PARKERSBURG - A band of Confederate sympathizers was the scourge of the region during the early years of the Civil War.
The guerrilla fighters known as the Moccasin Rangers formed in Calhoun County, spreading fear and terror and intimidating those who sided with the Union, according to George Hall of Parkersburg, the author "Civilian War in West Virginia, the Moccasin Rangers."
Cloaked in secrecy and operating behind the lines, among the most famed of the operatives was Nancy Hart of Roane County, a spy for the Confederacy. They pillaged towns, including Ripley, burnt Sutton and killed those siding with the Union.
Then they were called bushwhackers. Today they would be called terrorists.
Most Virginians in western Virginia generally supported secession from Virginia, but feared retribution from the rangers, Hall said. Instead of receiving protection from the Confederacy, they were protected by the Union, he said.
The band operated from 1861 to 1862 when the Union Army, tired of the atrocities committed, issued orders that those who were caught were to be summarily executed. Among the atrocities were a decapitation murder.
Rangers were not part of an organized military unit and therefore raised questions of their status as combatants and their protections under military law.
"The Union policy came to be to just kill them," Hall said.
The book was published by Wasteland Press of Shelbyville, Ky. It is available at Borders, amazon.com, book stores in Marietta and from the publisher. Hall, a minister at the Parkersburg Christian Church, spent several years researching the Moccasin Rangers and coincided the publication of the book with the Civil War sesquicentennial.
Hall has been asked to speak in May in a series on the war organized by the state West Virginia Division of Culture and History.