A Battle For Calhoun
Part 6; Captain Perry Conley
by Maricia Mlynek

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Captain Perry Conley

War, on one hand, is the tale of blood, hate and hell’s fire; yet, on the other hand, it is also a tale of sacrifice, valor and gallantry.

How can something be such a paradox? The stories told and read can make you weep or entice you to cheer. Men that have held the banners of battle can be named murderers and assassins. Those same men can grace the preserved pages of history titled as heroes and protectors. A tale that can turn the stomach can also stir the heart.

The one thing that remains consistent throughout my research is that there are few things that are consistent. A story about the exact same event can be interpreted in countless ways, through many perspectives, and from various views.

War is not a simple subject, and those that participated in war are not easily defined. I have made an effort to introduce you to the military unit known as the Moccasin Rangers. I received some information from a local historian, Bob Bonar, that may help to summarize this group of CSA irregulars.

The Rangers controlled Calhoun and parts of surrounding counties from 1861 to mid-1862. By the spring of 1864, due to an executive order, they were enrolled in Co. A, 19th Va. Cavalry. Patriotic members joined the regular CSA forces. Those that were not became bands of outlaws.

The Moccasin Rangers were based in the West Fork area. They were known to raid Union outposts, burn bridges, bend rails of the B&O Railroad, cut telegraph wires, harass Union supply lines, “acquire” supplies and equipment from Union sympathizers, and capture or kill enemy leaders. They succeeded in making the land south of the Little Kanawha dangerous for all Unionists.

Though their tactics were questionable, the Rangers kept the regular army busy. The Union troops had their hands full until they began to pour into the county in May of 1862. At that point, the Rangers were forced to move their camps into Braxton and Webster counties. The Union still had altercations with CSA irregulars. In fact, if the Rangers weren’t creating problems for the Unionist, then deserters and outlaw groups were.

With the conditions in Calhoun remaining confused and uncertain, fear stayed in the minds and hearts of many. On the battlefield, fear is the worse enemy and, in everyday existence, it is crippling. To say the least, Calhoun continued to be a place disrupted and entangled by the ways of war.


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