Series 1, Volume 29, Part 1
William W. Averell
On the morning of the 6th, we approached the enemy's position. The main road to Lewisburg runs over Droop Mountain, the northern slope of which is partially cultivated nearly to the summit, a distance of 2 1/2 miles from the foot. The highway is partially hidden in the views from the summit and base in strips of woodland. It is necessary to pass over low rolling hills and across bewildering ravines to reach the mountain in any direction.
The position of the enemy was defined by a skirmishing attack of three companies of infantry. It was thought that a direct attack would be difficult. The infantry and one company of cavalry were therefore sent to the right to ascend a range of hills which ran westward from Droop Mountain, with orders to attack the enemy's left and rear. To divert the enemy's attention from this, the Fourteenth Pennsylvania and Keeper's battery made a successful demonstration upon his right. The remainder of the command prepared for action. While these movements were progressing, the arrival of re-enforcements to the enemy was announced by the music of a band, the display of battle-flags, and loud cheers of the rebels on the top of the mountain.
The attack of our infantry, 1,175 strong, was conducted skillfully and resolutely by Colonel A. Moor. The guide who had been sent with his proving worthless, he directed his column, 9 miles over the mountains and through the wilderness to the enemy's left, led by the flying pickets and the sound of his cannon. The intermittent reports of musketry heralded the approach of Colonel Moor to his destination, and at 1.45 p. m. it was evident from the sound of the battle on the enemy's left and his distributed appearance in front, that the time for the direct attack had arrived.
The Second, Third, and Eighth [West] Virginia Dismounted were moved in line obliquely to the right, up the face of the mountain, until their right was joined to Moor's left. The fire of Ewing's battery was added to that of Keeper's. At 3 p.m . the enemy were driven from the summit of the mountain, upon which they had been somewhat protected by rude breast-works of logs, stones, and earth. Gibson's battalion and one section of Ewing's battery were at once ordered to pursue the routed rebels. Fragments of each regiment were already eagerly in pursuit. Fragments of each regiment were already eagerly in pursuit. The horses of the Second, Third, Eighth, and Fourteenth were brought up the mountain as soon as possible. The infantry pushed forward, and as soon as details had been made for succoring the wounded and burying the dead, the entire command followed the enemy until dark.
It appeared from the reports of prisoners that the enemy's force had consisted of the Fourteenth Derrick's battalion, Edgar's battalion, Jackson's brigade, and 7 pieces of artillery; in all, about 4,000 men.
His loss in killed and wounded was about 250, 1 piece of artillery, and 1 stand of colors. Several men of my command reported having seen and measured 2 other pieces of artillery abandoned by the enemy and secreted by the wayside. Time was not had, however, to look after them. I did not desire to reap more than the immediate fruits of victory that evening. It was yet 20 miles to Lewisburg, and I hoped that by letting the enemy alone during the night, he might loiter on the route and be caught the next day between my command and the force expected from the Kanawha Valley. As we went down the mountain the following morning we could see the smoke of several camp fires along the mountains to the eastward, showing that the enemy had been somewhat dispersed.
E. A. Denicke
68th New York Infantry
On November 6, the rebels still held the position on Droop Mountain to which they had retired the previous evening, as our forces moved forward to attack them. Lieutenant Denicke was ordered to the left, with orders to communicate with center station, and with Lieutenant Merritt on the right. Lieutenant Denicke took his station on a knob occupied by one of our batteries. From this point he kept constant communication with center station, although the enemy kept up a heavy fire on that point from their artillery, even after our battery had been removed, the signal flag there attracting their fire.
During the latter part of the engagement, I ordered Lieutenant Denicke to change his station to the new position taken by our artillery. From this station he also communicated with center station, sending and receiving messages and observing the enemy's movements. This station was the first to observe and communicate to the commanding general that the rebels were falling back.
I ordered Lieutenant Merritt to report to Colonel Moor, commanding the Twenty-eighth Ohio and Tenth [West] Virginia Infantry, who made a flank movement on the enemy's left. Lieutenant Merritt was instructed to communicate both with center and station on our left. I pointed out to the lieutenant the direction that this force was to take, and the nature of the ground was plainly visible. I watched for Lieutenant Merritt's flag myself, and had a man continually on the lookout, but at no time during the engagement was I enabled to communicate with him. When, after the engagement, I inquired the reason of this, he stated in explanation that only at one time had he seen my flag (center station), and that at that time it had been impracticable to open the desired communication, as some trees interfered with the view.
The center station occupied various positions, it always accompanying the commanding general. As soon as I was notified of the retreat of the enemy, I called in the station on our left, and proceeded without delay to the summit of Droop Mountain, the position held by the enemy during the engagement, with the view of obtaining some position from which to observe the valley beyond in which the enemy were moving. On the summit I was joined by Lieutenant Merritt. The whole party then pushed on with our cavalry, who were in pursuit of the enemy, but although the pursuit was carried on until after dark, I could not find the desired position, the view in all directions being obstructed by hills densely covered with brush and timber.
28th Ohio Infantry
In compliance with orders received during the night, I left camp near Mill Point at 6.30 a. m., in command of the Twenty-eighth Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Tenth [West] Virginia Volunteer Infantry, and Keeper's battery, and halted the column near Hillsborough. About 8 o'clock I received orders to feel the enemy along the Lewisburg pike. Three companies of the Twenty- eighth Ohio Volunteer Infantry were detached, who drove the enemy's pickets, skirmishing through the woods to the foot of Droop Mountain, their (by nature) sufficiently fortified position. Here the skirmishers were halted until further orders. At 9 o'clock I was ordered, with the infantry and Captain Jaehne's cavalry, to make a detour through the mountains, turn the enemy's left, attack them in the rear, and take their position. The most difficult task was to bring the column across the valley without being discovered by the enemy. Before the column emerged from the woods, I ordered every rider to dismount and arms to be carried at a trail. By marching 4 miles in a northwesterly direction, in a zigzag line along ditches and behind fences, I succeeded in reaching the mountains without being seen by the enemy, as I was told afterward by a wounded rebel officer, General Echols having no idea of the approach of infantry from this direction until I drove in his pickets.
