Battle of Belington/Laurel Hill

The Battle of Belington (Laurel Hill) was fought from Sunday, July 7 to Thursday, July 11, 1861 between Union forces commanded by Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Morris and Confederate forces commanded by Brig. Gen. Robert S. Garnett in Barbour County, West Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was technically a draw, but defeat at Rich Mountain on July 11 compelled Garnett to abandon his fortified camp at Laurel Hill.

Following an ignominious Confederate defeat at the Battle of Philippi in early June, Brig. Gen. Garnett took command of Confederate forces in western Virginia and fortified two key mountain passes: one at Laurel Mountain leading to Leadsville and the other at Rich Mountain to Beverly. Lt. Col. John Pegram commanded a smaller force at Camp Garnett in Rich Mountain, while Garnett stayed at Camp Laurel Hill with 4,000 men.

Garnett knew his prospects for victory were slim. “I don’t anticipate anything very brilliant–indeed I shall esteem myself fortunate if I escape disaster,” he wrote. His pessimism would be tested on July 7, when Brig. Gen. Morris arrived with his 3,500-man brigade and made camp in nearby Belington (where he soon received reinforcements, bringing his total to 4,000). The two sides skirmished for several days. Morris’ orders were to “amuse” his opponent and prevent him from reinforcing Rich Mountain.

Accounts of the battle vary, but it involved both infantry and artillery duels. A Confederate soldier wrote to the Richmond Daily Dispatch: “The company had no sooner taken their proper place, when they opened briskly on the foe, which was returned as briskly; but few of the return shots did any execution…,” and “During the latter part of the day the enemy fired a number of bomb shells, grape-shots and balls in the direction of our troops, playing havoc with the trees and shrubbery…”

Another Confederate, George P. Morgan, recorded in his journal: “Early in the morning the enemy made his appearance near our fortified camp (near Laurel Hill) and were promptly repulsed by the 1st Georgia regiment with the loss of one wounded on our side and several killed on theirs. The day was principally occupied in skirmishes, in which nearly all our forces were engaged, but with the loss of only one man on our side.”

Ambrose Bierce, a Union soldier in the 9th Indiana Infantry and later an accomplished author, remarked: “A few dozen of us, who had been swapping shots with the enemies’ skirmishers, grew tired of the resultless battle, and by a common impulse – and I think without orders or officers – ran forward into the woods and attacked the Confederate works. We did well enough considering the hopeless folly of the movement, but we came out of the woods faster than we went in – a good deal.”

Casualty estimates from these five days of fighting are hard to come by, since contemporary accounts tended to exaggerate, but the number of killed and wounded may have been as high as two dozen on either side. Confederate forces held out until the 11th, when they slipped away under cover of night to avoid being surrounded.

Opposing Forces


Brig. Gen. Robert S. Garnett, Commanding

23rd Virginia Inf. RegimentCol. William B. Taliaferro322
37th Virginia Inf. RegimentCol. Samuel V. Fulkerson
1st Regiment, Georgia Infantry (Ramsey’s)Col. James N. Ramsey
Second Rockbridge DragoonsCapt. John R. McNutt
Rankin, Thomas M. 23rd Virginia Infantry. Lynchburg: H.E. Howard, Inc., 1985.


Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Morris, Commanding

14th OhioCol. James B. Steedman
7th IndianaCol. Ebenezer Dumont
9th IndianaCol. Robert H. Milroy
1st Ohio Light ArtilleryCol. James Barnett6 guns


Pvt. Dillard Adams1st GA, Co. DX7/8
Pvt. George W. Huckaby (Huckaba)1st GA, Co. AX7/8
Pvt. George W. Allen1st GA, Co. IXX7/8
Pvt. William P.S. Poole1st GA, Co. IXX7/12
Sgt. John B. Pendleton23rd VA, Co. GX7/10
Pvt. John H. Blake23rd VA, Co. HX7/9
Pvt. Charles H. Goff23rd VA, Co. HX7/7
Pvt. Thomas E. Gentry23rd VA, Co. GX?
Pvt. Julian L. Henderson23rd VA, Co. GX?
Pvt. Robert M. Oney37th VA, Co. BX7/11
Henderson, Lillian. Roster of the Confederate Soldiers of Georgia, 1861-1865, Vol. I. Hapeville: Longino & Porter, Inc., 1960. Rankin, Thomas M. 23rd Virginia Infantry. Lynchburg: H.E. Howard, Inc., 1985.
Sgt. Samuel Donaldson14th Ohio, Co. EX
Pvt. Frank Gero14th Ohio, Co. EX
Sgt. William Martin14th Ohio, Co. KX
Pvt. George W. Tillotson1st Ohio Light Artillery, Btty. DX
Pvt. John R. Smith7th Indiana, Co. CX
Pvt. Dyson Boothroyd9th Indiana, Co. AX
Pvt. William H. Todd9th Indiana, Co. BX
Pvt. John Neeb9th Indiana, Co. EX
Pvt. William T. Girard9th Indiana, Co. GX
Pvt. John Mathews9th Indiana, Co. HX
Pvt. John Anten/Auten9th Indiana, Co. IX
Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, Vol. 1. Akron: The Werner Company, 1893; Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana, 1861-1865, Vol. 4. Indianapolis: Samual M. Douglass, State Printer, 1866.

Primary Sources


Boeche, Thomas L. “McClellan’s First Campaign” in America’s Civil War (January 1998): 30-36.

Carnes, Eva Margaret. The Tygarts Valley Line, June-July 1861. Philippi: First Land Battle of the Civil War Centennial Commemoration, Inc., 1961. Parsons: McClain Printing Company, 2003.

Hardway, Ronald V. On Our Own Soil: William Lowther Jackson and the Civil War in West Virginia’s Mountains. Charleston: Quarrier Press, 2003.

Lesser, W. Hunter. Rebels at the Gate: Lee and McClellan on the Front Line of a Nation Divided. Naperville: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2004.

Updated: 25 April 2023
Created: 12 February 2021

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