Hoke’s Run/Falling Waters Battlefield in Berkeley County, West Virginia

Scattered markers and signs amidst modern buildings and highways are all that remain to mark the scene of this early Civil War battle.

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The Battle of Hoke’s Run (Falling Waters/Hainesville) was fought on July 2, 1861 between Union forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Robert Patterson and Confederate forces commanded by Col. Thomas J. Jackson in Berkeley County, West Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was a tactical Union victory, though it allowed Confederate forces to concentrate and achieve victory at the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21. Hoke’s Run resulted in 114 total casualties.

After the Commonwealth of Virginia formally seceded on May 23, 1861, Union troops moved to secure territory bordering Maryland and Washington, DC. Confederate Col. Thomas J. Jackson’s 4,000-man brigade was ordered to delay the Federal advance toward Martinsburg, then a town in Virginia (today, West Virginia). On July 2, 1861, Union Maj. Gen. Robert Patterson crossed the Potomac River with two brigades totaling approximately 8,000 men.

Jackson, who would go on to earn the nickname “Stonewall” and become one of the Confederacy’s most famous generals, deployed his men and four artillery pieces in Patterson’s path just south of Falling Waters. A brief fight erupted, Col. J. J. Abercrombie’s brigade turned Jackson’s right flank, and Jackson fell back. After two miles, Patterson broke off pursuit and ordered his men to make camp.

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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.

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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.

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Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park in Summersville, West Virginia

This Civil War battle was crucial to ending Confederate influence in western Virginia and securing its independence as a new state.

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The Battle of Carnifex Ferry was fought on September 10, 1861 between Union forces commanded by Brig. Gen. William Rosecrans and Confederate forces commanded by Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd in Nicholas County, West Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was a Union victory and resulted in approximately 188 total casualties.

After defeating an isolated Union regiment at the Battle of Kessler’s Cross Lanes on August 26, 1861, Confederate Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd and his 2,000-man brigade withdrew a few miles south and fortified their camp at Carnifex Ferry. Meanwhile, Union Brig. Gen. William S. Rosecrans, camped at Clarksburg, Virginia (today, West Virginia) sought to end this Confederate threat in the Kanawha Valley.

Nearly two weeks after the defeat at Kessler’s Cross Lanes, Rosecrans marched three brigades, totaling approximately 5,000 men, to Carnifex Ferry. Despite being at a numerical disadvantage, Floyd, a former Governor of Virginia and former U.S. Secretary of War, repulsed numerous attempts to storm the defensive works for over four hours. At around 7pm, Rosecrans called off the assault, but his cannon still menaced the defenders. Floyd decided he couldn’t hold the ferry without reinforcements, so he withdrew the next morning.

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Kessler’s Cross Lanes Battlefield in Nicholas County, West Virginia

This small and obscure battle was a rare Confederate victory in what was then western Virginia during the American Civil War.

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The Battle of Kessler’s Cross Lanes was fought on August 26, 1861 between Union forces commanded by Col. Erastus B. Tyler and Confederate forces commanded by Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd in Nicholas County, West Virginia during the American Civil War. The inconsequential battle, in which all Union forces were routed from the field, was a rare Confederate victory in western Virginia.

In late summer 1861, after the disastrous defeats at the battles of Rich Mountain and Corrick’s Ford, Confederate forces in western Virginia attempted to reorganize and regain the initiative. One 2,100-man brigade in the Kanawha Valley, commanded by Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd, crossed the Gauley River at Carnifex Ferry and made camp.

A lone Union regiment, the 7th Ohio Volunteer Infantry commanded by Col. Erastus B. Tyler, numbering some 850 men, advanced to Kessler’s Cross Lanes, approximately three miles to the north. The 7th OH was part of Brig. Gen. Jacob D. Cox’s brigade, which had been ordered to secure local river crossings.

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American Wringer

Antique Wringer
This antique laundry wringer was on display at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia. The asylum, also called the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane, was designed in Gothic and Tudor Revival styles and opened in 1864.

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. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1990.

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.

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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.

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