In 1829, this location was home to the Valcoulon Mansion built by Colonel John Lewis. This was also the location of Camp Tompkins, a short-lived camp for Confederate soldiers in 1861. In 1916, the mansion was razed and the Rossler & Hasslacher Chemical Company built their facility here. The location was later the home of the Valley Drive-in theater before being acquired by 84 Lumber which still occupies the space today.
Backstory and Context
Established in May 1861, Camp Tompkins was a Confederate base located in Coal's Mouth, West Virginia, which is now known as St. Albans. Camp Tompkins was also located near Fort Tackett. During the war, this spot was a crucial point for the Confederacy due to its location being so close to the Union during the nearby Battle of Scary Creek in 1861. This gave them a strategic point from which they could assemble, train, and deploy troops to battle incoming Union troops near the border.
Within Camp Tompkins, a variety of volunteer units were found at this base. Volunteers kept pouring into this base to help secure the border, and send cavalry units across the border. These units included the Border Rangers, the Sandy Rangers, Fayette Rangers, and the Kanawha Rangers. All of these units were under Capt. Jenkins while he stayed at Camp Tompkins. These volunteer units were eventually sworn into the Confederate army and were recognized as soldiers. These men had started as simple volunteers; they wanted to help fight for their newly formed country, and the Confederate army gave them the opportunity to do so.
Also at the camp were the Kanawha Riflemen under the command of Captain George Patton, the Charleston Sharpshooters commanded by Captain John Swann, and the Border Rifles under Captain Andrew Barbee. Local women often visited the Camp, where many of their friends and family were located, to bring them food, clothing, and other essentials which made camp life more bearable.
Coal's Mouth gave the Confederacy an advantage by allowing them to overlook Charleston. It was later found in a women's diary that she had observed "what looked like all of Charleston retreating" from Coal Grove. What she was witnessing was Confederate troops moving to take Point Pleasant. The reason I included this story is that it allows us to envision the strategic advantage that Camp Tompkins gave to the Confederacy. It was the perfect high spot that overlooked Charleston and the Kanawha River.
Historic Homes Tour information. St. Albans Historical Society. http://www.stalbanshistory.com/homes-tours.html.
Dickinson, Jack L. Jenkins of Greenbottom A Civil War Saga. Charleston, WV. Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1988.
Wintz, William D. Civil War Memoirs of Two Rebel Sisters. Charleston: Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., 1989.
Hale, J.P.. West Virginia Historical Magazine Quarterly, Volume 1. Charleston, WV. West Virginia Historical and Antiquarian Society, 1901.
Emmick, David. Amick Partisan Rangers. Issaquah, Washington. Flying A Books, 2017.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood November 1, 1861, West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture, and History. Invalid date. Accessed December 17th 2019. http://www.wvculture.org/history/sesquicentennial/18611101.html.
Cook, Roy Bird. The Civil War Comes to Charleston, West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture, and History. Accessed December 17th 2019. http://www.wvculture.org/history/journal_wvh/wvh23-1.html.