Jones-Imboden Raid

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The Jones-Imboden Raid
Part of the American Civil War
Date April (1863-04-18) – May, 1863 (1864-05-19)
Location Western Virginia (present day West Virginia)
western Maryland
Result Confederate victory
Belligerents
 United States of America  Confederate States of America
Commanders and leaders
Robert C. Schenck
Benjamin S. Roberts
William E. Jones
John D. Imboden
Strength
45,000 (Total Middle Military Department) 7,000
Casualties and losses
Livestock driven off
1,000 head of cattle
1,200 horses
Resources destroyed
16 rail bridges
150,000 barrels of oil
Human casualties
700 prisoners
30 killed
unknown

The Jones-Imboden Raid was a Confederate military action conducted in western Virginia (now the state of West Virginia) in April and May 1863 during the American Civil War. The raid, led by Brig. Gens. William E. Jones and John D. Imboden, was aimed at disrupting traffic on the vital Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and reasserting Confederate authority in transmountain Virginia in an effort to derail the growing statehood movement in the region. The raid was successful from a military vantage as severe damage was inflicted upon the railroad and other critical Union resources and valuable supplies and recruits were obtained. From a political standpoint, however, the raid was a failure, having little effect on the sentiment for the formation of a new state.

Background[edit]

The raid was first proposed by John Hanson McNeill of McNeill's Rangers. His plan was the destruction of an important bridge of the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad, which was vital to the Union supply lines through western Virginia. McNeill's idea was expanded into a two-prong attack. Gen. Jones was to attack the B&O between Grafton (West) Virginia and Oakland, Maryland. Gen. Imboden would attack Union garrisons at Beverly, Philippi, and Buckhannon. The object of the raid was to secure supplies, disrupt the B&O Railroad, raise recruits and, if possible, cripple the Unionist government in Wheeling.

Raid[edit]

Gen. John Imboden had under his command the 22nd, 25th, and 31st Virginia Infantry regiments, the 62nd Virginia Mounted Infantry, Dunn's Mounted Infantry, and the 18th and 19th Virginia Cavalry. Among his subordinate officers were Col. George S. Patton of the 22nd, and Col. William Lowther Jackson of the 19th Virginia Cavalry, later promoted to brigadier general. On April 20, 1863, Imboden moved westward from Shenandoah Mountain with 1,825 men, although reinforcements the next day increased his strength to 3,365. Imboden reported his march through a heavy rain and then snow on his way to Beverly. Once reaching Beverly he was able to defeat Union defenders under Col. George Latham, who retreated northward, leaving behind much needed supplies.

Jones ordered McNeill's rangers and the 12th Virginia Cavalry to destroy the B&O bridge at Oakland, Maryland, while Jones's other forces destroyed the Cheat River bridge. The Oakland raid was a success, but the Cheat River bridge had been reinforced by Union troops and was left intact. Jones blamed his subordinates for weak execution of his orders. He then moved through Morgantown and to Fairmont, where he met a group of 500 civilian Home Guards who attempted to protect the railroad but soon surrendered. Rails and rolling stock were destroyed as well as the bridge.

Imboden proceeded towards Buckhannon, but reports of Union reinforcements at Philippi and no news of Jones's position caused him to return to Beverly. Union Brig. Gen. Benjamin S. Roberts, at Buckhannon, decided to withdraw his forces from there as well as from Philippi and reinforce Clarksburg.

That same day, April 28, Imboden learned of Roberts' retreat from Buckhannon and immediately moved his forces there. Roberts had ordered remaining supplies burned, but Imboden's men were able to salvage some, and well as cattle and horses.

In Washington, Gen. Henry Wager Halleck was frustrated by his subordinate officers' inability to stop the raid. He telegraphed to Gen. Robert C. Schenck: "The enemy's raid is variously estimated at from 1,500 to 4,000. You have 45,000 under your command. If you cannot concentrate enough to meet the enemy, it does not argue well for your military dispositions." [1] To Gen. Benjamin S. Roberts in Buckhannon he wrote: "I do not understand how the roads there are impassable to you, when, by your own account, they are passable enough to the enemy."[2]

On April 29 Imboden decided to march to Philippi and on the way he was met by Gen. Jones and part of his command. Jones had so far burned nine railroad bridges, captured two trains, an artillery piece, 1,200 to 1,500 horses, and 1,000 head of cattle.

On May 3 they moved their forces to Weston, just 23 miles (37 km) south of Clarksburg. Two days later they led a parade through the town and were presented with a flag by the ladies of Weston. Gen. Imboden took the opportunity to send his parents, who lived in Weston, to safety behind Confederate lines.

Although they had contemplated an attack on Clarksburg, the two generals decided that they did not have enough men, detachments having been sent east with the cattle and a number of sick and injured still in Beverly and Buckhannon. They decided to split forces once again, Jones to go northwest and Imboden south to Summersville with the captured supplies and the wounded.

Jones captured West Union and Cairo, burned five more bridges and disabled a railroad tunnel. He then moved toward Oiltown and demolished the oil field and equipment, and burned 150,000 barrels (24,000 m3) of oil. He then moved south to join up with Imboden.

Bad weather returned for Imboden on his march south, the last three days before reaching Summersville covering only 14 miles (23 km). At Summersville he captured a 28 wagon supply train pulled by 170 mules, and also gathered more livestock. He met again with Jones there on May 14 and once again they went their separate ways. Imboden moved south to Lewisburg. A force of Union troops attempted to stop his return to the Shenandoah Valley, but they were met by another Confederate force under Col. John McCausland, who defeated them at Fayetteville, 30 miles (48 km) southwest of Summersville. Gen. Imboden reached the Shenandoah Valley in the last week of May.

Gen. Jones led his men through Greenbrier County where they rested at White Sulphur Springs on May 17 at the "Old White". They moved on to Bath County and came to camp near Mount Crawford in Rockingham on May 21.

Aftermath[edit]

In the final tally of the raid, Jones estimated that about 30 of the enemy were killed and 700 prisoners taken. Some 400 new recruits were added, as well as a piece of artillery, 1,000 head of cattle, and some 1,200 horses. Sixteen bridges had been destroyed, an oil field, many boats and rolling rail stock.

The greater part of Gen. Imboden's troops and a good portion of Gen. Jones's troops came from western Virginia. Just a few weeks after their raid the homes of these men would be located in the newest state of the Union, West Virginia, which officially achieved statehood on June 20, 1863. West Virginia is the 35th state to join the Union.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Jones, Virgil Carrington, "Grey Ghosts and Rebel Raiders", Galahad Books, 1995, pg. 165
  2. ^ Woodward, Harold R., Jr., "Defender of the Valley, Brigadier General John Daniel Imboden, C.S.A.", Rockbridge Publishing Co., 1996, pg. 72

References[edit]

  • Black, Robert W., Cavalry Raids of the Civil War, Stackpole Books, 2004.
  • Collins, Darrell, L., The Jones-Imboden Raid: The Confederate Attempt to Destroy the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and Retake West Virginia, McFarland Press, 2007.
  • Woodward, Harold R., Jr., Defender of the Valley: Brigadier General John Daniel Imboden, C.S.A., Howell Press, 1996.
  • Workman, Michael, "Worth to Me an Army", Study of the History of Rowlesburg in Civil War, commissioned by the Rowlesburg Area Historical Society under a grant from the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Byways Trail Project, 2005.