July 7, 1861: Battle of Laurel Hill Begins in Barbour County
The Battle of Laurel Hill, also known as the Battle of Laurel Mountain or Belington, began on July 7, 1861. A month earlier, Southern troops had retreated south after their loss at the Battle of Philippi. Confederate commander General Robert S. Garnett had seized a key mountain pass and set up his defenses at the foot of Laurel Mountain, located in eastern Barbour County. Beginning on July 7, Union troops under General Thomas Morris attacked Garnett’s men in a series of skirmishes. The two sides fought for the next five days. In the end, the Confederates were overrun.
On July 12, Garnett learned of another Confederate defeat at nearby Rich Mountain in Randolph County and pulled his men back to the Cheat River. Garnett was killed the following day at the Battle of Corrick’s Ford. He was the first Civil War general on either side to die in combat.
The Union Army’s victories at Laurel Hill, Rich Mountain, and Corrick’s Ford in July 1861 helped place Western Virginia in Northern hands for the rest of the war and allowed the West Virginia statehood movement to unfold.