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Roane County, WV
The Civil War in Spencer, cont.

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Union troops of the 193rd Virginia Militia led by Col. William Pell, a Spencer resident and owner of a large and successful leather goods business was placed in charge of protecting Roane County. The first armed conflict occurred in Spencer during August 1861, occurring in three separate engagements over the span of 11 days. In the first incident, Confederate guerrillas fired upon the town from Tanner's Hill, located in an area presently known as Schoolhouse Hill or College Hill. Union troops returned fire and the Confederate guerrillas fled. Col. Pell ordered the courthouse fortified and windows boarded with two-inch lumber from McKown's Mill. Provisions were gathered in preparation for a prolonged siege. In the meantime, an estimated 400 Confederate guerrillas, led by Capts. George Downs, Peregrine Hays, Dan Dusky, and Perry Connolly surrounded the countryside.

It was at this time that William Pool, helping to butcher a beef near the present site of the Spencer Post Office, was killed by a single shot fired from Goff Hill. Pool, presiding justice for the county, thus became the first war casualty in Roane County.

The second war casualty occurred during the second engagement, in which the Confederate guerrillas were able to surround the courthouse and fire upon it. Sanford "Doc" Boone volunteered to climb into the courthouse cupola to gain a better vantage point for determining the number and position of the besiegers. Shortly thereafter he was shot from a corn patch near the present corner of Church and Main Streets. The battle ended in a stalemate, with the Confederate guerrillas unable to force Pell to surrender. Pell took advantage of the ensuing lull and ordered another fortification constructed on a hill southwest of town, which became known as Fort Hill and is the knoll presently located above Circle Avenue.

The third engagement was a siege lasting seven days. Guerrillas kept the Federal troops pinned down in the courthouse and Fort Hill fortification. The troops engaged in a constant banter of words, with the guerrillas threatening to bring a cannon to bombard the courthouse. The Federal troops saw what appeared to be a cannon with a Confederate flag flying above at daybreak on the fourth day of the siege, but were unable to be certain due to the distance. That night the troops distracted the Confederate guards while a small group made their way to the top of the hill on which the cannon was located. Upon arrival, they discovered the "cannon" was simply a wagon with a log tied on it. The men stole the Confederate flag and returned safely to the courthouse, where they raised the flag over the courthouse privy.

The siege continued and on the evening of the sixth day Mrs. Isaac McKown slipped into town and informed Col. Pell' s wife that a group of guerrillas had been camped near her home (near the present intersection of US Rt. 119 and WV Rt. 36) since the beginning of the siege. The next morning a group of Union troops sneaked up on the still-sleeping guerrillas. killing two and wounding many others. This attack along with rumors of additional Union troops advancing from Ripley, led the Confederate guerrillas to retreat.

In December 1861. Col. John C. Rathbone, commanding four companies of the 11th (West) Virginia Infantry arrived in- Spencer and established a command post in the courthouse. The presence of these troops and the onset of winter led the guerrillas to withdraw from the area. However, the spring of 1862 saw a renewed Confederate interest in guerrilla warfare.

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