The Civil War in West Virginia

New York State Militia at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, 1861

New York State Militia at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, 1861


Secessionist Army in the Alleghany Mountains

Secessionist Army in the Alleghany Mountains

After the Civil War began in April 1861, the state of Virginia was split in its loyalties. On April 17, 1861, just days after President Abraham Lincoln’s order to seize Fort Sumter, South Carolina, a convention of Virginians voted on the Ordinance of Secession. However, many of the delegates of the western part of the state voted against succession and began to lobby to form a new “pro-union” state. On November 26, 1861, West Virginia began the Secessionist Convention that would break away from the Confederate state of Virginia. In the end, 50 counties became part of West Virginia on April 11, 1862, and the new state was admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863.

During the transition time and afterward, West Virginia was a target of Confederate raids, which focused on supplying the Confederate Army with provisions and attacking the vital Baltimore and Ohio Railroad that linked the northeast with the Midwest. Guerrilla warfare also gripped the new state, especially in the Allegheny Mountain counties to the east, where loyalties were much more divided than in the Unionist northwest part of the state. Despite this, the Confederacy was never able to seriously threaten the Unionists’ overall control of West Virginia.

The most significant military engagements fought within the present-day West Virginia borders were at Harpers Ferry and Shepherdstown in September 1862, Droop Mountain in 1863, and Summit Point in 1864. Many of these battles included both Union and Confederate soldiers who were West Virginia natives who fought opposite each other. This was mainly during the Shenandoah Valley campaigns of 1862 and 1864.

Like Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, and the other border states, the allegiances of West Virginia’s citizens were split. The number of Confederate soldiers who came from West Virginia counties numbered about 18,000. Devotion to different causes resulted in irregular warfare, such as bushwhacking, raids by “partisan rangers,” and guerrilla attacks. Towns such as Romney endured repeated occupation by both sides, and its citizens witnessed firsthand the cruelties of civil war.

By the end of the war, more than 32,000 soldiers had served in West Virginia regiments and other military organizations and fought in most of the significant battles of the war.

When the Civil War was over in the spring of 1865, West Virginians of both the Blue and the Gray returned to their new state. Years later, when West Virginia Union veterans became eligible for federal pensions and Confederate veterans received pensions from their state governments, the West Virginia ex-Confederates again were on the losing side as West Virginia would not recognize their service, and the Commonwealth of Virginia would provide pensions only to its own residents.

West Virginia Civil War Battle Map

West Virginia Civil War Battle Map

Campaigns & Battles:

Western Virginia Campaign – June-December 1861

The Western Virginia Campaign, also known as Operations in Western Virginia or the Rich Mountain Campaign, occurred from June to December 1861 and included seven battles in present-day West Virginia. It began when Union forces under Major General George B. McClellan invaded the western portion of Virginia. This region was an essential source of minerals the Confederates needed for the production of arms and ammunition. It also contained several roads that would give the Union access to Tennessee, North Carolina, and the Shenandoah Valley. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in the northern part of the area connected the eastern Union states to the Midwest. After the Union occupied the region, it later became the state of West Virginia. Although Confederate forces would make several raids into the area throughout the remainder of the war, they would be unable to reoccupy the state.

Philippi – June 3, 1861

Battle of Philippi, West Virginia

Battle of Philippi, West Virginia

The first skirmish of the Operations in Western Virginia Campaign, the Battle of Philippi, also called the Battle of Philippi Races, took place in Barbour County on June 3, 1861. At the time of the battle Union General Thomas A. Morris, who was temporarily in command of Union forces in western Virginia, mounted a two-prong advance under Colonel Ebenezer Dumont and Benjamin F. Kelley against a small Confederate occupation force at Philippi under Confederate Colonel George A. Porterfield. Kelley marched on back roads from near Grafton on June 2 to reach the rear of the town, while Dumont moved south from Webster. Both columns arrived at Philippi before dawn on June 3. The resulting surprise attack routed the Confederate troops, forcing them to retreat to Huttonsville. Although a small affair, this was considered the first significant land action in the Eastern Theater. The Union victory resulted in estimated casualties of four of the Union and 26 of the Confederate.

