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GENERAL GEORGE STONEMAN, USA - History

GENERAL GEORGE STONEMAN, USA - History

VITAL STATISTICS
BORN: 1822 in Busti, NY.
DIED: 1894 in Buffalo, NY.
CAMPAIGNS: Peninsula, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Atlanta, Stoneman's Raid (Southwestern Virginia), Stoneman's Raid (North Carolina and Virginia).
HIGHEST RANK ACHIEVED: Major General.
BIOGRAPHY
George Stoneman was born on August 22, 1822, in Busti, New York. After graduating from West Point, he fought in the Mexican and Indian Wars. He was promoted to brigadier general on August 13, 1861, several months after the Civil War began. Commanding a division in the Peninsula Campaign, he was promoted to major general to rank from November 29, 1862. Stoneman led a corps at Fredericksburg, but was relieved of command for poor leadership in the Chancellorsville Campaign. He remained in the Cavalry Bureau in Washington until 1864, when he was placed in command of a division in the Atlanta Campaign. Captured in a joint raid with Brig. Gen. Edward M. McCook, he was released in time to command a raid through southwestern Virginia in December of 1864. In March of 1865, Stoneman led raids across southern Virginia and western North Carolina. After the Civil War ended,, Stoneman remained in the Regular Army, and retired in 1871. He moved to California, where he was elected governor (1883-1887). Stoneman died in Buffalo, New York, on September 5, 1894.

Stoneman’s Raid

Major General George Stoneman led one of the conclusive operations of the Civil War from during the March and April months of 1865. Classified by some historians as one of the longest cavalry raids in history, Stoneman&rsquos Raid coincided with Sherman&rsquos March through the eastern section of North Carolina, and the general, along with his 6,000 soldier, was ordered &ldquoto destroy and not to fight battles.&rdquo The idea behind the raid was to shorten the length of the already bloody Civil War.

Beginning in at the town of Mossy Creek, Tennessee, Stoneman led his men into the mountains of North Carolina on March 23, 1865. In just a few short days the troupe had pillaged Boone and captured the town of Wilkesboro. Eventually Stoneman moved northward and started attacking towns in Virginia, and he split his company on April 9th, also the same day as General Lee&rsquos surrender. Brigadier General William Palmer made his way to Greensboro while General Stoneman moved onward to Salisbury.

General Palmer&rsquos brigade destroyed roadways and rail lines in the Greensboro and High Point area. His group of men managed to sever railroads outside the town of Greensboro, and they barely missed capturing Jefferson Davis when Palmer and his men set fire to the Reedy Fork Bridge. Davis and his cabinet were scurrying away from Virginia, and they managed to cross the bridge only moments before it was set on fire. Palmer continued his march through Greensboro and High Point as his company laid waste to bridges, factories, and trains. Palmer would eventually meet back up with General Stoneman on April 12th as Stoneman raided Salisbury.

Stoneman and his men moved toward Salisbury while Palmer had began his trek to Greensboro. The town of Salisbury not only held a significant Confederate prison but it was also a large supply town for the Confederate forces. Stoneman showed no mercy, as he razed the town Union troops tore up rail lines, and burned mills and destroyed the town&rsquos infrastructure. The destruction lasted for several days and some witnesses claimed to have noticed the fierce fire for over 15 miles during the night.

After destroying most of Salisbury, General Stoneman and his troupe headed back to Tennessee. In all, the Union army had traveled over 1,000 miles in both North Carolina, Virginia, and parts of South Carolina. Causing widespread destruction and vandalism, historians believe that Stoneman&rsquos raid was the coup de grâce that prevented Lee from a full retreat. In addition, Stoneman&rsquos raid left most of western North Carolina in shambles, and the leaders of North Carolina during Reconstruction had to deal with rebuilding the structures and transportation routes the North destroyed during the raid.

Sources

&ldquoStoneman&rsquos Raid.&rdquo William S. Powell, ed. Encyclopedia of North Carolina (University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC 2006).

&ldquoStoneman&rsquos Raid.&rdquo North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program website. A Division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. (accessed January 17, 2011).


Major General George Stoneman

Stoneman was the first of 10 children. His parents were George Stoneman, Sr, a lumberman and justice of the peace, and Catherine Rebecca Cheney. He studied at the Jamestown Academy and graduated from West Point in 1846, ranked 33 out of 59 in his class. His first assignment was with the 1st U.S. Dragoons, with which he served across the West and in California. He fought in the Indian Wars and was responsible for survey parties mapping the Sierra Nevada range for railroad lines.

At the start of the Civil War, Stoneman was in command of Fort Brown, Texas, and refused to surrender to the Confederate authorities there, escaping to the north with most of his command. Returning east, he served as a major of the 1st U.S. Cavalry and then adjutant to Major Gen. George B. McClellan in western Virginia. As the cavalry was being organized in the Army of the Potomac, he commanded the Cavalry Reserve and then the Cavalry Division, with the title Chief of Cavalry. He was promoted to Brigadier General on August 13, 1861. He did not relate well to McClellan, who did not understand the proper use of cavalry in warfare, relegating it to assignment in small units to infantry brigades. This organization fared poorly in the Peninsula Campaign and the Seven Days Battles of 1862, where the Confederate cavalry dominated the battlefields.

On November 22, 1861, Stoneman married Mary Oliver Hardisty of Baltimore. They eventually had 4 children.

After the Peninsula Campaign, Stoneman became an infantry commander, commanding a division in the II Corps and the III Corps. At the Battle of Fredericksburg, he commanded the III Corps. He was promoted to major general of volunteers on November 29, 1862. Major Gen. Joseph Hooker had a better understanding of the strategic value of a centralized Cavalry corps and named Stoneman to command it. The centralized corps could undertake long raids into Confederate territory, destroying supplies, and gathering intelligence about the Confederate forces.

At the Battle of Chancellorsville, Hooker assigned Stoneman a key role in which his Cavalry Corps would raid deeply into Gen. Robert E. Lee's rear and destroy vital railroad lines and supplies, distracting Lee from Hooker's main assaults. The Cavalry Corps got off to a good start in May, but quickly bogged down after crossing the Rapidan River. During the battle, Stoneman accomplished little and was considered one of the principal reasons for the Union defeat. That is the version that Hooker promulgated widely. Hooker needed to deflect criticism from himself and relieved Stoneman from his cavalry command, sending him back to Washington, D.C., for medical treatment, where he became a Chief of the U.S. Cavalry Bureau. A large cavalry supply and training depot on the Potomac River was named Camp Stoneman in his honor.

