In the Footsteps of Lee:
Robert E. Lee in Western Virginia, 1861
September 10, 2011
A One-Day Automobile Tour
Based in Beverly, West Virginia
Sponsored by the Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation
Guided by Hunter Lesser and Richard Wolfe
General Robert E. Lee led Confederate troops into the mountains of “Western” Virginia during August-October 1861 in his first campaign of the Civil War. Lee failed miserably here, defeated by political intrigue, measles and mud. He left with a tarnished reputation, and the unflattering nickname “Granny Lee.” As a result, citizens of the region voted to create a new state loyal to the Union—West Virginia.
Lee’s biographers have mostly overlooked the first campaign. Admirers dismiss it as a blemish to his legacy. Yet Lee’s first campaign offers important lessons in command and leadership.
This one-day automobile tour covers the general’s “forlorn hope expedition” to Cheat Mountain and vicinity. Departing from the Beverly Heritage Center in Beverly, WV, participants will trace Lee’s footsteps in 1861. Following the vital Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike, we will view the focal point of Lee’s assault—Cheat Summit Fort, an “impregnable” Union fortress in the wilderness. We will also visit the scene of unknown skirmishes on the mountain crest, where notables like Confederate private Sam Watkins and Union colonel Nathan Kimball saw their first combat, plus a dramatic overlook at “the deadening,” where Union pickets were tormented by mountain lions and bayoneted at their posts.
Descending Cheat Mountain, our next stop is the pastoral Greenbrier Valley at Travellers Repose and Confederate Camp Bartow. From this point, an ill-fated Arkansas colonel named Albert Rust led his brigade on a bold gambit to attack the Federals on Cheat Mountain. Then we strike for General Lee’s headquarters high atop Valley Mountain, an exclusive opportunity to take in the spectacular 360-degree vista from his tent!
After lunch we head north, following Lee and the Army of the Northwest to their advance camps and line of assault, along with a Confederate statue at picturesque Mingo Flats. From there, we explore the combat at Elkwater, scene of the death of Lee’s aide-de-camp John Augustine Washington, the last of his family to own Mount Vernon. This incident also nearly claimed the life of the general’s son “Rooney” Lee.
Continuing north, we will visit the impressive Union works at Camp Elkwater, and view the ridge from which Lee looked down on the unsuspecting enemy camp. Finally, we mark the spot of Lee’s near-capture on Becky Creek, an episode aide Walter Taylor described as a “very close call” that would have changed the course of Civil War history.
This unique one-day automotive loop tour begins and ends at the Beverly Heritage Center. Very limited walking is involved. Mountain weather is variable: bring warm clothing and rain gear. Take this rare opportunity to visit unknown Civil War sites associated with General Robert E. Lee’s first campaign, view wildlife and unforgettable mountain scenery.
About Our Tour Guides
Hunter Lesser is an archaeologist and historical interpreter. His writings on America’s past span topics from ancient Native Americans to Kentucky moonshine stills. A member of the West Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission, he is the author of Rebels at the Gate: Lee and McClellan on the Front Line of a Nation Divided.
Richard Wolfe is a retired Marine Corps Officer. He is a longtime student of the Civil War and West Virginia. He is a member of the West Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission and president of Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation.
Registration Fee: $ 90
What is Included:
· Services of expert historical guides
· Transportation by car or van to all sites
· Box lunch in the field, plus water during the tour
· Maps and related materials
Schedule: Saturday, September 10, 2011
9:00 AM Depart from Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly, WV, by automobile
6:00 PM Return to Beverly Heritage Center
Questions? Need More Information? Ready to Sign Up?
Email Tour Co-Guide Richard Wolfe.
Contents copyright 2011 - Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation