HILLSBORO W.Va. -- Caleb Skaggs had a personal reason for marking the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Droop Mountain last week.
Skaggs' great-great-great-great grandfather fought in the Civil War battle that took place on Nov. 6, 1863.
"To commemorate what he did, I wanted to take part in this event, for my whole family," said Skaggs, 19, a resident of Rupert.
The Battle of Droop Mountain, fought on a mostly nondescript hillside about 25 miles north of Lewisburg, came out of a federal attempt to cut the Confederate-controlled Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, which ran south of Lewisburg and White Sulphur Springs in Virginia.
Prior to the battle, U.S. Brig. Gen. William W. Averell was to be part of a pincer movement designed to trap Confederate forces in the area and capture the railroad. During the first week of November 1863, Averell sent his troops toward Lewisburg, then occupied by Confederate forces under Confederate Brig. Gen. John Echols.
But Echols got word of the plan, and sent troops from Lewisburg to try to stop Averell. After a 27-mile march over what is today U.S. 219, Echols arrived at Droop Mountain, where his soldiers clashed with Averell's forces on Nov. 6, 1863. During a daylong, hard-fought fight that sometimes devolved into hand-to-hand combat, the Confederates were forced to retreat back to Lewisburg.
Averell won the battle, but Echols succeeded in stopping the Union army from capturing the railroad, at least for a while.
But in the ensuing 150 years, little has been done to remember the men who fought and died at Droop Mountain. Michael Smith, director of Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park, said at least 78 men -- 45 Union and 33 Confederate -- died during the battle or succumbed to their wounds.
Smith said there may have been more, because records of some units who took part in the fight were poorly kept at the time or have been lost. Hundreds more men were wounded.
The park has hosted a series of events remembering the 150th anniversary of the battle. On Tuesday, Nov. 5, Smith and 14 others, including many Civil War re-enactors, recreated Echols' march from Lewisburg. They left Lewisburg at about 2 p.m. Tuesday and arrived at Droop Mountain around 1 a.m. on Wednesday.
Caleb Skaggs and his brother, Isaac, 17, were among those who made the 11-hour trip.
"History will be lost if we don't take part," Caleb said.