1861 Report of Maj. Nathaniel Tyler, Twentieth Virginia Infantry

-,–, 1861.

During the night of July 1, I was ordered by General Garnett, at Laurel Hill, to re-enforce Lieutenant-Colonel Heck at Rich Mountain with seven companies of the Twentieth Regiment Virginia Volunteers. Starting from Laurel Hill at 2 a. m., I arrived at Rich Mountain the next day at 12 m. Lieutenant-Colonel Heck’s command at Rich Mountain was one regiment of infantry, a battery of four 6-pounders, and one company of cavalry.

The sketch furnished you will show very accurately the fortifications that had been made to protect the camp from front assault.

On Sunday, July 7, I was ordered to reconnoiter the bridge over Middle Fork, about fifteen miles in front of our position. I proceeded with two companies, Captain Atkinson, Twentieth Virginia Volunteers, and Captain Higginbotham, of Lieutenant-Colonel Heck’s regiment. When about one mile from the bridge I was informed by a country woman that a very large army occupied the bridge, and was entreated to return, as the Federal cavalry had but a few moments before left the house. The evidences of the cavalry were to be seen in the mud of the road. Proceeding carefully, I ascertained that a large force of infantry, artillery, and cavalry were at the bridge. Soon their pickets were seen and driven in by our force. I found it prudent to return, and immediately after the skirmish was over made disposition for an orderly return. The enemy were a considerable time getting ready to pursue us, which enabled us to get some distance ahead, so we were able to reach camp without annoyance from them.

Upon my return to camp I found Colonel Pegram with the remaining companies of the Twentieth Regiment, and he immediately assumed the command. We continued to strengthen our fortifications in front and to ascertain the character of the country on our flanks, to ascertain if it were possible for an army to march over the mountains on either flank. Every assurance from the people of the neighborhood was given that it was impossible for any force to march around our position.

Thus matters continued until the morning of July 11, when our picket wounded and captured a Federal sergeant, who stated that McClellan had arrived the night before, and that Rosecrans had that morning at 2 o’clock started with a large force to turn our flank, but he was unable or unwilling to state which flank the enemy were threatening.

About 11 o’clock firing was heard from the pickets at our rear and towards our left flank, and three companies were immediately ordered to Hart’s house. Colonel Pegram had sent to General Garnett that the enemy were endeavoring to turn our right flank, and requested that Colonel Scott might be ordered to comply with his request and occupy a position at the foot of the road one mile from Beverly and about five miles from our position at Hart’s house. This position was promptly taken by Colonel Scott; but as the enemy were then marching around our left flank, the position occupied by Colonel Scott was useless, and he was of no aid to us whatever.

The fight began about 11 o’clock and lasted for three hours, when the enemy succeeded in getting to the road between our position and Beverly. Captain De Langel had used with great effect the one piece of artillery sent to him by Colonel Pegram, but when the second cannon arrived the enemy opened such a destructive fire upon it that neither men nor horses could maintain the position. The horses becoming unmanageable ran off and upset the gun and caisson down a precipice, depriving Captain De Langer of all ammunition. Wounded and in immediate danger of imminent capture, Captain De Langel ordered the infantry to return and make their way towards Beverly. The firing had now ceased, and the enemy were in possession of Hart’s house, and all opportunity and chances of escape along the road to Beverly were cut off. Colonel Pegram ordered me before the firing ceased to re-enforce Captain De Lagnel with the Twentieth Regiment, and as we were marching up the mountain he determined to take command of a storming party and attempt the recapture of Hart’s house. Before arriving in position he ascertained the impossibility of successfully storming the enemy’s position, an ordered me to continued the retreat with the Twentieth Regiment while he returned and brought the remainder of the command. He parted from us and marched the regiment all that night through a pathless explored mountain, with no guide but the stars and no path but the general direction of the running streams, and arrived in Beysny at daybreak.

Continuing our march, we overtook Colonel Scott at Huttonsville about 9 o’clock in the morning, and continued the retreat over Cheat Mountain to the Greenbrier River, where we arrived at daybreak on the morning of the 14th. There we were received by Governor Letcher. Soon Colonel Johnson, with a Georgia regiment, arrived. The retreat of the whole command under Colonel Johnson was resumed to Monterey, where General Jackson, of Georgia, assumed the command, and where a halt was made until the remainder of General Garnett’s army arrived.



The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I, Vol. II. With additions and corrections. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1902.