Series 1, Volume 2, pp. 288-292
Report of Major- General George B. McClellan of action at Scarey Creek.
BEVERLY, July 19, 1861.
Col. E. D. TOWNSEND:
Cox checked on the Kanawha. Has fought something between a victory and a defeat. A wounded colonel of ours taken prisoner, and a possibility of having lost two colonels and a lieutenant-colonel, who amused themselves by a reconnaissance beyond the pickets. Have ordered him to remain where he is, and will start as soon as possible to cut Wises rear and relieve our credit. In Heavens name give me some general officers who understand their profession. I give orders and find some who cannot execute them unless I stand by them. Unless I command every picket and lead every column I cannot be sure of success. Give me such men as Marcy, Stevenson, Sacket, Lander, &c., and I will answer for it with my life that I meet with no disaster. Had my orders been executed from beginning, our success would have been brief and final.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
Reports of Brig. Gen. Henry A. Wise, C. S. Army, of skirmish July 16, and of action at Scarey Creek.
CHARLESTON, W. VA., July 19, 1861.
GENERAL: This will be handed to you by Maj. C. B. Duffield, who takes to you the official report of a fight with the enemy and six prisoners, including two colonels and one lieutenant-colonel and two captains, and a member of the late Wheeling Convention, charged with treason. Major Duffield will personally give you details. This extraordinary war, in which the odds here are multiplied against us immensely by domestic enemies, requires absolutely an officer of high intelligence and responsibility to attend to prisoners. Rigid and harsh discipline of traitors in the Kanawha Valley and adjacent counties would fill all the jails of the trans-Alleghany. Dismissing all we can, from policy as well as necessity, still the cases are very numerous, and would require the greater portion of my time, which is all now hard pressed upon by the enemy’s army. The traitors, their most efficient allies, spies, and soldiers, too, I have turned over to Major Duffield, who, since early after my arrival, has been examining them and applying the law to their cases. This he has been assiduously and laboriously doing, without any known mode of compensating him whatever. He is not of military education, and I therefore could not promise him a staff or line appointment, which might be detailed for this duty. Indeed, we require double the number of officers we have for military duty proper, and I therefore gavel Mr. Duffield a special acting appointment, which he most devotedly accepted. I beg that you will authorize his appointment, fix his pay, and give him a proper rank on my staff. And there are two other descriptions of officers doing absolutely necessary service for whom there is no provision of pay - first, the engineers to locate the sites and plan the construction of works for defense, and the scientific explorers of mountains, gorges, rivers, passes, roads, &c. For the first I have employed Colonel Adler - a Hungarian – a man of consummate ability, science, and bravery, and for the last Prof. Thomas I. L. Snead, of William and Mary, and Lieut. J. B. Harvie, of the Provisional Army. The latter has commission in the Provisional Army and the former are treated as mere employes. They have two parties, Adler chief of both, one headed by Snead and the other by Harvie, performing very arduous and hazardous duties. I ask authority to allow them rank, pay, and forage for horses, with pay for a limited number of assistants, say six to each party. They have strengthened us far more than all the militia called out. Another unpaid corps is that of drill officers, without whom we could not make a stand or a good run from the enemy. The companies elect their officers, the drill officers train them, and then stand off to see them paid and win honors, I hope, whilst they are fed only and transported. Lastly, Major Duffield will tell you how much we need artillery. Do send us two rifled sixes, two 12-pounder howitzers, and allow us four small 4-pounders, which Major Duffield can select at Gosport navy-yard. The enemy knocked over one of our little iron guns, as you will see, in the late fight. We now have in all eight pieces- three brass and five superior iron guns. The enemy’s artillery (rifled cannon) outfired us, doing double our execution. Welch lost his life spiking our disabled gun, thinking, poor fellow, it was to fall into the hands of the enemy, and not surviving to joy in victory. Supply us more ammunition. The force I sent to attack the enemy returned yesterday evening, having chased him to his intrenchments at Pocotaligo Mouth. He is now there, about three thousand three hundred strong, awaiting re-enforcements. We are threatened by that number in the valley, by about one thousand five hundred from Ripley to Sissonville, and by forces from Weston, Glenville, and Sutton, via Summersville. If I go toward Point Pleasant they rush on Coal, on Two-Mile, and the Elk and Gauley, and if I move out of the valley in any direction with anything like an effective force, they rush in and take the valley, and if I stand still they move from all sides and shut me in. By all means, then, hasten on re-enforcements, arms, and ammunition.
