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I took the assistant commissary, and for one regiment I found



164 CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY.

upon his person a requisition for 930 rations ; also a letter indicating
they had very little subsistence. I brought only one prisoner back
with me. The cowardice of the guard (not Arkansan) permitted
the others to escape. Spies had evidently communicated our move-
ments to the enemy. The fort was completed, as reported by the
different prisoners examined separately, and another in process of
construction. We got near enough to see the enemy in the trenches
beyond the abatis. The most of my command behaved admirably.
Some I would prefer to be without upon any expedition.

General Jackson requests me to say that he is in possession of the
first summit of Cheat mountain, and hopes you are doing something
in Tygart's valley, and will retain command of it until he receives
orders from your quarters. My own opinion is, that there is nothing
to be gained by occupying that mountain. It will take a heavy force
to take the pass, and at a heavy loss. I knew the enemy had four
times my force ; but for the abatis we would .have made the assault.
We cotdd not get to them to make it. The general says in his note
to me, his occupying Cheat mountain may bring on an engagement,
but he is prepared, and will whip them if they come. I see from the

fostscript that he requests his note to me to be enclosed to you.
can only say that all human power could do toward success in my
expedition failed of success. The taking of the picket looked like a
providential interposition. I took the first one myself, being at the
bead of the column when I got to the road.

General Lee held his positions in Tygart's valley on the
12th and 13th and during a portion of the 14th, awaiting
information from Rust, which he received through the
preceding letter, on the morning of the 14th, after which
he issued the following special order :

Camp on Valley River, Va., September 14, 1861.
The forced reconnoissance of the enemy's positions, both at Cheat
mountain pass and on Valley river, having been completed, and the
character of the natural approaches and the nature of the artificial
defenses exposed, the army of the Northwest will resume its former
position at such time and m such manner as General Loring shall
direct, and continue its preparations for fmlher operations. The
commanding general experienced much gratification at the cheerful-
ness and alacrity displayed by the troops in this arduous operation.
The promptitude with which they surmounted every difficulty, driv-
ing in and capturing the enemy's 'pickets on the fronts examined
and exhibiting ^that readiness for attack, gives assurance of victory
when a fit opportunity offers.

R. E. Lee, General Commanding.

Gen. A. L. Long, in his Memoirs, referring to Colonel
Rust's attack of September 12th, writes:

It was anxiously expected from early dawn throughout the day.
On every side was continuously heard, "What has become of Rust?"
"Why don't he attack?" "Rust must have lost his way!" The
Tennesseeans under Anderson became so impatient that they re-
quested to be led to the attack without waiting for Rust. But Ander-
son thought that he must be governed by the letter of his instruc-



CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY. 165

tions, and declined granting the request of his men. . . . Anderson
and Donelson, finding that their situation was becoming critical,
being liable to discovery and being between two superior forces,
rejoined Loring on the 13th.

Colonel Rust's letter to General Loring plainly shows
(notwithstanding the fact that he had himself, after an
examination of the Federal position on Cheat mountain,
advised General Lee to make the attack, as planned, and
had requested, as a personal favor, that he might lead it
with his own regiment and such other troops as might be
assigned to him) that his courage failed him when he
came in sight of the fortifications on Cheat mountain,
and that he, unwisely, "took counsel of his fears" by giv-
ing heed to the exaggerated statements of the Federal
prisoners, and did not even make an effort to attack, or an
attempt to carry the position by assault. He makes no men-
tion of having gained the road in the rear of the Federal
position, or of having had an engagement there, as Colonel
Kimball reports, which first revealed his presence. The
meager Federal reports clearly indicate that his move-
ment had not been discovered ; that his presence was a
complete surprise, and that if he had made a bold assault
at the appointed time, he would, undoubtedly, have
captured the Federal stronghold, and that the combined
attack that would then have been made on the Elkwater
camp would have completely routed the rest of the Federal
army and given to General Lee's able plan of campaign
a great victory — one that would have yielded most im-
portant results in northwestern Virginia, changed the
condition of State affairs in that direction, and had a
most important bearing upon subsequent military oper-
ations. The very men then led by Rust, later on assaulted
and captured far more formidable works.

