When Neighbor Killed Neighbor: A Civil War Tragedy in West Virginia 

On January, 10, 1863, Eli B. Ice, a Union soldier, shot and killed Uriah Wade, a Confederate sympathizer.

This tragic story of neighbor killing neighbor in Marion County, a locality of around 50,000 in northern West Virginia, is an example of how political rivalry can turn into violent hatred and murder at the local level. The U.S. Civil War (1861-1865) tore apart millions of families. In some cases, mothers had sons fighting on both sides.

Marion was one of 50 counties that made up West Virginia when it was carved out of the state of Virginia in 1863 by merchants in Wheeling who opposed slavery, but the western part of Virginia that made up the new state included a lot of people who supported the South.

In this case, Ice, a Union soldier, believed Wade, a Confederate sympathizer, was involved with a group that intended to force Ice to recant any connections with the Grand Army of the Republic. 

Local citizen Wade was indeed vocal about his support of the Confederate cause. He was arrested August 18, 1862 at his home in Marion County, WV for “aiding rebels,” according to U.S. Prisoner of War Records.

The twenty-two year old Wade was then sent to Camp Chase, Ohio, for four months as a prisoner. He was released December 13, 1862 having signed a Declaration of Allegiance to the Union. The problem, however, was Wade had no intention of honoring any “iron clad oath” to the Union as witnesses described at Ice’s trial.

It was during January 1863 that the details become hazy. Some witnesses at Ice’s trial said Wade started carrying a revolver that he had the night he was re-arrested on orders. Ice said he was told by his commander to arrest Wade and take him back to Camp Chase.

During the arrest and transport of Wade at night, Ice claimed the rebel sympathizer pulled the revolver on him and tried to run, so the Union soldier shot him. Whatever actually happened while on this walk only two knew for sure, and one was dead.

Ice was arrested or detained for a short time before returning to his unit. Military records state he was actually a “deserter from October 1862 through May 1863.” Whatever the truth, Ice completed the war taking up residence in Wetzel County by 1870. It was there he was arrested, taken to Marion County, and tried for Uriah Wade’s murder in April 1870.

Eleven “Republican jurors” found Ice guilty within five minutes. He was sentenced to life in prison and taken to the newly constructed Moundsville Penitentiary in Marshall County, featured in the Moundsville film on PBS.

By the summer of 1878, Ice began appealing his case. News coverage was considerable, not only through the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, but The Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Cleveland Herald, and far into the Midwest. The case was viewed as political-an attempt to punish the Union through this soldier-but others decreed the trial fair and just.  

Eli’s case came to a close in August 1880. Appeals were in process, but Ice died before a commuted sentence or pardon could be granted. The Moundsville Penitentiary had been his home. As from the start, the stories varied and opinions differed as to Ice’s overall justice. But it no longer mattered by late summer. Eli Ice was, now too, dead.

David Neidert

David Neidert is a retired professor from Anderson University (IN). He is a historian and author. His current book is I am the Lord’s.

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