Laurel Hill – July 7-11, 1861

After the Battle of Philippi, five days of skirmishing took place in Barbour County between July 7 and July 11, 1861. This skirmishing was a diversionary attack to the opening portion of the Battle of Rich Mountain. After the Union soldiers route the Confederates at the Battle of Philippi, the rebel troops retreated south. Confederate General Robert S. Garnett moved about 3,500 troops to Laurel Mountain and made camp at the mountain base. On July 6, General George B. McClellan ordered General Thomas A. Morris to advance from Philippi to Belington with about 5,000 Union troops. Skirmishing began on July 7 and lasted for five days, with the Union routing the Confederate troops. Upon hearing of the simultaneous defeat of forces at Rich Mountain, General Garnett retreated with his troops to Corrick’s Ford near Parsons, where he soon became the first general officer to be killed in the war.

Battle of Rich Mountain, West Virginia by William J. Hennessy, 1861

Battle of Rich Mountain, West Virginia by William J. Hennessy, 1861

Rich Mountain – July 11, 1861

The third battle of the Western Virginia Campaign, this conflict occurred in Randolph County on July 11, 1861, after Major General George B. McClellan assumed command of the Union forces in western Virginia the previous month. On June 27, he moved his divisions from Clarksburg south against Lieutenant Colonel John Pegram’s Confederates, reaching the vicinity of Rich Mountain on July 9. Meanwhile, Brigadier General Thomas A. Morris’ Union brigade marched from Philippi to confront Confederate Brigadier General Robert S. Garnett’s command at Laurel Hill. On July 11, Brigadier General William S. Rosecrans led a reinforced brigade by a mountain path to seize the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike in Pegram’s rear. A sharp two-hour fight ensued in which the Confederates were split into two groups, of which half escaped to Beverly, but Pegram and the others surrendered on July 13.  Hearing of Pegram’s defeat, Garnett abandoned Laurel Hill. The Federals pursued, and, during fighting at Corrick’s Ford on July 13, Garnett was killed. On July 22, McClellan was ordered to Washington, and Rosecrans assumed command of Union forces in western Virginia. Union victory at Rich Mountain was instrumental in propelling McClellan to command of the Army of the Potomac. The Union victory resulted in 46 Union casualties and 300 Confederates.

Battle of Corrick's Ford, West Virginia, 1861

Battle of Corrick’s Ford, West Virginia, 1861

Corrick’s Ford – July 13, 1861

This skirmish was part of the Operations in Western Virginia Campaign, taking place on the Cheat River in Tucker County on July 13, 1861. After Union Major General George B. McClellan defeated part of Confederate Brigadier General Robert S. Garnett’s forces at the Battle of Rich Mountain, Garnett fell back toward Virginia with approximately 4,500 men and began to march towards Beverly. Union Brigadier General Thomas A. Morris pursued them with his Indiana brigade. Around noon on July 13, Morris overtook Garnett’s rearguard at Corrick’s Ford on the Cheat River and attacked the retreating Confederates. The Rebels began to withdraw, and a running skirmish was fought, in which Garnett was killed. The Confederates then fled, leaving behind their dead commander, a cannon, and nearly 40 wagons. Garnett was the first general officer killed in the Civil War.

Scary Creek – July 17, 1861

The Battle of Scary Creek was a minor battle fought across the Kanawha River from present-day Nitro in Putnam County, West Virginia, on July 17, 1861. As Union forces under General Jacob Cox began a push up the Kanawha Valley from Ohio, they came upon a Confederate camp commanded by Confederate General Henry A. Wise with a few thousand troops near present-day St. Albans. The battle occurred when Union regiments advanced toward the camp but were repulsed by Captain George S. Patton. The Confederates, who thought that fresh Union reinforcements were arriving, also retreated. Realizing their mistake, the Confederates returned to the battlefield to claim victory. Afterward, General Wise withdraw his forces toward the Confederate supply bases in Fayette and Greenbrier Counties. This retreat resulted in most Kanawha Valley falling into Union hands, and General Wise was highly criticized. During the battle, the Union lost 14 killed, approximately 30 wounded, and several went missing. The Confederates lost between 1-5 killed, and about six were wounded, including Captain Patton.

