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Fort Boreman key to railroad safety during Civil War

April 28, 2011
By Pamela Brust - pbrust@newsandsentinel.com , Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG - A promontory atop a ridgeline overlooking the Baltimore & Ohio Rail line and the Little Kanawha and Ohio rivers, Fort Boreman Hill's elevation and location provided a strategic vantage point for a Civil War fort.

The B&O at that time was the most important east-west rail line linking the Atlantic coast with the American interior, and as such of vital importance for the safe shipment of military supplies, and transport for U.S. Army troops. The government instituted a strategy in 1863 to ensure the rail link was not severed or commandeered by the Confederate Army. At the beginning of the war, the B&O was the most important route through West Virginia, it ran from Washington D.C. and Baltimore through Maryland entered West Virginia at Harpers Ferry and continued to Wheeling and Parkersburg. It was the only railroad that connected Washington D.C. to Cincinnati and St. Louis.

Before and during the first weeks of the war the railroad remained neutral. When Maryland remained in the Union, the company sought protection from Federal troops as the route now passed through distinctly rebel territory especially in the eastern counties of western Virginia.

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The railroad was priceless to both the north and south because it allowed easy access to the other's territory.

After Virginia seceded, Robert E. Lee and other military and political leaders of Virginia pursued control of the western counties because of Union sympathizers and the railroad. On May 28, 1861 Confederate troops captured more than 100 miles of the main line between Point of Rocks and Cumberland, Maryland. Tracks between Grafton and Parkersburg, both in Virginia at that point, were also destroyed by Confederate troops.

After the Confederate attacks on the railroad, rail company president John Garrett, a native Virginian, fully supported the federal government and was willing to pay for the repairs to the railroad, he did ask for protection.

Fact Box

The History of Fort Boreman

- A promontory atop a ridgeline overlooking the Baltimore & Ohio Rail line, Fort Boreman Hill was the perfect spot for a Civil War fort.

- Construction of the earthen fort was formally ordered in 1863.

- Fort Boreman and its soldiers never participated in any military action.

- Located just off U.S. 50, Fort Boreman Hill Historic Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is now part of the West Virginia Civil War Trail .

Col. George Thom, aide-de-camp was ordered to go to Baltimore and Major General Robert C. Schenck to examine the railroad and branches to the Ohio river and designate positions for blockhouses.

Although log quarters were reportedly constructed on the hill initially, construction of the actual earthen fort itself was formally ordered in 1863. The hill at that time was known as Mount Logan and was owned by Jonathan B. Beckwith, "a gentleman of doubtful loyalty to the union," according to reports from the time. The land was confiscated and Co. A of the 11th West Virginia Infantry began construction of the fortification.

The Wheeling Intelligencer reported "Parkersburg is being fortified.

The Parkersburg Gazette says two small brass cannon have been placed in position upon the hill on the southside of the Little Kanahwa.

They are to be replaced by larger ones and the hill on the north fortified in the same way. The one on the southside is called Fort Boreman, in honor of our new Governor." Boreman was a Parkersburg native.

Col. Daniel Frost of the 11th West Virginia Infantry Co. A, assumed command of the fort on Aug. 21, 1863.

The fort was garrisoned in 1864 by a detachment of Battery D (1st West Virginia Light Artillery) which wintered in the quarters prepared for them by the 11th West Virginia Infantry Battery H of the First West Virginia arrived in December of that year. By the end of the war the fort was garrisoned by the 32nd new York Independent Battery.

In September 1864, Capt. John Carlin received orders to take his command to Parkersburg and take charge of fortifications at the post. According to a history of that unit written by Linda Cunningham Fluharty and Edward L. Phillips, most of the men in the original Carlin's unit were from Wheeling and the Northern Panhandle with some from eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. A few were immigrants from Germany and the British Isles. Most were employed in the industrial section of Center and South Wheeling as nailers, coopers, machinists, blacksmiths, moulders, glassblowers, and several were tobacconists from the famous Wheeling stogie houses.

Government reports note 136 Union soldiers garrisoned at the fort until the autumn of 1865 to protect the rail line.

Fort Boreman and its soldiers never participated in any military action. According to Co. A veteran John Wolfe, the cannons were only fired on special occasions such as the Fourth of July or the arrival of local dignitaries.

Located just off U.S. 50, Fort Boreman Hill Historic Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is now part of the West Virginia Civil War Trail.

 
 
 

 

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