Civil War Auto Tour - West Virginia Scenic Byway

The State of West Virginia was a child of the factors which led to the Civil War. Shortly after Virginia's secession from the Union, Western Virginia adopted the Reorganization Ordinance of June 19, 1861. By the time of its split with Virginia, West Virginia had already become a battle ground. The first land battle of the Civil War was fought in West Virginia. None of the battles here had the excessive casualties which characterized engagements in Virginia and Tennessee. The campaigns conducted here attempted to disrupt enemy communications and supplies rather than destroy armies.

This led to a series of actions which emphasized movement and fortification. As a result, many towns in West Virginia changed hands dozens of times.

Campaigning in the hilly, heavily wooded terrain of West Virginia was a difficult proposition. The poverty of the land combined with the difficulty in maintaining supply lines necessarily kept opposing armies small. Troops suffered from the harsh climatic conditions as well as disease. As with most campaigns of the 19th century, far more soldiers were lost to disease than fell in battle.

Veterans would recall the physical hardships endured in the mountain campaigns as the worst of the war. The following quote by Walter Taylor, aide-de-camp to Robert E. Lee, typifies the West Virginia mountain campaigns.

In subsequent campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia the troops were subject to great privations and to many severe trials- in hunger often; their nakedness scarcely concealed; strength at times almost exhausted but never did I experience the same heart-sinking emotions as when contemplating the wan faces and emaciated forms of those hungry, sickly, shivering men of the Army of Valley Mountain.

The 1861-1863 campaigns emphasized the control of a few turnpikes and railroads. Forts, battlefields, and encampments included in this tour relate to control of these vital transportation and communication arteries.

The campaigns in West Virginia built the reputations of many individuals who would later become leading figures in the war. Robert E. Lee would become the head of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. George B. McClellan would command the Union Army of the Potomac as a result of his victory at Rich Mountain (Place of Interest D) W.S Rosecrans would eventually command the Union Army of the Cumberland. Two future presidents of the United States (W. McKinley and R. Hayes) participated in the West Virginia campaigns.

As the focus of the war moved to other areas the major concentrations of troops in West Virginia departed. However, minor engagements and guerrilla activity continued. The terrain is uniquely favorable to this kind of warfare. Confederate guerrillas, called"partisans" or "bushwhackers" depending upon one's point of view, conducted an effective campaign of harassment throughout the area. Union troops were kept off balance responding to raids of these groups who were often joined on larger raids by regular Confederate forces.

Places of Interest

All places of interest except Cheat Summit Fort, portions of Camp Allegheny, and Droop Mountain Battlefield are private lands. West Virginia State law requires a permit for excavation of any site which might contain human burials. Permission to traverse non-road areas will be necessary. Cheat Summit Fort and Camp Allegheny are owned by the United States Government and managed by the Monongahela National Forest. Collection of artifacts, damage, digging, probing, and defacement of these areas is prohibited by Federal law. Droop Mountain Battlefield is owned by the State of West Virginia. Collection, excavation, and defacement of this location is prohibited. Should you encounter anyone collecting, digging, or otherwise disturbing Civil War sites please contact the Monongahela National Forest Supervisor. You can help to preserve our Civil War sites.

Points of Interest

Philippi - First land Battle of the Civil War.
Corrick's Ford - Battle site.
Beverly - Former Union Headquarters.
Rich Mountain - One of two forts constructed to control traffic through the Alleghenies.
Burnt Bridge - A Federate Guard Post.
Confederate Headquarters - Huttonsville wasn't just a Confederate HQ . . .
Cheat Summit Fort - Battle site and a Federal fort controlling the Staunton - Parkersburg Turnpike.
Camp Elkwater - A Federal fort built to controll the Huttonsville - Huntersville Turnpike
J.A. Washington Memorial - The Memorial site of the grea t- grandson of President Washington.
Camp Bartow - The site of the Battle of Greenbrier River.
Camp Allegheny - A Confederate camp and at 4,400 feet above sea level one of the highest.
Valley Mt. Advance Camps - Confederate advance camps
Robert E. Lees Headquarters - You guessed it!
Marlington (Marlin's Bottom) - A supply intercept site.
Huntersville - A Confederate supply depot.
Droop Mountain - Site of West Virginia's largest Civil War battle.


On June 3, 1861 the first land battle of the Civil War occurred at the Philippi covered bridge. Union troops under General G.B. McClellan routed a small contingent of Confederate soldiers under Colonel Porterfield, in an affair known as the "Philippi races". The result was an almost bloodless firefight with five Union and two Confederate casualties, none of whom were killed. Among the Federal casualties was Colonel B. E Kelly. the field commander. Commemorative plaques are found at the Covered Bridge, the Philippi Baptist Church, the Crim Memorial Church, and Alderson-Broaddus College.

