Press Release: Bridge Burner

Press Release: A new book about an interesting West Virginia character

Bridge Burner: The Full and Factual Story of Dr. William Parks Rucker, Slave-Owning Union Partisan

Shortly thereafter he was captured in Summersville, [West] Virginia by Confederate cavalry led by the audacious spy Nancy Hart. There ensued an emotional argument between Virginia Governor John Letcher and the Confederate authorities as to which had the right to place him on trial—and hang him. In the meantime, President Lincoln personally authorized placing a Confederate surgeon “in close confinement” as a hostage in the event Rucker was harmed or executed.

During his 15 months of imprisonment Rucker became the focus of the most acrimonious prisoner exchange problem between the Union and the Confederacy. There are sixty-four entries in the Official Records of the Rebellion concerning the difficulties of his exchange—more than that of any other prisoner-of-war.

He was moved about to ten different jails and prisons to prevent the Union Army from attempting to release him. He finally escaped and after a harrowing flight to safety reached the Union encampment at Gauley Bridge. He was enlisted in the Union Army with the rank of major and became aide-de-camp to General George Crook. His first official duty was as a scout to lead the burning of another bridge—the important New River Bridge of the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad.

His experiences after the war were equally adventurous. He became a lawyer in Lewisburg, West Virginia and defended the accused murderers in both the famous Greenbrier Ghost case and the case against the son of Nancy Hart who had led Union troops to his capture during the war. He assisted his former slave, Charlotte Scott, in establishing the first monument to Abraham Lincoln—the Emancipation Memorial.

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