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Romney in the Civil War

and Events in Hampshire County

Battle at Romney Bridge
Battle at Romney Bridge, June 13, 1861

Some of the engagements or occupations in or around Romney:

April 1861 Committee of Safety meets in Romney and begins to prepare for the coming war.

May 18, 1861 the Hampshire Guards and the Frontier Riflemen leave Romney to join other Virginia regiments at Harpers Ferry

Col. Lewis (Lew) Wallace in command of the Eleventh Indiana (Zouaves) comes through Mechanicsburg Gap, captures the Bridge at Romney and occupied Romney for a few hours on June 13, 1861

The next day Col. A.P. Hill occupied the town.

Col. John C. Vaughn of the Third Tennessee was apparently stationed in Romney from which, under orders of Col. Ambrose P. Hill of the Thirteenth Virginia, he attacked Federal forces at New Creek on June 18, 1861

Capt. Turner Ashby established his headquarters of the Seventy Virginia Cavalry at "Camp Washington" on the George W. Washington farm immediately north of Hanging Rock and across the South Branch from "Wire Bridge".

Col. A. C. Cummings of Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson's command at First Manassas occupied Romney in July of 1861.

Col. Angus McDonald was in command at Romney when it was attacked by Federals on September 23, 1861; McDonald had been advised by General Lee on September 18th that the Federals were withdrawing from Romney. After feigning an attack through Mechanicsburg gap, the Federals launched their main attack from Hanging Rock. On the 24th McDonald gave way before the stronger Federal force, but retook the town the next day as the disorganized enemy retreated across the South Branch bridge toward Keyser. Federal forces consisted of the Fourth and Eighth Ohio and some members of the Ringgold cavalry under Capt. John Keys; Confederate forces were the One Hundred Fourteenth and Seventy-seventh Virginia militia regiments.

On October 24, 1861 Federals of Ohio and Virginia infantry (with some light artillery) and some Ringgold cavalry attacked through Mechanicsburg Gap; on October 26th the defenders fled. There was a skirmish at Wire bridge as part of this assault. It was as a result of this Federal success that Colonel Kelley issued his "Address to the People of Hampshire County and the Upper Potomac". For a time after this, Federals under the command of Col. Samuel H.Dunning of the Fifth Ohio Volunteer Infantry occupied Romney.

On January 7, 1862 and advance guard of Confederates was defeated by about 2,000 Federals under Col. Dunning at Blue's Gap.

Gen. Stonewall JacksonOn January 10, 1862 the Federals under Lander evacuated Romney and Confederate cavalry under the command of Captains George F. Sheetz and E. H. Shans occupied the city; Brig. Gen. William W. Loring was placed in command and General Jackson returned to Winchester. This set the stage for Stonewall Jackson's famous resignation.

February 2-4, 1862 Gen. Loring evacuates Romney.

On February 7, 1862 after General Jackson had been forced to withdraw his units to Winchester, Federal forces under General Frederick W. Lander occupied the town and later broke up "the rebel nest at Bloomery Gap".

Following apparent occupation by Confederates in the spring of 1862, Lt. Col. Stephen W. Downey of the Third Maryland Militia (the Potomac Home Brigade) took command of Federal troops at Romney on March 3rd; in early May Downey left his troops there and received a new command in Pendleton County.

April 24-28, 1862 The Ringold and Washington Cavalry are at Romney.

During early May, 1862, Blenker's division comes through Romney.

September 13-15, 1862 Colonel Imboden occupied Romney for several days after a Federal withdrawal; he used the opportunity to set a successful ambush for Federal troops about two miles out of town.

October 2, 1862 The 1st New York Cavalry passes through Romney.

December 1, 1862, The Ringold Cavalry have at action at Romney.

Capt. Keys of the Ringgold cavalry was reported to have left Romney on December 22, 1862 for Winchester.

One week later Brig. Gen. Robert H. Milroy was reported to have passed through on his way to take command of Federal forces in Winchester.

On January 8 (or 11), 1863 Colonel James Washburn had been ordered by General Kelley to fall back to Romney with his entire force; by January 20th Washburn was in Romney with a force of about 1400 men. Some will remain until the middle of March.

On April 7, 1863 McNeil was attacked near Purgitsville following his successful action at Burlington the day before when he captured Lt. William F. Speer and eleven of Ringgold's foraging party. Apparently Romney was securely in Federal hands at this time and remained so until Confederates moved into the Shenandoah as part of their second invasion of the North.

On June 7, 1863 General Lee commanded Imboden to move against Romney Civil War flag Romney in order "to attract the enemy's attention in Hampshire County." It is not clear exactly when Imboden took Romney again for a Federal communication of June 13, implies that Romney was then being abandoned. Local tradition places Capt. McNeil in Romney around that time.

June 19, 1863 Ringold Cavalry moves through Romney in one day.

June 21, 1863 Lafayette Cavalry comes through Romney.

