The Battle of White Sulphur Springs

civil war 3

This month marks the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of White Sulphur Springs, also known as the Battle of Dry Creek. As rival armies moved across the Greenbrier Valley and camped in close proximity of one another, it is not surprising that several battles and small skirmishes took places in Greenbrier County. The bloodiest battle was the Battle of White Sulphur Springs, which took place on August 26-27, 1863.

Union troops under General William W. Averill were marching from Covington, Virginia by way of the James River and Kanawha Turnpike with the purpose of capturing the law library in Lewisburg. Believing that Averill’s target was the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, members of the Confederate army under Colonel George Patton and Colonel George Edgar marched down Anthony’s Creek Road toward the junction of the James River and Kanawha Turnpike. Determined to head off the Union army, Patton’s army marched for nearly 24 hours. Col. Edgar ordered his men to tear down a split-rail fence and create a barricade. Even so, the bodies of dead and wounded soldiers quickly filled the road. At the end of the first day, the two armies rested barely 300 yards apart. Fighting renewed the next morning with Averill ordering a retreat to Beverly. The Union army suffered approximately 218 casualties while the Confederates lost approximately 167 men. Wounded soldiers were treated at the Old White Hotel at White Sulphur Springs.   

A historic Marker commemorating the battle now stands at the intersection of Route 92 and US Route 60 – yards from where the fighting took place.

The 25th Annual Battle of Dry Creek Re-Enactment will be held this Saturday and Sunday August 17th and 18th, 2013 in the Greenbrier State Forest. There will be a Saturday morning tactical at the park and a live artillery demonstrations at 1:30pm. On Sunday at 2pm, the Battle of Dry Creek will be held. There is no charge and the public is invited to come out and enjoy the day. For more information on this event, go to battleofdrycreek.org.

 

Advertisements

Item of the Week – Soldier Bibles

Image

IMG_0649

 

Item of the Week – August 9, 2013

These bibles were carried by soldiers during the American Civil War. They served not only as a reminder of the family left at home. Often soldier bibles functioned like dog tags – if a soldier was wounded or killed, his family could be located and contacted. These three bibles belonged to three local confederate soldiers:

Charles T. Holliday: Confederate, 26th Battalion, Virginia Infantry, Company D
Private William H. Callison: Confederate, 27th Regiment, Virginia Infantry, Company E
Lieutenant Thomas L. Feamster: Confederate, 14th Reg. Virginia Calvary, Company A

Born of the Rebellion

WV statehood

The Greenbrier Historical Society & North House Museum is pleased to host the West Virginia Humanities Council’s award winning traveling exhibit Born of Rebellion: West Virginia Statehood. The exhibit will be open Monday July 15th through Friday August 9th from10am to 4pm  (closed on Sundays).

As West Virginia celebrates its 150th birthday this year, it is interesting to look at the unique way in which we became a state on June 20, 1863. Although tensions over representation plagued western Virginia before the outbreak of the Civil War, wartime politics provided an opportunity for the formation of a new government.  At the time and in the years since, many questioned the constitutionality of the process and whether the new state should be dissolved once Virginia was restored to the Union.

Although Greenbrier County was not represented at the two Wheeling Conventions, there were those who were in favor of session from Virginia and many more who were not. Visitors will be given the opportunity to cast their vote on the constitutionality of West Virginia.

In conjunction with Born of the Rebellion, the Greenbrier Historical Society will continue to host their own mini-exhibit The Civil War in Greenbrier County which discusses the local impact of the Civil War and features artifacts used locally or owned by Greenbrier Valley soldiers.

The Greenbrier Historical Society, located at 301 West Washington Street, is open free of charge Monday – Saturday from 10am to 4pm. Donations are always welcome. For more information, contact 304.645.3398 or info@greenbrierhistorical.org. Or like us on Facebook!

Item of the Week – July 5, 2013

Image

IMG_4802

Item of the Week: The Saber & Sash of Harvey Harrison Tuttle
Tuttle was born in September 1842 in Springfield, Ohio. at the age of 19, he enlisted in the 44th Ohio and was appointed Corporal of Company F. The sash and sabre (pictured above) were worn during the Battle of Lewisburg in May 1862. Tuttle was honorably discharged in December 1862, on account of a wound he recieved at Georgetown, Kentucky. While stationed on picket duty at Georgetown, Tuttle was climbing a fence when his gun accidentally discharged, blowing the 3rd finger from his left hand. Tuttle had previously lost the 1st and 2nd finger on the same hand at the age of two. After leaving the Union army, he enrolled in Wittenburg College and became an ordained minister.

