Clement Anselm Evans.

Confederate military history; a library of Confederate States history online

. (page 16 of 153)
Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 16 of 153)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


and Stanley's Virginia batteries of artillery. Colonels
Gilham and Lee were at Valley mountain, 28 miles west
of Huntersville, with their two regiments, and Col. J. S.
Burks' Forty-second Virginia and a Georgia regiment
were en route from Millboro to Huntersville. The effect-
ive force on the Huntersville line was about 8,500 men,
most excellent material for an efficient army, as they
were all well armed and well equipped by the respective
States that had sent them to the field. Most of them
were skilled in the use of arms, as they had received
military instruction in the volunteer companies which
had been organized into regiments of State troops.
Many of their officers were trained men, and all were in
fine spirits and eager to be led against the enemy. It
was obvious to all who were informed in reference to the
position of the enemy, the intervening country, and the
season of the year, that the success of the proposed move-
ment depended altogether upon its speedy execution.

■ General Loring had a trained staff, most of them old
army officers, competent to expedite military operations.
The point of vantage in the advance was already
occupied by Colonel Gilham, and yet, to the surprise of
every one, Loring lingered at Huntersville, giving his
attention to establishing there a depot of supplies and to
organizing a supply train, ignoring the facts that it was
only two days' march to the enemy's position near Hut-

' tonsville ; that beef cattle were abundant along the line

of advance, and that so soon as Huttonsville should be

.reached, the road over Cheat mountain would be opened,

if that position were captured, and supplies could be sent

from Staunton over the Parkersburg turnpike.

The unsatisfactory results of military operations in
northwestern Virginia and the constant appeals from the
leading men of that region to be rid of Federal domina-



CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY. 155

tion, induced Gen. R. E. Lee, the Confederate general-
in-chief, to take the field in person and give general
oversight to military affairs on the Kanawha and Bev-
erly lines, by each of which Federal armies were over-
running a large and important portion of Virginia and
persistently pressing toward Staunton and the center of
the State. He first gave attention to the Beverly line.
Reaching Staunton the last of July, accompanied by his
aides, Col. John Augustine Washington and Capt. Wal-
ter H. Taylor, lie promptly rode forward, 47 miles, to
Monterey, where he spent a day conferring with Gen.
H. R. Jackson and inspecting the troops there encamped,
and then rode on to Huntersville, which he reached the
ist of August. At that point he remained for several
days, conferring with General Loring, and, in his polite,
suggestive way, urging him to advance on the enemy by
way of Valley mountain. Not succeeding in this, or in gain-
ing the information he desired in reference to the enemy
in Tygart's valley, he again rode forward, 28 miles, to
Valley mountain, at the head of Tygart's valley, which
had been occupied by Colonel Gilham's command for over
a week, and there established his headquarters on the 8th
of August. Maj. W. H. F. Lee accompanied him with
his battalion of cavalry, which was at once put on out-
post duty. Without delay. General Lee hastened to in-
form himself, by personal reconnoissances and through
scouts, concerning the condition of affairs in the Federal
army in his front and the topographic conditions of the
immediate field of action ; at the same time taking gen-
eral oversight of operations on the Kanawha line'by con-
stant correspondence with Generals Wise and Floyd, who
were there in command.

General Loring joined General Lee at Valley mountain
about the 1 2th of August, and as he was in immediate
command of the troops on the Monterey line and on the
Huntersville line, which formed his division, he also pro-
ceeded to inform himself concerning the field of oper-
ations, and addressed himself to the task of preparing to
dislodge Reynolds, the capable Federal commander, from
his strongholds at Elk wate r and on Cheat mountain, by
bringing^s men to the front and gathering supplies for
an advance. His hesitating disposition led to delays, for
one purpose and another, but he was completely baffled
by the prevailing conditions of the weather. The Cheat



