Preservation of more than just Rich Mountain
In 2007 the Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation 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. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.
Federal troops under General Joseph J. Reynolds built Camp Elkwater during the summer of 1861. The site is located seven 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.
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. A family cemetery occupies what was once the center of the works.
Follow US 219 south of Huttonsville for 7 miles and turn right onto Kumbrabow Road (County Route 219/16) at the sign for Kumbrabow State Forest. At the second switchback you will see a gravel pull-off and a Civil War Trails interpretive sign. Follow the dirt road to your right to reach the redoubt and cemetery.