Today I send a flag of truce to obtain baggage of prisoners, at their request. Colonel Patton is doing as well as having done nobly well deserves. His arm I hope will not have to be amputated. We are throwing up breastworks and defenses at every pass, and mean never to be taken. Haste to prepare every means now shortens this report.
HENRY A. WISE,
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector General.
Near Charleston, Va., July 17, 1861.
GENERAL: Yours of the 11th instant was received last evening. General Garnett was mistaken in his anticipations about the enemy not invading the Kanawha Valley and in his apprehension of my moving from Charleston direct npon Parkersburg. We are now on both sides [of] the Kanawha as high as the mouth of Coal River, front to front to the foe. He has about 1,600 approaching Coal, on the Guyandotte road; 3,000 coming np the Kanawha, with three steamers and several heavy pieces of artillery; 1,500, it is supposed, on each side, with his artillery on this side, and intending, I think, to concentrate all his forces first against Coal, approaching and threatening the post at Two- Mile and at Elk Mouth by the valley road, and at the same time by the road from Ripley, to which place, and ten miles below, they have advanced forces from Ravenswood, Murraysville, and Letart Falls, and it may be from Parkersburg. At Coal I have posted 900 efficient men, under Lieutenant-Colonel Patton. At Two-Mile and Elk I have posted in all, efficient and inefficient forces - say 800 efficient - about 1,600, and at Gauley Bridge, Summersville, and the Old Mill, on the Birch River, in all 1,000, with instructions to scout towards Suttonville, where the enemy are already in possession. I have anticipated General Garnett, you see, in this movement. I cannot re-enforce him, but he may me by the road leading from Huttonsvllle up Tygarts Valley road to Rackstone; np that fork to where it crosses the range of Rich Mount- ain; thence between Grassy Creek and Back Fork of Elk to where it crosses Elk; thence southwest to the head of Laurel Creek; thence to the head of Big Birch River, and down the same to the old mill near there, at the gorge of Birch Mountain, in my outpost from Summersville
Now, if General Floyd can re-enforce Coal River and General Garnett can, in considerable number, re-enforce Birch and Elk, I will make a diversion that shall distract and defeat the enemy. My plan of defending the valley of the Kanawha is to hold its head and Coal and Elk and Two-Mile and the head of summer navigation with, say, 3,000, and to expand outposts to Barboursville on the one side, say 1,000, and to Ripley, California, the Forks of Elk, Arnoldsville, Sutton, Old Mill, and Summersville, say 3,000, requiring in all 7,000 men at least, if not 10,000, and you see we have but 3,500 in all, facing 6,000 at least on this and the other side of the Ohio. We have now 10 small pieces of artillery6 iron, 3 brass, 1 made at Malden, private property. Our troops, raw, unequipped, not half armed and accoutered, untented, out of reach of clothing, unofficered, unorganized, yet they are prime personnel and fight well. I have tried them at Ripley, and yesterday my aide, Colonel Clarkson, with Brock’s and Becket’s troops of horse, about 120, thrashed about 200 of their infantry, charging them up the mountain side to its top, driving them in to their cannon, and killing eight known, with the loss of one horse only killed. All we want is your fostering attention. Give us arms and ammunition speedily and I will drive them into the Ohio River and across, and then turn on Master McClellan, with the co-operation of Generals Garnett and Floyd.
I implore of you, sir, two things: First, re-enforce us with men, arms, and ammunition, and ask the President to allow me to increase the legion to 4,000 men. Please obtain for me these requests at once and I will be answerable for the rest.
