Charleston's Civil War Trails Markers: Baptism By Fire
This marker denotes the site of an early Civil War Battle for control of Kanawha Valley. A multipronged Union attack initially drove untested Confederate soldiers back. However, Confederate forces rallied and claimed a victory, though they continued their retreat out of southern West Virginia and into Virginia and Kentucky.
Backstory and Context
In July 1861, this area swarmed with retreating Confederate troops and pursuing Federal forces. Union Gen. George B. McClelland had ordered Gen. Jacob Cox to march his 3,000 raw Ohio recruits into western Virginia from Gallipolis, Ohio, to drive Confederate Gen. Henry A. Wise and equally raw troops from the Kanawha Valley. Wise marched downriver from Charleston to confront the Federals. By July 13, Wise's men had erected fortifications west of here on Tyler Mountain and on the Littlepage farm to command the junction of the road to Ripley with the valley road leading to Charleston.
Cox launched a three-pronged drive up the Kanawha River Valley on July 11 to envelop Wise. Two wings marched overland while the third came upriver on four steamboats. Soon the Federal forces began to converge on Wise's position, and on July 17, they fought at Scary Creek, fifteen miles downriver from here. During a Union charge, the untested Confederates panicked and began falling back. Capt. George Patton tried to rally them, but his frightened mount bolted to the rear and the men fled faster. Capt. Albert G. Jenkins assumed command. His horse also bolted, and the retreat gathered speed. It stopped, however, when Wayne County's Sandy Rangers, called the Blood Tubs for their red shirts, joined the line, singing "Bullets and Steel." and turned the tide. Despite their victory, the Confederates retreated east to avoid being cut off by a superior Union force. They retreated eastward, pouring by here with the Federals in pursuit. The strategic Kanawha Valley was firmly in Union hands six weeks later.
"I saw, I think, the first puff of powder smoke and a bullet hit the stump on which I sat. A large beech tree was opportunely near me and I immediately sought the protection of its trunk. As the puffs of smoke increased, the beech tree seemed to wonderfully decrease in size. But for personal reasons, I stuck to it. Captain Albert G. Jenkins came up... and called for someone to go and get his horse. He did not like King Richard, promised a kingdom for his horse, but I was thinking of the kingdom to come, and a chance to dodge it. So I left the beech tree, and ran... over the hill and mounted the horse."
-Sgt. Levi Welch, 22nd Virginia Infantry
Sedinger, James D. War-Time Reminiscences of James D. Sedinger Company E, 8th Virginia Cavalry (Border Rangers), West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History. January 1st 1992. Accessed January 20th 2021. http://www.wvculture.org/history/journal_wvh/wvh51-5.html.