Middleway Conservancy
Jefferson County, West Virginia
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Smithfield Battle

The Smithfield Crossing Battle...


General Wesley Merritt

General Jubal Early
 
The Smithfield Crossing Battle took place in late August 1864.  This broad skirmish extended from Leetown, WV on the north, almost to Bunker Hill, WV on the west, and to Childs Road to the east.  The most intense fighting occurred between Opequon Creek and Childs Road with fighting occurring throughout the village of Smithfield, as Middleway was generally known at that time.  The battle, which resulted in some 300 casualties, was significant as the beginning of the final act between Confederate General Jubal Early's retreating forces and Union General Philip Sheridan's troops in the final Shenandoah Valley campaign.  The outcome of the battle is considered a draw, but allowed Union forces to regain control of the Opequon Creek crossing on Bunker Hill Road after having been driven back towards Charles Town.

The action began on August 28, 1864 with skirmishing between Confederate General Lunsford Lomax's Cavalry division, and General Wesley Merritt's Union cavalry division, with the Union Cavalry pushing the Confederate Cavalry from around Leetown, south to Smithfield, and west across the Opequon bridge at Smithfield Crossing.  On the morning of August 29, Merritt sent General George Custer's brigade of cavalry across the Opequon to reconnoiter.  Custer encountered two Confederate infantry divisions as he neared Bunker Hill.  These infantry divisions drove Custer's troops from their positions west of the Opequon back across Smithfield Crossing to Merritt's position.  The Union cavalry division of three brigades was then forced back through Smithfield.  The Confederate advance was stopped at Child's crossroad when a division of Union infantry arrived from the direction of Charles Town to reinforce the Union cavalry.  The Confederate forces ultimately withdrew across the Opequon, leaving Smithfield Crossing in Union hands.

The battle, ranks in the top 3 percent of the more than 16,000 recorded armed encounters in the Civil War.  The American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP), has undertaken studies of the battlefield, and places it in the 383 sites nationwide that should be preserved if the community is willing to do so.  The ABPP is required by Congress to study all battlefields on American soil.  When the community or landowners are willing and wish to preserve a battlefield through land acquisition or view-shed conservation easements, the American Battlefield Protection Program has been able to provide 50 percent matching grants.

The Middleway Conservancy Organization, commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Smithfield Crossing in August 2014.  To expand the community's knowledge and interest in this battle, the Conservancy held a commemorations with Civil War Encampments and battle reenactments in 2015, 2016, and 2017.  The Conservancy continues its interest in the battle and other events in the history of Middleway (Smithfield) through its History Committee, chaired by William Chappell.
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