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Located in Putnam County on the west side of the Kanawha River just opposite Nitro, Scary Creek was the site of one of the earliest battles of the Civil War and one of the first Confederate victories.

Fought July 17, 1861, the battle was the result of a movement by Gen. Jacob D. Cox of Ohio, under the direction of Gen. George B. McClellan, to clear the Kanawha Valley of the Confederate Army of Gen. Henry A. Wise of Virginia.

On July 11, 1861, Cox launched a three-pronged movement eastward from Point Pleasant with his infantry, cavalry, and artillery, an attempt to entrap Wise at Charleston. By July 16, following some insignificant skirmishing and a clash at Barboursville, the bulk of Cox’s forces had consolidated at the mouth of the Pocatalico River, downstream and on the opposite side of the Kanawha. The following day, Cox’s advance party crossed the Kanawha River and encountered Confederate pickets at the mouth of Little Scary Creek. He dispatched about 1,300 federal soldiers under field command of Col. John W. Lowe of the 12th Ohio Infantry to engage the approximate 900 Confederates at Scary Creek. The Confederates were led by Col. George S. Patton, grandfather of Gen. George S. Patton of World War II. A near five-hour battle of heavy musketry and artillery fire ensued, including a number of unsuccessful federal charges across the Scary Creek bridge. Patton was seriously wounded and Capt. Albert Gallatin Jenkins rallied the disorganized Confederates to victory.

Casualties were slight on both sides, and the southern victory was short-lived as Wise abandoned the Kanawha Valley by August 1 due to pressure by McClellan on Confederate forces in northern West Virginia.

This Article was written by Terry Lowry

Last Revised on July 17, 2019

Related Articles


Lowry, Terry. The Battle of Scary Creek. Charleston: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1982.

Cite This Article

Lowry, Terry "Battle of Scary Creek." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 17 July 2019. Web. 13 June 2024.


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