Corrick's Ford

Confederate General R.S. Garnett, upon learning of the events at Rich Mountain, abandoned his position at the fort at Laurel Hill. Garnett believed his southward retreat was cut out by Union troops on the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike. The Confederates moved northeast through the mountains but were intercepted on July 13,1861 by General Morris near Corrick's Ford. While rallying his men Garnett earned the dubious distinction of becoming the first general to be killed during the Civil War. The remnants of the Confederate army began a disorderly retreat to Virginia. During the retreat, substantial quantities of equipment and supplies were lost. Large numbers of Confederate troops were abandoned or left their units.


Beverly served as Union General G.B. McClellan's headquarters following the Rich Mountain victory, immediately prior to his transfer to command the Army of the Potomac. Federal earthworks are still visible on Mount Iser, where a water tower now stands. The presence of a Confederate cemetery in Beverly reflects that the town was occupied and used as a supply depot and/or headquarters by both sides dozens of times during the course of the war. The area witnessed several skirmishes as the war progressed.

Beverly contains an interpretive museum which provides information concerning the Civil War period.

Rich Mountain

Following the June 3, 1861 retreat from Philippi Confederate forces. then under General R.S. Garnett, hastily constructed forts at Laurel Hill (near Belington) and at Rich Mountain in order to control passes through the Alleghenies. Garnett expected the Union assault to occur at Laurel Hill. On July 11 General McClellan surprised the Confederate troops stationed at Rich Mountain. This maneuver resulted in a rout of the Confederate forces with a large percentage being captured. McClellan's forces moved east from this place and established a tort at Cheat Mountain summit.

Burnt Bridge

Federal rifle pits and a parapet are visible on the open hillside east of the road. These represent a guard post intended to assist in the protection of Beverly. The covered bridge spanning the river was burned, probably in 1863.

Confederate Headquarters

Huttonsville served briefly as the headquarters of the Confederate forces early in 1861, after the engagement at Philippi. This hamlet also served as headquarters for Union Generals G.B. McClellan and J.J. Reynolds later in 1861. A State historical marker commemorates these events.

Cheat Summit Fort (Ft. Milroy)

Between July and August 1861 Federal forces constructed an earth and log fortification here as a means of controlling the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike. On September 12 1861 Confederate troops under General Robert E. Lee attempted to capture the fort. Union troops under Colonel N. Kimball engaged the Confederates within one half mile of Cheat Summit Fort. An uncoordinated "soldiers' battle" (an action run more by the soldiers than their commanders) resulted in withdrawal of the Confederate forces. An associated action against Camp Elkwater also met with little success.

In the fall of 1861 the fort was used as a staging area for actions against Confederate Camps Bartow (Place of Interest J) and Allegheny. Earthworks are visible north of the parking area.

Cheat Summit Fort served as an encampment for Federal troops in the winter of 1861 - 1862. Occupants of the fort suffered terribly from bitter cold and damp conditions. The position was difficult to maintain and supply. Harsh weather increased the losses of men and horses. These factors contributed to the decision to abandon the fort in April of 1862.

Camp Elkwater

In order to command access to the Huttonsville - Huntersville Turnpike this fort was constructed by Federal troops under General J.J. Reynolds. Confederate troops under General Robert E. Lee skirmished with Union soldiers posted here on September 12 and 13 1861. This skirmish was in concert with the larger Confederate assault at Cheat Summit Fort Lt. Colonel JA Washington was killed during this engagement. Federal Earthworks are visible along the tree line which is perpendicular to present U.S. Route 219 immediately north of the State Highway marker.

J.A. Washington Memorial

The death of Confederate Lt. Colonel J.A. Washington, General Lee's aide-de-camp, is commemorated here. Washington was the great-grandnephew of President George Washington, and the last Washington to reside at Mount Vernon. Lt. Colonel Washington was shot while examining Federal positions near the Elkwater Bridge while accompanied by W.H.F. Lee, the son of Robert E. Lee.

Camp Bartow (Battle of Greenbrier River)

Following reverses at Rich Mountain and Corrick's Ford the Confederates established Camp Bartow. On October 3, 1861 the Battle of Greenbrier River occurred here. The battle consisted of a four-hour long artillery duel. Casualties totaled 52 Confederate and 43 Federal soldiers. Union troops withdrew to Cheat Summit Fort.

