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1st Battle of Lexington

Still wanting to secure Missouri even after their victory at Wilson’s Creek a month earlier, the Confederate General Sterling Price moved his troops to the Union garrison in Lexington. Under the combined force of Sterling and Brigadier General Benjamin McCulloch, the Missouri State Guard (MSG), moved to attack what was then considered a foreign country – Missouri, still part of the U.S.

For their own part, the Union started moving into Lexington on the 8th with Colonel James A. Mulligan with his 23rd Illinois Volunteer Infantry and – prior to that, even – the 1st Illinois Cavalry and the Missouri Home Guards. Two days later Major Robert T. Van Horn’s brought two companies of the Missouri Battalion followed by Colonel Everett Peabody’s 13th Missouri arrived. Immediately on the 11th, Colonel Mulligan had his men digging fortifications all around College Hill, home of the Masonic College. This would become their headquarters.

The following day, the MSG arrived and shortly thereafter skirmishes broke out. One attempt was made on Mulligan’s fortifications by General Price, but it failed. Following this, both sides retreated to regroup.

Most of the Union wanted to abandon Lexington, but Colonel Mulligan overruled them, determining to stand their ground. Meanwhile, on MSG leaders wanted to surround the Union army.

Nothing else happened, however, until September 18th, when General Price received much-needed supplies and men. The fighting began that morning.

At 9 am, College Hill was hit with an artillery bombardment. Following this, “Price ordered his men to capture the Anderson House, a prominent three-story, brick structure that lay just outside of Union lines” (Source). The Union had been using Anderson House as a hospital, but this didn’t stop the Confederates from taking it. They used it mainly to launch small-arms fires at the Union.

Mulligan, of course, saw the attack of the hospital as breaking the rules of war. So, he sent his Company B of the 23rd Illinois to recapture Anderson House. Led by George Henry Palmer of Company G (who won a Medal of Honor for this escapade), Company B not only recaptured the house, but executed three MSG soldiers.

[Below: Anderson House]

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From there, General Price ordered that the house be re-retaken! The MSG attacked once again, driving out the Union – this time for good. This secured, Confederates went on to capture a steamship full of Union supplies, a raid led by Colonel Ben Rivers of the State Guard.

With Colonel Mulligan’s men successfully encircled, Major General John C. Frémont from the Union Department of the West ordered detachments from Missouri and Kansas to come relieve the Lexington contingent. However, they were unsuccessful in breaking the MSG’s lines.

Meanwhile, Mulligan’s men, not only surrounded but cut off from all water supplies, were desperately trying to dig for water. But unsuccessful seemed to be the word of the day. They were coming up bone dry no matter where they dug.

But then, on the evening of the 19th, MSG Brigadier General Thomas Harris came up with the concept of using hemp bales as a moving fortification. Dipping the bales in water to prevent them from catching fire, MSG rolled them ever closer to College Hill, slowly but surely encircling the Union until they were powerless. Panicking, the Union continuously fired artillery, but it was useless against the soaked hemp bales. It was looking absolutely hopeless for Colonel Mulligan’s men.

Despite this, the State Guard attempted one more attack the next morning. It was a bloody hand-to-hand that followed, resulting in MSG being driven back. Even given their small victory, most of Mulligan’s men were wounded. It was time for surrender, whether or not Mulligan liked it.

A white flag eventually appeared, though not by the hand of Mulligan. When asked if he was willing to surrender, Mulligan blustered, claiming that he thought Price was the one surrendering! Much confusion needed to be sorted out and, once that was figured out, a vote was taken. 6-2, the vote was to surrender. Though Mulligan was still against it.

With the Union surrender, the MSG gained supplies and a whopping $900,000 from the Lexington Bank. Despite this and the land gained, Price had no possible way of feeding all the men in MSG. So, he was forced to move back to the corner of the state, anyways.

During the battle, the Confederates suffered 25 deaths and 72 wounded while the Union suffered 39 deaths and 120 wounded.

[Below: Lexington Courthouse with cannonball hole]

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Up Next:

The Battle of Ball’s Bluff

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Battle of Hatteras Inlet Batteries

As might be expected, the Battle of Hatteras Inlet Batteries was an amphibious offensive. Led by Major General Benjamin Butler and Flag-Officer Silas Stringham of the Union forces, they opened the offensive on August 26, 1981 at Fort Clark and Fort Hatteras.

The Hatteras Inlet was the most travelled, and thus, the most vulnerable of the Outer Banks. And the Outer Banks “is a series of long, narrow islands that separate Pamlico Sound from the Atlantic, with Hatteras Inlet as the only deep-water passage connecting the two” (Source). And thus far in the war, it had been something of a Confederate haven, were they were able to capture Union merchant vessels while bringing in their own food and supplies.

It makes perfect sense, then, that the Confederates should want to protect this precious inlet. And why it was also the perfect spot for the Union to attack. The Union’s job was made easier, thanks to intelligence from freed Union POWs, who’d spent their prisoner days on Hatteras Island. Upon their return, they were able to pinpoint the location and construction.

