Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood
July 13, 1861

Richmond Enquirer
July 20, 1861

Garnett's Retreat.

Through Lieut. Col. Crenshaw, of this city, and of the 23rd Virginia Regiment, we have learned and have the satisfaction of reporting, a much less disastrous assault, than that hereinfore credited, concerning the late collision between our forces and those of Gen. McClellan, in the Northwestern mountains. The force in Col. Heck's, rather Col. Pegram's camp, was not cut off and captured as reported, but mainly escaped safely through the woods to Monterey, where Col. Crenshaw has seen them. - Major Tyler is at that point. The only prisoners taken by the enemy, except stragglers, were about 200 including Capt. Atkinson's company, who surrendered while under command of Colonel Pegram. These have all been paroled except Colonel Pegram, who is probably reserved for exchange; McClellan doubtless found it inconvenient to feed them as prisoners.

Gen. Garnett, under whose immediate command the 23rd regiment was, broke up his camp on Thursday night, the day of the Rich Mountain battle. He marched towards Beverley for some miles, when learning that Colonel Wm. C. Scott had deemed it proper (contrary it is thought to Gen. Garnett's orders) to retire his force below Beverley, and was retreating. Gen. G. halted and reversed his course, commencing a line of retreat by way of St. George. The march was commenced amid a heavy rain, and was exceedingly laborious. Detachments were detailed to obstruct the road in the rear of the retreating column, by felling trees, so as to retard pursuit. In this manner the last ford of Cheat River, a distance of 25 miles, was reached on Saturday morning. Skirmishing had meanwhile been taking place between our rear guard and the advance of the enemy's pursuing column of six thousand. In one of these 200 Georgians were cut off from the main body, but evaded capture by taking to the woods, and subsequently rejoined the army.

At the crossing of the Cheat, a severe fight took place between the enemy and the 23d Virginia regiment, who were set to protect the passage of our baggage, and to check the pursuit. Our troops were posted on a bluff, on the farther side of the cheat, and the firing was across the stream. Unfortunately, one of the wagons, in crossing, became jammed in the track, and the following teams of the train became wild and ungovernable, and had to be abandoned. The fight was kept up until its object was accomplished, and the retreat was then resumed and continued without further interruption.

At this fight on the Cheat, General Garnett lost his life. He remained behind in special command of twenty picked rifle men to bring up the rear, when he was shot in the throat and breast. As he fell he ordered his squad to retreat. Of our loss, eleven are known to have been killed, and seventeen wounded; a considerable number, more than a hundred are missing; but it is believed they are dispersed in the mountains, and they are constantly coming in. The loss of the enemy was very heavy.

Some of the enemy's troops who were fallen in with by the Georgians, while separated from the rest of the command, said their loss was four hundred. The retreat of our army was under Col. Ramsey of the Georgia troops, until they got into the Northwestern turnpike, leading from Grafton to Romney. They followed this road to where it returns from its divulgence into Maryland and crosses again into Virginia. Our column here turned south, and marched to Monterey, where the other divisions of our army had previously concentrated.

Quite a number of soldiers who were in the fight at Rich Mountain and Cheat river came down in the cars yesterday.

Richmond Daily Dispatch
July 27, 1861

Battle of Carrick's Ford

An Authentic account.

[special Correspondence of the Dispatch.]

McDowell, Highland County, July 23d, 1861.

I have no doubt you have received various and numerous reports of the movements of the troops of General Garnett's command since I last wrote you, and I now merely write to give a true and accurate statement of the retreat and death of General Garnett--a statement which I defy any one to question, and to which those high in authority will willingly subscribe. I would have given you the particulars before, but having hard and severe duty to perform, I was not able to do so.

