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SharePrint Media File

Type: Video

Series Title West Virginia: A Film History

Filmmaker Mark Samels

Company West Virginia Humanities Council

Format DVD


“The country outside our lines is full of guerrillas and horse thieves. The staid people wish them to the devil even though their own friends and relatives are among the plunderers.” David Hunter Strother

Narrator: Called bushwhackers by their union enemies, the guerrillas harassed federal troops and terrorized Union supporters. Bushwhackers beheaded one federal courier, another was found tied to a tree, his naked body riddled with bullets.

Richard O. Curry, historian: The guerrilla warfare simply shows the inability of the Union army willing to govern or control western West Virginia. Northwestern Virginia where the population was already committed to the Union there was no problem but the rest of the state could not be governed. Union troops controlled the cities, the roadways and the rivers during the day but not at night. The terrain itself was enough to defeat any invading army. Thirty men while placed at a mountain gorge could hold off a regiment of an army.

“We now have over forty thousand men in the service of the United States in western Virginia. But our large armies are useless here. They cannot catch guerrillas in the mountains any more than a cow can catch fleas.” Robert Milroy

Narrator: Union General Robert H. Milroy ordered Confederate sympathizers to pay for goods stolen by bushwhackers. If they refused, soldiers were to burn their houses, seize their property and shoot them.

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