- The plan of invasion-northwestern Virginia -- Grafton. Philippi and Rich mountain -- May to July, 1861.
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: (1) From Washington along the Orange & Alexandria railroad toward the Virginia Central, at Gordonsville, threatening the line of communication between Richmond and the western portion of the State; (2) from Fort Monroe up the peninsula 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 Parkersburg 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 Harper'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 convenient for invasion of western Virginia, all under the command of Maj.-Gen. George B. McClellan, with headquarters 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 1,000 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 movement against Grafton, ordered the burning of two important bridges on the branches of the Baltimore & Ohio, northwest and west of Grafton. Considering this an overt 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 followed by an Ohio regiment, while other regiments were ordered to occupy Parkersburg and thence advance on Grafton. 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 daybreak 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 1st of June, two heroic and loyal Virginia ladies rode on horseback 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 discharged 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 surround 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 Northern 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 1 80 cavalry, all undisciplined. The Federal cavalry advance occupied Beverly. The news of the Philippi disaster reached Staunton June 6th, just as reinforcements 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 15th, 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 Parkersburg turnpike, across Rich mountain, to a position at the western foot of that mountain, 7 miles beyond Beverly. Garnett himself pushed forward with Jackson's regiment, two guns, and a company of cavalry, and took possession of Laurel hill, the northeastern extension 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 westerly 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 Lewisburg 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 Ramsey, Garnett made Laurel hill more defensible by blocking 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 control of the Baltimore & Ohio through Virginia, he felt that his force was too weak for aggressive movements against the enemy, reported to him as 2,000 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 person, he had, by July 9th, pushed forward his forces, Gen. W. S. Rosecrans commanding the advance, and concentrated 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 Garnett 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 Confederates. On July 1st, 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 11th, 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 Confederates, to the crest of the mountain, and thence along the crest northeast to gain the gap in the rear of Camp Garnett 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 11, 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, consisting 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 Anderson and from a loyal mountaineer concerning the Federal movement to the left. A note of warning from Garnett 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 companies of infantry to reinforce the guard at the gap. These took position on the north side of the gap, about 1 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, came 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 caisson, 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 De Lagnel, 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 outflanked 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 sustained a brave fight, from 3 p. m. to 6 p. m., with his staunch 310 men of all arms, against over six times his own number, and suffered a loss of nearly one-third of his courageous men, 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 immediate 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 Garnett, 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, continued 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 officers, all agreed that there was nothing left to do but for Tyler to march with his command either to join Garnett at Laurel hill or Scott near Beverly. It was half-past 6 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 Garnett about midnight.  Colonel Scott, with the Forty-fourth Virginia, reached Beverly on the 10th. On the 11th, under conflicting orders from Garnett and Pegram, he marched and countermarched, 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 12th 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 Rosecrans, 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 movement had been unsuccessful, so he ordered his men back to camp, with intention to assault at daybreak next morning. Just as his guns 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 11 p. m. of the 11th, having heard nothing from Pegram, Heck, at the instance of several of his company 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 column, through the pathless forest up and across Rich mountain, in the heavy rain and thick darkness then prevailing. The latter replied that he had reconnoitered the country 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 1 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 northward, from the extreme right of the works, through the Laurel swamps near Roaring creek, then across the rocky and heavily-wooded spurs of Rich mountain, then northeastward 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 sunrise 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 retreated, and Beverly was reached about 11 a. m. After a rest and collecting supplies of quartermaster and commissary 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 continued on across Rich mountain, just