A casualty in the fight for West Virginia

Guest blogpost: Ron Coddington | Publisher of Military Images Magazine

A CASUALTY IN THE FIGHT FOR WEST VIRGINIA.—The Western Virginia town of Princeton lay in ruins. Burned by Confederates in the face of approaching Union forces on May 1, 1862, it changed hands at least twice over the following two weeks as both sides struggled for control of this strategically important part of the state. On May 16, Confederates drove Union soldiers from the town. The next day, as the Union forces attempted to retake the initiative, an ambush by Southern forces prompted a further withdrawal of the bluecoats.

Three Ohio regiments were involved on the Union side, and they suffered 113 casualties during the two days of activity. One of those men is pictured here. Hawley F. Ranson, a corporal in Company D of the 34th Ohio Infantry, suffered a severe wound in his left leg. A clerk from Bellevue, Ohio, he had enlisted in the regiment during the summer of 1861. Distinctive in blue uniforms inspired by the Zouave style, the 34th was also known as Piatt’s Zouaves in honor of its commander, Abram Sanders Piatt.

Ranson posed for this portrait by noted African American photographer James Presley Ball soon after his enlistment.

The Battle of Princeton was Ranson’s last fight. His leg was amputated, and he succumbed to its effects on May 30, 1862. His remains rest in Grafton National Cemetery.

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