Inclosed is an inventory of arms, &c., two days past. The militia here are literally in the way of action. They require help from us. Let me add two more ideas: We are treading on snakes while aiming at the enemy. The grass of the soil we are defending is full of the copperhead traitors; they invite the enemy, feed him, and he arms and drills them. We are surrounded with extraordinary difficulty of defense. A spy is on every hill top, at every cabin, and from Charleston to Point Pleasant they swarm. We will fight hard, retire slowly if we must, and make a last stand at Gauley. The men we have are true, but there are no deserters to us, and if we advance to meet the enemy at the mouth of Kanawha he comes down behind us from the north, and if we advance to attack him in the north he comes up behind us from the mouth of the valley. He aligns us from Parkersburg to Philippi on the north, and from Guyandotte through Gallipolis, Letart Falls, Fleshers, Ravenswood, and Murraysville to Parkersburg on the west. He has sent but few regiments, comparatively, as yet from Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio eastward; holds the whole Northwest in reserve; and has command of all the navigation and railroad steam-power. This all combined makes it wonderful that we make a stand at all. Besides, sir, remember this army here has grown by neglect at Richmond. It has been literally created by Colonel Tompkins, at first beginning with Patton’s company alone, since assisted by my legion, which I have created between this and Richmond. General Garnett’s army was sent out with him equipped. Let him come to us; we need his help. In connection with this I have ordered Colonel Tompkins to account for pay-rolls. We have had no pay for State troops, Paymaster-General Hill informs me, for want of rolls, and Colonel Tompkins and Captain Carr will account for them.
HENRY A. WISE,
P. S. THURSDAY, July 18, 1861. GENERAL: Since mine of yesterday I have the proud satisfaction to report to you a glorious repulse of the enemy, if not a decided victory.
Colonel Norton, of the Federal Army, yesterday approached the month of Coal with about 1,200 men, expecting, as he says, to be supported by two regiments, making in all about 3,000. I had ordered Colonel Patton to retire gradually from Scarey Creek, below Coal, to Coal Mountain and the passes across Coal River, concentrating his forces finally at Bunker Hill, on Upton Creek, on the left bank of the Kanawha. But when Norton approached he returned to Scarey Creek and met him and his 1,200 there with about 800 men and two iron sixes. Norton had one heavy piece of artillery, and the battle across the creek ravine commenced about 4 p. m. It was soon shown the enemy had better guns, both ordnance and small-arms, but our men stood steadily and firmly fighting for about half an hour, when a panic seized three-fourths of them; portions of each company fled. At this moment Colonel Patton dashed on horseback to rally his men, when his horse for a short distance became unruly and caused them to mistake his movement; but he rallied a portion of them, returned instantly to action, and in fifteen minutes received a bullet in his left shoulder, which took him off the field. Jenkins, Bailey, Swan, and Sweeney stood their ground, as also Col. F. Anderson, with two companies posted so far on the left that they up to this time had not come into action. The most of the men who had fled again rallied, and were fighting bravely when the enemy’s superior piece of artillery disabled one of our sixes, killing Lieutenant Welch and mortally wounding a private, when First-Lieutenant Quarrier retired with the other piece of artillery and never returned into action, causing a second panic, when Captain Jenkins bravely took the command for the moment until Colonel Anderson came up from the left and rallied a forlorn hope, in which he and Bailey, Swan and Sweeney, bore the whole brunt of the enemy for some time, until they were re-enforced by Captain Coons from the post on Coal Mountain and by the rerally of those who had fled. This won the day, drove back the whole force of the enemy, captured Colonels Norton, Woodruff, and De Villiers, Lieutenant-Colonel Neff, Captains Austin and Ward, and some 10 or 20 privates, and killing about 30. Our loss was 1 killed and 2 wounded, but 1 mortally.
The enemy crossed the river and encamped below the mouth of Scarey.
