Friday, May 9, 2014

Battle of Cloyd's Mountain

When Grant embarked on his Overland Campaign against Robert E. Lee in Virginia several other armies moved in conjunction with him. One of these was the Army of West Virginia, commanded by Brigadier General George Crook. He set off through the mountains toward southwestern Virginia, aiming to destroy the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad. The Confederates opposing him, and another Union army under William Averell with similar plans, were a few scattered units put under Brigadier General Albert Jenkins just the day before Crook's advance.

Jenkins gathered his men at Cloyd's Mountain in Pulaski County, deciding to make his stand at that strong position. Crook approached the position and decided against a head on assault as too costly. Instead he sent one brigade around the Confederate right while the other two remained in front to support them. The flanking force, under Colonel Carr White, was composed of green troops. They charged the Confederate flank, but were driven back by the Confederate fire. Nonetheless the two brigades, one of them under future president Rutherford B. Hayes, went forward anyway. They charged at 11 am, and made it all the way to the Confederate entrenchments. The southerners stood firm, and the fighting, which was often hand to hand, swayed back and forth. Jenkins did his best to shift troops back and forth to threatened points. Finally the Confederate line was broken when Jenkins was mortally wounded, Crook sent in two more regiments, and the White's flanking brigade made a renewed attack which made better progress.

This battle was small, with only 6,100 Federal troops on the field and 2,400 Confederate, but the fighting was very fierce. Crook lost 688 men, more than 10% of his army. Jenkins lost 538, almost a quarter of his army. After this victory Crook and Averell continued to move forward, and were able to destroy part of the Virginia and Tennessee railroad, cutting that important Confederate supply line.


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