156 CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY.

mountain region, the dome of the watersheds of north-
western Virginia, covered by a vast an^~ dense forest of
large evergreen trees, reaches an altitude of nearly s^pocL^
feet, so that, naturally, it is at all times a damp and chilly
region having a large rainfall. During this particular
season the precipitation was very much larger than usual.
During most of the months of July and August there
was a steady downpour of rain, with intervals of heavy
mists. In consequence of these climatic conditions, the
whole country became saturated with moisture, and even
tlje graded mountain roads, cut up by the constant pass-
ing of heavy army trains, were converted into streams of
a?i:le-deep mud, making them practically impassable for
vehicles of any kind. The many unbridged streams,
swollen by these steady rains, added to the difficulties of
transportation. This continuous damp and chilly weather
caused a great amount of sickness of every kind among \
the thousands of unseasoned troops here congregated,
until nearly half the army was laid up, in poorly pro- \
vided hospitals, and the mortality from sickness became i
very large. Nearly every house in all this sparsely set-
tled country was converted into a hospital, and hospital
tents, filled with sick men, were pitched all along the
roads to the rear of the armies. Supply trains could not
reach the camps, and so for weeks the army was on short J
and poor rations, and the men, many of them from cities \
and towns, and most of them unused to exposure and
accustomed to all the comforts of good homes, were here
forced to pass through an ordeal more trying than that of
constant fighting; but they bore all this with uncom-
plaining courage, wondering why they were not led
to action when they could see, from their camps, those
of the enemy but a day's march away. On the ist of
September the weather conditions changed, and the dry
and hot weather of the early autumn succeeded, with
storms at intervals, but the roads became drier so the
army could be concentrated and supplies for a few days
ahead be gathered at the camps.

The topographical engineer of the army, Capt. Jed
Hotchkiss, having completed a detailed map of Tygart's
valley, from Valley mountain to Huttonsville, and other |
arrangements perfected, Loring at last yielded to Lee's /
urgency for an advance, and on the 8th of September
issued confidential orders for a simultaneous movement



CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY. 157

by the Huntersville line on the enemy's camp at Elk-
water, some 1 6 miles in front of Valley mountain, and by
the Monterey line on that on Cheat mountain, some 12
miles from the Confederate camp on Greenbrier river.
The two Federal camps were about 7 miles apart by a
bridle path, and 17 miles by the circuitous turnpike roads.
Before divulging his plan of campaign. General Loring
(doubtless by the advice of General Lee, who knew the
advantages of organization), on the 8th of September
issued general orders No. 10, brigading the army of the
Northwest as follows : The First brigade, under Brig. -

- Gen. H. R. Jackson, to consist of the Twelfth Georgia,
Third Arkansas, Thirty-first and Fifty-second Virginia,
the Ninth Virginia battalion, the DanAdlle, Va. , artillery,
and Jackson, Va., cavalry; the Second brigade, under
.Brig. -Gen. S. R. Anderson, to consist of the First, Sev-
enth and Fourteenth Tennessee, Hampden artillery
and Alexander's cavalry; the Third brigade, under

-Brig. -Gen. D. S. Donelson, to consist of the Eighth
and Sixteenth Tennessee, the First and Fourteenth
Georgia, and the Greenbrier, Va., cavalry; the Fourth

■ brigade, under Col. William Gilham, to consist of the
Twenty-first Virginia, Sixth North Carolina, First bat-
talion of Confederate States provisional army, and
the Troup artillery; the Fifth brigade, under Col.

• William B. Taliaferro, to consist of the Twenty-third,
Twenty-fifth, Thirty-seventh and Forty-fourth Virginia,
and Rice's and the Lee Virginia batteries; the Sixth

. brigade, under Col. J. S. Burks, to consist of the Forty-
second and Forty-eighth Virginia and Lee's Virginia
cavalry. A section of the Hampden artillery was
assigned to the Third brigade, and one from the
Troup artillery to the Sixth brigade, for field service.
Of these six brigades, the Second, Third, Fourth and
Sixth formed the Huntersville division, under the
immediate command of General Loring ; while the First
and Fifth formed the Monterey division, under the imme-
diate command of Gen. H. R. Jackson, the command of
his own brigade devolving on Col. Albert Rust, of the
Third Arkansas.

