The story of Captain John Valley Young personifies the body of rugged Union Army volunteers from West Virginia during the Civil War: highly resilient, stubbornly independent, and fiercely patriotic. Using Captain Young’s wartime letters to his wife, Paulina Franklin Young, and his daughters, Sarah and Emily Young, along with his diary and numerous other original soldier accounts, this book reveals the experiences of a Union soldier and his family who were truly willing to “Sacrifice All for the Union.”
Young, a farmer and Methodist-Episcopalian minister prior to the Civil War, during April 1861 raised a company of Union volunteers at the strongly pro-Southern village of Coalsmouth, Virginia, (modern St. Albans, West Virginia). He was adamantly opposed to slavery, yet often expressed a bitter ire at having to fight a violent civil war because his beloved nation had thus far failed to eradicate the awful practice.
While he displayed an unshakeable desire to preserve the Union, Young’s convictions were severely tested as he and his family faced constant dangers from guerillas and Confederate raids in the Kanawha Valley. Captain Young also participated in more than one hundred skirmishes and eleven major engagements in the bloody Shenandoah Valley, and at Petersburg, and Appomattox; more than any other Union officer from West Virginia. He died from tuberculosis in 1867, a sad irony after surviving some of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.
“…Stand firm to the good old Cause. I have just come from Charleston, and found while there that there will be a change of Commanders in the Department of [West] Virginia. The authorities feel determined that we shall have protection. But if we cannot have better protection than we have had, the country is ruined. But I assure you there will be a change for the better. I don’t know how you will get up to see me now. Well, we must bear it the best we can. Sacrifice All for the Union.”
– Captain John Valley Young, Letter to his wife, February 3, 1862
About the Author
Philip Hatfield, Ph.D., is a member of the Company of Military Historians, and holds a doctorate in psychology from Fielding University; a master’s degree in psychology from Marshall University; and a bachelor’s degree in psychology and history from the University of Charleston. Dr. Hatfield is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and is the author of five books and numerous scholarly articles related to the Civil War. He is a native of Hurricane, West Virginia.