Published on March 3, 2020

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“Born of Fire”:
West Virginia and the Civil War
A Civil War Conference

Saturday, July 31, 2021
Holiday Inn Martinsburg
Martinsburg, West Virginia

West Virginia was created by the Civil War – born of internal and national politics, geography, and the fires of war.   The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation’s 2021 Valley Conference, “Born of Fire”: West Virginia and the Civil War, will look at the Mountaineer state’s Civil War story, from the early campaigns with Robert E. Lee and George McClellan, Stonewall Jackson’s victory at the state’s largest battle, critical actions in the Kanawha Valley, the stories of individual West Virginians at war – on both sides – and the epic tale of the creation of the state.

The conference will be held on Saturday, July 31, 2021, at the Holiday Inn Martinsburg in Martinsburg, West Virginia, and will feature speakers Joe Geiger, Hunter Lesser, Terry Lowry, Scott Patchan, Ethan Rafuse, and Rick Wolfe.

Cost:  $30; $27 for SVBF members.  Pre-registration is required.

Registration for this event has closed.

For more information call, 540-740-4545. To register, call 540-740-4545 or click the link below.

Schedule for the day:

8:00am:  Check-In Desk Opens
9:00 am:  Welcome and IntroductionSVBF CEO Keven Walker
9:15am:  “Caught in this trap”: The Struggle for Harpers Ferry, September 1862Ethan S. Rafuse
10:15am:  Robert E. Lee’s Feuding Generals: Wise vs. FloydHunter Lesser
11:15am:  “Hold the Kanawha at All Costs”Terry Lowry
Noon:  Lunch (On your own)
1:30pm:  The 35th Star: The Creation of West VirginiaJoe Geiger
2:30pm:  Col. Joseph Thoburn:  Duty to God, Family and Country – Scott C. Patchan
3:30 pm:  West Virginia Soldiers at WarRick Wolfe

Speakers, left to right: Geiger, Lesser, Lowry, Patchan, Rafuse, Wolfe


Summary of Talks

“Caught in this trap”: The Struggle for Harpers Ferry, September 1862 – Ethan S. Rafuse
Few places on the North American continent contributed more to the development and evolution of the American republic during the 19th century than did Harpers Ferry. Few, if any dates in the history of the historic town, were as memorable as 15 September 1862. That day, Confederate forces under the command of Stonewall Jackson accepted the surrender of the Union force occupying the town and not until the surrender of Corregidor in 1942 would more American soldiers be taken prisoner than at Harpers Ferry. Yet, Jackson’s remarkable triumph would be overshadowed by the impact the operation against Harpers Ferry had on the course and outcome of the larger Maryland Campaign. This talk will address the course, conduct, and consequences of Jackson’s campaign and what it reveals about the operational and leadership challenges Union and Confederate armies faced in the memorable fall of 1862.

Robert E. Lee’s Feuding Generals: Wise vs. Floyd – Hunter Lesser
This is the riotous tale of two former Virginia governors; old political rivals who upend Confederate efforts to reclaim the western counties of that state in 1861. Generals Henry Wise and John Floyd squabble like schoolboys-even as Union forces march to annihilate them! Robert E. Lee is no match for their antics, leading to the loss of West Virginia and a scandal that stretches to the capitol in Richmond.

“Hold the Kanawha at All Costs” – Terry Lowry
During the Civil War, particularly in the first two years, the Kanawha Valley area of western Virginia (now West Virginia) became prime real estate for both armies due to its abundance of salt, natural resources, manpower, and transportation routes. In the campaigns to take possession of the area, armed combat took place at such places as Scary Creek, Carnifex Ferry, Fayetteville, Cotton Hill, and Charleston, under such notable personalities as Generals Henry A. Wise, John B. Floyd, Jacob D. Cox, William S. Rosecrans, William W. Loring and Albert G. Jenkins, as well as colonels George S. Patton, John McCausland, and Joseph A. Lightburn.

The 35th Star: The Creation of West Virginia – Joe Geiger
This presentation will examine the issues and processes that led to the creation of West Virginia. In addition to reviewing sectional strife in Virginia prior to the war, the speaker will examine the election of Abraham Lincoln, the outbreak of the Civil War, the Reorganized Government of Virginia, the Wheeling conventions, and congressional debate on the admission of the new state. Also discussed will be the decision of Abraham Lincoln to sign the statehood bill despite significant reservations.

Col. Joseph Thoburn:  Duty to God, Family and Country – Scott C. Patchan
Joseph Thoburn was a physician in Wheeling, Virginia when the Civil War erupted and promptly became surgeon of the 1st Virginia, later West Virginia Infantry. Track his rise from a medical man to a division commander in some of the fiercest conflicts ever fought in the Shenandoah Valley. Through it all he maintained his faith, persevered for freedom, and longed for a reunion with his wife and children.

West Virginia Soldiers at War – Rick Wolfe
The story of West Virginia statehood is fascinating and intriguing. It reads like a novel as do the stories of the volunteer soldiers that fought for that statehood. Through the stories of selected soldiers the role of this fledgling state will be explored. This talk will look at the role of this fledgling state through the stories of selected soldiers – from the Battle of Philippi to Appomattox Court House.

Speaker Bios

For bios of our speakers, click here.

Host Site

The conference will be hosted at the Holiday Inn Martinsburg, 301 Foxcroft Ave., Martinsburg, West Virginia 25401.


A block of rooms has been set aside at the Holiday Inn Martinsburg for conference guests.  The room rate is $104.00 plus tax for a room with a King Bed or Two Queen beds. To reserve a room in the block, contact the hotel at 304-267-5500 or click this link.


Lunch will be on your own.  A list of nearby restaurants will be available at check-in.

Visitor Information

For For information about historic sites, attractions, lodging, and dining opportunities in the Martinsburg area, click here.

Questions or Need More Information?

Call the SVBF at 540-740-4545 or email