Romney, 150 years ago today: the first in a series of “blood clashes”

Posted on October 26, 2011 by


It’s barely a blip on the radars when it comes to Sesquicentennial commemoration/remembrance, but on this day, 150 years ago, some of my kin… some in blue, and others in gray… may well have exchanged shots. No, it wasn’t in one of the big battles, but, rather, a small scrap that resulted in Gen. B.F. Kelley‘s expedition toward Romney, Virginia (West Virginia).

In blue, there were relatives (see this post)  in Capt. William F. Firey’s dragoons, supporting Col. Thomas Johns’ 2nd Regiment, Potomac Home Brigade, in his march toward Romney. After moving through Mechanicsburg Gap, in Hampshire County, blue met gray, near the South Branch (Wire) Bridge… and, in the exchange of shots that followed, Firey’s men drew fire from Johns’ regiment, which was concentrating closer to the bridge…

Captain Firey, of dragoons, with his company rendered very efficient service by drawing the fire of the enemy from my regiment at the bridge.

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of that bridge were companies from Angus McDonald’s 7th Virginia Cavalry, including Page County’s own “Massanutten Rangers”. In this unit, quite a few relatives of mine were present that day, including a great-great-grandfather, Henry K. Emerson (assuming he was present, considering he had enlisted in August).

In short, the fight at the bridge didn’t last terribly long, but shots were exchanged there (including fire from a six-pounder, commanded by Lt. John Henry Lionberger… the son of one of the men who had made the rounds in Page County, Virginia with my third great-grandfather, John Shuler, in speaking out against secession).

Anyway… when the Federals entered Romney, Confederates tried to make a stand in front of the court house, but failed… and began a retreat toward Winchester. In their wake, McDonald’s men lost all artillery and baggage trains, 300 small arms, about 100 horses and mules, and, in men lost, one killed, one wounded, and four prisoners. See more about the October 26 action, here.

Fortunately, none of my people, in blue or gray, were injured… at least not to the point that injuries were documented.

They didn’t know each other, nor did they know about each other.

In addition to other relatives present on both sides on October 26, a distant uncle and grandfather may have fired a round or two in the direction of the other. Third great grand uncle, Pvt. Joseph L. McKinney (Left), Firey's Dragoons, and great-great grandfather, Pvt. Henry K. Emerson (right), Jordan's "Massanutten Rangers"

It’s merely a matter of chance that, through the marriage of my grandparents, the family lines merged… only to make for a very cool story for me to reflect on. Oh, yes, and I can’t help but find it very funny, and ironic, that this particular set of grandparents was married in Romney, within grasp of the 74th anniversary of the fight, in October, 1935.

So, today marks the first of a few instances in which “blood clashes”… at least from my perspective as a descendant… began to occur in the Civil War.