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The History of the 22nd Virginia

By John Miller

The 22nd Virginia was first formed as a militia unit known as the Kanawha Minutemen. Formed and commanded by Captain George Patton (the famous great grandfather to the WW II General Patton) in 1856. These men were actually mountain men, armed with Mississippi rifles. They preferred the riffled bore for better accuracy. Their uniforms were very dashing and the unit was very well disciplined.

The uniforms, as early as records show, were similar in appearance to the Richmond Light Infantry Blues. The standard uniform was a light blue and dark gray trouser. Other uniforms were navy blue with yellow striping on the cuffs, collar and the breast of the jacket. They also wore yellow chevrons with dark gray pants that had yellow stripes down the sides. The 22nd Virginia Infantry lost that appearance shortly after the war started.

In 1859 the Militia unit changed its name permanently to the Kanawha Riflemen. As the Civil War began in western Virginia the 22nd was known as the 1st Kanawha Riflemen upon entering into service of the Confederacy in June 1861. The 22nd Virginia was formed under Captain Patton. Captain Patton later commissioned to be Colonel of the 22nd Virginia in the Army of Kanawha under Generals Henry Wise, who was the Ex-Governor of Virginia, and John B. Floyd also ex-Governor, who later transferred to Tennessee and surrendered Fort Donaldson.

The first Baptism of Fire came on July 17, 1861 at the Battle of Scary Creek. Captain George Patton won a major victory for the Confederates, and he was wounded in the shoulder, he was left at Charleston, West Virginia. During his absence, the 22nd Virginia was placed under the command of General Henry Wise. The fighting between these two generals and the disorder of the Army of North Eastern Virginia caused General Robert E. Lee to personally take charge of the three armies. The Army of North Eastern Virginia was in total disorder after the battles of Lural Hill and Corrick's Ford. Once General Lee took the over the first army under the command of General Johnson, General Lee wanted to attack Cheat Summit Fort to regain the Parkersburg and Staunton Turnpike. The Parkersburg and Staunton Turnpike was a major roadway that allowed supplies to go into Richmond from the West.

The Cheat Summit Fort Campaign was General Lee's worst campaign and he left to take command of the Army of the Kanawha Valley District after their massive defeat at Carnifex Ferry on September 10, 1861. The main reason that General Lee took personal command of the unit occurred at the battle of Carnifex Ferry. General Floyd sent a dispatch to General Wise stating he needed support in order to keep his position. General Wise denied the arrival of part of his army until another dispatch came, this time begging for support. General Wise detached the 22nd Virginia to aid General Floyd. By the time the 22nd Virginia arrived on the scene it was to late and General Floyd was forced to retreat. General Lee went to settle the differences of these two generals. General Lee's objective was to push the Union Army in the Valley back into Ohio.

After his weak assault on Swell Mountain General Lee had General Wise removed from Western Virginia and transferred to North Carolina. General Lee then decided to have the 22nd transferred to General Floyd's Army of South Eastern Virginia. In the early part of 1862, after the Romney Campaign, General Floyd transferred to Tennessee and General Henry Heth took over as the commanding officer of the Army of New River. General Heth was very disliked by the members of the 22nd Virginia. Reasons behind this disliking started during the Battle of Lewisburg. General Heth misjudged the numbers of the Union Army under General Crook, which led to ultimate disaster. During the battle the Union Army managed to take possession of a Confederate cannon, which dated back to the Revolutionary War and was the cannon that the British has surrendered at Yorktown.

It finally boiled over when General Heth's army started to disobey orders. While the Chancellorsville Campaign was getting underway, General Heth was recalled to Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, and General John Echols reformed the New River Army to the Army of South Western Virginia in the spring of 1863. The 22nd Virginia spent the spring on a series of raids called the Jones and Imboden Raid. The raid went completely around West Virginia and entered Oakland, Maryland. The purpose of the raid was to destroy the over hangs where the B&O Railroad was vital. On April 24, the raid carried over to Beverly, West Virginia. Once settled in Beverly, the 22nd Virginia was engaged in a skirmish that captured several Union troops and supplies. During the month of August, the 22nd Virginia was stationed near Lewisburg. White Sulphur Springs was the place of a famous health spa and a scene of a huge battle between The 22nd Virginia and Federal forces under the command of General Averell. The federal objective was to seize the law books at the Virginia State Law Library at Lewisburg. These books contained information on the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals for the convenience of lawyers and judges. Colonel Patton marched his army down Anthony's Creek Road and the Union army went by way of James River Pike. The two forces met at the intersection of where these two roads met. Colonel Patton deployed his men at once, blocking the road. The battle lasted all day and carried over to the following day. Both armies were running low on supplies, and the Federal army was forced to withdraw from the field. Colonel Patton had a decisive victory for the Confederates.