I immediately determined to attack him there, and last night moved upon him with three troops of cavalry and 650 infantry and artillery, under Colonel McCausland, by two roads. The enemy retreated, and I have just (at 3 p. m.) learned that our force of 800 followed him to near the mouth of the Pocotaligo. McCausland having the Blues with him, I ordered him to put the steel of his bayonet into their teeth. They are found intrenched at the Pocotaligo with heavy pieces. They have there at least three regiments, and we cannot attack them for want of some 12-pounder howitzers. I beg you for four such pieces. Give them to us, and we will repay the service fourfold.
We get some re-enforcements by Colonel Davis today, perhaps 300. I again implore you to let me increase the legion.
Today one of Brocks cavalry was accidentally wounded by a picket-guard, owing to whisky, after I had ordered all to be destroyed. Ohio has sent thousands of gallons over the border, doubtless to demoralize the camp. Excepting measles, the command is doing well.
HENRY A. WISE,
General R. E. LEE, Commanding, &c.
July 24, 1861
Dr. M. A. Pellen, Medical Director of the Wise Legion, arrived in this city last night direct from the seat of war in the Kanawha Valley, and brings some cheering intelligence of the movements of our gallant troops in that section.
On Wednesday last a detachment of our troops, numbering 200, was stationed at an outpost on Scarey creek, sixteen miles below Charleston. They were attacked, during the day, by a division of Ohio and Indiana troops, 2,800 strong; and though the assault was vigorous, our men held the post for two hours, when they received a reinforcement of four hundred men. At this time we delivered a couple of rounds of chain-shot into the ranks of the invaders, which wound up the fight.
The battle was fought in an open field, our men unprotected by anything save their arms and invincible spirit.
The result of the engagement was a loss on our side of three men killed and one slightly wounded; while, at the lowest estimate, one hundred and seventy-five of the invaders were made to bite the dust. We also captured two Colonels, two Lieutenant Colonels, three Captains and a Major, and about forty prisoners, among them, Mr. Roberts, a member of the Wheeling Convention, and the special correspondent of the Cincinnati Commercial, who was caught in a hollow tree, with his report already written out of the victory they were just going, but didn’t happen to gain, owing to the interference of our troops.
The captured officers are now at the White Sulphur Springs, on their way to Richmond.
From the Kanawha Valley.
[Special Correspondence of the Dispatch.]
July 29, 1861
From the Kanawha Valley.
[Special Correspondence of the Dispatch.]
Wise Legion, Camp Two Mile, Near Charleston, Kanawha Co. July 18th, 1861.
The fight which was imminent and expected when I wrote you on Sunday last, did not come off. The enemy advanced up the river until within range of Major George S. Patton's Artillery at the mouth of Coal river, when one well directed salute warned them of the probability of a warmer reception than they had anticipated, and they retired. They landed, however, on both sides of the Kanawha, in number estimated at about 3.000 men. In addition. it is supposed they have a considerable force, perhaps as high as 1,500, on the Guyandotte Road, as I informed you in my last letter.
Some brilliant skirmishing has taken place between the enemy and ourselves, and one engagement, in which our victory was decided.
On Tuesday last, the 16th inst., Col. Clarkson, Aid de-Camp to Gen. Wise, made a dash as them, with a troop of cavalry, equalling in during and success the most brilliant achievements in American border warfare. They had occupied the mountain on the Kanawha near the mouth of Pocatalico, when Colonel Clarkson volunteered to lead a scouting party from this camp, composed of two troops of cavalry. Upon arriving in sight of the enemy he observed them in an advance party, coming down the slope of the mountain along whose top their main line extended. Taking one troop he galloped full speed the distance of about a mile, and dividing his party, taking thirty with him, and leaving upwards of forty under Capt Brock to watch the foot of the mountain he charged up the almost insurmountable mountain side, and drove them into the very main line, killing 8 as he believes 3 of whom he rode over lying dead; he himself discharged five shots with his breach attached revolver, three of which took effect though but one of those whom he shot was instantly killed. Of his own little party one was very slightly wounded one horse killed and several wounded. It is proper to state that the enemy only admit one killed and several wounded. But this brilliant little dash is but incidental to the important engagement which took place on the other side of the Kanawha, at the mouth of Scarey Creek. About 3 o'clock P. M., on Wednesday, the 17th inst., the Federal troops, numbering from 900 to 1200, and consisting of the 12th Ohio Regiment, and four companies of the 21st under command of Col. Lowe, a tacked Major Geo. S. Patton, at the mouth of Scarey Creek. A deep ravine, through which the creek found its way, separated the hostile armies. Our boys were thrown into some confusion in the early part of the action, out rallied again and fought gallantly Maj. Patton, who distinguished himself, was wounded and unhorsed during the battle, and the command then devolved on Colonel Frank Anderson, of the Wise Legion, whose name, as associated with General Walker and his Nicaraguan campaign, is historical. Captain A. S. Jenkins with his cavalry troop, was early on the field, and greatly distinguished himself. I mentioned him in my last; the brave fellow is still trying to get even for the destruction of his property, which sat like a crown on the banks of the Ohio.
