The First Battle of the Civil War? The Battle of Philippi

The First Battle of the Civil War?  The Battle of Philippi

When asking about the first battle of the Civil War, the expected answer is First Manassas/Bull Run on July 21, 1861. Thus I was stumped by a student last year whose answer was instead the Battle of Philippi.  Because it was a smaller engagement, it does not usually hold any real standing in the eyes of historians, but it technically was the first land engagement of the Civil War, occuring on June 3, 1861.  Philippi was not of great military importance, but the juncture of the Parkersburg-Grafton Railroad and the Baltimore & Ohio lay 25 miles north at Grafton, connecting the eastern states and the midwest. Robert E. Lee, then in command of all military forces in Virginia, ordered Colonel George Porterfield to recruit a Confederate force in the western countes to hold the rail lines at Grafton.  With Virginia's definitive vote for secession and Porterfields destruction of roadways, George McClellan received the green light to move troops and supplies into western Virginia to occupy the area and protect Unionist civilians.

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