On September 12, 1861, the Battle of Cheat Mountain was fought near the Randolph-Pocahontas County line. Taking place just five months into the Civil War, the battle was a significant loss for the Confederacy.
General Robert E. Lee—at the time commander of the Department of Northwestern Virginia—was trying to protect railroad lines in Western Virginia while keeping what would become northern West Virginia in Confederate hands, thereby thwarting the young statehood movement.
Before the battle, Lee’s subordinate, William Loring, gathered his forces on Valley Mountain. Brigadier General Joseph Reynolds, commander of the U.S. forces, had his headquarters at Elkwater and a strongly fortified post atop Cheat Mountain in Randolph County.
Continual rainfall bogged down the Confederate attack, which was foiled further by the discovery of Southern troops by Union pickets. Lee abandoned his original plan and ordered an advance against Elkwater. The Confederate troops, who were described as being “too wet and too hungry to fight,” were easily repelled.
Colonel John A. Washington, Lee’s aide-de-camp and the last owner of Mount Vernon, was killed while scouting for Lee at Elkwater.