In April and May 1863, Confederate Generals William E. Jones and John D. Imboden conducted an extensive raid into West Virginia. Their plan called for destruction of all railroad bridges and trestles of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad between Oakland, Maryland, and Grafton. They also hoped to recruit men for their army and possibly influence the May elections. Following skirmishes at Beverly, Buckhannon, Oakland, Morgantown, and Fairmont, the raiders arrived on May 9 at Burning Springs, Wirt County. There they set fire to oil, oil tanks, engines for pumping, engine houses, wagons, and oil-laden boats. The boats exploded, sending burning oil down the Little Kanawha River until the stream became a sheet of flame with massive clouds of dense, jet-black smoke filling the air. In his report to Gen. Robert E. Lee, Jones perhaps overestimated the amount of oil burned at 150,000 barrels, describing the fiery sight as a ‘‘scene of magnificence that might well carry joy to every patriotic heart.’’
The Confederate raiders returned to their camp in Rockingham County, Virginia, having largely accomplished their mission. Their combined forces lost 12 killed, 45 wounded, and 26 captured. Federal casualties were estimated at 25 killed, 75 wounded, and 700 taken prisoner.
This Article was written by Tim McKinney
Last Revised on March 25, 2014
Cole, Scott. 34th Battalion Virginia Cavalry. Lynchburg: H. E. Howard, 1993.
Moore, George E. A Banner in the Hills. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1963.
Cite This Article
McKinney, Tim "Burning Springs Raid." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 25 March 2014. Web. 23 March 2017.