After issuing his special order of September 14th, Gen-
eral Lee returned to Valley mountain, and the two wings
of the army of the Northwest returned to their previous
encampments. Although deeply mortified at the failure
of his campaign. General Lee did not complain of those
who were the cause of it ; then, as afterward, when cam-
paigns upon a grander scale were partial failures, he
either said nothing, or assumed that he himself was
responsible for results.

From Valley mountain, on the 17th of September, he
wrote to Governor Letcher:



166 CONFEDERA TE MILITARY HISTORY.

I was very sanguine of taking the enemy's works on last Thurs-
day morning. I had considered the subject well. With great
eSort the troops intended for the surprise had reached their desti-
nation, having traversed zo miles of steep, rugged mountain paths,
and the last day through a terrible storm, which lasted all night and
in which they had to stand drenched to the skin in the cold rain.
Still, their spirits were good. When the morning broke, I could see
the enemy's tents on Valley river at the point on the Huttonsville
road just below me. It was a tempting sight. We waited for the
attack on Cheat mountain, which was to be the signal, till lo a. m. ;
the men (Federals) were cleaning their unserviceable arms. But
the signal did not come. All chance for surprise was gone. The
provisions of the men had been destroyed the preceding day by the
storm. They had nothing to eat that morning, could not hold out
another day, and were obliged to be withdrawn. The party sent to
Cheat mountain to take that in the rear had also to be withdrawn.
The attack to come oS from the east side failed from the difficulties
of the way ; the opportunity was lost and our plan discovered. It is
a grievous disappointment to me, I assure you. But for the rain-
storm I have no doubt but that it would have succeeded. This,
Governor, is for your own eye. Please do not speak of it; we must
try again.

Our greatest loss is the death of my dear friend. Colonel Washing-
ton. He and my son were reconnoitering the front of the enemy.
They came unawares upon a concealed party, who fired upon them
within 20 yards, and the colonel fell pierced by three balls. My
son's horse received three shots, but he escaped on the colonel's
horse. His zeal for the cause to which he had devoted himself car-
ried him, I fear, too far.

We took some 70 prisoners and killed some 25 or 30 of the enemy.
Our loss was small besides what I have mentioned. Our present
difficulty is the roads. It has been raining in these mountains about
six weeks. It is impossible to get along. It is that which has par-
alyzed all our efforts.

This "forced reconnoissance" made known to General
Lee that only Reynolds' brigade was in Loring's front,
and that Rosecrans had stolen away with the larger part
of his command. When he returned to Valley mountain,
on the 15th of September, he had report from Floyd of
the engagement at Carnifax Ferry, on the 10th, and learn-
ed what had become of Rosecrans. Apprehen&ive that
the bickerings of Floyd and Wise on the Kanawha line
would lead to further disasters, now that Rosecrans had
added his force to that of Cox, Lee left Valley mountain,
about the 19th, and hastened to that line by way of Mar-
linton and Lewisburg.

On the 14th, Loring made demonstrations on Reynolds
at Elkwater, then, late in the day, retired to Conrad's at
Valley Head, where he halted during the isth, hoping
that the enemy would follow and attack him. As he did



CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY. 167

not come, Loring marched late that night toward his old
camp at Valley mountain, which he reached early in the
morning of the i6th. Jackson remained in front of the
Cheat mountain redoubt on the 14th and 15th, threaten-
ing to attack, especially on the 15 th, when he made a
demonstration on the Federal left ; after which, at night,
he returned to his Greenbrier river camp.

Shortly after General Lee left Valley mountain he sent
back orders to Loring to send reinforcements to Floyd.
Loring was very ill, and the doctor would not allow him
to be disturbed. A council of brigade and regimental
commanders was called, that decided that the army
should march at once for the relief of Floyd, leaving
Gilham's brigade to cover the movement and take care
of the 1,500 sick that were then in and near the camp.
The march began promptly, and Gilham addressed him-
self to the hard task of removing the sick, the stores and
his brigade equipage to Huntersville over nearly impass-
able roads. The division quartermaster failed to furnish
sufficient transpbrtation before the Federals appeared,
the last of September, in full force, in his front and drove
in his pickets. He made dispositions to repel an attack
during a torrent-like downpour of rain. Early the next
morning Gilham retired from Valley mountain toward
Huntersville, taking his remaining sick and such stores
as he had transportation for and destrojring the remain-
der. The Federals did not follow.