The Federal force in front of Loring at this time was

, the "First brigade of the army of Occupation of West
Virginia," commanded by Brig. -Gen. Joseph J. Rey-
nolds, with headquarters at Elkwater. The official



158 CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY.

returns for October, 1861, give this brigade, pres-
ent for duty, 377 officers, 10,421 men, and 26 pieces
of artillery, stationed at Beverly, Elkwater and Cheat
mountain. There are no official returns of the Confed-
erate strength. Long, who was in s. position to know, in
his Memoirs of R. E. Lee, states that Loring's force was
6,000 and Jackson's 5,000; and that Reynolds had 2,000
in front of Jackson and 5,000 in front of Loring. So the ,
opposing armies were about equal in strength, were both
led by old army officers, and composed of the choice men »
of each nation. The Federals had the great advantage .
of fighting from behind well-located and properly-con-
structed fortifications, and were in comfortable camps. '
On the 8th of September, General Lee communicated,
confidentially, his plan of campaign for the capture of the
Federal positions in his front, to begin the night of Sep-
tember I ith and be carried into effect by assault on the
Cheat mountain fortress and attack on Elkwater camp
on the morning of the 12th. General Reynolds' head- ^
quarters and most of his force were at Elkwater, 2,200 ,
feet above tide, 11 miles due north from Loring's
headquarters and the camp of the larger part of his force,
at Valley mountain. It was 8 miles due east from the
Elkwater camp to that on Cheat mountain, and about
the same distance by a very direct bridle path, for most
of the way; but it was 17 miles between the two by turn-
pike roads to the rear by way of Huttonsville. From
Loring's camp at Valley mountain, 3,500 feet above the '
sea level, it was 15 miles northeast, in a direct line' across
numerous ridges of the densely forested Cheat mountain
chain, to Jackson's camp on the Greenbrier, 3,000 feet 1
above tide, on the Monterey line. By the nearest wagon
road bet^ween the two wings of the Confederate army it
was nearly 30 miles, by the rear, toward Huntersville ;
and by the shortest line of communication, by bridle '
paths, it was fully 20 miles between the two camps. A
single road, the Staunton and Parkersburg turnpike, led
from Jackson's camp some 14 miles westward to the Fed-
eral camp on Cheat mountain. Two good roads led from
the front of Loring's camp to the Federal intrenched
camp at Elkwater. One of these, the turnpike to Hut-
tonsville, followed the Tygart valley river; the other, j
after crossing a divide to the westward, led down the Elk-
watei- branch of Valley river to the Federal camp at its'^



CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY. 159

mouth. By connected farm roads and bridle paths, there
was a continuous route for infantry along or near a bench
of fertile limestone land that shouldered out from the
western side of the western Cheat mountain, by which,
unobserved, the turnpike road from Monterey to Hut-
tonsville could be reached on the top of that mountain,
and communication cut between the two wings of the
Federal army, some 3 miles west of the Cheat mount-
ain fortress. These several ways of approach regulated
the Confederate plan for a simultaneous attack.

Lee's first objective was the capture of the Federal gar-
rison on the middle Cheat mountain, some 4,000 feet
above the sea level. To effect this, Jackson was ordered
to march an assaulting column of at least 2,000 men un-
der Col. Albert Rust, of the Third Arkansas (who had
asked to lead it, after an examination of the position), on
the night of the nth, along the turnpike to the first top
of Cheat or Back Alleghany mountain, and then, at Sla-
ven's cabin, turn to the left, by paths and through the
forest and across the Main or Shaver fork of Cheat river,
so as to turn the right of the Federal position and attack
it, if possible, by surprise, and carry it by assault at
dawn of the 12th. Jackson in person, with the remain-
der of his command, except a guard left at his camp, was
to follow Rust, during the night of the nth, and after
the latter had left the turnpike to continue along that to
the front of the Federal position, and be ready to make
a demonstration or join in the attack when Rust should
make his assault on the morning of the 12th. If the
assault should be successful, Jackson was to leave a force
to hold the captured redoubt, and, with the remainder of
his army, press on to join in the attack on the left rear of
the Elkwater position. The men were all to be provided
with strips of white cotton cloth, to be fastened on the
arm as badges, so they could recognize and not' fire on
each other when the attacking columns converged in co-
operation.

The co-operating force under Loring was also to move
on the nth. General Anderson, with his brigade in light
marching order, was to march along the byways and
bridle paths on the western slope of Cheat mountain,
carefully concealing his movements, during that day and
the following night, so as to get possession of the turn-
pike, on the western top of Cheat mountain, at about



160 CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY.

daylight of the 1 2th, cut the telegraph wire connecting
the Federal camps, break the line of communication,
and so dispose of his men as to keep back reinforce-
ments from the Elkwater camp; guard against attack
from the fort, and aid in the assault of Rust's column, if
necessary, on the Cheat mountain stronghold. He was
especially charged to so regulate and conceal his move-
ments as not to interfere with the surprise of the enemy
by Colonel Rust, with whose left he would seek connec-
tion. His route, zo or more miles in length, was a diffi-
cult one, but he was well guided by Dr. Butcher, a loyal
practicing physician, who knew that region well. His
home was at Huttonsville, and he had retired with the
Confederate forces after the battle of Rich Mountain.

