Where they rode and what they did no man now remembers — few men but themselves ever knew — and they left no written record of their service; the vague memories of those many nights are held in dusty, inner chambers of the mind, to which, long since, the tongue has lost the key. William Gilmore Beymer

Thomas Cassidy, Jessie Scout, in Confederate Uniform

When General Philip H. Sheridan was assigned to command in the Shenandoah Valley, he ordered General William W, Averell to send him his oldest scouts. Averell sent Arch Rowand, Joseph McCabe, and four other men from his brigade. A seventh man, Jim Campbell…


During the Civil War, Napoleon III moved troops into Mexico and occupied the country while the United States government and army were unable to respond to the blatant violation of the Monroe Doctrine. The Confederacy benefitted greatly from the French presence on its border with the Mexican port of Matamoras becoming the South’s greatest source of both exports and imports. When Napoleon III was able to convince Austria’s Maximilian to relocate to Mexico City, the potential permanent presence of an ally for the failing Confederacy and the possibility for the creation of a “Franco-Rebel-Mexican League” was prominently mentioned in correspondence…


Major Harry Gilmor
  • …I returned to Richmond and reported for duty to General Early, whose head-quarters were at Staunton. He directed me to take my command to Western Virginia, as by “Special Order №137:”
  • “Major H. Gilmor will take his battalion to Hardy County, for the purpose of operating in that and the adjoining counties. The companies of McNeil and Woodson, already there, will report to Major Gilmor, and be permanently under his command.” J.A. Early, Lieut. Gen. commanding Army of Valley District

To Hardy County I went, as directed, and began collecting the scattered men of my battalion, and had mustered about…


Gauley: Possible Origin of the Word

Many of us have been interested in determining the origin of the word “Gauley” for decades and have seen several explanations, but none of these had the proverbial “ring of truth” when carefully considered. The best explanation was developed around the connection of the old name for France, Gaul, and the fact that Gauley River was located in French colonial territory, New France, and the area was Gaul-like, or was “Gauley.” This connection didn’t fit well, however.

Gauley River

There was a break that emerged from a novel about World War I.

Mike Scheuer, Osama…


Young Statue in Providence, Rhode Island

There is a Harpers Monthly Magazine article about Henry H. Young, a young officer from the Second Rhode Island Infantry Regiment, who became the commander of Sheridan’s scouts and vanished under mysterious circumstances during a river crossing into Mexico nearly two years after Appomattox. Sheridan described Young’s loss in his “Autobiography,” but he had two different explanations in separate letters he wrote to the recently discharged Jessie Scout Arch Rowand and to the Adjutant General of Rhode Island. Being very familiar with “cover stories,” it was apparent that something out of the ordinary was involved with Young’s disappearance, Sheridan’s multiple…


After assuming command in the Shenandoah Valley in the later summer of 1864, Philip Sheridan was victorious in a series of battles that began with the defeat of Jubal Early on September 19, 1864 in the Third Battle of Winchester. Three days later, he again defeated Early at Fisher’s Hill as the Union army started on a campaign to destroy the Valley’s capability to provide food for the Confederacy. The “Breadbasket” of the Confederacy was soon to suffer what was soon referred to as the “Burning” in thirteen days of destruction that destroyed the areas stored grain, mills, livestock, and…


We are quartered with Gen. Grant’s scouts. They think it is the biggest and boldest scout trip of the war.

Arch Rowand

Union Private Arch Rowand, 1st West Virginia Cavalry, in his Confederate Uniform

The Quaker mother in Pittsburgh probably had to sit down as she read the letter from her son serving in the Union Army in early 1865. Named for her husband, Arch Rowand, Jr. enlisted in the infantry in March, 1862, but soon found the “gun was too heavy to tote” and managed to transfer to his uncle’s cavalry unit, Company K, 1st West Virginia Cavalry on July 17, 1862. He explained:

  • My company was on detached service, scouting…

Blazer’s Scouts Departing on Operation

Western Virginia, soon to become a new state in the Union, was much like the other Border States where the fault line between the partisans of both North and South remained in proximity to one another. Three types of people lived there, those actively supporting the Union or the Confederacy and those people who tried to remain neutrally quiet and sit out the conflict. It became increasingly difficult to remain neutral when neighboring families raided one another and allies were sought as trust eroded to suspicions. Like the other border areas, the Union tended to dominate these areas militarily and…


“I expect to leave very soon and hardly hope ever to see this house again as even the majors say it ought be used as a hospital, then burned. It makes one suspicious to have a person very friendly in the house, talking, and then before they reach the gate to hear such remarks. I shall go to Richmond and no matter what happens stand my ground.” Ellen Tompkins letter to her sister on November 28, 1861.

“The cannon was on the range of our house and fired into the meadow in front of it. Mr. T. asked General…


From One of Averrel’s Jessie Scouts:

“I was with Averill on what was known as the Central Salem Raid. We left Charleston, Kanawha Valley, went to Salem and destroyed part of the railroad. At Witville [Wytheville] we ran into Morgan’s men, too heavy for us to tackle, and we got back. The Confederates got my horse; they shot him from under me. Averill was wounded that day with a bullet on the top of his head which disabled him for a little while.” …. Arch Rowand, correspondence with Harpers reporter

The Union army made many errors in both planning and…

Gauley David

Special Forces veteran from Vietnam (1967–8) and adviser on Irregular Warfare to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East (Policy) and at RAND.

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