In stock

Trim: 8.5 x 11
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-891852-34-3

Civil War The New River Valley, 1861-1865

3 One-Day Driving Tours
David Bard

Civil War in the New River Valley contains three one-day driving tours of Civil War sites in the New River Valley. Easy to use, it contains complete directions to each site, historical information, and tourist highlights. Among the sites featured are Gauley Bridge, Falls of the Kanawha, Carnifex Ferry, Meadow Bluff, Lewisburg, Droop Mountain, and Princeton.




While Civil War battlefields of the scale and strategic importance of Gettysburg may not be found in West Virginia, tangible reminders of the war that gave birth to the state can be found in virtually every county.

Since many Civil War campaigns were staged through the New River Valley and major tributaries like the Greenbrier and Gauley rivers, an abundance of battle sites, headquarters buildings, entrenchment remnants and cemeteries can be found within a day’s drive of the Charleston area.

To make finding them, and understanding the role they played in the conflict, easy, Concord University history professor David Bard has written “Civil War in the New River Valley: 3 One-Day Driving Tours.”

Each driving route is pieced together with easily understood maps and directions, and accompanied by a narrative on the Civil War events that took place at or near the stops made on the tour. At sites where engagements took place, diagrams charting troop movements are provided to help participants understand how the battles took shape.

The first route, covering 155 miles, covers sites involved in the 1861-62 battles to control the James River and Kanawha Turnpike in the New and Kanawha River valleys, between Lewisburg and Charleston.

It makes nine stops in Fayette and Nicholas counties, including Kanawha Falls, site of Fort Reynolds, where Union officers and future Presidents Rutherford Hayes and William McKinley were stationed.

Also on the route is Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park and Sewell Mountain, where Gen. Robert E. Lee obtained his famous horse, Traveler. According to Bard’s narrative, Sewell Mountain could have become a major battle site in September 1861 had torrential rains not intervened, since Lee and 9,000 Confederate troops were facing 8,200 Union troops under the command of Gen. William Rosecrans just before the deluge began. Both sides decided to withdraw to rear staging areas in light of the bad weather and poor supply lines.

The second route covers about 220 miles and takes in 10 sites involved in raids by both armies to control the Greenbrier and northeastern New River valleys. The tour begins at Meadow Bluff, 3 miles off the Sam Black Church exit of Interstate 64 in Greenbrier County. A farmhouse at Meadow Bluff served as Lee’s headquarters in the months before and after the Confederates were driven off Sewell Mountain by the intense rain. As many as 3,000 Southern troops were encamped in pastures adjacent to the farmhouse, where more than 100 huts were built. In 1864, the farm overlooking the James River and Kanawha Turnpike was the scene of an artillery duel from which the farmhouse emerged unscathed.

Other stops on the second route include Tuckwiller’s Hill, a knoll that carries U.S. 60 over the path of the James River and Kanawha Turnpike a few miles west of Lewisburg. A red brick farmhouse at Valley View Farm at the base of the knoll was Tuckwiller’s Tavern in 1863, when 700 Union troops from Camp Piatt near Charleston approached Lewisburg to seize the town from the 250 Confederate soldiers who occupied it.

The outnumbered Confederates ambushed the approaching Federals by barricading the road at the top of the hill and catching the Union troops unaware. Union horses bore the brunt of the ensuing 20-minute firefight: 28 steeds were killed, along with six Union soldiers. The Confederates, who lost no troops in the skirmish, granted a truce of several hours and sent two surgeons to help tend to the Union wounded. The Federal force retreated to Charleston.

The final war-related stop on Bard’s second day-trip is Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park in Pocahontas County, probably the most fratricidal battle of the war in West Virginia. Among the 5,500 combatants in the struggle were at least 80 West Virginia men who fought against relatives or former neighbors fighting for the other side, including Union Pvt. Andrew Short of the 10th West Virginia, who discovered the body of his brother, Confederate Pvt. John Short of the 22nd Virginia, on the battlefield.

The third and final tour loop in Bard’s guide extends into Virginia and involves 11 stops and 205 miles of driving in each direction, so drivers are urged to consider making the trip in two legs.

The third day-trip takes visitors to sites where Union and Confederate forces clashed from 1862 to 1864 to gain control of the southwestern side of the New River, often making use of the Raleigh and Grayson Turnpike, which linked Raleigh Courthouse, or present-day Beckley, with Wytheville and Grayson County, Va.

It was along the Raleigh and Grayson Turnpike, on the southern outskirts of Princeton, that a small Confederate force ambushed a Union regiment of German soldiers fighting for the 37th Ohio Infantry in May 1862.

From positions in high grass and along a fenceline on a hill called Pigeon Roost, the Confederates killed 14 of the Germans and wounded 46 more. The site of the Battle of Pigeon Roost is one of the first stops on the third day of the tour, which ends at Saltville, where two black cavalry units were among Union forces that attacked and overwhelmed a Confederate force guarding a salt works in October 1864.

The day after the battle, armed Confederates entered a field hospital where wounded black soldiers from the Union cavalry units were being treated, dragged 10 of them off their cots and killed them in an incident known as the Saltville Massacre.

While battles fought in the New River Valley played only a minor role in the outcome of the war, strategic and tactical lessons learned in fighting the campaign “played a vital role in the logistical warfare that eventually determined the military outcome of the Civil War,” Bard wrote.

After stemming Confederate offensives in 1861 and 1862, Union forces went on the attack, eventually attaining their objectives in the southern end of the valley: the railroad bridge over the New River at Radford, the lead works at Wytheville, and the salt works at Saltville.

By teaching Federal commanders how to man, supply and equip long-range raids, Bard wrote, “Union successes in the New River Valley played a vital role in the defeat of the Confederacy.”

Pages: 144