Corrick’s Ford Battlefield in Tucker County, West Virginia

Photo by Michael Kleen

Efforts are underway to preserve the scene of an early Confederate defeat along the Cheat River.

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The Battle of Corrick’s Ford was fought on July 13, 1861 between Union forces commanded by Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Morris and Confederate forces commanded by Brig. Gen. Robert S. Garnett in Tucker County, West Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was a Union victory, routing Confederate forces in western Virginia and resulting in approximately 670 total casualties, mostly Confederate.

Soon after Virginia seceded from the Unites States in May 1861 and joined the Confederacy, Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, as commander of the Department of the Ohio, invaded western Virginia. On June 3, he sent Confederate militia fleeing from the town of Philippi, and in July, he smashed a Confederate force at Rich Mountain.

Following defeat at the Battle of Rich Mountain, Confederate Brig. Gen. Robert S. Garnett attempted to retreat from his camp on Laurel Hill to Beverly, but was misinformed about a Union presence there and fled northeast toward the Cheat River. “They have not given me an adequate force,” Garnett lamented. “I can do nothing. They have sent me to my death.” His words would be prophetic.

On July 13th, Garnett arrived at Corrick’s Ford on the Cheat River with 4,500 men. As they crossed, Union Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Morris’ brigade attacked, and while looking for another route to escape across the river, Garnett was shot and killed. His army abandoned its wagons, cannon, and supplies and fled.

Twenty Confederates were killed or wounded at Corrick’s Ford, including Garnett, who was the first general officer to fall in battle during the Civil War. Six hundred went missing and probably deserted. In contrast, Union forces sustained 53 casualties at Corrick’s Ford. McClellan was widely praised for his victory and was given command of the Military Division of the Potomac on July 26, 1861.

Fought between Northern and Southern states from 1861 to 1865, the American Civil War erupted over questions of slavery, the legality of secession, and the primacy of the Federal government. It ended with Northern victory and restoration of the Union. Nearly 850,000 people died in the conflict, the bloodiest war in U.S. history. Most of the war’s battles were fought in the South, devastating its economy and leaving generational scars.

After the battle, Corrick’s Ford returned to a quiet river crossing in a quiet mountain town. In 1926, the Tucker County Historical Society dedicated a bronze plaque affixed to a six-ton boulder at the county courthouse to commemorate the battle, which was moved closer to the actual site in 1938. The American Battlefield Trust has preserved 26 acres of the battlefield, and interpretive signage and a trail is part of Corricks Ford Battlefield Park in Parsons, West Virginia. The Corrick House, where Garnett’s body was taken after the battle, still stands.

Rich Mountain battlefield is located off Rich Mountain Road at GPS Coordinates 38.866233, -79.934490. A gravel pull-off is available for parking. Corricks Ford Battlefield Park is located at the end of Poplar Street (39.089698, -79.680861) in Parsons, West Virginia. The Beverly Heritage Center is at 4 Court Street in Beverly, West Virginia, and is open Sunday through Thursday 11am to 5pm and Friday and Saturday 10am to 6pm.

Author: Michael Kleen

Michael Kleen is an author, raconteur, and occasional traveler. He has a M.A. in History and M.S. in Education. He enjoys studying military history, folklore, and philosophy.

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