April 16, 1862 Report of Col. William C. Scott, Forty-fourth Virginia Infantry

GENERAL: Being informed by General Lee, at Monterey, shortly after the fight at Rich Mountain, that a court of inquiry would be held in relation to that fight and the evacuation of Colonel Pegram’s camp at Rich Mountain and General Garnett’s camp at Laurel Hill, with the incidents connected with them, and intending to present before that court, when held, evidence in relation to my own movements on the day of the fight, I have hitherto omitted to make any report on the subject; but presuming, from information derived from some members of the War Department and the length of time that has elapsed since the interval referred to occurred, that the idea of holding such court has been abandoned, and anxious that Colonel Pegram’s letters and General Garnett’s orders under which I acted shall be preserved, I now beg leave to supply the omission.

In obedience to orders to proceed with my regiment to Laurel Hill, I left Richmond on the night of the 1st of July last, and after receiving two orders from General Garnett on my route to hurry on as rapidly as possible, and after marching my men seven days in succession from Staunton, I encamped with my regiment at Beverly, the country seat of Randolph County, on the night of Wednesday, the 10th of the same month; and it is necessary that you should understand the localities of Beverly, Camp Garnett (Colonel Pegram’s camp), and Laurel Hill, with their surroundings, before you can fully understand and appreciate the remainder of my report. I will here inset a copy of a diagram drawn by General Garnett’s own hand, as I am informed by Colonel Corley, who then acted as his aid, and sent to me with order Numbers 5, hereinafter inserted. I have only taken the liberty of writing on it my own position during the greater part of the fight at Rich Mountain and the position of Huttonsville and Leadsville Church.

Colonel Pegram’s camp, called Camp Garnett, was on the western slope of Rich Mountain, and his fortifications faced west in the direction of Buckhannon. It is sixteen miles from Beverly to Laurel Hill and eight miles from Beverly to Colonel Pegram’s camp, as I have been informed. As you proceed from Beverly along the Buckhannon turnpike towards Colonel Pegram’s camp you will perceive a road on the right, which enters that turnpike about one and one-half miles from Beverly. From that road, which is a county road, a party, indicated by dots, strikes off at the point B, and crossing Rich Mountain at A bends to the left and enters the turnpike again in the front or on the west of Colonel Pegrams’ camp. It will be r perceived in the sequel that Colonel Pegram expected a portion of the enemy’s force to be sent that Colonel Pegram expected a portion of the enemy’s force to be sent by that party around his right flank, and after entering the county road to get into he turnpike in his rear, one and one-half miles from Beverly; at least such was the understanding of General Garnett, who drew and sent me the foregoing diagram.

I have already stated I spent the night of Wednesday, the 10th of July, at Beverly. Next morning early a messenger from General Garnett waited on me, informing me that it was General Garnett’s orders I should hasten to Laurel Hill, and that he was then on his way to meet Colonel Edward Johnson, who had left Staunton with his regiment on the previous Monday. Accordingly, immediately after breakfast I started on the Laurel Hill turnpike for Laurel Hill, but I had not proceeded with my regiment more than three or four miles on that turnpike from I was overtaken by a messenger, who delivered to me the following letter from Colonel Pegram:

Colonel WM. C. SCOTT, Forty-fourth Virginia Volunteers:
SIR: I think it almost certain that the enemy are working their way around my right flank, to come into this turnpike one and one-half miles this side of Beverly. I would suggest you place your regiment in position on that road, and take with you the two pieces of artillery at Leadsville Church. I have cavalry scouting between this and that road, and will re-enforce you as soon as I get information of the approach of the enemy. I shall at once write a letter to General Garnett, informing him of my opinion as to the movements of the enemy and of the request I have made of you. I need not tell you how fatal it would be to have the enemy in our rear, as it would entirely cut off our supplies.
Very respectfully,
Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding.