Kessler’s Cross Lanes – August 26, 1861

The Battle of Kessler’s Cross Lanes, also known as the Battle of Cross Lanes, took place in Nicholas County on August 26, 1861, as part of the Western Virginia Campaign. On August 26, Brigadier General John Floyd, commanding Confederate forces in the Kanawha Valley, crossed the Gauley River to attack Union Colonel Erastus Tyler’s 7th Ohio Regiment. They were encamped at Kessler’s Cross Lanes. The Union forces were surprised and routed. Floyd then withdrew to the river and took up a defensive position at Carnifex Ferry. During the month, Confederate General Robert E. Lee arrived in western Virginia and attempted to coordinate the forces of Brigadier Generals John Floyd, Henry Wise, and William W. Loring. The Confederate victory resulted in 245 Union casualties and 40 Confederate casualties.

Battle at Carnifex Ferry, West Virginia

Battle at Carnifex Ferry, West Virginia

Carnifex Ferry – September 10, 1861

The Battle of Carnifex Ferry occurred in Nicholas County on September 10, 1861, as part of the Operations in Western Virginia Campaign. When Union Brigadier General William S. Rosecrans learned of Colonel Erastus Tyler’s rout at Kessler’s Cross Lanes, he moved three brigades south from Clarksburg to support him. On September 10, he advanced against Confederate Brigadier General John Floyd’s camps at Carnifex Ferry. When darkness fell after several hours of fighting, the battle stopped, and the strength of the Union artillery convinced Floyd to retreat during the night. Floyd blamed his defeat on his co-commander Brigadier General Henry Wise, contributing to further dissension in the Confederate ranks. The Union victory resulted in estimated total casualties of 250.

Cheat Mountain – September 12-15 1861

The Battle of Cheat Mountain took place in Pocahontas County on September 12-15, 1861, as part of the Operations in Western Virginia Campaign. It occurred when Confederate General Robert E. Lee directed his first offensive against Union Brigadier General Joseph Reynolds’s entrenchments on the summit of Cheat Mountain and in the Tygart Valley. However, the Confederate attacks were uncoordinated, and the Federal defense was so stubborn that Colonel Albert Rust, who was leading the attacks, was convinced that he was confronting an overwhelming force. In actuality, however, he was facing only about 300 Union soldiers who were very determined. General Lee ended up calling off the attack and, after maneuvering in the vicinity, withdrew to Valley Head on September 17. In October, Lee renewed operations against Laurel Mountain with the troops of Confederate General John Floyd and William Loring. Still, the operation was called off because of poor communication and a lack of supplies. Lee was recalled to Richmond, Virginia, on October 30 after achieving minor success in western Virginia. The Union victory resulted in total casualties of 170 men, with 80 of the Union and 90 of the Confederate.

Greenbrier River – October 3, 1861

In Pocahontas County, West Virginia, the Battle of Greenbrier River, also referred to as the Battle of Camp Barlow, took place on October 3, 1861, as part of the Western Virginia Campaign. On October 2-3, Union Brigadier General Joseph Reynolds with two brigades advanced from Cheat Mountain to reconnoiter the Confederate position at Camp Bartow on the Greenbrier River. Reynolds drove in the Confederate pickets and opened fire with his artillery. After sporadic fighting and an abortive attempt to turn his enemy’s right flank, Reynolds withdrew to Cheat Mountain. The inconclusive battle resulted in about 40 Union casualties and the same number of Confederate casualties.