It was now 2 o'clock, and for about one hour I had been marching due south, describing nearly a semi-circle of about 9 miles from the starting point, driving the enemy's skirmishers steadily. The firing grew stronger in my front, and I had just increased my line of skirmishers to three companies from the Twenty-eighth Regiment, when I arrived in front the enemy's position, covered by a kind of hedge constructed of logs and brush. I had ordered, the Twenty-eighth Regiment forward into line and Colonel Harris's Tenth [West] Virginia Regiment to move up in double-quick. Prevented by trees and thick undergrowth from seeing more than 25 or 30 yards ahead, they allowed my line to approach within that distance. Now rising and yelling like Indians, they poured a tremendous fire into the Twenty-eighth, advancing rapidly at the same time. This was the critical moment of the day. I ordered the Twenty-eighth Regiment to lie down and fire by file. The sudden disappearance of the regiment and the increasing fire through the underbrush had an almost stunning effect upon the enemy. They hesitated. Colonel Harris, who had great difficulty to extricate his Tenth [West] Virginia Regiment through cavalry horses and other obstacles, now came up, just in the nick of time. I ordered the colonel to front he regiment by inversion and form on the right of the Twenty-eighth, which was promptly executed.
Detailing one company of each regiment to march in the rear as a small reserve and to guard the flanks, I ordered the charge, and with cheers completely drowning the hideous yells of the enemy, my infantry pressed forward continuously until my left reached the cleared hill, where the rebel artillery was. They had just limbered up and started toward the pike. At this time the right of the dismounted men joined my left, coming up through a ravine. Now the wildest scene ensued right in front, our men pouring a deadly fire into the moving rebels, killing and wounding artillery horses; rebel officers urging to make another stand, others cutting loose fallen horses, driving and pushing on cannon and caissons through their infantry. In a few moments this fast- moving mass melted away by scattering through the woods south of the pike. When my right wing came up with the pike no enemy could be seen except the dead and wounded. Farther up the pike a portion of my command fired at two rapidly moving spring wagons, killing two of the horses. They captured the wagons and found them filled with wounded rebels. The commanding general coming up, I was ordered to march the infantry forward as far as possible. I marched till after dark, 6 miles, and bivouacked on the roadside, the men being rather tired, but in high spirits.
2nd West Virginia Mounted Infantry
On the morning of the 6th, we were again in motion. About 12 o'clock (after having moved to the front), I was ordered to dismount my command (to fight on foot), with instructions to detach one company and post them on an elevated position as a guard for the horses of the dismounted troops. I was then ordered to take a position between the Third and Eighth, and to act in support of those two regiments.
On arriving at the foot of the hill where the rebels were posted, I passed the Eighth [West] Virginia Mounted Infantry, leaving them on my left. Moving on for the purpose of ascertaining the position of the Third [West] Virginia Mounted Infantry, I was here ordered to commence my advance up the hill toward the enemy's works, which I did through briers, tree-tops, and obstacles of various kinds.
After gaining an open piece of ground, I reformed my command and moved farther up the hill, where I formed in line on the left of Third [West] Virginia Mounted Infantry. After resting a few minutes, Colonel Thompson, of the Third, and myself agreed to advance at once on the enemy's works on the crest of the hill. The whole line moved steadily up. When within about 10 or 15 yards of the crest, the enemy opened on my right and center. The line was then pushed forward vigorously until we gained the crest, at which time the fighting was quite spirited for a few minutes.
Lieutenant J. B. Smith, of the Second, with some of his men, was the first to get inside of the enemy's breastworks. At this juncture, through some misunderstanding, our whole line fell back a short distance. I soon, however, succeeded in rallying them again, and advanced inside, the enemy falling back as we continued to advance. We moved steadily on until the enemy was completely routed.
With but few exceptions, the men and officers acted nobly. I regret to have to report among the killed Lieutenant A. J. Weaver, of Company K. He fell outside the breastworks when gallantry leading his company forward.
I went into the action with about 200 men, having a good many detached for other purposes. Out of that number there were 9 killed and 14 wounded, 2 mortally (1 of whom has since died), 7 severely, and 5 slightly. Among the wounded is Lieutenant Charles H. Day, of Company I, [who received a] severe flesh wounded in the arm.
After pursuing the enemy that evening for some distance, the whole command went into camp.
John H. Oley
8th West Virginia Mounted Infantry
Soon after taking my place in the column on the morning of the 6th, I received orders to advance my regiment beyond Hillsborough and relieve the skirmishers of the Twenty-eighth Ohio. I sent forward three companies under command of Major Slack, supporting him with five companies, and cleared the hills up to the foot of Droop Mountain of the rebel skirmishers and pickets. About 1 p. m. I was notified that the Second and Third [West] Virginia would take position on my right, and was ordered to assault the enemy's works in conjunction with them. My position was an exceedingly difficult one. The side of the mountain in our front was bare of trees, fences, or any protection from fire. The ascent was very steep.
The artillery of the enemy commanded every inch of the ground, and their sharpshooters were on the summit behind a breast-work of logs, consequently there was a slight hesitation of my men at the start and a disposition to get too far to the right, in the line of the Second [West] Virginia, where the trees and brush offered some protection. I thought it best to keep well to the left, for the purpose of engaging the attention of the rebels in that direction and to prevent our men massing too much. After this my men pressed up the mountain boldly and bravely, although exposed to a murderous fire of shot and shell, and after an hour's hard fighting gained the summit, immediately in front of the battery. We reached within 50 yards of it, but the heavy fire of it and its supports, together with its sudden withdrawal, prevented its captured. At this time the retreat of the enemy became universal, and as the men had become much exhausted in ascending the mountain, I ordered them to halt and rest until our horses arrived, which were momentarily expected, but squads pressed on to pursue the enemy with much effect. My squadron, which had not been in the battle, was ordered forward as soon as possible, and I followed with the rest of the regiment until dark, when I received orders to go into camp.
James N. Schoonmaker
14th Pennsylvania Cavalry
On the morning of the 6th instant, I was ordered with my regiment and Keeper's battery to move to the extreme right of the enemy, who had again taken position in the almost naturally fortified summit of Droop Mountain, and keep up a fire on their forces, that their attention might be withdrawn from Colonel Moor, who was to make an attack on their left. After driving in their pickets and forcing back their line of skirmishers, I succeeded in getting the battery in the best possible position, and opened fire on the enemy's battery. The position of the latter was, however, fully 500 feet higher than the one I had attained, though scarcely 2,000 yards distant, and despite the exertions of the officers commanding the battery, it was impossible to reach the enemy effectively, while his shells were thrown under great advantage and with much precision. After using the entire battery in this manner until I was fearful that it was only a waste of ammunition, I withdraw two sections of the battery, and placed the remaining one in a sheltered position, keeping up a brisk fire, which occupied the attention of the enemy's battery entirely.