After delivering this letter the messenger dashed on to Laurel Hill. This letter was read to most of my officers and to Mr. John N. Hughes, who resided in Beverly, with whom I had become acquainted in the late Virginia Convention, and who had express a determination to join my regiment. He said he was perfectly acquainted with the road on which Colonel Pegram desired me to take position. What was I to do? The exigency was pressing. If the enemy should get to Colonel Pegrams’ rear and get possession of Beverly, where all our quartermaster and commissary stores, &c., were deposited, both Colonel Pegram and General Garnett would be compelled to retreat, for an army cannot live without supplies. I could not wait to send to Laurel Hill, twelve or thirteen miles distant, for orders, for, were I to do so, from the character of Colonel Pegrams’ letter I believed the enemy would get into the Buckhannon turnpike before me, for that letter says: “It is almost certain that the enemy are working their way around my right flank to get into this turnpike one and a half miles this side of Beverly.” “Are working their way” being in the present tense, I supposed the enemy were already on their march by that route, hence I did not hesitate as to the course I should pursue. Having no writing materials, I sent Captain Shelton and Sergeant Spindle to Leadsville Church, about three or four miles in advance of me, for the two pieces of artillery spoken of in Colonel Pegram’s letter, and for the Greenbrier Troop of Cavalry, which I understood was stationed at that place. After distributing cartridges to the men I returned to Beverly, and then took the Buckhannon turnpike, which I followed until I reached the point at which the county road referred to by Colonel Pegram enters it on the right, one and a half miles from Beverly. At that point I took position with my regiment. While there Captain Shelton and Sergeant Spindle, who had been sent to Leadsville Church, brought me information that the two pieces of artillery had been removed from that place to Laurel Hill, and that the commander of the Greenbrier Cavalry refused to come, on the ground that my order was not in writing. The messenger, who had gone on to Laurel Hill with a letter from Colonel Pegram to General Garnett, also returned, bringing me to following orders from General Garnett:

Camp at Laurel Hill, July 11, 1861.
Colonel SCOTT,
Commanding Regiment en route to Laurel Hill:
COLONEL: General Garnett directs that you return to Beverly and take up the position in the Buckhannon road requested by Colonel Pegram, and defend your position to the last, if you should be attacked.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Captain, C. S. Army, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
Take some of Captain Moorman’s men with you from Leadsville Church, and inform me by a mounted express of any movement of the enemy of which you are positive.
By order of General Garnett:
Captain, C.S. Army.

And for fear I should not know the point in the Buckhannon road which Colonel Pegram requested me to occupy, General Garnett sent me, with the order, the following extract from Colonel Pegram’s letter to him, viz:

I have reason to believe the enemy is trying to work his way to my rear by the road which comes into this turnpike, one and a half miles this side of Beverly. I have therefore suggested to Colonel Scott that he take position with his regiment on that road.
Respectfully, &c.,
Lieutenant-Colonel, &c.

From this extract and these orders there was no room for mistaking “the position in the Buckhannon road requested by Colonel Pegram.” It was at the junction of the county road and the Buckhannon turnpike. You will observe the stringency of these orders. They gave me to discretion. Let us analyze them:

  1. I was ordered to take position in the Buckhannon road, as requested by Colonel Pegram.
  2. I was ordered to defend my position to the last, if I should be attached.
  3. In case there should be any movement of the enemy of which I was positive, I was not authorized do use my discretion whether or not I should leave my position to meet or counteract that movement, but I was to inform General Garnett by a mounted express, and of course wait for orders.

There were but two contingencies on which I should have felt justified in leaving my position.

  1. If Colonel Pegram had requested me to go anywhere else, as he was the commanding officer at the fort, and was presumed to know from his pickets and scouts more of the movements of the enemy than any one else, and as I had been placed in my position at his request, I should have abandoned it and gone anywhere else he desired on a like request, presuming that my doing so would meet with the approbation of General Garnett.
  2. The only other contingency on which I should have felt justified in quitting my position was, if I should ascertain by any means that the enemy would not come along the county road which I was ordered to guard and along which Colonel Pegram thought it was almost certain they would come. I heard the firing on the mountain in the direction of Colonel Pegram’s camp. Indeed, it had commenced before I had received the foregoing orders. It was at first straggling, as if pickets were engaged, as I presume was the case. After a while it became more animated, and a volley could occasionally be heard, though generally it seemed to be independent and at will. Ultimately artillery opened and was continued with great animation. I thought that the artillery was fired at Colonel Pegram’s fort and from his fort. I had no reason to believe that he had removed any of his artillery outside of his intrenchments. In short, from the firing of the artillery, I thought that the enemy had attacked his camp; but was that any reason why I should, in disobedience of General Garnett’s orders, quit my position and go to the firing? I thought not. For if the enemy were working their way around Colonel Pegram’s right flank, as he thought it almost certain they were doing, to get into his rear by the county road which I was ordered to guard, I thought it very natural they should make an attack on his camp, either a bona fide attack or a feigned attack, to attract his (Colonel Pegrams’) attention, and cover up their design of getting to his rear by the county road aforesaid. I therefore looked for the enemy by that road as eagerly after the firing commenced as I did before.

