PRESTONSBURG — Commander Michael Warrix again led the Friends of Middle Creek on their annual March of Discovery, held in honor of the men who fought at the Battle of Middle Creek on January 10, 1862. This year the Friends ascended the mountain opposite the battlefield to the North, using the vantage point to gain new perspectives on the tactics of the commanders, the way the battle likely played out, and the way physical features of the mountain influenced the battle. The hikers gave extensive exit interviews during a dinner of soup, corn bread, and peach cobbler at Floyd and Nancy Davis’ home at David, having retraced the Confederate Army’s retreat from the battlefield on the evening of January 10.
They agreed upon these points:
1. The mountain had no tactical role in the battle since no face of any hillside actually fronted toward the battle except at a small knoll near Harman Tussey’s Farm. There was no evidence of earthworks, riffle pits or fortifications, and the slope of the mountain was much too steep to allow large numbers of troops to gather in any one place.
2. Although the enlisted men fought well, the competency of both commanders should be questioned. Garfield’s command was placed where he was personally secure, but where he could not have directly observed and commanded his troops. Marshall had troops in position and resources available to allow him to encircle the Federal troops and bombard them, but he chose not to do so. Instead he allowed the battle to end in, at best, a draw; burning his supplies as he retreated back to Virginia.
The most important aspect of the Discovery Walk was to put your feet into the soldier’s footsteps, struggle as they struggled and, for a day, leave the air-conditioned comfort of our electrified world to relive (in a small way) the real hardships Civil War soldiers faced. Two participants commented particularly to this point, throwing their sympathies totally toward those who bore the burden of the war upon their backs and paid for it with their blood.
The Friends of Middle Creek wish to thank Frank Fitzpatrick and the Middle Creek National Battlefield for their continuing support; Friends Commander Michael Warrix, and hikers Jeff Wysong, Nicholas Sparks, Giselle Smith, Brian Chastain and Charlie McDaniel for embarking on this 2014 March of Discovery on behalf of us all.