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Historic America

Philippi: First Organized ‘Battle’ of the Civil War

A historic covered bridge, used as a barracks for Union troops, still stands at the scene of an early Civil War skirmish.

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The Battle of Philippi was fought on June 3, 1861 between Union forces commanded by Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Morris and Confederate forces commanded by Col. George A. Porterfield in Philippi, West Virginia during the American Civil War. The skirmish, which was the first in Virginia, was a Union victory that encouraged Western Virginians to secede and form their own pro-Union state. It resulted in 30 total casualties.

By the time Virginia voters ratified the decision of its secession convention on May 23, 1861, Richmond had already been proclaimed the Confederate capital and militia units were mobilizing. As commander of the Department of the Ohio, Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan invaded western Virginia under the pretext of protecting unionists there. Western counties would later vote to secede from Virginia and form the state of West Virginia.

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One reply on “Philippi: First Organized ‘Battle’ of the Civil War”

[…] Before dawn on June 3rd, the Confederates were sheltering from the rain in their tents and were almost taken completely by surprise, if not for a local woman firing her pistol at the Union troops. The Confederates broke and ran with Morris’ men in hot pursuit, leading Northern journalists to call the fight the “Races at Philippi”. […]

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