Virginia Center for Civil War Studies

Battle of Jonesville (Lee County)

 

Essentials:

  • Jonesville is the seat of Lee County, Virginia
  • Battle of Jonesville fought on January 2-3, 1864
  • Confederates attempted to move against the Cumberland Gap but encountered a Union force encamped around Jonesville
  • Confederate cavalry troopers commanded by Brigadier General William E. “Grumble” Jones defeated and captured the Sixteenth Illinois Cavalry under the command of Major Charles H. Beeres

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Battle of Jonesville

Learning that the Union forces in and around the Cumberland Gap numbered less than six hundred men, Confederate brigadier general William E. “Grumble” Jones crossed the Clinch River on January 2, 1864, with 2,000 men and moved his force northwest toward the important mountain pass. Unbeknownst to the Confederates, Union commanders at the Gap had learned of a Confederate force in the area and sent the Sixteenth Illinois Cavalry, commanded by Major Charles H. Beeres, to find it.

On January 2, Beeres drove several hundred of Lieutenant Colonel Auburn Pridemore’s Confederate cavalry troopers out of Jonesville, the small seat of Lee County, Virginia. The Union troops bivouacked in the town that night. In the early morning of January 3, however, Jones surprised the Union camp, attacking from the west. Over the course of the day, Union artillery changed hands and the Confederates retook the town of Jonesville. Caught between Pridemore to the east and Jones to the west, Beeres realized the futility of his situation and the Union force surrendered. In their victory, the Confederates captured 383 Union soldiers, three artillery pieces, and twenty-seven wagons. The victory was tarnished, however, when Jones learned that the Union defenders at the Cumberland Gap had been reinforced and any attempt to take it would be futile. Union surrender effectively left Lee County in Confederate hands through the rest of the war.

jonesville

Memorial sign and marker for Confederate soldiers killed during the Battle of Jonesville. (Lucas Kelley)

Though the site of the Battle of Jonesville has not been preserved, the geography of the town remains the same. The Dickinson-Milbourn House (c. 1844-48) offered protection to Union forces during the battle, who sheltered among the house and its dependencies in the face of the Confederate onslaught. Local tradition holds that the house was used as a hospital following the battle. The Battle of Jonesville is considered the largest Civil War engagement in far-southwestern Virginia. Lee County’s only Confederate monument is a memorial to unknown Confederate soldiers who died in the Battle of Jonesville.

 

Finding Jonesville

Jonesville is located along US-58, thirty-five miles west of the Cumberland Gap. The cemetery where the monument is located is on the west side of Jonesville along US 58 between Ely Street and Old Harlan Avenue. 500 feet west stands a historical marker, which gives an overview of the battle. The Dickinson-Milbourn House sits at the southwestern corner of Wilderness Road and Palace Street. It is a private residence, not open to visitors but visible from the street.

For More Information

Brian D. McKnight, Contested Borderland: The Civil War in Appalachian Kentucky and Tennessee (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky).

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, series I, volume XXXII, part 1, p. 57-64.

 

 

 
 

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