XI. THE CIVIL WAR (1860-1865) 

Before the Civil War, the Federal Government was not a major source of economic support for eastern Jefferson County.  The Armory employed few people living north of the Harper's Ferry area.  Although limited amounts of local mineral and agricultural resources found their way to Harper's Ferry, they were generally funnelled through middle men, like the Striders, who profited greatly from their association with the local junto.  In general, support in the Bakerton area was much more enthusiastic for the state of Virginia than it was for the Federal Government.  Although several local residents participated in the 1859 capture and trial of John Brown, they did so as members of the Virginia militia and as slave owners.1 

Slavery may have slightly influenced local allegiance.  Slaves could have been employed in the iron and limestone quarrying operations, but the area was populated primarily by owners of small and mid-sized farms.  Most of these people did not own large numbers of slaves.  John Engle [45], one of the larger local farmers, was an exception, owning 15 slaves at the start of the war.2 

When war did break out, many residents were reluctant to choose sides until they saw the direction Virginia was to take.  Jacob H. Engle (Figure 11-1), a militia captain and John Engle's son, had to leave his work twice in the same day to avoid Federal troops that were searching for him.3  Most residents placed allegiance to their state ahead of loyalty to the nation when Virginia seceded from the Union in April 1861.  Molers, Knotts, Engles, Manuels, and other families well known throughout the area made up substantial portions of several company rosters, including Companies A and D, 12th Virginia Cavalry, and infantry companies of the 2nd Virginia Regiment (Stonewall Brigade) originating in the Harpers Ferry, Shepherdstown, and Duffields areas.  Although Company D may not have been a typical cavalry unit, approximately one third to one half of the men on the roster were part of a single, large extended family that included brothers, brothers-in law, and cousins.  These units participated in numerous battles and skirmishes, including the first and second battles of Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Antietam, Wilderness, Cold Harbor, Yellow Tavern, and Brandy Station.4 

No battles were fought within the Bakerton area, but because it was near Harpers Ferry and Antietam, Federal and Confederate troops passed through it on their way to battle, skirmishes were fought, and foraging, wounded, and dying soldiers were a frequent sight.  Samuel Knott's [1] mill was one of these places where the wounded came, and grave markers still dot the hills above the old stone building.  James M. Engle, as a boy living near the banks of the Potomac river, recalled "Frequently we would give a Union soldier bread, and before night a slice from the same loaf to a hungry soldier of the Confederacy."5 Many of the Confederate soldiers were able to return home occasionally for clothing and supplies during the war, for they were often within one or two days' journey on horseback during the campaigns in the Shenandoah Valley.6  Soldiers wounded in battle often recuperated at home, and Confederates frequently returned (with or without permission) to plant or harvest crops. 


During Stonewall Jackson's attack on Harper's Ferry in September 1862, one of the Confederate batteries was stationed on the Bakerton Road at the gate to Captain Jacob Engle's property and took part in the bombardment of Bolivar Heights.7 Several skirmishes involving Company D, 12th Virginia Cavalry, were fought in the area in the fall of 1862.  On October 16th, the Confederates had a line of picketts extending from North Mountain to the Shenandoah River.  Company D, commanded by Captain John L. Knott [6] (Figure 11-2), was spread out from Engle's Hill to the Shepherdstown road with reserves stationed at the intersection of the Uvilla and Charles Town roads.  South of this intersection, in Rocky Lane, they were attacked by troops commanded by Brigadier Generals Humphreys and Hancock.  Captain Knott was wounded in the shoulder in the encounter.  Since the men were thoroughly familiar with the area, they had no trouble slipping through enemy lines and rejoining their regiment.8 

Another skirmish occurred on October 17, 1863, after the Gettysburg campaign.  John Knott, now a major, fought a 3-hour delaying action at Moler's Crossroads against a brigade of cavalry and artillery attempting to reach Shepherdstown from Harpers Ferry.  As a result of the time gained, Stuart's smaller force was reportedly able to drive the Federals back across the Potomac River into Maryland.9 

The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, a major source of supply to the Army of the Potomac, was the site of frequent confrontations between Federal and Confederate troops.  When they were in possession of the lower valley, the Federals normally guarded the railroad by stationing a force at Duffields and often placed guards, within hailing distance of each other, all the way from Harpers Ferry to North Mountain.  Nevertheless, the area was frequently visited by Mosby's Raiders and other Confederate cavalry units, who usually crossed the railroad tracks between picketts at a wooded hill about one and one-half miles east of Duffields.  George Cook of Company D was mortally wounded on a raid in this area on July 25, 1864.10 


