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The Kanawha Expedition
October 21 to November 13, 1862
As Described by Pvt. Frank H. Mason, Company A, 42nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Web Author's Notes:
The 16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, as part of Col. John F. DeCourcey's 26th Brigade, after resting and recuperating for 16 days in their camp near Oak Hill, Ohio, was now sent east and south to address the situation in Charleston, (West) Virginia where Confederate Generals William W. Loring and John Echols had re-occupied the town and general area (Loring resigned in mid-October leaving Charleston and the Kanawha Valley under the command of Echols). In the face Union General George W. Morgan's 7th Division approaching Charleston along the Kanawha River, Echols evacuated Charleston allowing Morgan's troops to walk in unopposed and re-occupy the city.

The following excerpts are an account of the Kanawha Expedition as told by Pvt. Frank H. Mason of the 42nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry (brigaded with the 16th Ohio in Col. John F. DeCourcey's 26th Brigade in Morgan's 7th Division) in his book The Forty-Second Ohio Infantry - A History of the Organization and Services of That Regiment in the War of the Rebellion, 1876 - F. H. Mason, late Private of Company A - Cobb, Andrews & Co., Publishers. The perspective is that of the 42nd Ohio. Mason specifies October 27 (1862) as the date which DeCourcey's brigade left its campsites near Oak Hill, Ohio, however, this is believed to be incorrect as several other diary accounts list that date as October 21. It is believed diary accounts would tend to be more accurate as they were typically written at or near the time of events whereas accounts written many years later would be more subject to the burring of memory:

At Gallipolis we found everything in a state of active preparation. Artillery and cavalry were refitting, and supplies were being collected and forwarded to Point Pleasant, the mouth the Kanawha. ... On the 27th, the Brigade broke camp, marched seven miles up the Ohio, crossed the river upon steamboats at Point Pleasant and began the march up the Kanawha Valley to Charleston, sixty miles distant. The march was for the most part uneventful. The weather was perfect, the road, compared with what we had traversed in Kentucky, was admirable, and although an enemy of unknown strength and purposes was in front, the movement upon Charleston was one of the pleasant episodes of the year.

The march to Charleston occupied three days. On the evening of the 30th, our advance neared the town and found the enemy gone and going. Gen. Floyd had been accurately informed of the force coming against him, and as his irregular force was adapted to the duty of raiding rather than fighting, he abandoned his entrenchments on the approach of DeCourcy's column and withdrew across the mountains. A small detachment of cavalry with a section of artillery pursued the retreating enemy as far as Gauley Bridge, but the expedition from first to last was a bloodless one. The infantry, including the Forty-Second, encamped on a broad, beautiful meadow below the town and resumed the regular routine of company, battalion and brigade drill. A few articles of clothing and equipage which had failed to reach us at Camp Jackson were brought forward by steamer and the troops were made once more as comfortable in respect to the clothing and equipment as the regulations and exigencies of field service would permit.

But this period of rest was brief. Important events were in progress, and the Government could spare no such Division as that of Gen. Morgan to go into Winter quarters in November. On the 9th of that month, orders were received for a return to the Ohio river. On the morning of the 10th camp was broken, and the Brigade set out on what proved a forced march of twenty-five miles per day, to Point Pleasant. As there was no apparent cause for haste, the conclusion was that Col. DeCourcy had pushed the Brigade through on quick time by way of exercise, to see how much the men could stand. However, that may have been, it reached the Ohio river on the 13th, and at once went on board the sidewheel steamer Fannie McBurney,, whose officers gave us the first hint of our destination. They were under orders, they said, for Memphis, and it was rightly conjectured from that moment that we were to be transferred to a new Department, and to share in more important campaigns than those of the Big Sandy and Cumberland Gap.

The time had now come for the breaking up of Gen. Morgan's little army, the Seventh Division of the Army of the Ohio. Gen. Baird's Brigade was sent to Kentucky, those of Spears and Carter returned to Tennessee, while Gen. Morgan, with DeCourcy's Brigade and Foster's Battery, were ordered to Memphis to join the army there organizing under Gen. Sherman for a campaign against Vicksburgh, at that time the grand objective point of military operations in the West.

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