Knowing of the intended assault by Colonel Moor, I immediately got my regiment again formed, and passed with the two sections of artillery on the double-quick from the extreme right toward the center, placing the latter in position so as to make several very effective shots on the crest of the hill before that point was carried by the enemy. It was at this time that Second Lieutenant Daniels, of the battery, was killed instantly, while at my side, and working his section manfully without fear of danger. I hurried my right forward, but the great distance that it was compelled to travel prevented the main body from getting up in time to assist in the assault. The advance, however, arrived and went forward with the troops that carried the summit. The horses of the regiment being on the road to the right, it was some half an hour after the entire command had passed before they were mounted, and fully 8 o'clock before we encamped for the night.
14th Pennsylvania Cavalry
When the battle commenced at Droop Mountain, I ascertained that my position was 3 3/4 miles in a direct line from the enemy's battery. I remained at this point until about 3 p. m., at which time an orderly gave me a verbal message from the general directing me to move up as soon as possible. I moved immediately at the trot, and when I reached the summit of the mountain, the general directed me to follow the retreating enemy and attack his rear vigorously with the saber. I moved forward as rapidly as possible, passing Captain Ewing, who was shelling their rear. I attacked the enemy's rear guard at a point about 5 miles from the battle-field. I ordered Captain Smith to charge with the saber a superior cavalry force of the enemy, which he did. The enemy were routed with loss of 1 killed and 3 wounded, who fell into our hands. They fled in much disorder.
In this charge Captain Smith, Third Ohio Independent Cavalry Company, was wounded in the shoulder while leading his men. His injury left his company without a commissioned officer. I charged the enemy repeatedly, driving him about 2 miles. We had ridden up the mountain at a fast gait, and over the mountain also, which caused all of my horses but about 50 to drop behind. We drove the enemy, whose rear guard now consisted of about 200 cavalry retreating enemy until I had driven their whole rear guard, together with a piece of artillery, about 200 infantry, and several wagons, in a mass of disorderly fugitives.
We were opened upon by a force of infantry, posted in a strong position, covering the flying enemy. I endeavored to form my men for a charge on their artillery and train, which was difficult, as we were under a severe fire, which killed 3 horses and wounded 1 man in less than a minute. The rebel cavalry succeeded in forming about 50 men, who charged me before I had over about 15 men together, and by mere numbers compelled us to retire, with a loss of 1 man 50 men, who charged me before I had over about 15 men together, and by mere numbers compelled us to retire, with a loss of 1 man taken prisoner. I succeeded in getting 5 or 6 men in a field adjoining the road, and checked the rebel cavalry. The skirmishing between the rebels and my men was protracted, as I could not charge their position. Captain Ewing's battery coming up I soon had the enemy on the run again. Captain Jaehne, who now came up and reported, I again advanced. It was growing dark. The enemy fired on me from an ambuscade, from which I soon drove him. A squadron of mounted infantry now reported. Although it was too dark to see much, I continued pursuit, hoping for clear ground. Lieutenant Markbreit, acting assistant adjutant-general, now came up, and as it was very dark, I fell back 1 mile and camped for the night.
During the night of the 5th instant, I received dispatches from him informing me that he had taken a very strong position on Droop Mountain, and that he intended to maintain it, and that he expected the fight to be resumed the next morning. His estimate of the enemy's force was then 3,500, and his opinion was that all of Averell's force was in his front. I accordingly moved my brigade at 2 a.m., with the view of reaching Colonel Jackson as early as possible in the morning. The brigade reached the point designated about 9 a. m., having marched 14 miles, with the expectation of the Twenty-sixth Battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Edgar, which was detached with one piece of artillery some 12 miles from the position, and sent to hold another road by which the enemy would be enabled to move from their position upon our rear. Upon reaching the position taken by Colonel Jackson, I at once assumed command of the whole force. I found that he had posted the most of his own command, with the portion of the Fourteenth Virginia Cavalry which had reported to him from duty, very advantageously beyond the crest and on the side of the mountain.
Chapman's and Jackson's batteries, under the command of Major William McLaughlin, were immediately moved to the front, just beyond the summit of the mountain, near a point where Colonel Jackson had already put in position the two pieces of his battery, under the command of Captain Lurty. Colonel G. S. Patton was ordered to take command of that portion of the First Brigade then present, viz, Twenty-second Virginia Regiment, Major R. A. Bailey commanding, and Twenty-third Battalion on the right of the turnpike road and on the right of our line at the summit of the mountain, two companies being deployed as skirmishers. The view from the position thus assumed is a very extensive one, looking down upon the plain known as the Little Levels, and upon the village of Hillsborough, near which the enemy had been encamped during the previous night. The lines of the enemy could be seen in part from the position at a distance of 2 or 2 1/2 miles.
Our artillery very soon after being placed in position opened upon the enemy in the valley beneath, the enemy's artillery for some time replying vigorously and rapidly. Soon after the opening of the artillery, skirmishing commenced along the line, and the Twenty-second Regiment was moved to the right and rear of the ground occupied by Colonel Jackson's command, and six companies of the Twenty-third Battalion were put in position to act as a support to the artillery, the other two companies of that battalion being deployed upon the right and acting as pickets on roads in the rear, it being soon evident that the principal attack of the enemy would be upon our center and left.
About the time of the changes in the disposition of the troops thus mentioned, it being reported to me that the enemy were making a movement upon our extreme left and advancing in that quarter over the side of a mountain near by, and under cover of thick woods and undergrowth, Colonel Jackson was ordered to send a force there to hold them in check, and, if possible, drive them back, and he accordingly detailed Lieutenant-Colonel Thompson, of the Nineteenth Virginia Cavalry, with about 175 men, for that purpose.
The enemy at this point had his forces so masked and concealed that it was impossible at first to estimate his force, especially as a very large force was seen in front. The fighting on the left soon became very severe, and I was notified by Lieutenant-Colonel Thompson that he was being hard pressed and must be re-enforced. Major Blessing, with the six companies of the Twenty-third Battalion, was accordingly ordered to report to and re- enforce him which was promptly done. The enemy at this time began to advance upon the center, and the fighting became general along the whole line, our artillery being served with great rapidity and precision, and having succeeded in silencing the batteries of the enemy.
