Introducing the soldiers of Shepherdstown
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a three-part series about the Shepherdstown and the beginning of the Civil War.
In early 1861, it was apparent to most men in Shepherdstown, Va., that a war was on the horizon.
And the men and boys of the town were anxious and ready to serve, following in the footsteps to their counterparts who had marched from Shepherdstown’s Morgan Park to Massachusetts to join the Continental Army led by George Washington.
The lads had joined the Hamtramck Guards, also known as the Shepherdstown Light Infantry, founded prior to the John Brown Raid in 1859 and some were active in those proceedings in nearby Harpers Ferry.
By mid-April, the guns in the harbor in Charleston, South Carolina started a bombardment on Fort Sumter. The fort surrendered and the war had begun. The Virginia secession convention held a meeting and decided to secede from the Union.
There was excitement in Shepherdstown as the men and boys formed up and prepared to march to the railroad station south of town. There they boarded the Baltimore and Ohio and were taken to the enlistment station at Harpers Ferry.
The men who enlisted formed Company B, the 2nd Virginia Infantry.
They included men from Shepherdstown including George E. Adams, Thomas B. Alexander, William Arthur, John Baldwin, Daniel Barnhart, Nathaniel Barley, George W. Barnhart, George R. Bedinger, George W. Cookus, William Butler, John Wesley Culp, Jacob B. Crow, Charles E. Entler, Daniel M. Entler, John Phil Entler, Benjamin F. Daniels, Charles F. Ferrell, Henry Kyd Douglas, John B. Douglas, Eli L. Fisher, William Freeze, Francis T. Grove, John S. Feaman, William H. Grove, Selby M. Hamtramck, Charles E. Hessey, Robert N. Hoffman, Samuel S. Hudson, Jacob Hutson, Robert Hutson, Daniel M. McEndree, John W. Jones, William M. Miller, William H. Keyes, Conrad Schmidt, Henry Kimes, Samuel B. Tapscott, Benjamin F. Lucas, Thomas H. Winter, George W. Yontz, Samuel H. Ray, John J. Reed, Alexander J. Shaner, Jeremiah B. Sheffler, James L. Towner, Thomas H. Towner, John G. Unseld, Jacob F. Voorhees, Jacob Wintermoyer, William Wintermoyer and John Wright.
Those new soldiers were from all parts of the town and from all walks of life.
James Towner was the postmaster. Henry Kyd Douglas, Thomas Harns Towner and John J. Reed were lawyers. Vincent Moore Butler was a physician. Henry Barnhart, John Feaman, William Keyes, Nathaniel Barley, John Phil Entler, Samuel Hudson, Jacob Hutson and Alexander J. Shaner listed their occupation as carpenters. John Unseld and Jacob Wintermoyer were painters. Jeremiah Sheffler, Robert N. Hoffman and Lemuel Taylor were coach and wagon makers. John Wesley Culp and Henry Cameron were tailors. Francis Grove, William Grove, Selby M. Hamtramck, George Bedinger and John B. Douglas were students. Robert Hutson was a blacksmith. Lee Moler, William Miller, Thomas Alexander and John W. Jones enlisted as farmers. Two were shoemakers in town – Thomas Wintermoyer and George Yontz. There was one confectionary – George E. Adams. Several were laborers.
Not everyone from Shepherdstown joined the infantry. Several, including William A. Morgan, Dr. Isaac Tanner, William Henry Hagan, Raymond Burke and his three sons -Frank, John and Mathew Burke – took their horses along and joined the 1st Virginia Cavalry.
Company B, the 2nd Virginia Infantry, camped and trained on Bolivar Heights under Colonel James W. Allen. On April 27, a drill instructor was sent to take over the training. He was from the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia and instructor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy and instructor of Artillery Tactics. He was a veteran of the Mexican War.
And train and drill them he did.
Some hated him, complaining that he was too tough and would likely kill them off before they saw their first Union soldier. Others loved him and would follow him anywhere.
His name was Col. Thomas J. Jackson. If the name is not familiar it would be later in the war when a reporter at the first battle of Bull Run (at Manassas Junction) dubbed him “Stonewall” Jackson, a moniker he was embarrassed by. Instead he transferred the name to his regiment, who became the famed Stonewall Brigade. Company B, the men and boys from Shepherdstown, would be an important part of that Stonewall Brigade.
Brigade Gen. Joseph Johnston took over the entire division on May 24. At his division meetings, it was determined to move from Bolivar Heights, as the area was not defensible. Company B moved out with Col. Jackson at the lead.
Part 2 – Company B becomes involved in early action in the war.
Bob O’Connor is a historian and author who lives in Charles Town. His website is www.boboconnorbooks.com. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.