In early 1864, Stoneman requested another field command from Major Gen. John Schofield, who was in command of the Department of the Ohio. Although originally slated for an infantry corps, Stoneman assumed command of the Cavalry Corps of what would be known as the Army of the Ohio. In the Atlanta Campaign, under Major Gen. William T. Sherman, Stoneman and his aide, Brigadier Gen. Edward M. McCook, were captured by Confederate soldiers outside Macon, Georgia, becoming the highest ranking Union prisoner of war.

Stoneman was exchanged relatively quickly based on the personal request of Sherman to the Confederates and he returned to duty. He led raids into Virginia and North Carolina in 1865 and his command nearly captured President Jefferson Davis. In June 1865, he was appointed commander of the Department of Tennessee and administered occupied Memphis. There, riots broke out among citizens who were angry at the presence of black Union soldiers in the military government. He was criticized for inaction and was investigated by a congressional committee, although he was exonerated.

In 1866, Stoneman became opposed to the radical policies of Reconstruction and joined the Democratic Party. As he administered the military government in Petersburg, Virginia, he established a reputation of applying more moderate policies than some of the other military governors in Reconstruction, which eased some of the reconciliation pain for Virginians.

Stoneman was mustered out of volunteer service in September 1866, and reverted to his Regular Army rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He took command of the Department of Arizona, First Military District, headquartered at Drum Barracks. He was a controversial commander in that role because of his dealings with Indian uprisings and he was relieved of his command in May 1871.

Stoneman moved to California, the place of which he had dreamed since his service as a young officer before the war. He and his wife settled in the San Gabriel Valley on a 400 acre estate called Los Robles. He was a California Railroad Commissioner from 1876-78.

In 1882, Stoneman was elected governor of California and served a single 4-year term. He was not renominated by his party for a second term. After his house was destroyed by fire, he was broken financially and in poor health. He returned to New York for medical treatment. He died following a stroke and is buried in the Bentley Cemetery in Lakewood, New York.


George Stoneman (1822-1894)

George Stoneman, Jr. (August 8, 1822 – September 5, 1894) was a United States Army cavalry officer, trained at West Point, where his room-mate was Stonewall Jackson.

Mormon Battalion Officer

Participant in the march of The Mormon Battalion. This unit of the US Army served in the Mexican-American War and was the only religiously based infantry unit ever created by Presidential order. It consisted of nearly 500 men recruited exclusively from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called the Mormons). They undertook the longest infantry march in U.S. military history (as of 1847) and in the process marked out and creating the first continuous wagon road to California which linked the future states of New Mexico, Arizona, and California to the United States. Most members served an initial 12 month term (Jul 1846- Jul 1847) with some members re-enlisting for an additional 12 months afterwards.

Civil War

In the Civil War, he became Adjutant to George B. McClellan, who did not appreciate the use of centralised cavalry, and was therefore outperformed by the Confederates, who did.

At Chancellorsville, under Joseph Hooker, Stoneman failed in an ambitious attempt to penetrate behind enemy lines, getting bogged down at an important river crossing. Hooker's sharp criticism of Stoneman may have been partly aimed at deflecting the heavy blame being directed at himself for the loss of this major battle that most generals believed to be winnable.

While commanding cavalry under William Tecumseh Sherman in Georgia, Stoneman was captured, but soon exchanged. In the last weeks of the war, he led raids into Virginia that inspired the song "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down".


Sherman's Inability to Liberate The South's Most Notorious Prison

In April 1864, Sherman embarked on his mission to strike at the heart of Dixie, with the intent of capturing Atlanta, the scene of much of the South&rsquos industrial might, and then to cut the remainder of the South in half (much as Grant had done the previous year as part of his Vicksburg Campaign), as he marched through Georgia to the sea. During his Atlanta campaign, he sent a detachment of Cavalry under General George Stoneman to destroy General John B. Hood&rsquos supply lines and communications between Macon and Atlanta. As part of this mission, Sherman consented to allow Stoneman to proceed to Andersonville Prison (Camp Sumter) and liberate the Union prisoners of war incarcerated there.

Stoneman was not successful in liberating the Union POWs, in fact, he was captured along with about 700 of his force and held captive until he was exchanged a couple of months later. This was the only serious attempt that Sherman made to free the prisoners at Andersonville during his Atlanta campaign and subsequent march to the sea and it was an abject failure. Given the opportunity and the superior force at his disposal, why didn&rsquot Sherman make any further attempts to free these prisoners who were dying at the rate of 200 men per day by September 1864? The truth was, he didn&rsquot really want to free them, for a number of reasons. First of all, he didn&rsquot want to divide his force, diverting some for the task of liberating prisoners and, thereby, weakening it in the face of an aggressive foe. Secondly, he didn&rsquot want to allocate his precious resources to the task of caring for these prisoners, many of whom were in very bad condition, once he did liberate them. Finally, he wanted to keep as much of the Confederate force as possible busy with the care and supervision of these prisoners so the South couldn&rsquot use those troops against him.

DREARY ANDERSONVILLE &ndash THE NEED TO LIBERATE IT

Construction of the prison at Andersonville, Georgia, officially named Camp Sumter, began in December 1863 but still wasn&rsquot finished when the first Union prisoners arrived February 24, 1864. The original intent was to use Camp Sumter as a holding area for Union prisoners until such time as they could be exchanged for Confederate soldiers imprisoned in the North.(1) Prison conditions were good initially, in spite of the fact that supplies, food, etc. were hard to come by. While few prisoners were ill or died within the first five months of the prison&rsquos operation, the rapid influx of Union prisoners caused this to change dramatically. By June, 1864, the Andersonville prison had swelled to more than 26,000 prisoners and food and shelter were in ever dwindling supply. Although the camp was expanded to 26½ acres, it was still inadequate to house all of its charges and to relieve the rampant overcrowding. By Summer of 1864 conditions deteriorated further due to the scant rations and lack of medical supplies. Vegetables were practically non-existent, leading to numerous cases of scurvy. Adding to the overall distress were the deplorable sanitary conditions that existed. The hospital and guard quarters were located upstream from the prison and this stream was used for all manner of trash disposal, human and animal waste, as well as bathing. The prisoners, of course, used the same stream for drinking and bathing causing widespread diarrhea and dysentery among the captives. Conditions degenerated to the point that by July, Captain Wirz consented to the parole of five Union prisoners to deliver a signed petition to the Federal government requesting that prisoner exchanges be reinstated.(2)