before sunset, passing the middle top, which the Federals subsequently fortified and continued to hold, and reaching Greenbrier river at about daylight of the 13th, where he found Governor Letcher, and was met by Col. Edward Johnson,  advancing with the Twelfth Georgia from the east. Hotchkiss and party, learning at Huttonsville that Scott had gone into camp six miles further on, followed after; not finding him there, they went on to the foot of Cheat mountain, which was reached about dark, where they gave up the chase, having already marched 30 miles, since between 1 and 2 a. m., through swamps and forests and across Rich mountain, in drenching rains and mud. They went into camp, putting out pickets from the 75 or more armed men then in the command. Resuming retreat on the 13th, they found the Churchville and Bath cavalry companies and portions of many infantry companies bivouacked on the middle top of Cheat mountain, where they had spent the night. This body of Virginians, who had in various ways escaped capture, although of the rawest kind of soldiery, understood thoroughly the importance of retaining this stronghold against a Federal advance further into the State. The officers present held a conference and delegated Engineer Hotchkiss to go forward to Greenbrier river and urge Governor Letcher to allow them to remain and hold Cheat mountain. To this patriotic request the governor consented, but soon after the envoy left to return to his companions, he was overtaken by orders to abandon the mountain and continue the retreat. Scott's exaggerated idea of McClellan's force and of an energetic pursuit by him, had so impressed Governor Letcher and Colonel Johnson, the latter now in command as the ranking officer present, that a retreat was ordered to the top of Alleghany mountain, where Brig.-Gen. H. R. Jackson, of Georgia, who had been sent to take command, met the army and thence continued the retreat to Monterey, where he established headquarters on the 14th and awaited reinforcements and the return of the remnant of the Laurel hill force from its circuitous retreat through Maryland, and Hardy and Pendleton counties, Va. McClellan, with his advance, reached the Cheat mountain summit at about 3 p.. of the 14th, nearly two days after Scott had passed that point, and about twenty-four hours after the Confederate cavalry, by orders, had reluctantly left it. When Pegram reached the head of the column that had waited for him just north of Camp Garnett, soon after  midnight of the 11th, he continued the retreat and reached the summit of Rich mountain soon after sunrise. The officers present, familiar with the country, urged him to push forward to Beverly; but looking over the valley to the eastward and seeing troops marching along the road in that direction, either Tyler's or Hotchkiss' men, he concluded that Rosecrans had already occupied Beverly (although he did not reach that place until eight hours later), so he overruled the others and spent the whole day wandering along the rough spurs of the eastern slope of Rich mountain toward Laurel hill. Late in the afternoon he allowed Heck to reconnoiter to the road between Beverly and Laurel hill, but he learned nothing of the movements of the enemy. Pegram then marched toward the road, but found the way difficult through the swampy grounds bordering Valley river, which his men waded three times. When near the road, as his column was closing up at about dark, his command was fired into. Instead of pushing boldly forward, he recrossed the river and put his men in line of battle, having heard that the enemy, 3,000 strong, were at Leadsville church, not far from where he had reached the road. Later, he fell back to the foot of Rich mountain, where, at a secluded farmhouse, near midnight, he informed his leading officers that he had concluded to surrender, as he believed it impossible to escape the enemy, which he supposed had nearly surrounded him so he could not cross the valley and get through the mountains to Monterey. Most of the officers appeared to tacitly concur in this view; but Lieutenant-Colonel Heck and Capt. J. B. Moorman, of the Pendleton company, opposed it. The latter, having marched his company across Cheat mountain by the Seneca road, in the vicinity of which they then were, after the Philippi affair, was sure he could safely lead the whole command out that way. Heck urged trying this, considering that better than hunting up some one to surrender to, which could be done later should necessity demand it. Pegram, however, took his own course and sent a messenger to Beverly, some 7 miles distant, with a note to McClellan, saying, that in consequence of the retreat of Garnett and the condition of his command, most of whom had been without food for two days, he desired to surrender his men, as prisoners of war, the next morning. Between 7 and 8 a. m. of the 13th, two of  McClellan's staff and some twenty cavalry brought a note to ‘John Pegram, Esq., styling himself Lieut.-Col. P. A. C. S.,’ saying he would receive his officers and men as prisoners of war, but could not relieve them from any liabilities incurred by taking up arms against the United States. Pegram accepted the terms offered, but when he formed his companies to march to Beverly, he found that Moorman and his forty brave mountaineers had left during the night, taking the Seneca road, as he had proposed. These in due time reached Monterey, as could all of Pegram's command had he boldly pushed forward as Heck and Moorman urged. Pegram surrendered 22 officers and 259 men of Heck's regiment, and 8 officers and 166 men of his own. Returning to General Garnett, we find that late in the afternoon of the 11th a messenger informed him that the Federals were in possession of Rich mountain in Pegram's rear, and by that time were probably in Beverly. It is asserted that this messenger also reported the road blockaded between Beverly and Laurel hill by trees felled across it; which was not true. Threatened by Morris' large force in his front, and, as he supposed, by a large