- Operations under Gen. R. E. Lee -- Floyd and Wise in the Kanawha valley -- battle of Carnifix Ferry -- Lee's Cheat mountain campaign -- Sewell mountain -- Camp Bartow -- Camp Alleghany -- Floyd's Cotton Hill campaign.
After the danger of invasion from the northeast had been relieved by the victory at Manassas, Gen. Robert E. Lee gave his attention personally to the direction of affairs in the Trans-Alleghany department. He arrived at Huntersville in the latter part of July, and assumed chief command. The circumstances were somewhat embarrassing to Lee. Throughout his entire career as a soldier he manifested confidence in his subordinates, wisely no doubt, taking upon himself blame when misfortune came, and treating with indulgence those manifestations of human nature that do not become subordinate generals, but often impair their usefulness. He now had an army of two wings; the right under Loring, who had outranked Lee in the old army, and the left nominally under Floyd, but actually divided without prospect of effective co-operation. Establishing himself near the headquarters of General Loring, he maintained constant communication with Floyd and Wise; To add to the difficulties of the situation, the weather heightened the disadvantages of the rugged country. For weeks it rained daily in torrents, and the roads became hardly passable. The army was provisioned with the greatest difficulty, and the troops, deprived of proper food and shelter, suffered a terrible scourge of measles and fever. In preparation for active operations, Gen. Alfred Beckley  and Gen. A. A. Chapman, commanding militia brigades in western Virginia, were ordered to collect as much of their forces as possible. On the 10th, Colonel Davis, occupying the advanced post at Meadow Bluff, reported the enemy in his front, and Floyd advanced to that place, ‘peremptorily’ ordering Wise to follow on the 14th, to which Wise responded that he would execute the order ‘as early as possible, and as forces and means of transportation are available.’ He did not have half enough wagons, his horses were without shoes, and his command was in a very unsatisfactory condition. But he sent forward such men as he believed available, about 2,000, and a few days later occupied Big Sewell mountain. At this juncture, in response to the request of General Wise, General Lee detached from the latter's command Tompkins' and McCausland's Twenty-second and Thirty-sixth regiments, and restricted the immediate command of General Wise to his legion. General Wise advanced with skirmishing to Dogwood gap, while Floyd occupied Summersville, one of the posts on Rosecrans' line, where he could make a flank attack either on Cox at Gauley or Rosecrans to the north, and he asked for reinforcements from Richmond. General Cox, with about three regiments, had succeeded in impressing his antagonists with an exaggerated idea of his strength, while he was preparing to stand a siege. At Carnifix Ferry was stationed the only reinforcement near him, an Ohio regiment under Colonel Tyler. On the 20th of August, Lieutenant-Colonel Croghan, in advance of Wise, had two skirmishes on the turnpike, one near Hawk's Nest, in which each side lost a few killed and wounded. The little army was then greatly afflicted with measles, to such an extent that the Forty-sixth Virginia reported but one-third of the command effective. On the 25th, Colonel Jenkins' cavalry was defeated at Hawk's Nest near Piggot's mill by an infantry ambuscade, with a loss of 8 or 10 wounded. Wise,  previous to this, had marched to the Gauley river near Summersville to aid Floyd, but had been returned to Dogwood gap. On the 26th Floyd achieved a brilliant success. Raising a flatboat which Tyler had sunk, he crossed the Gauley river at Carnifix Ferry and surprised Tyler's regiment at breakfast near Cross Lanes. Floyd reported that between 45 and 50 of the enemy were killed and wounded, and over 100 prisoners and some stores were taken. The receipt of news of this disaster caused Rosecrans at once to make arrangements to advance toward Gauley. Floyd was now in a position to attack Gauley from the rear while Wise advanced, but unfortunately a strong movement was not made. Floyd being informed that Cox was abandoning Gauley and marching upon him, ordered Wise to hasten to his reinforcement, which he did, only to be informed en route that it had been ascertained that he would not be needed. Returning to Dogwood he advanced on September 2d, against the strong position of the