|One section of the Calhoun County Moccasin Rangers was led by Daniel Duskey, a fifty-two-year-old farmer and justice of the peace, who derived his military authority from the fact that in 1857 he had been elected captain of the Third Company, 186th Regiment, Virginia Enrolled Militia, a paper organization that included all men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five in his magisterial district. And in the early days of the war the band led by Duskey achieved widespread notoriety for raids and forays--but were not as murderous as that section of the Moccasins led by Perry Conley, whose fame has been preserved as an outstanding partisan guerrilla leader. Duskey's most spectacular foray was his raid upon the town of Ripley, county seat of Jackson County, on the night of December 19, 1861. This raid led to his downfall and before settlement was reached had reverberations in the seats of Virginia government at Wheeling and Richmond, and in the White House itself. The incident, too, had its effect in causing the Virginia Confederate Government to enact a partisan ranger act giving a legal status to the guerrilla band in order to claim treatment as prisoners of war when captured by Federal troops.|
|Early in December 1861, Dr. O. G. Chase opened an office at Ripley for the purpose of enlisting a company for Federal service, and had brought in some fifty stands of arms, ammunition, and stores of clothing. Chase had recruited fifteen or twenty men and, for some reason not yet explained, had collected the arms owned by private citizens, rendering them defenseless in the face of rumored raids by partisan rangers. On the afternoon of December 19 he locked the arms and stores in cells in the county jails and marched his men out to Cottageville, announcing on his departure that he would hold the citizens of Ripley responsible if the goods were in any way molested.
At nine o'clock that night Captain Duskey and twelve of his men swooped down upon the defenseless town in true guerrilla style, shooting and yelling. Complete capture of the town was effected, however, without bloodshed--no one was killed and there is no report of any one wounded. The party was composed of Captain Duskey, George Duskey, Alex Groff, Marcelles J. Kester, Thomas Goff, Jacob Varner, Ben Wright, Ephraim B. Carter, George W. Tanner, George Gibson, and three others not named. Part of the company was recruited from neighboring Roane County.
A few weeks later, Duskey and several of his men were surprised and captured by Federal troops which had been sent into Calhoun County to break up the bushwhacker outfits--the Moccasin Rangers in particular. When the prisoners arrived at Wheeling, Duskey and his son, George, and Jacob Varner were separated from the group, they being the only ones captured who were engaged in the Ripley raid.
The others were sent on to Camp Chase, Ohio, for internment, where, after a short time, some of them took the oath of allegiance, were paroled and returned to their native haunts--only to enlist in cavalry companies then being recruited for Confederate service. Indictments were returned in the United States District Court against the two Duskeys and Varner for the criminal offense of robbing the post office at Ripley.
Confederate officers and soldiers were relieved from individual responsibility for acts which, if performed outside the pattern of war, would have been criminal. George Duskey, together with Josiah Parsons, made his escape from the Sprigg House Hospital on the night of April 1,1862 while being treated for some slight illness. However, Dan Duskey and Jacob Varner were called up for trial before Judge John J. Jackson in the United States District Court at Wheeling on April 14, 1862. Governor John Letcher dispatched a letter to President Lincoln on January 2, 1863, apprizing him of the action, and threatening further reprisals in event the partisan rangers were not recognized as prisoners of war.
Picking up the petitions on June 1, 1863, "As the Judge, Jury, Marshal, District Attorney & Post Master General join in asking a pardon in this case, I have concluded to grant it. The Attorney General will please make it out & send it to me. A. Lincoln."
|Edited: Stutler's West Virginia in the Civil War|