Dr. Isaiah H. White, Camp Surgeon, repeatedly pointed out the deplorable conditions to his superiors requesting more medical and hospital supplies, additional medical staff, and adequate supplies and housing. All of his appeals fell on deaf ears, however. The prison population swelled to over 33,000 by August making Andersonville the fifth largest &ldquocity&rdquo in all the Confederacy. By now, hundreds of prisoners were dying daily. This, of course, strained the prison&rsquos capacity even more in trying to dispose of the extremely high number of corpses &ndash many bodies lay for the days in the hot, humid environment which only contributed more to the disease and suffering of the prisoners. According to Dr. White, the U.S. Government&rsquos prisoner exchange policy had much to do with the deplorable conditions of Andersonville prison because it &ldquo&hellipthrew upon our impoverished commissariat the feeding of a large number of prisoners.&rdquo(3)

The development of unsanitary conditions, pestulence, the hot and humid weather, insufficient protection from the elements, along with lack of food and, in many cases, poor quality food, led to disease, sickness, and, much of the time, death. In addition, medicine and medical supplies, in general, were in very short supply due the fact that many such supplies were produced only in the North and were naturally unavailable to the South during the war. As a result, the South was forced to obtain supplies from Europe, but the Northern naval blockade prevented the South from obtaining many of the supplies they needed from abroad. These deplorable conditions were related to General Sherman by some of the few men who actually escaped captivity at Andersonville. In his memoirs, Sherman spoke of their &ldquo&hellipsad condition: more than twenty-five thousand prisoners confined in a stockade designed for only ten thousand debarred the privilege of gathering wood out of which to make huts deprived of sufficient healthy food, and the little stream that ran though their prison-pen poisoned and polluted by the offal from their cooking and butchering houses above.&rdquo(4)

THE ARGUMENT FOR AND AGAINST FREEING THE PRISONERS

It was during Sherman&rsquos Atlanta campaign that he first learned of the situation at Andersonville and the plight of Union prisoners incarcerated there. He had been receiving reports from escapees who had made it back to his lines, since July. In spite of the fact that Andersonville was out of his way, and hadn&rsquot been an issue when he began his campaign, it had now gotten his attention. Going into this campaign, it was clear that Sherman never intended to free the prisoners at Andersonville of his own volition, for several reasons. First of all, it hadn&rsquot been a problem at the outset of his campaign and, even after he learned about the deplorable conditions, he wanted to maintain his focus on his primary objective, which was to cut Georgia and the South in half in an attempt to end the war once and for all, and as quickly as possible. Second, he was concerned about diverting large numbers of his troops and weakening his overall force in the face of a very aggressive and formidable foe in John Bell Hood. Third, he didn&rsquot want to slow down his advance and over-burden his resources by having to care for thousands of sickly and feeble men who badly needed medical care and the attention of many of his own force. Last, he felt that by leaving the Union prisoners where they were, the Confederates would have to attend to them, taking troops and resources away from the Confederate forces he would be facing in combat.

In addition to Sherman&rsquos reluctance to free prisoners out-right by liberating them from prison, he and his superiors, including Lincoln and Grant, did not want to exchange Union prisoners for rebel prisoners because it was felt that, from a strategic standpoint, Confederate prisoners were much more valuable to the Confederacy because they would be absorbed into fighting units immediately and begin to fight again. This wasn&rsquot to say that Union prisoners were not valued by their leadership, it just meant that, due to the South&rsquos disadvantage in terms of manpower, the re-absorption of Confederate prisoners into their armies was much more advantageous for them than for the Union. It was better to keep Confederate prisoners away from the fight while burdening the South further with the occupation of guarding, feeding, and caring for thousands of Union prisoners. According to Dr. White, Chief Surgeon of Andersonville Prison, Confederate authorities made many attempts to secure the exchange of prisoners sequestered not only at Andersonville but from their other prisons as well. But, it was the position of the U.S. Government not to exchange them because they felt that each rebel prisoner released would immediately become an active soldier.(5)

General Grant spoke of his unwillingness to exchange prisoners in his memoirs. In a letter to General Butler, dated August 18, 1864, General Grant put it this way, &ldquoit is hard on our men held in Southern prisons not to exchange them, but it is humanity to those left in the ranks to fight our battles. Every man released on parole or otherwise, becomes an active soldier against us at once, either directly of indirectly. If we commence a system of exchange which liberates all prisoners taken, we will have to fight on until the whole South is exterminated. If we hold those caught they amount to no more than dead men. At this particular time to release all rebel prisoners North would insure Sherman&rsquos defeat and would compromise our safety here.&rdquo(6)

In addition, Sherman was also reluctant to accept Union prisoners into his army either by exchange or through liberation because of the poor condition of such men. He was only willing to exchange prisoners, between he and Confederate General John B. Hood, who were physically fit for duty. He was, however, willing to accept sickened or invalid prisoners from Andersonville in exchange for non-combatants whom he had captured while they were providing support to rebel troops or performing repair work on damaged rail lines or on telegraph lines and other communications.(7)

GENERAL STONEMAN&rsquoS ATTEMPT TO LIBERATE ANDERSONVILLE

In July 1864 as Sherman had almost completely surrounded Atlanta, there was still one problem which he needed to solve. Confederate supplies were still being transported into Atlanta by way of the Macon rail lines from the south. Sherman realized that he must cut this supply line if he was to be successful in capturing Atlanta quickly. To accomplish this, Sherman tasked his cavalry commanders, General George Stoneman, and Generals Kenner Garrard and Edward McCook to move their forces, consisting of about 9,000 troops, rapidly south to destroy the supply lines and communications between Atlanta and Macon.(8) Upon receiving his orders from Sherman to destroy Hood&rsquos communications and supply lines, General Stoneman asked General Sherman for his permission to liberate Union prisoners of war held at Andersonville and Macon after completing his mission. General Sherman, sympathetic to the plight of the prisoners held at Andersonville, and believing that Stoneman&rsquos plan had some merit, consented. Of Stoneman&rsquos plan, Sherman said, &ldquoat the moment almost of starting General Stoneman addressed me a letter asking permission, after fulfilling his orders and breaking the road, to be allowed, with his command proper, to proceed to Macon and Andersonville and release our prisoners of war confined at those points. There was something most captivating in the idea, and the execution was within the bounds of probable success.&rdquo Sherman continued by telling Stoneman, &ldquoif you can bring back to the army any or all of those prisoners of war, it will be an achievement that will entitle you, and your command, to the love and admiration of the whole country.&rdquo(9)