Federals at Hawk's Nest, attacking in front while Colonel Anderson attempted to gain the rear of the little mountain which the enemy occupied, covering the turnpike which circled about its base toward Gauley. Parts of three companies, Summers', Ryan's and Janes', were sent across Big creek and up the hill, driving the enemy gallantly, until the Confederates gained the summit. Meanwhile a howitzer was set to playing on the hill, which speedily cleared the enemy from the side next Wise; but the enemy being reinforced, and commanding the road with a rifled cannon and Anderson not completing his roundabout march soon enough, Wise abandoned his project of turning the hill, and took a position covering Miller's ferry and Liken's mill. General Beckley's militia had driven the enemy from Cotton hill on the south side of the river, and was joined there by General Chapman's militia, whence a few cannon balls were thrown into the Federal camp at Gauley. During this period, the troops under Wise and  the militia south of the river kept up a continual skirmishing, and the Federals, annoyed by the hostility of the volunteers, sent an expedition to Boone Court House, which, according to General Cox, routed a militia encampment and left 25 dead upon the field. Floyd remained inactive at Carnifix Ferry, fearing an attack from Rosecrans, and waiting for reinforcements for a flank attack upon Gauley. On the 9th, becoming alarmed by news of the approach of Rosecrans, he asked Wise to send troops to his assistance, stating that he had but 1,600 men to oppose the six regiments of Rosecrans. Wise returned Tompkins' regiment, but declined to send more for fear of losing his position. At the same time he wrote to General Lee, asking to be separated from Floyd's command. In this letter, Wise estimated the Confederate forces at 1,200 infantry, 250 artillery and 350 cavalry in his legion, Tompkins' regiment 400, Floyd's immediate command 1,200, McCausland's regiment 400, Chapman's and Beckley's militia, 2,000. Repeated orders from Floyd for reinforcements followed, the last one written in the midst of battle. Failing to obtain assistance, General Floyd constructed intrenchments on the elevations before Carnifix Ferry at the junction of Meadow river and the Gauley, and was there attacked at 3 p. m., September 10th, by General Rosecrans, who had under his command nine regiments, eight of which participated in the battle. The odds were at the least estimate three to one. The Federal brigade which made the first attack was commanded by Gen. H. W. Benham, the same officer who, as a captain, was in charge of the vigorous pursuit of General Garnett to Carrick's ford. His command suffered heavily from an effective fire of musketry and artillery, which greeted its first appearance before the works. Colonel Lytle, commanding the Tenth Ohio in this brigade, was among the wounded and gained promotion by his gallantry. Colonel Lowe, of the Twelfth Ohio, was killed at the head of  his regiment. A series of charges were made upon the works as the various regiments came up, but were gallantly repulsed. The Federal batteries joined in the attack, replied to with equal spirit from the Confederate guns. The battle raged without intermission four hours, until night put an end to the fighting. Both infantry and artillery of Wise's command behaved with great coolness and intrepidity, and General Floyd specially mentioned the excellent performance of Guy's battery, for the first time under fire. The Federals were repulsed in five separate assaults, and finally withdrew from the front of the works, intending to renew the attack in the morning. But Floyd, having observed that the Federals had gained during the fight a position from which his line could be enfiladed, determined to abandon his hazardous position during the night, which he accomplished in safety without the loss of a gun. He had great difficulty in getting his guns down from the cliffs in the darkness over a wretched road, but he made the movement without molestation, and gained a position on the opposite shore where he could command the ferry, a smooth bit of water in the otherwise impassable mountain torrent. Once over, the bridge and ferryboat were destroyed. The Confederate loss in this action was but 20 wounded, Floyd himself receiving a slight wound in the arm, while the Federal loss was 17 killed and 141 wounded. Floyd had abandoned his position, but held one stronger, and still commanded the road by which Rosecrans would march to