Battle of Rich Mountain

William S. Rosecrans' Report From War of the Rebellion
Series I, Volume II

Numbers 5. Report of Brigadier General W. S. Rosecrans, U. S. A., of engagement at Rich Mountain.

Beverly, Va., July 19. 1861.

MAJOR: In obedience to the order of the major-general commanding, I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the First brigade, consisting of the Eighth and Tenth Indiana Volunteer Militia, the Thirteenth Indiana U. S. Volunteer Infantry, and the Nineteenth Ohio U. S. Volunteer Militia, which resulted in dislodging the rebel forces from their entrenched position at camp Garnett, on Rich Mountain.

After the armed reconnaissance was over, by direction of the major-general I ordered the Eighth Indiana to bivouac in advance of the camp at Roaring Creek, and the Tenth and Thirteenth into camp. About 10 p. m. I came to the headquarters with a plan for turning the enemy's position. The general having considered it, and heard the information on which it was based, was pleased to direct me to carry it out, and for that purpose ordered Colonel Sullivan, of the Thirteenth Indiana, and Burdsal's cavalry, temporarily attached to the brigade, and that the movement should begin at daylight of the next morning. The troops were ordered to parade in silence, under arms, without knapsacks, with one day's rations in their haversacks, and their canteens filled with water. By inadvertence, the assembly was sounded in the Nineteenth Ohio Regiment, and lights put in several tents. When I discovered it, they were promptly extinguished. The pickets relieved, the regimental camps and guards, with the sick and a few men of each company remaining, orders were given that the reveille should be beaten at the usual hour, and the column formed and moved forward in the following order and strength:

1. Eighth Indiana, under Benton........................242 strong
2. Tenth Indiana, under Manson.........................425 "
3. Thirteenth Indiana, under Sullivan..................650 "
4. Nineteenth Ohio, under Beatty.......................525 "
    Total infantry....................................1,842
5. Burdsal's cavalry....................................75

Colonel Lander, accompanied by the guide, led the way through a pathless forest, over rocks and ravines, keeping far down on the south-eastern declivities of the mountain spurs, and using no ax, to avoid discovery by the enemy, whom we supposed would be on the alert, by reason of the appearance of unusual stir in our camp, and the lateness of the hour. A rain set in about 6 a. m. and lasted until about 11 o'clock a. m. with intermissions, during which the column pushed cautiously and steadily forward, and arrived at last and halted in rear of the crest on the top of Rich Mountain. Hungry, and weary with an eight hours' march over a most unkindly road, they laid down to rest, while Colonel Lander and the general examined the country. It was found that the guide was too much scared to be with us longer, and we had another valley to cross, another hill to climb, another descent beyond that to make, before we could reach the Beverly road at the top of the mountain. On this road we started at 2 o'clock, and reached the top of the mountain, after head of the column, in rectifying which the Tenth Indiana took the advance.

Shortly after passing over the crest of the hill, the head of the column, ordered to be covered by a company deployed as skirmishers, was fired on by the enemy's pickets, killing Sergeant James A. Taggart and dangerously wounding Captain Christopher Miller, of the Tenth.

The column then advanced through dense brushwood, emerging into rather more open brush-wood and trees, when the rebels opened a fire of both musketry and 6-pounders, firing some case shot and a few shells. The Tenth advanced and took position at A, Plan Numbers 1 (The "plans referred to in this report are not found.), with one company deployed as skirmishers covering its front. The Eighth advanced, and halted in column of fours at B. The Thirteenth advanced to C, in an old road, where it was ordered to occupy the heights with three companies at d d d, and skirmish down the hill, keeping strong reserves on the top. Three companies were ordered back to E, to cover the debouche up the valley on the left. The companies of the remainder were to fill the space in the line marked # # #, the remaining two companies standing in column at t. The nineteenth Ohio came down the road and halted in column at h.

Owing to misunderstanding orders, Colonel Sullivan occupied the hill with his whole regiment, and it took forty minutes to correct the error and get into the proper position, as indicated. The command " Forward " was then given, and another company from the right of the Tenth deployed as skirmishers, leaving an interval through which the Eighth could pass in column and charge the rebel battery on the left of their position at Z as soon as our fire had told properly. At the same time Colonel Sullivan was to take his four companies and charge around the road on the left.

After an advance of fifty yards and some heavy firing from our line, the enemy showed sings of yielding, and I gave orders to the Eighth, and sent them to the colonel of the Thirteenth, to charge in column. The Eighth made a mistake and got into line at B, where, in consideration of their abundant supplies of ammunition, I left them. The Thirteenth went into column at D, Plan 2. Seven companies of the Nineteenth Ohio deployed into line at H, and delivered two splendid volleys, when the enemy broke. Meanville I rode round to the Thirteenth, and drove them into charge up across the road, as shown at I. the tenth charged by fours at J. The Eighth came down and carded upon the rebel front at K.

The battle was over, the enemy dispersed; one piece of cannon taken at A, another at B, and their dead and wounded scattered over the hillside.

Learning from a captive that the forty-fourth Virginia and some Georgia troops and cavalry were below, and finding it too late to continue the operations against the rebels' position that evening with troops as much exhausted as were ours, and threatened, too, succors, the troops were bivouacked in the position shown on Plan Numbers 2, Lieutenant-Colonel Hollingsworth going down on the ridge with six companies to the position mentioned within half a mile of the rebel pickets.

The two brass 6-pounder s captured were put in order, and, under command of Captain Konkle, Nineteenth Ohio, placed, one looking down the Beverly road at C, the other at D, looking towards Camp Garnett. During that rainy night our men bivouacked cheerfully, and turned out with great promptitude whenever the rebels by their movements alarmed our pickets.