After the withdrawal of the larger part of the army of
the Northwest to the Kanawha line, the opposing forces
on the Staunton-Beverly line remained quiet, mainly
because of the condition of the almost impassable roads
and of the constant rains; the Federal forces in their
Cheat mountain and Elkwater fortifications, and at Hut-
tonsville and Beverly on their line of communication
toward Grafton; and the Monterey division of the Con-
federate forces at Camp Bartow, on the Staunton and
Parkersburg turnpike, in the valley of the Greenbrier,
12 miles east from the Federal fortress on Cheat
mountain, and on the Huntersville and Beverly line at
Valley mountain, with detachments on the road to its
base of supplies at Millboro depot.

The portion of the army of the Northwest left on the
line leading to Beverly was in command of Brig. -Gen.
Henry R, Jackson, with headquarters at Camp Bartow.



168 CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY.

The force at that camp consisted of the Third Arkansas,
the First and Twelfth Georgia, the Twenty-third, Thirty-
first and Forty-fourth Virginia regiments, the Twenty-
- fifth and Ninth Virginia battalions, the Virginia batteries
of Shumaker and Anderson, and Sterrett's Churchville,
Va., cavalry; while in its rear, near the summit of
Alleghany mountain, guarding its flank and line of com-
munication to Staunton, was the Fifty-second Virginia,
under Col. John B. Baldwin. The morning report of
October 2d showed that this command had about 1,800
men for duty. The left of General Jackson's command,
on the Huntersville and Beverly line, was composed of
the Twenty-first Virginia, under Col. William Gilham,
located at Valley mountain and guarding that approach
to Huntersville, with the Thirty-seventh Virginia, under
Col. S. V. Fulkerson, in his rear guarding the line of
communication to Millboro depot and Jackson's left flank.

At midnight of October 2d, Brig.-Gen. J. J. Reynolds, j
with 5,000, Federal troops of all arms, marched from his
Cheat mountain fortress along the Staunton and Parkers-
burn turnpike to make, as the Federal commander t
reports, "an armed reconnoissance of the enemy's
position on Greenbrier river 12 miles in advance."
His force was composed of nine regiments of Ohio and
Indiana infantry, two and a half batteries of artillery, and
three companies of cavalry, all with four days' cooked '
rations in their haversacks. The numbers of the attack-
ing column and the provision of rations indicate, very
clearly, that the object in view was more than a mere
reconnoissance. The leader was doubtless fully informed
as to the numbers and disposition of the opposing Con-
federate forces, and knew that a large portion of the army
of the Northwest had been withdrawn to the Kanawha
line. It was, evidently, his intention to attempt to
drive the Confederates from Camp Bartow and pursue ^
them toward Staunton, and thus secure for himself an ,
advanced position for better winter quarters, either on
Alleghany mountain or farther to the east, and get in
more direct communication with the Federal force in the '
valley of the South Branch of the Potomac; or, having 1
driven the Confederates from their partially constructed
works and which they were actively engaged in com-
pleting, to move down the Greenbrier and fall upon the
rear of Fulkerson and Gilham, on the Huntersville line,



CONFEDERA TE MILITARY HISTORY. 169

and so open that route for an advance from Tygart's val-
ley to threaten the Virginia Central railroad.

About daylight of the 3d, the Federal advance, a whole
regiment, drove in the Confederate pickets near the
eastern foot of Cheat mountain and followed them across
the valley of the Greenbrier to within a mile of Camp
Bartow, where it encountered, at about 7 a. m.,.the grand
guard of about 100 men, under Col. Edward Johnson, of
the Twelfth Georgia, admirably posted. This small
force stubbornly resisted and held the Federals in check
for nearly an hour, and did not yield its position until
Reynolds deployed a second regiment to move on its
right flank and opened six guns on its left ; it then with-
drew, still skirmishing, in good order, to the main line.
This well-managed skirmish, the opening of a brilliant
career for its then unknown commander, dampened the
ardor of the Federal advance, but encouraged the small
Confederate force which had it in full view from the line
of its intrenchments on the foot of the western slope of
the Alleghany mountain, and aroused their enthusiasm
as they repeatedly cheered its successful resistance.