attack Wise, and with very little loss had inflicted severe punishment upon the enemy. He should have been captured to give Rosecrans title to claim of a victory. Floyd considered the battle of Carnifix Ferry decisive so far as the troops with him and Wise were concerned. He reported that he could have beaten the enemy if Wise had come up when ordered, and the North Carolina and Georgia regiments could have arrived before the  close of the second day's conflict, but that now the project of opening the Kanawha valley could only be attained by an advance upon the enemy along the south bank of the Kanawha. He estimated the Confederate forces at hand as 4,200 and the enemy at 12,000. The secretary of war responded, conveying the congratulations of the President and himself ‘on this brilliant affair, in which the good conduct and steady valor of your whole command were so conspicuously displayed,’ and promising reinforcements. General Floyd soon abandoned the Gauley river, and moved to a junction with Wise near Dogwood gap. Cox advanced on the 12th and the Confederates retired to Sewell mountain, occupying first the crest of the ridge and later a more defensible position about a mile and a half in the rear, which appears to have been selected by Wise. Here the latter established ‘Camp Defiance,’ and in the spirit of that title awaited the advance of Cox and Rosecrans, and disregarded the orders of Floyd to fall back to Meadow Bluff, a point 16 miles west of Lewisburg, in a fertile country, at the union of the only good roads to the Gauley and the New ferries. Meanwhile there was some skirmishing going on with the Federal advance, and Col. Lucius Davis, commanding the First regiment of Wise's legion, operated on the south side of the New river, capturing over 40 prisoners. Up to this time, General Lee had not visited the forces in the Kanawha valley, and had left the conduct of operations entirely to General Floyd, and we will now turn to that even more rugged and difficult field in which the department commander was endeavoring to dislodge the enemy. The Federal force before Huttonsville was under the immediate command of Brig.-Gen. Joseph J. Reynolds, who with about 5,000 men lay at Elkwater, about 10 miles below Huttonsville in the Tygart valley, on the Huntersville road, while three regiments under Colonel Kimball held the impregnable pass of Cheat mountain,  through which the main road from Huttonsville eastward, the Parkersburg turnpike, led in a narrow defile. The two posts were about seven miles apart by bridle path through the hills. The army of the Northwest, now well organized, and under the immediate command of General Loring, consisted of the brigades of S. R. Anderson, D. S. Donelson, William Gilham, H. R. Jackson, and W. B. Taliaferro, and unassigned commands, amounting nominally to 11,700 men, including about 300 each in the cavalry and artillery arms. One portion of the army, the ‘Monterey division,’ under Gen. H. R. Jackson, was encamped at ‘Camp Bartow,’ near where the Parkersburg pike crosses the Greenbrier river, and included Jackson's Georgia brigade, Rust's Arkansas regiment, Taliaferro's brigade (Twenty-third, Thirty-first, Thirty-seventh and Forty-fourth regiments), Hansbrough and Reger's battalions, two batteries of artillery, and a few companies of cavalry, in all about 2,500 effective men. The other wing of the army, under General Loring, in camp at Valley mountain, included the brigades of Donelson, Anderson and Gilham (Twenty-first and Forty-second Virginia and Irish battalion in the latter), Colonel Burk's command and Major Lee's cavalry. About 3,500 men in this division were effective. General Lee went to the front early in August, accompanied by his aides, Col. John A. Washington and Capt Walter H. Taylor, and Maj. W. H. F. Lee's cavalry battalion. He entered personally upon the work of reconnoissance, a work in which he had contributed brilliantly to the success of General Scott's army in Mexico, and hardly a day passed when he was not climbing over rocks and crags, to get a view of the Federal position. One day, Captain Preston, adjutant of the Forty-eighth Virginia (the incident is recorded by Gen. A. L. Long), his regiment being on picket, saw three men on a peak about  a half mile in advance, and believing them to be Yankees, got permission to steal up with two men and capture them. After a tedious climb over the rocks and through the mountain thickets, he suddenly burst upon the unsuspecting trio, and to his amazement