The plan was to divide the force, sending Generals Stoneman and Garrard&rsquos cavalry around Atlanta to the left to McDonough, and General McCook&rsquos troops to the right toward Fayetteville, ultimately linking up at the Macon road near Lovejoy&rsquos Station. However, at the last moment, the plan changed, calling for Garrard&rsquos unit to follow Stoneman&rsquos force only as far as Flat Rock. The rationale was for Garrard to support Stoneman and to act as a buffer between the Union forces and General Wheeler&rsquos cavalry in the event the Confederates caught on to the scheme. This had the effect of reducing Stoneman&rsquos force to only about 2,200 men. As Stoneman&rsquos cavalry detachment set off on July 27th passing to the right of Stone Mountain and continuing through Covington, they were seen by rebel pickets. After a minor clash near Monticello, Stoneman&rsquos force continued south toward Clinton, Georgia. When they arrived at Clinton, General Stoneman ordered a detachment of the 14th Illinois Cavalry to proceed to Gordon in an attempt to destroy as much as the Confederate supply line as they could. He then proceeded with the rest of his force toward Macon. As they approached Macon on the evening of July 29th, they encountered heavy resistance from a 3,000-plus Militia force. While looking for a point to cross the Ocmulgee River, in an effort to move on Andersonville Prison, Stoneman discovered that General Wheeler&rsquos cavalry unit was advancing upon his rear, effectively cutting him off from the Union forces farther to the north of his position.

Realizing his predicament, Stoneman ordered his force to retreat back north to the vicinity of Clinton in an effort to engage the Confederate cavalry closing in on him and, hopefully, to link up with other Union troops. He reached Clinton on the evening of the 30th and, after some minor skirmishes in which he recaptured Clinton and freed some Union prisoners who had been captured earlier, bivouacked for the night. The following day he advanced north toward Hillsboro and encountered a large, entrenched Confederate force which blocked his advance. Also pursuing him from the South were additional rebel forces, which threatened to surround him. Stoneman decided that his best course of action was to try to penetrate the rebel lines in front of him in an effort to break out of his entanglement. In spite of repeated attempts to penetrate the enemy lines, Stoneman&rsquos troops found themselves out-manned and outgunned. By 4:00 pm of July 31st, Stoneman ordered two-thirds of his force to penetrate the weakest part of the rebel force to the southeast while he and the remainder of his force stayed behind to provide cover for the escape. This main Union force fought their way through and escaped. Stoneman and the remaining 700 troops continued to fight until they had exhausted all of their ammunition, at which time they surrendered. The hope of liberating Andersonville was now completely dashed.

In the aftermath of Stoneman&rsquos debacle, Sherman in his explanation to General Halleck on August 7, 1864, wrote, &ldquonothing but natural and intense desire to accomplish an end so inviting to one&rsquos feelings would have drawn me to commit a military mistake at such a crisis, as that of dividing and risking my cavalry so necessary to the success of my campaign.&rdquo(10) Sherman was obviously conflicted &ndash on one hand he was sympathetic to the plight of fellow Union troops and the misery they were suffering but, and on the other hand, he felt that he had diverged from his own ideals and the unwavering logic which had guided his military success. Grant, in his memoirs, characterized Stoneman&rsquos raid and its aftermath as follows: &ldquoIn the latter part of July Sherman sent Stoneman to destroy the railroads to the south, about Macon. He was then to go east and, if possible, release our prisoners about Andersonville. There were painful stories current at the time about the great hardships these prisoners had to endure in the way of general bad treatment, in the way in which they were housed, and in the way in which they were fed. Great sympathy was felt for them and it was thought that even if they could be turned loose upon the country it would be a great relief to them. But the attempt proved a failure.&rdquo(11) It&rsquos questionable whether Stoneman&rsquos attempt to liberate the prisoners from Macon and Andersonville Prisons would have succeeded, even if he had followed orders. It seems that the effort was doomed to failure no matter what the circumstances because it lacked careful planning and coordination on Stoneman&rsquos part.

Apparently, there was no consideration given to how Stoneman&rsquos troops would handle resistance from Confederate units between Atlanta and the prisons, such as Wheeler&rsquos cavalry, for example. In addition, Stoneman had very little intelligence about how the prisons were fortified and how many troops were guarding the prisoners, and exactly how he would overcome the defenses. Even if he was successful in effecting the release of the prisoners, there was no plan or consideration given to how his cavalry force was going to move 30,000 sick and emaciated men 100 miles to safety, across territory teeming with Confederate troops. While most of the blame for this failed attempt lies with Stoneman, Sherman certainly deserves some of the blame as well. After all, in spite of the fact that he agreed to Stoneman&rsquos request, Sherman did have some reservations, later referring to it as &ldquoa bold and rash gesture.&rdquo He was also aware of the risks involved in transferring the prisoners to safety, indicating that after the prisoners were freed, &ldquothe difficulty will then commence for them to reach me.&rdquo(12) Later when writing to the Sanitary Commission to obtain supplies for those incarcerated at Andersonville, and suffering from a certain amount of guilt and remorse for not successfully freeing the prisoners, Sherman wrote, &ldquoI don&rsquot think I ever set my heart so strongly on any one thing as I did in attempting to rescue those prisoners.&rdquo(13)

WHY SHERMAN WAS UNSUCCESSFUL IN LIBERATING ANDERSONVILLE OR OTHER PRISONS AFTER STONEMAN&rsquoS RAID

After Stoneman&rsquos debacle, Sherman hesitated from making any further direct attempts to liberate prisoners at Andersonville, or other prisons nearby, not wanting to stray again from his &ldquocold logic and unsentimental reasoning,&rdquo so that he would be sure to maintain his focus on the military objective at hand. General Hood and his army demanded all of Sherman&rsquos attention and any additional attempts to free prisoners would only distract him from that endeavor and would certainly prolong the war and the suffering of the prisoners involved. Another reason that Sherman didn&rsquot pursue the liberation of Union prisoners from Andersonville and Macon, among others, was the fact that, due to the perceived threat of liberation by Sherman&rsquos army, the prisoners within close proximity to Sherman&rsquos army were being located to other prison camps throughout the South. After the fall of Atlanta, the Confederates began moving prisoners from Andersonville by rail to various towns and cities throughout Georgia and South Carolina.