We had been skirmishing with the enemy a week at Laurel Hill, when, on Thursdayevening, 11th July, we received an order from General Garnett to prepare provisions for a two days march shortly after which we were directed to strike our tents, and cook up our line of march for Beverly, a distance of sixteen miles, which place we came within three miles of, when we found that a very formidable blockade had been erected, which we could not pass, and, therefore, had to march back on the route we had previously come, to a road that led to the Northeast, towards St. George, in Tucker county, which we entered early in the morning. [Here I would state, in the way of parenthesis, that it was the object of General G. to form a connection with Colonels Pegram and Heck, who were stationed at Rich Mountain, and move on Cheat Mountain, via Huttonsville; but the enemy, it seems, cut us off, and got between the two commands, and had our small force almost completely surrounded.] Thus, you will see, our command, composed of four companies of cavalry, Captain Shoemaker's Danville Artillery, Colonel William B. Tallaferro's 231 Regiment, Colonel Jackson's Regiment, Colonel Fulkerson's 37th Regiment, and the Georgia Regiment, Colonel Ramsey, and a small Battalion under Colonel Hansborough, all under the immediate charge of General Garnett, was forced to take the only route left us. We had proceeded on the road mentioned above for thirty-six miles, without eating or sleeping, except a short halt about midday, until Saturdaymorning, when our cavalry came rapidly to the rear division and informed us of the rapid approach of the enemy. Not being in a condition to stand an engagement, our little army moved on; but had not gone far before a halt was ordered, and the Georgia Regiment, which had hitherto been in the advance, was directed to make a stand against the advance guard of the enemy, which they did, taking a position in a low meadow, just across Cheat River, a portion of the command taking to the woods for the purpose of an ambuscade. The enemy advanced on them and gave them battle, without, however, killing any one; but they succeeded in cutting off from the main body six companies, who have since made their way through the mountain and joined their command.

The retreat was then continued, and now our sufferings commenced in earnest. Col. Tallaferro had command of the rear division nearly the whole retreat, and had to sustain the hardest part of the work, the balance of the force being far in advance. We kept on in this way until we had come to Carrick's Ford of the Cheat River, where we found that our wagons had become stalled and overturned in the river, and where they had to be left at the mercy of the enemy.

Lieut. Lanier's Washington Artillery and Col. Tallaferro's 23d Regiment had no sooner crossed than they were ordered to give the enemy battle, and our forces were marched in double quick time to meet the Yankees. We soon took our position, and had hardly taken it, when the advance of the enemy came upon us. Col. Tallaferro gave the command orders to fire, when Lieut. Lanier and the 23d opened on them, and for an hour raked them down has chaff, and twice they were forced to retreat; but having so many troops they were soon reinforced, not, however, until they had lost over 350 killed, and how many wounded we are unable to say. Our loss in this engagement was 14 killed and about 20 wounded.--So anxious were our troops to keep up the fire, that Col. T. had to give the command orders to retire several times before he could get the troops to leave the field. After this engagement, we had to double-quick it for four miles before we came up with the remainder of the army. Immediately after this battle, and in a half mile of it, Gen. Garnett in person was on the river bank, and halted the Regiment, and detached the Sharp-Shooters, of Richmond, and selected 10 men from their ranks, under the command of Lieut. E. E. De Priest, to remain with him and fired on the enemy as soon as they advanced. They had only a few moments to wait, when they were seen crossing the river, when Gen. G. gave his little squad orders to fire and retreat, which they did, killing several as they retreated. The enemy immediately fired, when Gen. Garnett fell, shot through the breast, killing him instantly. He fell on Lieut. De Priest as he came to the ground, and had to be left to the mercy of his foes.

Here, it seems, the enemy ceased his pursuit, but we still kept up our retreat, without eating or resting, for two days and nights, and marching many a weary mile, until we reached Maryland, a portion of which we marched through, and continued on to Hardy county, where we met good friends in the worthy and noble-hearted farmers of that beautiful portion of Old Virginia. We rested a while in a little place called Petersburg, where we received treatment fit for conquerors. We continued our march to this place, where we will remain until we are clothed and gain some strength, many of the men being unfit for service by sickness and fatigue.

I cannot conclude this letter without bearing testimony to the bravery, coolness, courage and fatherly kindness of Col. Tallaferro towards his men, not one of whom but would follow him wherever he should lead. The same remarks will apply to Lieut. Col. Crenshaw, Major Jos. H. Pendleton and Adj. Wm. H. Pendleton, than whom no braver nor better souls can be found. To Lieut. E. E. De Priest and private W. C. Wane, of the Sharp-Shooters, great credit is due for their bravery and courage in action. They have never yet refused to obey any order, however hazardous, nor to perform it with zeal and alacrity. Both of them were with Gen. G. at his death, the latter of whom tried to get his watch and sword, but was forced to leave them to the Yankees. Ned.

Richmond Daily Dispatch
September 19, 1861

Retreat of the first Georgia Regiment from Carrick's Ford : a Thrilling Narrative.

The Virginia correspondent of the Charleston Mercury writes a deeply interesting letter descriptive of the engagement between Garnett's and McClellan's a forces at Carrick's Ford, and subsequent events: The concluding portion relates to the perilous retreat of a portion of the First Georgia Regiment across to Monterey. It is a graphic picture, and we transfer it to our columns. The writer says:

The foe was baffled of his prey ! But seven companies of the 1st Georgia Regiment, outflanked by them, had been cut off by the rapid advance of the Indiana line, and were driven from the road and up the mountain into a wilderness where human foot had never trod before.

