By Hunter Lesser
BEVERLY, WV—The Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation recently acquired remnants of Camp Elkwater, a Civil War site near Huttonsville, West Virginia. Thanks to efforts by the Foundation, Beckwith Lumber Company, and the Civil War Preservation Trust, nearly ten acres of the historic Union encampment have been preserved. The tract features an impressive earthwork that once held Union artillery.
A century and a half later, the shape of the earthworks remains.
Federal troops under General Joseph J. Reynolds built Camp Elkwater during the summer of 1861. The site is located eight miles south of Huttonsville on U. S. Route 219 in Randolph County. Fortifications were dug across the narrow valley floor to block the Huttonsville-Huntersville Turnpike, a wagon road leading over the Alleghenies to the Virginia Central Railroad. Following the Union victory at Rich Mountain on July 11, 1861, Camp Elkwater was key to the defense of upper Tygart Valley.
Nearly 3,000 Federal soldiers were stationed here on September 12, 1861 when Confederates under General Robert E. Lee attacked. Failing in an assault on Cheat Mountain, seven miles east, Lee hoped to seize Camp Elkwater. “When morning broke, I could see the enemy’s tents on Valley River, at the point of the Huttonsville road just below me,” he wrote. “It was a tempting sight.” But the Tennessee troops under Lee’s command were too exhausted from their rugged march to launch an assault.
A family cemetery occupies what was once the center of the works.
The armies skirmished instead. During the action on September 13, Lee’s aide-de-camp John Augustine Washington of Mt. Vernon was killed while scouting at Elkwater. Lee’s son “Rooney” dodged a similar fate. General Lee himself narrowly escaped capture. Foiled in his first campaign, Lee left “Western” Virginia with a tarnished reputation and a nickname: “Granny Lee.”
Federal troops held Camp Elkwater until the spring of 1862. Many notables served here, including future members of Congress, a Supreme Court Justice, and future President Rutherford B. Hayes. Regiments of U.S. (West) Virginia troops garrisoned the site as well.
Remains of the fortifications at Elkwater can still be seen. The newly
protected tract includes a well-preserved earthen “redoubt” on a hilltop
overlooking the old turnpike (now U. S. Rt. 219). Ohio troops named it “Fort
Marrow,” in honor of the colonel of the Third Ohio Infantry. Federal
artillery was posted inside. Interpretation is planned at this little known
Civil War site.
“On behalf of the Foundation, its board and members, I would like to thank the Beckweth Lumber Company for sticking with this project over the years. I would also like to thank Don Teter, the Randolph County Development Authority and the Civil War Preservation Trust for their help in making this acquisition a reality. It has been over 10 years of negotiating the trade and we are pleased to finally protect this endangered and remote site,” remarked Executive Director Chelley Depp.
Foundation ownership will protect what remains of Union fieldworks.
The Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation is a private, non-profit entity
whose mission is the preservation of the Rich Mountain Battlefield Civil War
site and associated Civil War sites. Founded in 1991, RMBF has acquired over
400 of historic ground in partnership with the Civil War Preservation Trust
and the Randolph County Development Authority. RMBF and its partner Historic
Beverly Preservation operate the current Rich Mountain-Beverly Visitor
Center located in Beverly serving regional tourists and local visitors with
information about the Battlefield, the town of Beverly and neighboring sites
Supported by private donations, grants, and fundraising, RMBF hosts tours, educational programs and outreach events. One such significant event is the Civil War Reenactment held at Rich Mountain on odd-numbered years.
RMBF serves as active members of the West Virginia State
Civil War Task Force and the West Virginia Association of Museums, along
with a role in local tourism with representation in the Randolph County
Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
For more information on Camp Elkwater or Rich Mountain, contact the Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation at 304-637-RICH or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org