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So, on August 27, 1861, under the command of Stringham and Butler, 8 Union warships, carrying some 800 troops, anchored off Cape Hatteras. The following day, “seven Federal ships opened fire on Fort Clark” (Source). They smartly positioned themselves outside the rang of Confederate artillery.

Prior to the bombardment, Butler had sent his men ashore, but with wet gunpowder, there’s not much good they could have done. So, the bombardment saved their skins. And then, better yet, when the bombardment forced the Confederates to start retreating from Fort Clark. They all gathered in Fort Hatteras, while Union forces continued their firing.

By the next morning, the Confederates were ready to surrender. They’d tried and failed to attack the Union ships, but their shots fell short.

The news of their surrender reached the White House in the middle of the night, waking up President Lincoln, who upon receiving the news, “danced a jig in his nightshirt” (Source).

This was, indeed, good news to the Union troops. Not only was it an important moral boost, but it also saw the collapse of the confederate-held East Coast from Wilmington, NC all the way to Norfolk, VA.

The Confederates suffered somewhere between 20-45 men to death or wounds, and another 691 men became POWs Meanwhile, the Union saw a mere 3 injured men.

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The Battle of Wilson’s Creek

The first battle to take place to the west of the Mississippi was the battle at Wilson’s Creek in Missouri on August 10th. Here, the Union Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon attacked Confederate Generals Sterling Price and Benjamin McCulloch and their men.

Unfortunately, it would not be Lyon’s most successful attack. And we shall soon see why.

He had some 5,400 men under him at Springfield, Missouri. The Confederates had easily twice this number. Yet Lyon wasn’t about to just let the Confederates have the land. Not without a fight.


Missouri had been pretty much on the fence about secession. In fact, it wasn’t until Lyon captured massive numbers of pro-secession recruits at Camp Jackson. Although, that in and of itself may not have caused the shift. It was actually the fact that he decided to march these prisoners through St. Louis. It was then that it turned into a riot. After being pelted by rocks, Lyon ordered his men to open fire.

That’s when things turned sour. 28 people were killed and 100 more were wounded. But this didn’t stop Lyon’s promotion to Brigadier General, not to mention to overall commander of the Missouri Union forces.

What also happened, though, was that the Missouri State Guard (MSG) was also formed. And this is where Lyon’s problems really began. In June of 1861, Governor Jackson a mutual disarmament to Lyon And since Lyon couldn’t just let the likes of Jackson and the Confederates just have the state . . .

Lyon spent the next several weeks planning his attack. During this time, they fought a number of skirmishes against the Confederates, including one on August 2nd at Dug Springs. Following this, McCulloch ordered his men to retreat, choosing to rest at Wilson Creek. For his own part, Lyon had his men rest further on.

It was a German immigrant who just happened to be a veteran of European war, that gave Lyon the idea to attack at Wilson Creek. Colonel Franz Sigel suggested a two prong attack: Lyon with the bulk of their Army attacking from the north and Sigel with 1,200 soldiers attacking from the south.

It was risky. Remember that they were already far outnumbered by the Confederates, and dividing their men, especially after a midnight march, could prove to be dangerous. Nevertheless, he took Siegel’s idea.

At dawn, Lyon’s men took their position. They marched up Bloody Hill, altering the Confederates to their presence. While Lyon brought in artillery, General Price charged.

Meanwhile, Sigel and his men had also taken their position. Thus far, it looked like his plan was working. He could hear musket fire in the distance. The Confederates were so focused on Lyon’s men that they didn’t notice Sigel’s presence. He was able to start a surprise attack of artillery barrage. “Stunned, Confederates ran through their camp in panic” (Source). Yes, Sigel’s plan was definitely working. 

And it should have been a Union victory. But, as seems to be a problem no matter what the war, communication was the problem. Sigel had no idea what was happening to Lyon on the northern side. But what really made his job difficult was that the Confederacy, as yet, had no standard uniform. For the most part, they wore whatever color they felt like wearing. Because of this, when Sigel spotted soldiers emerging from the smoke, he mistook them for an Iowa regiment, when in fact, they were actually a Louisiana regiment. The Louisianans just happened to be wearing uniforms very similar to those the Iowa regiments wore.

Turned out that it was actually McCulloch’s men. And when they opened fire, it was Siegel’s men’s turn to run around in a panicked chaos.

After this, the Union basically fell apart.

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Sigel surrendered; or at least, fled.

Meanwhile, back on Bloody Hill, Lyon wasn’t fairing much better. They had managed some advance thanks to their surprise attack, but soon found themselves simply fighting to maintain the land they currently held. Price’s men charged the hill not once, but twice. On both accounts, Lyon did manage to hold his ground.

But then Lyon was shot through the chest. He died trying to rally his men.

He was the first Union general of the war to die in battle.

