Another battle on the Gauley.
September 14, 1861
Another battle on the Gauley.
--We publish this morning the Federal telegraphic account of another battle on the Gauley, between the forces under the command of General Floyd, and the Federalists, under the much-talked-of General Rosencranz himself. Taking this account of the affair as the best that an enemy greatly given to falsehood can make out for himself, it looks very much like a Federal defeat. The whole statement about the forces and powerful fortifications of General Floyd is, beyond doubt, great exaggeration. The language that the Confederates poured on the Federals a "terrible fire," occasioning "some casualties," is singular. A terrible fire is ascertained by the execution it does. A fire that kills none is not terrible; a fire that kills "some" is not; but a fire that kills a great many is terrible. The account is very much like an attempt to hide the disgrace of what we conjecture is a repulse, almost tantamount to the defeat, of an overwhelming force by a small body of brave men. It would seem that nearly the whole force under Rosencranz consisted of foreigners "Irish" and "German Brigades" successively engaged our band of heroes, and, after a "furious fight" of "three hours,""night compelled the recall" of the Germans. We trust that it was another cause that induced this "recall."
Of our own loss the enemy professes to be ignorant. General Floyd is reported to have safely re-crossed the river during the night.
General Floyd has moved with as much celerity as possible, and has commenced a campaign that promised admirable results. It was not, however, expected that he was to encounter Rosencranz. He was to clear the Kanawha Valley, while it was anticipated that Lee and Loring would occupy the attention of Rosencranz and all the disposable force at his command. From one cause and another, unfortunately, our army near Cheat Mountain and Huttonsville has been for many weeks stationary almost in sight of the enemy, who, in that immediate locality, is under command of the Federal General Reynolds. Rosenscranz, whose headquarters have been at Clarksburg, in Harrison county, on the Parkersburg or Northwestern Railroad, seeing that his forces there would not soon be needed to protect the railroad from the column under Gen. Lee, marched by a very fine turnpike, which leads southwardly from Clarksburg, through Weston, in Lewis county, and Sutton, in Braxton, to Summersville, in Nicholas. Summersville is near the Ganley, some five or six miles from the place where the battle took place.
This movement of Rosencranz was evidently intended to accomplish something extraordinary. He felt confident, as would appear from his dispatches, of taking Floyd bag and baggage. His Irish and Germans, and his regular batteries, (McMullin's and Snyder's,) were sure, in his opinion, to do that. He has been evidently disappointed. And now, if Lee and Loring could make a movement, late as it is, we should see this literary General flying back to Clarksburg with all speed, to protect the railroad — that road that must be destroyed or Northwestern Virginia surrendered.
Now, all look with the deepest interest to hear from the brave Floyd. When will we hear? How much behindhand we are in every measure for communication with our armies ! Where are our videttes, hurrying from point to point with valuable information? Where are our telegraphs and our portable telegraphs, to carry with the army? We are utterly deficient. When Amos Kendall was Postmaster-General he established a line of express riders, which brought the mail from New Orleans to this place in five days, a shorter time than that required to bring information from our forces on the Gauley to this city. This is to be deplored. Our cause must be prejudiced by this tardy communication between the camps and the metropolis. We trust that the Department will at least hasten the building of the telegraph line from Jackson's river to the Kanawha Valley. It would be of incalculable importance at the present time.
In order to understand Gen. Floyd's position, if the reader will refer to the map of Virginia and fix his eye upon the Gauley river, which joins New river, in Fayette county, and with that stream forms the Kanawha river, he will, by tracing it along through Nicholas county, come to a point where the "Summer Road," as it is called, crosses it and leads on to Summersville. Just at the point where this road crosses, on the north bank of the river, we understand the battle to have taken place. General Floyd defended himself gloriously against the no doubt over whelming force brought to attack him, with the river, with its deep and strong current, behind him. It will be readily understood that such a position, under the circumstances, should be abandoned. He could not, with justice to his men, maintain it, with Rosencranz in front and Cox a little to the left of his rear. He, therefore, successfully crossed to the south bank, and thus put the stream in front of him, and between him and his immediate assailant, and himself out of danger from surprise by a rear attack.
By a letter in our paper, it will be seen that Gen. Wise was at last dates at the Hawk's Nest, on New river, some fifteen miles from Gen. Floyd. A considerable part of Cox's forces was near him. We are anxious, also, to hear from him. It may be that there was a concerted attack on both him and General Floyd.
