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River should march around another position of the enemy, at the celebrated Cheat Mountain Pass, on the Staunton and Parkersburg road, where he was five or six thousand strong. Jackson's forces did march around this position, under com inand of Col. Rust, of Arkansas, through extraordinary diffi culties and perils and under circumstances of terrible exhaustion. The troops had to ascend the almost perpendicular mountain sides, but finally succeeded in obtaining a position in front of and to the west of the enemy. The attack of this force upon the enemy on Cheat Mountain was understood to be, in the plan of Gen. Lee, a signal for the attack by his forces upon the enemy at Crouch's. Col. Rust, however, discovered the enemy on the mountain to be safely protected by block-houses and other defences, and concluding that the attack could not be made with any hope of success, ordered a retreat. The signal was not given according to the plan of Gen. Lee, and no attack was made by his forces, which retreated without firing a gun back to Valley Mountain.
It is understood that Gen. Lee did not expect Col. Rust to make an attack with any certainty or even probability of success; his purpose being for Col. Rust to hold the enemy ir position at Cheat Mountain Pass, while he was engaging them at Crouch's. The fact, however, is, that Cheat Mountain Pass was, by the nearest road to Crouch's, ten miles distant; and there are strong reasons for believing that, if Gen. Lee had made the attack upon the enemy at the latter position, they would have been captured to a man, notwithstanding the failure to hold the forces in check at Cheat Mountain. Such was the impression of the Federals themselves. If the enemy had been captured at Crouch's, a march of ten miles down the Valley River by Gen. Lee would have brought his forces in the rear of the enemy at Huttonsville, cutting off his supplies, and, with Jackson on the other side, compelling him to the necessity of surrender.
It is to be regretted that Gen. Lee failed to make the attack at Crouch's, and to realize the rich results of his well-matured plan. Had he defeated the enemy at Cronch's, he would have been within two days' march of the position from which Gen Garnett had retreated, and could have held Rosecrans in check, who was at that time making his way to Cai nifax Ferry te
oppose Floyd. There is reason to believe that if Gen. Lee had not allowed the immaterial part of his plan to control his action, a glorious success would have resulted, opening the whole northwestern country to us, and enabling Floyd and Wise to drive Cox with ease out of the Kanawha Valley. Regrets, however, were unavailing now. Gen. Lee’s plan, finished drawings of which were sent to the War Department at Richmond, was said to have been one of the best-laid plans that ever illustrated the consummation of the rules of strategy, or ever went awry on account of practical failures in its execution.
Having failed in his plans for dislodging the enemy from Cheat Mountain, and thus relieving north western Virginia of his presence, Gen. Lee determined to proceed to the Kanawha region, with a view of relieving Generals Floyd and Wise, and possibly driving the enemy to the extreme western borders of Virginia. Accordingly, in the latter part of September, he ordered the principal portion of his command to take up a line of march in that direction.
It has already been stated that Gen. Floyd had fallen back with his forces to Meadow Bluff, while Gen. Wise stopped to the east of the summit of Big Sewell. In this position Gen. Lee found them on his arrival. He took up his head-quarters with Gen. Floyd, and, after examining his position, proceeded to Sewell, where Gen. Wise still remained in front of the enemy. He decided to fortify Wise's position. Gen. Floyd's command, except a garrison at Meadow Bluff, returned to Big Sewell. He had been largely reinforced since he had left the Gauley river. The position on Big Sewell was made exceedingly strong by a breastwork extending four miles.
The whole Confederate force here under the command of Gen. Lee was nearly twenty thousand. This formidable army remained for twelve or fifteen days within sight of the enemy, each apparently awaiting an attack from the other. Thus the time passed, when, one morning, Gen. Lee discovered, much to his surprise, that the enemy he had been so long hesitating to attack no longer confronted him. Rosecrans had disappeared in the night, and reached his old position on the Gauley, thirty-two miles distant, without annoyance from the Confederate army. Thus the second opportunity of a decisive
battle in western Virginia was blindly lost, Gen. Lee making no attempt to follow up the enemy who had so skilfully eluded him; the excuses alleged for his not doing so being mud, swol len streams, and the leanness of his artillery horses.
In withdrawing from the Cheat Mountain region, Gen. Lee had left a force of some twenty-five hundred men at Greenbrier River, and, while he was playing at strategy in the Kanawha valley, this little force had achieved a signal victory over an apparently overwhelming force of the enemy. The force on the Greenbrier at the foot of Cheat Mountain was under command of Gen. H. R. Jackson, of Georgia. A small force had also been left on the Alleghany Mountain, at Huntersville, and perhaps other localities in that region.
On the 3d of October, the enemy, thinking that he might strike a successful blow, in the absence of Gen. Lee and the 'arger portion of his command, came down from Cheat Mountain, five thousand strong, and attacked Jackson's position on the Greenbrier. The attack was gallantly repulsed. The most unusual and brilliant incident of the battle was the conduct of our pickets, who held the entire column of the enemy in check for nearly an hour, pouring into the head of it a galling fire not withdrawing until six pieces of artillery had opened briskly upon them, and full battalions of infantry were outflanking them on the right, and then retiring in such order, and taking such-advantage of the ground, as to reach their camp with but a trifling loss.
