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the general assembly of Virginia from the Trans- Alle-
ghany section left Richmond, and they presently called a
meeting of the citizens of that region who were opposed
to secession to assemble at Clarksburg. That meeting
issued a call to the Trans-AUeghany counties to send
delegates to a convention to meet at Wheeling on the
13th of May, which convened with so-called representa-
tives from 26 of the 140 counties of Virginia, and issued
a call for an election, on June 4th, of delegates to a
convention "of the State of Virginia," to meet in Wheel-
ing on June nth. It also advised its supporters to vote
at the coming May election against the ordinance of
secession, and at the same time to elect members to the
United States Congress from the three Trans-AUeghany
districts of Virginia.

On April 21st the governor of Virginia, in pursuance of
his call of the 20th, issued the following proclamation :

By virtue of authority vested in the executive by the convention,
I, John Letcher, governor of the commonwealth of Virginia, do
hereby order that each volunteer company, equipped and armed,
whether infantry, artillery or riflemen, in the counties lying west of
the city of Richmond, between Richrnond and the Blue ridge, and
in the valley of Virginia from the county of Rockbridge to the Ten-
nessee line, establish forthwith on the lines of speedy communica-


tion a rendezvous, and hold themselves in readiness for immediate
orders; telegraph or send by express to the executive the names of
captains, number of men, and description of force. It is further
ordered that officers of all grades on the line of the Potomac render
obedience to the orders of Gen. Philip St. George Cocke, who has
been assigned to the command of that section of the military oper-
ations of the State bounded by said river.

Given under my hand as governor, and under the seal of the
commonwealth at Richmond, 21st April, 1861, and in the eighty-
fifth year of the commonwealth.

By the Governor: John Letcher.

George W. Munford, Secretary of the Commonwealth.

On April 24tli tlie convention appointed commission-
ers to meet Vice-President A. H. Stephens, the commis-
sioner of the Confederate States, to formulate an agree-
ment for provisional co-operation in the pending conflict
between the Confederate States and the United States,
and on the 25th it ratified the agreement of these com-
missioners and conditionally adopted the provisional Con-
stitution of the Confederate States. On the ist of
May the convention adopted an ordinance releasing
all officials and citizens of the State from any obligation
to support the Constitution of the United States, and ab-
solving them from all obligations arising from oaths
to support that Constitution. On the same day Governor
Letcher called out the volunteer forces of the State to
resist invasion, and on the 3d issued a call for volunteers.
On the 4th Col. George A. Porterfield was assigned to
the command of the Virginia troops in northwestern Vir-
ginia and directed to establish his headquarters at Grafton,
where the two branches of the Baltimore & Ohio railroad
diverge, the one to Wheeling and the 'other to Parkers-
burg. On the joth Maj.-Gen. R. E. Lee was assigned to
the command of all the Confederate forces serving in

On the 23d of May the Virginia ordinance of secession
was ratified, by a popular vote, by a majority of about
130,000. On the 24th the Federal army at Washington
advanced into Virginia and occupied Arlington heights
and Alexandria, and on the 26th the Federal forces
under General McClellan advanced into northwestern
Virginia and occupied Grafton.


TO JULY, i86i.

THE concentration of troops in the States adjacent to
Virginia, under President Lincoln's call for 75,000
men, indicated very clearly an intention to invade
Virginia from several directions: (i) From Wash-
ington along the Orange & Alexandria railroad toward the
Virginia Central, at Gordonsville, threatening the line of
communication Isetween Richmond and the western -por-
tion of the State ; (2) from Port Monroe up the penin-
sula toward Richmond, and to the same objective by the
James; (3) by way of the Cumberland valley, from
Harrisburg through Chambersburg into the Shenandoah
valley and the adjacent Potomac valleys to the west; (4)
from Ohio into western Virginia, by the line of the Great
Kanawha valley toward Staunton, in the center of the
State, and simultaneously from Wheeling and Parkers-
burg along the Baltimore & Ohio eastward to Grafton,
and thence southeastward, also to Staunton. To meet
these threatened movements, Gen. R. E. Lee, when
Governor Letcher's call for troops was issued, began to
organize opposing columns of defense in the vicinity of
Norfolk, in front of Alexandria and Washington, at Har-
per's Ferry in the Shenandoah valley, at Grafton on the
Baltimore & Ohio, and below Charleston in the Kanawha
valley, with intermediate forces in observation between
these points, thus establishing a cordon around the great
length of the exposed boundaries of the State.

