The Civil War, Day by Day

The High Water Mark (detail)

Union Victory at Cheat Mountain

Lee had assumed the position of coordinator over four small, independent armies in the West Virginia mountains. Commanding these units were four unlikely parties - two temperamental politicians, a scholarly diplomat named Henry Jackson, and a new soldier named W.W. Loring. Thirsting for glory after a full week in combat, Loring resented Lee’s arrival in the mountains, believing the General did not trust him and aimed to usurp his position. Lee privately snapped that his amateur leaders were “worse than children, for the latter can always be forced.”

After fighting heavy rainstorms and overgrown laurel on the rugged terrain, Lee guided Jackson and Loring through an intricate convergence of five columns toward Reynolds’ unsuspecting troops. Loring balked, Jackson blundered, and Reynolds was tipped off. The Northern soldiers held their ground and drove back Lee’s men, experiencing only 21 casualties. The beleaguered Confederates lost nearly 100 men. Yet, despite his defeat at Cheat Mountain, Lee would emerge as a mighty force to be reckoned with for nearly four tragic years.

Mort Künstler painted this dramatic scene, a detail from “The High Water Mark” which typifies the fighting that took place at Cheat Mountain.

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All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.