Union Camp at Wheeling Island
— The First Campaign —
On the morning of May 14, 1861, the companies of Capt. Andrew H. Britt and Edward W. Stephens marched across the Wheeling Suspension Bridge to Wheeling Island. They settled into camp on the northwestern corner of the island at the fairgrounds.
The camp was perfect for mustering and training. The men used the exhibition halls and animal stalls for barracks and slept on straw with blankets and quilts donated by Wheeling citizens.
More troops followed until the regiment was complete. Designated as the First Virginia (Union) Volunteers, it was the first Union regiment formed in the South.
The First Virginia's stay on the island was short-lived. On May 27, Col. Benjamin F. Kelly moved the regiment to Grafton to protect the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. This camp was christened Camp Carlile after Congressman John S. Carlile. Camp Carlile was used throughout the Civil War as a muster-in and training camp. At the end of the war many regiments returned here to muster out.
The First Virginia (Union) Volunteers were not the only soldiers to leave Wheeling in early 1861. Daniel M. Shriver brought together a group of 64 Wheeling men with Confederate sympathies to form the Shriver Grays. The Shriver Grays would become Company C, 27th Virginia Infantry, one of the regiments of the Stonewall Brigade.
The Shriver Grays planned to move to Harpers Ferry via the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. The Union was guarding the railroad, so a uniformed group of men would not be able to travel that way. On May 17, 1861, the company departed Wheeling by riverboat. They moved down the Ohio River and up the Kanawha River, then traversed over land to the Shenandoah River, and then down to Harpers Ferry.