Confederate trenches are visible on the open hillside southeast of a present-day - motel.

Camp Allegheny

This camp was established by Confederate forces in the summer of 1861 to control the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike. Soon after the Battle of Greenbrier River, Confederate forces relocated to Camp Allegheny. At an altitude of 4,400 feet above mean sea level, this camp was one of the highest of the Civil War.

On December 13, 1861 roughly 1,900 Union troops under the command of General R.H. Milroy attacked 1,200 Confederate troops under Colonel E. Johnson. Milroy divided his force, hoping to strike the flanks of Camp Allegheny simultaneously. Poor coordination between Milroy's divided command resulted in numerical superiority for the Confederates throughout the 7 1/2 hour battle. Union attempts to capture Camp Allegheny were repulsed separately. Casualties in the battle included approximately 146 Confederate and 137 Union soldiers. Union forces retired to Cheat Summit Fort.

Because of its exposed condition, winter at Camp Allegheny was extremely harsh on its occupants. Disease carried away hundreds of Confederate soldiers. The losses of men combined with the logistical nightmare of keeping the camp supplied contributed to the decision to abandon it in April of 1862.

Valley Mt. Advance Camps

In July of 1861 this area was employed as advance camps for the Confederate Army. General Robert E. Lee arrived here on August 6 and directed the Cheat Mountain campaign from this place.

Robert E. Lee's

This area is reputed to be the location of Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Valley Mountain headquarters and camp.

Marlington (Marlin's Bottom)

On January I, 1862 roughly 738 Federal troops under Major. G. Webster conducted a raid on the Confederate supply center at Huntersville. The Union soldiers were intercepted here by a force of approximately 300-350 Confederate militia. The action resulted in the destruction of considerable quantities of Confederate stores at a cost of one Federal and eight Confederate casualties.


This area served as a Confederate supply depot. An action started at Marlinton on : January 1, 1862 resulted in the Union capturing 350 barrels of flour, 300 salted beeves, 30,000 pounds of salt, other stores, and weapons.

Droop Mountain

On November 6, 1863 West Virginia's largest Civil War battle occurred. Approximately 1,700 Confederate troops under General J. Echols and 3,000 - 4,000 Union soldiers under General W.W. Averell participated in this battle. Initial contact between the opposing forces was made on November 4. On the fifth, while Union troops awaited the arrival of General A.N. Duffie's command the Confederates concentrated their army on the ridge crest. At 10:00 a.m. Averell pinned the Confederate troops in place by attacking the Confederate right. He had previously directed a force under Colonel A. Moor to outflank the Confederate left and attack their rear. At 2:00 p.m. Moor's force struck the left flank and rear of the Confederate army. This action drove the Confederates from the summit by 3:00 p.m. Echols' hurried his retreating command through Lewisburg so as to not be trapped by Duffie's approaching command. Approximately 119 Federal and 275 Confederate casualties occurred at the engagement. Interpretive exhibits, Confederate earthworks, and a small museum containing artifacts from the battle can been seen at this stop.

Enjoy but do not destroy
our precious national heritage

Civil War sites suffer much damage due to collection and excavation by souvenir hunters as well as vandalism. Please assist us in assuring that future generations will have these places to appreciate.

Remnants of the Civil War are visible in Pocahontas and Randolph Counties. There are numerous scenic and highway markers established and maintained by the State of West Virginia along this route which will be of interest. Many of the Places of Interest discussed in this brochure correspond with West Virginia Historic and Scenic Highway markers.

There are formal interpretive displays at Philippi Covered Bridge (Place of Interest A), Beverly (Place of Interest C), and Droop Mountain (Place of Interest P). Additional interpretation is available at the Pocahontas County Museum near Marlinton. Interpretive displays are planned at Cheat Summit Fort (Place of Interest G), Camp Allegheny, and Camp Bartow (Place of Interest J).This brochure is intended to assist motorists in the interpretation of a sample of West Virginia's Civil War sites. The brochure was developed by the U.S. Forest Service in cooperation with the Pocahontas and Randolph County Historical Societies.

Safety First

The roads which make up this automobile tour tend to be narrow, steep, and winding. Due caution should be observed to make your tour a safe one. The lack of parking facilities at many points makes it necessary to exercise additional care in where cars are parked. Please obey all traffic laws. Remember to drive defensively and courteously. Enjoy your tour! The letter designations on this map are not intended to suggest a chronological order for the points of interest or a recommended sequence for visiting areas.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 6 Oct 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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