Historic America

Greenbrier River Battlefield in Pocahontas County, West Virginia

Visit the remnants of a Civil War camp with a picturesque view of the Allegheny Mountains

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The Battle of Greenbrier River (Camp Bartow) was fought on October 3, 1861 between Union forces commanded by Brig. Gen. Joseph J. Reynolds and Confederate forces commanded by Brig. Gen. Henry R. Jackson in Pocahontas County, Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was inconclusive and despite 95 total casualties, both sides returned to their camps to fight another day.

After Gen. Robert E. Lee and Brig. Gen. William W. Loring’s ineffectual and ultimately aborted attack on the Union army camped on Cheat Mountain in mid-September, Union Brig. Gen. Joseph J. Reynolds planned a counter-attack on Confederate forces at Camp Bartow on the Greenbrier River. A victory there would end Confederate resistance along the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike, which linked Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley with the Ohio River.

On October 3rd, Reynolds led his approximately 5,000-man brigade against Brig. Gen. Henry R. Jackson’s 1,800 (Jackson’s ranks had been thinned by sickness). Early that morning, Confederate skirmishers detected Reynolds’ advance and spoiled his surprise. Despite four hours of artillery bombardment and assaults on both flanks, Jackson held firm. His men were dug-in on a hill with a commanding view of Union forces below.

Reynolds, thinking he was outnumbered, broke off his attack upon the arrival of the 52nd Virginia Infantry Regiment from Camp Allegheny. He lost eight killed and 35 wounded in the fight to the Confederates’ six killed, 33 wounded, and 13 missing. Though victorious, an outbreak of disease forced Jackson to abandon Camp Bartow and join the 52nd Virginia at Camp Allegheny, where Col. Edward Johnson took command. Henry R. Jackson was promoted to major general of militia for his home state of Georgia.

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.

As the decades passed and West Virginia modernized, Camp Bartow and its surrounding acreage was remarkably spared from development. The 1845 Traveller’s Repose Inn (rebuilt in 1869) still stands in the shadow of the hill Confederates defended in 1861. These sites form Camp Bartow Historic District, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

In 2016, West Virginia Land Trust and American Battlefield Trust purchased 14-acres to preserve and protect for posterity. West Virginia Humanities Council aided in erecting signage and markers telling the story of the battle. Historical interpretation at the site is still new, but has a lot of potential.

The Greenbrier River Battlefield historic markers are located at the juncture of the Potomac Highlands Trail and U.S. Route 250 south of Bartow, West Virginia and the Greenbrier River. The signs are along Old Pike Road near GPS coordinates 38.537951, -79.773499, in front of the historic Travelers’ Repose. The Yeager House (49 Old Pike Road), a vacation rental home built in 1898, allows you to spend the night on the battlefield.

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