Cross Lanes, Va.

Home Camp of The Seventh Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Short history of the engagement and the participation of the Seventh Regiment. Page under construction.

        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.

            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.

                Halfway  between a wooded area and where the roads  cross  companies A, C, and K attempted to make a stand. The three companies delivered several well placed volleys which drove the enemy from their position. As a result Captain Crane ordered a charge, which was accomplished and resulted in piercing the enemy lines and the capture of a stand of enemy colors. Crane continued the assault until conditions and timing made it necessary to retreat to a safer location. The losses, however, during this charge was significant in that several officers were captured or wounded.

                As the preceding action transpired the confederate column coming from the Summersville Road advanced to a position opposite  the ferry road. Companies D and H occupied the church at that location and were in a skirmish with Rebel forces already in their front. With the arrival of this second column of Rebels the companies were exposed to a cross fire. Realizing the position they were in Captain Dyer of Company D ordered a retreat. Both companies were to relocate to a hill just up the road from the church. In doing so they had to pass through a corn field which exposed them to a heavy fire from every direction. Here, as they scrambled through the corn, Captain Dyer was killed. After they reached the hill it was discovered that the Rebel forces at hand were much too large to attempt a rally. Therefore it was decided that these two companies should continue their retreat until safer ground could be found. They continued until they reached a small wooded area and here they waited until more of the Seventh could join them. When they were sure that everyone who could make it was there, an orderly retreat was conducted. 

                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.

Home Up Casualties at Cross Lanes02/12/2005

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