On Wednesday July 3, 2013, the Greenbrier Historical Society was pleased to welcome the descendants of Harvey Harrison Tuttle (pictured below).

IMG_4861

Civil War in Greenbrier County: The Battle of Lewisburg

At 5 o’clock on the morning of May 23, 1862, the inhabitants of Lewisburg awoke to the firing of weapons and the yelling of Confederate troops, who confidently stood in battle formation along the eastern edge of town. The Confederates of the 22nd and 45th Virginia, as well as the untrained Finney’s Battalion, were under the order of General Henry Heth, a professional solider from the West Point Class of 1847. They were prepared to defend the town of Lewisburg against the raiding 3rd Provisional Ohio Brigade under the command of Colonel George Crook.

The Confederates, believing it an easy victory, informed some Lewisburg residents of their plan to attack the Union Brigade. Assuming a southern advantage in numbers and artillery, the townspeople of Lewisburg prepared a great feast in honor of the Confederates “soon to be” victory. General Heth’s Brigade had previously marched from Pearisburg, through Monroe County and seized the Greenbrier Bridge in Caldwell before advancing on Lewisburg.

heth

         General Henry Heth

General Heth planned to take the Union soldiers who were camped upon a hill in Lewisburg by surprise, but his plan was discovered by members of the 44th Ohio Division who quickly alerted Colonel Crook. The Union officer ordered his 44th and 36th Ohio men to advance toward the Confederate battle line. The confident Southerners opened fire on the advancing skirmishers and shouts of “Scatter!”and “Lie down!” were heard throughout the town. As the Union men began to fall back against the might of the Confederate soldiers, Colonel Crook divided his soldiers to attack the southerners at three different points.

General Heth split his forces to combat these advancing troops. Against the advice of his artillery men, Heth ordered that the cannons be moved into town. Lt. Col E.H. Harman, Heth’s advisor, suggested that the cannons remain on the high ground in order to overlook the town and reach the Union lines.

As the fighting began, the inexperienced Finney’s Battalion was the first to fall. The untrained militia came under heavy fire from Ohio’s 44th and sustained heavy losses. The collapse of Finney’s Battalion exposed the 45th and 22nd Virginia to a hailstorm of bullets from the Ohio troops. Private George Caldwell recalls “the balls flew like hail…you ought to have heard the balls whiz past us.” With no choice left, General Heth ordered for the remainder of his troops to retreat. The Confederates sped across the Greenbrier River, burning the covered bridge to prevent any Union troops from pursuing.

Colonel George Crook

Colonel George Crook

The Battle of Lewisburg lasted twenty-seven minutes, with the Confederate casualties greatly outnumbering their rivals. Eighty Confederate lay dead, one hundred were wounded, and an additional one hundred fifty-seven were taken prisoner. Colonel Crook recovered over three hundred small arms, twenty-five horses, and four artillery pieces, including an old 12-pounder cannon that was taken from the British at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781. In comparison, the Union only suffered thirteen dead, fifty-three wounded, and had seven taken prisoner.

As the sound of gun shots faded and the smoke cleared, a local sniper shot and killed a Union soldier who was returning to camp. Colonel Crook was furious, threatening to burn the entire town and hang all of the snipers found. An investigation led the colonel to the home where the shot had been fired, but the Confederate supporter had long fled. The home was burned, but no person was executed for the crime.

Under order of Colonel Crook, the people of Lewisburg were not allowed to bury the Confederate dead. The soldiers were laid out in a trench at Old Stone Presbyterian Church and slowly a sense of peace and quiet returned to Lewisburg – but it never forgot the battle fought that early morning in May.

 

After the war, the remains of 95 Confederate soldiers were removed from the churchyard and respectfully buried in a cross-shaped mass grave in what is now known as the Confederate Cemetery in Lewisburg. The Union soldiers who died in the battle were buried on an unidentified hill north of town. After the war, they were reinterred and laid to rest in the National Cemetery in Staunton, Virginia. The Confederates, who were captured as prisoners during the Battle of Lewisburg, traveled to Camp Chase near Columbus, Ohio and were later exchanged for Union prisoners in September 1862. Colonel Crook received much praise for his victory in Lewisburg and became a prominent general in a number of Civil War battles. Although General Heth was harshly criticized and blamed for what took place at Lewisburg, he remained highly regarded by Robert E. Lee. No other man would see more action in the Civil War than Henry Heth.

