Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park in Pocahontas County, West Virginia

Photo by Michael Kleen

Visit the scene of West Virginia’s largest Civil War battle, with breathtaking mountain views.

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The Battle of Droop Mountain was fought on November 6, 1863 between Union forces commanded by Brig. Gen. William W. Averell and Confederate forces commanded by Brig. Gen. John Echols in Pocahontas County, West Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was a complete Union victory, resulting in 394 total casualties. It effectively ended Confederate resistance in western Virginia.

In October 1863, Brig. Gen. Benjamin F. Kelley, commander of the Department of West Virginia, ordered Brig. Gen. W.W. Averell to clean out Confederate troops from the newly formed Union state of West Virginia. On November 5, 1863, Averell attacked Confederate forces under Col. William L. Jackson (approximately 600 men) at their supply depot at Mill Point. The outnumbered Confederates withdrew to Droop Mountain, where they were reinforced by Brig. Gen. John Echols’ brigade from Lewisburg, a 28-mile march. His exhausted men arrived just in time.

When Averell commenced his attack at 10am on November 6th, Echols and Jackson’s combined command totaled no more than 1,700 men (including 1,110 under Echols), while Averell brought approximately 5,000 to the fight. The fiercest fighting occurred in dense woods and steep terrain on the Confederate’s left flank. Union forces pushed their foes back into their mountaintop trenches, where a final assault by Averell’s combined force sent them fleeing for the rear. Brothers Frank and Harrison Dye fought on opposite sides of the battle, embodying why the Civil War was truly considered a war of “brother against brother.”

The retreating Confederates left behind 275 killed or wounded, while Union forces suffered 119 casualties. Though Averell and Harris called off their raid on the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad, a separate Union force finally severed that rail line in May 1864, after defeating Albert Jenkins at the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain. Jenkins was mortally wounded at Cloyd’s Mountain and died on May 21, 1864.

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.

John D. Sutton, a Union veteran of the Battle of Droop Mountain and later member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, championed creation of Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park, which became West Virginia’s first state park in 1928. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. Its 287 acres feature historical markers, a driving tour, museum, and over four miles of walking trails. Visitors can climb an observation tower with a magnificent view of the Greenbrier River Valley.

Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park, 683 Droop Park Road (off Seneca Trail) in Hillsboro, West Virginia, is open daily from dawn to dusk. Its tiny log cabin museum is open daily 10am to 2pm from April to November. Call (304) 653-4254 or email dnrdroopmountain@wv.gov for more information.

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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