Gen. Floyd's engagement with Rosencranz
September 18, 1861
Gen. Floyd's engagement with Rosencranz
--Surgeon Clark, of Col. Wharton's Regiment, in Gen. Floyd's Brigade, and Adjutant Otey, of the same regiment, reached the city yesterday evening from the camp of Generals Floyd and Wise, at the foot of Sewell Mountain, which they left on Fridaynoon. They bring dispatches to the Government. The former gentleman relates to us the following particulars of the engement at Carnifax Ferry:
Gen. Floyd had warning of the approach of Rosencranz, and had thrown up a small earth work in the centre of his line, which was formed across a bend in the Gauley just at the Ferry. Some logs, rails, and brush were also thrown up here and there before the regiment, forming a very imperfect protection, not deserving the name and anything in the world but the powerful fortification spoken of by Rosencranz. For the centre breast-work there were six smooth-bore guns, possibly ten-pounders, and one rifled cannon. These had just arrived, under Capt. Guy, of Goochland, and but for them the General would have had none.--These seven cannon are magnified in Rosencranz's report to sixteen! Out of five Regiments Gen. Floyd had seventeen hundred available men; Rosencranz estimates them at five thousand!
Rosencranz had eleven thousand men under his immediate command below Summersville. Five thousand of these he ordered to the attack of Floyd's line at about 3 o'clock on Tuesday, the 10th inst. Six thousand were held in reserve. The attack was received firmly, and the fire of the enemy was vigorously returned. Three attempts were made to flank our little army, and each was repulsed with severe loss. One bold charge was made to take the battery; but such a "terrificfire" was directed upon the assailants by Capt. Gay, that they were swept back, and did not renew the attempt. The last charge was made on the extreme left by a German Regiment, which was driven back with heavy loss; and this is the Regiment which is said to have been "called off." It was not until after dark that firing ceased and the enemy retired.
General Floyd, ascertaining the number of his adversary, and moreover that four thousand, besides the eleven thousand in front of him, had been sent above Summersville to cross the Gauley at Hughes' Ferry, and to march by way of Meadow Bluff to get behind him, determined to re-cross the river that night, and at once proceeded to do so. His means of crossing consisted of one small boat, that could hold only one wagon at a time, and a small foot bridge, very ingenlously built by Engineer Frostburg, a Swede, attached to Col. Wharton's regiment. Every soldier, well, sick and wounded, was safely taken across before light; but owing to the absence of a large number of wagons, transporting stores from the railroad depots, there were not enough to secure the entire of the baggage, provisions etc. A portion of these were unavoidably left behind, including some tents, cartridges, etc. A part of General Floyd's private baggage, and also that of some of his officers, was with the abandoned effects. It is proper to notice that to the humanity towards the sick, of whom there were a large number, much of the loss is attributable. Some five horses, and twenty or thirty cattle also fell into the hands of the enemy.
General Floyd lost not a single man. This result is extraordinary. The battle lasted four hours, and the enemy's loss was heavy, while on our side there were only six men slightly wounded and not one seriously. Gen. Floyd himself was amongst the wounded. A musket ball, at the first fire of the enemy, inflicted a flesh wound just below the elbow, but it occasioned no inconvenience to the General.
The enemy's loss was certainly heavy. Rosencranz's first report said 15 killed and 70 wounded. His second raised his figures to 20 killed and 100 wounded. Gen. Floyd took six of the enemy prisoners. By their account the killed and wounded were from 300 to 500. One man said that sixty were killed in his regiment alone.
The wounded on our side were Martin and Gross, of Captain Henley's company, Amherst; John Phipps, of Young's company, Grayson; Adjutant Smith, of Tompkins's regiment; and one man in McCauseland's regiment.
Early on Wednesdaymorning, the enemy appeared on the river and fired a few shots. Gen. Floyd formed a junction with General Wise, and the combined force returned to Sewell Mountain. A message from Gen. Lee met them there about noon Friday, and they went into camp. What that message was is not known; but we may hope it indicates reinforcements.
Thursday, Col. Hownshell, with 700 men, returned to the Gauley river to bring away fifteen of our sick and twenty-five wounded Yankees of the battle of Cross Lanes. This he did; but finding the enemy preparing to cross, he ordered a fire upon them, which was obeyed by his men from the heights with effect, no doubt; for the soldiers of the Southwest are good marksmen.
Floyd's defence was most gallant and his crossing of the ferry under the circumstances deliberate and well directed. His men fought with signal bravery, and their fire was admirably directed.
Floyd and Wise together have not six thousand effective men. Rosencranz has eleven thousand, with him, while four more thousand are marching by the Meadow Bluff to enter the turnpike between the Sewell Mountain and Lewisburg. Cox has five thousand five hundred; in all twenty thousand five hundred men against a little more than five thousand! If this estimate of the enemy's forces be correct it is indispensable that reinforcements must be rapidly concentrated beyond Lewisburg, or our army there will be compelled again to fall back at least to that point. We hope that General Lee's message to Gen. Floyd indicates the intention of that officer to carry his men where they may find active service.
