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Cheat Summit Fort (Fort Milroy)
Cheat Mountain is the collective name of a tall Appalachian ridge that contains nine of West Virginia's ten highest peaks. One James Trotter provided a fine sense of the region's isolation during a particularly hard winter in 1856, when he replied to a complaint from Washington that his firm was not delivering mail along the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike according to contract: “If you knock the gable end of Hell out and back it up against Cheat Mountain and rain fire and brimstone for 40 days and 40 nights it won't melt the snow enough to get your damned mail through on time.”
Beginning in July 1861, Union troops built a fort high on White Top, one of Cheat's many summits, to secure the turnpike and to thwart Confederate attempts to capture the B&O Railroad farther north. They demolished the Tygart's Valley Presbyterian Church several miles away to obtain bricks for chimneys and ovens. As completed, the fort contained breastworks, parapets, a blockhouse, and cabins. Defenders successfully resisted a Confederate attack that Robert E. Lee led in September 1861. In April 1862, after the theater of war had moved on, the fort was abandoned. The U.S. Forest Service acquired the site in 1987 and has preserved the remains, including cabin sites and earthen mounds covering collapsed chimneys. Like the Confederate Camp Allegheny ( PC16), Cheat Summit Fort provides a poignant glimpse of hardships that soldiers endured in what one described as “this dreary and uninhabited country.”
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