Daniel Frost Helped Chart W.Va.’s Statehood
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is part of a series featuring Civil War veterans with Wheeling connections. The series will lead up to the planned move of Wheeling’s “Soldiers and Sailors Monument” from Wheeling Park to the side yard of West Virginia Independence Hall.
Daniel Frost was born in St. Clairsville in 1819, one of 10 children born to William and Rachel West Frost. As a young man he would move to Ravenwood, (West) Virginia where he worked as editor of the Virginia Chronicle. It was there that he married Ellen Rathbone, who was just 17 years at the time.
Following Virginia’s secession, Daniel – a strong Union man – was elected Speaker of the House of Delegates for the Restored Government of Virginia, which had organized in Wheeling. He worked to have the Wheeling government recognized as the true government of Virginia, and helped chart the path for West Virginia statehood. Not all of the Frost family were pro-Union, however, as two of his younger brothers cast their lot with the Confederacy. Both brothers would be captured and held as prisoners of war, although both would survive.
In the spring of 1862, Daniel received a commission to serve as lieutenant colonel in the newly-formed 11th West Virginia Infantry. His brother-in-law, John Rathbone, was named colonel of the regiment. Rathbone was one of more than 200 members of the regiment captured at Spencer, W.Va. in the fall of 1862 and would be dismissed from service, elevating Frost to the rank of colonel. Frost’s son, Bushrod Taylor Frost, also would serve under his father.
Frost would spend much of 1863 serving as president of the court martials being held at Clarksburg and Cumberland, but returned to the regiment in time to lead it during Generals Averell’s & Hunters Raids through the upper Shenandoah Valley. At the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain in May 1864, Frost was cited for conspicuous gallantry. The following month he was with the regiment as it moved down the valley toward West Virginia’s eastern panhandle.
On July 18, 1864, while in command of the Third Brigade of Colonel Joseph Thoburn’s Divison, Daniel Frost was observing skirmishing near Snickers Gap. He was able to visit a brother-in-law before general fighting broke out and he quickly found himself directing five regiments in battle. As fighting swirled around his command, a Confederate bullet pierced his bowels and mortally wounded Colonel Frost.
Aides carried Frost to a nearby farmhouse, where he spent the next several hours writing his last will and testament. He also attempted to make contact with a relative who lived in the area, hoping to having a family member nearby as he died. The relative, a staunch Confederate sympathizer, refused to see him. Colonel Daniel Frost died several hours later, around midnight on July 19, 1864.
That day a train was secured to remove Frost’s remains back to Wheeling for burial.
A Confederate battery fired several shots at the departing train without doing much damage.
The train would stop at Frost’s ancestral home at Middle Farm, W.Va., before returning to Wheeling for burial at Mount Wood Cemetery, one of two wartime casualty colonels buried at the cemetery.
The Wheeling Intelligencer described his funeral as one of the largest to take place in Wheeling.
“The coffin was wrapped in the American flag and the large procession was preceded by a brass band which discoursed music appropriate to the occasion. It was a most solemn and impressive scene, and there was many a full heart a many a moistened eye as the procession moved slowly through the streets, bearing the mortal remains of a gallant soldier to his last resting place.”