Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park,
Gauley River Canyon near Summersville, West
Virginia, is an important Civil War battle
site. It is a significant historical site.
On September 10, 1861 Union troops led by
Brigadier General William S. Rosecrans engaged
the Confederates and forced them to evacuate
an entrenched position on the Henry Patterson
Farm which overlooked Carnifex Ferry. The
Confederate commander, Brigadier General
John B. Floyd retreated across the ferry
to the south side of the Gauley River and
on eastward to Meadow Bluff near Lewisburg.
This Civil War battle represented the failure
of a Confederate drive to regain control
of the Kanawha Valley. As a result, the
movement for West Virginia statehood proceeded
without serious threat from the Confederates.
Nicholas County was the site of two Civil
War battles – Keslers Cross Lanes
and Carnifex Ferry.
The Battle of Carnifex Ferry took place
on September 10, 1861 in Nicholas County,
Virginia (now West Virginia), as part of
the Operations in Western Virginia Campaign
during the American Civil War.
Learning of Col. Erastus Tyler's rout at
Kessler's Cross Lanes, Brig. Gen. William
S. Rosecrans moved three brigades south
from Clarksburg to support him. On the afternoon
of September 10, he advanced against Confederate
Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd's camps at Carnifex
Ferry. Darkness halted several hours' fighting.
The strength of the Union artillery convinced
Floyd to retreat across the Gauley River
during the night. Floyd blamed his defeat
on his co-commander Brig. Gen. Henry A.
Wise, contributing to further dissension
within the Confederate command.
250 total (US and CS) Nicholas County, West
Result Union victory
Plan of the Battle of Carnifex
Ferry, West Virginia.
Sneden, Robert Knox, 1832-1918.
Carnifex Ferry is located on the Gauley
River east of the town of Gauley Bridge.
Floyd's Confederate forces are positioned
with their backs to the Gauley River, and
the Union is shown attacking chiefly in
the center and on the left.
Color coding indicates the location of Union
and Confederate forces.
NOTE: Researchers will be served a photocopy
of this scrapbook image.
Relief shown by hachures.
The Union forces were fought under Genl.
Benham and Capt. Hartsuff and Genl. Scammon.
Col. Lytel [sic] with the 10th and 12th
Ohio Regts. charged the Rebel position in
left centre. Col. Smith, the extreme right
of the batteries. Col. Lowe directly in
front. Col. McCook extreme left of Enemy's
position. Col. Lytel [sic] lost a leg. Col.
Lowe was killed. McCook fought from 6 to
9 PM. and all laid on their arms during
the night. Floyd evacuated his position
during the night, leaving all his tents
and camp equipage, wagons, horses, large
amount of ammunition, 16 guns and 50 head
of cattle. Floyd was wounded in the arm.
He retreated with great haste, 15 miles
on the Charleston road, thence to the Green
River. Benham's command lost most during
the battle."--Page caption.
This item is from the collections of the
Virginia Historical Society; please contact
the institution for more information.
In the Robert Knox Sneden Scrapbook (Mss5:7
Sn237:1 p. 436). Manuscripts
The Patterson House Museum
During the first weeks of the war, the
Confederate government of Virginia recruited
troops in western Virginia, assigning Colonel
George A. Porterfield to Grafton, which
was connected to most of northwest Virginia
by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. As Union
troops under General George B. McClellan
advanced, Porterfield drew his forces back
to Philippi. As McClellan neared the region,
he sent Colonel Benjamin F. Kelley and the
First Virginia Provisional Regiment (later
the First West Virginia Infantry) as an
advance guard. On the morning of June 3,
1861, Kelley’s troops attacked Porterfield’s
forces at Philippi, resulting in a Confederate
retreat. This is considered by many to be
the first land battle of the Civil War.
