In the summer of 1863, Confederate forces reoccupied Lewisburg and began probing toward Charleston. The new state of West Virginia had just been created, and in August Union forces were dispatched from Winchester via Huntersville, Pocahontas County, to seize the Virginia state law library which had previously been established at Lewisburg for the convenience of judges and lawyers when the Virginia Supreme Court met there. The Yankees also hoped to destroy the Virginia-Tennessee Central Railroad, which traversed southwestern Virginia on its way from Richmond to Memphis. Union Gen. William Averell led a force of 1,300 mounted infantry, cavalry, and light artillery. The Confederates responded by sending 2,000 men to block the road at White Sulphur Springs, 12 miles east of Lewisburg.
On August 26, the forces collided. The Union attacked toward the west, hitting the Confederates moving east from Lewisburg. After two hours of assaults on the Confederate line, there was a lull in the fight. Union forces tried to find a weak spot on the flanks. Twice more during the afternoon, and just before sunset, the Union attackers failed to break the Confederate line which was anchored by Col. George Patton’s Virginia infantry and Edgar’s militia sent from Lewisburg. On the morning of August 27, with ammunition nearly depleted, Averell decided to retreat to his base without accomplishing any of his objectives. The Union force of 1,300 sustained 218 casualties, 26 killed, 125 wounded, 67 captured. The Confederate force of 2,000 had 167 casualties, 20 killed, 129 wounded, 18 missing. The Confederates had turned back the raiders but had failed to destroy or capture the outnumbered Yankees.
This Article was written by David Bard
Last Revised on November 19, 2010
Stutler, Boyd. West Virginia in the Civil War. Charleston: Education Foundation, 1966.
Bard, David. Civil War: The New River Valley. Charleston: Quarrier Press, 2004.