Command fell to Major Samuel Sturgis. He, like Sigel had done earlier, mistook an approaching Confederate army for Union troops. He probably greatly wished that it was Siegel’s men, too. Sturgis tried to maneuver his men for another advance. But instead, they were hit with the largest attack of the day.

Surprisingly, Sturgis and his men – with Kansas troops at the center – managed to hold their ground against the attack. However, Sturgis decided that now was the time to withdraw. Lyon was dead, Sigel couldn’t be found, and Sturgis just didn’t have the numbers to defeat the Confederates. They were now low on ammunition, as well.

McCulloch and Price tried charging Bloody Hill one last time, but found it completely unoccupied.

Back in Springfield, Sigel took command of the reunited troops and led them on towards Rolla.

The Union had fought well. They had even retreated in an orderly fashion. They held fast during three attacks, even after the loss of their leader. They may have, technically, lost the battle, but they really had nothing to be ashamed of.

Unfortunately, the Confederate victory at Wilson Creek really did serve to energize the MSG. On November 28th, Missouri was admitted to the Confederacy.

Overall, Confederate casualties amounted to 1,235 while Union casualties added up to 1,095.

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Up Next:

Battle of Hatteras Inlet Batteries

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1st Battle of Bull Run

On July 21, 1861 one of the biggest and best known battle of the Civil War began, the 1st Battle of Bull Run. Near Manassas Junction in Virginia, the Union and Confederate armies clashed once again.

Just five days prior to that, the brand new Union commander, General Irvin McDowell, marched through the streets of Washington D.C. With him were 35,000 soldiers, all raw recruits. Most of them had no idea what they were facing. Maybe that was why it was so easy for them to swagger down those D.C. streets, confident in their victory. They looked so impressive, that, “as excitement spread, many citizens and [congressmen] with wine and picnic baskets followed the army into the field to watch what all expected would be a colorful show” (Source). It’s not often that war is seen as entertainment. The recruits, for their own part, were busy picking blackberries and filling their canteens in the river.

Their ultimate goal was reaching the railroad junction at Manassas, where the Orange Alexandria Railroad and the Manassas Gap Railroad met just west of the Shenandoah Valley. If they could take this land, they would have a clear approach to capturing the Confederate capital. And what a victory that would be!

Two days later, the Union army finally reached Centreville. They were no a mere five miles from Bull Run River. But ahead, guarding the “fords from Union Mills to the stone Bridge” were 22,000 Southern troops under the command of Gen. Pierre G.T. Beauregard. (Source).

The next few days were spent in scouting, at least on McDowell’s side. But, then, on the morning of July 21st, McDowell and his troops attacked.

First off, he sent two divisions towards Sudley Springs Ford, back around the Confederate left. The other division he sent out towards the Warrenton Turnpike, where it crossed Bull Run at the Stone Bridge. The main job of this second division was to distract the Confederates to allow the 1st group to continue.

At 5:30 that morning, a rifle shattered the morning air.

The battle had begun.

But there was one major problem on the Union side. Thanks to intelligence (pre-pre-OSS days, apparently), the Confederates were already aware of the Union’s plans. Already knowing that the division sent to Stone Bridge was merely a diversion, Colonel Nathan Evans sent his men towards Matthews Hill.

Back at Henry Hill, the Confederates were busy setting up reinforcements. Brigadier General Thomas Jackson (the famous Stonewall) had his Virginia brigade, under Col. Wade Hampton as well as Col. J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry set up across the crest of the hill, along with artillery.

Meanwhile, McDowell’s men were marching towards Henry Hill. Here, “contesting batteries engaged in a fierce fight” (Source). It was during this very fight that Jackson received his famous nickname.

Shelling had begun across Bull Run River. Union troops crossed the Sudley River. They managed to push 4,500 Confederates back up Henry Hill by midday. All of the congressmen, reporters, and other spectators cheered on the winning Union soldiers.

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But they were a bit premature, because more and more Confederate reinforcements continued to arrive. By 4 that afternoon, Beauregard ordered the Confederates to counterattack. This is what became wildly known as the “Rebel Yell,” as Confederates, screaming, broke through Union lines. But Confederates didn’t just take down Union soldiers, but also the spectators. “As McDowell’s Federals retreated chaotically across Bull Run, they ran headlong into hundreds of Washington officials who had been watching the battle while picnicking on the fields east of the river, now making their own hasty retreat” (Source). Well, at the very least, they caused the spectators to retreat in haste.

Meanwhile, Jackson received word from Brig. Gen. Barnard Bee that McDowell’s men were about to break Confederate ranks. Jackson told Bee to make sure his men stood strong. To his men, Bee used Jackson as a reference, “Look at Jackson standing like a stonewall.” It seemed to work, because the Confederates charged the Union line, overtaking it, and capturing all of their guns. This, unfortunately for the Union, changed the course of the battle.

Around noon, the Union stopped their retreat to regroup. Thus, a lull in the fighting lasted for about an hour, long enough for both sides to reform their lines. When fighting resumed, each side was desperate to force the other side off Henry Hill.

