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Confederate General John B. Floyd composed this letter detailing military activity in the Guyandotte and Big Sandy valleys in late 1862, which was published by the Abington Virginian on January 2, 1863.



Headquarters Virginia State Line,

Camp Clarkson, Tazewell Co.,

December 17, 1862

His Excellencey, John Letcher,

Governor of Virginia—

SIR: After my last communication to you I prepared an expedition consisting of a strong force of Cavalry under Colonel John Clarkson, to operate against the enemy in the counties of Wayne, Cabell, &c. He set out from Chapmansville on the 14th November, in the direction of Cabell down the Guyandotte river, over a rough and difficult road. The following day he fell in with a detachment of the enemy which he quickly routed and dispersed. He continued the march until a few miles of the Ohio river, breaking up the “Home Guard” organization of the enemy, which are very numerous in all that country, and taking prisoners every day.

A strong guard of Yankee troops, acting as a guard for the Pierpont Assessor for the county of Wayne, was attacked and dispersed after a short skirmish, in which was killed and wounded some of the enemy and took a few prisoners. Col. Clarkson proceeded then, according to the previous directions given him, to the Sandy river, to attack a large and formidable organization of the enemy composed mainly of the native population, and very strong posted amidst the cliffs and forests upon the precipitous banks of that river. He succeeded in taking them by surprise completely, and after killing and wounding a number of them, took a large number of prisoners, and surprised entirely the rest of the force. This force and organization were formidable and extremely dangerous to the peace and quiet of all the country round about for many miles, the loyal people were nearly all driven from their country and all were robbed. After that, Col. Clarkson, according to previous understanding, made a junction with me at the mouth of Pigeon Creek, in Logan county, on the Kentucky border, whither I had gone with the infantry and a section of the mounted howitzer battery.

I learned from Col. Clarkson that the enemy had started a number of boats with valuable supplies, from the mouth of Sandy to a post recently established at Pikeville, a point at the head of navigation on the Louisa Fork of Sandy. These boats were in charge of a strong guard, and were intended to furnish a complete outfit for a force deemed sufficient for them, by their commander, to march upon and destroy the salt works in Smyth and Washington counties.

I determined at once to attack this train, and from its distance, being more than forty miles off, it became necessary to send mounted men. Besides this reason, I found it inconvenient to move the infantry in that direction, on account of the number of prisoners with which we were encumbered. The cavalry and mounted men were put in motion within an hour and proceeded upon the march, which was uninterrupted, day or night, until the enemy were overtaken, attacked and routed.

Our people captured ten of the enemy’s transport boats, laden with valuable supplies. A great deal of these supplies was distributed amongst the men, and much of them was brought off; but a very large amount of most valuable supplies was necessarily destroyed for want of transportation to bring them away. A train of one hundred pack mules would have brought away a very large amount of extremely valuable stores, which were committed to the fire and the river.

The night following the capture of these boats (indeed, just twelve hours after the attack upon the boats,) our forces engaged that of Col. Dils, posted in an extremely strong position on the summit of a mountain on the road leading from Prestonsburg to Pikeville. This position was taken and held without any knowledge on our part, and as the attack was made after the night, and entirely unexpected, we were taken at a great disadvantage. But our men behaved with great steadiness and resolution, received the attack and charged the enemy, driving him from his position, and dispersing them entirely. The rout was complete, and the post at Pikeville, consisting of a thousand men, was entirely broken up. The prisoners and the Union people in that neighborhood reported Colonel Dils as killed in the fight that night.

For more detailed statements of this expedition I refer you to the report of Col. Clarkson. In our operation through the country, we made a number of recruits in the counties of Cabell, Wayne, Logan, &c.

My object in this campaign was, as far as possible, to prevent the occupation by the Yankee forces, of the country between the Kanawha Valley and Kentucky border, as well as to destroy the military organization of the country under the traitor government in Wheeling. Both objects were fully attained, as long as I was able to remain in the country. The military organizations, very numerous and well appointed in every particular, were almost entirely destroyed, and the attempts to set up the spurious government were entirely failed.

I was compelled to leave the country, held by me for more than three months alone, for the want of Quartermaster’s supplies. We were without tents, or clothing, or cooking utensils, or axes; and after the inclement weather of winter set in, we could no longer remain in the field. With these stores supplied, I would have remained in that country throughout the winter months. We were able to procure food (meat and bread) in the country, nearly all of it taken from the enemy.

The campaign, from first to last, was one of hardship and privations; but they were borne without complaint by the men, who are unsurpassed in hardship, activity and capability to endure privations. They deserve great praise for their constancy and general good conduct.

The officers generally deserve commendation, but to Col. Clarkson too much credit cannot be given for his energy, activity and courage. The obstacle she encountered, of every sort, throughout these expeditions, were of the most formidable character, but they were also most gallantly surmounted.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,


Maj. Gen. Commanding Va. State Line

NOTE: I bolded Gen. Floyd’s description of activity in the Guyandotte Valley that occurred between Chapmanville and the lower section of the river near present-day Huntington.