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Union troops land at the Point in Parkersburg

City’s railroad terminal important in moving troops and supplies

May 22, 2013
By Dave McKain , WVweb

The Ohio Militia under Gen. George McClellan landed at the Point in Parkersburg on May 27, 1861. Government officials sent troops to the city in fear Parkersburg was on the verge of Confederate occupation.

The interest on both sides was to capture the Parkersburg terminal of the Northwestern Virginia Railroad, part of the B&O, because of its military significance in moving troops and supplies. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee had instructed Col. George Porterfield in Grafton to take Parkersburg.

A day prior to McClellan's landing at Parkersburg, Porterfield and his Confederates were engaged in the first land battle of the Civil War at Philippi.

Article Photos

“Landing of Union Troops at Parkersburg, Western Virginia,” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, Aug. 21, 1861.

Lee told Porterfield once he secured the city, Judge William L. Jackson, a cousin of Stonewall Jackson, would take command of the city.

On May 26, 1861, McClellan issued the orders to Col. James Steedman, commander of the 14th Ohio Infantry Regiment of 1,000 men at Marietta:

"You will upon receipt of this cross the (Ohio) river and occupy Parkersburg," McClellan ordered. "The 18th Ohio Regiment at Athens is ordered to report to you. You will at once move forward by rail towards Grafton, as far as can be done with prudence, leaving sufficient guards at Parkersburg and the bridges as you advance."

The militia fully expected resistance in Parkersburg and arrived on the steamboat Ohio 3 with drawn bayonets.

"If you have to fight, remember that the honor of Ohio is in your hands," McClellan stated in his orders. "See that the rebels receive no information by telegraph. ... See that the rights and property of the people are respected, and repress all attempts at Negro insurrection."

A battle for the city never happened.

When the Ohio regiments landed they were greeted by a crowd of Union supporters. Regiment leaders hoisted their flag over the B&O Train Depot.

The units were then sent across the B&O lines to Grafton, then to Philippi and to Rich Mountain, where they defeated Lee's troops in the first major engagements of the war. Lee was given the nickname "Granny Lee" for his losses in these early engagements. McClellan was hailed as the great Napoleon.

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