General Donelson, with his brigade, was to advance by
byways along the eastern side of Tygart's valley and the
foot of Cheat mountain, seizing the paths and roads lead-
ing to the turnpike from that direction, and driving back
any endeavor of the enemy to retard the advance of the
center along the turnpike. Such of the artillery as could
not be used on the flanks was to follow the turnpike, sup-
ported by Munford's battalion and followed by part of
Gilham's brigade. The brigade of Colonel Burks was to
march across to the Elkwater road and follow that, as the
left wing of the advance, guarding that flank, having
Lee's cavalry on its flank and rear and ready to make an
attack on the enemy's outposts if opportunity should
offer. The supply trains were to follow along the main
road. On the 9th General Jackson issued orders from
Greenbrier river that the brigades of Rust and Fulkerson
should draw four days' rations of salt meat and hard
bread ; similar orders were issued by Loring.

After the plan of campaign had been adopted and the
date for its inception been fixed. General Lee from
■ 'Headquarters of the Forces," Valley mountain, W. Va.,
September 9, 1861, issued the following stirring special
order :

The forward movement announced to the army of the Northwest
in special orders, No. 28, from its headquarters, of this date, gives
the general commanding the opportunity of exhorting the troops to
keep steadily in view the great principles for which they contend,
and to manifest to the world their determination to maintain them.
The eyes of the country are upon you. The safety of your homes
and the lives of all you hold dear depend upon your courage and
exertions. Let each man resolve to be victorious, and that the right
of self-government, liberty and peace shall in him find a defender.
The progress of this army must be forward.



CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY. 161

On the 9th, General Lee wrote confidentially to Gen.
John B. Floyd, commanding the army of the Kanawha:

Great efforts have been made to place this column in marching
condition. Although the roads are continuous tracks of mud, in
which the wagons plunge to their axles, I hope the forces can be
united, with a few days' supply of provisions, so as to move forward
on Thursday, the 12th instant. I therefore advise you of the probabil-
ity that on your part you may be prepared to take advantage of it,
and if circumstances render it advisable, to act on your side.

On the 8th, Reynolds sent a strong detachment to recon-
noiter Loring's front and learn what was going on in his
camp. In the early morning of the gth these encount-
ered Loring's pickets, 4 miles in his front at Mar-
shall's store, in a lively skirmish, in which several were
killed on both sides. The Federals then retired to Con-
rad's store, where a large advance guard was established.

On the morning of the nth, Lee's forward movement
began by the successive marching of Loring's four col-
umns, as provided in the plan of attack. The central
column, that moving down by the Huttonsville turn-
pike, which Lee and Loring accompanied, routed the
Federal outpost at Conrad's store, some 8 miles in front.
The Federal pickets fell back toward Elkwater, contend-
ing all the way with Loring's advance.

Jackson's men marched that night, and all the prelimi-
nary movements of the campaign were promptly and
admirably executed, notwithstanding the rough topogra-
phy and other difiiculties of the various lines of march
and the cold and heavy rain that began during the night,
which not only increased the darkness, in the remarka-
bly dense forest through which Rust had to make his
way, but swelled the cold waters of the many tributaries
of Cheat river, and that river itself, which his column
had to cross and even to march in. Each of the co-oper-
ating commands was at its appointed place before the
-dawn of September 12th, and the enemy had not discov-
ered their movements. Generals Lee and Loring, with
the brigades of Gilham and Burks and the artillery and
cavalry, were in the near front and on the right of the
Elkwater camp; Donelson had gained its left and left
rear, capturing a regiment there on picket guarding that
flank and the way to Cheat mountain ; Anderson was on
the turnpike, on the western top of Cheat, had cut the
telegraph, and was in position to block the coming of
reinforcements from Elkwater, or an attack from the
Ta 11



162 CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY.

Cheat mountain fort; Rust had overcome the almost
insurmountable difficulties of his march through the for-
est, which his men had courageously endured, and had
his command in front of the right of the Cheat mountain
fortress, on the same ridge, and in the road in its rear,
and was ready for the assault ; while Jackson was in posi-
tion near Cheat river, in the immediate front of the
frowning redoubts. AH were anxiously awaiting the
opening of the iire of Rust's assault as the signal for a
general attack, but the dawn came and passed, and no
sound was heard from Cheat mountain.

