Wednesday, July 13, 2011

150 Years Ago: Corrick's Ford

Robert S. GarnettImage of Robert Garnett via Wikipedia

On July 13, 1861, military operations in the aftermath of the battle of Rich Mountain came to an end.  The Confederate forces under Colonel John Pegram surrendered to George McClellan, and Union General Thomas Morris's Indiana brigade caught up to Robert Garnett's retreating Confederates near Corrick's Ford on the Cheat River.

The two forces fought a running skirmish and Garnett deployed skirmishers to cover his retreat.  As he was attempting to recall the skirmishers and move to another nearby ford, he was shot and killed by a Union volley.  Garnett was the first general officer on either side to be killed during the war.  The Confederates retreated in disarray, leaving behind a cannon, forty wagons and their commander's body.

In recognition of his service and two brevets for gallantry in the Mexican War, a Union honor guard conveyed his body to his relatives, who buried him in Baltimore, Maryland.  Four years later, the family exhumed Garnett's remains and secretly re-interred him in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, next to his wife and son, who had died before the war.  His grave was unmarked for fears of anti-Southern sentiments.  In May 2011, a small headstone was placed on his grave next to the family's larger marker.

The Confederates were gone and the region was securely in Federal hands.  Although he had planned the excursion into western Virginia and the Rich Mountain campaign, George McClellan received accolades far out of proportion to his actual participation in the battles.  He became the North's first war hero.

Also on this date, Harper's Weekly featured a cartoon, "Double-Quick Step to Richmond."  Almost everyone, North and South, thought that this would be a quick war, and "Forward to Richmond" was the cry in the North, especially from Horace Greeley's New York Tribune.  The pressure was on for General Irvin McDowell to march his army south to capture the Confederate capitol of Richmond, Virginia, and end the war.  After McDowell's ignominious defeat at the Battle of Bull Run, McClellan was called to Washington to take command of the Army of the Potomac, leaving William Rosecrans in command in western Virginia.

Also, John Clark (D-Mo.) became the first representative ever to be expelled from the U.S. House of Representatives.  By a vote of 94 to 45 Clark was expelled for taking up arms against the Union.  He was a brigadier general in the pro-secessionist Missouri State Guard.  He was a senator in the First Confederate Congress and a representative in the Second Confederate Congress.
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