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On This Day in History: The Battle of Philippi

Civil War

On This Day in History: The Battle of Philippi

Though not considered a major battle in the American Civil War, the Battle of Philippi was nevertheless the first land action in the Eastern Theater.

Though not considered a major battle in the American Civil War, the Battle of Philippi was nevertheless the first land action in the Eastern Theater.

On this day in 1861, Union and Confederate forces met at the Battle of Philippi in modern day West Virginia. (The area still belonged to Virginia during the early years of the Civil War.)

Although not often considered a major battle—historians often jokingly refer to it as “the Philippi Races”—it was considered the first major land action in the Eastern Theater, and resulted in roughly 300 casualties, the vast majority of which were Confederate soldiers.

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According to the National Park Service, Col. Thomas A. Morris was temporarily in command of the Union forces in the region at the time, and on June 3, he mounted an advance toward a small Confederate operation. The Union advance was under the command of E. Dumont and B.F. Kelley. NPS states that Kelley marched on back roads from near Grafton a day prior to reach the town, while Dumont moved south from the town of Webster. Both groups of Union troops met before dawn on June 3, and after a successful surprise attack, forced the Confederates to retreat to nearby Huttonsville.

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