In the course of an hour after the Twenty-third Battalion was sent to the left, and after very heavy fighting upon that flank, I was again notified by Lieutenant-Colonel Thompson (who had most gallantly contended with the numbers opposed to him, alternately driving them back and being in turn borne back) that he was being overpowered by the superior forces opposed to him, when Colonel Patton was ordered to detach three companies of the Twenty-second Regiment and to move them to the left, and to take command of them with the other troops then there. This was done, the three companies thus detached being placed under the immediate command of that gallant young officer, Captain John K. Thompson, of the Twenty-second Regiment, who upon this occasion, as upon many previous ones, greatly distinguished himself. The enemy were for a time held in check and driven back, but after a long and hard struggle it became evident that we were too greatly outnumbered, and I was informed by Colonel Patton that his force was not sufficient for the numbers opposed to him, and I saw that our left was being driven and bent back to the rear.
During this time a very heavy body of the enemy was thrown upon our center, under the immediate command of Colonel Jackson, and the batteries of the enemy were again put into position and opened upon us, and that portion of our line began to waver and fall back.
Deeming it useless to continue the unequal contest longer, at about 4 p. m. I gave orders to the troops to fall back slowly, and then for the artillery to be withdrawn from the field, where it had remained until nearly all of the supports had retired, and continued to hold the enemy in check by its rapid and well-directed discharges of grape and canister, for which too high praise cannot be awarded to Major McLaughlin and Captains Chapman, Jackson, and Lurty, and the officers and men under their command.
The retreat having to be conducted over a narrow and straight road along the top of a mountain for a distance of 4 miles, some confusion was produced by an alarm which spread among the horse-holders of the dismounted cavalry, and some of the men of the command became detached and made their way out through the woods. The enemy pressed for some few miles with their cavalry and mounted infantry and two or three pieces of artillery, but were held in check by our rear guard of cavalry, which was organized and controlled most gallantly and efficiently by Colonel M. J. Ferguson, aided by Colonel Jackson, to both of which officers the thanks of the command are due for their great gallantry and efficiency as exhibited throughout the whole battle and retreat. Colonel Patton, by my order, went to the front and did everything that could be done in steadying and rallying and encouraging the men, and was as usual conspicuous on the field in the thickets of the fight.
The force under my command and actually engaged in the fight numbered about 1,700 men. The force of the enemy engaged was about 7,000, whom we held in check and fought for six hours. The estimate of Colonel Jackson placing their numbers at 3,500 was correct at the time when made, but they were re-enforced during the night previous to the battle without his knowledge, and these re-enforcements could not be known, owing to the character of the country, until the fight had progressed for some time. It was necessary that the retreat should be rapid, as, soon after the termination of the battle, information was brought to me that Brigadier-General Duffie, of the Federal Army, was, at 2 p. m., on the top of Little Sewell Mountain, 18 miles west of Lewisburg, advancing rapidly upon that won with a column of 2,500 men and 5 pieces of artillery to intercept me at that point.
At 4 p. m., when the battle ceased, I was 28 miles from Lewisburg. General Duffie halted and encamped for the night some 10 or 12 miles west of Lewisburg, but I, after halting my infantry and artillery and trains two hours for rest and refreshment, passed through Lewisburg and over Greenbrier River between 3 and 4 o'clock on the morning of the 7th instant General Duffie, with his troops, entering the town cautiously at 11 a. m. and General Averell at 4 p. m. on the same day.
My artillery and trains were brought safely through with the exception of a brass howitzer belonging to Chapman's battery, which had been badly injured in a previous engagement, and the carriage of which broke completely down during the retreat, so that it had to be left, thus affording the enemy the only trophy of which they could boast.
The casualties among our troops in killed, wounded, and missing amount to 275, a considerable number of thos who were reported as missing having returned to duty. The loss of the enemy was much greater, as is attested by the number of their dead left or buried near the field, and also of their wounded who were left, besides the large number of dead and wounded who were known to have been conveyed away.
Among our killed we have to deplore many gallant spirits, most conspicuous among whom, for his uniform gallantry and many soldierly qualities, was Major R. A. Bailey, of the Twenty-second Regiment, whose loss will be long and deeply felt. No soldier every displayed more dauntless courage than did he upon this his last battlefield.
It would make this report too long to mention particularly the names of all those who attracted observation and excited admiration by their good conduct. I must refer for the most of these to the accompanying reports of commanding officers. I cannot, however, refrain from bearing testimony to the distinguished gallantry of Lieutenant-Colonel Thompson, Major William Blessing, Major William McLaughlin, Captains Chapman, Jackson, and Lurty, of the artillery, and of Adjutants Rand, of the Twenty-second Regiment, and Harden, of the Twenty-third Battalion. My attention was also particularly drawn during the thickest of the fight to the exhibition of cool courage and noble daring presented in the conduct of Lieutenant C. Irving Harvie, of Jenkin's brigade, and of Captain L. R. Exline, of Colonel Jackson's command.
The members of my staff-Capts. R. H. Catlett and W. R. Preston and Lieuts. J. W. Branham, Wood Bouldin, Jr., E. C. Gordon, and H. C. Caldwell-deserve especial mention for their activity and energy and courage upon the field, in rallying and encouraging the troops, and in conveying orders; and I desire in the most emphatic manner to express my obligations to Major George McKendree, brigade quartermaster, not only for his valuable services on the field, but for the untiring energy and ability displayed by him in his department.
Lieutenant-Colonel Edgar, of the Twenty-sixth Battalion, who, as has hereinbefore been mentioned, was detached from the brigade and ordered upon a road leading to the rear of our forces, was, by the movements of the enemy, cut off from the balance of the command, but succeeded in bringing off the whole of his battalion and rejoining the brigade with his troops in fine condition, for which he is entitled to the highest praise, surmounting as he did many difficulties which only his fine judgment and will and courage could enable him to overcome. So far as the beneficial results of the expedition to the enemy can be estimated, they amount to nothing. They came with two large forces, amounting in the aggregate to nearly 10,000 men, with the expectation of capturing the command of Colonel Jackson and this brigade, and of then moving upon our interior lines of railroad. By fighting, however, so far from the interior, and by being so checked and damaged and baffled as they were, they failed in the one object and abandoned the other.