Again, I reflected if I should leave my position, and the enemy in my absence should come along that road and go to Beverly and destroy our quartermaster and commissary stores, &c., there, or should go up the mountain and attack Colonel Pegram in his rear, and I should be arraigned before a court-martial for disobedience of orders, what defense could I make? I would say I thought a fight was going on at the camp and that my presence was necessary. But the judge-advocate would reply: Did not Colonel Pegram inform you in his letter that he was almost certain the enemy were working their way around his right flank to come into the turnpike at the point at which you were posted? Did not General Garnett order you to take position at that point and defend it to the east if you should be attacked? Did he give you any discretion whatever in regard to leaving your position? On the contrary, did he not order that if there was any movement if the enemy of which you were positive, you were to inform him of it by a mounted express, and of course wait for orders? Did not Colonel Pegram inform you in his letter he had cavalry scouting between his camp and your position, and ought you not to have known that he would have sent for you if he had wanted you? To these interrogations I could only have replied in the affirmative. I repeat, if I had left my position and the enemy had come along that way, as Colonel Pegram thought it almost certain they would do, I would have been, and would deserved to have been, cashiered for disobedience of orders.

Again, it occurred to me if I should go up the mountain and before getting to Colonel Pegram’s camp find men fighting in the woods-and it was nearly all woods between my position and his camp-upon which party should I direct my men to fire? There was no badge by which friends could be distinguished from enemies, and even if there had been, it would have been of no use in the woods. I should as likely have fired on friend as foe. Should our friends have fired on me by mistake I should have returned the fire, and thus the most disastrous consequences would have ensued. In such case both the public and a court-martial would have condemned me for disobeying orders by leaving my position. I have since ascertained I was right on this point. Our men engaged in the fight on Rich Mountain knew nothing of my position nor of my presence in their immediate neighborhood, and many of them have since told me that had I gone up they certainly would have fired upon me. Lieutenant Statham, of Lynchburg, who commanded our piece of artillery in the fight after Captain De Lagnel was wounded, had informed me that if I had come up the turnpike that day he would have riddled my regiment. Had I been furnished with a guide I might probably have rendered material service in that fight, but without a guide I was as likely to do as much damage to friends as foes.

Again, I reflected, my position is occupied by me at the instance of Colonel Pegram. He has informed me in his letter that he was cavalry scouting between his camp and my position, and if he needs me else-where he will certainly inform me of it.

From these considerations I did not think proper to disobey General Garnett’s orders and leave my position, unless I should get some message from Colonel Pegram that he desired me to do so. Although I constantly looked for the enemy on the county road along which it was almost certain they would come, yet I as eagerly looked for a message from Colonel Pegram by some of the cavalry, which he informed me were scouting between his camp and my position. But getting no such message or any information from the fight, and becoming impatient, I determined to send a messenger myself. I therefore ordered Mr. John N. Hughes, who volunteered for that purpose, to go to Colonel Pegram, and know from him whether or not he wished my services at any other point than the one I then occupied, and if so, to send me a guide. If not, I ordered Hughes to bring me information of whatever was going on.

He dashed up the mountain at a rapid gallop. I awaited his return. At length I began to think it was time of him to be back. But then I recollected he would have to go more than six miles to Colonel Pegrams’ camp and the same distance back, besides finding and having an interview with that officer. At length a cavalry officer and a few of his men came down the turnpike. He announced himself as Lieutenant Cochrane, of the Churchville Cavalry, from Augusta County, Virginia. He informed me that the enemy, to the number of four thousand or five thousand men, had come around Colonel Pegram’s left (not his right) flank, and were then engaged fighting some three hundred of our men about a mile and a half in the rear of Colonel Pegram’s camp, and between my regiment and that camp; that there had been no attack upon the camp itself; that our men were on the right and the enemy on the left of the turnpike as I would approach the camp; that our men had one piece of artillery in or near the road, and that I was wanted at the fight.