The Battle of Droop Mountain occurred on November 6, 1863. At dawn the Union Army under the command of General Averell, sent out skirmishers to test the Confederate line. The Confederates there, held the ground and this forced General Averell to send a detachment of troops to the west where they were ordered to attack the Confederate left. General John Echols was aware of the situation even though the center and the right were heavily engaged, General Echols ordered the left flank to be reinforced. Sending out the 23rd battalion to support the Confederate left. Seeing that the Confederate right and center falling back, General Echols sent three companies of the 22nd Virginia to support the left flank. Colonel Patton informed General Echols that the left flank was on the verge of collapse. As the order of retreat was called to the Confederates, Colonel Jackson held the center for another half hour until the artillery was removed from the field. The Confederates retreated into the woods and disappeared from sight. Even though the battle of Droop Mountain was a Confederate defeat, General Echols managed to survive from the main thrust of the Union Army and caused General Averell to incomplete their raid in Virginia and Tennessee.

After the battle of Droop Mountain, (West) Virginia in November of 1863 the Army of South Western Virginia was almost destroyed. In 1864 the 22nd Virginia was transferred to General John Breckinridge to protect the Shenandoah Valley from the invading Federals. In May at New Market, Virginia the 22nd made a stand next to the V.M.I.'s, which was the 22nd's biggest victory. By late spring the 22nd Virginia was called to Richmond, Virginia to take part in protecting the Confederate Capital at Cold Harbor, as Grant's Army was invading the state once again, this time not retreating as previous generals have done in the past. Western Virginia would never be claimed by her mother state of Virginia again and General Lee needed men desperately. This led to the 22nd Virginia Infantry being pulled from West Virginia.

By the summer of 1864 the 22nd Virginia went with the Army of the Valley to rid the Yankees, under General Franz Sigel, from Lynchburg, Virginia. They also went into the Shenandoah Valley to relieve some of the pressure off of General Lee's lines and force Grant to send troops away from Petersburg. Therefore, the 22nd Virginia would soon be part of a raid that would attack Washington (DC). The 22nd Virginia left Petersburg during June of 1864 to attack the Federals there and relieve pressure of Federal occupation of the town. The first task was completed with the liberation of Lynchburg. General Early then traveled up the Shenandoah Valley and entered Maryland at Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

Once there the raid carried over to Hagerstown with the demand of 20, 000 dollars from the town. The officer in charge misunderstood the order an accidentally forgot to add an extra zero to that number. On July 8 at Turners Gap, near Middletown MD, the 22nd Virginia engaged in a series of skirmishes that finally ended at Frederick, Maryland in the late evening. On July 9 the 22nd Virginia served as reserves during the battle of Monocacy. July 11, the 22nd Virginia was called out at Fort Stevens, three miles from the White House. The battle was called of the following day. General Early retreated to White's Ford and entered Leesburg, Virginia. Once General Early entered the Shenandoah Valley, the 22nd Virginia participated in the battles of Cool Springs, Kernstown, and Winchester. On September 16, during the retreat from Winchester, Colonel George Patton was wounded and taken prisoner. By September 25, Colonel Patton died refusing amputation to his leg.

At the battle of Cedar Creek, the 22nd Virginia had almost been wiped out, as they had about 140 soldiers left in the ranks. After Cedar Creek, General Early was removed from command along with General Breckinridge. General John Echols was given command of what was left of the Army of South Western Virginia and the Army of the Valley. Both armies made a last attempt to regain control of West Virginia and failed. By 1865 the armies did not have enough manpower and started for Lynchburg to rejoin General Lee. On April 15 a telegram was sent to the 22nd Virginia Infantry telling them that General Lee had surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia. By that time the 22nd Virginia had already started to disband. Other members of the 22nd Virginia, who still wanted to fight, were marching off for Tennessee. The last company to disband was Company H, when they received word that General Johnston had surrendered in North Carolina at the Bennett Place.