The concentration of Federal troops at points conven-
ient for invasion of western Virginia, all under the com-
mand of Maj. -Gen. George B. McClellan, with headquar-
ters at Cincinnati, and the organization of two Union
regiments at Wheeling and Parkersburg, led to urgent
appeals from the loyal people of Trans-Alleghany, in
response to which General Lee sent trusted officers to



call out and organize militia and volunteers. But the
reports soon received from Col. George D. Porterfield
and Maj. T. M. Boykin from Grafton indicated prevalent
apathy and disloyalty, though General Lee continued
for some time, apparently, to cling to the belief that no
citizen of Virginia would betray her interests. For the
small body of men that Porterfield was able to collect at
Grafton, Lee ordered i,ooo muskets and rifles to Beverly,
and some from Harper's Ferry to Grafton.

Soon after the election upon the ordinance of secession,
Porterfield, being advised of a contemplated Federal move-
ment against Grafton, ordered the burning of two impor-
tant bridges on the branches of the Baltimore & Ohio,
northwest and west of Grafton. Considering this an
overi act of rebellion, for which he had been waiting,
McClellan, on the 26th, ordered Col. B. F. Kelley, of the
Wheeling Union regiment, with his so-called First and
Second Virginia regiments, which contained but few
native Virginians, to move toward Grafton, to be fol-
lowed by an Ohio regiment, while other regiments were
ordered to occupy Parkersburg and ^thence advance on

Porterfield, asking for reinforcements, but receiving
none, held his position until May 28th, with about 550
badly-armed and undisciplined cavalry and infantry, and
then learning of the near approach of Kelley and the
force from Parkersburg, he fell back to Philippi, 15
miles southward. Receiving some slight reinforcements
he went in camp, hoping to return to Grafton and expel
the enemy.

Kelley reached Grafton on the 30th and was soon
followed by General Morris, with an Indiana brigade.
The combined force prepared to make a night march,
in two columns, against Philippi, and attack at day-
break of Monday, June 3d. Each Federal column
consisted of about 1,500 men; one, Dumont's, had also
two smooth-bore 6-pounders. Porterfield 's force was
about 600 infantry and 173 cavalry. On the ist of
June, two heroic and loyal Virginia ladies rode on horse-
back 34 miles, from Fairmont to Philippi, and warned
Porterfield of the Federal movement. The night of the
2d was dark and stormy, and Porterfield's raw troops dis-
charged picket duty so badly and were drawn in so near
to his camp that Dumont's artillery got into position


unobserved, and just after daybreak of the 3d, gave the
first notice of the Federal approach by firing on the little
camp of Virginia troops. Kelley had expected to sur-
round and capture the whole force, but this premature
alarm enabled Porterfield, by the aid of the courageous
companies from Pendleton and Highland, and by cool
and deliberate management, to get off his men in fairly
good order, with only the loss of a few arms and some
camp equipage and supplies, having but one of his men
and a boy who was visiting his camp, wounded. Kelley
himself was seriously wounded, but there were no other
casualties. For lack of cavalry the Federals did not
pursue Porterfield.

The advantage gained by the Federals was an advance
of 20 miles southward, giving better protection to the
Baltimore & Ohio, and forcing Porterfield to retreat
to Beverly, some 30 miles farther, where the turnpike
from Grafton joins the great stage road and highway from
Parkersburg to Staunton. The telegrams to the North-
ern papers claimed that the Virginia force was 2,000 men
and lost 15 killed; and on the assumption that there were
many wounded and prisoners, the affair was exploited
as a very considerable victory, on the strength of which
McClellan mounted the first round of his ladder of fame.
"The Philippi Races," as this campaign was called,
encouraged the Union and depressed the loyal citizens
of northwestern Virginia.

Porterfield continued his retreat across Laurel hill
through Beverly and on to Huttonsville, with about 1,000
men, including 180 cavalry, all undisciplined. The Federal
cavalry advance occupied Beverly. The news of the
Philippi disaster reached Staunton June 6th, just as rein-
forcements with a supply of arms and ammunition, in
charge of Lieut. -Col. J. M. Heck, were about to march
toward him, and Lee promptly urged the war department
to reinforce this expedition with 2,000 additional troops,
artillery, etc. Brig. -Gen. Robert S. Garnett, C. S. A.,
an old army officer, was sent to take command in the
northwest, in the hope that he would inaugurate a more
agreeable state of things and put down the "revolution"
that Porterfield reported.

