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Kanawha Riflemen Memorial Park
Kanawha Riflemen Memorial Park began its life as Ruffner Park--which itself originated as the Ruffner family cemetery in the 19th century.
When the city of Charleston was looking for the site of a new city park in 1920, they decided upon the old Ruffner Cemetery, which had been purchased from the Ruffners for a city burial ground in 1831. Some of the graves were moved to Spring Hill Cemetery, but for others "the tombstones were each carefully laid on top of the graves of the owners they describe and then covered with earth and sod."1
Soon after the new city park's inception, a memorial to the Kanawha Riflemen--a locally raised militia company which fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War--was dedicated on the site.
George Smith Patton, a Richmond native and 1852 graduate of Virginia Military Institute, organized the Kanawha Riflemen after moving to Charleston in 1856. Most of the members of the militia sympathized with the Southern cause as the Civil War drew near, and the unit soon joined other Confederate troops in the defense of what was, at the time, part of the newly-seceded State of Virginia.
Federal troops headed up the Kanawha River in 1861 in a move to take Charleston. Led by Patton, the Riflemen and other Confederate forces engaged Union troops at Scary Creek, on July 17, 1861. During the brief but bloody skirmish, Colonel Patton was wounded in the shoulder, though he continued to serve until his death at the Third Battle of Winchester in September 1864. He was the grandfather of Gen. George S. Patton of World War II fame.
After Scary Creek, the Kanawha Riflemen were soon incorporated into the regular army of the Confederacy as Company H of the 22nd Virginia Volunteer Infantry, where they left a distinguished fighting record that included, among many engagements, another important West Virginia battle at White Sulphur Springs.
The 1861 Kanawha Riflemen had a strength of from 75 to 100, of whom 20 were lawyers. The unit consisted of men from Charleston’s wealthy families. In the park is a monument dedicated Many veterans of the Kanawha Riflemen rest in Charleston’s Spring Hill Cemetery."2
The monument was commissioned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and dedicated on the site in 1922. Former Confederate General John McCausland, the second-to-last surviving Confederate general, was guest of honor at the dedication.
Notable in the inscription of names on the monument is "William Armistead, colored cook, faithful during the war." This is in keeping with many Confederate monuments commissioned in the first half of the 20th Century, which sought to recast the image of black slaves and servants in a manner that reflected positively on their subservient position under the Confederacy. At memorials more well-trafficked, this often caused outcry and controversy, as in the case of the Heyward Shepherd Memorial in Harper's Ferry.
The park also contains the tombstone of Thomas Bullitt, a Colonel of Virginia militia during the American Revolutionary War. Though he died early in the war, in 1778, he served at the Battle of Great Bridge and the burning of Norfolk. He attained his high rank quickly due to previous service in the French and Indian War, despite George Washington's low opinion of him:"Bullet (sic) is no favourite of mine, & therefore I shall say nothing more of him, than that his own opinion of himself always kept pace with what others pleas’d to think of him—if any thing, rather run a head of it."4
Land originally belonging to Thomas Bullitt would be sold by his brother after his death. This land would soon become the nearby site of Fort Lee and the city of Charleston.
Sources1. http://www.mywvhome.com/1900s/parks.html 2. http://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/1120
3. Lowry, Terry. Cohen, Stan. Images of the Civil War in West Virginia. Charleston, WV. Quarrier Press, 2000. 168
4. “From George Washington to John Augustine Washington, 31 March 1776,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 29, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-03-02-0429. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, vol. 3, 1 January 1776 – 31 March 1776, ed. Philander D. Chase. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1988, pp. 566–571.]
Charleston, WV 25311
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