The Confederate intrenchments, which were in process
of construction but as yet very incomplete, fronted the
south fork of the Greenbrier, on each side of the Staun-
ton and Parkersburg turnpike as that descends the western
slope of Alleghany mountain to Yeager's, a wayside inn
on the bank of the river. The center of this position
was held by the brigade of Col. William B. Taliaferro,
consisting of his Twenty-third Virginia, Col. William C.
Scott's Forty-fourth Virginia, the Twenty-fifth Virginia
battalion under Capt. John C. Higginbotham, and Shu-
maker's battery of four guns, one of these under Rice.
At about 8 a. m., Reynolds deployed in front of this center
a large body of infantry with two batteries, and opened on
Taliaferro with a vigorous and persistent artillery fire.
As this produced no effect except to draw a sharp and
well-directed reply from Shumaker's guns, Reynolds, at
about 9 :3o, moved a strong column from the woods, in
which his main body was concealed, to turn Jackson's
left. This column crossed the narrow valley and the
shallow South Fork and a saulted the Confederate left,
under Colonel Rust, who held it with his Third Arkansas,
Col. William L. Jackson's Thirty-first Virginia, the Ninth
Virginia battalion under Capt. J. A. Robertson, and



170 CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY.

Anderson's two field g^ns. These met the assault from
their intrenchments along the road leading to Green
Bank, and drove it back in confusion and with loss.
Two Federal guns opened spitefully upon Rust after this,
but met with a vigorous response from Anderson.

While keeping up this artillery fire upon the Confed-
erate left and center, Reynolds organized an assault, with
the larger portion of his command, upon the Confederate
right, which was held by Col. Edward Johnson with his
First Georgia, Col. J. N. Ramsey's Twelfth Georgia,
and Capt. F. F. Sterrett's Churchville, Va., cavalry.
Watching this movement as it defiled along the edge of
the woods on the steep hill bordering the west bank of
the river, in his front, Jackson directed Johnson to
advance the Twelfth Georgia regiment to the immediate
bank of the South Fork, to reinforce its line of skirmish-
ers which was engaged in a desultory fire which har-
assed the Federal column as it advanced ; these having
the advantage of position opened a galling fire on the
enemy. At the same time Shumaker opened two of his
guns on the woods, through which the Federal column
was advancing, with such effect, as General Jackson
reports, "that in a short time the unmistakable evidence
of their rout became apparent. Distinctly could their
officers be heard, with words of mingled command,
remonstrance and entreaty, attempting to rally their bat-
talions into line and to bring them to the charge ; but
they could not be induced to reform their broken ranks,
nor to emerge from the cover of the woods in the direc-
tion of our fire. Rapidly and in disorder they returned
into the turnpike, and soon thereafter the entire force of
the enemy — artillery, infantry and cavalry — retreated in
confusion along the road and adjacent fields, leaving
behind them, at different points, numbers of their killed,
guns, knapsacks, canteens, etc. Among other trophies
taken was a stand of United States colors." This
engagement lasted from 7 in the morning to 2 130 in the
afternoon. The Confederate loss was 6 killed, 33
wounded and 13 missing; an aggregate of 52. The
Federal loss was 8 killed and 36 wounded ; an aggregate
of 43. Colonel Baldwin with the Fifty-second, who had
been ordered from the rear, came up with his command
just at the close of the engagement.

General Reynolds says in his report: "We disabled



CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY. 171

three of the enemy's guns, made a thorough reconnois-
sance, and, after having fully atid successfully accom-
plished the object of this expedition, retired leisurely and
in good order to Cheat mountain, arriving at sundown,
having marched 24 miles and been under the enemy's
fire four hours. The enemy's force was about 9,000,
and we distinctly saw heavy reinforcements of in-
fantry and artillery arrive while we were in front
of the works. " Reynolds did not disable any of the Con-
federate guns. A ball stuck in one of them so it could
not be rammed down, and that was retired. Captain
Shumaker managed his guns with rare skill. They were
without the protection of epaulements, so he constantly
shifted them whenever the enemy obtained their range
and when he could employ them to more advantage in
firing on the Federal column, as his guns were all of
short range, while most of theirs were of long range.

The secretary of war, under date of October 12th,
wrote to General Jackson: "I congratulate both yourself
and the officers and men under ybur command for your
brilliant conduct on this occasion and your successful
defense of the important position held by you against a
force so superior. The President joins me in the
expression of the satisfaction we both feel in finding our
confidence in you and your command so fully justified. ' '

On the 30th of September the Confederate force under
Colonel Gilham evacuated Valley mountain, and on
October 2d took position on Elk mountain, where it
remained until after the battle of Greenbrier River.
After that it fell back to Marlin's bottom (now Marlin-
ton), on the Greenbrier, where it threw up fortifications
and remained until late in November, when that portion
of the army of the Northwest, with the exception of the
cavalry left at Huntersville, was withdrawn and sent to
Winchester, to Gen. T. J. Jackson, who had, on the 4th of
November, assumed command of the Valley district,
which embraced Alleghany mountain.