General Garnett, reaching Huttonsville on the 14th,
organized two regiments from the companies collected ;
one, afterward the Thirty-first Virginia, under command


of Lieut. -Col. William L. Jackson, of Parkersburg, former
lieutenant-governor of Virginia, and the other, later
the Twenty-fifth Virginia, under Lieut. -Col. J. M. Heck,
a prominent lawyer of Morgantown. Leaving three
companies at Huttonsville, under Porterfield, to guard
his line of communication, Garnett made a forced march,
on the night of June isth, with his two regiments and
Rice's New Market battery of four guns, preceded by the
Churchville cavalry, to Beverly, whence he detached
Heck's regiment, two guns and the cavalry by the Par-
kersburg turnpike, across Rich mountain, to a position
at the western foot of that mountain, 7 miles beyond
Beverly. Garnett himself pushed forward with Jack-
son's regiment, two guns, and a company of cavalry, and
took possession of Laurel hill, the northeastern exten-
sion of Rich mountain. Garnett made this strategic
movement because he had learned that the enemy was
advancing from Philippi, presumably to get possession
of the same position which he had thus promptly seized.

Garnett's two intrenched camps were really on the same
mountain range, cut through by Tygart's valley river,
which turns sharply to the northwest some 12 miles
below Beverly. As a whole, this range is the most west-
erly of the Appalachian system. Its occupation enabled
him to cover his base of supplies at Beverly and the lines
of communication from northwest Virginia to Staunton
by way of Huttonsville, from Huttonsville to Lewis-
burg on the Kanawha line, and between these towns to
the Virginia Central railroad at Millboro. He really
held the gates to northwestern Virginia.

Reinforced by the First Georgia under Colonel Ram-
sey, Garnett made Laurel hill more defensible by block-
ing with fallen trees all the country roads from the
northwest; placed Colonel Porterfield in command at
Beverly, with two regiments which he was organizing,
and sent out escorts to collect grain and cattle from the
country in his front, making Beverly a depot of supplies.
Realizing that his chief objective was to again secure con-
trol of the Baltimore & Ohio through Virginia, he felt that
his force was too weak for aggressive movements against
the enemy, reported to him as 12,000 men at Clarksburg,
Grafton, and Cheat river bridge on the railroad, and he
asked General Lee for reinforcements. These so far as
available were promptly ordered to him.


General McClellan, meanwhile, had resolved to push his
forces to Beverly and cut Garnett's line of communication
with Staunton. Reaching the field of operations in per-
son, he had, by July 9th, pushed forward his forces, Gen.
W. S. Rosecrans commanding the advance, and concen-
trated before Rich mountain, where Lieut. -Col. John
Pegram, Twentieth Virginia, was now in command,
some 5, 000 infantry, two batteries and two companies of
cavalry, over 6,000 in all. To oppose this force, there
were 908 men at Rich mountain and 409 at Beverly, of
which 252 were cavalry and 186 artillery. Another force,
under General Morris, threatening Gamett at Laurel
hill, had fully 3,000 men and a battery, besides cavalry,
while Garnett had near 4, 000 of all arms. The opposing
forces contained about twice as many Federals as Con-

On July ist, Garnett called for additional forces, and
Lee informed him, on the 5th, that Col. W. C. Scott,
with the Forty-fourth Virginia, had left on the 2d to join
him, to be followed promptly by Col. Edward Johnson,
with the Twelfth Georgia, and by Col. Stephen Lee,
with the Sixth North Carolina.

About 4 a. m. on the nth, Rosecrans, with his brigade,
which numbered 1,842 infantry and 75 cavalry, ^ began
a flank movement against Pegram, ordering reveille
beaten at the usual hour by those, left in camp; first
marching southward, up the valley of Roaring creek,
thence eastward up a hollow and along a spur of Rich
mountain, southward of the ones occupied by the Confed-
erates, to the crest of the mountain, and thence along the
crest northeast to gain the gap in the rear of Camp Gar-
nett on the road leading to Beverly. By arrangement,
McClellan was to threaten Pegram's front with his other
two brigades and his twelve guns when Rosecrans
attacked the rear, and thus inclosing the Confederates
between two fires, force them to surrender.