The Bakerton area was particularly vulnerable from the east, for it was easy for individual Federals to ford the Potomac River and take what they wanted.  James Engle noted that on one occasion: 

Federal troops got short of meat, came across the Potomac and took our herd of cattle, eight or ten head, and the neighbors' and drove them to camp and butchered them, not paying a cent. One old steer had been sold to the Confederates and came back home and then the Federals got him and drove him down to the pontoon bridge across the Potomac here.  He rebelled again, lowered his head and ran through the soldiers and back to his pasture.  So we ate him after two escapes from both armies.11 

Engle recalled that, at another time, 

a dozen Yankee soldiers attempted to take a fat hog from the pen and father opened on them a battery of stove wood from the porch and routed them.  Miss Mary Ann Sagle, our seamstress, helped by shouting 'Murder!' They ran off and the hogs were saved.12 

Ironically, farmers who had tried unsuccessfully to sell their produce at Harper's Ferry in the decades before the war found themselves forced to provide the Federals with goods when they no longer wanted to.  A substantial amount of Samuel Knott's 1862 wheat crop was "bought" by the Federals in the spring of the following year.13 As produce became scarce and prices rose, farmers were faced with the dilemma of trying to save food for their families and Confederate troops or selling it to the highest bidder.  Writing to her husband in November 1864, Mrs. Jacob H. Engle reported that: 

"The farmers are all buisey selling thire wheat and corn for fear the vandels will burn it....  Pap has sold his wheat.  He got $2.00 for read and $2.25 for white.  All kind of produce is very high.  I give $3.50 for a hat and $3.75 for a pair of gloves."14 

The few public buildings in the area were heavily used by troops during the war.  The Uvilla churches and the Zion Presbyterian Church in Bakerton served as hospitals after the Battle of Antietam.  According to tradition, the stone house on the orebank was put to similar use.  The local schoolhouse built by William Engle [47] was damaged by Federal troops that camped in the area, and Zion Church was also used as a stable.  Along the river, equipment and buildings used for limestone and iron quarrying probably received major damage.  The Cement Mill was one of the casualties, being partially destroyed by fires set by Federal troops on August 19, 1861.15 

The withdrawal of Federal troops often prompted local residents to recoup their losses.  James M. Engle recalled that "Once when the army evacuated Maryland Heights suddenly and left hundreds of guns, boxes of water crackers, thousands of bushels of oats and camp utensils I groaned because I could carry home only one sharpshooter's rifle and pockets full of caps, cartridges and balls; but they returned in a few weeks and came hunting up government property, and mother told them where my gun was and got it." Five wagonloads of Federal goods were seized from the garret of Sabina Peacher's house near the Old Furnace.16 

The west bank of the Potomac River was also within rifle and artillery range from the mountains on the Maryland side of the river, and this posed a threat no matter which side occupied Harpers Ferry.  When the Federals occupied Maryland Heights, buildings, animals, and people were often used for target practice.  James W. Engle had to harvest his wheat at night to avoid being shot.  James M. Engle's baby brother John had his head grazed by a sharpshooters' bullet that came through a window.   Two other Engle boys were almost killed driving their cattle home when Federal artillery used the Orebank for target practice. 17 When Maryland Heights was occupied by Confederates and Federal troops ranged along the west bank of the Potomac River, civilians faced the threat of being killed by friendly fire. 

The actions of the soldiers were often emulated by children. James Engle noted, "Even the boys of that time partook of the times.  Muskets could be picked up and boys on opposite sides of the Potomac would shoot at each other.  When you heard the warning 'Look out,' it was the signal to jump behind a tree, for a moment later you would hear the crack of a gun and an ounce bullet rattling among the sycamore trees."18 

 Memories of other children were more haunting.  John O. Knott [19], also a child during the war, recalled 

the picture of a wounded Yankee soldier whose open white shirt was crimson with blood being carried in a wagon after an encounter at Moler's Cross Roads.  His comrades stopped and asked for water for the wounded man, which was given him.  I recall also the rapid galloping of a body of Union troops past our home and that one of the soldiers shot our dog when the dog ran out to bark.  Strange to say, the wounded dog lying in the garden under a huge tomato plant, shivering with fright and pain, with a ball through his front leg, is the vivid thing I remember.19 

