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Battle of Corrick's Ford
Civil War Encyclopedia >> Battles
July 13, 1861 Battle of Corrick's Ford

While directing his rear guard General Robert Garnett is shot and dies minutes later. He is the first general to die during the Civil War
West Virginia
  George McClellan
  Battle of Corrick's Ford
  Civil War Firsts

Frequently misspelled as Carrick's Ford or Corrick's Fort

Although a small engagement, the Battle of Corrick's Ford played a big role in The Civil War. In command of the Northern armies in Western Virginia was Major General George McClellan of the Ohio militia. In command of Southern armies was General Robert Garnett, hand-picked by Robert E. Lee to replace Col. George Porterfield following the loss in Philippi. The Battle of Corrick's Ford and other early successes in the Operations in Western Virginia propelled McClellan into command of the entire Union Army while it ended the career of General Garnett, Lee's Chief-of-Staff. Garnett became the first general officer on either side to die in the line of duty.

Following the Confederate defeat at Rich Mountain on July 11, 1861, Garnett decided to consolidate his position further east on the Staunton-Parkersburg Pike. With less than 5,500 men against a Union force estimated at 20,000, he needed to find an easily defended, easily resupplied stronghold, probably near a railroad. His first choice was between Beverly and Staunton, using Staunton as his base of supply. In Leadsville (just north of present-day Elkins) the Rebel commander decided to move into the nearby mountains rather than face a larger force reported further down the road.

Colonel Thomas Morris, Garnett's classmate at West Point, responded by chasing Garnett through the mountain gaps towards the Cheat River. A Union regiment, 1,800 men strong under Captain Henry Benham would be all Morris needed to find the Rebels he was pursuing.

On the muddy, rain-drenched road from Leadsville to New Interest, Garnett dispatched six men to fell trees in an attempt to block Benham's advance. Only 20 trees had dropped when Benham's men caught up with the Confederate axemen, who hastily returned to their unit. They didn't have to travel very far to get to the end of the wagon train Garnett was trying to protect.

Slowed by the rugged mountains and torrential rain, Garnett's men spent the night in camp along Shaver's Fork of the Cheat River, with his rear units at Pleasant Run (Pheasant Run?) and his front units west of Parsons. Around noon on July 13, the rain slowed and the Confederates broke camp to continue their move up Shaver's Fork of the Cheat River. Almost immediately scouts began reporting Union skirmishers to the rear of the Rebel forces. Benham had rousted his men and began moving them through a "drenching storm."

In 1861 the road along Shaver's Fork traveled on the river's flood plain a few hundred yards, crossed the river, then continued down the other side. Upriver from Parsons, West Virginia, Shaver's Fork begins a 1.6 mile backwards "S" curve ending at the Kingsford Charcoal Plant. Corrick's Ford was actually two separate fords on the same man's property. Upper Corrick's Ford is on Shaver's Fork at the plant while the lower ford is about .4 miles downstream. Garnett assigned William Taliaferro the duty of covering the wagon train from the nearby mountains. At the time, Taliaferro was technically in command of the Virginia State Militia and would later serve as General under Stonewall Jackson. When the crossing had completed Taliaferro would withdraw, move downstream to the next crossing and again watch for Union troops as Garnett pushed the wagon train across the river.

With Taliaferro's men covering the upstream crossing from a nearby hill, Garnett struggled to get his train across Shaver's Fork. The Confederates saw the Yankeee skirmishers approaching but thought it was a Georgia regiment left behind to protect the rear. The Georgians were cut off by Benham and soon the men guarding the wagon train realized the approaching force were Yankees.

Benham began trying to push his men forward to battle Garnett, but there was a good deal of confusion thanks to the covering fire of Taliaferro's men. At one point a large group of Benham's men actually began marching away from the battle. Colonel Ebeneezer Dumont pushed his 7th Indiana Regiment forward to assist Benham, who by the time Dumont's men arrived had regained control of his men.

Reinforced, the Yankees slowly took control of the battle and the Rebel forces, both Garnett at the river and Taliaferro in the hills, were forced to withdraw downstream. Garnett left orders for his skirmish line to fall back fighting and rode downstream to the lower ford where he supervised the crossing.

Fifteen minutes later his skirmish line had abandoned the position and moved to protect the wagon train then crossing the lower ford. His men were running out of ammunition and the line was weakening. Trying to rally his men Garnett, recently promoted general, was shot by a member of the 7th Indiana and fell to the muddy road near a stone wall.

With Rebel forces in disarray, McClellan decided his objective (to keep the B&O Railroad free of Confederate interference in Western Virginia) had been met and he ordered a withdrawal. The Confederates continued their flight east, finally reaching Monterey, Virginia two days later.

Notes: Confederate troop strength reports of the men in Garnett's command range from 4,500 men to 5,400.

The Allegheny Highlands Trail accesses both the Upper and Lower Corrick's Ford sites. It is a paved path intended for use by both hikers and bikers. An intepretive sign marks the site of the lower ford.

Links appearing on this page:

George McClellan
July 11
July 13
July, 1861
Operations in Western Virginia
Rich Mountain
Robert E. Lee
Stonewall Jackson
The Civil War
West Point
first general officer on either side to die

Civil War Encyclopedia >> Battles

Battle of Corrick's Ford was last changed on - October 14, 2007
Battle of Corrick's Ford was added on - October 5, 2007

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