Guyandotte – November 10-11, 1861

The Raid on Guyandotte took place in Cabell County when the Confederate cavalry attacked the town of Guyandotte and the small, untrained Union force stationed there. On November 10, 1861, Confederate Colonel John Clarkson, with about 700 cavalry troops, attacked a Union recruit camp for the Ninth West Virginia Infantry regiment at Guyandotte. The Federal recruits, who numbered slightly more than 100 men, fought bravely but were quickly overcome. The Confederates then rounded up 98 Union recruits and civilians and marched them to Richmond the next day. A detachment of the Fifth West Virginia Infantry, accompanied by several Home Guards from Ohio, arrived after the Confederate Cavalry and the prisoners had departed. In response to accusations that the townspeople had aided the Confederates in retaliation for the Confederate attack, the Union forces burned the town. Northern newspapers expressed outrage over the actions of the town’s citizens and rejoiced at Guyandotte’s destruction.

Camp Allegheny, West Virginia Battlefield, courtesy Wikipedia

Camp Allegheny, West Virginia Battlefield, courtesy Wikipedia

Camp Alleghany – December 13, 1861

The Battle of Camp Alleghany, also called the Battle of Allegheny Mountain, took place in Pocahontas County on December 13, 1861. As part of the Western Virginia Campaign, Confederate forces under Colonel Edward Johnson occupied the summit of Allegheny Mountain in December 1861 to defend the Staunton-Parkersburg Pike. A Union force under Brigadier General Robert Milroy attacked Colonel Johnson on December 13. Fighting continued for much of the morning as each side maneuvered to gain the advantage. Finally, Milroy’s troops were repulsed, and he retreated to his camps near Cheat Mountain. Edward Johnson remained at Camp Allegheny with five regiments at year’s end, and Henry Heth was at Lewisburg with two regiments. The estimated casualties of the inconclusive battle resulted in 137 Union and 146 Confederates.

Manassas Campaign – July 1861

The Union’s first goal in the early days of the Civil War was to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. Situated only 100 miles from Washington, D.C., the Federal troops first had to capture Manassas Junction, a critical railway junction 30 miles southwest of Washington, before getting to Richmond. Union soldiers set out for Manassas on July 16, 1861. The campaign resulted in two battles in VirginiaBlackburn’s Ford and the First Battle of Manassas. The only battle of the campaign fought in present-day West Virginia was the Battle of Hoke’s Run.

Hoke’s Run – July 2, 1861

Battle of Hoke's Run, West Virginia, 1861

Battle of Hoke’s Run, West Virginia, 1861

Fought during the Manassas Campaign, the Battle of Hoke’s Run, also called the Battle of Falling Waters and the Battle of Hainesville, occurred in Berkeley County on July 2, 1861. On that date, Union Major General Robert Patterson’s division crossed the Potomac River near Williamsport, Maryland, and marched on the main road to Martinsburg, West Virginia. Near Hoke’s Run, Colonels John Abercrombie’s and George Thomas’ brigades encountered regiments of Confederate Brigadier General Thomas J. Jackson’s brigade and drove them back slowly. Jackson’s orders were to delay the Federal advance only, which he did, withdrawing before Patterson’s more significant force. On July 3, Patterson occupied Martinsburg but made no further aggressive moves until July 15, when he marched to Bunker Hill. However, instead of moving on Winchester, Patterson turned east to Charles Town and then withdrew to Harpers Ferry. This retrograde movement took the pressure off the Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley and allowed General Joseph Johnston’s army to march to support Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard at Manassas. Patterson’s inactivity contributed to the Union defeat at First Manassas. The Union victory resulted in estimated casualties of 23 Union soldiers and 91 Confederates.

Jackson’s Operations Against the B&O Railroad – 1861-62

Confederate General Stonewall Jackson’s operations against the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1861-1862 were aimed at disrupting the critical railroad used heavily by the opposing Union Army as a major supply route. The Confederates also wanted to capture several locomotives and railroad cars for use in their cause. Jackson had long urged the strategic value of an offensive out of the Shenandoah Valley, threatening Washington and destroying Union east-west communications by breaking the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.

