The Battle of Charleston
And the 1862 Kanawha Valley Campaign
by Terry Lowry
The Battle of Charleston (West Virginia), fought September 13, 1862, between the Confederate forces of Gen. William Wing Loring and the Federal command of Col. Joseph Andrew Jackson Lightburn, pales in comparison to many of the more well-known and documented engagements of the American Civil War. Yet the battle and the activities comprising the 1862 Kanawha Valley Campaign, particularly Lightburn’s subsequent retreat, beginning at Fayetteville and ending at Point Pleasant, were of much more strategic importance than readily meets the eye and held special meaning for many of its participants.
One such individual was Sgt. Joseph Pearson, Company F, 44th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, who wrote about the battle of Charleston in his journal, “We had several killed and wounded in this affair, but it was only a skirmish to what we afterwards learned of war. Yet I was more impressed with the dread[ful] feeling of that little action than all the others I was in to the finish.”
The 1862 Kanawha Valley Campaign has long been neglected by scholars, probably due to the great national attention placed on the Battle of Antietam and the Maryland Campaign, which took place during this same time period. Owing to the meticulous work of author/historian Terry Lowry, it has finally been given its due.
“Among Terry Lowry’s many fine contributions to the historiography of the Civil War in West(ern) Virginia, The Battle of Charleston and the 1862 Kanawha Valley Campaign makes by far the fewest concessions to popular history. The casual reader might easily be overwhelmed by the depth involved, but others will revel in the historical micro-details present in the book’s expansive combination of full-scale campaign narrative and encyclopedic officer and unit reference guide. The first of its kind and exceeding expectations in many ways, this study will very likely remain the standard treatment of the campaign long into the foreseeable future.”
Civil War Books and Authors
“For the reader interested in this campaign, Lowry’s excellent background information on the many participants and, when available, their pictures bring to life the characters on both sides. He includes many additional photos of structures and landscapes as they looked then and now. The appendices include detailed lists of casualties. While the battles involved are comparatively small, nonetheless they deserve the attention to detail which Lowry renders. This is an excellent history.”
Lawrence K. Peterson
The Civil War News