Tuesday, July 12, 2011

150 Years Ago: Mopping Up

George B. McClellan. Library of Congress descr...Image of George McClellan via Wikipedia

On July 12, 1861, the forces under Union General George McClellan were busy following up their victory the previous day at Rich Mountain in western Virginia (now West Virginia).

With Union forces in their rear, the Confederate positions at Rich Mountain and Laurel Mountain were in jeopardy.  During the night of July 11-12, General Robert Garnett and Colonel John Pegram evacuated the positions at Laurel Mountain and Rich Mountain, respectively.  Both headed toward Beverly.

Garnett made it to the turnpike that led south to Beverly, but he was erroneously informed that the enemy had already occupied that town.  He headed northeast on much more primitive roads.

Pegram's men passed through Beverly and headed north on the turnpike toward Leadsville.  The men were demoralized, exhausted, and hungry, and Pegram stopped and made camp by the Tygart River.  After conferring with his officers, he finally decided to surrender to McClellan.
near Tygart's valley River, six miles from Beverly, July 12, 1861.
To Commanding Officer of Northern Forces, Beverly, Va.:
sir: I write to state to you that I have, in consequence of the retreat of General Garnett, and the jaded and reduced condition of my command, most of them having been without food for two days, concluded, with the concurrence of a majority of my captains and field officers, to surrender my command to you tomorrow, as prisoners of war. I have only to add, I trust they will only receive at your hands such treatment as has been invariably shown to the northern prisoners by the South.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,

John Pegram, Lieutenant-Colonel P. A. C. S., Com'dg.
In the early morning hours of July 12, the Federals advanced to find the Confederates gone.  McClellan occupied the camp at the Rich Mountain gap, then proceeded on to Beverly, occupying the town around noon.  From there, he replied to Pegram the following day:
Headquarters, Department of the Ohio, Beverly, Va., July 13, 1861.
John Pegram, Esq., styling himself Lieutenant-Colonel, P. A. C. S.:
sir: Your communication dated yesterday, proposing the surrender as prisoners of war of the force assembled under your command, has been delivered to me. As commander of this department, I will receive you and them with the kindness due to prisoners of war, but it is not in my power to relieve you or them from any liabilities incurred by taking arms against the United States.

I am, very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

Geo. B. McClellan, Maj.-Gen. U. S. A., Commanding Department.
 Meanwhile, General Thomas Morris's men took up the pursuit of Garnett.  They were easy to trail over the muddy roads by following the footprints and the discarded equipment.  Morris caught up to them and fought a running battle the following day.

Also on this date, Albert Pike concluded another treaty between the Confederate government and the tribes in the Indian Territory; this one was with the Choctaws and Chickasaws.

Unrelated to the Civil War, James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok fought his first gunfight on this date at Rock Creek Station in Nebraska.  It wasn't much of a fight since the other participants were unarmed.

Details are sketchy, but Dave McCanles showed up with two friend and his 12-year-old son.  He wanted some money that was due him and got into a heated argument with the stationmaster.  One version has Hickok intervening and McCanles threatening to drag him outside and beat him.  "There will be one less son-of-a-bitch when you try that," Hickok supposedly replied.  When McCanles moved toward him, Hickok shot him in the chest with a rifle.  Another version has Hickok shooting McCanles while hiding behind a curtain.

The other two men attempted to flee, but were wounded by Hickok and killed by the other station employees.

At the trial, the McCanles son was not allowed to testify, or even to enter the courtroom.  The jury heard only testimony from the station employees and ruled that they had acted in self defense.

In 1867, Harper's New Monthly Magazine published a greatly embellished account of the incident, claiming that Hickok had faced down the deadly McCanles Gang and killed nine men single-handedly.  Supposedly, Hickok was gravely wounded in the shootout and later had eleven bullets removed.  The legend of Wild Bill was born.
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