On July 22 Confederate scouts were reported to be moving in the direction of Romney following the assignment of Gen. Imboden to the Valley District. After the retreat from Gettysburg, Confederates occupied the Shenandoah and South Branch valleys for a month or two until the Federals began to move in the area in large numbers. During the following months Romney may have changed hands several times without official record.

August 4, 1863 The Ringolds occupy the town. On August 6 or 7 General Kelly passed through Romney as he moved his headquarters from Hedgesville to New Creek.

November 6, 1863 Campbell's brigade leaves Romney.

On November 16, 1863 Captain McNeil with 170 cavalry captured 25 prisoners, 80 wagons, and 255 horses near Burlington; this occurred during a time when General Lee felt that Romney, Petersburg, and Martinsburg were too strongly held for a direct Confederate attack. Lt. Col. John P. Linton and his Federals passed through Romney several times on his way to and from Springfield.

On January 5, 1864 Fitzhugh Lee passed through Romney which Major Gilmor and Captain McNeil had occupied a few days before; following their departure, Capt. Henry A. Meyers occupied Romney on January 8th. Later in the month it was recaptured by Confederates.

On February 3, 1864 a detachment of Thomas L. Rosser's unit (part of Early's command) entered Romney. In a complicated set of circumstances Romney was occupied once or twice daily between February 1st and 3rd inclusive. A detachment of the 8th New York Heavy Artillery is one of the units involved.

Sometime after the middle of March, 1864, Union Cavalry moves through Romney.

On May 10, 1864 Col. Jacob Higgins commanding about 500 Federal cavalry was surprised by detachments of Imboden's cavalry; he tried to rally his men "on the plains of Romney" but was pushed out of town. On May 11th Imboden departed.

About two weeks later the Ringold Cavalry passes through on a scout.

About the middle of June the Ringolds pass through again.

June 26, 1864, Part of the 6th West Virginia Cavalry scouts Romney.

July 3, 1864, The 6th West Virginia Cavalry returns to Romney.

On July 4, 1864 Confederates rang the courthouse bell in Romney to announce the approach of Federal scouts. During most of the month of July, McNeil and Harness were in the vicinity of Romney.

July 10, 1864 Confederate unit is in Romney.

July 14, 1864 McNeil again in Romney.

July 20, 1864 6th West Virginia Cavalry again in town.

On August 3-4, 1864 McCausland returning from his raid on Chambersburg occupied Romney.

August 6, 1864 Confederate scouts stationed at Romney warn McCausland of the impending attack upon his forces by General Averell who came through Romney that day. Averell successfully attacked McCausland at Moorefield and took approximately 420 prisoners.

August 9, 14, 17, 1864 6th West Virginia Cavalry come through Romney.

August 28, 1864 McNeil said to be in Romney.

November 6, 1864 Union scouts pass through town.

November 26, 1864 Members of the 6th West Virginia Cavalry camp in Romney.

December 25, 1864 Scouts from 22nd Pennsylvania Cavalry pass through town.

February 5, 1865 Some Union Cavalry pass through Romney.

On February 21, 1865 McNeil's rangers under command of the younger Lt. McNeil passed through Romney going to and from Cumberland where they carried out the daring kidnap of Generals Crook and Kelly.

Maxwell and Swisher's History of Hampshire County state that Romney was held for the last time by Confederate forces on April 15, 1865 when parts of the companies line(?) and Harness were in the vicinity of Romney. Local tradition states that McNeil's Rangers surrendered at Sycamore Dale near the Romney bridge in May.

Edward H. McDonald and George F. Sheetz (members of the Laurel Brigade) came through town escaping from Virginia after Lee's surrender a Appomattox.

For information and dates on surrender events at the end of the war go to: Samuel Clarke Farrar diary This page includes a graphic description of Romney at the end of the war.

June 1, 1866 First decoration of Confederate graves in Indian Mound Cemetery.

September 26, 1867 First Memorial dedicated to the community's war dead at Indian Mound Cemetery in Romney.


[Note: The listing above is an abbreviated account of incidents mentioned by Mr. C. H. Ambler in his work, Romney in the Civil War, and those listed in The Devastating Hand of War by Richard A. Sauers. Some incidents are not covered in this list because they are conjectural. One should consult these two works and other sources for an in-depth study of military activity in Hampshire County and an explanation of the reason for numerous discrepancies between the various authors who cover this period.]

For further information see:
The Devastating Hand of War: Romney, West Virginia During the Civil War; by Richard A. Sauers; The George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War, Shepherdstown, WV, 2000. [ISBN 0-9628218-7-X] This book available from the Fort Mill Ridge Foundation (304)822-4320 or http://www.hampshirereview.com/CountryStore/books.htm]

For information on the B & O Railroad in Hampshire County during the war click here.

civil war romney2
Soldiers on the main road just east of Romney; town is in background.