Battle of Carnifex Ferry

The Battle of Carnifex Ferry took place on September 10, 1861 in Nicholas County, Virginia (now West Virginia), as part of the Operations in Western Virginia Campaign during the American Civil War. The battle resulted in a Union strategic victory that contributed to the eventual Confederate withdrawal from western Virginia. The campaign helped pave the way for the subsequent creation of the separate state of West Virginia.

The battle took its name from a former settlement, which was named after the local Carnefix family.[2]

Battle of Carnifex Ferry
Part of the American Civil War
Patteson House

Patteson House
DateSeptember 10, 1861
Coordinates: 38°12′32″N 80°56′19″W / 38.20889°N 80.93861°W
Result Union victory[1]
United States United States of America (Union) Confederate States of America CSA (Confederacy)
Commanders and leaders
William S. Rosecrans John B. Floyd
5,000 2,000
Casualties and losses
17 killed
141 wounded
unknown killed
30 wounded

Opposing forces


The battle

In late August 1861, Confederate forces under Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd crossed the Gauley River and surprised the 7th Ohio Infantry under Col. Erastus Tyler at Kessler's Cross Lanes.[3] Outnumbered, Tyler's inexperienced men routed, and Floyd camped near Carnifex Ferry. The Confederates began throwing up entrenchments on the Henry Patteson farm (located on the rim of the Gauley River Canyon near Summersville).

Concerned about Floyd's drive to reclaim the Kanawha Valley, Union Brigadier General William S. Rosecrans led three brigades of infantry southward from Clarksburg to support Tyler's regrouped regiment. Moving into position on the afternoon of September 10, Rosecrans advanced against Floyd's campsite and attacked. The Confederate lines repulsed the attacks and the Federal casualties were significantly higher than the defenders. The strength of Rosecrans's artillery proved to be problematic however, and Floyd decided to retreat that night across the ferry to the south side of the Gauley River. He subsequently moved eastward to Meadow Bluff near Lewisburg.

Floyd, seeking to deflect the blame, placed the responsibility for the defeat on his co-commander Brigadier General Henry A. Wise, furthering the dissension that marked the Confederate high command in western Virginia.

Battlefield preservation

In October 1935, the battlefield was preserved as Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park.[4]


Battle of Carnifex Ferry map

A map of the battle

Floyd's retreat after Carnifex Ferry

General Floyd's troops retreat across the river

Carnifex Ferry Battlefield West Virginia

Map of Carnifex Ferry Battlefield core and study areas by the American Battlefield Protection Program

See also


  1. ^ CWSAC Battle Summary, National Park Service Archived February 26, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Kenny, Hamill (1945). West Virginia Place Names: Their Origin and Meaning, Including the Nomenclature of the Streams and Mountains. Piedmont, WV: The Place Name Press. p. 156.
  3. ^ "Kessler's Cross Lanes". CWSAC Battle Summaries. National Park Service. Retrieved January 16, 2017.
  4. ^ Where People and Nature Meet: A History of the West Virginia State Parks. Charleston, West Virginia: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company. April 1988. ISBN 0-933126-91-3.

External links

13th Ohio Infantry

The 13th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (or 13th OVI) was an infantry regiment in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

28th Ohio Infantry

The 28th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (or 28th OVI) was an infantry regiment in the Union Army during the American Civil War. It was frequently referred to at the "2nd German Ohio Regiment".

36th Virginia Infantry

The 36th Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment was an infantry regiment raised in Virginia for service in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. It fought mostly in western Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

The 36th Virginia, also known as the 2nd Kanawha Regiment, was organized in July, 1861. Assigned to Floyd's Brigade, the unit fought at Cross-Lanes and Carnifax Ferry in western Virginia, then moved to Tennessee. Here it escaped surrender and later returned to Virginia and served in McCausland's and T. Smith's Brigade. The 36th went on to fight at Cloyd's Mountain and Piedmont, and later was involved in Early's Shenandoah Valley operations. It fought its last battle at Waynesboro.

