In the last column we described a massive movement of Gen. Cox's troops from Charleston, W.Va., to Virginia via the B&O Railroad. Being an astute general, Robert E. Lee didn't miss that 7,000 troops left Charleston, leaving that town's defenses seriously weakened. Hence, Lee took immediate action on two fronts.
First, he sent Gen. Loring toward Charleston with orders to take the town. Second, he sent Brig. Gen. Jenkins with 500 cavalry across the state, starting from the area around Beverly. Jenkins was a very talented cavalry officer owning a vast plantation at Greenbottom, western Virginia, in the Huntington area. He was a local native and had represented the area in Congress.
Jenkins' original plan for the raid was to destroy what he could of the B&O Railroad and possibly take Parkersburg. He was then to advance south of Charleston and provide assistance to Loring, who would be advancing toward Charleston. Jenkins probably heard Parkersburg was well protected, or should have been, and decided to stay south.
The swift-moving force captured Buchannon on Aug. 30, 1862, and all its military stores, which were immense. There he captured 5,000 stand of arms and a large amount of clothing and other stores. Being a swift-moving cavalry, what couldn't be carried was burned and destroyed. Next day, on Aug. 31, he rode to Weston destroying what he could that would be useful to the Union. From Weston he swiftly moved to Glenville on Sept. 1, at each place meeting little, if any, meaningful resistance.
From Glenville, Jenkins moved to Spencer, where Col. J.C. Rathbone had the headquarters of his 11th U.S. Infantry Regiment. It is here an important page of area history was written. Rathbone, remember, was a member of the important Rathbone family, owners of the Burning Springs oilfield. Rathbone had raised what became the 11th Infantry Regiment to protect the Burning Springs oilfield. It is important to note Rathbone was a businessman and not a military strategist, nor had he any military background. Just a few months earlier, he had declared an unusual armistice with the Confederate guerillas under Peregrine Hays and for that was seriously reprimanded.
At Spencer, Rathbone again showed his businessman's inclination. As Jenkins approached and being told he was seriously outnumbered, Rathbone decided to surrender his command. The following is Rathbone's report of the incident:
"I would respectfully report that on the afternoon of the 2d inst. I received a flag of truce and a summons to surrender from Brig. Gen A.G. Jenkins, Conf. Army. I remarked that it was customary to consult the officers before a step of that kind was taken. At which time my pickets and men formed line when I requested Maj. Trible to ride out and ascertain if possible the force brought against me. The major returned after a short absence and reported Jenkins' whole brigade present and that the force about to attack was not less than 1,500 strong. My morning report showed me that I had 111 armed men in camp, 33 of whom were picket guards on main guard duty. I also had 100 unarmed recruits in camp, 42 sick in the hospital that seeing no chance of retreat; I agreed to surrender on the following terms: Officer and men to be released upon their parole of honor, and to retain all their private property. As near as I can now report the enemy obtained possession of 82 long Enfield Rifles, nine short Enfield Rifles, 30 Harpers Ferry Rifles (worthless), 40 old Belgium Muskets (worthless), 9,500 cartridges, 58 caliber, 2,000 cartridges, 69 caliber and a small lot of Squirrel rifles, (secesh)
"They burned all the tents at the post. They were almost all worthless except the tents of Company B. Three were all new and in good order. Four or five new tents in Quartermaster's department. A very small lot of clothing and commissary stores. One National Flag, (burned up), one wagon and one ambulance. I would also report that I had not heard there were any Southern troops near me, and the first news I had of the capture of Weston was from the rebels. The annexed list will show the names of officers paroled: Col. J.C. Rathbone, Maj. Geo. C. Trible, Lt. Thos. A. Roberts, Reg. Adj., 2d Lt. Geo W. Baggs, Co A, 2d Lt Sam W. Ross, Co. B. Capt L. Simpson, Co. C., 1st Lt. Jas. Robinson, Co. C., 2d Lt Nicholas Poling, Co C, 1st Lt. T.B. Stoddard, Co. F, 2d Lt, W.C. Kirby, Co F, Capt Dixon R. King, Co I.
Officers 11, enlisted men paroled 152. I have the honor to be, Your very obedient servant, J.C. Rathbone, Col., 11th infy. Reg't Va. Vol."
After capturing Spencer, Jenkins traveled to Point Pleasant, and then headed toward Charleston. Union troops in Charleston began withdrawing when they could see troops under Loring coming north and troops under Jenkins approaching from the west.
Why so much interest in Charleston? Salt! Charleston was the location of the Kanawha Salt works, one of the largest in the nation. The Confederacy was desperate for salt. They immediately started shipping very long wagon trains of salt to southern Virginia and the Confederacy
The paroled troops at Spencer were sent to Parkersburg and were given local military duties and eventually given the job of building the fort opposite the town, which we now call Fort Boreman.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Dave McKain is director of the Oil and Gas Museum and is chairman of the area Civil War Roundtable which is commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. He is the author of the book "Northwestern Virginia and the Civil War."