Greenbrier River Battlefield in Pocahontas County, West Virginia

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

Click to expand photos

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.

Continue reading “Greenbrier River Battlefield in Pocahontas County, West Virginia”

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum: West Virginia's Dark Tourist Destination

A menagerie of tortured souls is said to lurk in these corridors.

Designed by Baltimore architect Richard Snowden Andrews in Gothic and Tudor Revival styles, construction on the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum began in 1858. Its main building was laid out according to the Kirkbride plan, brainchild of Superintendent of the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane Thomas Story Kirkbride. Kirkbride theorized that exposure to natural light and fresh air would aid in curing the mentally ill, so he designed a long, narrow hospital with staggered wings extending outward from the center. The furthest wings were reserved for the most violent or disturbed patients.

In 1861, the Civil War’s outbreak interrupted construction on Virginia’s new asylum as Union troops seized its construction funds from a local bank (totaling nearly $30,000.00 in gold) and used them to help fund a pro-Union Virginia government in Wheeling. When West Virginia seceded from Virginia in 1863 and was admitted to the Union, the new state government renamed it the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane. Construction on the sprawling grounds, with everything the hospital needed to be a self-sustaining community, wasn’t completed until 1881.

Originally designed to accommodate 250 patients in relatively comfortable surroundings with plenty of natural light and fresh air, conditions at the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane slowly deteriorated into a horror show. During the 1950s, its population peaked at a staggering 2,600 patients, with state and medical officials resorting to lobotomy to reduce overcrowding. Lobotomy was a procedure designed to make patients docile by severing connections in the frontal lobe of the brain. Though I couldn’t find any concrete numbers, it’s believed over a thousand lobotomies were performed there.

Continue reading “Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum: West Virginia's Dark Tourist Destination”

Camp Allegheny Battlefield in Pocahontas County, West Virginia

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

Click to expand photos

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.

Continue reading “Camp Allegheny Battlefield in Pocahontas County, West Virginia”

Corrick’s Ford Battlefield in Tucker County, West Virginia

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

Click to expand photos

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.

Continue reading “Corrick’s Ford Battlefield in Tucker County, West Virginia”

Rich Mountain Battlefield in Randolph County, West Virginia

Explore scenic views and the scene of an early Confederate defeat at this rustic mountaintop battlefield.

Click to expand photos

The Battle of Rich Mountain was fought on July 11, 1861 between Union forces commanded by Brig. Gen. William Rosecrans and Confederate forces commanded by Brig. Gen. Robert S. Garnett in Randolph County, West Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was a Union victory, routing Confederate forces in western Virginia and resulting in approximately 340 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 under the pretext of protecting unionists there. These western counties would later vote to secede from Virginia and form the state of West Virginia.

Following an ignominious Confederate defeat at the Battle of Philippi in early June, Confederate Brig. Gen. Robert S. Garnett fortified two key mountain passes: one through Laurel Mountain leading to Leadsville and the other through Rich Mountain to Beverly. The smaller force, consisting of 1,300 men and four cannon at Camp Garnett in Rich Mountain, was commanded by Lt. Col. John Pegram.

Continue reading “Rich Mountain Battlefield in Randolph County, West Virginia”

Laurel Hill Battlefield in Belington, West Virginia

See where amateur armies of North and South squared off in this early Civil War battle fought before the Battle of Bull Run.

Click to expand photos

The Battle of Belington (Laurel Hill) was fought from July 7 to 11, 1861 between Union forces commanded by Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Morris and Confederate forces commanded by Brig. Gen. Robert S. Garnett in Barbour County, West Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was technically a draw, but defeat at Rich Mountain on July 11 compelled Garnett to abandon his fortified camp at Laurel Hill.

Following an ignominious Confederate defeat at the Battle of Philippi in early June, Brig. Gen. Garnett took command of Confederate forces in western Virginia and fortified two key mountain passes: one at Laurel Mountain leading to Leadsville and the other at Rich Mountain to Beverly. Lt. Col. John Pegram commanded a smaller force at Camp Garnett in Rich Mountain, while Garnett stayed at Camp Laurel Hill with 4,000 men.

Garnett knew his prospects for victory were slim. “I don’t anticipate anything very brilliant–indeed I shall esteem myself fortunate if I escape disaster,” he wrote. His pessimism would be tested on July 7, when Brig. Gen. Morris arrived with his 3,500-man brigade and made camp in nearby Belington (where he soon received reinforcements, bringing his total to 4,000). The two sides skirmished for several days. Morris’ orders were to “amuse” his opponent and prevent him from reinforcing Rich Mountain.

Continue reading “Laurel Hill Battlefield in Belington, West Virginia”

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.

Click to expand photos

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.

McClellan sent 3,000 volunteer troops into western Virginia under the overall command of Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Morris. Opposing them were approximately 800 poorly trained and equipped militia commanded by Col. George A. Porterfield gathered at the town of Grafton. Porterfield retreated to Philippi as the Union army advanced. Morris divided his force into two columns, which converged on Philippi and the Confederates camped there.

Continue reading “Philippi: First Organized ‘Battle’ of the Civil War”

Discover West Virginia’s Lost World Caverns

Natural history and a taste of the fantastic awaits you at this subterranean roadside attraction.

Adults and children alike will enjoy this 1/2-mile loop through towering stalagmites and stalactites 235 feet underground. Walk through a continuous room over 1,000 feet long and 120 feet high, slowly hollowed out over millions of years, draining into the nearby Greenbrier River. Stairs, ramps, and railings make the basic tour a breeze for anyone not in a wheel chair.

Lost World Caverns was discovered in 1942, though local farmers had been using its entrance to dump dead livestock and trash for decades. They had no idea what lay just under the surface until scientists from  Virginia Tech began to explore what was then known as “Grapevine Cave”. It was surveyed in the 1960s, and in 1967 the remains of a prehistoric cave bear were discovered.

In the 1970s, the cavern was developed for commercial tourism and in 1973 the National Park Service designated it a National Natural Landmark. Since then, Lost World Caverns has attracted the sensational. In 1971, a man named Bob Addis set the World Record for “Stalagmite Sitting” atop a 28-foot formation called the War Club, and in 1992 the infamous tabloid Weekly World News reported that “Bat Boy” had been caught living in the cave.

Continue reading “Discover West Virginia’s Lost World Caverns”