Armed guerilla groups not officially affiliated with Union or Confederate military units figure prominently in Panther Mountain: Caroline’s Story. They first appear in the story in Chapter Nineteen:
It was a time of great lawlessness. Roving bands of ruffians swept through Western Virginia, stealing, burning, beating and threatening those who did not agree with their views, and sometimes taking those threats out on people and livestock. Some of these were just troublemakers spoiling for a fight, but many were secessionists–“secesh,” we called them–who supported the new so-called republic, the Confederate States of America.
In Chapter Twenty-Five, Thurmond’s Rangers held Caroline and Frank and members of their church at gunpoint after a meeting at one congregant’s home. They were confederate guerillas. “Considered by some to be nothing more than bushwhackers, partisan rangers assisted the Confederacy as scouts, spies, and raiders” (from West Virginia Encyclopedia ).
The Moccasin Rangers
One western Virginia Ranger band during the Civil War was the Moccasin Rangers, based in Calhoun County, Virginia. You can see a photo of the Moccasins’ infamous leader Perry Conley on Gary M. Wilcox’s blog History in Living Color.
The group Conley led included notorious Confederate spy Nancy Hart, whose escape from a Union prison in Summersville, Virginia in July, 1862 led to a Confederate attack on that town, during which Union soldiers and officers were captured or killed and the Army’s commissary, ammunition and weapons were set on fire (Chapter Twenty-Five of Panther Mountain: Caroline’s Story begins with the Summersville attack).
Pro-South guerilla fighters were known to terrorize citizens but many were also so bold as to directly attack Union troops. In April 1862, Wheeling-based Union Major-General John Fremont directed those under his command “to use their utmost exertions to destroy the various bands of guerrillas now beginning to infest the department.”
The Snake Hunters
There were, of course, Union guerilla bands as well during that time. One of the best-known in western Virginia were the Unionist Snake Hunters.