Blackshear, Milledgeville, Millen, Savannah, and Thomasville were some of the 30 or so towns selected to house these prisoners until the threat had passed. The prisoners were fairly evenly split up, with several thousand going to Millen, ten thousand going to Savannah, ten thousand to Florence, ten thousand to Charleston, S.C., and the rest split up among some of the smaller towns. The disabled and critically sick were kept at Andersonville, since it was believed that they would be of little value to Sherman&rsquos army.(14) Of his inability to secure the release, or exchange, of Northern prisoners, General Sherman probably said it best in a letter to his wife Ellen, in which he wrote, &ldquo&hellip it is idle to attempt the exchange&hellip&rdquo I have already lost Stoneman & near 2,000 Cavalry in attempting to rescue the Prisoners at Macon. I get one hundred letters a day to effect the exchange or release of these Prisoners. It is not in my power. The whole matter of Exchanges is in the hands of Col. Hoffman, Commissioner at Washington. I am capturing & sending north hundreds of prisoners daily and have not intercourse with the Enemy.&rdquo(15)

Unfortunately, General Sherman let emotion get the better of him, straying from his guiding principles for one of the few times in his career when he consented to Stoneman&rsquos request to free the prisoners at Andersonville and Macon. While it is certainly difficult to fault him for his compassion and concern for the prisoners, it is more difficult to understand why, given his reputation for careful and methodical planning, he didn&rsquot insist that the raid be more carefully planned and coordinated. On the other hand, it is probably due to the failure of Stoneman&rsquos raid, that he didn&rsquot attempt any further diversions of this sort, insuring that he maintained his focus on his military objective, and, ultimately, shortening the war and the suffering of Union prisoners.

(1) John Rice, &ldquoAndersonville,&rdquo [document on-line], UMKC School of Law, accessed 23 April 2002 available from http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/Wirz/anders1.htm Internet.

(3) &ldquoAndersonville Prison &ndash Testimony of Dr. Isaiah H. White, Late Surgion Confederate States Army, As to the Treatment of Prisoners There,&rdquo [papers on-line] (Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol.XVII., Richmond, Va., January &ndash December, 1889, Richmond Times, August 7, 1890.

(4) William T. Sherman, &ldquoMemoirs of General William T. Sherman,&rdquo Volume II, (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1875) , 143.

(5) &ldquoAndersonville Prison &ndash Testimony of Dr. Isaiah H. White, Late Surgeon Confederate States Army, As to the Treatment of Prisoners There,&rdquo (Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol.XVII., Richmond, Va., January &ndash December, 1889, Richmond Times, August 7, 1990.

(7) Lloyd Lewis, &ldquoSherman &ndash Fighting Prophet,&rdquo (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1932), 418 &ndash 419.

(8) Stanley P. Hirshson, &ldquoThe White Tecumseh,&rdquo (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1997) , 234.

(9) Robert Wayne Philbrook, &ldquoAlbert Philbrook & The 14th Illinois Cavalry,&rdquo [document on-line], accessed 13 April 2002 available at http://homepages.rootsweb.com/

(10) Lloyd Lewis, &ldquoSherman &ndash Fighting Prophet,&rdquo (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1932) , 403.

(11) Ulysses S. Grant, &ldquoThe Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant,&rdquo (New York: Mount MacGregor, 1885 reprint, Connecticut: Konecky & Konecky, 1992) , 437 &ndash 438 (page citations are to the reprint edition).

(12) James Lee McDonough and James Pickett Jones, &ldquoWar So Terrible &ndash Sherman And Atlanta,&rdquo (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1987), 252 &ndash 255.

(13) Lloyd Lewis, &ldquoSherman &ndash Fighting Prophet,&rdquo (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1932), 403.

(14) John Ransom, &ldquoJohn Ransom&rsquos Andersonville Diary,&rdquo (New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 1963) 154.

(15) Ed Brooks, D. Simpson, & Jean V. Berlin, &ldquoSelected Correspondence of Sherman&rsquos Civil War &ndash William T. Sherman, 1860 &ndash 1865,&rdquo (Chapel Hill & London: University of North Carolina Publishing, 1999) 684 &ndash 685.

Brooks, Ed, D. Simpson and Jean V. Berlin. &ldquoSelected Correspondence of Sherman&rsquos Civil War &ndash William T. Sherman, 1860 &ndash 1865.&rdquo Chapel Hill & London: University Of North Carolina Publishing, 1999.

Grant, Ulysses S. &ldquoThe Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant.&rdquo New York: Mount MacGregor, 1885 reprint, Connecticut: Konecky & Konecky, 1992.

Hirshson, Stanley P. &ldquoThe White Tecumseh.&rdquo New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1997.

Kennett, Lee. &ldquoMarching Through Georgia &ndash The Story of Soldiers & Civilians During Sherman&rsquos Campaign.&rdquo New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995.

Lewis, Lloyd. &ldquoSherman &ndash Fighting Prophet.&rdquo New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1932.

McDonough, James Lee, James Pickett Jones. &ldquoWar So Terrible &ndash Sherman and Atlanta.&rdquo New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1987.

Ransom, John. &ldquoJohn Ransom&rsquos Andersonville Diary.&rdquo New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 1963.

Sherman, William T. &ldquoMemoirs of General William T. Sherman.&rdquo Volume II. New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1875. BizSuite Web Service.


GENERAL GEORGE STONEMAN, USA - History

Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields Camp Stoneman (Pittsburg Replacement Depot, Pittsburg Replacement and Reclassification Depot, Prisoner of War Camp) Camp Stoneman, June 1942 (National Archives) History by LTC (Ret) Danny Johnson "Through these Portals Pass the Best Damn Soldiers in the World." This proud inscription met the eye of each soldier as he passed through the entrance to the wharves at Camp Stoneman to embark for shipment overseas. The major Pacific coast World War II staging area under the control of the San Francisco Port of Embarkation was Camp Stoneman located in Pittsburg, CA. Camp Stoneman was the largest troop staging area on the west coast of the United States for units deploying to the Pacific Theater of Operations. Camp Stoneman was once the principal "jumping off point" for more than one million soldiers destined for operations in WW II's Pacific Theater, and again several years later during the Korean War.

The idea for Camp Stoneman was born soon after Pearl Harbor in response for the urgent need for a large cantonment area at which port processing of troops in transit could be housed, fed and transported. The plans for such a camp were, of course, in the works of War Plans before the Japanese attack. The main requirement was that such areas have available three types of transportation--water, rail and highway. There were two rail lines in the Pittsburg area, Southern Pacific and Santa Fe. A mile from the camp was the San Joaquin River, offering a broad water channel into San Francisco Bay. There also were suitable paved highway routes in the area.

