James R. Greer was born in Butler County, Pennsylvania in 1838. The names of his parents are not known, however he does indicate in the 1880 census that they were both born in Ireland.
On April 24, 1861, at Youngstown, Ohio, James R. Greer mustered in as a Private in Company I of the 7th Ohio Volunteer Infantry on a three-month enlistment. He was 5′ 4″ tall, with a light complexion, auburn hair, and hazel eyes. The company was commanded by Capt. William R. Sterling and known as the “Union Guards”. James had been employed as a Puddler in an iron foundry prior to his enlistment — an occupation he would return to after the war. He reenlisted for three years on June 13, 1861. On August 26, 1861, James R. Greer suffered a gunshot wound just above the right knee during the Battle of Cross Lanes (a detailed account & map of the Battle of Cross Lanes follows below). He was treated at the General Hospital at Gauley Bridge, then at the Regimental Hospital in Charleston, Va, then transferred to the Post Hospital in Gallipolis, Ohio. Finally, on December 22, 1861, at Camp Romney, Va, he was discharged on a surgeon’s certificate of disability.
The following text is a detailed account of the action at Cross Lanes written by Lawrence Wilson, 1st Sergeant, Company D.
On August 15, 1861, the forces operating under Colonel Tyler marched to Cross Lanes, where the Summerville and Gauley Bridge road intersected with one from Carnifax Ferry on Gauley River, two and a half miles away. Colonel Tyler was instructed to picket and guard the crossings of Gauley River in that section; keep informed as to the force and position of the enemy, and if driven away was to fall back to Twenty Mile Creek and then to Hughes Creek…The Seventh was thus left as the extreme advance of the army in that section…
During the night of the 25th, while Tylers’ men were asleep, the force under Floyd, which consisted of the 22nd, 36th, 45th, and the 50th Virginia Infantry along with Lieutenant Thomas’s horse artillery and some militia men moved during the cover of darkness to surround the 7th. These movements being complete just prior to daylight the order was given to attack the Ohio Regiment which was vastly outnumbered. The 50th Virginia opened the battle as it opened fire on Company K of the Seventh.
Halfway between a wooded area and where the roads cross companies A, C, and K attempted to make a stand. The three companies delivered several well placed volleys which drove the enemy from their position. As a result Captain Crane ordered a charge, which was accomplished and resulted in piercing the enemy lines and the capture of a stand of enemy colors. Crane continued the assault until conditions and timing made it necessary to retreat to a safer location. The losses, however, during this charge was significant in that several officers were captured or wounded.
As the preceding action transpired the confederate column coming from the Summersville Road advanced to a position opposite the ferry road. Companies D and H occupied the church at that location and were in a skirmish with Rebel forces already in their front. With the arrival of this second column of Rebels the companies were exposed to a cross fire. Realizing the position they were in Captain Dyer of Company D ordered a retreat. Both companies were to relocate to a hill just up the road from the church. In doing so they had to pass through a corn field which exposed them to a heavy fire from every direction. Here, as they scrambled through the corn, Captain Dyer was killed. After they reached the hill it was discovered that the Rebel forces at hand were much too large to attempt a rally. Therefore it was decided that these two companies should continue their retreat until safer ground could be found. They continued until they reached a small wooded area and here they waited until more of the Seventh could join them. When they were sure that everyone who could make it was there, an orderly retreat was conducted.
Captain Crane and his men wasted little time in crossing Gauley Road and headed directly for the mountains. Here he felt that should the Rebels follow he would have a better chance of repelling any attack. After reaching the mountains he and his men marched directly towards Gauley Bridge which, by morning of the next day, arrived safely with little opposition.
Companies A, C, and K, under the guidance of Captain Crane, had traversed through enemy country, treacherous mountain areas, while concealing themselves from the Rebel forces who had control of the entire region. Their arrival, however, did little to reestablish the fate of the remaining men of the Seventh for they only represent a small portion of the total.