This lasted for another four hours, when the Confederates received even more reinforcements, arriving to the rear of the Union forces. With their advance, McDowell and his men were forced to finally withdraw. Their withdraw was at first orderly, but only orderly until they met up with the still retreating Washington spectators. At this point, retreat became chaotic and soldiers began to panic. Had Confederates not also been in chaos, themselves, they may have followed the Union. However, they failed to do so.

After his defeat in battle, McDowell was replaced by Major General George B. McClellan. On the Confederate side, the two armies of Gen Joseph E. Johnston and Gen. Beauregard were combined and Gen. Robert E. Lee was put in command.

Overall, the Confederates suffering 1,750 casualties while the Union suffered 3,000. Because of these large numbers, both sides – the North in particular – were forced to realize that this would not be a short war with an easy win. This was going to be a long, bloody war.

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Up Next:

Battle at Wilson’s Creek

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Battle of Big Bethel

The Battle of Big Bethel actually took place prior to the Battle of Rich Mountain. However, it was such a minor battle that not much is really said about it. Additionally, because of all the different divisions that participated, it can get sort of confusing. Hopefully not too much, though.

The Battle of Big Bethel took place on June 10, 1861 in the areas of Tabb and Hampton, Virginia. It occurred very early on in what would become four long years of bloodshed. But this early on, all it really did was send a very clear message: “That brave young men, lots of brave young men, were going to die in this war” (Source). At the same time, it showed exactly how the Union was going to deal with runaway slaves. And that’s an important point for all Americans to remember.

Essentially, they were scuttled across the lines into Northern territory where, in many cases, they were made part of the colored ranks.

It all began back in April, when President Lincoln called from an additional 75,000 men to put down the growing rebellion. We remember that Virginia refused to comply, deciding to secede instead. As a result, they found the need to defend Fort Monroe. By mid-April, however, the Union forces were building Camp Butler (named after Major General Benjamin F. Butler, who was, at the time of the war, a Republican, though other sources refuse to admit to this). Major General Robert E. Lee, was growing worried over Butler’s activities, so he ordered Colonel John B. Magruder to take the Peninsula.

So, on June 6th, Magruder sent a force under Colonel D.H. Hill south to Big Bethel Church. Here, “he commenced building a series of fortifications across the road between Yorktown and Hampton including a bridge over the river” (Source). Fortifications ready, he began harassing the Union forces. Following this, on the Union side, Butler sent his newly arrived reinforcements – the 5th from New York – to march to Fox Hill then return to Fort Monroe. The Confederates responded by burning Howard’s Bridge on the Hampton-York Road. The next two days saw small skirmishes between the 5th and the Confederates at Newmarket Bridge.

Butler becoming more and more concerned, directed Major George W. Randolph – his military secretary – to plan an attack. Their plan? To mount a night assault, first on Little Bethel, then moving on to Big Bethel. He hoped that this might even lead to a bigger advance at Richmond.

On the evening of the 9th, 3,500 men, under the command of Brigadier General Ebenezer W. Peirce set off. Of the 3,500 men, the 5th New York Volunteer Infantry, under Colonel Abram Duryee were instructed to “leave from Camp Hamilton and severe the road between Big and Little Bethel” (Source). Following them would be the 3rd New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment under Colonel Frederick Townsend. Then, the 1st Vermont and 4th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry under Lt. Col. Peter T. Washburn and the 7th New York Volunteer under Col. John A. Bendix were to leave from Camp Butler

Unfortunately, before the 5th New York (under Townsend) could attack, they were fired upon. Turned out, it was actually Bendix’s 7th New York, accidentally firing. They had been alerted by the sound of horses’ hooves, but unable to make out uniforms, mistakenly firing into the 3rd’s ranks. It was a bad start to the advance.

The accidental friendly fire had alerted Magruder to the approach. They quickly withdrew. When Duryee’s regiment (5th New York) approached, there was no one there, and they simply burned Little Bethel Church before continuing their march on to Big Bethel.


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The Union had long since lost the element of surprise, and the Confederates were ready and waiting for them, the 15th Virginia with a howitzer waiting along the southern side of the Brick Kiln Creek while sharpshooters from the 1st North Carolina waited along the edge of the woods by the Hampton-York Highway. More guns were guarding the bridge and yet more were holding the flanks in the rear. It was not looking good for the Union.

“Confederate shells rained down on the Yankee troops as they left the cover of some woods and charged across an open field toward the redoubt” (Source).

It was only an hour-long artillery exchange. But for the most part, the Confederates were much more effective. Union men fell on top of each other. Any attempts to advance were quickly stopped by Confederate artillery fire.

Pierce was able to advance his 3rd New York, 5th New York, & 7th New York, enough to envelope the Confederates on the right. However, the 15th Virginia abandoned its position when a wire broke in its howitzer. Following this, the Union attempted several more advances, only to be thwarted by the Confederates time and time again. Eventually, Townsend was forced to withdraw his 3rd New York troops. This forced the other divisions to follow suit. Several of the New York divisions took refuge in a blacksmith shop, however. When Colonel D.H. Hill commanded his 1st North Carolina to burn the shop, they found themselves thwarted by Union gunfire.

