April 29, 1863: Largest Civil War Battle in Present Day Northern West Virginia Occurs in Fairmont
On April 29, 1863, the largest Civil War battle in present northern West Virginia occurred at Fairmont. It was part of the Jones-Imboden Raid. In the previous five days, Confederate cavalry under General William “Grumble” Jones had fought battles in Hardy and Preston counties. On April 28, Jones raided Morgantown. Ironically, one of the Confederate raiders was William Lyne Wilson, who would later return to Morgantown as president of West Virginia University
After heading south for Fairmont, the Confederates defeated about 500 Northern regulars, home guards, and volunteers. Jones’s troops also exploded an iron railroad bridge across the Monongahela River and burned the personal library of Francis Pierpont, governor of the Restored Government of Virginia. Afterward, Jones headed further south and linked up with General John D. Imboden’s cavalry at Buckhannon. Jones and Imobden’s combined force proceeded on to Wirt County, which was the center of the region’s oil industry. The Confederates set fire to oil wells, boats, tanks, and other equipment.
The entire raid lasted four weeks and covered 700 miles. However, the success was short-lived, and Confederates never seriously threatened that region again.