Construction of Camp Stoneman was authorized by the War Department on 3 January 1942 and completed by September 1942. The selected site was formally a tract of land called Los Medanos (The Dunes), a Mexican patent owned by the Garcia Brothers in 1800 and later purchased by Colonel Johnathon Drake Stevenson, a celebrated Civil War leader. By 1901, the tract of land which was to become Camp Stoneman had been purchased by C. A. Hooper, a developer with vast interests in ranching and industry. The military had been negotiating to purchase the C.A. Hooper ranch south of Pittsburg proper to become Camp Stoneman. The formality of receiving construction bids was begun on January 24th, and on February 7, the San Francisco firm of McDonald & Kahn, General Contractors, won the bid for construction of the camp on a "Rush Order Basis" and had completed work by September, 1942. It was estimated that the cost of building Camp Stoneman was $18,410,936. In 1942, the War Department acquired a total of 2,841.54 acres consisting of fee acres, easement acres, license acres, permit acres, and leased acres. The fee acres were acquired from the City of Pittsburg and from private owners. The easement acres were acquired from private owners. The license acres were acquired from Contra Costa County, and the Division of Highways. The lease acres were obtained from private owners and the remaining was acquired from the City of Pittsburg.

Construction was began on February 11, and completed on September 20. The first troops arrived at the camp on May 25, 1942. The camp was formally activated on 28 May 1942. About 700 carpenters and other workers from as far as Oklahoma responded to the task. Some boarded with local residents. Others lived in trailers and tents on the waterfront. The first commanding officer was Colonel Murray H. Ellis, a graduate of Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, and a cavalry officer. The camp was a permanent base for 125 officers and 2,000 troops. Camp Stoneman could house and mess over 20,000 troops at a time on its 2,800 acres. Stoneman also housed German and Italian prisoners of war.

General Frederick Gilbreath, commanding general of the San Francisco Port of Embarkation requested that the camp be named after George Stoneman. The camp was named for General George Stoneman on April 5, 1942. George Stoneman (1822-1894) became the 15th governor of California in 1883. Born in New York, he had graduated from West Point and had come west under General Stephen Kearny. During the Civil War he commanded Union troops and won high honors. He returned to California, and in 1871 began to grow oranges near Los Angeles. He opposed the railroad interests and was elected to the first California Railroad Commission, created by the Constitution of 1879. Three years later he ran as a Democrat for governor and won. In 1887 he returned to southern California. He played an active role in founding the marketing cooperative that became the California Fruit Growers Exchange (Sunkist). After his house was destroyed by fire, an event rumored to be the work of his political enemies, Stoneman was broken financially and in poor health. He returned to New York State for medical treatment. He died following a stroke in Buffalo, New York, and is buried in the Bentley Cemetery in Lakewood, New York. Stoneman has been memorialized by songwriter Robbie Robertson of The Band, whose 1969 rock and roll song, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down", referred to one of Stoneman's 1865 raids: "Virgil Caine is the name, and I served on the Danville train, Till Stoneman's cavalry came and tore up the tracks again . "

The first troops to go through Camp Stoneman on their way to the Pacific battlefields arrived on May 25, 1942. A little more than three years later, on August 11, 1945, the millionth man to go through the Stoneman staging area was plucked from a line of men filing up to the gangplank, to take part in a brief ceremony. Three days later Japan surrendered. Over a twelve year existence covering both WWII and the Korean Conflict, over 1,500,000 troops were processed and shipped through Camp Stoneman. At the conclusions of each war, the camp was converted into a separation center, the function of which was to ensure that returning soldiers could be sent home as quickly as possible.

In transporting troops to and from the Army docks in San Francisco, Army harbor boats were employed. The Catalina and Cabrillo, sister ships, were converted from former excursion boats. A later addition to the fleet, the Ernie Pyle, was known as the million dollar ferry, Yerba Buena, when it operated between San Francisco and Oakland. The usual means of leaving Camp Stoneman was to board one of the ferries at the Pittsburg waterfront which would carry the troops to Piers 15 and 45 on the Embarcadero in San Francisco. It was a three to four-hour boat ride from San Francisco to Camp Stoneman. Most troops departed the camp by marching down Harbor Street to the waterfront, where the Army operated a small ferry fleet. The ferries took the troops to Fort Mason, where they boarded ships headed for war. The first unit to be embarked at Stoneman was a (colored) field artillery regiment from Harlem, New York. Among the Army division's that staged at Camp Stoneman were the 1st Cavalry Division, 11th Airborne Division, 40th Infantry Division, and the 33d, 81st, 93d and 96th Infantry Division's. The 31st, 43d, 40th and 93d Infantry Division's were inactivated at Stoneman after World War II while the 2d and 86th Infantry Divisions redeployed at Camp Stoneman for the invasion of Japan that never happened. In addition to almost 346 barracks (63-man), 86 company administrative and storehouses, 8 infirmaries, and dozens of administrative buildings, the 2,500-acre camp held nine post exchanges, 14 recreation halls, 13 mess halls, a 24-hour shoe repair and tailoring business, one post office, a chapel and one stockade. Overall, the camp was a city onto itself. It had a fire department and observation tower, water reservoir, bakery, Red Cross station, meat-cutting plant, library, parking lots and 31 miles of roads. For recreation, Stoneman boasted two gymnasiums, a baseball diamond, eight basketball courts, eight boxing rings, and indoor pool and a bowling alley. Officer and enlisted clubs provided everything from reading rooms to spaghetti dinners. The camp also contained the largest telephone center of its day, with 75 phone booths and a bank of operators who could handle 2,000 long-distance calls a day. Stoneman even had USO shows featuring stars such as Groucho Marx, Gary Moore, and Red Skelton. Lucille Ball once donned a swimming suit to dedicate an enlisted men's club. Business boomed in Pittsburg, as did in all "Army towns." During Camp Stoneman's heyday taverns, theaters, night clubs, taxi stands, clothing stores, local bus lines, jewelry and novelty shops, photo studios and similar establishments mushroomed. Most of them flourished-at least for the duration. Some revived, briefly, during the Korean conflict-then disappeared.

