Rich mountain in 1861.
[from the Richmond Dispatch of November 17 and December 3, 1899.]
An account of that memorable campaign and how General Garnett was killed.
History of the occurrences
Of May 10th, 11th, and 12th—Taliaferro Succeeds to command after the fall of Garnett
—Incidents of the report by Dr. Henry M. Price
, Company K, 44th Virginia Volunteers, with corrections and additional particulars by C. T. Allen
, formerly of Lunenburg county, Va.
At the request of many old comrades, and through your courtesy, I will try to give your readers a true history of the occurrences of the 10th, 11th, and 12th of May, 1861, culminating in the tragic death of General Garnett
, and the loss of West Virginia
to the State
and the Confederacy
No campaign has been more misunderstood, nor more misrepresented, both North and South than this.
On the evening of the 10th of July, 1861, the Forty-fourth Virginia Volunteers, commanded by Colonel William C. Scott
, of Powhatan
, reached Beverley
, Randolph county
, and encamped at the base of Rich mountain
, just beyond, in the road crossing that mountain, on which, six miles beyond, General Pegram
held position, having 300 men, known as the ‘College Boys,’ entrenched on the summit of the mountain three miles off, and 900 with himself.
had 800, rank and file, and six pieces of artillery.
At Laurel Hill
), nine miles beyond Beverley
, General Garnett
's 15,000 with 2,000 men, composed of Colonel William C. Taliaferro
's brigade, the Thirty-first Virginia (West Virginia
), under Colonel Jackson
, and the First Georgia, under Colonel Ramsey
was attempting to hold four detached positions against McClellan
's united force of over three to one.
On the night of the 10th your correspondent was thrown out at the extreme picket on Rich mountain
, with orders from Captain Shelton
, of Louisa
, officer of the day, to scout out if anything unusual occurred, and find out its nature and report to him on rounds to the posts.
About midnight a movement of the enemy was discovered opening and cutting a way 'round Pegram
's position in the direction of the entrenched position held by the ‘College Boys.’
This was duly reported and a courier sent to General Garnett
At daylight of July 11h an order came to Scott
to immediately join Garnett
at Laurel Hill
When within three miles of that position an order came to countermarch double quick ‘to the forks of the road on Rich mountain
, some half a mile from the entrenched “College boys,” and hold the position to the last man.’
The position was reached about 1 P. M., and almost immediately the enemy— 5,000 strong—made an attack on the position of the ‘College Boys.’
A more gallant fight than these brave boys put up against overwhelming odds was never made.
They stood firm as the rocky base of the mountain beneath them, until the last round of ammunition was exhausted, and then, only then, scattered amid the forest.
The men of the Forty-fourth were held, under General Garnett
's positive order, as idle witnesses almost, of these brave boys' defeat—stern men crying in agony to be led in to their help, even almost to mutiny.
There never has been a doubt in our minds, if we had united with the boys the 1,100, and twelve pieces of artillery, would have checked, if not defeated, the ‘Buckeye Braggarts,’ as we did successively four times thereafter.
On that day, wrought to reckless frenzy, we might have been annihilated, but never defeated!
Almost with the close of the fight, an order came from General Garnett
to fall back to Huttonsville
, twelve miles from Beverley
, and he would join us there, concentrate, and give McClellan
We had nearly reached Huttonsville
, when there came another order from Garnett
for us to return to Beverley
, where he would join us, and fight there next day. Midnight of the 11th of July found us, after marching and countermarching all day, drawn up in the streets of Beverley
, waiting Garnett
, our last march made amid a thunder-storm and downpour of rain seldom witnessed.
As we stood in rank, wet to the skin, there came a last order from Garnett
‘to take the prisoners from the jail and fall rapidly back to Monterey
, where he would join us by way of Hardy
and the South Branch
of the Potomac
This was done, Colonel Scott
ordering your correspondent to remain at the log cabin, just out of Beverly
, to direct stragglers from the fight on Rich mountain
on the line of retreat.