Being satisfied then that the enemy would not come around Colonel Pegram’s right flank and the county road I was ordered to guard, as they had already gotten in his rear by coming around his left flank, I determined to quit my position, where I was no longer of use, and taking Lieutenant Cochrane and his men with me as guides, go up the mountain and join in the fight. That officer readily consented to accompany me as guide, and I put my men in motion at double-quick time. But for a detailed account of my march up the mountain and down again to Beverly I refer to the following letter of Lieutenant cochrane, who was with me the whole time, premising that, with the exception of one or two unimportant particulars, his recollection coincides with mine:

MONTEREY, March 6, 1862.
Forty-fourth Regiment Virginia Volunteers:
COLONEL: Your letter, dated Powhatan Court-House, February 28, requesting me to state in my reply what occurred while I was with you on the 11th day of July last in relation to the Rich Mountain fight, has just been received, and I hasten to reply. I was sent our with a squad of six men by Captain De Lagnel, who commanded our forces engaged in the fight, to bring up some cavalry that he had fired on through mistake. In going down the turnpike I unexpectedly met with your regiment drawn up in the road a mile and a half from Beverly. I told you your regiment was needed at the battle which was then going on; that the enemy to the number of four or five thousand had gotten around Colonel Pegram’s left flank, and were engaged with a few hundred of our men about a mile and a half in the rear of Colonel Pegrams’ camp; that the enemy were on the left, and our men in and on the right of the turnpike as you would approach the camp; that our men had but one piece of artillery. You asked me if I would go with you and act as guide. I consented. You instantly put your regiment in motion in double-quick time. I remonstrated; told you we had to go between four and five miles up the mountain before we would reach the battle-field, and if the men traveled at that rate they would not be fit to fight when they got there. You then brought them down to quick time.
In going up the mountain we met with several men on horseback who had been in the battle; one, I recollect, of my company, who had been shot through the foot, and another whose coat had been shot across the shoulders. The latter told us that he was aid to Colonel Pegram, and that Colonel Pegram had been killed. Some of these men turned back and went with us part of the way up the mountain, but they all disappeared before your regiment stopped. On our way up I informed you of the death of Hughes, and you requested me not to mention it to your men, as it might dampen their spirit. When we arrived within about a mile of the battle the firing cease, and in a few moments a loud huzzah was heard coming form the position our forces had occupied when I left them. You asked me what that huzzah meant. I told you that I was fearful the Yankees had driven our men from the field and captured our artillery, for the shout came from about the place where our artillery and fortifications stood. You continued your march to within half a mile of the battle-ground, when I informed you that it was unsafe to go farther; that you could not with one regiment encounter successfully four or five thousand of the enemy, with the advantage of position, fortifications, and a piece of artillery. You halted your regiment; you and I dismounted, and in company with some of your officers passed around a turn in the road that we might see, if possible, how things stood at the pass on top of the mountain, when we did see, if possible, how things stood at the pass on top of the mountain, when we did see more men, as I told you at the time, exulting and shouting, than Colonel Pegram had in his entire command.
You were yet unwilling to go back, but requested me either to go myself or to send some of my men to reconnoiter. I told you I would not go, nor should any of my men go, for I was perfectly satisfied as to how things stood. A young man named Lipford, of your regiment, stepped forward and proposed to go it he could get a pistol and horse. Thus equipped, he went off up the road, but in a very short time we heard the shout from many voices, “Halt, shoot him,” and the firing of several guns, and then another loud huzzah. It being now plain that the enemy had either killed or taken Lipford prisoner, you were satisfied that I was right, and that the enemy did have possession of the field. You appearing still unwilling to go back, some of your officers suggested that as the enemy’s pickets could plainly be seen around the fields on each side of the road in which we stood, if you went forward the enemy would receive you in ambuscade, whereas if you went back they would probably follow, and then you could take them in ambuscade. This suggestion being approved by all of us who expressed any opinion, you marched your regiment down the mountain, leaving men in the rear to give you information of the approach of the enemy. In going down information was brought you that the enemy were in pursuit, when you put your men in position to receive them. After remaining there some time, and the alarm proving false, and all being quiet on the mountain, you returned to Beverly.
Had the firing been renewed, I know it was your indention to have returned to the battle. Shortly after arriving in Beverly you had a private conference in a room in the hotel with Judge Camden and Mr. Berlin. During the conference I consulted you on the propriety of removing the military stores from Beverly, when you gave the order that every wagon that could be obtained should be filled with them, and all the prisoners should be taken out of jail and put under a guard of your regiment; all of which was accordingly done. I and my company were with you during your retreat as far as Greenbrier River, and acted as scouts, and am free to say that the retreat was conducted in good order, both by yourself and regiment-the men, wornout by continued marching, in the rear, guarding prisoners and train. During the whole affair you conducted yourself with coolness and firmness becoming an officer.
Lieutenant, Churchville Cavalry.

