Roll Call
Organization of Virginia State Troops

     With the impending crisis of more states jumping on the band wagon and joining the provisional Confederacy, the Federal Garrison at Harper's Ferry took what they could with them and burned what they could not. Virginia was moving against the arsenal to seize it and resistance there only meant capture and prison. After Virginia's choice to join her sister states of the south, it began to move swiftly in organizing the state volunteers now assembling there into regiments and brigades. By direction of the Governor, Major General Robert E. Lee assigned Colonel Thomas Jonathon Jackson to command at Harper's Ferry, Virginia for such a purpose.

     It had only been two weeks since the artillery had fired upon the ramparts of Fort Sumter and under the proper assumption that the Lincoln Government was not going to remain idle, Virginia began to mobilize and take up a defensive posture, prelude to a coming invasion of the state. Special Orders Number 7, Headquarter of the Virginia Forces was issued the following day assigning him command of the Federal Arsenal at the junction of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. All materials of war were ordered to be gathered and shipped with all speed to the Richmond Armory.

     Assuming command on Monday the 29th of April, Colonel Jackson went straight to work occupying Loudon and Maryland Heights, fortifying both to meet a growing potential threat of a strong federal force moving south from the area of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Ten days after taking command the Virginia troops assembling in the Harper's Ferry region numbered in the low thousands, all were still green militia.

     There was grave concern from Richmond on fortifying the Maryland side of the river however, in that the state wished to maintain a defensive posture and not invite an attack. It was hoped that the border state would offer assistance to their cause and unless absolutely necessary, until that happened, Colonel Jackson was asked to withdraw from that side of the river.

     Ammunition and musket rifles in large quantity were being shipped to arm the growing numbers of troops occupying and fortifying the Ferry. The Maryland adjutant general's office likewise placed a large shipment of ordnance into the hands of Colonel Jackson that was bound for Baltimore from the Virginia Navy Yard but put to the task of defending his post.

     By the middle of May, the Confederacy in establishing its military hierarchy assigned newly commissioned Brigadier General Joseph Eggleston Johnston took command of the arsenal, relieving the colonel of his responsibilities there. The state of Virginia had done well to secure a vital location for making war against its northern aggressors and Johnston was now taking command by Presidential Orders.

     A new army was being formed in the northwestern part of the state that would later become the saving grace to the military strength opposing Washington from south of the Potomac River. Virginia had answered her call for volunteers and the armies were forming up for a lesson in warfare that neither side would find itself ready for.

Dan (Aldie) Daniel Moran
© 2003

Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a feature writer on the writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at