Lee’s various brigades made their way to their positions opposite Elkwater and Cheat Summit Fort. Surprisingly, even with torrential downpours and clashes with Federal pickets, the different brigades reached their jump-off points on schedule. General Jackson’s brigade, including the First Georgia, was to approach Cheat Mountain from the east.
Early on the morning of September 12, a detachment of 100 soldiers, taken from the First and Twelfth Georgia regiments, under the command of Lt. Samuel Dawson of the Twelfth, were sent ahead to silence the Union pickets. After several encounters, Dawson’s small force got close enough to Cheat Summit Fort to hear music from within. Dawson felt that his soldiers were too exposed where they were, so he elected to withdraw back down the mountain. As they came down the road in the early morning rain and fog, they came upon a column of troops moving toward them. Believing the column to be Federals, several of Dawson’s men panicked and opened fire. Actually, the troops were the Twelfth and First Georgia, who deployed into the trees and began returning fire.
For several minutes the Georgians blazed away at each other, before some of Dawson’s men realized that they were firing on their own regiments. Dawson’s detachment ceased fire and began to yell “Georgians, Georgians!” and “Hurrah for Jeff Davis!”
Colonel Edward Johnson of the Twelfth hollered to his men “It’s a damned lie. Pop it to ‘em, pop it to ‘em!” Sergeant William Dent of the Newnan Guards, bleeding from where a ball had grazed his head, ran through the hail of lead shouting, “Great Gods! You are killing your own men!” Dent’s actions finally brought the firing to a halt. Private Tom Brown of the Newnan Guards was mortally wounded, and Private Rufus McPherson Felder from the Southern Rights Guard was killed. The Georgians took care of their killed and wounded, then proceeded to their designated positions.
Lee now had the Federals at Elkwater and Cheat Mountain encircled. The signal for all commands to attack would be the sound of Colonel Rust’s guns as his small brigade struck the rear of Cheat Summit Fort. However, captured Union soldiers convinced Rust that there were over 3,000 troops in the fort, instead of the few hundred actually there. That, and the formidable breastworks, caused Rust to have second thoughts. He decided that it would be suicidal to attack, so withdrew back to Camp Bartow. The rest of Lee’s troops waited all day for the sound of Rust’s attack, but it never came.