Union General William Starke Rosecrans had command of a force in Western Virginia, and he concentrated his men along the major transportation line in the area. He left Union Brigadier General Joseph Jones Reynolds defending the Staunton and Parkersburg Turnpike in the Cheat Mountain area with about 1,800 men. Confederate General Robert E Lee was sent into the western Virginia area to try to coordinate the Confederate forces in the area. He first moved with the Army of the Northwest, which was under the command of Brigadier General William Wing Loring. Lee developed a strategy to attack against Reynolds’ divided camps near the summit of Cheat Mountain and Tygart Valley.
The Confederates attacked in a heavy rain and fog. Struggling with the visibility and mountain terrain the attack on Cheat Summit was uncoordinated. The heavy fighting the Confederates faced from the 300 Union defenders, and misleading information given by captured Union soldiers caused Confederates Colonel Albert Rust and Brigadier Samuel Read Anderson to believe their 3,000 soldiers were outnumbered. The Confederates who attacked Reynolds’ men at the Tygart Valley found the Union troops well entrenched and ready to hold.
Reynolds moved some troops up the road to Cheat Mountain to relieve the garrison there, but found it unnecessary. Robert E Lee had the attack called off and moved his force to Valley Head.