one under McClellan advancing to his rear and occupying his line of retreat to Staunton, Garnett evacuated Laurel hill about midnight, and fell back to Leadsville, about halfway to Beverly, where he took a rough country road, leading northeast by way of New Interest and across Cheat river to Red House, in western Maryland, on the Northwestern turnpike leading from Wheeling across the mountains through Hardy county to Winchester. On the 12th, late in the day, he encamped at Kaylor's ford of Shaver's fork of Cheat river, after a march of some 15 miles from Leadsville, his rear extending back some two miles. He resumed his retreat about 8 a. m. of the 13th, with Taliaferro's and Jackson's regiments, Hansbrough's battalion, a section of Shumaker's battery and a squadron of cavalry in the lead, followed by his baggage train, with the First Georgia, the Twenty-third Virginia, Lanier's section. of artillery, and Captain Jackson's cavalry in the rear. The continuous rains and the passing of the trains cut up the road and made progress slow. Before he could cross Kaylor's ford the enemy fell on his rear. Garnett then rode back, placed the First Georgia in position, and held the enemy in check  until his train had forded the river. The First Georgia then fell behind the Twenty-third Virginia, which in the meantime had taken an advanced position, and that defended the train until the First Georgia formed again, further on. Thus skirmishing and retiring, the retreat was skillfully conducted, without loss, to Carrick's ford of Cheat river, 3 1/2 miles beyond Kaylor's. That ford, wide and deep, was now swollen by recent rains, making the crossing difficult, so that some wagons were stalled and abandoned. This delay enabled the Federals to close up, but Taliaferro's Twenty-seventh Virginia, posted on the high bank on the far side of Cheat river, joined in a lively engagement, known as the battle of Carrick's Ford, in which infantry and artillery engaged from opposite sides of the river, and the Federals were twice driven back, with considerable damage from Lanier's guns. Taliaferro continued to fight until his men had expended nearly all their cartridges and the artillery had been withdrawn, when, believing that the enemy were attempting to turn his flank, he ordered his regiment to retire, which, although it had lost nearly 30 in killed and wounded, it did very reluctantly. He then moved on to the opposite side of the next ford, where he found General Garnett, who directed him to halt his regiment around a nearby protecting turn of the road, and send him. some good riflemen, remarking: ‘This is a good place, behind this driftwood, to post skirmishers.’ Taliaferro sent him a whole company, from which he selected 10 sharpshooters and ordered the others back to the regiment. While posting his command to meet an expected attack, Taliaferro received orders from Garnett to march rapidly and overtake the main body. A few minutes later he was informed, by the officer in charge of his 10 riflemen, that the brave Garnett had been killed by a Federal sharpshooter, firing across the river, just as he was ordering the skirmishers to retire. One of Lanier's guns was disabled in this engagement and abandoned after being spiked. Closely followed by the enemy, Taliaferro fell back 4 miles further to Parsons' ford, the last one of Cheat river to be crossed; a half mile beyond this he overtook the main body, halted there by Garnett's order and drawn up to receive the enemy. After waiting for some time, and no enemy appearing, the retreat was resumed,  now under the command of Colonel Ramsey of the First Georgia, up the Horseshoe run road, marching all night and unmolested, reaching the Red House and the Northwestern turnpike at about daylight of the 14th, and safely passing that danger point of attack from the Federal forces at Cheat river bridge and elsewhere on the Baltimore & Ohio, not far away, which McClellan had ordered, by telegraph, to fall upon Garnett's retreating column. The retreat from Laurel hill was managed so skillfully by General Garnett that Morris did not know he had left until daylight of the 12th. The pursuit was not continued, except by scouts, beyond Cheat river, where his command closed up about 2 p. m. The Confederate loss was small, but it included the brave and skillful Garnett, who was the first officer of rank to lay down his life for his native State. Ramsey continued his retreat on the 14th, followed at some distance in the rear by numerous Federal troops from along the Baltimore & Ohio, which failed to overtake him; crossed Alleghany mountain through Greenland gap; reached the South Branch valley at Petersburg, where the Federal pursuit ended, and thence turned up that valley and arrived at Monterey, 54 miles distant, several days later, with his command thoroughly disorganized but having suffered little loss. McClellan telegraphed to Washington his first report of the battle from his camp in front of Rich mountain, on the 12th, and followed it with other announcements, of which Gen. J. D. Cox has written (Battles and Leaders of the Civil War):
It is a curious task to compare the official narrative with the picture of the campaign and its results, which was then given to the world in the series of proclamations and dispatches of the young general, beginning with his first occupation of the country and ending with his congratulations to his troops, in which he announced that they had ‘annihilated two armies, commanded by educated and experienced soldiers, intrenched in mountain fastnesses fortified at their leisure.’ The country was eager for good news, and took it as literally true. McClellan was the hero of the moment, and when, but a week later, his success was followed by the disaster to McDowell at Bull Run, he seemed pointed out by Providence as the ideal chieftain, who could repair the misfortune and lead our armies to certain victory.On the 16th, leaving a force at Huttonsville and on Cheat mountain, McClellan returned to Beverly and proceeded to reorganize his army.