To prevent Union troops from advancing
further up the Tygart Valley, reinforcements
led by General Robert S. Garnett joined
the retreating Confederates and established
strongholds at Laurel Hill in Tucker County
and Rich Mountain in Randolph County. On
July 11, Union General William S. Rosecrans
won a decisive battle at Rich Mountain and
days later, the Confederates were pushed
from Laurel Hill. On July 14, the retreating
Confederates were routed at their position
at Corrick’s Ford and Garnett was
While the Confederates were easily defeated
in the northern part of present-day West
Virginia, they mustered a better effort
in the Kanawha Valley. Former Virginia governor
Henry S. Wise, now a general, had established
his forces at the mouth of Scary Creek in
Putnam County. On July 16, Wise pushed back
an attack by forces under General Jacob
D. Cox. After the arrival of reinforcements,
Cox’s men drove Wise up the valley
to Gauley Bridge and eventually into Greenbrier
County. The North suffered a setback in
August as General Rosecrans’ advance
forces were defeated at Kessler’s
Cross Lanes in Nicholas County while marching
toward Gauley Bridge. Another former Virginia
governor, General John Floyd, established
his troops on a bluff at the Henry Patterson
farm which overlooked nearby Carnifex Ferry.
Union troops attacked Floyd on September
10. Although the Unions casualties totaled
158 compared to 20 Confederate, the larger
number of northern forces drove both Floyd
and Wise back into Greenbrier County. A
significant factor leading to the southern
defeat was a long-standing political rivalry
between Wise and Floyd.
The battle of Carnifex Ferry placed the
important Kanawha Valley in Union hands
for the early part of the war. In only a
few short months, the North had gained control
of northwestern Virginia and the Kanawha
This battle is reenacted every year at
Carnifex Ferry State Battlefield park. Our
cabins are located adjacent to the park
and are the most convenient lodging to the
park and all of its amenities, Summersville
Lake, and the Gauley River.
September 8-9, 2007
Civil War Weekend
Reenactment of 1861 Battle of Carnifex
Ferry. Also, various living history demonstrations
depicting civil war military life. Civil
war memorabilia and souvenirs for sale.
Every other year in September, the Battle
of Carnifext Ferry is reenacted on the same
ground as the original conflict. This reenactment
is hosted by Co. A, of the 36th Virginia
Infantry, West Virginia's oldest and most
authentic living history organization. The
event attracts hundreds of the country's
best Civil War reenactors from several states
and has been heralded as one of the finest
small reenactments in the eastern United
The two day event includes various living
history demonstrations such as camp life,
military drill, and a reenactment of the
Federal assault on the center of the Confederate
Visitors to the park are encouraged to
enter the camps and interact with the reenactors
prior to the battle reenactment. In fact,
walking tours, led by one of the reenactors,
are given each day.
Carnifex Ferry Battlefield is an official
Civil War Discovery Trail site.
The Civil War Discovery Trail links more
than 300 sites in 16 states to inspire and
to teach the story of the Civil War and
its haunting impact on America. The Trail,
an initiative of the Civil War Trust, allows
visitors to explore battlefields, historic
homes, railroad stations, cemeteries, parks
and other destinations that bring history
to life. For more information on the Civil
War Discovery Trail and other programs of
The Civil War Trust,
Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park is
said to be haunted by those lost in the
battle. Many have experienced the seeing
of strange mist and hearing the sound of
phantom gun shots.
Sights sounds and gunpowder smells have
been reportred rheough out the year. And
a few Re-enactors have told tales of running
into strange looking soldiers while setting
up for their reenactment of 1861 Battle
of Carnifex Ferry. The most active time
of the hauntings is said to be exactly September
8-9 and the week before and after.
Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park
1194 Carnifex Ferry Rd.
Summersville, WV 26651
156 acres. Picnicking, hiking trails, museum,
game courts and playground. Minutes from
Summersville Dam and Lake. During the fall,
the water released from the Summersville
Dam makes the world-class rapids on the
Gauley River possible.
ALSO SEE: THE TOP
TEN MOST HAUNTED BATTLEFIELD LIST
the battles have long ago ended and the
sound of cannons and muskets is but a distant
memory, there are some souls who are still
waiting for the call to “Retreat”
– and for them, it may never come!
plans to visit a Haunted Battlefield today!
VISIT HERE TO VIEW FULL LIST >