On the 2 1 St of November, Gen. H. R. Jackson evacuated
Camp Bartow and retired to the summit of Alleghany
mountain, leaving only cavalry at Camp Bartow to scout
the enemy's front. On the 2 2d, from his camp on the
mountain. General Jackson ordered Col. Edward John-
son, of the Twelfth Georgia, to take command of the gar-
rison on the summit of the mountain, to consist of the



172 CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY.

Twelfth Georgia, the Thirty-first, Fifty-second and
Twenty-fifth Virginia regiments and the Ninth Virginia
battalion, Flournoy's company of Virginia cavalry, and
Anderson's and Miller's Virginia batteries, and at once
entering upon the duties of his command, take "the
necessary steps to insure the safety and comfort of his
troops." The Forty- fourth Virginia and a section of
Rice's battery, located on the road to Monterey, were
made part of his command. Previous to that time, on
the 1 8th of October, General Jackson had ordered the
construction of huts on the top of Alleghany mountain
within lines of fortification, laid out under the direction
of Lieut. -Col. Seth M. Barton, of the Third Arkansas.
These were gladly occupied by Johnson's men, who had
been suffering from the inclemency of the season. The
same orders directed Col. William B. Taliaferro to take
command at Monterey with the First Georgia, the Third
Arkansas and the Twenty-third and Thirty -seventh Vir-
ginia, with cavalry to scout down the branches of the
Potomac toward Petersburg and Moorefield.

At about the time of the withdrawal of the Confederate
troops to Alleghany mountain. General Reynolds resigned
the command of the Cheat Mountain district of the Fed-
eral army to Brig. -Gen. R. H. Milroy. At about the
same time General Kelley was placed in command of the
Baltimore & Ohio railroad district, and with a Federal
force moved up the South Branch valley and took pos-
session of Romney, thus threatening the line of commu-
nication from Alleghany mountain to Staunton, since
Monterey, in that valley and on that line, was but
70 miles, by a good road, from Romney. Kelley asked
McClellan for 10,000 men, saying that with these he
could go up the South Branch valley and, falling on the
rebels, "utterly destroyed their whole force at Mon-
terey and Greenbrier. ' ' Pierpoint, the bogus governor of
Virginia, also urged the same thing, saying that a com-
bined movement by Reynolds and Kelley would "bag all
the rebels on Cheat mountain." (He meant Alleghany
mountain; being mixed in his geography.)

Ambitious of winning reputation on the line to Staunton
on which his predecessor had signally failed at Greenbrier
river, Milroy, without waiting for co-operation with Kel-
ley, and doubtless informed, through his numerous trait-
orous West Virginia spies and deserters from the army of



CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY. 173

the Northwest, that the larger portion of the Confeder-
ate force which had been on the line of the Greenbrier
had been withdrawn toward Staunton, and that there
only remained the small brigade of Col. Edward Johnson
on the summit of Alleghany mountain, 14 miles east
from the Greenbrier river and about the same dis-
tance west from Monterey, planned an attack upon John-
son, who was now left in command. Gen. H. R. Jackson
having been relieved ; and for this purpose collected all
the troops in his district, from Belington, Beverly, Hut-
tonsville and Elkwater, and joined them with those at
Cheat mountain, making a command of about 5,000 men
of all arms. With these he marched from Cheat mount-
ain fortress very early in the morning of December 12th
to attack Camp Alleghany.

On that same 12th of December, Colonel Johnson
sent out a scouting party of 106 men under Maj. J. D. H.
Ross, of the Fifty-second Virginia, with instructions to
ambuscade a point on the turnpike beyond Camp Bartow,
and, if possible, by a demonstration with a few of his
men, draw the Federals into it. His pickets were near
Slaven's cabin, near the top of the eastern Cheat mount-
ain, when Milroy's advance appeared. These retired
and drew that into the ambuscade, where it received a
deadly volley from Ross' command. Milroy at once



Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 17 of 153)