Battle of Rich Mountain

Confederate Reports From War of the Rebellion
Series I, Volume II

Numbers 23. Report of Lieutenant Colonel John Pegram, C. S. Army, of the engagement at Rich Mountain and the surrender of his forces.

BEVERLY, VA., July 14, 1861.

Not knowing where a communication will find General Garnett, I have the honor to submit the following report of the fight at Rich Mountain, which occurred on the 11th instant:

The battle-field was immediately around the house of one Hart, situated at the highest point of the turnpike over the mountain and two miles in rear of my main line of trenches, the latter being at the foot of the western slope of the mountain.

The intricacies of the surrounding country seemed scarcely to demand the placing of any force at Hart's, yet I had that morning placed Captain De Lagnel, of the Confederate artillery, with five companies of infantry and one piece of artillery, numbering gin all about three hundred and ten men, with instructions to defend it to the last extremity against whatever force might be brought to the attack by the enemy, but also to give me timely notice of his ed for re-enforcements. These orders had not been given two hours before General Rosecrans, who had been conducted up a distant ridge on my left flank and then along the top of the mountain by a man, attacked the small handful of troops under Captain De Lagnel with three thousand men. When from my camp I heard the firing becoming very rapid, without waiting to hear from Captain De Lagner, I ordered up re-enforcements, and hurried on myself to the scene of action. When I arrived the piece of artillery was entirely unmanned, Captain De Langel having been severely wounded, after which his men had left their piece. The limber and caisson were no longer visible, the horses having run away with them down the mountain, in doing which they met and upset the second piece of artillery, which had been ordered up to their assistance. Seeing the infantry deserting the slight breastworks hastily thrown up that morning by Captain De Langel, I used all personal exertions to make them stand to their work until even I saw that the place was hopelessly lost. The last companies which left their posts were the Rockingham Lee Guard, commanded by Captain William M. Skipwith. On my way back to my camp I found the re-enforcing force under command of Captain Anderson, of artillery, in the greatest confusion, they having fired upon their retreating comrades. I hurried on to camp and ordered the remaining companies of my own regiment in camp to join them. This left my right front an right flank entirely unmanned. I then went back up the mountain, where I found the whole force, composed of five companies of the Twentieth and one company of Colonel Heck's regiment, drawn up in line in ambuscade near the road, under command of Major Nat. Tyler, of the Twentieth Regiment. I called their attention and said a few encouraging words to the men, asking them if they would follow their officers to the attack, to which they responded by a cheer. I was here interrupted by Captain Anderson, who said to me, "Colonel Pegram, these men are completely demoralized, and will need you to lead them." I took my place at the head of the column, which I marched in single file through laurel thickets and other almost impassable brushwood up a ridge to the top of the mountain.

This placed me about one-fourth of a mile on the right flank of the enemy, and which was exactly the point I had been making for. I had just gotten all the men up together and was about making my dispositions for the attack when Major Tyler came up and reported that during the march up the ridge one of the men in his fright had turned around and shot the first sergeant of one of the rear companies, which had caused nearly the whole of the company to run to the rear. He then said that the men were so intensely demoralized, that he considered it madness to attempt to do anything with them by leading them on to the attack. A mere glance at the frightened countenances around me convinced me that this distressing news was but too true, and its was confirmed by the opinion of the three or four company commanders around me. They all agreed with me that there was nothing left to do but to send the command under Major Tyler to effect a junction with either General Garnett at Laurel Hill or Colonel William C. Scott, who was supposed to be with his regiment near Beverly. It was now 6 1\2 o'clock p. m., when I retraced my steps with much difficulty back to camp, losing myself frequently on the way, and arriving there at 11 1\4 o'clock...

Numbers 24. Report of Captain Pierce B. Anderson, Lee Battery, C. S. Army, of the engagement at Rich Mountain.

CAMP ALLEGHANY, August 10, 1861.

GENERAL: The reports made by Lieutenants Statham, Massey, and Raine of the parts borne by each of their detachments of the Lee Battery, at Camp Garnett, near Rich Mountain, Va., on the 11th of July last, are herewith inclosed.

