By April 1861, President Lincoln was in trouble. The South was doing well, and his General McClellan was doing poorly, not willing to engage and pursue the enemy. So he replaced Gen. McClellan with Gen. George Halleck. Gen. McClellan was sent to try to take Richmond.
In the West Gen. Grant was confronted by Confederate forces at Shiloh, resulting in a Union victory but also resulting in casualties in huge numbers. Union losses were 13,000 dead and wounded, and Confederate losses were 11,000. Those were shocking numbers, and modern warfare had come of age. Remember this battle only lasted for two days.
Locally, an interesting skirmish occurred at Arnoldsburg, Calhoun County between Parkersburger Col. J.C. Rathbone's 11th Infantry Regiment and about 200 Rebels under Perry (Peregrine) Hays. Major Trimble commanded the 11th's company, with a considerable amount of ammunition involved. The report was the Trimble was captured with his company, but that proved to be incorrect. However, there was a considerable skirmish involved. The quartermaster of the Rathbone unit in charge of the ammunition was Lt. David Bell of Spencer. There were a few casualties on each side, with the union troops going to Spencer and the Confederate forces moving on to Burning Springs, probably the guerilla encampment at Big Bend.
If you want a better description of what happened, you might contact Vent Rathbone, David Bell or one of the Tebays, all currently of Parkersburg and descendents of Rathbone, Lt. Bell and Perry Hays, respectively. Van Bukey of Parkersburg was also in charge of some of the Union troops involved.
During this same period, 150 years ago, there were a number of minor skirmishes around western Virginia, not yet West Virginia, as a result of resuming activity after hibernation in winter quarters for the last few months..
Skip back to the present. I had a great experience last week when my son and his two small children visited. My wife Sue and I took on the task of babysitting for a few hours so that he could get some needed rest after a long eight hour drive. To fill the time, we first visited the new county park at Fort Boreman and climbed to the top of the hill where the flag flies over Market Street. We then spent a wonderful time at the new playground-new to me. The importance of this park is that it was built to protect Parkersburg and the railroad during the Civil War. Having studied its origins and construction, I was impressed that we have been able to restore such an historic site as well as we have. A great history lesson. What a wonderful view and what a wonderful park. Credit to the Wood County Commission!
When we were at the top of the hill, I pointed out our new Riverfront Park down on the beautiful Ohio River, the "Bell Rive" and told my grandchildren that we were next going to visit there. After parking, we walked around the new park and were able to walk along the floodwall up to the Belpre bridge. I could look out on the river and imagine the steamboats coming and going, bringing troops and supplies to Parkersburg and the railroad for movement east to the warfront. I also could imagine the visitors to the Swann House Hotel at the Point, which was located just inside the floodwall, sitting around waiting for transportation and discussing current statehood politics and the war. It must have really been exciting!
And we have now made a wonderful park there for our current and future enjoyment and to memorialize our past. Plaudits to the mayor and council of Parkersburg!
We would have gone to the City Park but my little dog doesn't do well socially with other dogs. At the City Park you can visit the Confederate soldier monument along Park Avenue and then visit the "long Tom" cannon originally from Fort Boreman. We next went to Henderson Hall and toured the grounds there, full of Wood County and West Virginia Civil War history, which we are in the process of restoring. And guess what was next-the Oil and Gas Museum, with its great Civil War displays, reflecting a major part of our history from this bygone era.
All of these sites have the new Civil War trail signs, describing the important history behind each.
Remember, we are not celebrating the Civil War, we are remembering its importance to our development as a country and in our case, as a state.