Camp Stoneman was the last stop for most soldiers heading overseas and they were usually processed through the base in three days, but the usual time frame was four to five days. A unit was known only by shipment code number. Soon after the men arrived at Camp Stoneman, they were again given medical examinations to determine the fitness of each soldier for overseas combat duty. Last minute dental and medical care, including the updating of immunizations, was given to those who needed attention. Stoneman had approximately 45 dental chairs that were used sometimes 18 hours a day for the various types of dental work. Anyone needing eye corrections were issued two pairs of glasses. Last wills were made and allotments arranged, and updating personnel files were done. Clothing and equipment were inspected, from shoelaces to helmet liners, in order to correct any defects, shortages, or signs of excessive wear. Shoes were given special attention, as they were perhaps the most important item, next to a soldier's weapons. Weapons were checked out by experts. Each one had to be able to operate without a trace of malfunction. The troops were lectured on security regulations, mail censorship, chemical warfare, conduct aboard a troopship and drills were given on how to abandon a ship. Every soldier was required to attend a daily first-aid class and to go on at least one 10-mile hike. Documents indicate that pistols, rifles, hand grenades, rifle grenades, and rocket launcher grenades (bazooka) were all fired at the camp as troops did their last minute training before being, shipped out to the Pacific. A list of Camp Stoneman training facilities is below.
a. Abandon Ship Training Decks.
b. Bayonet Course.
c. Bivouac and Road March Areas.
d. Dry Land Ship.
e. Dry Range (rifle marksmanship).
f. Gas Chamber
g. Grenade (hand) Throwing Range.
h. Infiltration Course.
i. Known Distant Ranges: (1) 1,000 inch range (machine gun, carbine, sub-machine gun and pistol)--50 firing points.
(2) 100-200 yd. rifle range-- 100 firing points.
(3) 100-300 yd. rifle range-- 75 firing points. j. Miniature Aerial. Target 22 Cal. Antiaircraft Range.
k. Mock Village.
l. Obstacle Courses.
m. Rifle Grenade Range.
n. Rocket Launcher Range.
o, Sanitation Display Area.
p. Training Film Library
At the conclusions of the Second World War and the Korean War, Camp Stoneman was converted into a separation center, the function of which was to ensure that returning soldiers could be sent home as quickly as possible. After World War II, activity at Camp Stoneman declined. The Korean War rekindled the base for awhile, but in 1954 it was scheduled to be closed for good. It took a large part of the town with it. After the Korean War interlude, however, rumors of the impending deactivation of the Army post increased daily. Dismayed residents rallied in a "Save Stoneman" campaign. Delegations were sent to Washington, D.C., in 1954 in an effort to get legislators and the Army to keep the post in operation as a permanent installation. The Army had already made its mind up to close the base. Camp Stoneman was officially deactivated on 31 August 1954. The transfer and reassignment station of Camp Stoneman would be moved to Fort Ord in July 1954. The overseas replacement section also left Stoneman in August 1954 moving to new quarters at the Oakland Army Base. In 1960, the biggest auction in Pittsburg's history took place. The GSA sold 750 buildings for pennies on the pound for removal from the camp. Included in the sale to some 200 successful bidders were 342 two-story barracks buildings, 79 one-story administration buildings, offices, mess halls, officers clubs and infirmaries. All were gone by the end of 1960. Warehouses, chapels, and other more solidly constructed buildings were sold with the main garrison land, which included 1,000 acres. During the height of its activities, Camp Stoneman employed 1,475 civilians and additional military support personnel. It had been estimated the camp's operation represented a $14,000,000 annual business to Bay Area firms through the troop processing activities. After the facility was declared surplus to the needs of the Department of Defense, all property was disposed of. The final parcels of land were not disposed of until 1962. Camp Stoneman was officially deactivated on 31 August 1954. A "corporal's guard" of 10 officers and 25 soldiers rendered the final salute to the colors at Camp Stoneman on August 30, 1954, to complete transfer of the base to inactive status. The leased acres were terminated prior to 29 May 1958 with no indication of restoration. On 29 October 1954, fee acres were reported excess to General Services Administration (GSA) and were conveyed to the Pittsburg Unified School District by quitclaim deed on 20 January 1955. Land used for a reserve center were conveyed to GSA on 15 May 1964 and later turned over to private individuals by quitclaim deed. The remaining fee acres were sold to various individuals and city and state agencies between 1959 and 1962

The main cantonment area of Camp Stoneman has been developed extensively since its use by the Department of Defense. The area now consists mainly of residential homes, light industry, office buildings and Los Medanos College. The southern section of the former Camp Stoneman Rifle Range has been converted into an 18-hole public golf course. Other areas of the former rifle range have been developed into Stoneman Park. The Camp Stoneman Wharf Facility continues to function as a privately-owned warehouse facility on the waterfront.


George Pickett: Later Life

After the Confederate surrender Pickett was reunited with his wife and an infant son in Richmond, but the family fled to Canada upon learning that Pickett was being investigated for war crimes over the hangings in North Carolina. They returned to Virginia in 1866 after a letter of support from Union General Ulysses S. Grant—one of Pickett’s former classmates at West Point𠅎nded the investigation.

Pickett went on to turn down several job offers, including an appointment in the Egyptian military, and chose to spend his later years as a farmer and insurance agent in Norfolk, Virginia. He died in 1875 at the age of 50. Pickett’s widow LaSalle Corbell Pickett would later become an enthusiastic biographer of her husband and gained minor fame as a lecturer and writer, although many of her claims about Pickett’s career have since been proven to be fabrications.


George Stoneman

George Stoneman Jr. (August 8, 1822 – September 5, 1894) was a United States Army cavalry officer and politician who served as the fifteenth Governor of California from 1883 to 1887. He was trained at West Point, where his roommate was Stonewall Jackson, and graduated in 1846. Stoneman served in the Army for thirty-six years, though he was relieved of command in 1871. During this time, he was involved in multiple conflicts, including the Mexican–American War, where he did not see any combat, the Yuma War, and the American Civil War. In 1861, Stoneman was promoted to Brigadier General, and was later put in command of the Army of the Potomac's 3rd Infantry Corps, and subsequently the newly-created cavalry corps.

At the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863, under the command of Joseph Hooker, Stoneman failed in an ambitious attempt to penetrate behind enemy lines, getting bogged down at an important river crossing. Hooker placed much of the blame for the Union army's defeat on Stoneman. His sharp criticism may have been in part intended to deflect blame placed on himself for the North's defeat.

While commanding cavalry under William Tecumseh Sherman in Georgia, Stoneman was captured, but soon exchanged. During the early years after the American Civil War, Stoneman commanded occupying troops at Memphis, Tennessee, who were stationed at Fort Pickering. He had turned over control of law enforcement to the civilian government by May 1866, when the Memphis riots broke out and the major black neighborhoods were destroyed. When the city asked for help, he suppressed the white rioting with use of federal troops. He later moved out to California, where he had an estate in the San Gabriel Valley. He was elected as governor of California, serving between 1883 and 1887. He was not nominated a second time.


