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In the early days of the American Civil War, control of transportation routes through western Virginia was a strategic goal of both Union and Confederate planners.

Following their hasty retreat from Philippi in June of 1861, Confederate troops under the command of Col. Robert S. Garnett fortified two key passes. The more southerly of these, Camp Garnett, consisted of earth and log entrenchments overlooking the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike at Rich Mountain, just west of Beverly.

Major General George B. McClellan, charged with securing the loyal counties of western Virginia and protecting the area's vital B & O railroad for the Union, brought over 5000 troops and 8 cannons to Roaring Creek Flats, about 2 miles west of the Camp Garnett entrenchments.
Confederate Lt. Col. John Pegram was in command of Camp Garnett with about 1,300 men and 4 cannons. He sent a small party to protect his rear at the Joseph Hart homestead at the pass where the Pike crossed the summit of Rich Mountain. On the morning of July 11, the force at the pass consisted of 310 men and one cannon.

Meanwhile in the Union camp, General McClellan was hesitant to make a frontal attack on Camp Garnett Joseph Hart's 22-year-old son, David, (Pictured, Right. Click on image to see a larger version) volunteered to lead a flank attack to the summit.

In the early morning of July 11, Brigadier General William S. Rosecrans with almost 2,000 men, set out with young Hart up the mountain. They struggled through the dense woods, delayed by missed directions and drenched by rain.

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.

Colonel Pegram, realizing that the enemy was in his rear, ordered the withdrawal of his remaining forces from Camp Garnett during the night.

Camp Garnett was a large Confederate earthworks, that covered the western approaches of the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike to the base of Rich Mountain.

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.

The Confederates were forced to give up their works at Laurel Hill, and fought a disastrous retreat eastward to Corrick's Ford and across the Allegheny wilderness. Later, fighting at Cheat Summit prevented any serious Rebel comeback, and battles in the Kanawha Valley claimed even more territory for the Wheeling government. The Federals retained control of most of northwestern Virginia.

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:

1) Rebels at the Gate - By Hunter Lesser - Click Here to order.
2) Rich Mountain Revisited - By Dallas B.Shaffer -
Click Here to read article.
3) Yanks From the South - By Fritz Haselberger - Contact the Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation at (304) 637-7424 to order.
4) 25th Virginia Regimental History - Contact the Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation at (304) 637-7424 to order.
5) 25th Virginia - Basic Information - The Upshur Grays -
Click Here.
6) Letter from the 15th Indiana Volunteer Infantry - From Mark Jaeger -
Click Here.
7) 10th Indiana From April 1861, to Rich Mountain - From Mark Jaeger -
Click Here.
8) 10th Indiana Quartermaster Reports - Provided By Mark Jaeger -
Click Here.
9) 13th Indiana Letter - Provided By Mark Jaeger -
Click Here.
10) General Information About the Western Virginia Campaign -
Click Here.


RICH MOUNTAIN STATISTICS
ARMY
EFFECTIVES
CASUALTIES
FEDERAL
9,000
46
CONFEDERATE
4,585
300
TOTAL
13,585
346

Jedediah Hotchkiss - Click Here For Article

Because of his self-taught mapmaking skills, he made a unique contribution to the Confederate military effort. A transplanted New Yorker, Hotchkiss became the most famous of Confederate topographers. In 1861 he gave up teaching and offered his services as a map maker to General Robert S. Garnett in western Virginia. He drew maps for Garnett before the battle of Rich Mountain in July 1861 and witnessed the Confederate defeat there.


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:

"HEAD-QUARTERS, BEVERLY, VA., JULY 13, 1861."
Colonel E. D. Townsend, Washington, D. C.

"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...


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The 2006 event portion of the Rich Mountain web site was designed by Eric Tipton