Early on the morning of the 1 2th, Col. Nathan Kimball,
of the Fourteenth Indiana, who was in command of the
Federals on Cheat mountain, started a supply wagon
train toward the Elkwater camp. About three-quarters
of a mile from his camp, that train was attacked by the
left of Rust's command, which had gained his rear. In-
formed of this, Kimball at once took two companies to
drive away the attacking party, supposing it to be merely
a scout. He deployed his men as skirmishers, and they
advanced and developed the presence of Rust in force.
Kimball claims that his force, by a vigorous fire, drove
away the Confederates, who "threw aside guns, clothing
and everything that impeded their progress." At the
same time Kimball sent forward a strong detail to open
the way to his picket on the path leading to Elkwater,
which, without his knowing it, had been cut off by
Anderson. This detail met Anderson's force, on the
western Cheat mountain, nearly 3 miles from the Fed-
eral camp and joined in an engagement which, Kimball
claims, drove the Confederates back, aided by the picket
which had been cut off but now came up and attacked
Anderson's rear.

At this juncture Kimball was informed that the Con-
federates were in his front, to the east of his camp, and
had captured a picket of 35 men ; and that his two com-
panies that had attacked Rust's left were driving him to
the Federal right flank. Kimball then advanced a strong
force from his front to move up Cheat river and fall on
Rust's right, 2 miles above the bridge, which he says
forced Rust to retreat. Kimball claimed that he was
attacked by nearly 5,500 men, which he engaged and re-
pulsed with less than 300. His report of the 14th con-
cludes: "I think my men have done wonders, and ask



CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY. 163

God to bless them. The woods are literally covered with
the baggage, coats and haversacks of the enemy. Though
almost naked, my command is ready to move forward."
Reynolds, who had been taken by surprise by Lee's ad-
vance, says in his official report: "So matters rested at
dark on the 1 2th, with heavy forces in front and in plain
sight of both posts, communication cut off, and the supply
train for the mountains loaded with provisions that were
needed."

Colonel Rust, at 10 p. m. of September 13th, wrote to
General Loring from Camp Bartow, to which he had
returned, in obedience to undated instructions from Gen.
H. R. Jackson, which read :

Dear Colonel: Return into camp with your command. So soon
as you arrive, address a letter to General Loring, explaining the fail-
ure and the reasons of it Show this to Captain Neill, quartermaster,
and let him at once furnish an express ready to take your letter by
the near route. If possible, get the postmaster, Mr. Arbogast, to go,
and go rapidly and at once. Say in your letter that I am in posses-
sion of the first summit of Cheat mountain, and in hopes of some-
thing going on in Tygart's valley, and shall retain command of it
until I receive orders from headquarters. It may bring on an
engagement, but I am prepared, and shall whip them if they come.

P. S. — I cannot write here. Enclose this scrawl in your own letter.
You had better return yourself at once to camp, leaving your com-
mand to follow. We had several skirmishes yesterday and killed
several of the enemy.

It appears, from this letter, that General Jackson wrote
it on the morning of the 13th, after hearing from Rust
of the failure of his movement ; that Rust, on receipt of
it, returned to his old camp, followed by his command,
which probably reached there some time during the
night of the 13th. Rust's letter to Loring reads:

The expedition against Cheat mountain failed. My command con-
sisted of between 1,500 and 1,600 men. Got there at the appointed
time, notwithstanding the rain. Seized a number of their pickets
and scouts. Learned from them that the enemy was between 4,000 and
5,000 strong, and they reported them to be strongly fortified. Upon a
reconnoissance, their representations were fully corroborated — a fort
or block-house on the point or elbow of the road, intrenchments on
the south, and outside of the intrenchments and all around up to the
road heavy and impassable abatis, if enemy were not behind them.
Colonel Barton, my lieutenant-colonel and all the field officers de-
clared it would be madness to make an attack. We learned from
the prisoners they were aware of your movements, and had been tele-
graphed for rei&torcements, and I heard three pieces of artillery pass
down toward your encampment while we were seeking to make an
assault upon them.



Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 16 of 153)