McNeill’s Rangers, a Confederate guerrilla force consisting of Company E of the 18th Virginia Cavalry and the First Virginia Partisan Rangers, began operations in September 1862 under the leadership of Capt. John H. ‘‘Hanse’’ McNeill. Operating out of the Moorefield area, the Rangers attacked Union troops, camps, and property of the vital Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.
While most of their operations were independent, the Rangers would on occasion join up with other partisan groups or Confederate regulars in operations against Union forces. In May 1863, they took part in the wide-ranging Jones-Imboden Raid through much of north central West Virginia.
Captain McNeill was mortally wounded on October 3, 1864, at a raid on Union forces at Mount Jackson, Virginia. His son, Jesse, took command of the Rangers and led them until the end of the war. On February 21, 1865, they were successful in kidnapping Union generals George Crook and Benjamin Kelley from their hotels in Cumberland, Maryland, and delivered them to Gen. Jubal Early at Staunton, Virginia.
At the end of the war, Jesse McNeill and 30 men surrendered to Union troops on April 24, 1865, at New Creek (now Keyser), thus ending the exploits of the partisan band. Probably never numbering more than 100 men at any time, they managed to do damage to Union operations and tie down troops to a degree far out of proportion to their number.
This Article was written by Jim Barnes
Last Revised on October 20, 2010
Blue, John. Hanging Rock Rebel. Shippensburg, PA: Burd Street Press, 1994.
Jones, Virgil C. Gray Ghosts and Rebel Raiders. New York: Holt, 1956.
Stanchak, John E. "McNeils's Rangers," in Patricia L. Faust, ed, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War. New York: Harper & Row, 1986.
Cite This Article
Barnes, Jim "McNeill’s Rangers." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 20 October 2010. Web. 23 March 2017.