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Operations in Western Virginia - June-December 1861

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Following their retreat from the Battle of Philippi on June 3, 1861, Confederate forces fortified two passes in the Appalachian Mountains:  Laurel Hill and Rich Mountain astride the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike. Union General George McClellan advanced 20,000 troops into Western Virginia to gain control of these gaps and to establish control of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  General Robert S. Garnett commanded 4,500 Confederates opposing them.

Union General William Rosecrans led 2,000 men on a night march over the mountain and defeated a Confederate force at Hart’s Farm on July 11.  Trapped between Union armies, Lieutenant Colonel John Pegram withdrew from Camp Garnett.  General Garnett also withdrew from Laurel Hill following skirmishing there, but soon fell during a rear-guard action at Corrick’s Ford on July 13.

Federal forces achieved a victory at Kessler’s Cross Lanes on August 26, and Confederate troops under General John B. Floyd withdrew from Carnifex Ferry on September 10 following piecemeal attacks by Rosecrans. General Robert E. Lee, transferred to Western Virginia following Garnett’s death, joined General William W. Loring’s Army of the Northwest and planned an attack on a Federal position on Cheat Mountain.  Initial attacks on September 12 were uncoordinated and hampered by bad weather. After days of demonstrations against Federal lines, Southern troops pulled back to Valley Mountain on September 17, ending a poor showing by Robert E. Lee in his first war operations effort.  An inconclusive engagement occurred on October 3 at the Greenbrier River, and Federal troops were beaten back on Allegheny Mountain on December 3.  The year ended with Western Virginia firmly in Union control. 

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