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

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Col. Rathbone sent an erroneous message in early May to Brig. Gen. Benjamin Kelly that the Confederates had captured both Arnoldsburg and Spencer. Kelly immediately sent a large force of Federal troops to recapture the towns. He arrived in Spencer. satisfied himself that all was well. and left for Weston on May 16th. The following evening Confederate Capts. Downs. Hays, and Silcott approached Spencer under a flag of truce. They reported that Brig. Gen. Kelly had sent them to arrange a truce with Col. Rathbone. Rathbone being unable to confirm with Kelly took them at their word and Judge Brown mediated the negotiations. An eight-day cessation to hostilities was arranged, during which both armies were free to travel throughout the area.

Kelly, upon receiving word of the truce, was enraged and sent word to Rathbone to "move at once on them and kill or capture their whole force if possible". Throughout the summer of 1862 the Union forces maintained steady pressure on the guerrillas.

In September 1862 Confederate Gen. Jenkins arrived in Spencer during the early morning hours and deployed his men along the ridge northeast of town, near present day Prospect Street on Alvord Hill, in such a manner to give the appearance of a force two or three times its actual size. Messengers entered town under a flag of truce and demanded that the Federals surrender unconditionally within 30 minutes. Rathbone surrendered without attempting any defense. Jenkins and his men rode into town and claimed it "in the name of Jefferson Davis and the southern Confederacy". The men stayed only long enough to gather the militia guns and burn them on the courthouse square. The Union troops were paroled after taking an oath not to bear arms against the Rebels for a period of30 days.

Jenkins and his men left the morning following the surrender in the direction of Ripley. Once out of sight, Union Capt. Sympson and his men, who refused to surrender and had escaped towards Reedy, returned and regained Union control of the town throughout the remainder of the war.

The movement for the formation of a new state was successful. After finally submitting to the Congressional stipulation that slavery be excluded from the state, final approval was granted and West Virginia became the 35th Union state on June 20, 1863.

Roane County's involvement in the war continued at the Battle of Cloyd's Mountain near Dublin, Virginia on May 9, 1864. A large portion of local troops, serving both the Union and Confederate armies, was wounded or killed in what was the largest Civil War battle in southwestern Virginia. Union Brigadier General George Crook led 6,500 infantry and 12 artillery pieces with the aim to destroy the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad connecting Richmond with Tennessee. Confederate Brigadier General Jenkins (who had two years earlier captured Spencer) led 2,400 men and ten artillery and had resolved to make a stand. Following a brisk artillery duel, the Union infantry attacked and the West Virginia brigade, in its first battle, drove to within 20 yards of the Confederate line resulting in many casualties. The battle lasted little more than an hour, but the ferocity of the fighting is evidenced by the 688 Union losses, roughly ten percent, and 538 Confederate losses, approximately 23 percent.

The war continued until April 9, 1865, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant in the village of Appomattox Court House, Virginia. The last Confederate troops surrendered May 26, 1865 and the war was finally over, having cost the country more than 600,000 lives and approximately $5 billion in property damage.

Following the war, the state of affairs in Spencer during the war was described in the Weekly Bulletin, formerly published in Spencer as:

"A guerrilla warfare ensured; property was taken, houses burned, citizens murdered, and all the damnable transactions of war took place. Spencer was captured by Union forces, and besieged by the Confederates. For forty days and nights a random fire was poured in upon our beleaguered town and upon the Federals, who were cooped up in the court-house, praying for Blucher or Night'. Night came not, neither did Blucher; but General Jenkins answered the prayer, captured the town and took possession thereof in the name of the Southern Confederacy and Jefferson Davis ... Bands of horse thieves, belonging properly to neither of the contending armies, ravaged the county and killed unoffending citizens. "