About 3 o'clock in the morning of the 12th our pickets brought in a prisoner from the rebel camp, from whom I learned their forces were disorganized and probably dispersing. This determined the disposition for the attack on the camp. I ordered Colonel Beatty, with all the Nineteenth, to proceed along the bridge and take their position on the south side of the road, and directed Burnsal's cavalry, accompanied by one company of the Tenth Indiana, to reconnoiter down the road. Colonel Sullivan, with the Thirteenth, was to follow the movement promptly, and by his skirmishers to clear the hillside north of the road.

These orders were obeyed, and, finding the position abandoned, Burdsal's cavalry and Company C, Tenth Indiana Regiment, entered the camp about 6 o'clock a. m., where they found and took prisoners 10 officers, 5 non-commissioned officers, and 54 privates; the descriptive list of which is hereto attached, and marked A.

Colonel Beatty entered the upper camp about the same time, and occupied it, Taking charge of the property, among which were two brass 6-pounders and some eighty tents, four caissons, and one hundred rounds of ammunition. Colonel Sullivan, of the Thirteenth Indiana, came in and occupied the camp on the north side of the road, and took charge of the horses, wagons, tents, tools and implements of the rebels there. The Eighth and Tenth Indiana were left in position on the battle-field, and were charged with the duty of burying the dead. They remained until next morning, the 13th, when the whole force moved forward to their present encampment at Beverly.

Having given the details, I close my report by the following summary of the movement:

With strong detachment from the Nineteenth Ohio, the Eighth, Tenth, and Thirteenth Indiana, and Burdsal's cavalry, amounting to 1,912 rank and file, I set out at 5 a. m. of the 11th, and by a circuitous route, through a trackless mountain forest, reached the Beverly road at the top of Rich Mountain, where I found the enemy advised of my approach and in force, with two 6-pounder field-pieces, and infantry, from various circumstances, judged to have been from 800 to 1,200 strong, though probably not all of them in action. We formed at about 3 o'clock under cover of our skirmishers, guarding well against a flank attack from the direction of the rebels' position, and after a brisk fire, which threw the rebels into confusion, carried their position by a charge, driving them from behind some log breastworks, and pursued them into the thickets on the mountain. We captured twenty-one prisoners, two brass 6-pounders, fifty stand of arms, and some corn and provisions. Our loss was 12 killed and 49 wounded.

The rebels had some 20 wounded on the field. The number of the killed we could not ascertain, but subsequently the number of burials reported to this date is 135 - many found scattered over the mountain. Our troops, informed that there were one or two regiments of rebels towards Beverly, and finding their hour late, bivouacked on their arms amid a cold, drenching rain, to await daylight, when they moved forward on the enemy's entrenched position, which was found abandoned by all except 63 men, who were taken prisoners. We took possession of two brass 6-pounders, four caissons, and one hundred rounds ammunition, two kegs and one barrel powder, 19,000 buck and ball cartridge, two stands of colors, and a large lot of equipments and clothing, consisting of 204 tents, 427 pairs pants, 124 axes, 98 picks, 134 spades and shovels, all their train, consisting of 29 wagons, 75 horses, 4 mules, and 60 pairs harness.

The enemy, finding their position turned, abandoned entrenchments, which, taken by the front, would have cost us a thousand lives, and dispersed through the mountains, some attempting to escape by the way of Laurel Hill and others aiming for Huttonsville. Among the former were the command of Colonel Pegram, which, unable to join the rebels at Laurel Hill, surrendered to the major-general on the 13th.

Our loss in the engagement killed and wounded is shown in the statement hereto appended, marched B. The list of prisoners taken is shown in the paper hereto appended, marched D. The invoice of property captured and turned over to the post quartermaster is hereto annexed, marked E.

In closing this report, I deem it proper to observe that, considering the rawness and inexperience of both officers and men, the fact that one-fourth were on picket guard the previous evening, and had made a most fatiguing march through the rain and with only inadequate supplies of food, their conduct was admirable.

Among those who are entitled to special mention are Colonel Lander, who with the guide led the way into the very midst of the action; Colonel Manson, of the Tenth Indiana, who was everything along his lines, inspiring the men by his voice and presence, and who bravely led the charge of his regiment. Colonel Benton was ready to obey orders, and moved among his men with alacrity. Colonel Sullivan charged with his command as the rebels were dispersing, and captured several of the prisoners. major Wilson, of the Eighth, was conspicuous for coolness and promptitude of action. Lieutenant-Colonel Colgrove, of the Eighth, deserves especial mention for his coolness while forming his lines of the regiment under fire. Major Fortes, of the Thirteenth, showed coolness and self-possession in forming a portion of his men under the fire of the cannons.

My thanks are due Captain Kingsbury, my assistant adjutant-general, and to Captain A. Irwin Harrison, for their valuable and efficient aid in carrying orders under fire.

The Tenth Indiana was under fire for an hour and a half. The Nineteenth Ohio distinguished itself for the cool and handsome manner in which they held their post against a flank attack, and for the manner in which they came into line and delivered their fire near the sloe of the action. I consider Colonel Beatty to have managed his well, and to have been ably seconded by Colonel Hollingsworth and Major Buckley.

For the individuals who distinguished themselves under the eyes of their regimental commanders I respectfully refer to the reports of colonels of regiments, herewith submitted.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Brigadier-General, U. S. Army.
Asst. Adjt. General, U. S. Army, Hdqrs. Army West Virginia.

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