The report of Lieutenant Raine shows that the movements of the enemy to attack us on the flank or in the rear were observed on the night of the 10th. Early on the morning of the 11th the observations of the night previous were confirmed by information from a wounded trooper of the enemy, who was captured. Communicating with Colonel Pegram early on the morning of the 11th, I received from him an order to take a gun that was stationed on an eminence on our left flank and locate it suitably on the turnpike road at Rich Mountain, about one mile and a half in the rear of Camp Garnett. Captain J. A. De Lagnel, by orders of Colonel Pegram, took charge of this gun. I returned to the position of a gun one mile down the road toward the camp. Between 1 and 2 o'clock the first gun was fired by the gun on the hill. When I had planted that gun I asked Colonel Pegram if he would not have another gun there, to which he replied, "No; Captain De Lagnel will send to you for a gun when he needs one." Between 4 and 5 o'clock I received a message from Captain De Lagnel that he needed a gun.

Immediately I moved rapidly with the gun to his assistance, ordering Lieutenant Raine to bring on the caisson. Within a short distance of the scene of action one of the wheel-horses was killed and the other wounded. After this, meeting our retreating forces, I formed them in line and took position on the upper side of the road, in order to check the advance of the enemy. After being thus formed Colonel Pegram came up and proposed a night attack upon the enemy on the hill. In attempting to execute this movement Colonel Pegram advanced some distance beyond the position of the enemy on the hill. As we proceeded, finding that we had lost our way, I stopped with Lieutenant Raine and some others.

It was now raining freely; the night was dark; the trail was zigzag through thick clustering bushes, over large logs, and often steep and slippery. After resting a few hours I pursued the trail, and shortly overtook two companies of the column, from whose captains (Bruce and Jones) I learned that Colonel Pegram had returned to camp after directing Major Tyler to take the men on to Beverly. Being now about eight miles through the hills from General Garnett's camp at Laurel Hill, I determined to attempt to communicate with him, for the purposed of obtaining such assistance as he could afford us, while we might attempt to unite our forces with his.

Taking Lieutenant Raine and three of my men I moved rapidly towards his camp. Striking the turnpike road near his camp, I perceived by the desertion of the picket-houses and the felling of trees across the road that his camp was evacuated. Surrounded by foraging parties of the enemy, who were moving about in deferent directions, I was compelled to remain in the mountains of cheat for several days and nights before I could come out safely. At length I succeeded undoing so. During this time Lieutenant Raine and my three men, each armed with a musket, suffered much from fatigue, hunger, and thirst, but they were prompt and fearless in the discharge of duty.

I cannot close this report without referring to the conduct of the officers and soldiers of the Lee Battery, who were engaged either in the conflict at Rich Mountain or on duty during the several days preceding the action of the 11th and on that day. They were surrounded by an overwhelming force. The guns of the battery were widely separated, from one-half to two miles apart. The conduct of Lieutenant J. R. Massey and the men under him, in defense of their position against a large force on their left, and their retaining it during the night of the 11th until all hope had vanished of further successful resistance, is worthy of all praise. Lieutenant C. I. Raine bore himself on all occasions with calmness, prudence, and courage. Lieutenant C. W. Statham attested in the bloody fight on the hill at Rich Mountain that he did his duty truly and faithfully. He was wounded severely in his right hand. Of Captain J. A. De Lagnel no words can express all that should be felt or known about his conduct on that day. After nearly all his cannoneers were either killed or wounded, he continued to load his gun until in the very act of bringing a cartridge from the limber-box to the gun (having then only two men at the gun) he was struck by a minie ball and fell. Fortunately, however, he escaped capture. The soldiers of the Lee Battery, noncommissioned officers and officers, have done their duty faithfully during this conflict.

The total loss of my men and officers was two killed and ten wounded-two commissioned officers, two non-commissioned officers, and eight privates. Of the twenty-one in the detachment at Rich Mountain a majority were either killed or wounded. The number of prisoners captured by the enemy of my men was eighteen, the most of them severely wounded. The enemy's loss in killed and wounded is believed to have been more than three hundred. The loss of our own forces, including the infantry, cavalry, and artillery, is believed to be in killed and wounded seventy.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Captain Lee Battery, P. A. C. S.
General S. COOPER, Adjutant-General, C. S. Army.

