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Confederate Commander

Colonel George A. Porterfield

June 3, 1861

Barbour County, Virginia

Union Victory

Union Commander

Colonel Thomas A. Morris

Forces Engaged: 750

Wounded: 2

Total: 2

Operations in Western Virginia (June-December 1861)


Also Called: Philippi Races

Forces Engaged: 3000

Wounded: 1

Total: 2

Union Officers


Union Order of Battle


Union Official Records

Major General George B. McClellan

U. S. Army

Brigadier General T. A. Morris

Indiana Militia.

Brig. Gen. Irwin McDowell

Indorsement on Lieutenant Tompkins' report

          On May 14, Colonel Porterfield arrived in Grafton expecting 5,000 troops, but found he was the only soldier in town. Hearing there were troops in nearby Philippi, Porterfield traveled to Philippi only to find a rabble of soldiers. Among the soldiers were several militia and cavalry units who were unarmed.

          Ten days later, he moved his poorly armed and ignorant men to Philippi. By stating the soldiers were ignorant is misleading, they were ignorant of a soldiers life. They did not know how to drill or shoot properly. They did not even have the concept of picket duty and this would hurt them in the upcoming battle.

          While at Grafton, Porterfield ordered the local railroad bridges burned. Gen. McClellan, the Union commander of the area, considered this an act of war and immediately sent troops to repair the bridges. While Union troops were heading to Grafton and still 40 miles away, Porterfield sends a courier to Gen. Lee that he is moving his troops to Philippi.

          Upon arriving in Grafton, Colonel Kelley orders the bridges repaired and prepares to follow the Confederate troops. However, two days later Brig. Gen. Morris arrives in Grafton. Reviewing Kelley’s plans against Philippi, Morris wants an extra day to ensure surprise and to trap the Confederate forces. Kelley took his troops to the southeast of Grafton along with Colonel Milroy’s and Colonel Irvine’s companies. Colonel Dumont traveled southwest to Webster where he was joined by Colonel Stedman’s and Colonel Crittenden’s companies. After combining at Webster, the troops moved south to Philippi.

          Meanwhile, on the second of June, two Southern ladies very loyal to the Southern cause found out about Morris’ plan. Miss Abbie Kerr and Miss Mollie McCloud traveled to Philippi to warn Porterfield of the upcoming attack. Porterfield ignored their warnings, but did pack some equipment on a wagon. Porterfield did picket troops around the camp, but the soldiers ignorant of their duties, either left their post or fell asleep on duty.

          Kelley had planned the attack to start with a single shot at which time the artillerymen would start to bombard the Confederate position. However, the Union troops were not in place when the artilleryman heard an errant shot and started their bombardment. Due to the Union troops not being in place, Porterfield was able to retreat toward Beverly, approximately 30 miles south. The Confederates left behind a considerable amount of arms, baggage and provisions.

          Kelley was injured and thought to be fatal, but recovered and led a distinguished career for the rest of the war. The first surgeries were performed after the battle when two soldiers had a leg amputated. 

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