The Moccasin Rangers were a Confederate guerrilla company that operated around the headwaters of the Little Kanawha River during the first two years of the Civil War. The Moccasins, led by Perry Conley, drew most of their members from Calhoun County, but at various times included men from Webster and Braxton counties. Other leaders were George Downs, Daniel Duskey, and Peter Saurburn. Conley’s name has been linked to Confederate spy Nancy Hart, from whom he received intelligence on Union forces.
The Moccasins were regarded as bushwhackers by many. According to West Virginia Civil War historian Boyd Stutler, they were responsible for atrocities on the civilian population in the region and only rarely participated in actual combat with federal troops. A group of Moccasin Rangers captured Ripley in 1861 and looted the town. The group, led by Duskey, was later captured and the men were treated as common criminals rather than prisoners of war. Indicted, tried, and sentenced to prison for robbery, they appealed to the Confederate government to intervene. The Confederates finally secured their release by trading two Union officers for them. The Confederate government tried to legitimize the Rangers by enlisting them as Company A of the 19th Regiment of Virginia Cavalry. The Rangers were neutralized only after the Union Army occupied the area in force. Some members of the Moccasin Rangers continued their service in regular Confederate units, including the 19th Regiment, until the end of the war.
This Article was written by Kenneth R. Bailey
Last Revised on October 20, 2010
Stutler, Boyd. West Virginia in the Civil War. Charleston: Education Foundation, 1966.
Calhoun County Historical & Genealogical Society. History of Calhoun County. Grantsville: 1990.