The Civil War in Greenbrier County: An Overview

Greenbrier County was not immune to the hardships of war. Over 2,000 Greenbrier County men fought for the Confederacy throughout the course of the war, the vast majority enlisting within the first two years. Located on the James River and Kanawha Turnpike, once a major stagecoach route, Greenbrier County saw an estimated 60,000 Union and Confederate troops move through the area— at times meeting in a number of engagements and often setting up encampments across the countryside.

CONFEDERATE SYMPATHIES
One of the largest and wealthiest counties in western Virginia, Greenbrier County had no desire to split from the commonwealth of Virginia and form a separate state. No Greenbrier County delegates attended the First or Second Wheeling Conventions, which began the movement toward West Virginia statehood, and Greenbrier, like other southern and eastern counties, became part of the newly formed state for strategic reasons. Despite new political boundaries, most of the citizens of Greenbrier County remained southern sympathizers, with 81% of eligible men enlisting with the Confederacy. Greenbrier County was even home to a number of Confederate Post Offices, operating at various times in Frankford, Lewisburg, and White Sulphur Springs.

LOCAL ENCAMPMENTS
With the Shenandoah Valley to the east, the Kanawha Valley salt mines to the west, and the railroads of southwestern Virginia close by, the Greenbrier Valley was a strategically important location for both armies. Throughout the war, troops spent anywhere from a few nights to a few months camped on the farms across the valley.

The Blue Sulphur Spring Resort

The Blue Sulphur Spring Resort

The Blue Sulphur Spring Resort, once located 12 miles outside of Alderson, closed in 1859 and was used as a campsite and hospital throughout much of the war. Most notably, a Confederate regiment from Georgia camped at the spring in the Winter of 1863. Not accustomed to the climate, approximately 100 of them became ill and died. They were buried high on a hill about 200 yards northwest of the Blue Sulphur Spring. In 1864, Union troops burned, either deliberately or by accident, all that remained of the former Blue Sulphur Spring Resort with one exception—the Greek-style springhouse.

SALT PETER CAVES
During the Civil War, one of the Greenbrier Valley’s greatest contributions was saltpeter which is used in the manufacture of gunpowder. Saltpeter, archaically spelled “salt petre,” is a nitrate mineral found naturally in local caves. In Greenbrier, Monroe, and Pocahontas counties, 28 caves have been discovered that contain definite evidence of saltpeter mining.  Saltpeter was obtained by filling wooden hoppers with the “peter-dirt” and leeching water through the dirt. The water would come out of the hopper and be collected to boil down with lye to convert the cave nitre into true saltpeter or potassium nitrate. Gunpowder was made by mixing 75% true saltpeter, 15% sulphur, and 10% charcoal.

A hopper from Crowder's Cave used in the production of Salt Peter

A hopper from Crowder’s Cave used in the production of Salt Peter

Saltpeter was particularly important to the Confederacy, who needed to use domestic resources to supply their army with gunpowder. The Greenbrier region, part of Confederate Nitre District Number 4, produced a large amount of saltpeter which was transported to Union, in Monroe County, then to Dublin, Virginia to be loaded on the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, and finally to the large powder mill in Augusta, Georgia. Constant raids by the Union Army slowed the manufacturing of saltpeter in the area. Although some caves were mined under the supervision of the Confederate government, others were mined by private individuals— often those too young or old to enlist, or those wanting to make a profit on the high prices paid by the Confederate government. 

Civil War Display at North House

IMG_4801

Did you know that the Greenbrier Valley was a strategic military location during the Civil War? Or that Greenbrier County was a major supplier of Salt Peter which is used in the manufacture of gunpowder? In honor of the Sesquicentennial, the Greenbrier Historical Society created a display discussing the Civil War in Greenbrier County, featuring a sabre used at the Battle of Lewisburg, a chair from a civil war encampment, and personal items from local men who fought for the Confederate army.

We invite everyone to visit the Greenbrier Historical Society’s North House Museum, located at 301 W. Washington Street, Monday – Saturday from 10am to 4pm. For more information, contact 304.645.3398 or info@greenbrierhistorical.org.

IMG_4808

IMG_4802IMG_4805