I transmit herewith the reports of the various commanding officers, and also a diagram* showing the position of the troops upon the field of battle.
George S. Patton
Upon the troops reaching the western extremity of the mountain, I ordered Major Blessing, commanding the Twenty-third Virginia Battalion, to move his command to the right of the turnpike road at the summit of the mountain and to deploy two companies as skirmishers in his front. The Twenty-second Virginia Regiment, commanded by Major R. A. Bailey, was ordered to a position in rear of the artillery to act as a support.
It soon became evident that the enemy's efforts would be directed wholly to our center and left. I was now requested by Colonel W. L. Jackson to move a regiment to his right and rear as a reserve to his command and to protect the right of the hill on which the artillery was posted. I ordered the Twenty-second Virginia Regiment forward, and supplied its place near the artillery with the Twenty-third Virginia Battalion, now reduced to six companies, two being detached as pickets on roads in our rear.
While these dispositions were being made, a brisk artillery duel was kept up and the skirmishing along the line became frequent and heavy. The increased rapidity of the firing on the left now gave notice that the enemy were there in force, and I was ordered by General Echols to send the Twenty-third Virginia Battalion to re-enforce Lieutenant-Colonel Thompson, of the Nineteenth Virginia Cavalry, in command on the flank. This was done and the action became very heavy in that direction. It was evident that our men were largely outnumbered and were being driven back. At this juncture I was ordered to assume command on that flank, and three companies of the Twenty-second Virginia Regiment, under Captain John K. Thompson, sent with me.
On reaching the scene of action it was evident that our little force was largely outnumbered and the enemy were entirely beyond both flanks. Our forces were retiring from the field in spite of the earnest and gallant efforts of Lieutenant-Colonel Thompson and other officers to rally them. Captain Thompson with his three companies gallantly rushed to the front, formed under a galling fire, and actually drove back the enemy for some little distance. I now endeavored to rally men to his support, seconded most gallantly by Colonel Thompson, and we succeeded in collecting a considerable number together, when I received a communication from General Echols informing me that the whole right had given way, and ordering me to fall back to the main road and join him.
I sent orders to the commanders to fall back slowly, and with the men we had collected we marched to the road. I was then ordered by General Echols to proceed to the front and endeavor to rally the men, which I could not succeed in doing, as the whole road was blocked with artillery, caissons, wagons to escape capture, and which prevented anything like reorganization. At Frankford, 19 miles from the field, I succeeded in collecting a nucleus of the command and kept it together.
I am ignorant of what passed on the right after I was sent away, but that part of the field was under the personal supervision of General Echols, and I am without an official report in consequence of the death of Major Bailey.
I cannot conclude without expressing my high appreciation of the valor and desperate courage of the troops under my command.
They fought under the most discouraging circumstances, and fought well, and they were still fighting when ordered to retire.
The Twenty-second Virginia Regiment went into action about 550 strong, losing 113 in killed, wounded, and missing. The Twenty-third Virginia Battalion was about 350 strong, and lost 61 in killed, wounded, and missing.
I have to deplore the loss of the gallant Major R. A. Bailey, of the Twenty-second Virginia Regiment. When struck he was bearing the colors of his regiment, and rallying his men by voice and example. In him the cause has lost a brave and devoted officer, whose cool courage and excellent judgment had been tested on many fields.
Lieutenant William S. McClanahan, of Company A, of the same regiment, was mortally wounded and has since died. He was a gallant soldier.
Major William Blessing, of the Twenty-third Virginia Battalion, is entitled to credit for his skillful handling of his men and his courage. He speaks most favorably of Adjt. James A. Harden.
Capts. R. Q. Laidley and George S. Chilton, of the Twenty-second Virginia Regiment, were seriously wounded while gallantly leading and encouraging their men, and are recommended for favorable notice.
I cannot mention particularly the officers on the right, as I was not a witness of the fight there. I feel it my duty to call especial attention to Captain John K. Thompson, Company A, Twenty- second Virginia Regiment, who received his third wound on this occasion while bravely leading his men. This gallant young officer is entitled to great credit, and he is earnestly recommended to the favorable notice of the brigadier-general commanding.
I owe thanks to Captain William R. Preston, assistant adjutant-general, and Lieutenant Noyes Rand, adjutant of the Twenty-second Virginia Regiment, acting as aides. They carried my orders intelligently and were much exposed. Their gallantry was conspicuous.
Sergt. Major Monroe Quarrier is also entitled to credit for courage and efficiency.
John K. Thompson
22nd Virginia Infantry
I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of Companies A, E, and I, of the Twenty-second Regiment Virginia Infantry, in the action at Droop Mountain on November 6: About -- a. m. the above-mentioned companies were detached from the Twenty-second Regiment and placed under my command to re- enforce the left of our position, which was at that time being driven back by an overwhelming force of the enemy. At the time of my arrival on the ground, the position occupied by our forces was the top of a spur of Droop Mountain, which was densely covered with laurel and underbrush. The enemy had gained the top and were deployed across it and were slowly driving our troops before them. I deployed my command in line parallel to and about 20 yards from the enemy, engaging him immediately, and checking his advance for some little time. An effort was then made to rally the Twenty-third Battalion and the detachments of the Fourteenth and Nineteenth Cavalry, which were giving way in some confusion, but without success.
The enemy in the meantime reformed, and by superiority of numbers compelled our line to give way. We retired slowly, contesting every inch of ground we yielded, until orders were received from yourself to fall back, which was effected in good order until we reached the turnpike. On reaching that point, however, we found everything in confusion. Artillery, baggage wagons, and fleeing cavalry blocked up the road for some distance to our rear. Several efforts were made to rally the troops, but without effect, so that nothing was left but to draw off, which was done amid much confusion.
The loss in the three companies was severe. The command went into action about 125 strong, of which number 9 were killed, 30 wounded, and 12 missing. Among the latter Captain John P. Toney, of Company I, Twenty-second Virginia Regiment.
The men fought gallantly, and though conscious of being outnumbered, retired fighting obstinately, maintaining their alignment until run over and dispersed by our own cavalry.