found that one of them was General Lee. About the middle of August, rain set in and continued for several weeks, making the narrow mountain roads impassable, while the troops unaccustomed to exposure fell easy victims to typhoid fever, measles and homesickness. These afflictions rendered nearly one-third the army unavailable if the rain had ceased. During this trying period, General Lee maintained his cheerfulness and busied himself in the exertions to find a practicable route leading to the rear of Cheat Mountain pass, the key to the northwest. Colonel Rust, of the Third Arkansas, finally reported a possible path, and on September 9th, General Lee issued orders for a general advance of the army of the Northwest. There was a skirmish at Marshall's store on the 9th with an infantry reconnoissance of the enemy, in which several were wounded on each side, and on the 11th a Federal outpost at Point Mountain pike, after a brisk skirmish in which they lost 5 killed and wounded, narrowly escaped capture. These were incidents preliminary to the battle which was planned. The attack was to be made early on September 12th. From Camp Bartow, Colonel Rust was to gain the rear of the Federal position at Cheat Mountain pass, with 1,500 men, and attack early in the morning; General Anderson, with two Tennessee regiments, was to get between Elkwater and the gap, and support Rust, while General Jackson was to make a demonstration in front. The pass, being carried, the whole Confederate force there under Jackson was to sweep down upon the rear of Reynolds at Elkwater, with the co-operation of General Donelson with two regiments, who was to have gained a flanking position. Meanwhile, Burk and Major Lee  would move to the west flank of Reynolds, and the rest of the forces would advance by the main road up the valley to attack Reynolds in front. The plan was good, but the signal for the general melee was to be Rust's attack, and unfortunately that never occurred. Jackson moved up the mountain from the east, and gained the first summit, driving in the picket under Captain Junod, who, with one private, was killed. Anderson promptly in position, drove back a Federal company, and repulsed the attack of another body of Federal reinforcements, with some loss on each side, and cut the telegraph between the two Federal camps, but decided not to make the attack upon Reynolds until the prearranged signal had been given. On the following day, Reynolds sent several regiments against Anderson, reopening his communications, and checked the advance of Loring's reconnoissance from the south. On the 14th, there was a renewal of the Confederate advance, but without result, and on the 15th, an attack upon Cheat mountain was repulsed. But there was no hope entertained of success by General Lee after the fiasco of the 12th. The loss on each side was slight, that of the Federals being reported at 9 killed, 2 missing and 60 prisoners. But among the Confederates great sorrow was felt for the untimely death of Colonel Washington, who fell pierced by three balls while making a reconnoissance with Major Lee, whose horse was killed at the same time. This movement failed to divert Rosecrans from his advance up the Kanawha valley, and General Lee continued to receive from Wise alarming news of the enemy's. advance on Sewell mountain, and from Floyd reports that Wise would not fall back. He repaired promptly to the Kanawha valley, reaching Floyd's camp September 21st, and at once wrote to Wise, using these words: ‘I beg, therefore, if not too late, that the troops be united, and that we conquer or die together.’ To this, the indomitable Wise responded that he would join Floyd there or at  Meadow Bluff if Lee would say which, that he laughed the enemy to scorn, and that he was ready to do, suffer and die for the cause, but that any imputation upon his motives would make him ‘perhaps, no longer a military subordinate of any man who breathes.’ Lee then ‘went to the mountain,’ and on the 23d, learning that Rosecrans had occupied in force the crest of Big Sewell, brought up Floyd to the mountain position which Wise had held with such tenacity. He did this, because it was the most defensible line, and he also caused reinforcements to be sent by Loring, which increased the Confederate strength at Little Sewell mountain to 8,000 or 9,000 men. General Wise was relieved from command, and assigned to another field of equal importance and dignity. General Rosecrans on Big Sewell mountain had about the same number of men as Lee, but each had exaggerated reports of the strength of the other, and it was difficult for either to make an offensive move. Lee naturally anticipated that Rosecrans would attempt to continue his advance, and waited for an opportunity to thwart it. Thus the two forces observed each other across a deep gorge for eleven days, during which period the Confederates, poorly sheltered from the tempests of wind and rain, suffered severely. ‘It cost us more men, sick and dead,’ General Floyd averred, ‘than the battle of Manassas.’ Finally, on the morning of October 6th, it was found that Roseorans had retreated, and on pursuit it appeared that he had fled with considerable precipitation and disorder. While this was going on, there was renewed activity before Cheat mountain. General Reynolds, on October 3d, set out to make an attack upon Camp Bartow, 12 miles from the summit of Cheat mountain, taking with him 5,000 Ohio and Indiana troops and Howe's battery. Jackson's pickets were driven in early in the morning, but were reinforced by 100 men under Col. Edward Johnson, Twelfth Georgia, who held the enemy in check  nearly an hour, not withdrawing until outflanked and under fire of six pieces of artillery. This gave time for a proper disposition of Jackson's little army of less than 2,000 men, for a defense of the works which they had partially completed. An artillery duel now began and continued with energy and with circumstances of romantic scenery and reverberating thunder from the surrounding mountains that made the scene one long to be remembered by the soldiers waiting for their part in the fight. Presently the enemy sent a strong column of infantry across the shallow river against Jackson's left wing, which the Arkansans drove back in confusion. On the other flank a more formidable movement developed, while a direct attack was made in front. But the enemy was met with such a well-directed fire of musketry and artillery, that his whole force finally fell back in disorder, leaving behind some of their killed and a stand of United States colors. The combat in which the Confederates won such brilliant distinction, lasted from 7 in the morning until 2:30 in the afternoon, when the enemy, whose well-filled haversacks indicated a purpose to make a much more protracted campaign, was in full retreat to his mountain fastness. The official returns on each side show a loss in killed and wounded: Confederate 39, Federal 43; Confederates taken prisoner, 13. Some indication of the sufferings of the soldiers in this mountain campaign is given in the appeal of Col. John B. Baldwin to Secretary Benjamin, from his post on the top of Alleghany mountain. He reported that the country, sparsely settled, producing little surplus at any time, was now especially barren. Supplies from the Hardy valley were interrupted by the enemy's incursions, the roads to Petersburg and Staunton would be impassable in winter, and even then (October) his horses were on half rations. Winter rapidly approaching would find them without huts or houses or tools to build shelters with. Perhaps some relief was given these gallant men.  At any rate, they were kept there, at Camp Baldwin, or Alleghany, and reinforced by the Twelfth Georgia, Thirty-first Virginia, Anderson's and Miller's batteries, and a detachment of the Pittsylvania cavalry under Lieutenant Dabney, making about 1,200 effectives in all, and put under the command of Col. Edward Johnson. In December, after an interval of quiet in the Cheat Mountain district, Johnson was attacked by a Federal force of 1,760 men under Gen. R. H. Milroy. At first pushed back by superior numbers, on the right, also assailed on the left, the Confederates fought with such unflinching courage, Virginians and Georgians alike, that the enemy was finally repulsed. This was the bloodiest fight, so far, in western Virginia. The total Confederate loss was 20 killed, 98 wounded and 28 missing; the Federal loss, 20 killed, 107 wounded and 10 missing. After the retreat of Rosecrans to the Hawk's Nest and Gauley bridge, Lee detached Floyd for a movement up the south side of the New river, and that general crossed about October 16th, with the available portions of Russell's Mississippi regiment, Phillips' legion, the Fourteenth Georgia and the Fifty-first, Forty-fifth, Thirty-sixth and Twenty-second Virginia and 500 cavalry, in all about 4,000 men. In this southern region the enemy was in possession as far as Raleigh, having laid waste the village of Fayette