Rich Mountain 160 years ago today

rob63

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 13, 2012
Location
PA, but still a Hoosier
Interesting. If I understand it all correctly, the campaign began with Brig. General Thomas Morris winning a victory at the battle of Phillippi. That victory led to the subsequent victory at Rich Mountain by forces led by Brig. General William Rosecrans. Their commander, Major General George McClellan, took the credit for both victories, cemented his reputation, and became commander of the Army of the Potomac as a result.

Disgusted, Rosecrans requested transfer to the West, and Morris left the army altogether.
 

David Moore

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 26, 2014
Location
Washington, DC
Rosecrans was replaced, after the end of campaigning in 1861in WV, by John C. Fremont probably for political reasons. He we was later sent to Mississippi where he became and remained a “Western general.”
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
That victory led to the subsequent victory at Rich Mountain by forces led by Brig. General William Rosecrans. Their commander, Major General George McClellan, took the credit for both victories, cemented his reputation, and became commander of the Army of the Potomac as a result.
The understanding I have of the events at Rich Mountain is that Rosecrans' movement was (1) ordered by McClellan as part of an overall design, and (2) not correctly executed by Rosecrans. The actual victory was (3) the result of a replan by McClellan at the suggestion of another one of his subordinates.

(1) The intent was meant to be that Rosecrans would attack in concert with McClellan.
The strong enemy position at Camp Garnett could not easily be assaulted frontally.
McClellan examined the enemy position on the evening of the 10th.

McClellan mentioned to his wife that he planned to "come the Cerro Gordo over them", meaning that he envisaged a turning movement, but by the evening of the 10th he was planning a frontal assault because there was no known route around the enemy.

David Hart disclosed the existence of a path to Rosecrans, and Rosecrans took him to McClellan. This resulted in a new plan where Rosecrans would follow the path; when Rosecrans appeared at the crest behind Camp Garnett McClellan would attack frontally at the same time Rosecrans was attacking from behind. Rosecrans was to report hourly on his progress.

Note that the camp to attack is Camp Garnett. (There was no rebel camp at the Hart House as far as anyone knew.)

(2) Rosecrans did not execute the movment correctly.
In addition to not reporting back hourly (he sent back only one report, which was before contact), Rosecrans got hung up in fighting at the Hart House.
He reached the Hart House between 2:30 PM and 3 PM, and there was some firing (which was heard by Beatty and McClellan; McClellan considered it distant and stationary firing and that there was no indication that Rosecrans was getting closer). McClellan was ready to attack if Rosecrans crested the ridge, but Rosecrans did not.

Rosecrans was involved in fighting at the Hart House for about 2-3 hours, then once the house had been captured Rosecrans forted up at the Hart House instead of continuing with the plan. He did not send a message to McClellan about this.
He did not reach the ridge over Camp Garnett until the morning of the 12th, after the enemy had departed.

(3) The actual position was rendered non-viable by a different plan.
It was determined by Poe that there was a practical route to get a battery enfilading Camp Garnett's defensive position within cannister range. This was done and the battery was in place by sundown on the 11th, and the Confederate forces determined to abandon the camp based on this battery rendering the camp non-viable.


Even if it were Rosecrans' movement which compelled the enemy to evacuate the position, then McClellan deserves credit as much as Rosecrans does - it was hardly the case that Rosecrans adopted this course without it being part of McClellan's plan. It is also the case however that the movement by Poe (that Rosecrans was not involved with) was what made the Confederates abandon the position.
 

David Moore

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 26, 2014
Location
Washington, DC
The understanding I have of the events at Rich Mountain is that Rosecrans' movement was (1) ordered by McClellan as part of an overall design, and (2) not correctly executed by Rosecrans. The actual victory was (3) the result of a replan by McClellan at the suggestion of another one of his subordinates.

(1) The intent was meant to be that Rosecrans would attack in concert with McClellan.
The strong enemy position at Camp Garnett could not easily be assaulted frontally.
McClellan examined the enemy position on the evening of the 10th.

McClellan mentioned to his wife that he planned to "come the Cerro Gordo over them", meaning that he envisaged a turning movement, but by the evening of the 10th he was planning a frontal assault because there was no known route around the enemy.

David Hart disclosed the existence of a path to Rosecrans, and Rosecrans took him to McClellan. This resulted in a new plan where Rosecrans would follow the path; when Rosecrans appeared at the crest behind Camp Garnett McClellan would attack frontally at the same time Rosecrans was attacking from behind. Rosecrans was to report hourly on his progress.

Note that the camp to attack is Camp Garnett. (There was no rebel camp at the Hart House as far as anyone knew.)

(2) Rosecrans did not execute the movment correctly.
In addition to not reporting back hourly (he sent back only one report, which was before contact), Rosecrans got hung up in fighting at the Hart House.
He reached the Hart House between 2:30 PM and 3 PM, and there was some firing (which was heard by Beatty and McClellan; McClellan considered it distant and stationary firing and that there was no indication that Rosecrans was getting closer). McClellan was ready to attack if Rosecrans crested the ridge, but Rosecrans did not.

Rosecrans was involved in fighting at the Hart House for about 2-3 hours, then once the house had been captured Rosecrans forted up at the Hart House instead of continuing with the plan. He did not send a message to McClellan about this.
He did not reach the ridge over Camp Garnett until the morning of the 12th, after the enemy had departed.

(3) The actual position was rendered non-viable by a different plan.
It was determined by Poe that there was a practical route to get a battery enfilading Camp Garnett's defensive position within cannister range. This was done and the battery was in place by sundown on the 11th, and the Confederate forces determined to abandon the camp based on this battery rendering the camp non-viable.


Even if it were Rosecrans' movement which compelled the enemy to evacuate the position, then McClellan deserves credit as much as Rosecrans does - it was hardly the case that Rosecrans adopted this course without it being part of McClellan's plan. It is also the case however that the movement by Poe (that Rosecrans was not involved with) was what made the Confederates abandon the position.
In a way McClellan and Rosecrans were both promoted after Rich Mountain. I’d say also that there were those in Washington who feared a Democrat general would emerge as a possible presidential candidate. This impacted McClellan’s and later Rosecrans’ fortunes.
As far as western Virginia is concerned after several more months of campaigning it was occupied by Union troops and eventually became the state of West Virginia.
 
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