Lowndes Hill was fortified with trenches and other barriers by Union troops to protect the Clarksburg railroad lines. The railways in Clarksburg connected to a nearby depot and were critical to the Union to move supplies and troops to different parts of the country. Lowndes Hill Park is located .6 miles from the Harrison County Courthouse. A “Civil War Trails” marker memorializes the site where the first Union soldiers arrived in Clarksburg, WV.
Backstory and Context
On May 30, 1861 Union soldiers arrived by train in Clarksburg, WV with the intentions of protecting the city’s railroad. The line railroad ran from Grafton to Parkersburg and connected to the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) railroad system. The protection by the Union was critical to the Northwestern Virginia Railroad, and the control of the Northwestern Virginia Railroad was crucial to the Union. Railroads were a key advantage for the Union, allowing them to easily move supplies and troops across the country.
The first troops to arrive to Clarksburg were three companies of the 14th Ohio Infantry. Their arrival was followed by the appearance of the 8th Indiana Infantry on June 19, 1861. Construction of the trenches and earthworks at Lowndes Hill began when both infantries arrived. The soldiers did not live in the trenches, but instead in camps within the town. The trenches located here and at Pinnicinick Hill were crucial at protecting the Northwestern Virginia Railroad.
During the Civil War, about 5,000 troops defended the railways that connected Grafton and Parkersburg, WV. In April and May 1863, the Union troops at Lowndes Hill were able to divert a portion of Confederate troops during the Jones-Imboden Raid. John Hanson McNeill first proposed the raid. Originally he planned the destruction of a single bridge to disrupt the B&O Railroad and the Union supply line, but later developed the two-ring approach of attack. In this dual attack, General Jones would attach the railroad between Grafton, WV and Oakland, MD. General Imboden would attack Union troops in Buckhannon, Beverly, and Philippi. The mission of the raid was to commandeer supplies, gain recruits, and interrupt the B&O Railroad.
After the raid, the generals thought about attacking Clarksburg. However, they realized they did not have enough men. They had already lost a great deal of men and cattle in Beverly, Buckhannon, and Philippi. Instead, the generals split again. Jones went Northwest and Imboden to the South. They also hoped to thwart the momentum of movement for West Virginia Statehood. Although the raid was successful in its effort to disrupt the railways, it was not successful politically in its attempt to break up the formation of the state of West Virginia.
The site of Lowndes Hill is 58 acres and also houses Lowndes Municipal Park and the Harrison County YMCA. Lowndes Park is a 10 acre section that was gifted to Clarksburg by Richard T. Lowndes and offers a good view of the city.