This unit reported 14 killed and 46 wounded at Fort Donelson, and there were 18 killed, 58 wounded, and 35 missing at Cloyd's Mountain. Many were lost at Third Winchester, and in mid-April, 1865, it disbanded.

The field officers were Colonels John McCausland and Thomas Smith (a son of Confederate general and war-time Governor of Virginia William "Extra Billy" Smith), and Lieutenant Colonels William E. Fife, Benjamin R. Linkous, and L. Wilber Reid.

47th Ohio Infantry

The 47th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (or 47th OVI) was an infantry regiment in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

50th Virginia Infantry

The 50th Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment was an infantry regiment raised in Virginia for service in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. It fought mostly with the Army of Northern Virginia and in Tennessee.

The 50th Virginia was organized in July 1861, with ten companies and three companies of cavalry temporarily attached. The regiment participated in the Battle of Carnifex Ferry on 10 September 1861; afterwards one of the cavalry companies was disabled and the other two transferred to the 8th Regiment Virginia Cavalry.

The unit was reorganized in May 1862, with nine companies. It moved to Tennessee and in February 1862, was captured at Fort Donelson. After being exchanged, it was assigned to the Department of Western Virginia and fought in Gen. Wm. W. Loring's Kanawha Valley Campaign of 1862 and participated in the capture of Charleston, Virginia (now, West Virginia) on 13 September 1862.

Later the 50th served in J.M. Jones', G.C. Wharton's, and Forsberg's Brigade, Army of Northern Virginia. It participated in numerous conflicts from Chancellorsville to Cold Harbor, moved with Jubal Early to the Shenandoah Valley, and fought its last battle at Waynesboro.

The regiment reported 10 killed and 40 wounded at Fort Donelson, and there were 8 killed and 110 wounded at Chancellorsville. More than forty percent of the 240 engaged at Gettysburg were disabled, and it sustained heavy casualties in the fight at The Wilderness. During April 1865, it disbanded.

The field officers were Colonels Thomas Poage, Alexander W. Reynolds, and A.S. Vandeventer; Lieutenant Colonels William W. Finney and Logan H. N. Salyer; and Majors Lynville J. Perkins and C.E. Thorburn.

9th Ohio Infantry

The 9th Ohio Infantry Regiment was an infantry regiment that was a part of the Union Army during the American Civil War. The members of the regiment were primarily of German descent and the unit was the first almost all-German unit to enter the Union Army.

Army of the Kanawha

The Army of the Kanawha was a small Confederate army early in the American Civil War.

Confederate units in the vital Kanawha River valley of western Virginia were styled the "Army of the Kanawha" after they were put under the command of former Virginia governor Henry A. Wise on June 6, 1861. Kanawha valley native John B. Floyd, himself a former Virginia governor and former U.S. Secretary of War, assumed command on August 11 intending to improve recruitment, but personal animosity between the two politicians prevented Floyd from fully exercising control of the inexperienced force until early autumn.

After the Confederate commanders' quarrel cost them victory at the Battle of Carnifex Ferry, Confederate States Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin sent an order relieving Wise and ordering him to Richmond, and Floyd commanded the brigade-sized force until he was sent to the Western Theater. The "Army" was incorporated into the 3rd division of the Army of Central Kentucky in late December and while the army ceased to exist as such, the brigade fought at Fort Donelson. What men remained after the Confederate surrender at Donelson eventually became members of the Army of Mississippi before the Battle of Shiloh.

Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park

Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park is an American Civil War battle site that commemorates the Battle of Carnifex Ferry. It is located on the rim of the Gauley River Canyon near Summersville, a town in Nicholas County, West Virginia. The 156-acre (0.63 km2) park features Patterson House Museum, three views of the Gauley River, hiking trails and picnic facilities. It is one of the oldest state parks in the United States. A Civil War reenactment takes place on a weekend after Labor Day. As Carnifex Ferry State Park, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Carnifex Ferry order of battle

The following Union Army and Confederate Army units and commanders fought in the Battle of Carnifex Ferry of the American Civil War on September 10, 1861, in Nicholas County, Virginia (now West Virginia).