It was Major Theodore Winthrop who resisted; he didn’t want to see his plan utterly fail. So, he organized yet another assault on the Confederates with troops from Vermont and Massachusetts. He rallied his troops to one last charge, but it would be his last.

Major Winthrop was immediately killed.

His troops were demoralized and fell back across Brick Kiln Creek.

By this point, the entire Union side was a bloody, disorganized mess. They fell back and crossed the Newmarket Bridge. Only Lt. Col. Gouverneur K. Warren was left to collect the dead.

Overall, the Union suffered a loss of 76 men, somewhat luckily only 18 of which were killed. Of the 76, 53 were badly injured and another 5 were MIA. Butler would suffer humiliation and blame for his poor intelligence as well as for his blunder of remaining at Fort Monroe during the fight. This was nothing, however, compared to what Pierce would endure. He was labeled as incompetent and accused of losing his presence of mind during the battle. He was “mustered out of the Army after his 90-day enlistment” (Source).


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Up Next:

First Battle of Bull Run

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Battle of Rich Mountain

In June of 1861, Major General George B. McClellan was given command of the Union forces located in western Virginia. After defeating the Confederates at Philippi, McClellan moved his brigades (mostly consisting of troops from Indiana and Ohio) south, wanting to meet up with the Confederate Lt. Col. John Pegram’s troops.

Meanwhile, in charge of the Confederate troops following their hasty retreat from Philippi, was Gen. Robert S. Garnett. He and his troops fortified two key passes: Camp Garnett and Beverly, wanting to cut off McClellan and prevent him from traveling any further East.

At Camp Garnett, itself, the Confederate Lt. Col., John Pegram, was in command with some 1,300 men and 4 cannons. McClellan, meanwhile, had some 5,000 men and 8 cannons. The Confederates thought that they had McClellan beat. But McClellan had a devious plan, himself.

It was simple, really. He’d “feign an attack against Garnett at Laurel Hill while he sent the bulk of his force against Pegram at Rich Mountain” (Source). So, while McClellan waited at the western base of Rich Mountain in northwestern Virginia, he sent Brig. Gen. William S. Rosecrans on ahead.

On the morning of July 11th, Rosecrans set out with David Hart and roughly 1,917 men. Up the mountain “they struggled, through the dense woods, delayed by missed directions and drenched by rain” (Source). At 11 o’clock that morning, Rosecrans halted his troops long enough to get a message off to McClellan, per their plan.

See, he and McClellan had planned this all out carefully the night before. Rosecrans would set out, heading towards the enemy’s rear. McClellan would wait until he heard the firing, then he’d set out with his own troops for a frontal attack. As planned, once Rosecrans drew close, he sent out Colonel Mahlon Manson to “deploy skirmishers from his 10th Indiana Regiment” (Source). This would be the one and only message that Rosecrans would manage to get to McClellan, despite their plan for hourly updates.

And the further delayed Rosecrans became, the more worried he became that the Confederates were already aware of their movement. Unfortunately, he was right.

The Confederates had already been alerted to Union movement. And for Pegram’s part, he had long since been worried about an attack from the rear. So, he sent out two companies. To make matters even worse, the courier with McClellan’s reply to Rosecrans mistakenly rode into Pegram’s camp and delivered the letter! So, not only was the courier wounded and captured, but now Pegram knew all about Rosecrans‘s plans.

As a result, Pegram sent out a 310-man strong force of “two squads of cavalry from the 14th Virginia and six companies of infantry from the 20th and 25th Virginia” to the Rich Mountain pass under the command of Captain Julius Adolph de Lagnel (Source). At the same time, he sent out the 44th Virginia regiment to the junction of Merritt Road and the Beverly-Buckhannon Turnpike, under the command of Captain John Mayo Pleasants Atkinson.


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But Pegram assumed incorrectly the direction Rosecrans and his troops were coming from. At 2:30 that afternoon, Rosecrans and his men headed towards the Hart farm from the South, not the North.

Even then, the Confederates fired at Rosecrans’s skirmishers. Then, they turned around their cannons and fired on the skirmishers. Hidden behind rocks and bushes and trees, the skirmishers returned fire. At intervals, the Confederates would pause long enough to advance, then continue their firing. Unfortunately, though, they couldn’t actually see the Union soldiers, so settled for firing into the clouds of smoke.

The Confederates returned to Camp Garnett, cheering their success. Turned out, though, that they weren’t as lucky as they’d thought. Rosecrans hadn’t been defeated. In fact, he’d suffered very few casualties. Thanks to the woods and the Confederates’s inability to see them, the men had been relatively safe. Confederate brass simply flew over their heads.

Not deterred in the slightest, Rosecrans determined to attack, despite more problems that delayed his advance almost another hour. Nonetheless, they pushed forward to the Hart farm.

