This book covers the period before, during, and after the Civil War in the Great Kanawha Valley from Gauley Bridge to Point Pleasant, WV.
The title “Bullets and Steel” comes from a song sung by the Sandy Rangers of Wayne County during the Battle pf Scary Creek.
Gauley Bridge, at the foot of the imposing mountain barrier to the east and the river valley to the west, was a focal point of the conflict. Roads traversed the town both north to south and from east to west. Charleston and the salt works were east on the James River and Kanawha Turnpike, and were important military objectives in the control of the entire valley. The salt works figured prominently in the strategies of both armies for the first two years of the war.
This is not a definitive look at the history of every event in the valley during the war. Instead, it is an excellent overview of the main actions using as many first-person accounts as possible, as well as photos and drawings to enhance the story.
When the question is asked: “Did Charleston sympathize with the North or the South in the Civil War?”; the answer cannot come until we state which Charleston – the Charleston of 1861 or the Charleston of 1865. In the summer of 1861 Charleston was mostly loyal to Virginia and the Confederacy. The people of Charleston knew of the great Confederate victory at First Bull Run and it seemed clear the South would win the war. By 1862 it was less clear and by July 1863, after Gettysburg, it seemed the South was doomed. Human nature being what it is, we can safely say that enthusiasm for the Confederacy ebbed and flowed as battles were won or lost.
As late as the fall of 1862 the people of Charleston clung to the hope of final victory. This hope was strengthened on Sept. 13, 1862, when the hometown boys of the 22nd Virginia drove the Yankees headlong in retreat back to Ohio. Spirits must have fallen only a month later when the Confederate army abandoned Charleston for the last time. To add to the demoralization of the local population was the grim day-to-day life under military occupation. In July 1863 it is not hard to imagine the despair of most Charleston residents as news spread that General Lee was defeated and retreating from Gettysburg. By 1864 most citizens were worn out and broken by the war. The brave resolve of 1861 gave way to the hollow-eyed exhaustion of 1865.