Our History & Heritage

Bill Keifer

The Twelfth West Virginia Infantry Regiment was organized at Wheeling on August 30, 1862. Company I was comprised chiefly of soldiers from Hancock County.
This Company consisted of approximately 100 soldiers and officers. As part of the Twelfth, it spent the Fall of 1862 marching and counter-marching against Rebel forces in Western Virginia. It moved from Wheeling to Clarksburg and from that location to Beverly. Then it moved to Buckhannon where a section split off and marched back to Clarksburg via Beverly and then turned around and marched back to Buckhannnon. The unit fought in a small skirmish at Strasburg, Virginia. They arrived in Winchester, Virginia on December 23, 1862. For the most part armies did not usually engage in heavy action during the winter months. Of course there were exceptions like Fredericksburg, or sieges like Petersburg which went on through the winter. But the Twelfth got to spend the Winter of 1862-1863 encamped in the Winchester area, breaking camp on March 26, 1863. That Spring the Regiment marched from Winchester to Clarksburg, and back again in time for the Second Battle of Winchester in June of 1862, where Union forces under the command of General Robert H. Milroy stood in the path of General Richard Ewell’s Confederate Army Corp heading North on its way to join Robert E. Lee’s forces in a movement into Pennsylvania. Ewell was new to command of a Corps having just replaced the deceased Stonewall Jackson, he had approximately 12,500 men at his disposal. Even though ordered to withdraw, Milroy not knowing the strength of the train on his track, mistakenly believed that the extensive fortifications of Winchester would permit the 7,000 men of his Division to successfully resist the confederates. It was a crushing defeat for the Union forces. Although only 95 men were killed and 348 were wounded a full 4,000 of Milby’s men were captured. Among those killed was Lieutenant Thomas Bradley of Company I.
It was nearly a full year, until May 15, 1864 before the Twelfth was engaged in significant combat again, at New Market in the Shenandoah Valley. It fought twice more at Winchester, at Piedmont, Snickers Ferry and Cedar Creek. While the Twelfth spent most of the rest of 1864 in the Shenandoah Valley it was not much otherwise engaged in heavy action there. However, it was assigned to General Grant’s forces in late 1864 0r early 1865. It was there that it was engaged in the siege of Petersburg, a rail center just South of Richmond.
Throughout the war five soldiers of the 12th were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Three of the five were for fighting in the last assault on Petersburg, which was the key to capturing Richmond. Andrew O. Apple was a corporal in Company I. He was born in Northampton, PA. He was among the first of the attacking force to breech the walls of Fort Gregg, the last line of Confederate defense at Petersburg on April 2, 1865. His parents, David and Matilda Apple had relocated to New Cumberland by 1860, where his father was a miller. After the war he headed West, living in Elgin Illinois. It was there that he joined a fire department, and eventually moved up into its ranks attaining the post of Fire Marshall of the city of Elgin, a post which he held at the time of his death in 1890 at the age of 45.
Improbable as it might seem, the Company had another Medal of Honor recipient, Josiah M. Curtis, a second lieutenant, who was awarded his Medal in the same action as corporal Apple, seizing the colors of Company I after two standard bearers had been shot, during the April 2nd attack on Fort Gregg. Lt. Curtis also survived the battle. He was born in West Liberty in 1844 and attended school there. He enlisted as a private in Wheeling, and by 1864 had risen to the rank of Sargent of Company D of the 12th. In November of 1864 he was made a Lieutenant in Company I. After the war he began to study medicine under a Dr. Cooper at Wellsburg. From there he attended Miami Medical College in Cincinnati, graduating as his class valedictorian, in 1867, after which he successfully practiced in Marshall County. In 1875 he attended the commencement at Bethany College, stopped at his father’s home in West Liberty, and died there, supposedly from heart disease. He is buried in West Liberty. His father was General William Curtis who was commander of the twelfth at the time of the attack on Fort Gregg.
The third recipient of the Medal of Honor in the 12th for bravery exhibited at Fort Gregg was Private Joseph McCauslin of Company D. He was born in 1940 in Ohio County. After the war he returned to his former life as a sheep farmer in West Liberty. He passed away at age 65, in 2005. He is buried in the cemetery at West Alexander, Pennsylvania.
Next week, I will endeavor to write more about some of the other members of this Regiment and perhaps look at another unit with local ties.