Monday, December 2, 2019

SW Pennsylvania Invasion Threats Part 5 Washington County

False Rumor Report in Phila. Inquirer  4-30-1863

Postwar Story About Grumble Jones
          Bristol (VA) Herald Courier  11-7-1948
     In April of 1863, a Washington, Pennsylvania ("Little Washington") newspaper received news of the Confederate occupation of Morgantown from J. Edgar Boyers, West Virginia statehood (and Union) supporter who had fled Morgantown before he could be the apprehended by Confederate raiders. The article noted,

“The information [from Morgantown] was brought by a gentleman who resides two miles below Morgantown on the Monongahela River and who reached this place about Tuesday morning. Their [the Confederates] aim appeared to be the obtaining of supplies in the shape of horses, cattle, stores, etc. and the capture of such leading citizens as had rendered themselves conspicuous for their efforts in the Union cause. Our informant being one of this class…was compelled to flee when they were within a few yards of his house...On reaching the main road, he leaped upon one of the horses that was being brought away to avoid capture and came through Waynesburg, arriving here early on Tuesday morning as stated.” [Washington (PA) Reporter and Tribune, April 29, 1863]

While Confederate General William “Grumble” Jones was occupying Morgantown and rounding up Union supporters, another resident of the city escaped the dragnet and rode about 45 miles north to Washington, Pennsylvania to alert these citizens of transpiring events. A Pittsburgh newspaper published an alarming report of the events to their south: “The excitement in Washington, Waynesburg and Uniontown at last accounts was unabated...Messengers arrived here from Washington [PA] last evening and took out six thousand rounds of ammunition, which would be distributed to the militia there. They had five hundred men under arms, and ready to give the rebels and warm reception, but they had no ammunition.” [Pittsburgh Gazette, April 29, 1863]
 Little Washington wasted little time in responding. Late in the evening of April 28, as soon as news was received of Jones’ movement at Morgantown, the courthouse bell was sounded and a late-night meeting was held within minutes. Two couriers reported that Grumble Jones had captured Morgantown (which was true), and that Waynesburg and Washington were the next targets on the Confederates’ path to Pittsburgh (which was not true). Overnight preparations were made to form a militia company to march to Waynesburg, which had requested military assistance. The Little Washingtonians agreed with the request, choosing to confront the enemy in Waynesburg rather than wait for the raiders to appear in their own city. [AlexanderWishart, Letter to Isaac M. Wells, August 3, 1901, Courtesy of U. Grant Miller Library, Washington and Jefferson University]

Washington County Court House

The company of militiamen from Washington was hastily organized under the command of Captain Alexander Wishart and Lieutenant Harvey Vankirk. Wishart earlier had served in the 8th PA Reserves and was the current school superintendent of the city. He was wounded during the Seven Days’ Battles at Gaines Mill, Virginia in 1862 and was medically discharged several months later. Vankirk, an attorney, was also given a medical discharge from the 85th Pennsylvania in 1862.

Captain Wishart later remembered that,

“…farmers and others who had teams were asked to convey the troops to Waynesburgh. When I [asked] where the arms and ammunition was to come from, Major [John] Ewing cried out, ‘Dang it all, we’ll fight them with pitchforks!’ But a wagon was sent to the Allegheny Arsenal [in Pittsburgh] at once and arms and ammunition procured, and after their arrival the company proceeded to Waynesburgh in the wagons which had been tendered.” [Wishart letter]

Obituary for Alexander Wishart
Pittsburgh Daily Post  8-3-1906
Wishart and Vankirk led their company from the Washington Courthouse to Waynesburg, a distance of 23 miles.  A Washington newspaper said these “patriots about Washington, armed with 'Dutch’ rifles, went to Waynesburg filled with zeal and enthusiasm and determined to repel Imboden and his hordes, or die.” They arrived and found that the reports of Jones [or Imboden] making a move into Pennsylvania were unfounded and exaggerated. Wishart returned to Little Washington with him company on May 2nd. [Washington (PA) Observer, date unknown]
Invasion warnings cooled after the first few days of May as it became known that Jones had veered to the south towards Fairmont, (West) Virginia. As accounts began to report the fight at Fairmont, similar stories of the invasion of Uniontown or Waynesburg were discounted. The New York Times wrote that, “The reports for the south-western part of the State [Pennsylvania] are very contradictory owing to the excitement among the inhabitants.”  [New York Times, April 29, 1863]
On May 6, Greene County citizens were being alerted that the raid had not continued into Greene County as feared, but that the marauders were still a potential threat to the region:

“The excitement consequent on the threatened Rebel Raid on Greene and adjoining counties has almost entirely subsided. The Rebles have disappeared from Morgantown but are said to be still in the vicinity of Fairmont or Warren…On Saturday morning, all imminent danger of a Rebel incursion having passed away, the Washington lads returned to their homes and our own people resumed their usual business activities. At present all is quiet, and all alarm allayed…” [Waynesburg Messenger, May 4, 1863]
Finally, on May 18, the Waynesburg Messenger could report that, “On Tuesday evening the rebels all left in the direction of Fairmont on the West side of the river… At this date, all is quiet in the vicinity of Morgantown. No signs of ‘graybacks’ have been seen since Tuesday of last week.” [Waynesburg Messenger, May 10, 1863]

"Little" Washington (dot in Washington County)
PA Counties of Washington, Greene , Fayette, Somerset, Westmoreland, Allegheny
Emerging new state of West Virginia
From Maps Showing the Development of Pennsylvania (1920)

NEXT: John Hunt Morgan

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