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West Virginia Civil War Battlefields
Item 8 of 18
The Battle of Scary Creek was one of the earliest battles of the Civil War and the site of the first Confederate victory in modern day West Virginia. Confusion from the aftermath of the battle resulted in Union forces still capturing the Kanawha Valley and Charleston. The battle was an attempt by the Union to remove the Confederate forces from the Kanawha Valley. During the three previous months, the Confederates had complete control over the Kanawha Valley. The Union forces moved into Confederate grounds on July 17, 1861.

  • Present day bridge, near the location of the 1861 covered bridge long since taken down.
  • Battle of Scary Creek historical marker
  • Confederate Capt. George S. Patton. Grandfather of World War II General George Patton. Founder of the Kanawha Riflemen and later Colonel of the 22nd Virginia Infantry. Later killed at the Third Battle of Winchester, 1864.
  • General Jacob D. Cox went on to command Union troops in West Virginia for much of the war.
  • Battle of Scary Creek map
  • Confederate Colonel Albert Jenkins, who later lead a famous cavalry raid during the 1862 Kanawha Valley Campaign.
  • Terry Lowry's detailed history is the only book-length study of the battle. Quarrier Press. See links below.
After securing Guyandotte, Barboursville and other adjacent areas, the Union Army proceeded to continue its mission of capturing the Kanawha Valley in order to take Charleston and northwestern Virginia.

On July 16, two Confederate scouts reported seeing Union troops heading towards Scary Creek, which was near one of the Confederate camps. On July, 17th 1861, approximately 1200-1700 Union troops from Ohio, commanded by Generals Cox and Col. Lowe of the 12th Ohio Infantry, marched onto the battle lines of the estimated 800 CSA force commanded by former VA Gov. General Wise, with Capt. George S. Patton (grandfather to George S. Patton of WW2) and then Capt. Albert G. Jenkins of Cabell County.

 For five hours both sides traded volleys and maneuvered around Scary Creek Bridge. The Union forces then charged the Rebel line. Patton was wounded and Jenkins took command, keeping the Rebels from retreating and losing the bridge.After several hours of battle, the Union began to retreat. As the Union forces retreated, they left Colonel Neff on the battlefield wounded. The Confederates feared that the Union was backing down because they were planning a strong comeback, so they also retreated. For a short period, there were no actions done by either side. Colonel Frank Anderson of the Confederates noticed that nothing was happening and ordered his two left sides to go back and fight. This resulted in a victory for the Confederates.

Casualties were light for such a long battle/skirmish: Union-14 killed, 30 wounded with 7 captured. CSA-4 killed, 6 wounded.

There are many rumors as to what happened soon after CSA reinforcements arrived. One is that Gen. Wise heard a rumor that more Union forces had arrived and in haste he ordered a retreat from the field, heading back to supply lines in Fayette and Greenbrier counties. Another rumor is that the Union did actually push them back to Greenbrier County. In any case, Wise would correct his mistake of abandoning the area, it proved fatal. Kanawaha Valley would fall to Union forces and despite many skirmishes and battles, the Union kept control of the area. In 1863, the counties and people of northwestern Virginia seceded from the state of Virginia and thus the CSA and become West Virginia, the 35th state.

Reenactments of the Battle of Scary Creek are held annually in Hurricane.

Lowry, Terry. The Battle of Scary Creek: Military Operations in the Kanawha Valley, April-July 1861. Quarrier Press; 2 edition (April 1998).

Dickinson, Jack L.. Jenkins of Greenbottom A Civil War Saga. Charleston, WV. Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1988.