On August the 15th at 9 am the Seventh Regiment moved to Cross Lanes . This location was considered a crucial position to maintain. The Gauley and Weston Pike traveled east and west through Cross Lanes. The eastern branch connected Summersville, Sutton, Weston, and eventually Clarksburg. In the westerly direction the pike led past Twenty Mile Creek enroute to Gauley Bridge. This highway was the direct link between Cox at Gauley Bridge and Rosecrans at Clarksburg. The north-south road led to the Elk River Valley to the north and to Carnifex Ferry to the south, the site of the battle on September 10th. Further north of the Ferry the Meadow River joins the Gauley and here there are several other roads which also converge. The Wilderness Road which leads southeast, and the Sunday Road leading past Carnifex Ferry through the foothills. These roads were vital links between Charleston and Lewisburg thus giving Cross Lanes a direct communication in all directions.
Cross Lanes was located well within Confederate territory and considered a high risk area therefore Rosecrans felt that the Seventh needed reinforced so he ordered the 13th and the 23rd Ohio Regiments to join Tyler there. However a more urgent need for them was determined to be at Summersville and so they were immediately dispatched to that location, leaving the 7th as the only regiment at Cross Lanes.
August 19th, 1861
Brigadier General Cox, Gauley Bridge
“Dear General, your dispatch of yesterday at 4 o'clock reached me at midnight. Having nothing to give you I delayed the carriers until 5 o'clock this morning. There is no evidence of any intention on the part of the enemy, so far as I can discover, of advancing in this direction at present, and the scouts from towards Wuters up to this time report nothing in that direction. A messenger was sent here last night from Muddlety Creek, nine miles from Summersville on the road to Sutton, complaining about Colonel Smiths sweeping the line of his march of all the horses within reach. Nothing has been heard of any great battle yet. I had intelligence up to two o'clock yesterday from the ferry crossing six miles below here and sent twenty scouts in that direction this morning. I can come to other conclusion than that the enemy has abandoned all intentions of attempting to pass these ferries, but intend to dash upon you, and perhaps an intention to cut off at some point along the river below the junction of this road with the Gauley. The snakes passing down of artillery and as we can hear nothing from it on the Pike I conclude the information incorrect, or they have got it between the Pike and the river, which would be a master stroke as Colonel Smith would say. Allow me again to call your attention to our want of shoes. The men are in very great need of them and can do little without them.”
Your Obedient Servant
Colonel Tyler, Seventh Ohio
On the 20th the men had just went to sleep when the orders from General Cox came in to join him at once near Gauley Bridge. The regiment moved at 11 pm under a bright moonlit sky. By 4 am the clouds had rolled in and it wasn't long before it started to rain. They stopped at 5 am and prepared their breakfast then pushed on until they reached the mouth of Twenty Mile Creek at 10:30 am on the 21st. The move carried them some 20 miles during the night in eleven hours. Tyler made his headquarters on the other side of the creek.
On the 16th of August Floyd moved his forces to Sewell Mountain and the militia forces under Chapman and Beckley were active around New River. On the 18th Floyd and Wise moved to Dogwood Gap and this, combined with the militia movement south of him, caused Cox to move the Seventh out of Cross Lanes and bring them down to the reinforce him, if necessary, from Twenty Mile Creek.
While the Seventh was at Twenty Mile Creek a portion of Floyd's forces, on the night of August 21st, moved across the Gauley River at Carnifex Ferry using flatboats they had raised after Tyler had sunk them the previous week. Here the Confederate Generals again disagreed on plans and Wise moved his men back to the south in the direction of the Gauley Bridge. Floyd, in the meantime, set up camp three miles south of Cross Lanes.
On Wednesday morning Colonel Tyler reported in person to General Cox at Gauley Bridge. After a long discussion with the General, and in view of the importance of the area, Colonel Tyler and the Seventh was ordered back to Cross Lanes immediately.
It must be remembered that this is Wednesday morning and when General Cox ordered Tyler back to Cross Lanes he felt it was clear to him that Tyler would move there immediately. Tyler, however, felt for some reason he had plenty of time to return and secure the position. When Friday arrived and General Rosecrans learned that Tyler had not moved yet he dispatched a message to Tyler- "you must move; you must move now; it is all important that Cross Lanes be held, and General Floyd be held on the other side of the river."
The combined forces of General Floyd, Wise, and the militia would have been approximately 8,000 men compared to General Cox's 2,000. But as I have pointed out before the coordination between Wise and Floyd did not materialize therefore never threatening the Union forces.
