August 26, 1863 — On August 5, 1863, a 2,000-man force of Union cavalry commanded by Gen. William W. Averell left Winchester, VA and began a raid through the Allegheny Mountains with the mission of destroying Confederate saltpeter works and gunpowder mills.
The Yankees raided west to Moorefield, WV, then south through the rugged mountains to Huntersville, where they forced a Confederate cavalry brigade to retreat eastward to Warm Springs, VA. Averell’s troopers followed the Rebels to Warm Springs on August 24 and caused them to retreat even farther to the east. The next day the Union horsemen moved south to Callaghan and there destroyed a saltpeter works on the Jackson River.
Today, on the morning of August 26, Averell and his men set out for White Sulphur Springs, a resort town just across the West Virginia border that was near a gunpowder mill. At Rocky Gap, just two miles before coming to White Sulphur Springs, the Union troopers came across 1,900 Confederate infantry deployed across the road.
The Rebels, commanded by Col. George S. Patton, had been ordered to prevent the Yankees from reaching White Sulphur Springs and had arrived at Rocky Gap just before Averell’s men. The Southerners rapidly blocked the road and awaited an attack. Averell was quick to respond; he dismounted his men and sent them forward in repeated attacks on the Rebel line.
The battle raged fiercely throughout the day, but Patton’s men repulsed each assault upon their line. Each side slept on the field, and in the morning Averell again sent his men forward through the heavily wooded terrain to attack the Southern defenders. Once again Patton’s troops repulsed the Union attacks; before noon Averell, having given up the contest as well as the attempt to reach White Sulphur Springs, retreated back to the north. Union losses at Rocky Gap were 26 killed, 125 wounded, and 67 missing. Southern losses were 20 killed, 129 wounded, and 13 missing.
Words of Wisdom
Fascinating Fact: Gen. George Smith Patton was the grandfather of George Smith Patton III, the famous army commander of World War II. George and one of his two brothers would be killed in battle before the end of the Civil War.