Friday, September 5, 2014

500 miles, 5 battlefields, and places George was 150 years ago.

We returned to the campground at 11:00 pm last night, too late and tired to write about all we did. So I am capturing it today!

Grafton, WV
We started driving to Grafton, WV. This is where George Ordner rode the train on May 21 or 22, 1861 with his cousin, John W. Moore and perhaps friend, James Callaghan from Cumberland, MD. The ride on the train was approximately 6 hours or so. When they stopped in Grafton, George and the boys almost certainly heard that there was a company forming and needed recruits. So, I imagine, George found Captain George Latham or Daniel Wilson to sign up with the "Grafton Guards".
Grafton Hotel in 1857. This is where George most likely
disembarked the train and signed up with the Grafton Guards.
Photo from the book Taylor County
of the Taylor County Historical and Genealogical Society
According to accounts we found in the local Grafton library, about 9:00 pm on the night of May 22, Daniel Wilson and one of the leaders of the company, Bailey Brown, apparently were a little drunk and headed towards Fetterman on the railroad east of Grafton. The confederate pickets were guarding the bridge and challenged Brown and Wilson. Things got heated and Bailey Brown drew his pistol and fired on the guard, nicking his ear. The guard, Daniel W. S. Knight, returned fire with is smooth-bore flintlock musket loaded with a buck and ball cartridge and hit Brown in the left chest. Wilson retreated and caught the other guard, George Glenn's, load in the heel of his foot.

Bailey Brown was the first official soldier who died in the Civil War...and George was likely there that night.
Bailey Brown's memorial in the Grafton National Cemetery.
See how close the tracks are? He was actually shot about
150 yards or so from where he is buried today.
Photo Laurie Southerton
Philippi, WV
We left Grafton, and headed south to Philippi. This was the site of the first land battle of the Civil War. On June 3, 1861, the First Virginia Volunteers, under Benjamin Kelley (George's company was in this, his first marching to war) marched 20 miles through a drenching rain all night from Grafton to Philippi to route the Confederates stationed there. The Union army surprised the confederates and routed them out of town. There were 15 rebels killed, and "the gallant Colonel Kelley, of the First Virginia Volunteers, I fear, is mortally wounded. No other important casualties on our side." according to the Report of Major General George B. McClellan to Headquarters.

There is a covered bridge in town that the Union army used as barracks during the battle. The bridge still exists.
Covered bridge in Philippi, WV. Site of the first Civil War land battle.
Photo Laurie Southerton
Belington, WV
We were headed to Beverly from Philippi, and decided to stop at Belington along the way. This town is where we believe, that on April 25, 1863 (so a few years later than the first battle he was in..) he was back in this direction and purchased something worth $35 on credit from John L. Hilkey, Postmaster and store owner in Bealington, WV. I have a copy of the receipt, and payment of the item 10 years later in 1873. What could a young man have purchased for this much money (would be about $400 dollars in today's money)? I believe it was a Henry automatic rifle. Several of his company were issued the new repeating rifle, and I believe, George convinced a merchant to provide him credit to purchase one of his own.

Hilkey was appointed postmaster in Belington, Barbour County, on January 31, 1861. His son, John S. Hilkey took over on June 30, 1866. In the 1870 Barbour County Census, John L. Hilkey is listed as a farmer.

Receipt for $35 purchase - perhaps a Henry rifle -
by George W. Ordner (in his own handwriting) on
April 25, 1863 in Bealington, Va.
Photo Laurie  Southerton

Beverly, WV
Our next stop on this 500 mile odyssey, was in Beverly. There was a battle on Rich Mountain, of which George's regiment fought on July 11, 1861. There was a museum in the town that described the battle. Next door was an antique store (of course we had to visit that!) that was used as a hospital after the battle. There was graffiti still on the walls of the soldiers who were wounded and cared for in the hospital. Right across the street was the Bosworth's store, built in 1826, and was a commissary for the soldiers who were stationed on Rich Mountain after the battle.
Inside of Bosworth Store Museum. This store was used as a
commissary for the soldiers stationed in Beverly in 1861 after the
Battle on Rich Mountain.
Photo Laurie Southerton Courtesy of the
Randolph County Historical Society and Museum.