Battle of Hancock – January 5-6, 1862

The Battle of Hancock, also called the Romney Campaign, was fought during the Romney Expedition in Washington County, Maryland, and Morgan County, West Virginia, on January 5-6, 1862. On January 1, Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson marched north in bitter cold from Winchester, Virginia to Bath (present-day Berkeley Springs), West Virginia, with the objective of disrupting traffic on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. On January 5, after skirmishing with the retiring Federals, Jackson’s force reached the Potomac River opposite the garrisoned town of Hancock, Maryland. His artillery fired on the town from Orrick’s Hill but did minor damage. Union garrison commander Brigadier General F.W. Lander refused Jackson’s demands for surrender. Jackson continued the bombardment for two days while unsuccessfully searching for a safe river crossing. The Confederates withdrew and marched on Romney, in western Virginia, on January 7. The inconclusive battle resulted in a total estimated number of casualties of 25. Today, the historic district of Hancock retains many buildings present in 1862, including two churches damaged during the Confederate artillery barrage.

Shenandoah Valley by Currier & Ives, 1864

Shenandoah Valley by Currier & Ives, 1864

Jackson’s Shenandoah Valley Campaign – March-June 1862

This was a Confederate campaign led by Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson through the Shenandoah Valley. Utilizing unpredictable movements on interior lines, Jackson’s 17,000 men marched 646 miles in 48 days. They won several minor battles as they successfully engaged three Union armies, preventing them from reinforcing the Union offensive against Richmond, Virginia. The campaign resulted in seven battles, all but one of which were in Virginia. However, the Battle of Princeton Courthouse occurred in present-day West Virginia.

Henry Clark House – May 1, 1862

The Battle of Henry Clark’s House took place in Mercer County, West Virginia, as part of Stonewall Jackson’s Shenandoah Valley Campaign on May 1, 1862. On that date, Union Lieutenant Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes, leading the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, engaged Confederates under Colonel Walter Jenifer at Henry Clark’s home. Captain Richard B. Foley, commanding the “Flat Top Copperheads,” the “eyes and ears” of area Confederate forces, was severely wounded in action. Forced to retreat, the Confederates would later burn Princeton. The battle was not just between two armies; it also pitted two neighbors against each other.

Princeton Court House – May 15-17, 1862

Stonewall Jackson

Stonewall Jackson

The Battle of Princeton Court House took place in Mercer County as part of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson’s Shenandoah Valley Campaign on May 15-17, 1862. By early May 1862, Union forces were positioned to breach the Allegheny Mountains and arrive into the Shenandoah Valley from two points more than 100 miles apart. Union Brigadier General Robert H. Milroy’s column marched along the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike from Cheat Mountain and occupied Camp Allegheny, Monterey, McDowell, and Shenandoah Mountain in succession. Retreating before the oncoming Federals, Confederate Brigadier General Edward Johnson pulled back to Westview, six miles west of Staunton. Union soldiers of Brigadier General Jacob D. Cox’s District of Kanawha threatened the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad. By mid-May, the Federals, although ousted from Pearisburg, held Mercer County and braced for a lunge at the railroad. Confederate Brigadier General Humphery Marshall then arrived from Abingdon, Virginia, with the Army of East Kentucky. Boldly seizing the initiative, Marshall bested Cox’s two brigades during three days of fighting centered around the Princeton Courthouse. Breaking contact with the Confederates on the night of May 17-18, Cox withdrew 20 miles to Camp Flat Top. Union Colonel George Crook, commanding Cox’s 3rd brigade, marched via the James and Kanawha Turnpike and occupied Lewisburg, where on May 23, he defeated Brigadier General Henry Heth’s brigade. Upon learning that Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s army had routed Major General N.P. Banks’ division at Winchester on March 25 and driven it across the Potomac River, Crook evacuated Lewisburg and pulled back to Meadow Bluff. The Confederate victory resulted in total casualties of about 129 men, most of whom were Union soldiers.

