by Sandra Merville Hart
Confederate General Henry Wise replaced Colonel Christopher Tompkins as commander of the Kanawha forces. Marching from Richmond, he arrived in Kanawha County on June 26, 1861. Wise soon stayed in Kanawha House Hotel’s best room.
Fort Sumter had been fired upon two and half months earlier.
The small Virginia town of Charleston was of strategic importance to Wise. He decided to claim a stone mansion surrounded by a thousand acres of farmland as his headquarters.
He should have run the idea by the lady of the house, Mrs. Rebecca Littlepage.
Confederate troops camped near a farm owned by the Littlepage family. Soldiers used the farm’s grain, sugar, bacon, molasses, and horses.
Wise strode to the home and told Mrs. Littlepage he intended to take her mansion as his headquarters. The spunky woman refused to release her home. The general threatened to blow the house down.
He returned with artillery. A crowd followed. Rebecca stood on the front step with her children around her. Wise told her to leave. She refused.
The general ordered his soldiers-some of them family friends—to fire upon the house. The men refused his command. Wise left that day.
Instead of taking over the home, his soldiers camped on the family’s property. Fort Fife, a one-hundred-square foot fort, was built on a hill overlooking the stone mansion. The location gave wonderful views of the Kanawha Turnpike, its junction with the road to Parkersburg, and the James River.
Adam Littlepage, Rebecca’s husband, became the quartermaster officer of the 21st Virginia. He died in a duel and never returned to the stone mansion home that his wife fought so bravely to preserve.
Egnatoff, Daniel et. al. “Littlepage Mansion-Charleston Civil War Trail.” Clio: Your Guide to History. September 19, 2019. Accessed February 1, 2021. https://theclio.com/entry/4901.
Mortimer, Gavin. Double Death: The True Story of Pryce Lewis, the Civil War’s Most Daring Spy, Walker & Company, 2010.