The engagement at Carnifax Ferry — authentic and interesting particulars.
September 21, 1861
The engagement at Carnifax Ferry — authentic and interesting particulars.
The most interesting and authentic account of the recent engagement between General Floyd and the enemy at Carnifax Ferry appeared in the Lynchburg Republican, of yesterday, written by Col. R. H. Glass, who participated in the engagement. From this account we extract the following:
Headquarters near Dogwood Gap.
September 11, 1861.
On Monday last we received intelligence of the advance of the enemy in heavy force from the direction of Sutton, along the Summerville road. On TuesdaymorningCol. McCauslin's regiment, which had been down at Summerville as our advance, was driven in, and the enemy encamped fourteen miles distant from us. We expected him to drive in our pickets on Tuesdaynight and attack us on Wednesdaymorning; but contrary to expectations, he forced his march and drove in our pickets at 2 o'clockTuesday. Our line of battle was at once formed behind our breastworks, and scarcely had all our forces been placed in position before the enemy was seen swarming in the woods from one end of our lines to the other. He approached with great deliberation and firmness, and his central column emerged from the woods and above the hills, two hundred yards in our front, just 15 minutes after 3 o'clock. He approached us from this point in double-quick time, evidently intending to force our works at the point of the bayonet. At the first crack of our rifles the gallant Colonel who led in front of his men, on a splendid black charger, fell dead to the earth, while the head of his column recoiled in utter confusion. The Colonel's horse, as if unconscious of the fail of his rider, dashed up to our embankments and around them into our camp, and from the inscription upon the mountings of his pistols, proved to be Col. Wm. H. Lytell's, of Cincinnati. I saw the daring officer fall from his horse, and he was certainly one of the bravest of the brave, for he sought "the bauble reputation" at the very cannon's mouth.
The enemy's columns now opened upon us along the whole of our centre and right, and for an hour the rattle of musketry and the thunder of our artillery was incessant and terrible.
The enemy was driven back and silenced for a moment, but came again to the fight, supported with five or six pieces of artillery, two of which were rifled cannon. For another hour and a half the battle rage with terrific fury, and again the enemy's guns were silenced and he driven from our view.
The sun was now fast sinking beyond the distant mountains, and we were strongly in hopes that the enemy had met his final repulse for the evening; but a few minutes dispelled our illusion. For the third time the enemy came back to the conflict with more violence and determination than before. He assailed us this time from one end of our lines to the other, and tried his best to flank us. For another hour and a half, and until the dark curtains of night closed in upon us, the fight raged with intense fury.
At first, the range both of their small arms and artillery was very bad, shooting entirely over our heads. The range of the cannon was especially bad, for while their balls cut off the tops and split open the giant oaks in our encampment, their shells, with few exceptions, burst high in the air and full fifty yards in our rear. But when they came to the last charge they had gotten the range far better, and their balls began to plow up our embankments, while their shells broke directly over us in every direction and with terrible fury. The enemy seemed to be perfectly enraged at our obstinate resistance, and was determined to pour out the full vials of his wrath upon us.
The battle ceased at 15 minutes past 7 o'clock, having continued almost incessantly four long hours. Our men stood to their posts with astonishing coolness and courage. The only fault they committed during the battle was that of firing upon the enemy at too long a range, and while too securely posted behind the dense forest trees which skirted our entire lines. We did not lose a single man killed, and not more than ten wounded. The enemy's loss could not be ascertained, but at one single spot, where Col. Lytell fell, we counted 37 dead bodies. The prisoners inform us that their loss was heavy, and from the fact that we silenced their guns three times. we are confident this report is entirely true. The prisoners also informed us that another Colonel, whose name I do not remember, was badly if not fatally wounded, and his horse killed under him. Our officers acted with great coolness and bravery. The battle had raged but twenty minutes when our gallant General was very painfully wounded in the right arm, the ball entering near the elbow and passing out near his wrist, without breaking any bone. We retired with him a short distance under the hill and had the wound dressed by Surgeon Gleaves, and in ten minutes he was again moving along our lines, encouraging his men by his presence and his voice. At a later stage of the fight a Minnie ball tore through the lapel of his coat, and another through the cantle of his saddle. Indeed, it is the wonder of all of us how he escaped death. --None but his staff and surgeon knew he was wounded until the close of the fight. He is now suffering much pain.