23rd Battalion Virginia Infantry
SIR: I have the honor respectfully to make the following report of the part taken by this battalion in the battle of the 6th instant, viz:
When I arrived on the field I was assigned to a position on the right of the main road leading from Mill Point to Lewisburg Shortly after taking this position I received orders to detach one company for picket duty and order it to report to you for instructions. Company C was selected for this duty. I was also ordered to deploy the two flanking companies, A and F, as skirmishers in front of the position occupied by the battalion. Instructions were given these to advance about 400 yards to the front and await the approach of the enemy until further orders. These skirmishers were recalled in about half an hour.
After remaining in this position with the battalion about one hour, I received orders to march the battalion to the support of the battery about 400 yards on my left. Here I was assigned to a position under cover immediately in rear of the battery. In this position I remained about ten minutes, when the firing on the left became very brisk. I was then ordered to send one company back to my original position on the right, and to march with the remaining six companies to the support of Captain Marshall, who, with about 125 dismounted cavalry, was being forced back on the left.
Immediately on arriving there I threw the battalion into line and charged the enemy back to his main body, when we were met with a terrible fire and forced back to a fence running parallel with our line. Here we were re-enforced by two companies of dismounted cavalry and made a stand of about ten minutes, but were forced back again. We then retired slowly, making several desperate stands, and being as often driven back, until re-enforced by three companies of the Twenty-second Virginia Regiment and one dismounted company of the Fourteenth Virginia Cavalry, when we made one last effort to hold them in check, but the numbers were so far superior to ours it was of no avail, and then we fell back to the main road by your order. This was done in as good as could be expected under the circumstances.
I cannot discriminate between the company officers and men of the battalion. All id their duty and all fought well, but I know that none will think hard when I say that Adjt. James A. Harden acted very gallantly, exposing himself to the hottest of the fire and doing all in his power to preserve order and win a victory.
William L. Jackson
19th Virginia Cavalry
On the morning of the 6th instant, about 9 a. m., General Echols arrived, and soon afterward the Twenty-second Virginia Regiment and Lieutenant-Colonel Derrick's battalion, with Jackson's and Chapman's batteries, under command of Colonel George S. Patton. General Echols approved the disposition of my force and the position selected, and immediately prepared for the apprehended attack. I had a force in front about the center of the position under Colonel Arnett, who had thrown up temporary breast-works during the night and morning. The right, with artillery, I regarded as self-protecting. The fourteenth Virginia Cavalry joined my force on the left of the center. Lieutenant-Colonel Thompson was on our extreme left pointing to the rear, with instructions to hold that and to prevent the enemy from attaining our rear. The positions assigned to the Twenty-second Regiment and Derrick's battalion were judiciously selected, but need not be described by me. I had on the field about 750 men. The residue of my force was on the Locust Creek road or cut off in Pocahontas.
The enemy moved to the attack about 11 a. m., planting artillery on our right, threatening and skirmishing with the center, and by a vigorous attack on our extreme left. The fight was well maintained on our extreme left, but it becoming evident to General Echols that our force there must be re-enforced (indeed, Lieutenant-Colonel Thompson called for re-enforcements), he sent two companies of the Fourteenth Virginia Cavalry and Derrick's battalion there, and subsequently several companies of the Twenty-second Regiment, and eventually Colonel Patton proceeded there. The fight now became general on the whole line. Several charges were made on the center (the positions occupied by Colonel Arnett and Colonel Cochran), but they were gallantly repelled, and the center never did falter or give way until it became manifest that the extreme left could not longer be held and that the enemy were getting in our rear; then the force in the center, pressed by four regiments of the enemy, fell back toward the batteries.
At this point I communicated to General Echols the situation of the center, and suggested to Major McLaughlin, chief of artillery, to move all or a portion of his artillery to the rear. He did move all but two pieces, one from Chapman's and the other from Jackson's batteries. Captains Jackson and Chapman remained with these two pieces.
General Echols at this stage arrived at the position held by me and assisted in rallying the men. It is unnecessary for me to report what then occurred during his presence. Quite a number were rallied at this point, held the position gallantly, and the two pieces aforesaid rained canister and grape upon the enemy, checking their advance on the center and right. Holding this position about twenty minutes, I received an order from General Echols to fall back, as the enemy had almost reached the rear and could no longer be held.
I accordingly fell back in as good order as the nature of the case would admit, under severe shelling and an enfilading fire of musketry, making a momentary stand before reaching the road to enable the two pieces aforementioned to get out. As soon as I perceived their safety I reached the road. Near this point the brave Major Bailey, of the Twenty- second, was mortally wounded, and others fell.
After this I assisted Colonels Cochran and Ferguson in protecting the retreat, at the request of General Echols, and passed through Lewisburg about daylight the next morning. The Sixteenth Virginia Cavalry, having come in from Meadow Bluff, remained there and brought up the rear. A portion of my command with others were cut off, there being but the one road to retreat upon, and that at one time somewhat jammed by horsemen, infantry, and trains; but it affords me pleasure to state that the most of those cut off are safe and are returning to their commands. I fear my loss is about 150 in killed and wounded, including a number of gallant officers. You will appreciate the difficulty in estimating the loss at this time. My train and artillery were all brought out safely, except one wagon loaded with corn, which broke down. The horses are safe. My command and the officers and men of others, so far as they came under my immediate notice, made a splendid fight against overwhelming odds as long as the position was tenable. I have participated in a number of distinguished battles, and have not witnessed more gallant conduct anywhere.
I cannot omit calling attention specially to the brave bearing of Capts. L. R. Exline (who lost an arm at Sharpsburg), George Downs, J. W. Ball, D. M. Camp, Lewis, and Martin (the latter twice wounded), and Lieuts. S. W. Rice, C. W. Minter, John Lewis, and J. W. Morgan (the latter killed). The officers and men of Captain J. W. Ball, Nineteenth Regiment Virginia Cavalry, never were in disorder during the fight or retreat. There are others who deserve notice for gallant conduct, but the limits of this port preclude their mention.
I witnessed great gallantry on the part of officers and men of the Fourteenth Virginia Cavalry and the Twenty-second Virginia Regiment, but these will doubtless be appropriately mentioned by the proper officers. The officers and men of Captain Lurty's battery exhibited a high order of courage and skill, and both at Mill Point and at Droop Mountain gave indications of what that new company will yet become.
The loss of the enemy was much greater than ours. I should say, from my own observation, double the number in killed and wounded. He took but few prisoners, in my opinion.
The brilliant fight at Droop Mountain and the subsequent movements of our force will, I am satisfied, compel the enemy to abandon his designs, whatever they are or were, notwithstanding his force, numbering near 10,000, including the force from the Kanawha Valley that was to cut off our retreat.
