September 17, 1861
On Tuesday last, the 10th inst. Gen'l Floyd's forces posted on the West side of Gauley River, were attacked by a large force of the enemy.--The contest was continued from 3 o'clock P. M. till night. A letter from Lewisburg, dated the 12th says that a gentleman, a baptist minister who was present at the fight, had just arrived in that place, and reported that we had only eight wounded, whereas the enemy, it was supposed lost about five hundred killed and one thousand wounded--that Gen. Floyd retreated that night to the East side of Gauley River, for fear that a portion of the enemy would cross at a ford above and cut off his supplies. This report may be exaggerated, but there can be no doubt that the enemy suffered vastly more than we did. This we would infer even from the enemy's own account. The following is the account of the enemy per telegraph.
CLARKSBURG, Va., Sept. 13th--A battle occurred at three o'clock on Tuesday afternoon, near Summersville. General Rosencrantz, after making a reconnoisance, found General Floyd with an army of 5,000, with sixteen field pieces entrenched in a powerful position on the top of a mountain on the west side of the Gauley river. The rear and the extreme of both flanks was inaccessible to foot soldiers. The position was guarded by heavy forts and a jungle.
A strong detachment of Confederates was discovered out of their camp on this side of the river, and shortly afterwards the scouts discovered themselves in the face of a parapet battery and a long line of palisades, when the battle opened fiercely. The Confederates poured upon the Federals a terrible fire of musketry, rifles, canister and shells, causing some casualties. Colonel Settle led several companies of his Irish to charge the batteries, when he was brought down by a shot in the leg. Col. Smith engaged the Confederates on the left, and Col. Lowe directly in front. Col. Lowe was killed. McMullen's Howitzer Battery and Snyder's two-field pieces got in the best position possible, and soon silenced two of the Confederates' guns. The fire slackened at intervals, but grew more furious as night approached, when the German Brigade was led into action by Col. McCook, under the direction of Adjutant General Hortzeuff. After a furious fight which lasted three hours, night compelled the recall of the troops. The men lay on their arms ready to renew the contest in the morning. Gen. Floyd fell back during the night, sinking his boats and destroying the temporary bridge. The depth of the river, and exhaustion of the troops, rendered a pursuit impossible. The Federal loss was fifteen killed and seventy wounded. The loss of the Confederates is unknown, as they carried off their dead and wounded.
Since the above was in type, we have seen a gentleman, connected with Gen. Floyd's Brigade, who informed us that in the fight on Tuesday last, we had only 1,700 against 11,000, 5,000 of the enemy being actually engaged and 6,000 held in reserve. We had NONE killed, and not more than six or seven wounded. Gen. Floyd was shot in the arm. The loss of the enemy in killed is supposed to be between 200 and 500, with a much greater number wounded. Gen. Floyd has fallen back to Dogwood Gap and has formed a junction with Gen. Wise. We do not know the program me of Gen. Lee, but suppose he will send a force down the West side of Gauley that he may get the enemy between it and the force under the commands of Generals Floyd and Wise. The German fox will be caught if he does not "look sharp."
October 1, 1861
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF KANAWHA,
Camp Walker, Sept. 13, 1861.
MY DEAR WIFE: We have had stirring times since my last note to you. On the 10th of September Gen. Rosencrantz, who was supposed to be in front of Lee, made his appearance in front of my entrenchments at the head of [?] regiments. I had been looking for him for some time, but had no idea of finding myself, with my little force of two thousand men, in front of the General commanding the division of Western Virginia, at the head of 9,000 men, thoroughly appointed in every particular, and especially in artillery. But such was the case. I would not decline battle, and the assaults commenced at quarter past 3 o'clock, and continued without intermission until night. We repulsed them in five distinct charges--the last particularly fierce. Wonderful to tell, notwithstanding the perpetual torrent of bullets, cannon balls and shells which swept over us for three hours, not one of our men was killed--so effectually had we guarded against the dangers of an attack by judicious entrenchments. Our injuries consisted of about 20 men wounded. Finding it impossible, without succor, which was beyond my reach, to withstand much longer the assault of this overwhelming force, I determined to recross the Gauley river--which I did in perfect order and without an accident. I have the gratification to know that Gen Lee, hearing of the force marching against me, had already advised me to take the step which I finally did take. The only difference between his view and my action was, that I fought the enemy before I retired, which he had not advised.
I write this, as you see, by Capt. Peters, because I received a little hurt in the muscles of my right arm, which will render writing painful for a few days--as the hurt was muscular mainly. It was not sufficient, however, to cause me to lie down during the day, although I received it within the first fifteen minutes of the engagement; nor did any one know, except a few immediately around me, that I had received a hurt. I mention this to show the insignificance of the wound. Do not be uneasy at any report you hear. They will be exaggerated and distorted. Give my love to all. Ever and affectionately yours,
JOHN B. FLOYD.