Funeral services for "Uncle Tip" Kephart and "Uncle John" Locher Knott [6] were also clearly remembered years later by John O. Knott: 

I recall most vividly the intense weeping of Uncle Jacob Kephart for his dead brother, and also the glance I had of the dead man's body, which had been exhumed some time after his burial, and which rested on the porch since the body could not be brought into the home.  The body of Uncle John was also left upon the porch, and I recall only the coffin or rather a pine box resting there.  But a little later I recall the widow of Uncle John talking to grandmother Knott, who spoke to her in low tones and with deep emotion, and as a result a cry from the widow of "Poor fellow!" and then she ran upstairs, weeping."20 

The actual toll of Confederate and civilian lives lost in the Bakerton area during the Civil War is difficult to estimate. Eleven men from Company H, 2nd Virginia Infantry (Duffields) were killed or mortally wounded in action, and several more doubtlessly died later from related causes.  One of the first to fall was William Hendricks, killed July 21, 1861, at the first battle of Manassas.21 At least 17 men from Company D, 12th Virginia Cavalry were killed in action or died as a result of their wounds.  These included William Kephart, David Hoffman (Figure 11-4) , George Cook, Thomas Dodson, William Johnson, George H. Moler (Figure 11-3), Charles Morningstar, James Snyder, William Watson, Charles Elliot, Daniel Clymer, William Shuall, James Frazier, Charles Hess, Rollin Moler [40], 3rd Lieutenant Benjamin Lucas, and Major John Locher Knott [6].  At least 27 men were wounded.  Six of the eight top officers or enlisted men in Company D were either killed or wounded. 

The civilian population also suffered greatly during the war period, although it is unclear whether their deaths were caused primarily by trauma, disease, poor nutrition, or lack of other necessities.  Civilian deaths in the eastern portion of Jefferson County show a substantial increase from August 1861 to May 1864, and deaths in this area during 1862 were almost double earlier rates.22 

3054 3495


1. Winfield S.H. Engle, The Melchor Engle Family History and Genealogy: 1730-1940 (Lima Ohio, 1940), p. 78; James M. Engle, History of the Engle Family in the Shenandoah Valley (Washington, D.C., 1906), pp. 8-11. 

2. James M. Engle, History of the Engle Family, p 12. 

3. James M. Engle, p 15. 

4. James M. Engle, pp. 9-11. 

5. James M. Engle, p. 19.  Interview with Samuel J. Donley, March 7, 1987.  

6. Passes and receipts of Jacob H. Engle, March 26 and 28, 1863, August 27, 1864, Engle Papers. 

7. James M. Engle, Shepherdstown Register, August 15, 1910. 

8. Union of Confederate Veterans, Military Operations in Jefferson County, Virginia (and West Virginia) 1861-1865 (Charles Town, W. Va.: Farmers Advocate, 1911). 

9. Union of Confederate Veterans, Military Operations

10. Union of Confederate Veterans, Military Operations

11. James W. Engle, History, pp. 20-21. 

12. James W. Engle, History, p. 17. 

13. Samuel Knott, Receipt (April 15, 1863), Knott-Reinhart Papers. 

14. Virginia H. Engle to Jacob H. Engle, November 5, 1864, Engle Papers. 

15. Diary of John O. Knott; typed excepts made by Audrey Gaines Schultz. Letter from Virginia Darke Engle to Jacob H. Engle, Oak Hill, November 6, 1864 (in possession of Kenneth and Donna Kidwiler, Engle, W. Va.).  Jefferson County, W. Va., Architectural Inventory Forms C-22, Zion Church and PRR-3, Cement Mill. 

16. James M. Engle, History, p. 21. 

17. James M. Engle, History, pp. 17, 19. 

18. James M. Engle, History, p. 21. 

19. Diary of John O. Knott. 

20. Diary of John O. Knott; Major John Locher Knott was killed at High Bridge, Virginia, in April 1865. 

21. Florence Hendricks Moore, Descendants of Albert(us) Hendricks(on) 1673-1954 (Shippensburg, Pa.: Beidel Printing House, Inc., 1985), p. 49. 

22. Analysis by the author based on data from Tombstone Inscriptions of Jefferson County.