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.