California [ edit | edit source ]

Official portrait of Governor George Stoneman

Stoneman moved to California, the place of which he had dreamed since his service as a young officer before the war. He and his wife settled in the San Gabriel Valley on a 400-acre (160 ha) estate called Los Robles, which is now a state historical landmark. Α] He was a state railroad commissioner from 1876 to 1878. In 1882, he was elected governor of California as a Democrat and served a single four-year term. He was not renominated by his party for a second term. After his house was destroyed by fire, an event rumored to be the work of his political enemies, Stoneman was broken financially and in poor health. He returned to New York State for medical treatment. He died following a stroke in Buffalo, New York, and is buried in the Bentley Cemetery in Lakewood, New York.


Wytheville

During the Civil War, the town of Wytheville was of strategic importance because of its location along the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad and its proximity to the lead mines at nearby Austinville and Ivanhoe. Since the eighteenth century, productive mines had extracted lead ore from deposits near the New River in Wythe County, and by the outbreak of the war, the Union Lead Mining Company was both mining lead and manufacturing shot. The Union Lead Mining Company produced around one third of the lead used by the Confederacy during the Civil War.

In July 1863, Union brigadier general Eliakim P. Scammon ordered Colonel John T. Toland and his Thirty-Fourth Ohio Mounted Volunteer Infantry to move against Wytheville. After crossing into Virginia and overrunning a band of bushwhackers at Burke’s Garden, Toland’s force reached the outskirts of Wytheville in the early evening of July 18. In the meantime, Major General Sam Jones of the Confederate Department of Western Virginia sent 130 soldiers and two artillery pieces from his headquarters at Dublin to Wytheville. They arrived in time to prepare for Toland’s arrival and even distributed arms to town residents and local militia.

View overlooking the valley where Wytheville sits, on the route of Toland’s raiders. (Lucas Kelley)

Entering from the north, Toland’s force of Union soldiers marched into Wytheville around seven o’clock in hopes of driving out the small Confederate force. The outnumbered defenders and townsfolk fired against the federal soldiers from their positions in private homes and public buildings. Battle soon raged through the town, as Union soldiers attempting to reach the courthouse faced defenders firing on them from all sides. Colonel Toland fell mortally wounded in the melee. After several hours of fighting, the town’s defenders fell back and Union troops set fire to it. Although they had taken Wytheville, the Federal soldiers were without their commander, and, fearing their supply lines would be cut, the remaining Union troops returned to West Virginia without doing any long-term damage to the railroad or lead mines.

Haller-Gibboney Rock House, (c. 1822-23) which sustained damage during the 1863 battle and served as hospital following. Now home to the Haller-Gibboney Rock House Museum. (Tom Seabrook)

War returned to Wytheville the following winter. On December 10, 1864, Union general George Stoneman left Knoxville with his sights set on crippling the Confederate war effort in Southwest Virginia. His raiders reached Wytheville December 16, set fire to the town, destroyed the railroad bridge, and captured valuable Confederate stores at the depot. The next day, they destroyed the lead mines, in spite of the effort of the few Confederate commands in the area. Stoneman returned to East Tennessee by January 1865, but returned to southwest Virginia several months later. Union forces burned Wytheville a third time on April 6, 1865, and destroyed the lead mines, which had returned to operation, again.

St. John’s Lutheran Church, final resting place of at least seven Union soldiers. (Lucas Kelley)

Finding Wytheville

There are five sequential Civil War Trails markers in and around Wytheville. The first, related to the route Toland’s men took into Virginia, is located on top of Big Walker Mountain. Take I-81 Exit 70 and turn right onto US-52 N, then drive about 12 miles. The first interpretive sign is in the parking lot of the BW Country Store. Next, get back onto US-52 and go back in the direction you came. After 4 miles, you will see the second marker on your right, across the road from VA-717 and located in a gravel pull-off. To find the third marker, continue on US-52 S for 3.3 miles and turn right onto VA-680. The marker is located in a gravel parking lot on the right after .2 miles.

The fourth marker is located in downtown Wytheville. From the third marker, return to US-52 S and head 4.8 miles toward town. US-52 will eventually turn into North 4 th Street. From 4 th Street, turn left onto Tazewell Street. The marker will be on the left after .7 miles at the corner of Tazewell Street and Pine Street. While downtown, visit the Haller-Gibboney Rock House Museum (205 East Tazewell Street) and the Thomas J. Boyd Museum (295 Tazewell Street) for an overview of Wytheville’s history, including the Civil War era. The site of the 1867 Freedmen’s School for former slaves is now home to the Wytheville Training School Cultural Center (corner of 5 th and Franklin Streets). The basement of St. John’s Episcopal Church (c. 1858) at 275 East Main Street saw use as a Confederate hospital during the war. Also of note is the birthplace of Edith Bolling Wilson, second wife of President Woodrow Wilson, located in a c. 1840s building at 145 East Main Street.

The fifth and final Civil War Trails marker is located at St. Johns Church near I-81. At least seven Union soldiers are buried in the churchyard. The church itself dates to the 1850s and reflects extensive postwar renovation. The c. 1807 log home of St. John’s first pastor is also on the site. To find it, return to US-52 N and head towards the interstate. The church will be on your right after you drive over the interstate overpass.

A later engagement in Wythe County took place May 10, 1864, when Confederates under John Hunt Morgan and William E. Jones repulsed Averell’s Union cavalry at the Battle of Cove Mountain. Wounded Union troopers were left behind in the Crockett’s Cove Presbyterian Church (c. 1858). You can find the church by taking Pepper’s Ferry Road north from the center of Wytheville to Cove Road. Follow Cove Road for 4.5 miles and then turn right onto SR-600 and continue 2.4 miles. There is a battlefield marker near the old brick church.

The railroad depot at Rural Retreat was destroyed by Union forces in 1864 and rebuilt c. 1867-1868 in an Italianate style, much like the depot at Cambria. Cambria and Rural Retreat are the only surviving depots built by the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, the line operating in this region during the Civil War.

For more information

John M. Johnson, Lead, Salt, and the Railroad: Toland’s Rail on Wytheville, July 18, 1863 (Wytheville: Wythe County Historical Society, 2003).

Mary B. Kegley, Wythe County, Virginia: A Bicentennial History (Wytheville: Wythe County Board of Supervisors, 1989).

Brian D. McKnight, Contested Borderland: The Civil War in Appalachian Kentucky and Virginia (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2006).

Robert C. Whisonant, “Geology and the Civil War in Southwestern Virginia: The Wythe County Lead Mines,” Virginia Minerals 42, no. 2 (May 1996): 13-20.


Watch the video: When Georgia Howled: Sherman on the March (January 2022).