Rosecrans found his march a difficult one through the
damp and nearly pathless forest, especially as he made
every effort to conceal his movement, thinking Pegram
would be on the alert because of the alarm in his camp.
A heavy rain set in about 6 a. m., and lasted until about
II, with intermissions, during which the Federal column
pushed steadily and cautiously forward, and then halted
to rest near the top of Rich mountain. The movement


along that crest to the gap was found difficult, and it was
3 p. m. when the Federal advance, covered by deployed
skirmishers, was fired upon by a Confederate picket, con-
sisting of the Rockbridge guards of the Twenty-fifth
Virginia and the Buckingham institute guards of the
Twentieth, which Pegram had sent to the gap very
early in the morning, after hearing from Captain Ander-
son and from a loj^al mountaineer concerning the Federal
movement to the left. A note of warning from Gamett
had given Pegram the idea that his right flank was to
be turned and not his left, but the captain in charge of
the picket sent to the gap shrewdly concluded that the
attack would come from the south, therefore he posted
his men some distance in that direction, in the woods, on
the top of the mountain, beyond the clearing. As the
Federal skirmishers advanced, followed by a line of
battle, they soon, by mere force of numbers, drove the
picket back and followed it through the forest.

During the morning a cavalry sergeant, following
after Rosecrans, missed his way and was captured.
Pegram gathered from him some information about the
flank movement, which induced him to send Maj. J. A.
De Lagnel, of the Confederate States artillery, with a
section of artillery, a company of cavalry and two com-
panies of infantry to reinforce the guard at the gap.
These took position on the north side of the gap, about
I p. m., and threw up some rude breastworks of logs
just in time to meet this Federal advance, about 3 p. m.,
as it emerged from the forest into the clearing, and drive
it back by a bold artillery and infantry fire; the gun
opening upon the enemy with well-directed spherical shot,
firing rapidly. A second advance, of three regiments,
<:ame on again in about twenty minutes. Moving his
gun a little higher up the slope, De Lagnel again opened
at short range with spherical shot, and again forced the
enemy to a hasty retreat, which was followed by shouts
from the Confederates, who confidently believed that
they had gained the day. Rosecrans soon reformed his
men, lengthening his lines, and renewed the attack, his
sharpshooters firing on the artillery horses so that they
ran away down the mountain with the drivers and cais-
son, leaving the gunners only a little ammunition in the
limber box. De Lagnel moved his gun near a small log
stable, a little farther to the right, but by that time the


enemy's fire became so heavy that it rapidly disabled the
artillerists, leaving but few to the gun, when DeLag-
nel, who had had his horse shot under him, gallantly
volunteered in person, and helped to load and fire the gun
three or four times, at laSt with only the help of a boy,
all his artillerists having been killed or wounded. Finally,
receiving a severe wound and finding his command out-
flanked on both sides, he ordered his men to retreat into
the woods and by an old road, to the northward, which
led down the mountain to Beverly, after having sus-
tained a brave fight, from 3 p. m. to 6 p. m. ; ivith his
staunch 310 men of all arms, against over six times his own
number, and buffered a loss of nearly one-third of his cour-
agieous mfen, who had held their position and fought like
veterans until ordered to retreat. De Lagnel, the last to
leave the field, escaped capture and found refuge in the
house of a mountaineer, who, though a Unionist, secretly
cared for him, until he was able to find his way toward
the Confederate lines only to be captured in their imme-
"\diate vicinity.

Moved by the noise of furious battle in his rear, Pegram,
late in the day, took six companies from the right of the
intrenchments at Camp Gamett- and hurried up the
mountain to the scene of action, ordering another gun
of Anderson's battery to follow. Nearing the gap he
found De Lagnel's men in retreat, their gun abandoned,
and the Federals in possession. The runaway horses of
De Lagnel's caisson rushed down the mountain just in
time to meet and overturn the second piece of artillery
on its way up. Maj. Nat Tyler, with five companies of
the Twentieth Virginia and one of the Twenty-fifth, con-
tinued to advance up the road to a good position for an
ambuscade on its north side, about halfway between
Camp Garnett and the gap, which they took to resist
any Federal movement down to the rear of the camp.
Pegram joined this force, and led them, as he reports,
to a position from which to attack the enemy, when, after
a consultation of ofiicers, all agreed that there was noth-
ing left to dd but for Tyler to march with his command
either to join Garnett at Laurel hill or Scott near Beverly.
It was half -past six in the afternoon when this conclusion
was reached, and Tyler retreated and Pegram rode back
through the forest down the mountain, frequently losing
his way, and reached Camp Gamett about midnight.
Va 1