The 21st, Wednesday, brought rain all day and the men spent most of their time resting up from the previous nights journey and writing letters to home. The 22nd and 23rd there was rain all day, again some men were issued some new clothing here as well. On the 24th, Saturday, at 11 am the regiment began their return to Cross Lanes . The march was very rapid and strenuous on the men and at sunset enemy pickets were seen therefore causing Tyler to halt the regiment and retrace their footsteps 3 miles where they set up camp. A very tentative nights sleep was had as the men slept on their weapons. They set up camp next to Peters Creek.
Company D was given the assignment to pursue the captures of Captain Schutte and the others. In Captain Lockwoods letter dated August 22nd from the mouth of Peters Creek we find the circumstances by which the party was informed and their preparations: "At ten pm, a short time after I had laid down I was roused by the clatter of hoofs nearby. I knew something was up and hurried down to Colonel Tylers' quarters. The courier was a lieutenant from Company C, it seems that in violation of orders they had crossed the ferry in the morning and had a little skirmish (which resulted in the Schutte incident).....
At 8 o'clock Sunday morning, the 25th, the messenger returned from General Cox with the following message: "the force in your front cannot be as large as you fear. Advance cautiously and try to occupy Cross Lanes- it is of utmost importance."
After having their breakfast they drew straws to see what company would remain behind to guard the baggage train, Captain Clayton's Company F was the winner. The other nine companies left camp at 9 am. The march was slow primarily because of the caution required with the enemy so near. At one point several companies set up an ambush for the enemy but it never materialized. At Peter's Creek the road to Summersville divides, one branch going northerly and the other south. About 5 miles from there a road crosses which leads to Carnifex Ferry, this location is where Cross Lanes is located. Tyler split the regiment up at Peters Creek as follows: one company took the northerly branch to reconnoiter that direction; five companies remained at Peters Creek; and three were ordered down the southern branch to reconnoiter that direction, this was under the command of Lt. Colonel Creighton, with Tylers' company as well. Picket duty was assigned as follows:
Company A, under Captain Orrin J. Crane- the road leading to Summersville; Company K, under C H. Nitzhelm, assigned the road leading to Carnifex Ferry; Company C, under Captain George Shurtleff, assigned the road leading to the opposite direction of Carnifex Ferry; while Company E was assigned to a road diagonal to the ferry road. The remainder of the regiment remained by the church at regimental headquarters.
There was no enemy seen until the men reached Cross Lanes where 40 or so cavalry were chased out by Captain Crane and his men. General Floyd himself was only two and a half miles down the road leading to the ferry. When this was ascertained Tyler ordered his entire force to Cross Lanes. There had been one casualty during the day when a Rebel sniper killed one of the men. The regiment went into camp by the church just outside Cross Lanes at 4:30, there was some light picket action but none of any consequence
During the night of the 25th, while Tylers' men were asleep, the force under Floyd, which consisted of the 22nd, 36th, 45th, and the 50th Virginia Infantry along with Lieutenant Thomas's horse artillery and some militia men moved during the cover of darkness to surround the 7th. These movements being complete just prior to daylight the order was given to attack the Ohio Regiment which was vastly outnumbered. The 50th Virginia opened the battle as it opened fire on Company K of the Seventh.
Captain Crane and his men wasted little time in crossing Gauley Road and headed directly for the mountains. Here he felt that should the Rebels follow he would have a better chance of repelling any attack. After reaching the mountains he and his men marched directly towards Gauley Bridge which, by morning of the next day, arrived safely with little opposition.
Companies A, C, and K, under the guidance of Captain Crane, had traversed through enemy country, treacherous mountain areas, while concealing themselves from the Rebel forces who had control of the entire region. Their arrival, however, did little to reestablish the fate of the remaining men of the Seventh for they only represent a small portion of the total.
After the battle many of the men straggled into the Gauley Bridge area. Officers and men alike described the situation and General Cox sent a dispatch to General Rosecrans to describe the events at Cross Lanes:
"The officers of the Seventh Regiment, who came in, report the enemy as a regular force about 4,000. They say the firing and maneuvering indicated well drilled troops. I have an advanced guard up each river and have no fears that we can make a good stand here. We have eight days supplies. Look out in the direction of Sutton. A large part of the Seventh is missing, but the general opinion is that the mortality is not very great. The enemy had artillery; the number of pieces I cannot learn.
Report of the Battle of Cross Lane
Gauley Bridge, Va.
