July 23, 2024, 3:19 am

Surprise and Rout at Philippi

Frank Leslie's Illustrated Weekly June 22, 1861

     Philippi is a little town in Western Virginia, twenty-two miles southward of Grafton, where the Baltimore and Ohio and the Northwestern Railways make an important connection, and has become noted as the scene of the surprise and rout of the Confederate forces which were concentrated there June 3d, 1861, under Colonel Porterfield.
     Acting under instructions from Brigadier-general T. A. Morris, the Federal troops were arranged in two columns: one commanded by Colonel B. F. Kelley, whose force consisted of his own regiment, the First Virginia, the Ninth Indiana, Colonel Milroy, and a portion of the Sixteenth Ohio, under Colonel Irwin; while the other column was commanded by Colonel E. Dumont, who had with him eight companies of his own regiment, the Seventh Indiana, four companies of the Sixth Indiana, Colonel Crittenden, a portion of Burnett's Ohio Artillery, under Lieutenant-colonel Sturges, and four companies of the Fourteenth Ohio,under Lieutenant-colonel Steadman.
     It was agreed that Colonel Kelley's command should proceed along the Beverly Turnpike above Philippi, a distance of about twenty-two miles, with the view of engaging Colonel Porterfield's rear at four o'clock on the morning of the 3rd, when Colonel Dumont's column would simultaneously open fire from the heights overlooking the village of Philippi.
     Colonel Dumont's column, accompanied by Colonel F. W. Lander, of General McClellan's staff, reached its destination at the appointed time, after a very wearisome march of nearly thirteen miles in a drenching rainstorm, and was about taking its position, when Colonel Porterfield's pickets engaged it in consequence of the alarm caused by a pistol-shot, which was fired by a woman at Colonel Lander, while he was reconnoitring ahead of the column. There being, up to that time, no signs of Kelley's troops, contrary to their preconcerted arrangement, and fearing Colonel Porterfield might escape, Colonel Dumont opened fire upon the Confederates with both of his guns, and, under their cover, made a dash upon the enemy's pickets, carrying consternation in their ranks, and capturing the barricaded bridge across the river.
     Meanwhile, Kelley's command, which had been delayed by being treacherously led at the side instead of in the rear of Colonel Porterfield's position, advanced rapidly upon the fugitives, and pursued them through the streets of Philippi, compelling them to abandon everything in their flight. It was while thus engaged, gallantly leading his troops, that Colonel Kelley was shot by a retreating Confederate through the left breast, and believed to be mortally injured.
     In this emergency, Colonel Dumont was assigned to the command of the two operating columns, and continued the pursuit until, under the instructions of General Morris, he brought the troops back to Grafton, which, for a while, became the headquarters of the national troops in Western Virginia. Colonel Kelley finally recovered his health, and received the well-merited promotion of brigadier-general, his commission being dated May 17th, 1861, sixteen days earlier than the battle in which he so brilliantly distinguished himself.

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