Battle of Charleston Historical Marker
This historical marker on Kanawha Boulevard West commemorates the Battle of Charleston. This battle took place on September 13, 1862 in the midst of the Civil War. Around 5,000 Union soldier under the command of Colonel Joseph Andrew Jackson Lightburn controlled the Kanawha River Valley, which had been occupied by the Confederates only a year before. Under the command of Commander General William W. Loring, 10,000 troops closed in on the Kanawha River Valley. After a ten-day Confederate campaign to retake the Kanawha Valley the Union troops were forced into a retreat to Point Pleasant.
Backstory and Context
Earlier battles in the Civil War such as the Battle of Scary Creek and the Battle of Carnifex Ferry established control of the Kanawha Valley for the Union. By August 1862, 10,000 Union troops had accumulated in the Kanawha Valley under the command of General Jacob D. Cox. One month before the Battle of Charleston, 5,000 Union troops were pulled out of the Kanawha Valley due to developing events taking place in Washington. The remaining troops were left under the control of Colonel Joseph Lightburn. Meanwhile Confederate General William W. Loring strategized to retake the Kanawha Valley for its source of salt because it is detrimental to meat preservation.
Loring sent Brigadier General Albert G. Jenkins on a cavalry raid Just north of the Kanawha Valley to test the Unions forces. The raid proved that the Unions forces were in fact weakened. Immediately after the cavalry raid, on September 6 Loring launched another attack and pushed the Union troops that were stationed in Fayetteville back in only four days. On September 10 the Confederate troops attacked withdrawing Union troops at Cotton Hill as well as Montgomery's Ferry. Then early on September 13 the Confederates reached Charleston and began firing artillery at the Union troops from Fort Hill. The Union troops retaliated back with a six pound gun that was stationed at a barn along the Kanawha River, and sent forces to Watt's Hill. While the main battle was fought where the capital stands today.
Despite the Unions efforts to fight off the Confederates they were forced to with retreat to what is now downtown Charleston. As the Union forces were drawing back Colonel Lightburn made the decision to evacuate the city. As the Union troops retreated, they set fire to many of the buildings in the city to keep them out of Confederate hands. Just before the buildings were set fire the supply weapons wagons as well as the residents were transported across a suspension bridge that now carries Washington Street over the Elk River. After the last of the troops made it across the suspension bridge the ropes were cut to slow down the Confederates pursuit. Confederates continued to fire are the retreating Union troops until night fall.
The Confederate campaign lasted ten days.The Battle of Charleston was an overall loss for the Union, but Col. Lightburn managed to save all 700 supply wagons; this totaled around one million dollars worth of supplies. The Confederates suffered 18 killed along with 89 wounded. Union forces suffered 25 killed with 95 wounded, and 190 missing.
“Share Battle of Charleston.” Encyclopedia, www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/2425.
The Civil War Comes to Charleston, www.wvculture.org/history/journal_wvh/wvh23-1.html.
Blevins, Ernest Everett. “When Charleston Was under Attack.” Mail, 4 Oct. 2019, www.wvgazettemail.com/dailymailwv/daily_mail_features/when-charleston-was-under-attack/article_0b6de1b8-b9a7-559f-9fa8-76bacaca94b8.html.