Some of those we met in going up the mountain estimated the enemy at from eight to ten thousand, and it turns our that I acted wisely in not making an attack upon the enemy when I went up the mountain. Colonel Pegram estimates the number of the enemy engaged in the fight at tree thousand. I have no doubt they told him so in Beverly, but I have as little doubt they underrated their strength. Colonel Pegram did not see the enemy engaged after the fight, and therefore had no means of forming a correct estimate for himself. Lieutenant C. W. Statham, who commanded our artillery in the fight, and who was wounded and taken prisoner on the field, and who did have an opportunity of judging me that the enemy had six regiments engaged, under General Rosecrans, on that occasion. As it is said that Northern regiments are composed of twelve hundred men each, it is fair to presume that the six regiments, after making all allowances of r sickness, &c., numbered at least five thousand or six thousand men. According to the estimate of my adjutant, I had with me on that day five hundred and seventy. What chance I would have stood with that number, without artillery, in an attack on five or six thousand men, or even three thousand, flushed with victory, with choice of position, and in possession of artillery and fortifications, every one can decide for himself. Every officer and, I believe, every man in my regiment approved of the course I pursued, and subsequent reflection had only-confirmed my conviction that I acted wisely.

It may be said that I should have renewed the attack, with the expectation that I would be re-enforced from the fort. I had here from one who said his name was Bacon, and who styled himself Colonel Pegram’s aid, and who therefore ought to have known that Colonel Pegram was killed before he (the aide) left the fight, and I concluded if his command in the camp would not or could not re-enforce a portion of their own men when engaged in the fight, and whom they knew needed their assistance, I had no reason to believe they would re-enforce me, when they did not know whether I needed their assistance or not. I believed the battle to be over, as far as Colonel Pegram’s command was concerned. Had the fight, however, been renewed by any of them, I should unquestionably have gone to their assistance, and so expressed myself at the time.

It is especially unbecoming in that portion of Colonel Pegram’s command who remained in the camp, and who took no part in the fight, to find fault with me, as I understand some of them have done, for not quitting my position earlier, or not renewing the attack after I went up the mountain. They knew, or had an opportunity of knowing, that the enemy in large force had come around Colonel Pegram’s left flank, and were engaged with a small number of their own men, who needed their assistance. I knew none of these facts until the moment I started up the mountain, nor whether our men who were engaged needed my assistance or not. If they say they could not leave their posts without disobeying ordered, I say I could not leave my post, where I was informed I was wanted, to go to a place where I did not know whether i was wanted or not, without equally disobeying order. If they sent no messenger to Colonel Pegram, I did send a messenger to him, to know whether my presence was wanted or not. If they say they could not leave their post because they expected the enemy int front, I say I could not leave my post because I expected the enemy by the right flank, by a road along which I was informed by the commanding officer it was almost certain they were coming. If they say that with one thousand two hundred men (for they did not lose one hundred in the fight), with artillery, they were too weak to renew the fight with so numerous an enemy to cut their way out, I say I was too weak with less than half that number, without artillery, to cut my way in.

It has been said that I should have gone to the assistance of Colonel Pegram. I did go to his assistance at the very time, at the very place, and in the very manner requested by him and ordered by General Garnett. If that time, place, and manner were not the right time, place, and manner, it was not my fault.