Maryland Campaign – September 1862

Sometimes referred to as the Antietam Campaign, this series of four battles took place in September 1862 in West Virginia and Maryland. Considered one of the significant turning points in the war, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s goal was to reach the significant Northern states of Maryland and Pennsylvania to threaten the cities of Washington and Baltimore, supply his army from the untouched farms, relieve the habitual fighting in Virginia, and hopefully make such an impact that the end of the war might be negotiated. The campaign resulted in two battles in Maryland — South Mountain and Antietam, and two in West Virginia  — Harpers Ferry and Shepherdstown.

Battle of Charleston – September 13, 1862

The Battle of Charleston was an engagement on September 13, 1862, near Charleston, West Virginia. During the summer of 1862, Confederate General William W. Loring’s Department of Southwestern Virginia made plans to move into the Kanawha Valley of western Virginia and take the city of Charleston. On September 6, 1862, General Loring, with 5,000 men, left Narrows, Virginia, and began to march northwest. The Confederate troops first encountered Union forces near Fayetteville, West Virginia, on September 10 and drove them back toward Charleston. With the Rebels in pursuit of the Union troops, skirmishing took place along both sides of the Kanawha River. By late afternoon on September 13, the Battle for Charleston began and lasted until about 7:30 p.m. The Union forces withdrew across the Kanawha River overnight, and the Confederate forces occupied Charleston. For the next six weeks, Charleston was occupied by the Confederates until October 28, 1862. General Loring’s troops began withdrawing under the threat of 12,000 Union soldiers approaching from the northeast counties. The Union consequently recaptured the city.

Harpers Ferry Arsenal Ruins

Harpers Ferry Arsenal Ruins

Harpers Ferry – September 14-15, 1862

As part of the Confederate Maryland Campaign, the significant Battle of Harpers Ferry took place in Jefferson County on September 14-15, 1862. When General Robert E. Lee learned that the garrison at Harpers Ferry had not retreated after his incursion into Maryland, he decided to surround the force and capture it. On September 12, he divided his army into four columns. Lee selected Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson to lead three columns on an assault on Harpers Ferry. The troops converged upon Harpers Ferry on September 14, taking positions on the heights overlooking the town. As the Confederates bombarded Harpers Ferry, the town was virtually indefensible, was not adequately fortified, and a force twice the size of their own dominated the higher ground on all sides.

On September 15, Union commander Colonel Dixon S. Miles and his troops raised white flags of surrender about 9:00 a.m. Just minutes later, a stray Confederate shell exploded directly behind Colonel Miles, mortally wounding him. Brigadier General Julius White then made the arrangements for the Union surrender. Jackson captured over 12,000 Union troops at Harpers Ferry – the most significant single capture of Federal forces during the entire war. The Confederates also seized 13,000 arms and 47 pieces of artillery. The Confederate victory resulted in total estimated casualties of 12,922. Of the Union, 44 were killed, 173 were wounded, and 12, 419 were captured. The Confederates suffered 39 killed and 247 wounded.

Shepherdstown – September 19-20, 1862

The Battle of Shepherdstown, also called the Battle of Boteler’s Ford, took place during the Maryland Campaign in Jefferson County on September 19-20, 1862. On September 19, a detachment of Union Major General Fitz John Porter’s V Corps pushed across the river at Boteler’s Ford, attacked the Confederate rearguard commanded by Brigadier General William Pendleton, and captured four guns. Early on the 20th, Porter pushed elements of two divisions across the Potomac River to establish a bridgehead. Major General A.P. Hill’s division counterattacked while many Federals were crossing and nearly annihilated the 118th Pennsylvania Regiment, inflicting 269 casualties. This rearguard action discouraged Federal pursuit. On November 7, President Abraham Lincoln relieved Major General George B. McClellan of command because he failed to follow up Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s retreating army. Major General Ambrose E. Burnside then rose to command the Union army. The Confederate victory resulted in total estimated casualties of 625.

