Series 1, Volume 5, pp. 115-118
Report of Brig. Gen. Henry A. Wise, C. S. Army.
And now I beg leave, most respectfully, to protest that nothing but disaster can follow such interference with my immediate command, without notice, and with orders from you to me which led me to expect the very contrary of what has occurred. I deplore the disaster which has occurred, but am not in the least responsible for it. I beg that in future you will notify me of any movement under your orders on the lines you have left me to defend.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
HENRY A. WISE,
Brigadier-General FLOYD, Commanding, &c.
P. S.--My camp is severely disabled by measles, and I send you a copy of a report, by Colonel Richardson, of the reduced condition of his regiment, the best under my command. I also send to you a copy of a report, made to me by Colonel Henningsen, showing the necessity of keeping my whole force for the present in position on this turnpike, and of watching the advance of the enemy on the Chestnutburg road. I respectfully submit whether I shall move a regiment to Carnifix [sic] Ferry. I will await your further orders, feeling, as I do, the necessity of keeping all my remaining force here.
HENRY A. WISE,
HDQRS. FIRST REGIMENT INFANTRY, WISE’S BRIGADE,
Camp Dogwood, Va., August 26, 1861.
GENERAL: I have the honor to report that the remnant of my command will be ready to move to-morrow morning by 9 o’clock. I regret that I have to offer an excuse for my regiment, but really think that it is not advisable to send it off crippled as it is. If it should be called into action in its present condition the result might not prove satisfactory, and I feel that I should be censurable if I did not report these facts. I wish the command to do itself credit, and do not doubt that it will do so under any circumstances, but think it best just to give it a trial at first in its original strength. I beg leave herewith to submit the actual strength of my regiment, as per report of the company commanders: Company A, 39; Company B, 47; Company C, 29; Company D, 41; Company E, 19; Company F, 47; Company G, 30; Company H, 39; Company 1, 41; Company K, 39, amounting in the aggregate to 371 effective men, a little upwards of one-third of the whole command, the measles daily reducing the ranks at the rate of at least 25 a day. According to the report of the surgeon of the regiment, it is owing to exposure and fatigue incident to rapid and forced marches. I have presented these facts as a matter of duty, and offer them for your consideration.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. H. RICHARDSON,
Lieut. Col. Forty-sixth Reg’t, P. A. C. S., Comdg. First Inf., W. B.
Brig. Gen. H. A. WISE.
CAMP AT DOGWOOD GAP, VA.,
August 26, 1861.
GENERAL: In your dispatch of this morning you order me to maintain my position at Dogwood Gap, as the best to cover the turnpike, and as the best from which to move to the support of General Floyd. You warn me at the same time that this position is threatened from the New River, and you conclude by saying:
Thus you have to guard the turnpike. Be ready to move with all your force to Carnifix [sic] Ferry, and to take commanding position against the enemy in the opposite direction.
This raises the question, “Have you more than force enough to do any one of these essential services?”
In reply, I beg leave to state that the strength of the three regiments of infantry and of the artillery comprised in my command at Dogwood Camp is this morning reported at 1,386 privates and non-commissioned officers present and fit for duty. Colonel Davis, commanding the cavalry, who, as you are aware, does not report to me, told me yesterday that the horses were so worn with scouting, and had suffered so much from want of shoes, that he had only 50 efficient cavalry. Of these, 5 were killed and wounded yesterday endeavoring to aid Colonel Jenkins in his unfortunate skirmish. Less than 1,440 men, with five guns, is, therefore, as far as I am aware, the total force here present at your disposal. Undivided, by the aid of artillery used in positions where artillery is available, and with the assistance of position, this force is sufficient, by the exercise of great vigilance, to effect one, and probably two, of the objects you specify, and partially to cover them all. I mean that of guarding the turnpike road and preventing the enemy from getting on our rear by crossing the New River. This, in my opinion, can only be securely done by occupying Dogwood Gap. If driven thence, or compelled to abandon this position, all the other objects you specify might, and probably would, be frustrated; that is to say, the defense of the Lewisburg road, the safety of your command, and your ability to succor General Floyd or cover his rear in case of reverse to his arms, or even otherwise, would be jeopardized.
I learned from you to-day that by reliable accounts the enemy had about 1,000 men at Gauley Bridge; 1,000 up the turnpike; 700 at the Hawk’s Nest, and 500 at Cotton Hill. This information has since been confirmed to me, with the addition that the force at Cotton Hill is 1,000 men.
The enemy, I am satisfied, is perfectly cognizant of our strength, or rather weakness, and immediately informed of all our movements. The moment we abandon Dogwood Gap, or leave it in a defenseless condition, even if he had received no further re-enforcements, he may, and doubtless would, advance along the turnpike and occupy or force the gap and hold it. In this case our communication, if we moved to Carnifix [sic] Ferry, or that of such portion of our force as moved thither, and also the communication of General Floyd with the turnpike, would be cut off and the Legion, or a portion of it, starved into dispersion, while the remainder would become abortively weak. On the contrary, by holding Dogwood Gap, which with the present force may be successfully defended even if attacked in front and rear (considering that an attack from the rear could not be carried on for more than two or three days, even if General Floyd’s column was cut off from the ferry), the Legion would be strengthened every day. In the first place, reconnoitering and slight intrenchments will so strengthen the position as to require less force for secure defense. In the next few days rest for men and horses will much increase the efficiency of the now exhausted force to say nothing of its augmentation by re-enforcements under way and of sick returning to their companies and collecting already on the road. Further, from a secure position like Dogwood Gap comparatively rapid marches may be made within striking distance with the efficiency of double the number of men without this stronghold to fall back upon, because, leaving the baggage and provision in security, such marches may be made with what the men carry in their haversacks, or with one wagon, with picked team, per regiment, instead of with a number of under-horsed wagons, requiring the expedition force to guard them and delaying their advance. Hence with a secure possession of the gap, 400 or 500 men, and in a few days a much larger number, may be detached with impunity and efficiency, either to operate on the Sunday Road, or up to Carnifix [sic] Ferry, or toward the Fayetteville road and New River. This, if the force be divided, by detachment (beyond reach) of even one regiment, would become impossible. Without a nucleus to fall back upon nothing, in my opinion, can be effected and it is little more than a nucleus now, although a valuable one. Dividing at this time would be like breaking up an army into isolated files. Not only the future efficiency and the present usefulness but the actual safety of the Legion would be unwarrantably imperiled under present circumstances by any but a very prudent course, and I must respectfully put on record my protest against the execution of certain orders which you have mentioned, and which, I am sure, could only have been conceived under erroneous impressions as to the strength and condition of the corps.
I am, general, respectfully, yours,
C. F. HENNINGSEN.
Brig. Gen. H. A. WISE, Commanding Wise’s Legion.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: August 1861