Battle of Philippi – First Battle of the Civil War
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From the Book:
Indiana’s Role in Civil War
Greetings, this episode recounts the first battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Philippi, in which six Indiana regiments fought.
Indiana played a major role in the Civil War. Approximately 196,363 Hoosier men served in the Navy and Army. 25,028 men died in battle, 17,785 from disease. 48,568 suffered wounds during the war. Governor Oliver P. Morton, an ardent Lincoln supporter, was the first to respond to Lincoln’s call for volunteers, promising 10,000 volunteers for the effort. Indiana provided the Union with the second most troops by percentage of population during the war. Over thirty-five percent of Hoosier soldiers were casualties by the time the war ended.
Six Indiana regiments served at the Battle of Phillipi, considered by many to be the first battle of the Civil War.
June 03, 1861 – First Major Civil War Battle Involving Indiana Troops – Philippi, Virginia
Most historians consider The Battle of Philippi as the first organized land battle of the Civil War. Six regiments from Indiana, which had organized in mid to late April, participated in the battle.
Major General George B. McClellan had assumed command of the Department of the Ohio, a military district created to manage Union Troops at the start of the Civil War. The headquarters of the Department of the Ohio was at Cincinnati, Ohio. McClellan wanted to occupy western Virginia, an area known to be largely pro Union. Brigadier General Thomas A. Morris, commander of the Indiana Volunteers, joined McClellan to join the offensive, which McClellan hoped to turn into an assault on the Confederate capital at Richmond. On May 28, 1861, McClellan placed Indiana Brigadier General Thomas A. Morris in command of 3,000 troops and dispatched them to Wheeling, Virginia across the Ohio River. From Wheeling, the Union troops advanced towards Confederate troops at Grafton.
Confederate Colonel George A. Porterfield commanded Confederate forces in western Virginia. His situation was desperate. Union sentiment in the area was strong and most residents were opposed to the April 17th Ordinance of Secession passed by the Virginia state assembly. Porterfield had attempted to recruit soldiers in Grafton, Virginia with little success. Of the men he did manage to recruit, only two of the companies had guns. Porterfield waited in Grafton for reinforcements, ammunition and supplies. The wait was in vain, as nothing came through. He learned of the union advance. Knowing his troops were in no condition for battle, he retreated to the little town of Philippi. Then he waited.
Union Troops advanced on Philippi during the evening of June 2. Neither the Union commanders or the Confederate commanders had accurate intelligence of the numbers or the situation of their opponents. Both sides believed that enemy strength was greater than it really was and Morris did not know about the almost helpless state of the Confederate forces. During the night Union forces moved to surround the town. Due to an unknown mix-up, Union forces left the southern roads open. Attacking at dawn, the Union forces caught the Confederates completely by surprise. The sudden attack entirely demoralized the Confederates, most of whom abandoned their arms and fled down the south road. The route was so complete that Union troops called it the “Races at Philippi”.
Most military historians regard this more of a skirmish than a battle. No Union soldiers were killed and Confederate casualties were scanty. The ease of victory created a false sense of superiority among the Union forces, who now expected the Confederates to collapse when faced with Union forces. The Union movements did set up later actions that would clear the region of Confederates, allowing the people in the area to secede from Virginia and form the state of West Virginia. Regiments from Indiana that served in this battle are:
6th Regiment, Indiana Infantry
7th Regiment, Indiana Infantry
8th Regiment, Indiana Infantry
9th Regiment, Indiana Infantry
10th Regiment, Indiana Infantry
13th Regiment, Indiana Infantry
Brigadier General Thomas A. Morris was in command of the Indiana troops
This story is part of my new book release, Indiana’s Role in the Civil War, which is available on my web site http://www.mossyfeetbooks.com in both softbound and eBook copies. The web page has links to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and other book retailers. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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