William P. Thompson
19th Virginia Cavalry
The next morning, under your orders, I relived two companies of the fourteenth that had been sent the night before to guard the approach to our rear and left flank. I sent 10 men under Lieutenant Boggs. A short time afterward I re-enforced the post with 15 men, under Lieutenant Jarrett. You afterward deeming that an important point of attack from the enemy, in obedience to your instructions, I sent 100 cavalry under command of Captain J. W. Marshall to re-enforce the officers already mentioned, to dismount his men and send the horses to the rear, and to hold the point at all hazards. Twenty minutes after I received an order from you to go in person with the residue of the cavalry to the place already indicated, and to hold it until further orders.
In the meantime the enemy had made his appearance on the left, and sharp firing had occurred. I had gone farther to the left than when the actual fight took place, under the impression that the enemy were endeavoring to gain our rear by a more circuitous route than the one they came. This impression arose from a dispatch from Lieutenant Boggs to that effect. I left the gallant Captain John S. Spriggs and his company to guard that point and returned to the turnpike with the dismounted cavalry. There I placed them under charge of Major Kesler, the command consisting of detachments of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Virginia Cavalry. I ordered him to re-enforce Captain Marshall immediately and to push the enemy was fast as possible. He, with about 50 men, moved to the point I have mentioned, and as soon as he arrived the line made a gallant and successful charge, driving the enemy before them until they met heavy re-enforcements. I then dispatched to you and General Echols to re-enforce me heavily. Just then Major Blessing, commanding Derrick's battalion, numbering about 300 men, reported to me, he having deployed his command on the right of the line formed by Captain Marshall.
The enemy pressed our line persistently and with much impetuosity, and in despite of the gallant conduct of many officers the line gradually gave way before an overwhelming force. This being the left wing of our army, and as it protected the rear of the whole force, I made determined efforts to hold the position. At this time the men fought with great gallantry against overpowering odds, there being at the time at least 2,500 of the enemy. The enemy knew his advantage and pressed it with great vigor. I was then re-enforced by detachments of two companies of the Fourteenth (Captains Bouldin's and Wilson's). These I deployed to the left when the enemy was making his fiercest attack. Soon after the arrival of the last-mentioned re-enforcements, we rallied the men and selected an admirable position, and when the enemy made his appearance he met with fearful loss; but our men, impressed with the belief that they were overpowered, gradually and in despite of the efforts of gallant officers, retired before the advancing line of the enemy. When within about 300 yards of the turnpike I received three companies of the Twenty- second [Virginia Infantry], which had been sent to my assistance. Two companies and half of another I deployed to our right to sustain Derrick's battalion, and the other to the left. They fought with great coolness and gallantry, but they, too, with the rest, gave way.
Colonel Patton in the meantime came to me. He had not been with me more than six or eight minutes before we received an order from General Echols to fall back. In a few moments afterward we received an order to march in retreat. When I came to the road I found the main command marching in retreat.
In this battle the command under me suffered very heavily in killed and wounded. The fight occurred in the woods, where the undergrowth was very thick. It is therefore impossible for me to approximate our loss, and from the further fact that a large part of my command were strangers to me.
I take pleasure in bearing testimony to the gallantry of Major Blessing and to his unremitting efforts to rally and sustain his men. The adjutant of the regiment is also entitled to notice. There is one officer of that battalion who is entitled to distinguished notice, whose name I have not learned. As soon as I do so I shall communicate it. I am also gratified to mention Captain Thompson, of the Twenty-second [Virginia Infantry], and Captain Wilson, of the Fourteenth [Virginia Cavalry], as having entitled themselves to honorable mention. There are others of those regiments who are entitled to notice, but with whom I was unacquainted. I regret that the commands were separated before I could learn them.
In my own command the loss was heavy. Among the rest the brave and gallant Captain John W. Young fell mortally wounded while leading his company in a charge upon the enemy that I ordered, and John Y. Bassell, a youth scarce sixteen, was, I fear, mortally wounded while fighting gallantly by his side.
Captain J. W. Marshall, Nineteenth Virginia Cavalry, distinguished himself for his coolness and calm disregard of danger. I call especial attention to his conduct upon the field.
Major Kesler, Captain Ruffner, of the Nineteenth [Virginia Cavalry], and Captain Hutton, Lieutenants Lewis and Boggs, of the Twentieth [Virginia Cavalry]; Acting Adjutant Cranford (who was wounded), and Sergeant-Major Minter are entitled to honorable mention, and are entitled to my thanks for the earnest efforts they made to have my orders carried out. Many other officers are perhaps entitled to mention, but the limits of my report prevent more than a general notice. I take sincere pleasure in saying that every officer of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Regiments who was with me behaved with gallantry and commendable coolness.
I cannot forbear in this report to mention an incident of the retreat: The enemy were pressing with great vigor, and the cavalry held in the rear (who had been fighting all day) were momentarily demoralized, when Lieutenant Beard, of McNeel's company; Lieutenant Justice, of Ruffner's company, and George B. Pollard, of McNeel's company, and one or two more threw themselves in the rear of all the command and gallantly charged the advancing column of the enemy, and took a prisoner, with his horse and accouterments, from the head of the column.
In obedience to your order, when the retreat commenced I remained in the rear with the cavalry until we reached Union. With the incidents of that retreat you are familiar, as you also remained in the rear during our retreat. I may be permitted to add that the battle was skillfully managed and gallantry fought; but the enemy numbered over four to our one, and it was but a question of time when our force should retire on the flank, which I had the honor to command.
Very few prisoners were taken from us. We wounded 2 and took 3 prisoners. I believe they afterward made their escape. The enemy confess to a much heavier loss in killed and wounded than we sustained.
On the left my men were deployed so as to keep the line extended to prevent flank movements, which were constantly attempted. Our men were sheltered by the timber while the enemy advanced in line of battle, and as our men shot with coolness and precision, the enemy suffered considerably.
I return my grateful thanks to the officers and men under my command for the ready and cheerful acquiescence in all the orders I gave during the battle.
William Wiley Arnett
20th Virginia Cavalry
I reported to you at Mill Point and was ordered to take position on the hill to the southwest thereof. I received a subsequent order to assume command of all of your infantry, and station them by detachments in tenable positions along the stream near Mill Point. I did so, and remained there until the following morning, when I received orders from you to hold my position there until the enemy should open his battery upon us (which, to have been in view, must have been within the range of grape-shot), when I should move out by the safest route indicated by you to Droop Mountain.
