PARKERSBURG - A Civil War historian believes he found Camp Bolles on Fort Boreman where a cavalry unit was encamped in Parkersburg during the war.
Brian Kesterson of Parkersburg, a noted author ,said he suspected Camp Bolles, named after Col. William Mather Bolles, 1827-1911, of the 2nd W.Va. Cavalry, was atop the hill after his 2009 find there of a rock with the carved inscription "A.P. Jones 1861" and a soldier on a horse. He determined Jones served in Company A of the 2nd W.Va., however, there was no corroborating evidence the encampment was at Fort Boreman, which primarily was an infantry and artillery fortification to protect the confluence of the two rivers.
Then recently Kesterson was researching the records of the United States Sanitary Commission, which was created to make sure camps followed basic sanitary regulations, such as having the latrines far enough away from living areas and water sources to prevent diseases. Cholera was a problem during the war, Kesterson said.
Photos by Jess Mancini
Brian Kesterson, a Civil War historian and author from Parkersburg, stands where Camp Bolles was located on Fort Boreman. The location of the camp was confirmed while researching records from the United States Sanitary Commission, Kesterson said.
The records included an inspection in 1861 that said the cavalry unit was camped at the confluence of the Little Kanawha and Ohio Rivers, Kesterson said. The area below the hill was too small for cavalry, he said.
The only nearby area large enough would have been atop Mount Logan, Fort Boreman before the name was changed for Arthur Boreman, the first governor of the new state created by proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln, Kesterson said.
"I thought the camp was located there, but without the evidence, I couldn't say for certain," he said.
The records from the commission confirmed his suspicion.
"That was the nail in the coffin," Kesterson said.
Ray Swick, historian of the Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park, said the significance of such discoveries is it dispels myth with facts and separates rumor from what actually happened. Like tiles in a mosaic, tidbits of information that alone seem trivial can be put together and lead to new discoveries and show the entire historical picture, he said.
"Facts are the only basis for history," Swick said. "If you want to deal with myths and rumors, you go into literature."
The Mount Logan camp was the first for the cavalry, Kesterson said. The second was at the present-day City Park, Kesterson said.
Determining where the camp was located adds to the warehouse of knowledge available to researchers and historians, Kesterson said.
"Some camps were very well documented," he said. "Others were just known by a name."
The United States is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and the state of West Virginia in 2013 will celebrate its sesquicentennial. West Virginia was the only state created during the war after a government loyal to the union ceded from the Confederate state of Virginia.
Part of the 2nd W.Va. was dispatched east to capture former members of the Moccasin Rangers, said George Hall, a Civil War historian from Parkersburg who wrote the "Civilian War in West Virginia" about the Moccasin Rangers, a group of Confederate sympathizers and guerrillas.
The 2nd W.Va. confronted the rangers at Cold Knob Mountain in Greenbrier County in November 1862, Hall said.
Bolles was born in Connecticut and died in Portsmouth where he is buried in the Greenlawn Cemetery.
He petitioned the governor of Ohio to form a cavalry unit, but the governor said the state had its allotment of cavalry, Kesterson said. His unit could be either formed as artillery or infantry.
"He and his men didn't want to do that," Kesterson said.
Bolles went to Gov. Francis Pierpont of the loyal government of Virginia, the forerunner to the state of West Virginia, and Pierpont agreed, leading to the creation of the 2nd Va. U.S. Loyal Cavalry, a name given to prevent confusion with an existing Confederate cavalry from Virginia, Kesterson said. The request went up the chain of command, from Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to President Lincoln.
"Pierpont was just ecstatic," he said.
The regiment, which later became known as the 2nd W.Va. after the state was created, was camped at Mount Logan from July 1861 to September 1861, Kesterson said. Most of the soldiers in the cavalry were volunteers from Ohio where Bolles did much of his recruiting, he said.
The 2nd W.Va. was a decorated unit during the war.
Among the battles it participated were the Battle of Lewisburg in 1861, Hunter's Raid in 1863 at Wytheville, Va., and Sheridan's Campaign in 1864 in the Shenandoah Valley. It served under Phillip Sheridan, George Custer, William Averell, William Powell, Alfred Torbert, Jacob Cox, David Hunter and George Crook.
The information will be taken to the Wood County Historical and Preservation and Society and the county commission with the hopes something can be done to denote its location, Kesterson said.
"The hope is we can do something so future generations will know these men were here," he said.
In that light, he encourages anyone with letters, diaries and other information from the Civil War to copy the documents or take other measures to preserve them. Such sources are invaluable for historical purposes and often times can confirm or refute stories of major events, he said.
"We're always looking for information from letters and diaries," he said. "Those are the key."