This he did, remaining until the Yankee
cavalry appeared, approaching Beverley
from the direction of Laurel Hill
, on the morning of the 12th of July, then rejoining the regiment late in the evening of that charge at Cheat mountain
It is evident that, as the turnpike road was open for the Yankee
cavalry, it was equally open for Garnett
to have joined Scott
, and retreat that way to Cheat mountain
and entrench there, as the enemy did afterwards.
At ‘Travellers' Rest,’ on Greenbrier river
, near dark of the 12th, we met the 12th Georgia, under Colonel Edward Johnson
, who fell in line after us, and continued retreat over the Alleghany
About midnight, 'mid inky darkness, at a long angle in the road, our prisoners, held in the front, broke away, and the fire of the guard striking our rear, led us to think we were being attacked by ‘bushwhackers,’ and the fire was promptly returned, leading the front to the same idea.
Then for some minutes the front and rear continued fiercely firing, the flash of our Springfield
muskets illuminating the visible darkness, the men, almost to a man, remaining resolutely firm and cool, as comrades fell around and the shrieks of the wounded pierced the darkness 'round.
Had Mrs. Susan Pendleton Lee
been an eye-witness of this scene, she would hardly have written, ‘These men were totally demoralized.’
On the evening of the 13th we rested for the night, and on the 14th of July reached Monterey
and encamped, awaiting Garnett
's forces to join us. Pegram
, cut off by
this mismanagement, was compelled to surrender the force with him to McClellan
commenced to retreat on the night of the 11th of July, with McClellan
in pursuit, who overtook him at Cannick's Ford, over Cheat river
concluded to make a stand to check the enemy's advance.
A line of battle was formed of Taliaferro
's regiment and the 1st Georgia, with the 31st Virginia (West Virginia
) thrown out as a skirmish line and sharpshooters along the banks of the river.
rode up to Lieutenant-Colonel Pat Duffy
, of Braxton Courthouse, in charge of the skirmish line, and called for twelve men. On reaching the stream he ordered eleven back, and himself and one man, Zack Tillman
, of Lewis county
, continued to the middle of the river.
ordered ten men back, who, thinking the General
A volley from the enemy riddled Garnett
It fell into the stream.
brought out safely the General
The body was recovered by McClellan
and sent home by way of Washington
On the fall of Garnett
, Colonel Taliaferro
assumed command, and speedily checked the enemy's advance, and his force safely reached Monterey
a few days after.
The entire force were detained a month at this place by measles of a virulent type which deciminated our ranks.
On the 15th of August we advanced to Traveller's Rest, on the Greenbrier
, to hold the Parkersburg turnpike
, and prevent any advance from Cheat mountain
, General Henry R. Jackson
, of Georgia
, being in command.
We had been reinforced by the 1st Arkansas, Colonel Rusk
, and Fulkerson
's southwest Virginia
Early on the morning of the 2d of September, Millroy
, with 5,000 men and his field guns, crossed the bridge over the Greenbrier
to drive in our pickets and attack our entrenched camp.
Our pickets, 120 strong, taking the laurel on the side of the mountain, held their advance for three hours, making an unequalled fight of this character.
The 1st Arkansas, Taliaferro
's regiment, and the 44th Virginia held the entrenchments, the latter being on the left at the extreme point of the ridge, near the enemy and under our own battery and in line of fire of the enemy's. The 1st and 12th Georgians formed line of battle on the banks of the river to check the enemy's crossing.
The ridge, on our left, was held by the 31st Virginia (West Virginia
) and Fulkerson
Millroy from crossing to attack the entrenchments, the battle culminated into an artillery duel of three hours duration, when the enemy fell back.
During this artillery duel the writer witnessed as cool a piece of daring as he saw but once after during the war. He was lying down in his place in the trench at the extreme point, near the enemy's battery and directly beneath our own, in line of the direct fire.
The next man to to the left of him was private Robert Blackburn
, the present postmaster of Antioch, Va.
, who was sitting up, a twelve pound shell fell in the trench between us, its firing, hissing fuse rapidly burning, predicating death or wounds to all in that part of the trench.
