Sunday, November 3, 2019

SW Pennsylvania Invasion Threats Part 1 Overview

SW Pennsylvania showing cities of Washington, Waynesburg, Uniontown and Somerset
West Virginia cities of Morgantown, Fairmont, Grafton and Philippi
Maryland-Pennsylvania border
      The next few posts are going to examine the homefront of the 85th Pennsylvania and potential Confederate invasion threats in the spring of 1863. The men of the 85th Pennsylvania all hailed from counties (Washington, Greene, Fayette and Somerset) that shared a border with Virginia and Maryland, both slaves states. Virginia joined the southern secession after Fort Sumter was fired upon two years earlier, while Maryland did not secede and remained within the Union for the duration of the war.
        Washington County and Greene County both shared a border with Virginia (note:the northwestern counties of that state were in transition at time of the invasion threats. Western Virginia had voted to separate from Virginia and join the Union). Fayette County bordered both Virginia and Maryland, while Somerset County shared a border with Maryland.   
           During the spring of 1863, while the 85th Pennsylvania was just starting their one-year assignment around Charleston, South Carolina, news was percolating back home in about the potential for invasion by Confederate raiders. A Confederate incursion of that part of the Pennsylvania was thought to be realistic as a pathway  to the northern industrial city of Pittsburgh.
    Several members of the 85th Pennsylvania expressed concern about the potential of a southern invasion. Others, like Mark Gordon of Company G, laughed it off. I will have more on these accounts in upcoming posts.
     It was not the first Confederate invasion scare in Pennsylvania. The south-central part of
Burning buildings in Chambersburg, PA   1862      LOC
the state had already been subjected to alarm in the late summer and fall of 1862. At that time, the Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee had crossed the Potomac River into Maryland following a resounding Confederate victory at Second Bull Run in Virginia.  Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin responded by issuing a proclamation on September 4, 1862 calling on the citizens of his state to militarize.  The emergency seemed to subside later that month after the battle of Antietam, Maryland when Lee retreated back into Virginia. However, a month later, Confederate J.E.B. Stuart led a three-day cavalry raid into south central Pennsylvania during which he confiscated 1,200 horses.
During the Jones-Imboden Raid a few months later in 1863, the people of northwestern Virginia (present-day West Virginia) experienced battles and confiscation of property. Just across the (West) Virginia state border, the people of southwestern Pennsylvania did not suffer from physical oe financial loss but from the terror of what could  occur in their towns and counties if the raiders continued on their northerly course.
When this threat died down and the rebel troops of William "Grumble" Jones and John Imboden withdrew back into Virginia, the area was again made anxious in June by the path of prominent Confederate raider John Hunt Morgan. His marauding did not end until his band was stopped in Ohio near the Pennsylvania border in the summer of 1863.
On April 20, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation to accept West Virginia as the 35th state. This event was to officially take effect two months later on June 20.  A convention in the city of Wheeling in the (West) Virginia panhandle between Pennsylvania and Ohio had voted for statehood a year earlier. On the last day of 1862, President Lincoln signed a bill accepting statehood on the provision of gradual elimination of slavery. West Virginia accepted this stipulation in an amended state constitution on March 26, 1863.


The Jones-Imboden Raid in 1863 lasted for one month. One of its goals was to deny statehood to the region and to restore western Virginia into the Confederacy. Soon after the raid began, a newspaper in Imboden’s home town of Staunton, Virginia gloated that, “Lincoln issued his proclamation admitting Western Virginia as a State into the United States. Gen’s Jones and Imboden are now issuing a counter proclamation. It will be seen whether, in this case, the ‘pen is mightier than the sword.’”
 Another goal of the Jones-Imboden Raid was to disrupt and destroy key parts of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad that ran from Baltimore to Wheeling. This route was a vital link that provided the Union with men and supplies from the West. Jones and Imboden also planned to cut telegraph lines at Grafton, (West) Virginia and generally diminish Union authority in the area.
A third goal was to capture horses and cattle for Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Lee had sanctioned the raid during the late winter of 1862-63 to replenish the needs of his troops. With his impending summer invasion of Pennsylvania (that would include the battle of Gettysburg), Lee hoped that raids would re-stock food supplies and horses for his army and also do harm to morale above the Mason-Dixon Line.
                 Part Two of this series will explore the beginning of the raid and the occupation of Morgantown, (West) Virginia near the Pennsylvania border.
Philadelphia Inquirer
        April 29, 1863

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