A Bitter Pill to Swallow
"I direct you to have guns in readiness to fire on Charleston. If rebels come in here Charleston shall be destroyed, for it is the work of disloyal citizens."
- Gen. Eliakim P. Scammon, May 112, 1863, to Col. Rutherford B. Hayes.
Union and Confederate forces occupied Charleston several times during the Civil War. The town was placed under martial law, and loyalties among the residents were divided. The downtown suffered terribly. Fire-ruined rubble from the Bank of Virginia and the Kanawha House occupied and entire block after the Battle of Charleston on September 13, 1862. The troops of both sides frequently moved through the town and vicinity, not only foraging for provision is accordance with the practices of war, but also occasionally stealing personal property,. Guerrilla activity occurred on both sides, following no rules of conduct, and the hostilities pitted friends and neighbors against one another. Civilian bushwhackers occasionally targeted Union soldiers, leading the occupying Federal troops to retaliate.
According to local tradition, the remains of two women were unearthed across the river during carriage trail construction in 1905. A Civil War veteran claimed to recall their trial and execution as spies by Confederate forces. A second veteran supported the story but claimed that Union troops were responsible. A third veteran confessed on his deathbed that he had served on the Federal firing squad that carried out their death sentences—-and it haunted him until his dying day. The women were reinterred beside the trail, and a stone memorial was later erected at the site.
"All will think it horrible, but they have been playing the game of treachery and must take the result. I have ordered 100 men to be brought over as a firing party. I have been reading the treacherous correspondence of the people for the last three months, and I think that our wives and children deserve as much consideration as those of Charleston."
Gen. Eliakim P. Scammon, May 12, 1863, to Col. Rutherford B. Hayes