Battle of Kessler's Cross Lanes
The Battle of Kessler’s Cross Lanes, which is also known as the Battle of Cross Lanes, happened on August 26, 1861 in present day Nicholas County, West Virginia. The Confederate Brigadier General John B. Floyd crossed the Gauley River to attack Erastus Tyler’s Union forces camped at Kessler’s Cross Lanes. The Union forces were surprised and Floyd’s troops won the battle. Visitors to the site of the battle can see an informational historical marker and a Civil War era cemetery.
Backstory and Context
On the morning of August 25, 1861, the 7th Ohio Regiment headed for Kessler’s Cross Lanes with the intention of pushing into what is now eastern West Virginia.3 Light skirmishes occurred as the regiment moved toward the area of Kessler’s Cross Lanes. General Tyler hoped to find Confederate troops in the area; however, only traces of Confederate activity remained. Sympathetic locals informed Tyler that Floyd’s forces had crossed into nearby Carnifex Ferry and could be on the move toward the Kessler’s Cross Lanes area.4 Tyler was unsure whether Floyd’s troops had left the area or if they would return.
Throughout the night of August 25, the men of the 7th Ohio Regiment slept very little and froze in the mountain air due to a ban on camp fires. Around sunrise on August 26, Floyd’s troops opened fire on the Union camp. Some of the men in the 7th Ohio assumed that the firing was a precautionary measure by a company further down the road toward Carnifex Ferry. The coming battle was the first taste of combat for the 7th Ohio Regiment. General Tyler instructed his troops to grab their weapons and “fall in” to prepare for battle.
After being commanded to “fall in line," the men of the 7th Ohio Regiment gathered around General Tyler along the Gauley Bridge Road.5 The Confederates formed into lines of battle along the right and advanced toward Tyler’s forces. Tyler’s forces were being ambushed by the Confederate forces to the extent that Tyler was unable to spare forces when another company nearby asked for reinforcements.6 As the Confederates began to emerge from the woods in greater numbers along the Gauley Bridge Road, Tyler began to pull his forces back to a nearby hill. Confederates along Summersville Road were also beginning to open fire.7 Witnesses of the battle assert that the Union soldiers on the hill fought well under fire and, eventually, Tyler ordered his men to retreat.
The 7th Ohio Regiment fell back along Gauley Bridge Road and retreated to the nearby town of Gauley Bridge.8 The men, however, were being pursued by Confederate troops and around 96 men were taken hostage. In total, one man was killed and 20 were wounded. The embarrassing loss at Kessler’s Cross Lanes left the 7th Ohio Regiment hoping to make a comeback in a future battle.9