On this day, Union General George B. McClellan distinguishes himself by routing Confederates under General Robert Garnett at Corrick’s Ford in western Virginia. The battle ensured Yankee control of the region, secured the Union’s east-west railroad connections, and set in motion the events that would lead to the creation of West Virginia.
Two days before Corrick’s Ford, Union troops under General William Rosecrans flanked a Confederate force at nearby Rich Mountain. The defeat forced Garnett to retreat from his position on Laurel Hill, while part of McClellan’s force pursued him across the Cheat River. A pitched battle ensued near Corrick’s Ford, in which Garnett was killed—the first general officer to die in the war. But losses were otherwise light, with only 70 Confederate, and 10 Union, casualties.
The Battle of Corrick’s Ford was a significant victory because it cleared the region of Confederates, but it is often overlooked, particularly because it was overshadowed by the Battle of Bull Run, Virginia, which occurred shortly thereafter on July 21. However, the success made McClellan a hero, even though his achievements were inflated. Two weeks later, McClellan became commander of the Army of the Potomac, the primary Federal army in the east. Unfortunately for the Union, the small campaign that climaxed at Corrick’s Ford was the zenith of McClellan’s military career.