Two Views of the Battle of Rich Mountain

Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan assumed command of Union forces in western Virginia in June 1861. On June 27, he moved his divisions from Clarksburg south against Lt. Col. John Pegram’s Confederates, reaching the vicinity of Rich Mountain on July 9.

Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. T.A. Morris’s Union brigade marched from Philippi to confront Brig. Gen. R.S. Garnett’s command at Laurel Hill. On July 11, Brig. Gen. William S. Rosecrans led a reinforced brigade by a mountain path to seize the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike in Pegram’s rear.

A sharp two-hour fight ensued in which the Confederates were split in two. Half escaped to Beverly, but Pegram and the others surrendered on July 13.

Hearing of Pegram’s defeat, Garnett abandoned Laurel Hill. The Federals pursued, and, during fighting at Corrick’s Ford on July 13, Garnett was killed. On July 22, McClellan was ordered to Washington, and Rosecrans assumed command of Union forces in western Virginia.

Union victory at Rich Mountain was instrumental in propelling McClellan to command of the Army of the Potomac.

Battle of Rich Mountain

The enemy had been at work for about one month on the fortification at the foot of the mountain, and it seems to me that it was almost impregnable. However, the German regiments in reconnoitring went straight up to the work, and some climbed up on it before the enemy were aware of it. They were fired on and one man killed.

The rebels had been capturing and impressing Union men for some time. Some were put into the ranks and others were set to work. My brother, together with some thirty others, were put in the Beverly jail and made to shell corn. Jennings and Kiddy, two Union men, were set to work on the road with balls chained to their legs.

When the fight commenced I felt very queer – the hair seemed to stand up all over me; but after the first firing I wished for a gun, and wanted to pitch in.

Seven of our men were killed in the battle, four have dies since, and there are from twelve to fifteen wounded.

I found three horses tied in the woods; I took them; they are very fine horses. Our boys were scouring the woods when I left, bringing in dead and prisoners. We buried their dead.

Collection: The Civil War
Publication: The New York Herald
Date: July 19, 1861
Title: Battle of Rich Mountain

Sketch of the site of the operations of the 10th, 11th, and 12th, July 1861, at Rich Mountain.

Sketch of the site of the operations of the 10th, 11th, and 12th, July 1861, at Rich Mountain.

Our Richmond Correspondence

The news, which has kept the public mind of Richmond in a state of fermentation for two or three days past, of the disaster to a part of Garland command at Rich Mountain, near Laurel Hill, has not yet been confirmed in its details.

The only facts ascertained are those telegraphed to THE MERCURY on Sunday night – that is, that some three or four companies, or about three hundred men, under Lieut. Col. Pegram, had been killed, wounded and taken prisoners, and Pegram wounded by a large force of some thousands of McClelland army at Rich Mountain.

It is not yet known what became of Col. Scott, with his six or seven hundred men, who were within a few hundred yards of the engagement, but who did not participate in it. It is supposed he retreated in the direction of Gen. Garnett main body. It is said Gen. Garnett, with twelve thousand men, was falling back towards the southwest pass, in the Alleghany Mountains.

In the battle at Rich Mountain, the enemy appears to have suffered in killed and wounded more than our force did, though the exact number of loss on either side is not positively known. but the result is our defeat and the loss of our strategic line.

Collection: The Civil War
Publication: The Charleston Mercury
Date: July 19, 1861
Title: Our Richmond Correspondence

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