Numbers 25. Report of First Lieutenant Charles W. Statham, Lee Battery, C. S. Army, of the engagement at Rich Mountain.

RICH MOUNTAIN PASS, July 13, 1861.

SIR: I have the report that on the 11th instant, by your order, I moved with one gun and a detachment of twenty-one men to occupy this pass in Rich Mountain. We took our position about 1 o'clock p. m. In less than two hours the enemy made their appearance in large column, six regiments strong, immediately on the hill south of the pass. We reversed our gun, which was pointed down the pass, and prepared to receive the enemy in the direction in which he was approaching. In a few minutes the sharpshooters of the enemy commenced a fire upon us from behind trees and rocks at a distance ranging from two to three hundred yards, the body of the enemy being still farther. We opened upon the main body with spherical shot, which I cut at first one second and a quarter, and could distinctly see them burst in their midst. I knew we did good execution, as I could distinctly hear their officers give vehement commands to close up ranks. After firing this was some little time at the rate of near four shots per minute we forced the enemy to retire.

In about twenty minutes the enemy reappeared in a column of three regiments, advanced briskly upon us, when we moved our gun a little higher up the opposite hill and again opened upon them, and with our spherical shot cut as low as one second down to three-quarters. After firing rapidly for some time the enemy again beat a hasty retreat, when my men, including the infantry not yet in action, rent the air with their shouts, confidently believing that we had gained the day. But in a short time the enemy again formed and renewed the attack with more swiftness than before, and soon played havoc with our horses. These, with the caisson, ran down the mountain with drivers and all, leaving us with only the small amount of ammunition in our limber-box. We then limbered and moved our gun near a small log stable, behind which we placed our horses for protection. By this time our men were falling fast. Sergeant Turner, of the gun, had both legs broken and shot through the body; I. I. Mays had his left arm splintered with a musket ball; Isaiah Ryder shot through the head, and died instantly; John A. Taylor had his thigh broken; E. H. Kersey, shot in the ankle; Lewis Going, wounded in the arm; William W. Stewart, badly wounded in the head and breast. This left me but few to man the gun. Captain De Lagnel, who was the commander of the post, having his horse shot under him and seeing our crippled condition, gallantly came and volunteer his valuable aid, and helped load and fire three or four times, when he was shot in the side, and, I think, in the hand. He then ordered us to make our escape, if we could, but the enemy was too close, and his fire too severe, to admit of safe retreat to many of us. I was shot though the right hand, and am now a prisoner, with the following of my men: Warren Currin, B. H. Davidson, James B. Creasey, William H. Broyles, and R. W. Walker. The rest of my command made their escape. I suppose we killed and wounded of the enemy some three hundred or more.

I take great pleasure in saying that my command in this fight, both those with guns and those in the artillery, acted heroically, and deserve the highest commendation. Private W. H. Broyles was the last to leave the gun, and pricked the last cartridge that we fired.

I have the honor to be, your obedient, servant,

First Lieutenant Lee Battery.
Captain P. B. ANDERSON, Lee Battery, P. A. C. S.

Numbers 26. Report of Lieutenant John R. Massey, Lee Battery, C. S. Army, of the engagement at Rich Mountain.

Pocahontas County, Va., August 8, 1861.

SIR: On the morning of the 11th of July, 1861, I was stationed, with one gun and detachment under my command, in a gorge on the left of the front breastworks at Camp Garnett, near the Rich Mountain, in the county of Randolph, Va.

On the morning of the 11th of July you notified me to hold myself in readiness for prompt action. Between 10 and 11 o'clock a. m. I was informed by Colonel Heck that it was your order that my gun should be moved to the top of the Stonecoal Hill, which was on the extreme left of the camp in front. I moved to that position thereafter. Discovering a number of the enemy's cavalry on top of Rich Mountain, opposite Hart's house, about one and a half miles in the rear of our breastworks, I requested Colonel Heck to inform Colonel Pegram. About 12 1\2 o'clock the firing of a gun at Hart's Hill, on Rich Mountain, commenced. After the fire of that gun had continued for some time forty of our breastworks. I commenced firing on them as they retired. The fire on the Rich Mountain continued for some time- between two and three hours. Shortly after its cessation the enemy commenced chopping and working with picks on the ascent of the hill called the Sugar Hill, on my left. While this was going on we heard the noise of guncarriages ascending the hill. The day had been cloudy and rainy. The day had been cloudy and rainy. The appearance of the sun about thirty minutes discovered to me a large body of the enemy's infantry marching along the side of Sugar Hill next to me. To sun was now about an hour high. I commenced firing upon them. The enemy were evidently thrown into confusion and retired.