The action was continued by a severe artillery engagement, when, after four hours' interchange of fire, in which we could not bring more than five pieces into action to return the fire of the enemy's eight, he began to threaten seriously our front and right, by heavy masses of his infantry. He had been repulsed at one point of the so-called river (in fact, a shallow stream, about twenty yards in width), by the 3d Arkansas regiment. As the designs of his column were fully developed, the 12th Georgia regiment were ordered to take position near the stream, while a battery commanded by Capt. Shumaker was directed to open fire upon the same column. The encounter was of but short duration. In a short time, the unmistakable evidences of the enemy's rout became apparent. Distinctly could their officers be heard, with words of mingled command,
remonstrance, and entreaty, attempting to rally their batta.ious into line, and to bring them to the charge, but they could not be induced to re-form their broken ranks, nor to emerge from the cover of the woods, in the direction of our fire. Rapidly, and in disorder, they returned into the turnpike, and soon thereafter the entire force of the enemy, artillery, infantry, and cavalry, retreated in confusion along the road and adjacent fields.
The engagement lasted from seven in the morning to halfpast two o'clock in the afternoon, at which time the enemy, who had come with artillery to bombard and demoralize the small force of Confederates; with infantry to storm their camp; with cavalry to rout and destroy them, and with four days' cooked rations in his haversacks, to prosecute a rapid march either towards Staunton, or towards Huntersville, was in precipitate retreat back to his Cheat Mountain fastnesses. His loss in killed and wounded was estimated at from two hundred and fifty to three hundred. That of the Confederates was very inconsiderable, not exceeding fifty in all.
The approaching rigors of a winter in the mountains, gave warning of a speedy termination of the campaign in western Virginia, in which, in fact, we had no reason to linger for any fruits we had gained. The campaign was virtually abandoned by the government, in recalling Gen. Lee shortly after he had allowed the opportunity of a decisive battle with Rosecrans to escape him. He was appointed to take charge of the coast defences of South Carolina and Georgia. Gen. Wise was ordered to report to Richmond; Gen. Loring was sent with his command to reinforce Gen. T. J. Jackson ("Stonewall"), at Winchester; and Gen. H. R. Jackson was transferred to duty in the South. With the exception of Gen. Floyd's command, which still kept the field in the region of the Gauley, and a force of twelve hundred men on the Alleghany Mountain, the Confederate forces were withdrawn from western Virginia, after the plain failure of the campaign, and in the expectation that the rigors of the advancing winter season would induce the enemy to retire from the mountains to the Ohio.
The last incident of battle in the campaign was a brilliant one. On the 13th of December, the whole of the enemy's forces, under Gen. Reynolds, were brought out to attack the
position commanded by Col. Edward Johnson, of Georgia, with his little force on the Alleghany. The enemy had been con ducted to our position by a guide, a Union man. The Federals, on the flank, where the principal attack was made, numbered fully two thousand. They were gallantly met by our troops, who did not exceed three hundred at this time, being a portion of Hansborough’s battalion, the 31st Virginia. These were reinforced by a few companies of Georgia troops, who came up with a shout, and joining the troops who had been forced back by overwhelming numbers, pressed upon the enemy with a desperate valor, and drove him from his almost impenetrable cover of fallen trees, brush, and timber. Many of the officers fought by the side of their men, and the enemy was pushed down the mountain, but with serious loss to the gallant little command. In describing the conduct of his men, Col. Johnson wrote to the War Department, “I cannot speak in terms too exaggerated of the unflinching courage and dashing gallantry of those five hundred men, who contended from a quarter past 7 A. M., until a quarter to 2 P. M., against an immensely sup. rior force of the enemy, and finally drove them from their position and pursued them a mile or more down the mountain.” The casualties in this small force amounted to twenty killed and ninety-six wounded.
Gen. Floyd was the last of the Confederate generals to leave the field of active operations in western Virginia. After the retreat of Rosecrans from Sewell Mountain, Gen. Floyd, at his own request, was sent with his brigade, by way of Rich-. ard's Ferry and Raleigh and Fayette Court House, to Cotton Hill, on the west side of the Kanawha. Here he again confronted Rosecrans and his whole force, encamped at Hamilton's, at Hawk's Nest, at Tompkins' farm, and at Stodin's, near the falls. Cotton Hill is in Fayette county, on the Kanawha, opposite the mouth of the Gauley ; the Raleigh and Fayette turnpike passes over the hill, crossing the Kanawha river at the ferry below the falls, where it intersects the Kanawha turnpike leading from Lewisburg to Charleston. From the position of Cotton Hill, the several camps of Rosecrans referred to could be distinctly seen, stretching to the distance of several niles. Gen. Floyd reached this point after a fatiguing march of eleven days, and occupied the landings of all the approachee