The Battle of Lewisburg

On the morning of May 23, 1862, Union troops under Colonel George Crook were camped behind the grounds of the present Greenbrier Community College. The Union force was the 3rd Provisional Ohio Brigade consisting of the 36th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, the 44th Ohio Volunteer Infantry and part of the 2nd (West) Virginia Cavalry. Federal troop strength was 1400 supported by two mountain howitzers.

Colonel Crook’s presence was part of a larger federal effort to sever railroad communications between Virginia and Tennessee. Confederate forces under Brigadier General Henry Heth advanced on Lewisburg from the east.  Confederate forces consisted of the 22nd Virginia Infantry, the 45th Virginia Infantry, a detachment of the 8th Virginia Cavalry (dismounted) and two untrained militia battalions under Lieutenant Colonel William Finney and Major George Edgar.  Total force was 2300 men and six artillery pieces.

General Heth’s battle line was along the heights of the eastern edge of town. At 5 a.m. General Heth opened the battle with a bombardment of the Union camp. The Ohio Brigade advanced on the Confederate left and right while the Cavalry charged up the center of the Confederate line.

The units on the Confederate left were the first to collapse which exposed the center to enfilade fire.  Heth’s forces, followed by the Union troops, retreated, crossed the Greenbrier River at Caldwell and burned the bridge behind them.

The battle lasted a little over an hour.  Eighty Confederate soldiers were dead, 100 wounded and 157 taken prisoner.  Union casualties were 13 killed, 53 wounded and 7 missing.