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Historic America

Bulltown Historic Area and Battlefield in Braxton County, West Virginia

Camp on a Civil War battlefield and explore historic Bulltown in the Allegheny wilderness along the Little Kanawha River.

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The Battle of Bulltown was fought on October 13, 1863 between Union forces commanded by Capt. William Mattingly and Confederate forces commanded by Col. William L. Jackson in Bulltown, West Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was a Union victory, with Confederates failing to take take their objective and cut Federal communications. It resulted in a dozen or so total casualties.

In April 1863, a small Confederate force under Brig. Gens. William E. Jones and John D. Imboden embarked on what’s become known as the “Jones–Imboden Raid” into western Virginia, a few months before West Virginia formally separated and joined the Union. They burned railroad bridges, captured supplies, and temporarily reversed Confederate military fortunes in the area. Col. Jackson had served under Brig. Gen. Imboden during the raid.

That fall, Jackson and a force of 775 men and two artillery pieces sought to capture the small Federal garrison at Bulltown in Braxton County. Capt. Mattingly had between 125 and 400 infantry with which to defend his “fort”. On October 13, Jackson divided his force and attacked piecemeal. At 8am, Jackson called on Mattingly to surrender, and he replied: “Come and take us.” Though Mattingly was wounded in the thigh, miraculously his was one of the few injuries sustained by his command all day.

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Historic America

Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park in Pocahontas County, West Virginia

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.”

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Historic America

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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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.

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Mysterious America

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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Historic America

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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Historic America

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.