The enemy opened his artillery about 11 o'clock, when I commenced a retreat to the point designated, moving my command as much as possible under cover of hills and through timber, and notwithstanding the shells of the enemy burst in numbers over our heads and near our ranks, not the slightest confusion was thereby created. Arriving at Droop Mountain I took position on a high point adjacent the road, that position having been selected by yourself. There we remained until the following morning, when, the enemy sending small squads forward from time to time, slight skirmishing ensued.
About 2 p. m., November 6, we were attacked vigorously by a heavy force of the enemy, consisting of the Second, Third, and Eighth [West] Virginia and another regiment of the Federals. The majority of my command, officers and men, behaved with great courage and coolness, some of them even holding their position until they could and did strike the enemy with their guns. Through fear of being flanked or even cut off by the enemy, then driving our left wing, we fell back to our battery, where we took position and remained until ordered back by yourself.
Milton J. Ferguson
16th Virginia Cavalry
On the morning of the 5th instant, I joined General Echols, who was then on the march, and arrived at the camp of Colonel Jackson, at the eastern base of Droop Mountain, at 6 a.m . of the 6th instant. One squadron from the Fourteenth Regiment was ordered to take position upon what is known as the old road, or Locust Creek road. The residue of the Fourteenth Regiment (being the efficient men of six companies) were dismounted and participated in the engagement which followed. Four companies were upon the extreme left of the line of battle, under the immediate command of Lieutenant-Colonel Gibson, and two companies in the center, under command of Captains Smith and McClung.
The enemy's force was large and overpowering. Our forces were compelled to fall back. Some confusion prevailed at first, owing in a great degree to the shape of the ground and the character of the country, and also to an alarm which had spread among the horseholders, but after the command had remounted, order was restored and an efficient rear guard formed. The enemy pressed vigorously and skirmishing continued for 10 miles. Upon arriving at Frankford and halting the command for rest and food, information was received from major Nounnan of the advance of the enemy in force from Kanawha, and at that time at Meadow Bluff, 15 miles west of Lewisburg. The march was again resumed, the Sixteenth Regiment remaining in position until the column had passed Lewisburg, and then formed the rear guard, leaving Lewisburg as the enemy in large force entered it from Kanawha.
Our loss in that portion of the Fourteenth Regiment engaged was 3 killed, 8 wounded, and 14 missing. Among the wounded are Captains Smith and McClung and Lieutenant G. J. Reger. Major B. F. Eakle, Captain E. E. Bouldin, and Lieutenant J. A. Feamster, of the Fourteenth Regiment, with the privates who composed the rear guard, behaved with the most commendable coolness and courage. The distinguished gallantry of Lieutenant C. Irving Harvie, of the Provisional Army, C. S., is worthy of the highest commendation.
On the morning of the 6th, one of the rifle pieces of Chapman's battery, under command of Lieutenant John Campbell, was detached and ordered to report to Lieutenant-Colonel Edgar for the purpose of assisting in guarding the old road from Hillsborough to Falling Spring, and with the rest of the command we joined Colonel Jackson at Droop Mountain about 9 o'clock. I immediately reconnoitered the position and found Captain Lurty's battery (two pieces), of Colonel Jackson's command, posted on a projecting spur of the mountain and commanding the approaches from the front. I also assumed command of this battery, and at once placed Captain Jackson's battery in the same position. Captain Chapman's battery was ordered to the hill in the rear and in easy supporting distance, one pieces being placed in position so as to sweep the approaches to the right.
In a short time the enemy advanced a battery of six guns to within about five-eighths of a mile of our batteries and opened fire upon the horses of the cavalry and upon our batteries. Captains Jackson and Lurty promptly replied, as also Captain Chapman with his piece in position, and after a sharp and steady artillery duel, lasting for about half an hour, the enemy's battery was silenced and driven rapidly from the field. Captain Chapman's battery then moved to the same position as the other batteries, and a desultory fire was kept up for some time upon the infantry and cavalry of the enemy as they presented themselves within range. About 1 a. m. the enemy again advanced three pieces to the position previously occupied and opened upon our batteries. Captain Jackson with his two pieces, and Captain Chapman with his rifle pieces, replied with a steady and well directed fire, and in a short time succeeded in again silencing them. In the meantime two pieces were advanced up the road and opened upon the Twenty-second Virginia Regiment, which occupied a position to the left of our front, but a few shots from Chapman's and Lurty's howitzers soon drove them off. Perceiving that we were being steadily pressed back on the left, and that our center was wavering, I ordered Captain Lurty's battery (the ammunition of which was nearly exhausted), the 24-pounder howitzer of Chapman's battery,a nd the caissons to the rear, while the remaining pieces opened upon the enemy's infantry as they advanced in front. In accordance with the instructions of the brigadier-general commanding, I directed Lieutenant Blain, of Jackson's battery, to place the Parrott gun of his battery and the 12- pounder howitzer of Chapman's battery in position on the hill in rear, so as to cover the retreat should that be necessary. The two pieces remaining-one of Chapman's and the other of Jackson's batteries-continued to play upon the enemy's infantry, as they attempted to advance, with shell and canister, driving them back and preventing their advance in our front and up the road. Finding that all our infantry supports were fast retiring, and that we were subjected to a flank fire from the left, I directed these two pieces to limber to the rear, and just then received an order from the brigadier-general commanding (through Colonel Jackson) to move all the artillery briskly to the rear, as the enemy were pressing on the left, and seeking to cut off our retreat. These two pieces were brought off in good order, although subjected to a heavy fire from the enemy's artillery, which was placed in position just as we limbered up, and to a flank fire from his infantry. The rest of the artillery having received the same orders direct, preceded me in good order, and all continued the retreat in like manner.
After halting at Frankford to feed and rest we continued the retreat and passed Lewisburg about 2 o'clock the next morning, bringing everything off safely excepting the brass howitzer of Chapman's battery, which was injured at White Sulphur Springs. On the retreat, the carriage of this gun breaking down, it was first lashed to the limber, but the pintle-hook breaking, it was placed in the limber-chest. This also breaking down no means of removing the gun were left, and it had to be abandoned. It was concealed, but subsequently I learn fell into the hands of the enemy.