Arnoldsburg in 1862 was a small village with only a few
houses and a store building--not much different than it is today. The
largest difference was a bivouac of some 300 to 400 Union soldiers.
Located on the grounds of the home of Peregrine Hays, Camp McDonald was
established in Arnoldsburg under the command of Major George C. Trimble
The year of 1861 had not been a very successful year for
Federal troops in Calhoun County. Partisan bands were still in control
and causing havoc for loyalists. The year of 1862 would be a turning
point. The Union military post set up in Arnoldsburg was the beginning
of the true efforts of establishing order in Calhoun.
Camp McDonald was named in honor of Colonel Adonijah J.
McDonald, a former officer in Calhoun’s 186th Regiment of the Virginia
Militia. Interestingly, the camp was set up in the region belonging to
Peregrine (Perry) Hays, a Moccasin Ranger Captain and organizer.
Hays was an influential and wealthy man. He was a member
of the 1850-51 Virginia Constitutional Convention, a sheriff in Gilmer
and Calhoun counties, a postmaster, a leader in the creation of Calhoun
from Gilmer in 1856, and a member of the Virginia and West Virginia
legislatures. In early 1862, this mattered little to Union troops, who
set up their military camp in Hays backyard.
Ironically, the guns set up in the Hays’ home were held
by soldiers in blue. The rounds fired from his grounds were from Union
troops. I am certain that this did not sit well with Hays or his men.
The stage was being set for action in Arnoldsburg. Lines had been drawn
and sides had been chosen.
Next week: The story of the Arnoldsburg Skirmish.