The loss of the enemy, I have been informed, in killed and wounded, was twenty-seven. In my detachment there were none killed or wounded. The men under my command, non-commissioned officers and privates, all performed their duty promptly and efficiently.

Remaining at my position, between 2 and 3 o'clock a. m. July 12 I was ordered to spike my gun and retreat. The companies supporting my gun all retired from the hill. At length a man came up the hill and spiked the gun, being ordered to do so, as he said, by Colonel Pegram. I then returned to the camp, and found the companies in camp forming to retreat. Captain Anderson and Lieutenant Raine had gone with Colonel Pegram and a portion of his command to make a night attack upon the enemy, and had not returned. Lieutenant Statham had been wounded at Rich Mountain, and was a prisoner. The command of the company devolving upon me, I ordered the musketeers to get their guns. I marched them and the cannoneers down into the road, and finally effected our retreat with the loss of the prisoners taken at Rich Mountain and a few others, in all amounting to eighteen men.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Second Lieutenant, Lee Battery, P. A. C. S.
Captain P. B. ANDERSON,
Commanding Lee Battery, P. A. C. S.

Numbers 27. Report of Lieutenant Charles I. Raine, Lee Battery, C. S. Army, of the engagement at Rich Mountain.

CAMP ALLEGHANY, August 8, 1861.

SIR: On the night of the 10th of July, 1861, I was stationed with a gun and detachment of the Lee Battery on the extreme right, in front of Camp Garnett. In the forepart of the night of the 10th you brought to the support of my gun about thirty of your musketeers. Immediately after dusk chopping of axes commenced on the creek leading from the gorge near which I was stationed. At the same time chopping was distinctly heard on the mountain to the left of Camp Garnett. This chopping in both directions continued the whole night. On the night of the 10th, about 12 o'clock, you called my attention, awaking me, to the sound of the enemy's bugle. In about one half hour we heard the roll of their drum, and shortly thereafter another sound of their bugle. We then saw on the ridges lights as if in motion. You concluded that the enemy were moving, and ordered me to report the fact to Colonel Pegram. I did so. This was about 1.30 o'clock a. m. Thursday, the 11th. Colonel Pegram sent Adjutant Ransom to you. I remained up with you watching the movements of the enemy till morning, when you returned to camp.

About 9 o'clock a. m. of the 11th, as you passed with a gun to Hart's house, on Rich Mountain, your ordered me to change the position of my gun, so as to rake the road and the ravines coming down into camp from near Hart's house. About 1.30 o'clock p. m. the fire of Lieutenant Statham's gun was heard. In about two hours or more you received a message from Captain De Lagnel. You immediately took the gun forward, and ordered me to bring up the caisson with ammunition. The gun and cannoneers moved at a rapid rate. Proceeding on quickly to the turn of the road I met our forces retreating. I was then informed that before the gun reached the top of the hill one of the wheel-horses of the gun-carriage had been killed and another wounded; that the tongue of the gun-carriage had been broken off; that one of the drivers had been thrown, and the gun-carriage thrown down by the side of the hill. This occurred as reported to me. The enemy were in possession of the hill. I turned the caisson around in the road and brought it back. Proceeding a short distance back I found our retreating forces had been halted by you, and that you were urging them to go and retake the guns which had been lost. You immediately rallied the companies on the side of the hill, awaiting the advance of the enemy upon the retiring forces. While in this position Colonel Pegram came up and proposed a night attack upon the enemy. We advanced under Colonel Pegram and yourself toward Hart's Hill, taking a route through the woods. The gun under my charge was left in the road, as hereinbefore stated. The caisson was sent back by me to the camp. The men under my command did their duty faithfully and promptly.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Second Lieutenant, Lee Battery, P. A. C. S.
Captain P. B. ANDERSON,
Commanding Lee Battery, P. A. C. S

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