A Current Civil War Campaign
The Battle of Thornton Gap
May 15, 1862
The Union's objective was to gain possession of the road passing through Thornton Gap. Based on Intelligence Reports, a Rebel force of unknown size was deployed holding the road through the Gap. Union forces arrived on the battlefield in good order. Orders regarding initial force deployment were to favor the Union left flank, as the initial push against the enemy would occur there. Orders for the right flank were to probe enemy positions and hold the road against a possible Rebel counterattack.
On the right flank there were several terrain features. The most notable was a large hill and ridge line that dominated the surrounding landscapes. The ridge line roughly paralleled the road. The Rebels had deployed several regiments and two batteries of guns along the ridge line. With the guns they proceeded to shell the Union troops as they maneuvered during deployment. The shelling resulted in the rout of a Union regiment.
As the battle on the Union left began to unfold, new Intelligence Reports indicated that the Rebels were moving additional units towards us. Should they attack it would not go well for the Union right flank. Reinforcements were requested. It was at this time (approximately 10:00 a.m.) that Burnside's Corp arrived from which several brigades were sent as reinforcements. Several of these Union regiments were itching to get into the battle and sensing Rebel weakness decided to force their way onto the ridge line. An attack route that used a large wooded area for protection was decided upon.
Union troops began their attack. By maintaining good formations with steady advancing fires we were able to gain a position on the ridge line. Once on the ridge, infantry charges were ordered. These charges caught several Rebel units in the process of forming up. The end result of which was that most Rebel units routed from the wooded area.
With a strong position established, our units began to assault the large hill. After a bloody attack involving several regiments, the Union gained control of the hill and captured a Rebel battery. At this point all available Union artillery was called for and a grand battery was setup on the hill. Once our forces were consolidated on the hill. The grand battery began to shell Rebel units. The fire from the guns was devastating and by charging several regiments a large hole was made in the Rebel lines. However, we could not exploit this opportunity, as Union Reserves were unavailable.
At approximately 3:00 p.m. we received orders to perform a general retreat. This news was not
well received by the troops as they had fought successfully. Overall Union casualties were over
4000 killed, wounded, and missing. Several generals received serious wounds: BG Issiac
Rodman, commanding IX Corps, 3rd Division; BG Max Weber, commander, II Corps, III
Division, 3rd Brigade; and BG John Cochrane, commanding IV corps, 3rd Brigade. Col George
Crook, commanding IX Corps Kanawha Division, 2nd Brigade was killed.
Respectfully submitted, Major Gen'l Darius Couch
Army of West Virginia (IV Corps)