September 10, 1861, in Nicholas County, West Virginia
Union Forces Commanded by Brig. Gen. William S. Rosecrans
Confederate Forces Commanded by Brig. Gen. John Floyd
Conclusion: Union Victory Western Virginia Operations
After the route of the Confederate army in western Virginia in July, Union troops did not have any trouble occupying the pro-Union counties in the mountainous regions of the state. The occupation was made easier by a quarrel between the commanders of what remained of the Confedertae forces in western Virginia. Brig. Gen. Henry A. Wise had outfitted his own "Legion" of 4,500 men and was assigned to the southern Kanawha Valley. Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd had raised a seperate army, also in the Kahawha Valley. Neither officer would take the other's advice and each was determined to win the western Virginia war by himself.
Floyd moved first, marching northwest up the Kahawha and crossing the Gauley River at Carnifix Ferry in August. He planned to strike several isolated Union garrisons there but by September had failed to do much. Worse, he was threatened at Carnifix Ferry by the presence of a large Union force under Brig. Gen. William S. Rosecrans.Wise, camped 12 miles from the ferry, warned Floyd about becoming trapped with his back to the Gauley River. Floyd ignored him, was pinned against the river, and Wise refused to send him reinforcements.
On September 10th, Rosecrans struck Floyd's camp at Carnifix Ferry with 3 Ohio brigades. Rosecrans' men easily pushed in the Confederate pickets and captured Floyd's supplies. A seizure of the ferry seemed likely until Rosecrans discovered Floyd had withdrawn into a large fortified camp at the ferry and was pressed to fight it out. Rosecrans planned to storm the camp, but the fatigue of his men and the approach of nightfall pursuaded him to delay the assualt until morning. Floyd, with only 2,000 men, decided to not wait for the attack, slipping his command back across the ferry during the night. Rosecrans discovered Floyd's escape the next morning, but since Floyd's men had destroyed the ferry, he could not pursue them.
Ironically, it was Wise, not Floyd, who was blamed for the embarrassment of Carnifix Ferry. Responsibility for saving western Virginia fell to Gen. Robert E. Lee.