The enemy had two pieces of artillery, and we the same number; but their's were much superior, and were managed with effect and precision. Lieut Welch, in charge of one of our pieces, was killed, with one of his gunners, and several severely wounded, while the piece itself was disabled, and then spiked to prevent its falling into the hands of the enemy. The other piece was taken off the field at the same time, and never worked efficiently afterwards. Notwithstanding this loss, the infantry rallied to the brunt, charged the enemy up the ravine, and, in fine, drove them off the field and the cavalry pursued them a short distance, with a loss to them estimated at 30 killed, while 10 wounded prisoners fell into our hands, including Col Norton himself. He was in command of the four companies of the 21st Ohio, and was shot through both hips — and, to the honor of the western hills be it said, with an old mountain rifle. He it was who commanded Camp Carrington, Geliopolis, Ohio, and prepared these regiments for our invasion, capturing and imprisoning many loyal citizens from Mason county, and sending them to Columbus.
In addition to Col. Norton, we have as prisoners three other field officers, two captains, and one lieutenant. It seems, after the battle was over, these field officers, Col. Woodruff. Lieutenant Col Neff, of the "2nd Kentucky Regiment," and Col. De Viller, a (Frenchman) of the 12th Ohio Regiment, sauntered down to survey the battle field — the scene, as they supposed, (their regiments not being engaged,) of a recent Federal victory, " when lo! upon saluting the victorious possessors of the field as friends, they were politely told to deliver up their swords as prisoners of war. They, and the other officers mentioned, are now held as prisoners on parole.
Maj. Patton's wound is with the Minnie ball through the right shoulder, and is serious breaking the bone, and, it is feared, rendering amputation necessary. Of the forces under him there were engaged thirteen companies and a fraction over, being less than the force of the enemy at its minimum estimate.
After the battle, the enemy crossed the river, and are now encamped and strongly entrenched at the mouth of Pocatalico; another attack is expected. They also menace us from Sissonville, where they are in possession to the number of four of five hundred, and from Walton on the Elk, supposed in an equal number.
Sad reports, clouding the sunshine of our victory, reach us from Gen. Garnett. The correspondents of the Cincinnati papers up to the 16th represent a terrible Confederate defeat at Rich Mountain, the death of General Garnett, and surrender of Col. Pegram with 600 men. We await calmly the truth of the matter. L.
A private letter from a member of the Richmond Blues, after detailing the circumstances of the fight on the 17th, goes on to say:
Last night (17th,) at 10 o'clock we started for the enemy's camp to take them by surprise, they having from 3,000 to 4,000 men and we 1,000; but when we arrived they had slipped off to the other side of the Kanawha River and fortified themselves. We had not men enough to attack them, so we returned. Their camp was 16 miles from us, but now they are over 25 miles distant. I rode with the Colonel of our party to within about half a mile of their picket guard, and there we had a good view of their camp. They have a splendid position, as there is only one way to get in, and that is a small place about a fourth of a mile in width, which is well fortified. In the fight yesterday our men took the Colonel commanding, Lieut. Colonel, two Captains and two Lieutenants.
Our boys are all in the best of health and spirits.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: July 1861