Frightened artillery horses pulling the ammunition caisson became unmanageable and stampeded down the road, carrying away their drivers and most of the ammunition. They soon collided with a brass six-pounder being pulled from Camp Garnett, which De Lagnel had requested. Drivers were hurled from their seats, a dozen horses were injured or killed, and their mangled bodies were mixed with smashed equipment as the artillery piece careened down an embankment.

While everything on the Confederate side was a bit chaotic, Rosecrans and his men were spending the night on top of the mountain. The next morning, Rosecrans was informed that the enemy was attempting to flee. Moving on to Camp Garnett, he found the Confederates waving the white flag. Some 170 men, most of whom were sick or injured, surrendered to Rosecrans. Their surrender included their wagons, artillery, equipment, and even the quartermaster’s store.

Meanwhile, McClellan’s force was only a short distance from Fort Garnett. Reaching the camp himself, he found Rosecrans in occupation. Since that had successfully been taken care of, McClellan and his men moved across Rich Mountain.

On July 13, Pegram and about 600 additional men surrendered to McClellan at Beverly. Only about 40 of his men didn’t surrender. Each side suffered roughly 70 casualties.


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Up Next:

Battle of Big Bethel

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Battle of Philippi

On June 3, 1961, the “first inland battle of the Civil War” began in what is today West Virginia. It was also probably considered one of the shortest battles in history – lasting a mere 20 minutes. With such a short battle and no fatalities, it’s barely receives a footnote in American History textbooks (but, then again, WWI itself is barely a footnote, so take that into context).

Additionally, Philippi was so small that it didn’t even hold any military significance. What it did hold was a very good chance, for Major General George B. McClellan to be prompted to the commander of the Amy of the Potomac, the largest Union army.

Philippi did allow the Union troops to “secure the critical river crossings and rail junctions” (Source). Because, in the neighboring town of Grafton, about 25 miles to the north of Philippi, there was a bit of land that held military significance – railroad crossings. Here, the Parkersburg-Grafton Railroad joined the Baltimore & Ohio. And, this was only the “only continuous east-west connector between the East Coast and the Ohio River and the states of the Old Northwest” (Source).

So, Union troops of about 1,600 strong, under the command of Col. Benjamin Kelley, boarded a train for Thornton, where they would disembark and marched toward Philippi under the cover of darkness. Meanwhile, another group of soldiers, numbering some 1,4000 men, under the command of Col. Ebenezer Dumont, were marching south on the town. They would launch a two-prong assault against the Confederates.

Both groups arrived at the appointed time.

[Below: Colonel Dumont’s troops fire on the enemy]

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Meanwhile, General Robert E. Lee sent Mexican War veteran, Col. George Porterfield to Grafton to organize troops. Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t nearly as successful as McClellan. For starters, Lee had greatly underestimated the level of hatred for the Confederates in West Virginia. Porterfield only managed to assemble a handful of troops and whatever weapons they owned themselves. Furthermore, they had next to no military training. Of course, Lee did receive some reinforcements, along with 1,000 rusty muskets and 1,500 percussions caps, all meant for shotguns.

Not surprisingly, Porterfield was unable to hold Grafton.

But, then, Porterfield received word about McClellan’s plans. He properly moved his troops to Philippi, where the Union army quite literally found them sleeping. While some of the Confederates stood their ground, the majority of them fled, “giving the battle the derisive nickname ‘the Philippi Races’” (Source).

Truthfully, the Philippi battle was given a bit of a false start. See, Matilda Humphries, spotting their approach, sent one of her sons to warn the Confederates. He was quickly captured. “In response, she fired her pistol at the Union troops. This shot was misinterpreted as the signal to begin the battle” (Source). The Union began attacking. The Confederates . . . didn’t.

Mercifully, Porterfield managed to keep it together. “He managed to organize a rapid retreat, escaping with all but fifteen men” (Source).

Unfortunately, Colonel Kelley was injured during the very brief battle, suffering from a pistol shot to the chest. He did survive, though, and was promoted to Brigadier General, in command of the Department of West Virginia. Dumont was also promoted. He however, decided to join Congress, instead of furthering his military career. McClellan won accolades for his successful planning. From here, he went on make plans for what would become the Battle of Rich Mountain.

Meanwhile, Porterfield underwent a court-martial inquiry. He was exonerated, but never again held field command again.

[Below: Battle of Philippi]

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Up Next:

Battle of Rich Mountain

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Battle of Carthage

After the Battle of Fort Sumter, Missouri was deeply divided. The Missouri State Guardsmen, some 6,000 men commanded by Confederate Governor Claiborne Jackson and Colonel Sterling Price, were poorly equipped. Then there was the 1,000 Union German-Americans commanded by General Franz Sigel.

As a result of this, “Missouri was the scene of some of the most bitter partisan fighting during the war” (Source).

