Updated: Sep 8
Nearly a year before John H. Morgan led his small Confederate cavalry division on the Great Raid into Kentucky and across Indiana and Ohio, Brigadier General Albert Gallatin Jenkins crossed over the Ohio River from Virginia on the first raid on Ohio soil.
Jenkins was born in Cabell County, Virginia on November 10th, 1830. He had attended Marshall Academy, then Jefferson College in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, and later Harvard Law School. In 1850, after graduation, he spent the summer in South America. Jenkins served as a Virginia delegate to the 1856 Democratic National Convention, as well as served two terms in the United States House of Representatives. He married Virginia Southard Bowlin in St. Louis on July 15th, 1858. By the time the Civil War arrived, he had accomplished much in his thirty-one years.
Jenkins owned the Greenbottom (or Green Bottom) plantation along the Ohio River about twenty miles north of Huntington, Virginia. Greenbottom had been purchased by Albert's father William in 1825 and was, by 1828, over 4,300 acres in size. With the death of his parents (mother in 1843 and father in 1859), Albert took over ownership of Greenbottom. The location of the plantation must have been a healthy environment for Albert as a child and young man; by the time of the Civil War he was 5' 10" tall, and according to one southern newspaper was “well-formed and of good physique; dark hair, blue eyes, and heavy brown beard; pleasing countenance, kind affable manners, fluent and winning in conversation; quick, subtle, and argumentative in debate.”
When the Civil War broke out Jenkins enlisted on April 20th, 1861 as a captain of Company E in the Eighth Virginia Cavalry Regiment, and later promoted to lieutenant colonel. Jenkins' oldest brother Thomas Jefferson Jenkins would also serve in the Eighth, rising to the rank of major. Another older brother, Dr. William Alexander Jenkins, would serve in the Eighth as a surgeon. Albert would resign his commission in February, 1862 to serve in the First Confederate Congress, and then return to military duty in early August as a newly promoted brigadier general.
The Jenkins Raid (also known as the Trans-Allegheny Raid) started on August 22nd, 1862 from Salt Sulphur Springs, Virginia. Moving through the rugged mountains the command, consisting of men from both the Eighth and Fourteenth Virginia Cavalry Regiments, would take Buckhannon, then move west to Weston, Glenville, Spencer, and Ripley, before heading north to Ravenswood along the Ohio River.
Arriving at Ravenswood before noon on September 4th, the Confederates forced a small Federal force to retreat across the Ohio. General Jenkins' report, stated: "The enemy comprising nearly 200, fled across the Ohio at our approach." At Ravenswood the cavalrymen enjoyed several hours of rest and support, even though some of the Federals they has chased off would fire upon them from across the river, causing a few casualties. Henrietta Fitzhugh Barr would write in her diary about Jenkins' men, "I may as well add here that these are the soldiers that I have had the good fortune to meet, since the war began. These gentlemen are so entirely different from the low hireling Hessians who have been polluting our soil for the last fifteen months. It seems almost like home to have them with us again. We had no time to say half what we wished or to have ask the very questions we wished to have answered. We were in such a hurry getting dinner, setting the table, etc., and now they have gone we can think of a thousand things we could have said and done."
Jenkins would divide his command at Ravenswood, sending two hundred men along the south bank to Mason City, while he would lead the remaining three hundred men across the Sand Creek Bar into Ohio. It was about sunset when the Confederates crossed the Ohio River (aided by a Ravenswood steamboat pilot). Even with the pilot's assistance, one man drowned in the crossing of the deep ford. Jenkins reported of his guide: "Indeed without him I should have had to abandon the enterprise."
Side bar: There is a First Ohio Invasion historical marker at the Buffington Island State Memorial which states that the Confederates crossed "near this point." However, it does not specifically mention that the Confederates crossed at Buffington Island ford, and no report states that Jenkins moved three and a half miles north along the Virginia shore to cross at Buffington. Buffington's ford was known to be shallow, and most likely would have been even more so due to the drought of the summer of 1862. Such a move north would have moved the Confederates on a perpendicular course and slightly away from his goal of reaching Racine. On the West Virginia shore, there is another historical marker that states that Jenkins crossed at the Sand Creek Riffle, which would have been the bar at the mouth of Sand, or Sandy, Creek, which is on the south side of Ravenswood. The comments that Jenkins makes about the depth of the river and the narrowness of the bar would infer that he did not use the ford at Buffington Island, and hence the Ohio marker, which I believe had been moved to the park in more recent years, is located in an incorrect location. Now back to the raid.