Battle of Hurricane Bridge – March 28, 1863

This skirmish between Union and Confederate forces occurred in Putnam County, West Virginia, on March 28, 1863. On March 27, about 500 Confederate troops under Brigadier-General Albert G. Jenkins left from Hamlin, West Virginia, to make their way to Point Pleasant to attack a sizeable federal fort located there. They went on foot because their horses were in North Carolina for the winter. They reached the Hurricane Bridge the next day, where they met the 13th Volunteer Virginia Infantry under Colonel W.R. Brown, who were camped on the west side of the creek. The Rebels then sent a request to Brown to surrender, but the request was declined, resulting in a battle that lasted for the next five hours. The Confederates surrounded the federal troops on three sides and shot down on them from the nearby hills. The Union infantry of about 150 men held their positions until Jenkins withdrew his forces and continued up the Kanawha Valley by way of Hurricane Creek Road. The Union casualties included four dead and three wounded. Confederate General Jenkins left his wounded behind, and these men were captured.

Battle of Bulltown – October 13, 1863

This battle occurred in Braxton County, West Virginia when the Confederates tried to disrupt Federal communications between the Greenbrier and Kanawha Valleys. In the fall of 1863, William Lowther Jackson, the cousin of “Stonewall” Jackson, led a raiding party of 800 men into central West Virginia to capture the strategic “fort” at Bulltown, which overlooked a vital crossing of the Little Kanawha River. The Union garrison at Bulltown included about 400 men, under the command of Captain William Mattingly, who manned a “fort” of makeshift log barricades and shallow trenches. In the early morning hours of October 13, Jackson and his men secretly converged on the fort from two different directions and quickly captured the Federal pickets. They would have taken the entire garrison by surprise, but one Confederate, originally part of the Union, fired his gun and alerted the Union troops. He was then shot and killed. A skirmish then erupted that lasted almost 12 hours, after which Jackson retreated towards the Greenbrier Valley. Casualties were light considering the length of the battle. There were no fatalities on the Union side, but Captain Mattingly was wounded in the thigh, and there were some other slight wounds in the Federal camp. The Confederates lost eight killed and about the same number wounded.

Averell's Raid by Nick Korolev

Averell’s Raid by Nick Korolev

Averell’s Raid on the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad – August-November 1863

Averell’s Raid of August 1863 was the first of three Union cavalry raids launched from West Virginia toward Confederate railroads and troop and supply concentrations in western Virginia during the latter half of 1863. In November, the second raid culminated in a Union victory in the Battle of Droop Mountain, while the third, known as the Salem Raid, took place in December and resulted in the partial destruction of the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad, a vital Confederate communications link.

Battle of White Sulphur Springs – August 26–27, 1863

Part of Averell’s Raid Against the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad, this skirmish occurred in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, on August 26–27, 1863. In August 1863, General William W. Averell and his troops moved through the Shenandoah Valley to destroy bridges on the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad and demolish the Salt Works in Smythe County, Virginia. His force was made up of 1,300 mounted infantry, cavalry, and light artillery. Having crossed the mountains, Averell made his way to West Virginia, where the Confederates had taken over in the southern part of the state. Confederate Colonel George H. Patton and 2,000 troops were on guard, blocking the road at White Sulphur Springs, about 12 miles east of Lewisburg. On August 26, the forces collided, and a battle ensued the next day as Union forces tried to find a weak spot on the Confederate flanks. However, the Union troops failed to break the Confederate line, and on the morning of August 27, with ammunition nearly depleted, Averell decided to retreat to his base. The Confederate victory resulted in 218 Union casualties — 26 killed, 125 wounded, and 67 captured. The Confederate force of 2,000 had 167 casualties, 20 killed, 129 wounded, and 18 missing.

Droop Mountain – November 6, 1863

The Battle of Droop Mountain occurred in Pocahontas County on November 6, 1863. In early November, Union Brigadier Generals William W. Averell and Alfred Napoleon Alexander Duffié embarked on a raid into southwestern Virginia to disrupt the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad.  While Duffié’s column destroyed military property en route, Averell encountered and defeated a Confederate brigade under Brigadier General John Echols at Droop Mountain. The Union columns reunited at Lewisburg the next day but were in no condition to continue their raid. After this battle, Confederate resistance in West Virginia collapsed. The Union victory resulted in estimated casualties of 526.