In the store was an actual water cooler that was in the store in 1861. If George purchased items in that store, he most likely refreshed himself with a drink from the crockery water cooler!
Original crockery water cooler in the
Bosworth Store in Beverly, WV
Photo Laurie Southerton courtesy of the
Randolph County Historical Society and Museum
We headed 5 miles up the mountain to the battle field. The drive was beautiful! According to the signs on the battle field:
"The battle was fought in this pass along the Stanton-Parkersburg Turnpike. Union forces led by General William S. Rosencrans stormed down the hill behind you. Confederates on guard here took cover behind log breastworks, farm buildings and large rocks in the stable yard across the road. Federal soldiers were held back by fire from infantry and a single cannon. After three hours of fighting, the larger Federal force charged and captured the cannon, scattering Confederate defenders through the woods."
Rich Mountain battlefield. Left is where the stable and cannon were.
Near the telephone pole about 150 yds away, was the Hart House where the
Federal soldiers were held back out of range of the cannon.
Photo Laurie Southerton
Cheat Summit Fort, WV
About 20 miles south of Rich Mountain, General McClellan had Union troops build a fort to watch the turnpike and the B&O Railroad below. George Ordner and his regiment, would have spend the winter in this camp and helped build this fort. The weather was unseasonable cold that winter, snowing on August 13! Conditions were horrible, rations limited and nothing but mud and cold.
Photo Laurie Southerton
Site where the fort was build. In the forefront you can still
see the breastworks that surrounded the fort.
Photo Laurie Southerton
Driving down from the mountain, the GPS took us apparently on a very low-maintenance road. Better for 4 wheelers, not our Nissan Versa! We rode over foot high rocky drops, through deep mud puddles and finally across a single lane old bridge over the creek before we came back out on the road! Should have had our Jeep!
Old bridge on the low-maintenance road coming
down from Cheat Summit Fort!
Photo Laurie Southerton
Hillsboro, WV - Droop Mountain Battlefield
From Cheat Mountain it was an hour south to the Droop Mountain Battlefield in Hillsboro, WV. It was already 5:30 pm, and we were 4 hours south from our campground, but we had to visit. George was here fighting and took a flesh wound in his arm here. George Ordner wrote about this battle in his diary:
Nov 6th, Friday - Fighting today 10 P.M. The enemy in full retreat, we pursuing. Camped for the night. We have taken number of prisoners. Our Regt. as far as Battle of Droop Mountain heard from lost 8, killed [?] 12 wounded. St. Weaver [Arthur J. Weaver] was killed toDay. Flesh wound in arm. Boys in high spirits. [?] victory at loop. 
We started at the top of the mountain at the lookout where the Confederates were positioned with their artillery.

Lookout tower and view from top of Droop Mountain.
You can see the town of Hillsboro 2 miles to the south (left).
Confederates held this top and Union troops
stormed them and routed them out.
Photos Laurie Southerton
Traveling down from the loop to the museum, there were signs that marked the position of the Union Troops as they positioned themselves to take the mountain top. This sign was next to the unbelievably deep raving that George and his regiment crawled up while artillery was raining down on them. They fought hand-to-hand and finally forced the Confederates back towards the turnpike. The regiment started with 200 men, nine were killed and fifteen wounded (George was one, although not officially listed on his record). Of the fifteen wounded, 5 eventually died of their wounds.
Droop Mountain Battlefield ravine where the 2nd WV
Mounted Infantry (George's regiment) stormed the mountain top.
Photo Jeff Southerton
When visiting the museum, there were several battle maps that showed the position of the troops.
The 2nd WV was in a deep ravine right above
the arrow at the bottom right.
Map of battle in Droop Mountain Battlefield Museum
It was an AMAZING day! Traveling and touching the very areas my grandfather walked and fought was absolutely incredible. 


  1. So envious of your adventures!!!

    1. You are always welcome! Would have loved to have you journeying with us.

  2. Awesome travels :) Wow! If I had know you were driving to Philippi I would have recommended Adaland! It is a beautiful Civil War House Museum. Check it out sometime :)