and the country upon his lines of march, penetrated within 70 miles of the Virginia & Tennessee railroad, and produced great alarm among the people of Mercer, Giles and Monroe counties. Floyd occupied Fayette and established his camp on Cotton hill, a rocky mass in the angle of the junction of New and Kanawha rivers, where he startled Rosecrans on November 1st, by opening with cannon on the camp at Gauley. To do this, he had moved his guns by hand over precipitous hills for many miles. With his cannon and sharpshooters, he greatly annoyed the Federals, sinking one of the ferryboats, which served in lieu of the burned  bridge. He hoped-that a concerted attack would be made from Meadow Bluff, but the force there was inadequate. General Lee soon returned to Richmond and in November was transferred to the department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, his military reputation for the time under an unwarranted eclipse. From Rosecrans' army, which was stationed along the river from Kanawha Falls to the Hawk's Nest, Colonel DeVilliers, of the Second Kentucky, was sent across the Kanawha at the mouth of the Gauley by ferry on November 10th, with several hundred men, and a brisk skirmish resulted in the repulse of his attack. On the next day the Federals being reinforced, renewed the advance, and after vigorous skirmishes, Floyd abandoned the front of the mountain and moved his camp to the rear. On the 12th, General Schenck crossed with his brigade and occupied Cotton hill, and General Benham moved from Loop creek to attack Floyd in the rear. But the latter evaded the trap prepared for him, and fell back upon Loop mountain, with little loss, except that Lieut.-Col. St. George Croghan, one of the most gallant officers in the service, fell in a skirmish at McCoy's mill, November 14th, after which Floyd took position on Piney creek. Previous to this Colonel Clarkson with the cavalry had been sent on a raid toward the Ohio river, and that gallant officer at Guyandotte, November 10th, attacked a body of recruits for a Federal regiment, called the Ninth Virginia, U. S. A., killing a considerable number, and taking 70 prisoners and 30 horses, some stores, and 200 or 300 rifles. Some of the dead were thrown from the bridge into the river. Among the prisoners were K. V. Whaley, member of Congress, and several other Ohio citizens, and Clarkson also brought back with him several citizens of the town. He held Guyandotte until the next day, when a steamboat came up with reinforcements, upon which the Confederates withdrew and the Federals from Ohio set fire to the town, which had already suffered  so far as the Union citizens were concerned. Thus the Guyandotte valley was introduced to the horrors of war. Floyd was ordered to Dublin Depot, in December, and he finally abandoned the Kanawha valley. On December 15th, Col. George Crook, of the Thirty-sixth Ohio, sent out a detachment, which scattered the guards left at Meadow Bluff, burned the encampment, and returned after gleaning the livestock of the neighborhood. Raleigh Court House was occupied by a portion of Schenck's brigade, December 28th. The Huntersville line also was abandoned, General Loring leaving a guard of about 250 men, who were scattered on January 8th by an expedition from Huttonsville, which defeated the Confederates despite their gallant stand in two skirmishes, and entering the town, burned the military stores. Thus the year closed with no organized Confederate commands in the State except in the northeast, though Gen. Edward Johnson, commanding the Monterey line, still clung to his mountain post on the border, Camp Alleghany, and held two regiments, Goode's and Scott's, near Monterey. There were some little affairs in the center of the State in December, one in Roane county, in which a noted partisan, Lowerburn, came to his death, and about December 30th a force of Confederate partisans issued from Webster county, drove the Federal garrison from Braxton Court House, and burned the military stores there. But this was followed by swift retaliation, many of the band being killed and their homes burned—26 houses, the Federal commander reported. At this time 40,000 Federal troops occupied the State, under the general command of Rosecrans, the Kanawha district being in charge of General Cox, the Cheat Mountain district under Milroy, and the Railroad district under Kelley, the West Virginia soldier who was promoted brigadier-general in the United States army after his suc-cess at Philippi.