"Flat Top Civil War Activities"
Flat Top Mountain, West Virginia

Sightseers and tourists stop to take pictures or to read the inscription on the Camp Jones sign on Rt. 19-21 at Flat Top.

Erected several years ago to signify where the 23rd Ohio volunteer infantry camped during the Civil War, the inscription reads: Here is 1863 was stationed the 23rd Ohio Regiment, U.S.A. Encamped here were Gen. J. D. Cox, Maj. R. B. Hayes, and Sgt. William McKinley, all to be governors of Ohio. Hayes and McKinley became presidents of the United States.

RUTHERFORD B. HAYES: click on link underlined below, check volume 2 box, type in Flat Top Mountain into search box, press search: Hayes Documents  while camped on Flat Top Mountain.

  There is an interesting story concerning the fighting in this area. This section was the dividing line between the North and the South, and while the Confederacy predominated in Mercer County, there was some Union sentiment. In many instances neighbor was against neighbor.

A company was organized, about which very little has been written due to the lack of authentic information. It was organized by Capt. Richard B. Foley who lived near Camp Creek. He began organizing this company in July of 1861. Their equipment was long-barreled, muzzle-loading rifles. They were known as Foley's Fighters and Foley's Copperheads.

In the Records of the Confederacy at Richmond, Va. this company was organized in Mercer County, August 22, 1861, as Company F, 151st Virginia militia. The names of the officers and privates as of that date (many Southern West Virginians, as well as other sections of West Virginia, direct descendants of these men) click her to view the Roster.

This roster was compiled 28 March 1862, and was headed by the oath taken by Foley's men:
  "We the undersigned do hereby constitute overselves into a company of guerrillas, known by the names of Flattop Copperheads, for the porpose of defending our immediate country, and western Va., against the invasion of the Yankeys. We bind our selves by every obligation of honor and patternage, to obey the command of our officers, and to be true and faithful to the Confederate
States of America, and to be true to our selves and families, and serve for the during term of six months except sooner discharged. March 28th 1862."

R. B. Foley, captain
Jeremiah Hylton, first lieutenant
B. M. P. Foley, second lieutenant
Wm. J. S. Swinney, third lieutenant

In the same community Capt. Foley lived in, there was a man by the name of Russell G. French.

While their neighbors all around were enlisting in Foley's company, French was very outspoken in his sentiment for the Union.

Almost overnight his friends and neighbors of many years became enemies, so in the summer of 1861 French went to Ohio and enlisted in the 23rd volunteer infantry.

When this company was fully equipped it began its march toward the south by way of Charleston, Fayetteville, Beckley and on to Flat Top.

The Company made camp about one and one-half miles south of Flat Top where the Camp Jones sign is at the present time. This was about six miles from the home of French, which he had left a few months earlier.

On April 20, 1862, this camp was officially established and was maintained for about two months.

In 1979 a bake oven used by one of the companies was uncovered by a bulldozer while clearing a farming area. A "trough" where some of the horses drank still remains in a field belonging to S. L. Lilly.

At the same time the Union army made camp at Flat Top, Colonel Jennefer was encamped in Princeton with several thousand Confederates.

French, now a Captain, was able to give the Union army much valuable information about Princeton, and the road leading

 south. Trenches, then called breast-works, were dug near the present Rout 19-21, about one-fourth mile from Camp Jones toward Princeton.

An outpost was maintained to look out for any advance of the Confederate army from Princeton. Capt. Foley's company had not yet become attached to any military organization but was still around Camp Creek. They kept Col. Jennefer advised of any movements of the Union army at Flat Top.

On April 30, 1862, Capt. Botsford with a group of men including Capt. French, was sent from Camp Jones to look for Capt. Foley's men, and any advance of the Confederates from Princeton. They spent all day searching for Foley's men, but didn't find them. They even visited Foley's home.

That day Foley's men had divided into Groups and kept themselves concealed, but at the same time were watching every movement of Capt. French and the Union soldiers. Late in the evening Capt. Botsford and his men went into camp in the home of Henry Clark, between Flat Top and Camp Creek.

As soon as Foley saw they intended to spend the night, he sent a man to Col. Jennefer asking for men to help. In the meantime, they his behind trees and bushes on a hill overlooking the front of the house.

Day Light came and no help was in sight. The Union men began to come out of the house and line up for roll call, not suspecting any danger.

Foley knew the moment had come to strike at the company of Union men. In the early dawn of May 1, he gave the command to his men to fire. The men fired almost simultaneously into the Union soldiers.

Sgt. White was killed and a number wounded before they made a dash for the door and rear of the house. They got inside and returned fire through the holes they made between the logs in the walls.

The Battle lasted for about one-half hour, then reinforcements came from Princeton, and it looked like a victory for the Confederates. But soon they saw the Union soldiers coming about a quarter mile away. As far as they could see there were soldiers, and seemingly on end to them.

The Confederates withdrew in the direction of Princeton. Foley and his men went into the forests around Camp Creek. Some of the Confederate men were killed, and other wounded including Capt. Foley. He received a shoulder wound that never healed.

One union man was killed aand at least 19 wounded. French had a leg wound and was a cripple for life. It seemed a twist of fate that he was wounded by one of Foley's men.

He and some of his neighbors never completely got over the war. Some would refer to him as a Yankee pensioner, and sometimes use other terms, ot as polite. In later years French and  Foley met, embraced each other, and wept.

All were valiant men and good citizens fighting for what they thought was right. Some of Foley's grandchildren and great-grandchildren have been good neighbors of French's grand- children and great-grandchildren at Flat Top for several years.

"Gravestone Marks Battle of Flat Top"

There is a lone grave at Flat Top of a Union soldier, which is truly an unknown soldier's grave. When the 23rd Regiment marched toward Princeton this soldier became suddenly ill. Four comrades were detailed to remain with him.

Some of the women in the neighborhood, wives of Confederates soldiers, administered home remedies, but he died in a few hours. He was buried on the sopt where he died, beside the road.

In the early thirties, the Lilly Land Company donated a 30-foot square of land around the grave and erected a marker. Ath that time it was beside Rt. 19-21, but with the advent of the Turnpike the highway was relocated.

Now the grave is on the east side of the Turnpike below an approximate 50-foot hill. The only way you can reach it is to walk across fields and up and down hills.

"Unknown Civil War Grave in Cemetery at Flat Top"

There is another unknown Civil War soldier's grave located in the Camp Creek Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery at Flat Top. It has a rock wall built around the grave. F. W. Lee, November, 1861 is engraved on the native stone marker.
 


A History of The Middle New River Settlements
and Contiguous Territory.

By David E. Johnston (1906)