Colonel Scott, with the Forty-fourth Virginia, reached
Beverly on the loth. On the nth, under conflicting
orders from Garnett and Pegram, he marched and coun-
termarched, finally approaching the Rich mountain gap
close enough to hear the victorious cheers of Rosecrans'
men, which persuaded him to fall back toward Beverly,
with intention to join Garnett. By a misunderstanding,
his lieutenant-colonel marched the command toward
Huttonsville, and on receiving information that Garnett
was about to retreat, Scott continued this movement on
the 1 2 th beyond Huttonsville.

While Rosecrans was fighting in the gap, McClellan
drew up his remaining force in line of battle, ready to
assault as soon as he should hear the musketry of Rose-
crans, his engineer meanwhile cutting a road to a knob
south of Camp Garnett, from which his artillery could
enfilade its intrenchments. McClellan waited all day,
but had no word from Rosecrans and heard no firing.
The repeated cheers of the Confederates in the works
before him led him to believe that the flanking move-
ment had been unsuccessful, so he ordered his men back
to camp, with intention to assault at daybreak next
morning. Just as his gfuns were moving into position,
early on the morning of the 12th, Rosecrans marched
down and occupied Camp Garnett, and sent one of his
troopers to notify McClellan. In the camp Rosecrans
captured some 69 officers and privates, some wounded
and others left on picket.

At about II p. m. of the nth, having heard nothing
from Pegram, Heck, at the instance of several of his com-
pany officers, called a council of war, which he informed
of Pegram's orders to hold his position until he heard
from him, which might not be before morning, as he had
determined to attack Rosecrans either that night or in
the morning, and he considered it his duty to remain and
await orders. As these officers were about to return to
their posts, expecting a Federal attack very soon, Pegram
came in, told them what had happened, that he had
decided not to make an attack, and had ordered Tyler to
retreat with the men selected for that purpose. He
then said that, being exhausted by his efforts during
the day and night, and having been injured by being
thrown against a tree by the shying of his horse, he
would remain in camp and surrender; but he directed


Heck to immediately withdraw the small remaining force
from the works and retreat in the direction of Laurel
hill. Heck at once asked Engineer Hotchkiss whether
he thought he could find his way, at the head of the col-
umn, through the pathless forest up and across Rich
mountain, in the heavy rain and thick darkness then pre-
vailingC The latter replied that he had reconnoitered the
^cgmrfry in that direction, and was confident he could find
his way up and across the mountain. Heck then directed
him to lead the retreat, accompanied by Major Reger,
of the Twenty-fifth, he proposing to follow in the rear.
The line of march was promptly taken up at about
I a. m., with Capt. R. D. Lilley's company from Augusta
county in the advance. The pickets were left out to
deceive the enemy. The troops first filed to the north-
ward, from the extreme right of the works, through the
Laurel swamps near Roaring creek, then across the rocky
and hteavily -wooded spurs of Rich mountain, then north-
eastward and eastward toward the crest of the mountain,
which was reached about daylight, when the leaders were
surprised to find that but 70 or 80 men had followed them.
It was subsequently learned that shortly after the retreat
began, Pegram changed his mind and sent word along
the command to halt until he could reach its front. This
word only reached the rear of Lilley's company.

After a conference on the mountaintop, at about sun-
rise of the 12th, it was decided to go to Beverly. The
march was continued down to the old Merritt road, by
which the Churchville cavalry and Tyler's men had
recreated, and Beverly was reached about 11 a. m. After
a rest and collecting supplies of quartermaster and com-
missary stores from the large quantity there abandoned,
the retreat was continued to Huttonsville, gathering up
escaped soldiers, most of them armed, all along the way,
and reaching that place at about 3 p. m., just as the
bridge over Tygart's Valley river, which Scott had fired
some hours before, on his retreat, was about consumed.

Scott, impressed with the idea that McClellan was in
rapid pursuit and would soon fall on his rear, had con-
tinued on across Rich mountain, just before sunset, pass-

Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 5 of 153)