From August to December 1863, Union Brig. Gen. William W. Averell launched a series of three raids into southeastern West Virginia and southwestern Virginia to disrupt important railroads linking Virginia and Tennessee. He led his second raid from Beverly in early November. The plan was a two-pronged movement: Averell and 5,000 cavalry, infantry, and artillery soldiers would move to entrap Confederates near Lewisburg. At the same time, almost a thousand horse soldiers under Gen. Alfred N. Duffie would destroy military property around Charleston.
Confederate Brigadier General John Echols got word of the plan. In order to defend Lewisburg, he marched 1,700 men to Droop Mountain, the highest point on the way to Lewisburg. They occupied the crest of the hill, fortifying the high ground and blocking the highway with artillery. On November 6, Averell moved his force to attack Droop Mountain. His plan including attacking at different points on the line to divert the Confederates’ attention, knowing a frontal attack would be suicide.
Skirmishing occurred early that morning, followed by artillery opening up around 11am. Union artillery was mostly ineffective, as shots were unable to reach the Confederate guns, which were able to inflict significant damage. Six hours of close, hand-to-hand combat along different points in the Confederate lines ensued. Finally, a dismounted cavalry charge on Echols’ left flank at a spot dubbed “the Bloody Angle” broke the Confederate line. A retreat became a rout. Union horsemen chased the fleeing Confederates to Lewisburg, when they called off the pursuit. However, many prisoners and large amounts of arms and ammunition were captured.
Although it was a victory for Averell, he failed to succeed in his objective of entrapping Confederates at Lewisburg. Within ten days, the Confederates would reoccupy the side of Droop Mountain. This battle was the largest battle to occur in West Virginia and was one of the last major battles there during the war. Averell led a final raid on the Virginia-Tennessee Railroad that proved successful the next month. The opening of the Shenandoah Valley campaign by Union forces in 1864 also drew Confederates out of West Virginia. After Droop Mountain, all Confederate attempts to control West Virginia were at an end.