There was no time for me to rise and throw it out, so I exclaimed, as it fell: ‘Throw her out, Bob.’
Instantly he seized it and hurled it over the bank of trench, and it scarcely rolled twenty feet before it exploded.
Here was a fair specimen of our demoralization, so curtly mentioned in Mrs. Lee
(afterward General) Edward Johnson
paid the men the compliment to say, ‘They were as immobile under fire as a parcel of tarrapins on a sandbar.’
Soon after this General Robert E. Lee
, then in command in West Virginia
, when he planned an attack on Cheat mountain
from the west, called for 2,500 volunteers from this force to storm the entrenchments from the east.
He got them, and they marched to position at midnight, awaiting all day for the signal guns from the west side —that never came.
could not have deemed them suffering much from demoralization.
Late in the fall our forces fell back to the top of the Alleghany
for winter quarters, Colonel Edward Johnson
On the night of the 25th of December, the enemy, 5,000 strong, under Millroy
, made a night march in a snowstorm to surprise us. Our pickets, on the turnpike road up the mountain, were bayoneted, rolled up in their blankets, asleep on their posts.
Our men were round their camp-fires, cooking breakfast; the ‘Buckeyes’ suddenly appeared, firing into them.
Surprised and overpowered by such numbers, our men scattered in disorder, falling back some thousand yards and halted.
, in his night-clothes, slippers and overcoat—for there was no time left to dress—put himself at their head, with an ‘old grub’ picked up, and charged the enemy, our force growing at each step by the surprised men. For a short time it was
a hand-to-hand fight at close quarters.
Gradually the enemy gave back; then faster and faster, finally flying in total rout along and down the mountain side.
All things considered, this was one of the most remarkable victories gained during the war. General Loring
having assumed command, on hearing that Fremont
was ascending the East Branch
of the Potomac
with 10,000 men to cut him off at McDowell
, slowly fell back to the Cow Pasture mountain
, to protect Staunton
About midnight of the 6th of May, Stonewall Jackson
, marching rapidly from the Shenandoah Valley with a part of his small force, joined us and at once ordered us ‘to go back to Mc-Dowell’ and fight, but whip the enemy.
We reached the vicinity of McDowell
, where Freemont had united with Millroy
, about 2 P. M. of the 8th of May.
We at once formed line of battle on the ridge above, the centre being held by the 44th and 21st Virginia and the 12th Georgia regiments.
Upon this attack, after attack was made to break it. The fight stubbornly continued until night, when the enemy were totally routed by a general charge and their camp, stores, etc., taken.
From this date this command became part of Stonewall Jackson
's famous foot cavalry—present in every fight up to his lamented death.
They formed part of the force of General Edward Johnson
, cut off at the Bloody Angle
, and furnished the principal part of the six hundred officers—the martyrs of Morris's Island
and Fort Pulaski
-many of them food for the sharks of Charleston harbor
or their bodies decaying amid the boggy marshes round Fort Pulaski
At the former places—held by negro troops, late slaves—their ration was two ounces of bread, washed down with a pint of Cayenne
Captain James M. Hughes
, Company K, 44th Virginia, who resides near Scottsville, Va.
, says he owes his life to a negro—Corporal Triner
—who, taking a fancy to him, daily brought him battercakes, hid beneath his shirt bosom.
His brother, Lieutenant John Hughes
, less fortunate, and many others, were reduced to skeletons, under the agony of starvation from a stimulated appetite goaded by the beverage given.
The few who at last, in the very jaws of death, returned home were walking skeletons, whom even their friends failed to recognize.
If any one desires to hear the terrible torments suffered by these victims of a diabolical cruelty without parallel, even in the world's darkest pages, let them call upon Captain James M. Hughes
, as brave and true a soldier as marched to the tune of Dixie beneath the Stars and Bars, and as the unbidden ear of memory rises in his
fearless eye, he will a tale unfold that will damn the authors of this diabolical scheme and consign them to eternal obliquity of the blackest pages of the world's eternal history.
Corrections and further particulars by C. T. Allen.