It has been said that Hughes was drunk when I sent him to Colonel Pegram. This, in my opinion, and in the opinion of those of my regimen with whom I have conversed on the subject, is a foul slander on a gallant man and a patriot, who lost his life in serving his country. If Hugles had been drinking at all, I did not perceive it in his appearance, manner, or conduct.

It is proper I should notice the following order, which I received from Genera Garnett some time during the day on which the fight took place:

Camp at Laurel Hill, July 11, 1861.
Colonel SCOTT,
Commanding Regiment en route to Laurel Hill:
COLONEL: General Garnett directs that you take your position high up on the road indicated by Colonel Pegram, secrete your, men, and cut down trees to block up the road in front of you. If you are forced back, block up the road as you go an defend every inch of it.
By order of General Garnett:
Captain, C.S.A., Acting Adjutant-General.

If you have not axes enough to block up the road with, send down to Beverly for them.

The road to which that order refers is the county road I was ordered to guard. Candor compels me to say that I do not recollect distinctly the time at which that order was received. I know it was not received before I send Hughes as a messenger to colonel Pegram. I am satisfied it was received after Lieutenant Cochrane came to me from the mountain, and I believe I received it after I returned from the mountain and reached Beverly. If I received it after I sent Hughes to Colonel Pegram, and before I went up the mountain, I doubtless did not obey it, because I was anxious to hear from Colonel Pegram; and to go high up the county road and secrete my men would place it out of my power to reach him in time to render him any assistance in case he should request my presence on the mountain. If I received it, as I am satisfied I did, after Lieutenant Cochrane came to me, I did not obey it, because I had ascertained from that road, as they had already come around Colonel Pegrams’ left flank. But whenever receipt, it made but little or on impression upon me, as I deemed it folly to be executed at that time. My decided impression is, however, that I received it after my return to Beverly, and late in the evening, while annoyed by a crowd.

My retreat-Why I did not fortify Cheat Mountain, &c.,–On arriving at Beverly I was immediately surrounded by a crowd of citizens and others. Seeing among them Mr. George W. Berlin, with whom I had been acquainted in the Convention, and Judge Camden, a member of the Provisional Congress, I requested an interview with them in a private room in the hotel. During that interview Lieutenant Cochrane consulted me on the propriety of removing quartermaster and commissary stores from Beverly, and I ordered him to get all the wagons that could be procured and fill them with those stores, and take out of jail some twenty prisoners and place them under a guard of my regiment. I consulted Mr. Berlin and Judge Camden as to the course I should pursue, and our interview ended by my determination to go to Laurel Hill with my regiment that night; but on going into the street in which I left my regiment I found it had gone towards Huttonsville, the opposite direction to that of Laurel Hill, some one having informed my lieutenant-colonel it was my wish he should go that way. I mounted my horse, dashed off at a rapid rate, and overtook it between one and two miles from Beverly, and turned it back in the direction of Laurel Hill; but on reaching Beverly I saw two men, who informed me that they were just from Laurel Hill, that General Garnett himself was on the retreat, and that he had ordered his tents to be struck for that purpose before they left his camp. This changed my programme. I saw no use in going to General Garnett, as I would only serve to encumber his retreat. I therefore determined to retreat myself, and accordingly left Beverly, I suppose, between 10 and 11 o’clock that night.

The night was dark, rainy, and dismal; the roads were muddy. My wagons, with those loaded with our quartermaster and commissary stores, munitions of war, &c., constituted a train one, two, or three miles in length. My regiment marched in the rear to protect them from attack. When one stopped all behind it stopped, and my regiment also; consequently my progress was slow. After getting about two or three miles from Beverly I was overtaken by a messenger from General Garnett with the following order, which I read by the lantern which the guard carried with the prisoners:

Camp at Laurel Hill, July 11, 1861.
Colonel SCOTT,
Commanding Regiment en route to Laurel Hill:
COLONEL: I am directed by General Garnett to furnish you with the inclosed sketch, and to say that he wishes you to march all night, if necessary to attain the point B on the sketch, and to block up the path so far towards A as you can, and the road towards C. If the enemy should have reached the point A, then block up as much as you can.
By order of General Garnett:
Captain, C. S. A., Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