Jubal A. Early

Jubal A. Early

Early’s Raid and Operations against the B&O Railroad – June-August, 1864

In 1864, Confederate General Robert E. Lee was concerned about Union Major General David Hunter’s advances in the Shenandoah Valley, threatening critical railroad lines and provisions for the Virginia-based Confederate forces. He then sent Jubal Early’s corps to sweep Union forces from the Valley and, if possible, to menace Washington, D.C., hoping to compel General Ulysses S. Grant to dilute his forces against Lee around Petersburg Virginia. Early was operating in the same area that Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson had in his successful 1862 Valley Campaign. Early got off to a good start, driving down the Valley without opposition, bypassing Harpers Ferry, crossing the Potomac River, and advancing into Maryland. However, General Grant dispatched a corps under Horatio G. Wright and other troops under George Crook to reinforce Washington and pursue Early. Several battles were fought in Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C., and one in West Virginia — the Battle of Moorefield.

Moorefield – August 7, 1864

The Battle of Moorefield, also called the Battle of Oldfields, took place in Hardy County on August 7, 1864. While returning to the Shenandoah Valley after burning Chambersburg, Pennsylvania Confederate Brigadier General John McCausland and General Bradley Johnson’s cavalry were surprised at Moorefield on August 7 and routed by pursuing Union cavalry under Brigadier General William W. Averell. This defeat impeded the morale and effectiveness of the Confederate cavalry for the remainder of the 1864 Valley Campaign. The Union victory resulted in total estimated casualties of 531.

Sheridan’s Shenandoah Valley Campaign – August-December 1864

Army of the Potomac

Army of the Potomac

Union General Ulysses S. Grant finally lost patience with Union Major General David Hunter after he “allowed” Confederate General Jubal Early to burn Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Grant knew that Washington D.C. remained vulnerable due to Early’s effectiveness and found a new commander aggressive enough to defeat Early — General Philip Sheridan. Sheridan, who was the cavalry commander of the Army of the Potomac, was then given command of all forces in the area, calling them the Army of the Shenandoah. The campaign resulted in several battles in Virginia and one in West Virginia – the Battle of Smithfield Crossing.

Summit Point – August 21, 1864

The Battle of Summit Point, also called the Battle of Flowing Springs, or the Battle of Cameron’s Depot, occurred in Jefferson County during Sheridan’s Shenandoah Valley Campaign on August 21, 1864. The battle occurred when Union Major General Philip Sheridan concentrated his army near Charles Town. Confederate Lieutenant General Jubal Early and Major General Richard Anderson attacked the Federals with converging columns. General Early moved east via Smithfield against the Union VI Corps, and Anderson struck north against Brigadier General James H. Wilson’s Union cavalry at Summit Point. In addition to cavalry fighting near Berryville, the Federals fought effective delaying actions before withdrawing to near Halltown on the following day. The inconclusive battle resulted in an estimated number of casualties of 1,000.

Smithfield Crossing – August 29, 1864

The Battle of Smithfield Crossing was fought in Jefferson and Berkeley Counties as part of Sheridan’s Shenandoah Valley Campaign on August 29, 1864. Two Confederate infantry divisions crossed Opequon Creek at Smithfield and forced back Brigadier General Wesley Merritt’s Union cavalry division along the road to Charles Town. James Ricketts’s infantry division was brought up to stop the Confederate advance. The inconclusive battle resulted in an estimated 300 casualties.

Kabletown – November 18, 1864

In the final battle in West Virginia, Confederate Captain John S. Mosby defeated outnumbered Union forces under Captain Richard Blazer and his Blazer’s Scouts. The battle resulted in 27 confederate casualties.

Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser-Alexander/Legends of America, updated December 2021.

Union Soldier in West Virginia

Union Soldier in West Virginia

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