About 2:30 PM on July 11, the Federal column encountered enemy skirmishers on top of Rich Mountain. The surprised Confederate outpost at the pass took cover behind rocks and trees, and with the help of their one cannon, held off the Federal attack for over two hours. But badly outnumbered, they eventually gave way, and General Rosecrans' troops took possession of the field.
On the morning of July 12, General Rosecrans' entered the abandoned Camp Garnett from the rear, and sent word to General McClellan that the enemy had been routed. General McClellan promptly sent a telegram to Washington claiming a great victory. This communication secured McClellan's reputation as a winning general and led to his appointment as commander of the Army of the Potomac.
Except for scattered raids, the area, and its vital railway, was lost to the Confederacy for the rest of the war. Two years after the Battle of Rich Mountain, the State of West Virginia was admitted to the Union.
First-Person Information Sources: Includes several sources that have been posted in our Authentic Campaigner Event Folder, and consolidated here:
Rebels at the Gate - By Hunter Lesser - Click
FROM HARPER'S WEEKLY
JULY 27, 1861
Illustration Courtesy of Son of the South Civil War Site.
THE BATTLE OF RICH MOUNTAIN
A brilliant battle, resulting in a complete success, signalized the opening of the campaign of General McClellan in Western Virginia. It occurred on Thursday afternoon at Rich Mountain, where a force of 2000 rebels were strongly entrenched under Colonel Pegram. The official dispatch of General McClellan to the War Department, dated from Rich Mountain, states that he dispatched Brigadier-General Rosecrans, a young and able West Point officer of engineers, with four regiments of Ohio and Indiana troops, as an advance-body, through the mountains from Roaring Rum, a distance of eight miles, over which route they had to cut their way through the woods. After a march of nearly twelve hours, General Rosecrans came on the rear of the rebels, and, after a desperate fight of an hour and a half, completely routed them, driving them in the utmost disorder into the woods, and capturing all their guns, wagons, and camp equipage, or, as General McClellan says, "all they had." They also took several prisoners, many officers among them. Sixty of the rebels were killed, and a large number wounded. Of the Union troops twenty were killed and forty wounded. General McClellan had his guns mounted to command the rebel's position, but he found that the gallantry of Rosecrans spared him the trouble of going into action.
SURRENDER OF PEGRAM
A dispatch was received at Washington from General McClellan a few hours after the receipt of the news of the above battle, containing intelligence of the proposal of Colonel Pegram to surrender his whole force, who are represented as being quite penitent, and resolved never to serve again against the Federal Government. The following is General McClellan's dispatch:
BEVERLY, VA., JULY
"I have received from Colonel Pegram propositions for his surrender, with his officers and the remnant of his command, say 600 men. They are said to be extremely penitent, and determined never again to take up arms against the General Government. 1 shall have near 900 or 1000 prisoners to take care of when Colonel Pegram comes in. The latest accounts make the loss of the rebels in killed some 150." G. B. McCLELLAN, Major-General Department of Ohio.
ROUT OF GARNETT'S CORPS D'ARMEE
The rebel forces, under General Robert S. Garnett, a native of Virginia, and formerly a Major in the United States Army, while retreating from Laurel Hill to St. George, were overtaken on Sunday by General Morris, with the Fourteenth Ohio and the Seventh and Ninth Indiana regiments. When within eight miles of St. George, at a place called Carrick's Ford, the rebels made a stand, a brisk fight ensued, and they were completely routed and scattered by the troops of General Morris. While General Garnett was attempting to rally his men he was struck through the spine with a rifle ball, and fell dead on the road. Two hundred of the rebels are said to have been killed in the recent actions in this quarter, a large number wounded, and more prisoners secured than their captors can take care of. The flight of the rebels is represented as a most disastrous rout.
WABASH INDIANA WEEKLY INTELLIGENCER
JULY 25, 1861
Wabash Boys Wounded (Provided By Mark Jaeger)
Our Wabash boys [of Company E, "Relief Company No. 1," 8th Indiana Volunteer Infantry] were in the midst of the late battle at Rich Mountain. They stood fire like vet[e]rans[,] fought like heroes and lost not a man! The following brave fellows were however wounded. Read More...