The inclosed sketch to which he refers was the diagram, a copy of which is inserted above. Your honor cannot fully understand this order unless you read it in connection with the diagram. If you will turn to it you will see I was not directed to blockade the Buckhannon turnpike, leading from Colonel Pegram’s camp to Beverly, but that portion of the county road I had been ordered to guard which extends from B to C, and the path which struck off from that county road from B to the point A where it crossed the mountain. I saw at once the mistake under which General Garnett was laboring. He had heard of the fight at Rich Mountain, and from Colonel Pegram’s letter to him in the morning he believed that the enemy had gotten to Colonel Pegram’s rear by turning his right flank, and coming along that path and county road would still continue to come that way. Now I knew they had not come that way, but had come around Colonel Pegram’s left flank. I deemed it, therefore, an act of supreme folly to turn my regiment back at 12 o’clock at night, and march all night, and next day commence blockading a path and road in which I knew no enemy had put his foot and no enemy would put his foot. Besides, as neither artillery or cavalry could get over the mountain by that path, of what use was it to blockade it on this side of the mountain against infantry, which could easily get around the blockade?

Again, I reflected if I should obey General Garnett’s ordered it would almost certainly insure the loss of my whole command. It would probably take me all night to reach the point B, and later in the day to climb the mountain and reach the point A. This point A was but a short distance from the place where the fight occurred, and where I understood the enemy would bivouac that night. As soon as the trees should begin to fall they would by heard by the enemy, their pickets or scouts, and almost immediately it would be ascertained that a regiment was blockading the path. In that case all that the enemy would have to do would be to come down the Buckhannon turnpike leading to Beverly with their piece of artillery until they should reach the county road I was ordered to guard that day and go up that road until they should reach the path I was blockading. What then would be my situation, blocked up in front by my fallen trees and hemmed in the rear by an overwhelming enemy? I therefore told the messenger who brought me the order to tell General Garnett that he was mistaken in supposing the enemy had gotten to Colonel Pegram’s rear by the path and road he had ordered me to blockade, for that they had come around Colonel Pegram’s left flank; that I should probably lose my whole command if I were to obey his order, and that therefore I should continue my retreat. I have since seen Colonel Corley, General Garnett’s aide, who wrote tea order, and he informed me I was right in supposing that when that order was given General Garnett was under the belief the enemy had gotten to Colonel Pegram’s rear by the path and county road aforesaid and would continue to come that way.

I have been charged with blockading a part of the turnpike between Laurel Hill and Beverly, which prevented General Garnett’s retreat by that down. The charge is false. No road was blockaded by me. No tree was cut by my orders of by my regiment anywhere.

On arriving next morning near the Jeff. Davis Hotel, a log tavern, seven miles from Beverly, I was overtaken by another messenger from General Garnett with the following order:

JULY 11, 1861.
Colonel SCOTT:
General Garnett directs that you endeavor to keep the enemy in check on the other side of Beverly until daylight. If you are forced back, send me a mounted expressman stating the facts.
Captain, C. S. A., Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

As it was already sunrise when I received this order, and I was nearly seven miles from Beverly, its execution was impracticable. In answer to it I wrote a long note with pencil on a fence rail to General Garnett, and sent it by the same messenger who brought me the order.

On arriving at Huttonsville, eleven and a quarter miles from Beverly, I halted my regiment for breakfast. While their I was joined by Major Tyler with a few companies from the Twentieth (Colonel Pegram’s) Regiment, and while the I received the following (the last) order from General Garnett:

General Garnett has concluded to go to Hardy County and towards Cheat Bridge. You will take advantage of a position beyond Huttonsville and draw your supplies from Richmond, and report of r orders there.
Captain, C. S. Army, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

It has been stated that I was ordered by General Garnett to stop on Cheat Mountain and fortify. There is not a word in this order about Cheat Mountain. General Garnett, as he ought to have done, left it to my discretion where to stop. At the time I did think seriously of stopping on Cheat Mountain and fortifying, but I abandoned the idea on the following considerations:

