Surprised and Routed at Carnifex Ferry; To Hatteras!

Monday, August 26, 1861

Halting a Union force a half mile from a Rebel force four times his number, Col. Tyler’s men were caught completely by surprise as Confederate General Floyd and his 2,000 men invited themselves to breakfast. Floyd had held Carnifex Ferry in Western Virginia for a few days after it was abandoned by Col. Tyler’s 7th Ohio Regiment. The evening before, he advanced, but did not attack Floyd. This particular morning, perhaps thinking that Floyd had no more of a plan to attack him than he had to attack Floyd, Tyler did nothing as the Confederates prepared themselves for an assault. Tyler, new to command, neglected to even post pickets around his camp.

In the early morning, Floyd advanced with Col. Henry Heth’s 44th Virginia Regiment in front. They fell upon the shocked Federals and poured a deathly fire into their already scattering ranks. Volley after volley was met with little or no resistance by the Ohio troops, who were just now witnessing their first battle.1

The assault, which outflanked Tyler, scattered the Union troops in every direction, completely routing the entire regiment. Fifteen Ohioans lay dead on the field with another fifty wounded. As many as 100 were taken prisoner.2 Over the next two or three days, the wayward remnants of the shamed regiment filtered into General Cox’s camp at Gauley Bridge. Though their reputation was temporarily tarnished, they would live to fight well another day.

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Butler and Stringham Steam to Hatteras

While General Benjamin Butler did not come up with the idea of attacking Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, he was ordered to select 860 of his infantrymen from Fortress Monroe to accompany the Navy, who planned the attack. Having readied his men, Butler reported to Flag-Officer Silas Stringham aboard the flagship USS Minnesota, a wooden steam frigate. She, along with seven other vessels, including the steamers Pawnee and Harriet Lane, chuffed her way south from Hampton Roads toward Forts Hatteras and Clark, two sand and log forts defending the Cape.

By mid-afternoon, the fleet rounded Cape Hatteras and anchored three miles off shore. The boats for the War’s first amphibious assault readied for action that would come at dawn the next morning. Butler settled down for the night aboard the Minnesota, as a warm evening breeze blew in from the south.3



  1. Lee vs. McClellan by Newell. []
  2. The counts are from Confederate sources, but were believed by General Cox (commander over Col. Tyler). Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 51 (Part 1), p460, 461. []
  3. The Navy in the Civil War by Daniel Ammen, C. Scribner’s Sons, 1883. Also, Official Naval Records, Series 1, Vol. 6, p121. []
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Surprised and Routed at Carnifex Ferry; To Hatteras! by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International

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