Jenkins would write, "The excitement of the command as we approached the Ohio shore was intense, and in their anxiety to be the first of their respective companies to reach the soil of those who had invaded us, all order was lost, and it became almost a universal race as we came to the shoal water. In a short time, all were over, and in a few minutes the command was formed on the crest of the gentle eminence, and the Bars of the Southern Confederacy flowed proudly over the soil of the invaders. Men cheered and enthusiasm was excited to the highest pitch."
One Confederate, Arthur W. Lang of the Fourteenth Virginia Cavalry, would later reminisce "...seeing the larger and better farms than I was used to, I learned the object of the raid. We were to get Northern horses for mounts for the Confederate armies of Virginia."
Along the route in Ohio, Jenkins and his men encountered little in the way of resistance until reaching Racine. There were reportedly a few locals along the way who offered cheers for Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy, but it may have been in an effort to avoid any conflict with the invaders. Jenkins would state “It was a curious and unexpected thing to hear upon the soil of Ohio shouts go up for Jeff Davis and the Southern Confederacy. This was usually, however, in isolated spots, where there were no near neighbors to play the spy and informant.”
It took the Confederates about three hours to cross the "boot" to Racine, and once they arrived at the outskirts of town, they were encountered by some local home guards who were quickly put to flight. A local newspaper, the Pomeroy Weekly Telegraph, would print "We had information of the crossing of the river at Buffington Island by a portion of the rebel band. About 250 of the Rangers crossed over and came down to Racine, which they captured about 9 p.m. They shot a deaf and dumb man who could not hear the order to halt and wounded one or two others. They told the citizens they were after horses and arms, and if they were not resisted they would not harm anyone personally, but if fired upon they would burn up the town. They then gathered up all the good horses they could find in town, getting 12, and after some hours crossed over into Virginia again at Wolfe's Bar below Racine."
Darkness concealed the number of raiders, and the local citizens were afraid that they would be murdered and their homes burned. The Confederates did take horses and other valuables and items useful for their existence, but homes, businesses, and people for the most part were left alone. Some familiarity began as small children began to remind the cavalrymen of their own children at home, and so the men passed out some treats and mementoes.
Jenkins was not planning on staying in Ohio any longer than necessary, and so found a local guide to assist in the recrossing of the Ohio River. There was a ford about a mile downstream from Racine. “Here I proposed to recross the Ohio River, but a citizen familiar with the ford declared it impossible.” The local apparently was not sympathetic to the Southern cause but Jenkins forced him to go ahead and lead the column. The "guide" went out until it was seen that the water was too deep. “I entertained at the time, as I do now, the suspicion that it was the deliberate intention of the Yankee citizen to drown as many of the command as possible,” Jenkins wrote in his report.
The steamboat pilot from Ravenswood was still with the raiders, and was able to guide the Confederates across the Wolf Creek Bar, completing the crossing a little after midnight. Jenkins' short time in Ohio was now over and he would connect with the other column and continue the raid, which ended on September 12th when Jenkins reported to William W. Loring, under whom Jenkins would participate in the Battle of Charleston. The Trans-Allegheny Raid lasted twenty-two days and covered five hundred miles. Jenkins captured and paroled 300 Union soldiers, killed or wounded 1,000 others, destroyed about 5,000 small arms, and seized funds from a U.S. paymaster.
After the raid Jenkins would serve most notably in the Gettysburg Campaign, then on May 1st, 1864 would be named commander of the Department of Western Virginia. Mortally wounded just eight days later at the Battle of Cloyd's Mountain, he would linger until May 21st. Jenkins is buried in Huntington, West Virginia, in what is known as the Confederate Plot, alongside his comrades-in-arms. Jenkins Hall on the Marshall University campus had been named for him and although Marshall had decided in 2019 to keep the name in the face of pressure, by the summer of 2020 the university decided to remove his name from the building. Jenkins' legacy as a slave owner as well as his taking of free blacks in Pennsylvania and selling them into slavery in Virginia were the determining factors in the decision to remove Jenkins' name from the hall, which is now known as the Education Building.
Dickinson, Jack L. and Kay S. - Gentleman Soldier of Greenbottom: The Life of Brig. Gen. Albert Gallatin Jenkins, CSA. Self published., 2011.
Lowry, Terry - The Battle of Charleston and the 1862 Kanawha Valley Campaign. 35th Star Publishing, 2016.
Roth, David E. - "Civil War Sites in Eastern Ohio," Blue & Gray Magazine, Volume II, Issue 4, 1985.