We had dispatched Gen. Wise in the morning for reinforcements, and he had declined to send them for fear of an attack upon him by Gen. Cox. We had also sent couriers for the North Carolina and Georgia regiments to come up, but it was impossible for them to reach us in time to support us.
At 10 o'clock last night, therefore, our forces proceeded to retire from the position they had so heroically defended during the day, and by light this morning they were all safely and in order across the river, with all their baggage, &c., except some few things which were lost from neglect and want of transportation.
We are now pitching our tents at this place, on the main Charleston road, about 15 miles from Gauley Bridge, and 55 miles west of Lewisburg.
Gen. Wise is encamped at Dogwood Gap, a few miles above us, while a portion of his force holds the Hawk's Nest below us. I think the public and all military men will agree that both our fight and our fall back to this side of the river are among the most remarkable incidents in the history of war. --Seventeen hundred men, with six inferior pieces of artillery, fought back four times their number, with much superior artillery, for more than four long hours, repulsed them three times, and remained masters of the ground. They then retired, their numbers, baggage, stores, and more than two hundred sick and wounded, across the river, from 10 P. M. to 4 A. M., along one of the steepest and worst single-track roads that ever horse's hoof trod or man ever saw. Four o'clock found these men three miles from the enemy, with our newly-constructed bridge destroyed and our boats sunk behind us. I think these facts show a generalship seldom exhibited anywhere.
Colonel Reynold's report of the battle at Gauley river.
October 4, 1861
Colonel Reynold's report of the battle at Gauley river.
Headquarters 50th Va. Regiment, Floyd's Brigade, C. S. A., Camp on Sewell Sept. 15th, 1861.
Captain W. E. Peters,
Assistant Adj't Gen'l Floyd's Brigade;
--On the morning of the 10th inst., in obedience to the orders of Brig. Gen'l Floyd, I moved my regiment from our temporary camp, which was about one mile in advance of the main camp at Gauley, and took post on the centre of the line of log breast works, and on the left of the earth works and battery of 4 guns.
The regiment formed into line behind the breastworks at 2½ o'clock P. M. Within a few minutes after, I was informed of the rapid approach of the enemy. At 3 o'clock P. M., a heavy column moved to attack us, which attack was gallantly repulsed by the right wing. After a sharp exchange of fire, lasting about 25 minutes, the enemy then taking shelter behind some houses and hay stacks, beyond the range of our fire, from which position they continued to fire upon us with their Enfield rifles. At 3½ o'clock P. M., the enemy having placed their artillery in position, opened upon my line a terrific fire of shell, graps, shrapnel, round shot, and with rifled cannon, which was continued but with little interruption until 7 o'clock 10 min. P. M. At about o'clock P. M., a heavy column (supposed to be an entire brigade) advanced to assault our centre; our fire was reserved until the enemy approached to within one hundred yards, when a well directed fire from our whole line checked their advance. After a contest of 45 minutes, the enemy (notwithstanding the efforts of some of their officers to rally them,) broke and ran about 6 o'clock P. M. A third attempt was made to force our centre, which met with the same result as the preceding — our regiment awaiting their approach coolly, and routing them completely.
In the early part of the battle the fire of the enemy's artillery was high. They attempted to enfilade my line, which they failed to do in consequence of one of their guns having been disabled by the fire from the battery in the earthworks. At 7 o'clock 10 min. P. M., the firing ceased, and the enemy retired from the field.
During the entire engagement, the officers and men of the regiment exhibited the greatest coolness and determination; and though but few had ever heard the sound of cannon, they evinced a spirit which would have done credit to veterans.
I must beg leave to bring to the favorable notice of the General Commanding-in-Chief, the gallantry and coolness of Major C. E. Thorburn, of this regiment, (whose name was favorably mentioned in my report of the battle of "Cross Lanes;") from the commencement to the end of the action, he was engaged in various parts of the line encouraging the men and instructing them as to the best mode of making their fire effective. I recommend also to his notice the good conduct of John L. Cowardin, Adjutant of the regiment, who was energetic in conveying orders. I also recommend to his favorable attention Captain L. H. N. Salyer, of company H, who, under the supervision of Maj. Thorburn, rendered, with a portion of the company, most effective service against the sharp shooters of the enemy. Corporal Lyons, of company I, exhibited bravery and great skill in picking off several of the enemy who were posted behind trees after the main body had fallen back.
All the officers of the regiment behaved with gallantry and coolness throughout the action.
Our loss was 3 privates wounded, 2 Lieutenants, 1 Sergeant, and 11 privates missing.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. W. Reynolds, Col. 50th Va. Reg't, Floyd's Brigade, C. S. A.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: September 1861