Camp Allegheny Battlefield in Pocahontas County, West Virginia

Photo by Michael Kleen

Visit a Civil War site in the Monongahela National Forest with breathtaking views of Allegheny Mountain vistas.

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The Battle of Camp Allegheny (Allegheny Mountain) was fought on December 13, 1861 between Union forces commanded by Brig. Gen. Robert H. Milroy and Confederate forces commanded by Col. Edward Johnson in Pocahontas County, West Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was a Confederate victory, although the Confederates abandoned their position a few months later. It resulted in 283 total casualties.

As 1861 came to a close after a string of defeats, the Confederate position in western Virginia was precarious. Since mid-July, Union and Confederate forces had stared at each other from camps at opposite mountaintops: the Federals at Cheat Mountain and Confederates at Allegheny Mountain.

Both sides sought to control the strategic Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike (an early toll road) and Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which linked Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley with the Ohio River. They had fought two skirmishes at Greenbrier Ford earlier that fall, and by December, Brig. Gen. Robert H. Milroy was determined to push his foe off Allegheny Mountain and secure the turnpike for the Union once and for all.

On December 12, Col. Edward Johnson sent a scouting party to ambush the approaching Union troops, and after a sharp fight, they retired to camp that evening. Early next morning, December 13th, Milroy’s brigade, approximately 1,760 men strong, deployed to attack up Allegheny Mountain, but found the Confederates were ready and waiting for them.

Johnson’s brigade responded aggressively, advancing on the beleaguered Federals, who took up a defensive position in the woods. They repulsed several attacks before their ranks, thinned by casualties and desertion and low on ammunition, gave way. After three hours of fighting, Union forces retreated back to their camp on Cheat Mountain.

Like often happens in war, nothing was achieved at Allegheny Mountain except adding names to the casualty rolls. Milroy lost 20 dead, 107 wounded, and 10 missing in the attack, while Johnson lost 20 killed, 98 wounded, and 28 missing. Johnson won the nickname “Allegheny”, as well as a promotion to brigadier general, for his stubborn defense, but the strategic situation in western Virginia remained the same as 1861 came to a close.

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.

Today, Camp Allegheny and its battlefield are located in the Monongahela National Forest, a 921,150-acre wilderness in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia. A primitive gravel/dirt road winds its way to Camp Allegheny Historic District, where there is a gravel pull-off, cemetery, and a Civil War Trail sign. It was included on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. The West Virginia Historic Commission erected a metal historical marker along U.S. 250 in 1963, which West Virginia Archives and History replaced with an identical sign in 2011.

Several historic markers and interpretive signs are located at the intersection of Mountain Turnpike (Route 250) and Old Pike Road at the border of Virginia and West Virginia (GPS coordinates 38.226786, -80.932277). The Camp Allegheny parking lot and trail is located along Old Pike Road at GPS coordinates 38.473629, -79.722434. It’s easiest to turn onto Old Pike Road from Route 250 near these signs, rather than come from the direction of Bartow and drive up the mountain.

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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