On July 5, 1861 in Carthage, MO was the first full-scale battle of the war. The Battle of Carthage also marks the only time that a sitting U.S. Governor would led troops into battle, as did Missouri Governor Jackson. See, after the capture of Fort Sumter, President Lincoln had called for each state to rise a particular number of men for the Union Army, hoping for an army of 75,000 men in total. But Missouri, already planning to secede, refused. Or, at least, Governor Jackson did. General Nathaniel Lyon, commander of the St. Louis arsenal, however, followed the president’s orders.

“First, Lyon chased Governor Jackson and his contingent of the Missouri State Guard from Jefferson City, and pushed them on south after a brief skirmish at Boonville, Missouri. Then as he pursued Jackson, he sent troops under other commanders to cut off Jackson’s path south to Confederate Arkansas” (Source).

However, Sigel had plans of his own. Oh, he started off following Lyon’s orders, but upon discovering that General Sterling Price, commander of the Missouri State Guard, had left Lexington, moving South, Sigel decided to move South as well. At the same time, Confederate General Ben McCulloch was moving North to the Arkansas border. Sigel’s great plan was to first “cut Price off at Neosho, Missouri, scatter his troops, and then turn north to take on Governor Jackson” (Source). But, he was too late at Neosho. Price had already met up with McCulloch. He did, however, have luck in meeting Jackson in Carthage. Here, “Sigel camped with approximately 1,000 loyal Missouri infantry and artillerymen” (Source).

The next morning, on July 5th, Jackson, fully aware of Sigel’s men camping out nearby, lined his men up along the ridge north of town. The infantry and artillery were placed in the center, with the cavalry “taking up positions on each flank” (Source). Another 2,000 unarmed volunteers were sent to the rear.

[Below: Battle of Carthage]

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Before Sigel could even reach Jackson’s men, though, they came upon J.O. Shelby’s cavalry, who rode between Sigel’s two forces. The point of the action was to cause Sigel’s men to waste ammunition and powder. Pushing through Shelby’s line, Sigel opened battle with Jackson, each firing artillery.

About this time, Jackson sent his 2,000 unarmed men into the woods. Sigel, seeing these men, began to worry that they would soon be attacked from the rear, as well. He had no idea that these men were unarmed.

So, Sigel did the only thing he thought he could do: Retreat.

But, he did so with full artillery and skillful maneuvering. 

“While one battery would hold the enemy in check, another would be placed at the most advantageous position in the rear, where it [the first battery] would withdraw behind it to repeat the manuver. Several times during the day the batteries were cunningly masked, and the enemy rushed up to the muzzle, to receive the death-dealing discharge full in the faces” (Source).

The Confederates were able to cut off Sigel’s retreat, but Sigel was still able to break through their disorganized lines. Reaching Carthage, he managed to hold it until nightfall.

Under the cover of darkness, Sigel and his men escaped to Sarcoxie.

Despite the fact that Sigel did retreat, Jackson’s men were unable to “dislodge or destroy Sigel’s force” (Source). Ultimately, both sides would claim victory.

It is estimated that that the Union suffered 44 casualties & injuries, while the Confederates suffered 200 casualties & injuries.

[Below: Gen. Sigel’s men encounter Gen. Jackson’s men]

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Battle of Rich Mountain

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The Civil War Begins: The Attack on Fort Sumter


In March of 1861, President Lincoln announced his intention to resupply Fort Sumter, the lonely federal outpost located in the seceded South Carolina. He knew that Major Robert Anderson was quickly running out of supplies. However, South Carolina had already warned Lincoln that they would respond to “any attempt to resupply the fort,” as an act of aggression (Source).

In response to Lincoln’s attempt to resupply, militia commander P.G.T. Beauregard demanded the surrender of the fort. Major Anderson refused. On April 12, Beauregard opened fire on Fort Sumter.


Fort Sumter was located in Charleston Harbor and, at the time, was unfinished. Major Anderson had chosen it as a base over the much-harder-to-defend Fort Moultrie on Sullivan Island. Despite its location, and some 6,000 militia surrounding the harbor, Lincoln tried his hardest to keep it fully supplied. Prior to this, President James Buchanan had sent the Star of the West merchant steamer full of supplies and soldiers. But, Governor Francis Pickens’s harbor defenses fired at it. Anderson could only watch as his supply ship was turned around and sent home.

Two days later, on January 11, Pickens demanded Anderson’s surrender. Of course, Anderson refused. By the 20th, Pickens had come under great criticism for his allowing the people to starve. So, he sent some food to the fort himself. Anderson refused this, as well. So, Pickens had no choice but to allow the evacuation of 45 women and children.

As Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as President of the Confederate States and Lincoln inaugurated as President of the United States, pressure began to mount to reunite the country. Davis sent “a group of commissioners to Washington to negotiate for the transfer of Fort Sumter to South Carolina; they were promptly rebuffed” (Source). Meanwhile, the situation at Fort Sumter was becoming more and more desperate. Lincoln needed to get supplies and replacements to the Fort, but, unfortunately, that would be seen as an act of Northern aggression. It would very likely incite more southern states to secede the Union. Furthermore, it would make other countries sympathetic to the South.

