Thursday, September 6, 2012
Along with John Mosby, John McNeill was one of the most effective Confederate guerrillas on the Civil War’s eastern front. A native of modern-day West Virginia, he was the leader of McNeill’s Rangers, a small force of roughly 200 men that used guerrilla tactics to wreak havoc on Union operations in western Virginia.
McNeill made effective use of his small fighting force by screening Confederate troop movements and scavenging supplies. He also proved a thorn in the side of the Union Army with his constant raids on wagon trains and railroads. His most famous exploit involved the disruption of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, a key Union supply line running through western Virginia.
The Rangers successfully burned B&O machine shops in Piedmont, West Virginia, and even destroyed a bridge, forcing the Union to divert almost 25,000 troops to protect the railroad from McNeill’s handful of men. McNeill was killed in 1864 after a raid on Union troops, but his Rangers continued to operate until the end of the war, and even made an excursion into Maryland to capture Union officers.