Burning Springs in Wirt County, West Virginia — The American South (Appalachia)
Burning Springs Oil Field
“...drank all the whiskey and burned all the oil”
—Jones-Imboden Raid —
On April 20, 1863, Confederate Gens. William E. “Grumble” Jones and John D. Imboden began a raid from Virginia through present-day West Virginia on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Taking separate routes, they later reported that they marched 1,100 miles, fought several engagement, captured 700 Federals, seized about 1,200 horses and 4,000 cattle, and burned 4 turnpike bridges, more than 20 railroad bridges, 2 trains, and 150,000 barrels of oil. Most bridges were soon repaired. Confederate losses were slight. By May 26, both commands had returned to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
On May 9, 1863, Confederate Gen. William E. “Grumble” Jones led his cavalrymen here to Burning Springs (Oiltown) before continuing southeast. His men set the oil fields afire, and the burning oil turned the Little Kanawha River into a sheet of flames for eight miles. The light from the fire was visible in Parkersburg, forty-two miles away. One witness remarked that Jones’s Confederates “ate all the food, drank all the whiskey and burned all the oil.” Jones reported that “all the oil, the tanks, barrels, engines for pumping, engine-houses, and wagons—in a word, everything used for raising, holding or sending it off was burned. …Men of experience estimated
Jones’s raid was not the only engagement here. As the first oil field boomtown in the nation, producing oil primarily for the lubrication of machinery, the military importance of the site was obvious. After Union Gen. George B. McClellan occupied Parkersburg in May 1861, he sent troops here to drive off Confederate guerrillas. This engagement, which occurred on June 19, was the first of several fights here. In May 1862, Confederate guerrillas attacked nearby Fort Hill, Col. John C. Rathbone, 11th West Virginia Infantry (US), whose family owned the oil field, had posted a detachment to protect it, but it was driven off and the fort was burned.
(lower left) Burning Springs Oil Field afire Courtesy Oil and Gas Museum
(upper right) Gen. William E. Jones Courtesy West Virginia State Archives
Col. John C. Rathbone Courtesy Oil and Gas Museum
Erected by West Virginia Civil War Trails.
Location. 38° 59.514′ N, 81° 19.182′ W. Marker is in Burning Springs, West Virginia, in Wirt County. Marker is Touch for map. The marker is located in Burning Springs Park. Marker is in this post office area: Elizabeth WV 26143, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 14 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Rathbone Well (a few steps from this marker); Ruble Church (approx. 1˝ miles away); Elizabeth (approx. 6.4 miles away); First County Court (approx. 7.9 miles away); Cairo & Kanawha (approx. 8.8 miles away); Spencer (approx. 13.3 miles away); Col. Ruby G. Bradley (approx. 13.3 miles away); a different marker also named Spencer (approx. 13.3 miles away).
Categories. • War, US Civil •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on May 6, 2014, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. This page has been viewed 418 times since then and 46 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. submitted on May 6, 2014, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.