August 27th, 1861
“Sir, on receipt of your order of the 24th I put my regiment on the march from the mouth of Twenty Mile Creek to Cross Lanes. The information I received induced me to countermarch the column and train two miles to the forks in the road to prevent a surprise attack. Your dispatch of the 24th, 10 o'clock p.m., in answer to mine of the same date, 6 o'clock p.m., was received at 1 o'clock a.m. On the morning of the 25th at 6 o'clock we moved on again with nine companies leaving one company with the Snake Hunters to guard the train. I spent the entire day moving seven miles, reconnoitering with the utmost caution, reaching Cross Lanes at 5 o'clock p.m., driving in the enemies pickets. After a thorough reconnaissance, my whole force was put on duty for the night. At 5 o'clock on the morning of the 26th, while at breakfast, we were attacked by a large force of the enemy and nearly the whole of our line was fired upon in less than five minutes after the first signal gun from our pickets- much of the enemies force being under cover of woods and crests of surrounding hills. Our men were soon ready to receive them, and for about three quarters of an hour, held the enemy in check, at which time I ordered a retreat under cover of the woods. Six of the companies on one side of the road and three on the other side. The officers and men conducted themselves, so far as I could observe, with utmost coolness and bravery, contending with at least four times their number of infantry, a considerable force of cavalry, and three pieces of artillery.
On the following day I sent Chaplain Frederick T. Brown and Captain Cushing, with a flag of truce, requesting the enemy to permit them to bury the dead and care for the wounded. They were not allowed to go nearer than three miles of the field, but were informed by General Floyd that the dead were decently buried and the wounded properly cared for, giving our loss as fifteen dead and thirty to fifty wounded.
It is with regret I have to mention the loss of Captain Dyer among the dead, a more faithful officer and truer patriot does not belong to the service. Captain Shurtleff, of Company C, was taken prisoner in the act of leading off his men.
While I have to say that all did their duty well, shall take this occasion in a future report to mention specific acts of some companies, that were in the hottest of the fight."
The prisoners were marched to Jacksonville which is about 150 miles south east of Cross Lanes. During their march their elbows were tied behind their backs. From Jacksonville they were moved by train to Richmond where they shared quarters with men captured at Manassas and Ball's Bluff. Here they were confined at Atkinsons's Tobacco Factory for about two weeks. Fearing movement on Richmond the men were moved to New Orleans via open dirt railroad cars through the south, open to ridicule as they passed through the countryside, until they reached their destination on October the 1st. Here they were taken to Parish Prison were they occupied the same filthy cells as common killers and thieves. They were provided no clothing and only half the food that they should have been given. This, however, did not stymie the minds of the captives for they devised many different methods of maintaining their mental faculties. Prayer meetings were held regularly, bone carving became an art form by which money was made by selling them to southern aristocrats outside the prison walls. Courts were set up to maintain the piece among the men and reading became a major portion of their day.
An arrangement for exchange was made and in February of 1862 the men were moved to Salisbury, North Carolina where they were to be exchanged for Confederate prisoners. However, because of continuous delays the exchange was not consummated until May 21st. During which time they interred in another filth encompassed pit of a prison. They were moved down the Tar River to a Union steamer where they were exchanged. It was a very emotional moment for all involved as men kissed the Stars and Stripes weeping as they boarded. Later some of the men were discharged from the service and some rejoined their original regiments or other regiments to resume active duty.
A series of very poor decisions made by the Army of Western Virginia resulted in the route of the Seventh at Cross Lanes. The first error was ordering all but the Seventh away from the Cross Lanes area knowing that there was a considerable Confederate force somewhere in the vicinity. The second error was committed by Colonel Tyler when he failed to inspect the area around Cross Lanes to determine, if attacked, what protection the terrain would afford him. Had Colonel Tyler inspected the area he would have found a natural fortress which he could have held off the Rebels in great numbers. Of course, in retrospect, Tyler found Cross Lanes very adaptable to military operations. However, the misconception was already portrayed and the orders received were for him to move out, which he obeyed.
The third, and perhaps most important error, was the fact that Tyler received orders to return to Cross Lanes on Wednesday and yet did not move until Saturday morning. Had he returned when so instructed, he would have had time to set up an impregnable defense and not allowed the Rebel force to occupy Cross Lanes. More importantly, the lives of many men could probably been saved.
Colonel Tylers' reason for not returning to Cross Lanes that Wednesday has never been established and although the newspapers in northeastern Ohio rallied behind Colonel Tyler the official records and all other military reports put the blame directly to him. For this reason many of his own regiment resigned from the Seventh, some immediately and others a little later. Among those known to have resigned as a result of Colonel Tyler's conduct were Captain D. B. Clayton, August 18th, 1861; First Lieutenant John Morris, December 5th, 1861; Second Lieutenants A. J. Williams, September 2nd, and Edward F. Fitch, November 28th, 1861; and Chaplain Frederick T. Brown, October 22nd, 1861. There may have been others but they did not attribute it to the early blunders or the collapse of Tyler at Cross Lanes.
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