May 29th Report of Colonel George A. Porterfield

Philippi, Va., May 29, 1861.

COLONEL: On the 27th instant I received reliable information of a contemplated movement among those hostile to us, by which a large body of men were intended to be precipitated upon me in the rear, by the railroad, without notice, and in a few hours’ time. I was also assured that about fifteen hundred Federal troops had collected at Marietta, some at Beliare, one thousand of fifteen hundred on the island opposite Wheeling; in fact, that there were considerable bodies of men everywhere on that border that could be easily collected and launched therefrom. In this state of things I ordered some of the bridges of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad northwest of Fairmont be to destroyed, which order was carried into effect by the destruction of two between Farmington and Mannington, about thirty-five miles northwest of Grafton.

I also sent out an expedition to destroy a bridge of the Northwestern Virginia Railroad, fifty or sixty miles west Grafton. The object of this expedition has, I am informed, been accomplished, although my party has not yet returned. I caused a small bridge of the same road, about fifteen miles west of Grafton, to be destroyed but I learn that it has been repaired by the company, so that trains pass over it.

On the evening of the 27th I received information of the arrival, by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad of a body of troops, variously estimated at from one thousand to three thousand, at the burned bridges near Mannington. It was supposed that these men would be followed by other as soon as the house-cars which contained them could be returned to the Ohio River. In this state of things I inquired of General Johnston, by telegraph (the Grafton end of which only was under the control of our friends, so far as I know) if he could re-enforce me. For reply, I was informed that no men could be sent from his command at Harper’s Ferry.

On the 28th, learning from the most reliable persons that the invading force had reached Fairmont, twenty miles northwest of Grafton, and thinking that the latter point, from its to topography and the character of its population (a good part of which would have united with our enemies upon their appearance) was not an eligible one for us, and considering our very inadequate supply of provisions and ammunition, particularly caps, and that our number of infantry was small (not more than about five hundred and fifty), and the want of any sort of training or military discipline among our men, being informed that other bodies of men besides those first spoken of had passed the burned bridges by means of temporary repairs of them, and approached Fairmont, I concluded to remove the State arms and stores to Philippi, about fifteen miles in our rear, there establish a depot, in a friendly country, to concentrate such volunteers as were on the way or could be easily and speedily attracted to that point, and there to organize and strengthen my command. I met on the way an unarmed company of volunteers from Upshur, and at Philippi I was joined by a well-armed company of horse from Rockbridge. I have been compelled to send home, for want of arms to supply them with, a company of horse from Pocahontast, and to dismiss to their homes for a short time a like company raised in Barbour.

As soon as I can organize my command, which I hope to do soon, I will return to some more eligible point in the neighborhood of Grafton which willed able me to command both railroads, and in the mean time I hope to be able more effectually to cut off the railroad communications east and west of that place. The railroad is unquestionably used by the company against us, and I may be obliged, for the safety of the command at Harper’s Ferry, to make further destruction of it.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Colonel of Volunteers.

Colonel R. S. GARNETT.


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.