Meanwhile, Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard arrived to take command “of the military situation in Charleston” (Source). He had previously been an artillery student of Major Anderson’s at West Point, but was now in charge of strengthening gun emplacements facing the Fort. Now, while President Lincoln concocted a way to get supplies to Major Anderson, Brigadier General Beauregard was ordered to “demand the fort’s surrender and fire on it if surrender was refused” (Source).

[Below:  Fort Sumter Attacked]

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On April 6, Lincoln informed Governor Pickens that he was sending another supply ship to Fort Sumter, but promised that there would be no “arms, troops, or ammunition – unless, of course, South Carolina attacked” (Source). This great plan meant that the South would have to fire first, making it a Southern aggression, not a Northern one.

But Davis could not face letting Anderson receive the supplies he needed. There was no choice but to force Anderson’s hand into surrendering. Of course, Anderson refused.

So, at 4:30 am, on April 12, 1861, Confederate artillery, under the command of General Beauregard, opened fire on Fort Sumter. “Confederate batteries showered the fort with over 3,000 shells in a three-and-a-half day period” (Source).

At 7:00 am, Anderson began to return fire, using only the guns from his lower casemates, where his men would succumb to less danger. But, then later that morning, the barracks caught fire, and many of his men had to be stationed as fire crew. Then, around noon, his men spotted three ships flying the U.S. flag. They hoped this would finally be the supplies they so desperately needed.

Unfortunately, it was actually ships headed for Fort Pickens in Pensacola, FL.

A small reprieve came around midnight, when the Confederates reduced fire. They picked up again the next morning, though, and Anderson’s barracks once again caught fire, threatening the ammunition store.

It was when Anderson’s flagstaff was shot away, that Louis Wigfall (aid to Beauregard) decided to row over to Fort Sumter, believing that Anderson had finally surrendered.

He hadn’t.

But, Wigfall was able to negotiate the surrender, and Anderson replaced his makeshift flag with a white sheet, prompting Beauregard to join them at the Fort. It was agreed that Anderson’s formal surrender would take place at noon on April 14.

Upon their evacuation, Charleston came out in droves to watch as Anderson lowered the American flag to a 100-gun salute.

Anderson had surrendered, and the war was on.

[Below: Fort Sumter after the attack]

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The Consequences of the Lincoln Nomination

The Kentucky-born lawyer and former Whig representative seemed like a dangerous bet to the pro-slavery Southern states. On November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican to ever win the presidency. Prior to this, though, he had won national attention in a series of debates known as the Lincoln-Douglas debates, in which Lincoln “argued against the spread of slavery, while Douglas maintained that each territory should have the right to decide whether it would become a free or slave” territory (Source).

Part of Lincoln’s success in the winning the campaign was his ability to unite the Republican party. His decision to “say nothing on points where it is probable we shall disagree” probably helpedwh (Source). Meanwhile, the Democrats were severely divided amongst three separate candidates: Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge, Northern Democrat Stephen Douglas, and Constitutional Union candidate John Bell.

As soon as the announcement arrived that Lincoln had won the national election, states left and right began to threaten secession.

In fact, by Lincoln’s inauguration on March 4, 1861, seven states had already seceded “and the Confederate States of America had formally been established,” with Jefferson Davis as its elected president and Alexander H. Stephens as Vice (Source). According to these Southern states, “the election of Abraham Lincoln was labeled an act of war” and they “predicted armies would come to seize slaves and force white women to marry black men” (Source). As a result, some Southern politicians began producing weaponry and even proposed kidnapping president-elect Lincoln! This all despite the fact that Lincoln never actually campaign on “taking measures against slavery in the South” (Source). Despite this, Southerners saw him as a radical abolitionist, while Northerners thought he was inexperienced and unprepared to run the country, especially at such a critical moment in history.

In his Inaugural Address, Lincoln gave the country a warning:

“In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. . . . You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it.” (Source).

[Below: Lincoln’s 1st Inauguration]

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In all, eleven states left the Union. South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas had all left by the time Lincoln was sworn in. Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina left after his inauguration. But more on that later.

There was more to their secession than simple slavery. It had a lot to do with states’ rights, as well. They didn’t want the Federal Government to have the authority to outlaw slavery in their territories. In the South, where agriculture was one of their main forms of bringing in revenue, slaves were in high demand. They were expected to do all the work.

On March 9, 1861, Confederate President Davis began to take action. He called up “7,700 volunteers from five states, joining volunteers in South Carolina” (Source). Then in mid-April, he had 62,000 troops stationed in former Union bases. On the 12th, Confederate forces fired the first shots of the war at Fort Sumter. It was here that the next four states seceded the Union to join the Confederacy.

But Lincoln thought secession was illegal. More than that, he was willing to use force to defend both the Union and the Federal law. Then, after the shots fired at Fort Sumter, he called for 75,000 volunteers. The Civil War had begun.

[Below: The Confederate flag]

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Up Next: The Civil War Begins: The Attack on Fort Sumter

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