Carr B. White

Carr Baily White (1823–1871) was a physician, an officer during the Mexican War and a general during the American Civil War. His Civil War service was entirely in western Virginia and Maryland.

White was born in Mason County, Kentucky, but moved to Ohio at a young age. where he attended Jefferson Medical College. During the Mexican War he enlisted as a private in the 1st Ohio Infantry. On February 1, 1847 he was promoted to captain in his regiment, and was mustered out of the volunteer service on June 14, 1847. When White was promoted to captain, it enraged 1st Lieutenant James P. Fyffe, who was passed over. Fyffe challenged White to a duel. Since General Zachary Taylor frowned upon dueling, they waited until the regiment was mustered out. White chose Ferdinand Van Derveer as his second. White and Fyffe met on an island while their transport refueled and fought with pistols. Both missed and the matter was then settled peacefully. White returned home to serve as a physician.

When the Civil War began, White enlisted in the 12th Ohio Infantry, being chosen its lieutenant colonel. The regiment saw action its first at the battle of Carnifex Ferry in western Virginia. The colonel, John W. Lowe, was killed, and on June 28, 1861 White was made its colonel. The 12th Ohio was attached to Jacob D. Cox's Kanawha Division at the Second Battle of Bull Run and during the Maryland Campaign. The regiment saw heavy fighting at Fox's Gap and fought again in the vicinity of Burnside's Bridge during the Battle of Antietam.

White and the Kanawha Division then returned to western Virginia, and the following spring White was given command of a brigade in the VIII Corps. From June to December, 1863 he commanded a brigade under Eliakim P. Scammon in the Department of West Virginia. During this time White helped organize a unit known as "Spencer's Scouts", after its first commander. White and Spencer's Scouts operated against Confederate partisan and guerrilla leaders in western Virginia, especially those under John S. Mosby.

In April 1864, White took command of the 2nd Brigade in George Crook's division of the Department of West Virginia. He fought at the battle of Cloyd's Mountain. White's brigade was made up of green regiments and sustained heavy casualties in their first and only battle. White led the brigade during the following Lynchburg Campaign, though they saw no combat.

White was mustered on July 11, 1864 and received a brevet promotion to Brigadier General of U.S. Volunteers for his services at Cloyd's Mountain, dated March 13, 1865.White returned to Ohio, settling in Georgetown. He died there in 1871 at the age of 48.

Cyrus B. Lower

Cyrus B. Lower (February 28, 1843 – May 21, 1924) was a United States soldier who fought with the Union Army during the American Civil War as a private in the 13th Pennsylvania Reserve Regiment (also known as the "Bucktails" or 42nd Pennsylvania Infantry). He received his nation's highest award for valor, the U.S. Medal of Honor, for his display of gallantry during the Battle of the Wilderness on May 7, 1864 and afterward when he rejoined his regiment after having been wounded in action and held as a prisoner of war by Confederate States Army troops. That award was conferred on July 20, 1887.

Eliakim P. Scammon

Eliakim Parker Scammon (December 27, 1816 – December 7, 1894) was a career officer in the United States Army, serving as a brigadier general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

Gauley River

The Gauley River is a 105-mile-long (169 km) river in West Virginia. It merges with the New River to form the Kanawha River, a tributary of the Ohio River. It is one of the most popular advanced whitewater runs in the Eastern United States and is the chief feature of the Gauley River National Recreation Area.

Independent Illinois Volunteer Cavalry Companies

The state of Illinois raised a number of short-lived Independent Cavalry Companies which served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Most of these units were quickly amalgamated with larger formations.

