Battle of Droop Mountain

Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park

Droop Mountain

Jackson's exhausted troops arrived at the summit of Droop Mountain late in the evening and immediately began the placement of artillery. Jackson disposed his units to block the main road to Lewisburg which then extended across the mountain. The northern slope of Droop Mountain was partially cultivated, and strips of woodland somewhat concealed the approach from the pike. To gain this position the Federals would have to move over low-rolling hills and across difficult ravines to attack from any direction.

The crest of the mountain was densely covered with laurel and undergrowth, and from this naturally fortified position Jackson could observe the Union forces about Hillsboro some two miles distant and the plain known as Little Levels below his position. From his camp near Hillsboro, Averell faced the great obstacle presented by the steep mountain. His advance would have to proceed through the open fields and over the pike in the face of Confederate artillery.

Jackson constructed temporary fortifications to meet the attack expected to come the following morning. Arnett was assigned the center position overlooking the pike. His Twentieth Virginia spent the night and part of the next morning constructing breastworks of logs, stone, and earth. Jackson placed Lurty's howitzers on a projecting spur commanding the frontal approaches.

Including the Nineteenth on picket duty at the front, Jackson hoped to hold this position with about 750 men against Averell's estimated strength of 3,500 until the arrival of General Echols. Some of Jackson's troops were posted to guard the Locust Creek Road while some were still cut off in Pocahontas County. While his fortifications were being constructed, Jackson sent another dispatch to Echols. In this dispatch he misinformed Echols concerning Averell's stength, based on faulty reports of his scouts. General Echols was advised of the impending battle and requested to come immediately to his support.

By this time Echols had moved his brigade about halfway to Droop Mountain. Having departed from Lewisburg about nine o'clock that morning, November 5, Echols had advanced to within fourteen miles of Jackson's position and encamped for the night. Receiving Jackson's urgent pleas for help, Echols moved the remaining distance to arrive at Droop Mountain about nine o'clock the following morning.

Before leaving Lewisburg, Echols dispatched the Sixteenth Regiment and part of the Fourteenth to Meadow Bluff to guard the approaches and to picket the roads from Kanawha and Nicholas counties. Major James Nounnan, commanding the Sixteenth, was placed near Bunger's Mill at Meadow Bluff. A squadron of the Fourteenth under Captain James A. Strain took a position on the road leading from Nicholas County. Echols soon realized the wisdom of protecting himself against a drive to his rear which would have put his command in a compromising position.

The remainder of the Fourteenth Virginia Cavalry arrived at Jackson's position that night. Jackson placed two companies of the Fourteenth on the extreme left to protect the rear and left flank, while the other companies reinforced Arnett's Twentieth Virginia at the center. When Echols arrived and assumed command of the position the following morning, the Confederates at Droop Mountain enthusiastically threw down the gauntlet to the Federals confronting them. The reinforcements were greeted by the music of the band, as battle flags were unfurled and the Confederate cheers announced their arrival to the Federal commander preparing the assault.

Approving Jackson's disposition of the troops, Echols took further measures to protect the vulnerable flanks. The Twenty-Sixth Battalion under Colonel George M. Edgar was dispatched with one artillery piece to guard the old road from Hillsboro to Falling Spring, a road by which Averell might have moved southeast to cut off Echols from the rear. One rifle piece from Chapman's battery was later detached and sent to Edgar.

The Twenty-Third Battalion Virginia Infantry was placed on the right of the main road. Company C. was placed on picket duty to the rear, while Companies A and F were deployed as skirmishers before the battalion. This unit was located about 400 yards to the right of the batteries. The Twenty-Second Virginia was placed in the rear of the batteries for their support. Assigning immediate command of his brigade to Colonel George S. Patton, Echols assumed personal supervision of the right wing of the line. Jackson remained at the center of the line with Colonels Arnett and Cochran of the Fourteenth and Twentieth Virginia. Colonel Thompson as entrusted with the defense of the left flank with the Nineteenth Virginia.

Echols assigned the disposition of the artillery to Major William McLaughlin of the Confederate artillery branch. McLaughlin placed the batteries of Chapman and Jackson to support the infantry. Jackson's two artillery pieces, one a parrott gun, were placed with Lurty's battery. This unit was temporarily assigned to Echols from Jenkin's cavalry brigade. Chapman's battery, commanded by Captain George B.Chapman, a twenty-two-year-old Monroe County youth, was without two of its artillery pieces which had been left behind for repairs at the Dublin ordinance depot. His battery of four guns consisted of two howitzers (a 12-pounder and a 24-pounder), a rifled piece and a brass howitzer. his battery was placed in a position to the rear on a hill in easy supporting distance of the infantry.

The most vulnerable point in the Confederate lines ws the left flank defended by the Nineteenth. Its collapse would allow a Federal advance to the rear of the entire position. Early that morning Thompson sent 25 men under Lieutenants Mark V. Jarrett and William W. Boggs to relieve the two companies of the Fourteenth stationed there the previous night. Before the arrival of Echols, Jackson had ordered Thompson to reinforce that point. Thompson then sent another 100 men to the left under Captain J. W. Marshall, with orders to dismount the men and send the forces to the rear. Jackson's anxiety over the left flank soon induced him to send the remainder of the Nineteenth there with Colonel Thompson.

Having been misinformed by Jackson's underestimating Averell's strength, Echols was confident in his ability to hold his position. Engagements in this theater during the past few months had been encouraging for the Confederates. Unaware of the menace posed by General Duffie's advance from Charleston, General Echols felt prepared for the worst.

Battle of Droop Mountains

The Best Laid Plans>
Mill Point
Droop Mountain
Averell Attacks