Civil War Trails: The First Land Battle of the Civil War

Jason Shaffer squares up the new sign across from the Barbour County Historical Museum at 13 Museum St. This is the second stop on the walking trail and discusses the impact of the battle and Union occupation of town. (Civil War Trails)

Dateline: Philippi, West Virginia, the site of the first land battle of the Civil War. From a press release:

Late last month, the City of Philippi installed its five-stop walking tour enabling visitors to follow in the footsteps of the Civil War’s first land battle. With its multiple stops, this tour is also a first for the multi-state Civil War Trails program. The new trail isn’t just about sharing stories from the past, it will be a large part of the region’s tourism profile.

The walking trail is the result of a partnership which worked tirelessly for over three years. Research, writing, consumer review, funding, and installation were all made possible by several individuals and organizations. Partners in the preparation include the City of Philippi, Philippi Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), Barbour County, Civil War Trails, Inc., Linda Proudfoot, Lars Byrne, and Janey Kortas. Now with the signs installed the group can turn its attention to furthering its marketing of the town and its history.

Jason Shaffer installs a ‘trailblazer’ sign at 114 S. Main St., the final stop on the walking trail. These directional signs help visitors across West Virginia, making a connection between the map-guides and Civil War Trails stop. (Civil War Trails)

The Civil War Trails network offers over 1,400 sites across six states. Marketed internationally by the municipal and state travel offices the economic impact of the program is strong. Visitors of all ages and interests add history to their travel itineraries resulting in patronage to local restaurants, shops, and lodgings as they explore. According to Secretary of Tourism, Chelsea Ruby, “We continue to see an interest from visitors looking to experience our rich history, and thanks to the Civil War Trails program, we’re able to market and promote over 150 sites to new travelers every day.”

Visitors exploring the Civil War Trails sites tend to spend just over $1,000 per trip as they enjoy an average of three days and two nights during their trip. Over the last two years, the self-guided, outdoor program was immensely popular helping drive the discussion and creation of the walking trail. Karen Larry, President of the Philippi CVB board, said, “Philippi’s Convention and Visitors Bureau sees the Civil War Trails addition to Philippi as an expansion of tourism offerings in our area. The CWT signs are yet one more way to ‘Get your fill in Philippi!’”

The five stops on the Philippi trail help detail not just the combat, as it happened, minute by minute but its impact on local residents and the positive legacy in veteran healthcare, especially the orthopedics that resulted from the battle. “This mini Civil War trail is well planned, accessible, and will be immensely popular,” said Drew Gruber, Executive Director of Civil War Trails, Inc. Gruber continued, “Coupled with the town’s new B&B, river assets, museum, and ABU’s athletics, visitors can now add the Civil War trail to make a perfect weekend retreat for visitors.”

The ribbon cutting ceremony for the Civil War Trails walking tour will take place October 22 at 1:00 pm in Blue & Gray Park. Visitors are encouraged to begin exploring the new walking trail at the Blue & Gray Park located at the intersection of N. Main, Mansfield (119/250). From there, visitors will walk across the historic covered bridge to site two, following the maps provided on each site to each of the five sites.

For more information about visiting Philippi, please visit To request a Civil War Trails brochure or for more information about the Civil War Trails program visit: or use: @civilwartrails.

Chris Brown (left), Assistant Director of Civil War Trails, and Jason Shaffer carefully install the third stop located at 27 Pike St. Each sign and site were carefully selected to adhere as closely as possible to accessibility standards. (Civil War Trails)

5 Responses to Civil War Trails: The First Land Battle of the Civil War

  1. Everyone forgets these early battles . Since West Virginia became a state, it gets overlooked that before 1863 this was Virginia. So a Union advance across the Ohio River into Virginia was a significant event. It also led to McClellan gaining national prominence which would lead to his promotion to commander of the A of P.

  2. Skirmish vs. Battle vs. Maneuver Warfare
    “Philippi was the first land battle of the Civil War.” 3 June 1861: 4 Federal casualties; 26 Rebel casualties; considered a Union Victory. [See ECW “Civil War Trails: the First Land Battle…” posted 15 OCT 2022].
    Progressing backwards in time, other contenders for “first land battle” include:
    24 May 1861. Federal Occupation of Alexandria Virginia and Arlington Heights by 8000 Federal troops: one Federal casualty; approximately 10 Rebel casualties. Union Victory.
    10/11 May 1861. Camp Jackson Affair: a military operation in three parts. First, a combined Federal force of 6000+ troops under BGen Lyon forced the surrender of 669 (some sources say 689) Rebels under BGen Frost, believed to be threatening the St. Louis Arsenal. Following the capitulation of Frost and his men, Mob Actions/Federal troop reactions occurred during the march of prisoners to confinement in St. Louis: resulted in approximately 20 Federal casualties; 100+ mob casualties, including Rebel-supporters and women and children. On 11 May the newly-enlisted Fifth Missouri Volunteer Infantry (Union, Reserve Corps) was attacked by armed Rebel-supporters while marching from the Arsenal to their assigned post in St. Louis, resulting in a further two soldier deaths, and six civilian deaths.
    20 APR 1861. Destruction of U.S. Navy Yard, Norfolk (Gosport) Virginia. A small force under command of Naval officer Louis M. Goldsborough put the Federal facilities and floating assets at Norfolk Virginia to the torch. Two Federal officers (Commander John Rodgers and Army Captain Horatio Wright) were captured by Virginia State Militia: two Federal casualties; no Rebel casualties.
    19 APR 1861. Attack on Federal-supporting militia troops by Rebel-supporting mob in Baltimore: 40 Federal casualties; 100+ Rebel casualties (with additional reported casualties among women and children.)
    12-13 APR 1861. Rebel Attack on Fort Sumter, with subsequent artillery duel between Federal batteries and Rebel batteries.
    16 FEB 1861 (some sources say 18 FEB 1861.) Twigg’s Surrender of all Federal forces and property in Texas. Surrounded by Rebel Texans, the Federal troops in vicinity of San Antonio Texas were surrendered without a fight: approximately 100 Federal casualties (and over 2000 Federals forced to leave Texas); no Rebel casualties. Rebel Victory.
    9 JAN 1861. Firing on Federal contract steamer “Star of the West” by Rebel Shore battery at Charleston Harbor. No casualties. Rebel Victory.

    1. We hope you can make it out there to walk the mini-trail soon. Let us know if you are interested in taking that road trip and we will hip you to the place to stay while you are in town.

Please leave a comment and join the discussion!