Without food, with scarcely a blanket to cover them, and no shelter from rain or wind or cold but the dark foliage overhead and around on an untrodden mountain range, without maps or guide, these brave Georgians took up the line of march in such direction as their slight knowledge of the country and the aid of a pocket compass advised. Over the rugged rocks, and through the dense under wood, often so thick that they had to hew a passage with their bowie-knives, the straggling line toiled up the mountain until darkness closed around them and they lay down and slept. The sun rose on the Sabbath morning and flooded their happy homes with light, and glided the spires of the village churches, whither their mothers, and wives, and sisters were going up to pray for the dear ones at war, and to beg Heaven to spare their lives; but he could not pierce the thicket to get a glimpse of that wan and famished band who, with falling limbs but stout hearts, were panting upwards for the day. On and on through the weary hours, and the laugh had hushed, and their voices seldom broke the deadly stillness, and the face of youth grew sad and the face of age anxious, but still not a murmur, not a thought of yielding; and the second night came down and the cheerless halt was made.

Again the sun went up, and the steaming mists curled away over the mountain tops, and these lost and now famished men, with chilled limbs and swollen feet, and railing hearts, went forward once more, But the pangs of hunger gnawed at their vitals, and the Vine grew more and more strangling, and the Malts were frequent and prolonged, and the anxious "Close up I Close up, boys" of the cheerful-tended officers, was no longer responded to by quickened steps. They tore off the inner bark of the birch and spruce pine, and found some comfort and support in swallowing the juice. Five dollars was offered the fortunate possessor of a bit of biscuit, two inches square, discovered in an odd corner of his knapsack, and refused.--One of the Captains : Jones of the Washington Rifles--had a son in his ranks : a lad of 18 years, and tenderly reared. He came up to his father and begged for food. "Take this, my dear boy," he replied, shaking out a few crumbs of biscuit from his haversack, "eat it slowly; and may God save your life."--Strong men sat down and cried, the weak dragged on unrepining. Some of the feeblest, pale striplings, whom the lightest blow might fell, showed hearts of oak in that awin extremity. Still the "Close up" was urged on the laggard rear, and the slow hours seemed lengthened into years, and the day sped on, and the mountains closed before them, and the third sun set and they were not saved.

Tuesday came, and their strength and courage was gone; and despair had seized them.--Now the men became muttons. The officers urged, and entreated, and commanded them to make one more effort to save their lives; but the latter had lost all value, and famine and fatigue was fast exhausting its remaining store.

Still the habit of obedience, and old affection, and well-tested confidence prevailed, and again they went forward, though with little hope of success, in their desperate effort to reach on human habitation. And they would have failed, in all reasonable probability, and their bones would have whitened on that mountain ridge, and the accidents of their fate would have been as fearfully unknown as of those who have gone down at sea and left no trace or sign of shipwreck. Suddenly, at mid-day, a stranger appeared among them. "Who are you, and where did you come from?" are the eager questions. "I am a Virginian--a friends have followed your track, and have come to save you !" was the welcome reply. But, though the face was as of an angel, these men misunderstood it.--They were on the very verge of destruction. An awful death awaited them if they did not follow his guidance, and yet they preferred famine, death, anything before captivity; and how could they tell whether he was to be trusted? They were in a hostile country and the man was utterly unknown to them. "Go on," said the leader,"take us out of this wilderness, and we will reward you receive, betray us, and I will blow your brains out with my on hand at the first sight of the enemy."

He carried them by a change of direction down the mountain striking a shallow stream at its bass, they followed its bed, leaping from rock to rock and sometimes wading through the water, for miles; them over a field and out into a road, and a wild cheer rung out their joy at the unexpected deliverance. Attended by a guard the guide went to a neighboring farm-house, and returned by nightfall with a wagon load of provisions.--His name is Parsons, and the Confederate States Government should bestow on him their first gold medal.

"How much did you eat that night ?" I asked my narrator, a son of the late General Irwin, of South Carolina. "Why, nothing at all, scarcely; the fellows nibbled a little all through the night: but the next morning, after such a breakfast as would have killed a wolf, we stopped twice and cooked our haver sacks full of provision, and by nightfall there was not a crumb in them." One of the Lieutenants who shared the horrors of that retreat was on the cars, going home to recruit his shattered health. Typhoid fever had followed the exposure and exhaustion : he looked like the genius of families. J. D. B.

Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: July 1861

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