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Battle of Charleston (1862) facts for kids

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Battle of Charleston, Va (WV)
Part of the American Civil War
Date September 13, 1862
Location 38°20′50″N 81°38′00″W / 38.34722°N 81.63333°W / 38.34722; -81.63333
Result Confederate victory
United States United States (Union) Confederate States of America CSA (Confederacy)
Commanders and leaders
Joseph Andrew Jackson Lightburn William W. Loring
John McCausland
5,000 5,000
Casualties and losses
256 404
Charleston battle2
1862 Boston newspaper article on the Battle of Charleston

The Battle of Charleston was an engagement on September 13, 1862, near Charleston in Kanawha County, Virginia (now West Virginia), during the Kanawha Valley Campaign of the American Civil War. It should not be confused with the Battle of Charleston (1861), which occurred a year earlier in Missouri.

During the summer of 1862, General William W. Loring’s Department of Southwestern Virginia (Confederate States of America) made plans to move into the Kanawha Valley of western Virginia and take the city of Charleston after General Cox and the Kanawha Division left the Kanawha Valley to help the Union Army in the battles at South Mountain and Sharpsburg (Antietam), Maryland. Colonel Joseph Andrew Jackson Lightburn was left in command of the Union forces that remained that included the 4th WV INF, 8th WV INF, 9th WV INF, 13th WV INF, 2nd WV CAV, 80th Kanawha Co. Militia, 16th Ohio INF, 34th Ohio INF, 37th Ohio INF, 44th Ohio INF, 47th Ohio INF, 89th Ohio INF, 91st Ohio INF, 1st East Tennessee CAV, 49th Indiana INF and the 84th Indiana INF.

On September 6, 1862, General Loring, with 5,000 men, left Narrows, Virginia on a march toward Charleston. They included the 22nd VA INF, 23rd Battalion VA INF, 26th Battalion VA INF, 30th Battalion VA Sharpshooters, 36th VA INF, 45th VA INF, 50th VA INF, 51st VA INF, 60th VA INF, 63rd VA INF, Bryan’s Battery, Chapman’s Battery, Lowrys Battery, Oleys Battery, Stamps Battery, 8th VA CAV, 14th VA CAV, 17th VA CAV, 36th Battalion VA CAV, Jenkins CAV and Floyd’s Scouts. The Confederate troops first encountered Union forces near Fayetteville on September 10, driving them back toward Charleston. The pursuit continued all day on September 11, with the Federals splitting their forces near Gauley's Bridge on both sides of the Kanawha River, the Confederates doing the same while in hot pursuit. Lt Joel Abbott of the 8th Va Cavalry, from a point above the cliffs and down a long point on Cotton Hill and under General Loring’s orders, destroys Gauley Bridge and an ammo stock pile at the mouth of Zoll’s hollow. Lt Abbott abandons his cannon on the side slope of Cotton Hill in a deep ravine due to the steepness of the terrain upon trying to return to the top of the hill (Relic hunters still search for this cannon). McCausland continued his pursuit on September 12 from about 5 miles below the Kanawha Falls to within 15 miles of Charleston, skirmishing with the Federals and battling fallen timber cut in their path along the way. By late afternoon on September 13, the Battle for Charleston had begun and was over by 7:30 p.m. when Loring's troops broke off the engagement at the Elk River where the Union forces had destroyed the bridge once they had crossed. McCausland was able to find a ford to cross the Elk River near present day Mink Shoals later in the day but was only able to get his cavalry across. The Union forces withdrew across the Kanawha River overnight to Point Pleasant, leaving Charleston to be occupied by the Confederate forces.

The occupation of Charleston by the Confederates lasted six weeks, until October 28, 1862, when Loring's troops began withdrawing under the threat of 12,000 Union soldiers, including several West Virginia infantry, cavalry and artillery regiments, approaching from the northeast counties. The city was occupied without opposition by the Union.

Excerpt from John D. Chapla's history of the 50th Virginia Infantry:

Reaching Colonel John McCausland at Dickerson's farm, Loring ordered McCausland to take charge of Echols' Brigade -- Echols being sick -- as well as the 22nd and 36th Virginia regiments, two artillery batteries, and Major Salyer's cavalry detachment. With this force, McCausland was to cross the Kanawha and push on to Charleston. McCausland crossed the Kanawha at Montgomery's Ferry and, with Salyer's cavalry leading, began his pursuit. By the end of the day McCausland had stopped federal efforts to burn the salt furnaces and went into camp four miles from the ferry. On September 12, McCausland again pressed forward, with the federals attempting to block the roads by felling trees. Although McCausland's lead elements and sharpshooters tried to interrupt this delaying action, it appears to have been somewhat successful. McCausland at some points fell up to three hours behind the fleeing federals. He camped that night 15 miles from Charleston."

McCausland resumed his pursuit on September 13, moving through Camp Piatt (now Belle) and Maiden to the outskirts of Charleston. Making contact with Union skirmishers near the Elk River, McCausland deployed his brigade about 3 p.m., with the 23rd Virginia Battalion in front as skirmishers and the 22nd, 50th, and 63rd Virginia (left to right) deployed on line behind the skirmishers. The 36th Virginia was in reserve. McCausland pushed forward with his left moving through the town until he reached the Elk River and discovered that the federals had retreated across the river, destroying the only bridge over it. As McCausland probed during the next several hours for crossing points, he skirmished heavily with the Union forces drawn up across from him. "The firing was terrific, and the old 50th was gallantly through the yards and fields of Charleston under a galling fire of grape shot and musket balls," an anonymous officer in the regiment reported."

Although McCausland was ultimately able to get his cavalry across the Elk at a ford two miles east of Charleston, he found that ford impassable for his infantry and artillery. In the end, darkness halted the fight for the brigade about 7:30 p.m. McCausland moved his troops to eat and rest as the Union garrison began a retreat out of the town."

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