|1861-1862 Western Virginia Campaign
|Source: Ohio in the War, Vol II, by Whitelaw Reid, 1868
Soon after the 26th OVI was organized in the summer of 1861, the regiment was ordered to Western
Virginia, in the upper Kanawaha River Valley. It was assigned to the Department of Western Virginia
of the Union army. The mission was to scout out confederate troops in the area, and to take over
control of the 34 most western counties of Virginia. By doing so, the state of Ohio would extend the
natural border and barrier between Ohio and Confederate held territory from the Ohio River to
hundreds of miles of mountainous terrain, i.e. the Allegheny Mountains.
This action also helped support and defend the Unionist citizens living in this area of the Virginia. In
this part of of Virginia, the citizens had more in common with those in rural Pennsylvania and Ohio
than eastern Virginia. Very few citizens in western Virginia owned slaves. With this protection, the
Unionist Virginia citizens would organize their support for independent statehood, and at a convention
in Wheeling, the State of West Virginia was born.
For the most part, the 26th was involved in scouting duty. The regiment participated in a "movement"
at Sewell Mountain led by General Rosecrans. General Robert E Lee's troops were on Sewell
Mountain and General Rosecrans was on Armstrong Ridge, directly west of Lee's position. Though
battle seemed imminent, and major battle never ensued.The 26th led the advance against the
confederate forces, and they were the last regiment to leave the battle as well. One of the scouting
expeditions was led by Colonel Rutherford B Hayes ( soon to be President Hayes) and was towards
the Fayetteville area.
The 26th OVI did see action at Big Chimney ( east of Gauley Bridge), Cotton Hill, and at Gauley
The records are not clear as to whether there were any casualties during the time of the regiment's
involvement in western Virginia. However, the Official Roster lists 19 soldiers of the 26th who died in
western Virginia during that time period; most of these deaths occuring at Gauley Bridge in western
Virginia. In addition, 2 solidiers were discharged on surgeon's certificate of disability. ( this usually
would indicate receiving serious and debilitating injuries).
The regiment remained in Western Virginia until January, 1862 when it was ordered to join the
Department of the Ohio army. It was brigaded with the 15th, 177h, and 50th Indiana Regiments
under the command of Colonel Milo S Hascall.
HEADQUARTERS KANAWHA BRIGADE,
Gauley Bridge, August 7, 1861.
Brig. Gen. W. S. ROSECRANS,
Comdg. Army of Occupation, Western Virginia, Clarksburg, Va.:
GENERAL: I hand you herewith the report of Lieutenant Wagner upon the topography and means of
defense of this place; also reports of Major Hines as to the roads in several directions. Since arriving
here I have had reconnoitering parties under intelligent officers at Fayette Court-House, Sewell
Mountain, Summersville, and intermediate points, the substance of whose information is contained in
the reports accompanying this. The retreat of Wise has every characteristic of a final movement out of
the valley. Not only his burning of bridges and destruction of arms and other property has this look,
but the conduct and air of the professed secessionists strongly confirms this opinion. Those who have
been committed to the cause of the rebellion, and who moved their families and property far up the
valley when we entered it, have returned in considerable numbers and asked leave to occupy their
homes again. Great numbers of Wise's troops, raised here in the valley, deserted him near this point,
and the story of the deserters is quite uniform that it was understood that he was permanently
abandoning the valley, and that they were unwilling to follow him into Eastern Virginia, having enlisted,
as they say, solely with a view to defend their homes against the outrages which it was represented
our troops would commit.
In a thousand ways, difficult to detail minutely, the people show that their understanding of the matter
is that the Kanawha Valley is, for the present at least, given up. My own view, therefore, is that if a
reconquest of Western Virginia is attempted, it will be by some other line of operations, unless Wise is
wholly superseded in command, and an entirely new enterprise planned and set in motion by others. I
do not incline to think Summersville will be in the line of new offensive operations on their part; first,
because from whatever direction it is approached the roads are peculiarly difficult, and second, it is
not a place of peculiar advantages when reached.
If the design is to invade Northwestern Virginia, a more direct and easy road upon Beverly can be
found, and if the design were to invade Southwestern Virginia, the route through this point is vastly
easier. The road laid down upon the maps from Summersville to Huntersville is described by
numerous persons as a very hard and nearly, if not quite, an impracticable route for wagons. From
Summersville in any direction the roads are bad, and especially so between that point and this. The
opportunities for stopping and seriously injuring a force moving upon Summersville are great, and I do
not believe the advantages to be gained by the enemy would be great enough to induce him to make
any offensive movements in that direction, so long as here and at Sutton there are strong bodies of our
My belief is that they think the Kanawha Valley must eventually follow the fate of Northwestern
Virginia, and that they will attempt to recover what they lost at Rich Mountain whenever they again
take the offensive, unless some movement of ours should tempt them in this direction again.
With this view of the case, I incline to the opinion that the line from here northward through
Summersville, &c., should be kept strong with active outposts, which could give information of the
enemy's movements in time to concentrate a considerable force at any point that might be menaced.
Of course I only give this opinion as from the stand-point I occupy here, and not at all as of value, in
view of all the information you are doubtless possessed of. If a force as large as my present command
were kept here, with the aid of a few more horsemen, we could be in possession of news of every
movement from Giles or Raleigh Court-House to Lewisburg, and connect on the north with the force
at Summersville, which could in its turn reconnoiter as far as Huntersville, and be ready to unite in any
offensive or defensive policy as the action of the enemy might make it advisable. For ease of reaching
Lewisburg we are better off here than at Summersville, and in a few days might have a bridge of
flat-boats, which would give us a safe passage of the Gauley at all times.
The town of Charleston is the headquarters of the secessionists of this valley, and I have kept a
regiment there since I came through the place. At present Colonel Lowe, of the Twelfth Ohio,
commands that post, having with him two companies of the Twelfth, two Virginia companies from
Mason City, and the Twenty-sixth Ohio. I think the stationing of two companies at Poca, or Red
House, and one or two at Thirteen-Mile Creek, with two or three at Point Pleasant, is necessary to
secure the safe passage of messengers and boats, and the speedy quieting of the valley. I have already
suggested the propriety of stationing some force at Guyandotte. I should have remarked above, when
speaking of the topography of this country, that the channels of both the Gauley and New Rivers are
very rocky, and so irregular and full of seams and chasms that we can learn of no practicable ford on
either of them as far as our reconnaissances have extended.
I do not pretend that the opinions I have expressed have any value, except as they may show you
how the country and the movements of the enemy have impressed my own mind, situated as I am in
the midst of them. Your dispatches received to-day direct me to move to Summersville, after fortifying
this place so that a regiment may hold it. Lieutenant Wagner's report will show that this will necessarily
involve some delay. Meanwhile I shall make my arrangements for moving and await your orders.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. D. COX,
WASHINGTON, D. G., January 2, 1862.
Capt. G. L. HARTSUFF,
Wheeling, W. Va.:
Order Twenty-sixth Ohio, First Kentucky, Second Kentucky, Twenty-ninth Indiana to proceed to
Louisville without delay. Ask Milroy how he is off for troops. Your case is before the Cabinet. You
will not be compelled to resign. Send orders to Colonel Fyffe, giving him leave for twenty days. Send
in cipher strength at Romney. Get Crook and Milroy's reports and telegraph me. Hope to leave
to-morrow via General Banks' headquarters and Cumberland.
W. S. ROSECRANS,
Confederate Reports of the Western Virginia Campaign
Western Virginia Location Photos
Lt. Oscar L.R. French, Co. E letter 9/4/61