February 25, 1862
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF KANAWHA,
CAMP ON THE ROAD, Sept. 12, 1861.
Hon. L. P. Walker, Secretary of War.
Sir,---Information had resolved me for some number of days that a heavy force was advancing towards my position, from the direction of Clarksburg, in the Northwestern part of the State. As these rumors became certainty, I made an effort to strengthen myself, first, by reinforcement, and secondly, by entrenchments, sufficient to withstand the very large force of the enemy. My orders to General Wise I send you copies of, and also copies of his replies. I failed in procuring reinforcements, but succeeded somewhat better in the construction of a temporary breastwork. At three o'clock in the evening of the 10th of September, the enemy under the command of General Rosencrans, (as we learned through prisoners,) of whose advance I was fully aware, at the head of ten regiments, made his appearance before our entrenchments, when the battle instantly commenced. Our lines were necessarily very extended for the purpose of protecting our position, and when manned, left not one man for reserve. The assault was made with spirit and determination, with small arms, grape and round shot, from howitzers and rifled cannon. There was scarcely an intermission in the conflict, until night put an end to the firing. the enemy's force is estimated certainly between eight and nine thousand men, whilst our force engaged was less than two thousand.
Upon the close of the contest for the night, I discovered that it was only a question of time when we should be compelled to yield to the superiority of numbers. I therefore determined at once to recross the Gauley River and take position upon the left bank, which I accomplished without the loss of a gun, or any accident whatever. Our loss, strange to say, after a continued firing upon us by cannon and small arms for nearly four hours, was only 20 men wounded. the loss of the enemy we had no means of accurately estimating, but we are satisfied from report of prisoners and other sources of information, was very heavy. We repulsed them in five distinct and successive assaults, and at nightfall had crippled them to such an extent that they were in no condition whatever to molest us in our passage across the river. I will only say that our men, without distinction, behaved with the greatest coolness, determination, and presence of mind, and while it is impossible to give praise to one portion of the force engaged over another, it is but proper to say that the artillery behaved with the greatest bravery and efficiency; that under the command of Captain Guy, who had reached me only two days before, and were for the first time under fire, behaved themselves in a manner worthy of all praise.
I am very confident that I could have beaten the enemy and have marched directly to the Valley of Kanawha, if the reinforcements from Gen. Wise's column had come up when ordered, and the regiments from North Carolina and Georgia could have reached me before the close of the second day's conflict. I cannot express the regret which I feel at the [?] over which I had no control, which required that I should recross the river. I am confident that if I could have commanded the services of five thousand men, instead of eighteen hundred, which I had, I could have opened the road directly into the Valley of the Kanawha.
It would seem now as if the object so nearly accomplished can only be obtained by an advance upon the enemy, by the left bank of the Kanawha river, with a sufficient force at any time to give him battle. This force, if possible, ought to be collected from Tennessee and Kentucky. Their close correspondence shows distinctly enough the urgent necessity of so sharing the command in the Valley of the Kanawha as to insure, in the future, that unity of action upon which alone can rest any hope of success in military matters.
I have not thought proper to take any other notice of these transactions, than to bring them to the notice of the President and Secretary of the Confederate States. The reasons which have induced me to take this course, I am sure, will not be misunderstood by either.
I apprehend the course the enemy proposes to pursue is to carry out the plans indicated by General Rosencrans to Gen. Tyler, for the invasion of the interior of the State and the seizure of Lewisburg, set forth in an intercepted letter of the latter, a month ago. To prevent this I am in command of an actual force of four [?] and two hundred men. This force will be required to oppose the advance of Gen. Cox and Gen. Rosencrans, with, as their forces, as they undoubtedly will, of at least 12,000 men. This disparity of numbers, is too great, although I will certainly give battle to the invading army at some strong point in the mountain passes as I may hope will equalize, to some extent, our numbers. This may occur within the next three days; but should it be delayed by any length of time, I hope the Department will find itself to strengthen us with reinforcements. In the meantime, should Gen. Lee attack and repulse the army at Rich Mountain, I will hold myself in position to fall upon his flank or rear, as circumstances may allow or my [?].
I have the honor to be, with high respect, your obedient servant.
[This is signed] by Adjutant Peters, because a injury prevents my holding a pen]
JHO B. FLOYD.
Brig. Gen. Com'g Army of Kanawha.
By Wm. E. Peters.
A. A. Gen. Floyd's Brigade
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: September 1861