Battle at Winfield Courthouse
On October 26, 1864, Thurmond’s Partisan Rangers and the 44th Virginia Cavalry attacked Union fortifications near the Putnam County Courthouse in Winfield, West Virginia. Led by Captain Philip Thurmond and Lieutenant Colonel Vinson A. Witcher, approximately 400 Confederate soldiers and rangers made a nighttime attack on Company D of the West Virginia Cavalry, about 85 federal troops camping near the Kanawha River. The Confederate forces were repelled, and Thurmond was mortally wounded in the initial charge.
Backstory and Context
The West Virginia 7th Cavalry Company D were sent to Winfield, the county seat of Putnam County for two reasons, the first, protect riverboats along the Kanawha River between Charleston and Point Pleasant; second, protect the town of Winfield from Confederate raids. The company dug rifle pits, and fortifications around their camp, next to a mill and the brick court house building, which was situated on a small hill across the town from the river. In charge of these forces was Captain John M. Reynolds.
Captain Philip Thurmond and his brother William, from Fayette County, had established a group of raiders from adjacent counties, serving as support to various Confederate groups since 1863. By 1864, they had combined with the 44th Virginia Cavalry and served under Lt. Col. Vinson A. Witcher, along with the 34th Virginia Cavalry Battalion. In October 1864, Witcher’s and Thurmond’s forces made their way up from the Mud River area of Western Virginia, through Teays Valley, to Winfield, in an effort to attack the federal position there.
Around 9 at night, Witcher’s and Thurmond’s forces arrived just upstream of Winfield. There they quietly divided up into two columnns, one under Thurmond’s command and the other under Witcher. Around 10 that night, they made their attack. Thurmond’s columnn was the first to meet the union troops in his charge, and was mortally wounded in the attack. The attack was repelled by Company D after a short fight. Elias Thurmond, the brother of Philip and William, was a federal soldier at Winfield at the time, and was given pass to be with his brother as he died from his wounds. The Confederate forces reported an additional four wounded and three lost as prisoners, including William. Philip Thurmond’s body was buried in an unmarked grave near the Hoge house, nearby, and his body remained there unclaimed until 2010.