  1. I had no adequate implements with which to fortify. I had thirty picks, ten shovels, and ten axes; and when it is recollected what a rocky mountain Cheat is, it will be seen that it would have taken a long time to throw up the most ordinary field works.
  2. I thought that if I had all the implements I could desire the enemy would be upon me before I could make even respectable fortifications. My men were worn-out by marching inn days and one night continuously. I expected the enemy to pursue, as I thought he ought to pursue. Why should he not? He had from ten thousand to twenty thousand men in the valley which lay at the foot of the mountain, with no enemy there to engage his attention. General Morris pursued General Garnett; why should not General McClellan pursue me, as I was encumbered by a long train of wagons conveying our commissary and quartermaster’s stores, &c.? Indeed, information was brought me by my scouts, when near the top of Cheat Mountain, that the enemy’s cavalry had been seen between Beverly and Huttonsville, coming in our directions. I therefore expected if I stopped upon the mountain the enemy would be upon my before I could make much progress in making fortifications, and I have since ascertained I was right in my opinion, as the following letter of Adjutant Willis, of the Twelfth Georgia Regiment (who was sent by General Henry R. Jackson to General McClellan’s camp on Cheat Mountain to receive our men who had been taken prisoners on prole, and who there met Lieutenant Merrill), will show:
CAMP BARTOW, VA., November 21, 1861.
SIR: You having expressed a desire that I should recount to you the conversation which passed between myself and Lieutenant William E. Merril, formerly an officer of the U. S. Army, Corps of Engineers, and at this time a prisoner of war in Richmond, Va., I comply by making this statement of facts, namely: That Lieutenant Merrill said that had Colonel Scott’s regiment attempted to make a stand on Cheat Mountain on the 12th day of July, the time his regiment passed that point on its retreat from Rich Mountain, McClellan would have bent every energy and employed every man, so that he (Colonel Scott) could not have held it an hour, and not only that he could not, but both his regiment and Colonel Johnson’s Georgia regiment would have been driven therefore had they attempted to have stopped, the enemy being in such close pursuit that there would have been no time for them to have erected even light field fortifications of the Army Register for the year 1859 will show that he carried away without division all the honors of his class; consequently his professional opinion as given above can but have weight.
Hoping that should any of that class of brave fellow-citizens know as critics dispute the policy of either your not passing or Colonel Johnson not advancing on Cheat Mountain, this unvarnished recital of facts may be its refutation.
I am, sir, yours, truly,
Second Lieutenant, First Infantry, C. S. Army.
P. S.-Lieutenant Merrill said that McClellan and staff reached Cheat Mountain the next day about 3 o’clock.

I passed the top of Cheat Mountain just before sunset Friday, the 12th of July. General McClellan and staff were there on the next day (Saturday) at 3 o’clock, and he occupied the place in force on Monday, as I am credibly informed. It is plain, therefore, that had I halted there I should have been overtaken by an overwhelming force of all arms before I could have made the most ordinary defenses.

  1. I ascertained that if I were to stop on Cheat Mountain, and could even make successful fortifications, my position could easily be turned, and the enemy could get into my rear and cut off my supplies. All that they would have to do for that purpose would be to leave the Staunton turnpike at Huttonsville, and go by a good road to Huntersville, some thirty or forty miles distant, and then by another road thirty miles, where it intersects with the Staunton turnpike again at Greenbrier River, at the eastern base of Cheat Mountain. By doing this they could besiege me in front and rear. Nor had I any reason to expect that in the mean time I could get sufficient re-enforcements to be of any practical utility, for the top of Cheat Mountain is more then eighty miles from Staunton, from which our re-enforcements would have to march on foot.

For these reasons, to say nothing of the want of artillery to defend fortifications when made, I concluded not to stop on the top of Cheat Mountain, but continue my march to Greenbrier River, at the eastern base of the mountain and some ten or twelve miles distant, where I expected to meet Colonel Edward Johnson, who was due there with his regiment that (Friday) night, and who would have command both of his regiment and mine, and leave it to his discretion whether or not of return to the top of the mountain and fortify. I did so, accordingly, and met Colonel Johnson the next day (Saturday) at Greenbrier River, as I expected. He, without consulting me on the subject, ordered the retreat to be continued to the top of the Alleghany Mountains, where we met General H. R. Jackson, who continued it to Monterey.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Colonel Forty-fourth Regiment Virginia Volunteers.

General S. COOPER, Adjutant and Inspector General.


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.