Wolfe Set to Speak To Civil War Roundtable

Noted Civil War authority Richard A. Wolfe of Bridgeport, W.Va., will speak to the Ohio Valley Civil War Roundtable this month on the topic, “A Sad Day for Wheeling – the Deaths of Col. Thoburn and Capt. Bier.”

The meeting, which is open to the public, will be held in the Ohio County Public Library auditorium, 52 16th St., Wheeling, at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 25.

“The deaths of Col. Joseph Thoburn and Capt. Philip G. Bier at the Battle of Cedar Creek and the grand funeral the two soldiers received in Wheeling were sad events in 1864 for the people of the new state of West Virginia,” Wolfe said.

Prior to the war, both Thoburn and Bier lived in Wheeling. A physician, Thoburn had lived in the town since 1853 and enlisted as the regimental surgeon with the 1st Virginia (Federal) Infantry when the war began. He rose quickly through the ranks. As a colonel, he comannded a division in George Crook’s corps of Sheridan’s Army of the Shenandoah in 1864.

Bier was born in Wheeling and attended West Liberty Academy. He joined the 12th West Virginia Infantry and was later assigned to staffs of both Gen. David Hunter and Crook.

After Union victories in the Shenandoah Valley at Third Winchester on Sept. 19, 1864 and Fisher’s Hill on Sept. 22 and the “burning” of the valley from Staunton to Strasburg, Va., Confederate Gen. Jubal Early made a desperate attack against Sheridan’s army at Cedar Creek, Va. Although successful initially, Early was defeated.

Both Thoburn and Bier were killed in the battle. Sheridan himself announced the death of Thoburn.

The loss of Thoburn and Bier on the same day was a terrible blow for the people of Wheeling, whose population was between 15,000 and 18,000 at the time. The Intelligencer reported that their funeral was “the most impressive that the community has ever witnessed in honoring the remains of the gallant dead.”

Guest speaker Wolfe, a native of Morgantown, spent 26 years in the Marine Corps, retiring as a major in 1998. He has been a longtime student of the American Civil War, especially as it relates to West Virginia.

He is associated with the Clarksburg Civil War Roundtable, Morgantown Civil War Roundtable and is president of Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation. He is a volunteer on the Civil War Task Force for the West Virginia Division of Tourism, which is responsible for West Virginia Civil War Trails.

In June 2009, Wolfe was appointed by then-Gov. Joe Manchin to the West Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission. He is author of a book in the “Images of America” series titled “West Virginia in the Civil War.”

Since retiring from the Marine Corps, Wolfe has worked in the information technology field with the U.S. Department of Justice. In December 2013, he retired from Lockheed Martin.