John B. Floyd

John Buchanan Floyd (June 1, 1806 – August 26, 1863) was the 31st Governor of Virginia, U.S. Secretary of War, and the Confederate general in the American Civil War who lost the crucial Battle of Fort Donelson.

Kanawha Artillery

The Kanawha Artillery was an artillery battery of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War.

Originally organized in Charleston, Virginia (now West Virginia) in 1861 as Captain John P. Hales Kanawha Artillery, this company saw action in 1861 at the Battle of Scary Creek under the command of George S. Patton, Sr and the Battle of Carnifex Ferry under the command of John B. Floyd. Captain Hale enlisted as a Captain on July 8th, 1861 and resigned August 2nd 1861. Lieutenant William A. Quarrier took command and himself resigned on August 21st, 1861. Captain Thomas E. Jackson took command of the Kanawha Artillery thereafter. The battery was captured at the Battle of Fort Donelson, Tennessee on February 16th, 1862.

The Kanawha Artillery was reformed on May 2nd, 1863 with many former Kanawha Artillerymen and men from the 8th Virginia Cavalry and Virginia State Line companies, again commanded by Thomas E. Jackson. Then known as Jackson's Virginia Horse Artillery and sometimes referred to as the Charlottesville Artillery, it was attached to Albert G. Jenkins Cavalry Brigade during the Gettysburg Campaign. The battery participated in the Battle of Gettysburg under the command of Gen. J.E.B. Stuart. In July and August 1863, the battery was assigned to the Horse Artillery Battalion, Cavalry Corps, Army of Northern Virginia. From the fall of 1863 to the Spring of 1864, it was assigned as an unattached company to the Department of Western Virginia with Ransom's Cavalry Division and participated in the Battle of Droop Mountain.

After the Spring of 1864, the Kanawha Artillery was attached to Lomax's Cavalry Division, Valley District, Department of Northern Virginia under the overall command of Gen. Jubal Early. The unit participated in many battles during the Valley Campaigns of 1864 including the Battle of New Market, the Battle of Cold Harbor, the Battle of Lynchburg, the Battle of Monocacy, the Battle of Georgetown and D.C., the Battle of Folck's Mill, the Battle of Moorefield and the Battle of Fisher's Hill.

Mason Mathews

Mason Mathews (December 15, 1803 - September 16, 1878) was an American merchant and politician in the U.S. state of Virginia. A Whig, he served seven terms in the Virginia House of Delegates, representing Greenbrier County from 1859-1861.

Mathews was a merchant in the cities of Frankford and Lewisburg, Virginia (now West Virginia), where he also served in various civic positions. In 1859, he was elected to represent Greenbrier County in the Virginia House of Delegates, and subsequently served in that body throughout the secession of Virginia and the resulting American Civil War. Mathews had opposed secession, but chose to support the Confederate States of America on the outcome of the Virginia Secession Convention of 1861.

During wartime, Mathews made field visits to the camps of Confederate generals Henry A. Wise and John B. Floyd to arbitrate a public feud between the two men regarding the placement of blame for the Confederate loss at the Battle of Carnifex Ferry in the Western Virginia Campaign. By 1863, the Confederate army had been driven from the area and Unionist organizing had led to the formation of the Union State of West Virginia, with Greenbrier County among those counties comprising the new state. Mathews, though living in Union territory, continued to travel to Richmond, Virginia to represent Greenbrier County in the Confederate Legislature of Virginia. The seat was abolished from the Virginia House of Delegates when the Confederacy dissolved at war's end, at which point he retired from politics at the age of 61.

Mathews was a member of the Mathews political family. His father, Joseph Mathews, was a nephew of Georgia governor George Mathews, and Mason Mathews was the father of West Virginia governor Henry M. Mathews, and the grandfather of Chief of US Air Corps Mason Mathews Patrick and federal judge William Gordon Mathews.

Stephen Joseph McGroarty

Stephen Joseph McGroarty (1830 – January 2, 1870) was an Irish American soldier who served in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

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