By Frank Moore
(New York: G. P. Putnam, 1862), p. 177
Doc. 59 1/2.
The correspondent of the Cincinnati Gazette gives the following account of this skirmish:
Camp Enyart, October 1, 1861.
The necessities for aid in Western Virginia led the Government to order the Thirty-fourth regiment into the field before the brigade of Zouaves was completed.
This to the officers was a great disappointment, as the drill is peculiar, rendering their cooperation a very important element of their efficiency and success. Yet, like true soldiers, they responded to the call with the regiment completed, and marched for Western Virginia with a notice of six hours, and reached Camp Enyart Thursday the 19th of September. The officers, believing that the best drill they could give the Zouaves would be to let them go through their peculiar tactics with a rebel army for interested spectators, and learning that the enemy was in force about fifty miles from their camp, took up their line of march early Monday morning, having been in camp but three days. Col. Piatt had under his command, of the Thirty-fourth regiment, about five hundred and fifty men, while Lieut.-Col. Enyart had three hundred of the First Kentucky, and two hundred Home Guards of Virginia. The forces moved together until they reached Peytona, on the Cole River, where they separated, Col. Enyart going up the Cole River. Col. Enyart did not meet the enemy in force at any place, but his men did meet and ford swollen rivers, and marched on short rations, and were anxious to meet with the running enemy of old Virginia. Col. Enyart did not join Col. Piatt until they met on the Kanawha, on their return. Col. Piatt’s command immediately proceeded thence to Boone Court House, and encamped that night one mile beyond. The next day, after proceeding some sixteen miles, they came up with the advance guard of the enemy, consisting of cavalry, when a brisk fire was exchanged, the cavalry retreating. After the retreat of cavalry the battalion was immediately put in order of battle. The advance guard of fiteen men was led forward by Adjt. Clarke, proceeding along the road. Scouts were sent out on either side of the road to meet and repulse the sharpshooters of the enemy.
The force proceeded in this order for about two miles, meeting the pickets of the enemy, exchanging shots with them incessantly, and driving them back with increased confusion at each charge.
Being unable to ascertain the position of the rebels, the entire force halted for a few moments, and Colonel Piatt rode in advance and took observations with his glass, but could not ascertain their force and position, as it was covered with a thick growth of underbrush. After these observations a command was issued to forward the column. The scouts moved on with rapidity and enthusiasm, the main body moving up the narrow road cautiously and firmly. The fire continued to increase, and shots were rapidly exchanged from the right and left with the enemy, until our advanced guard reached within sixty yards of their main force.
The column was some eighty yards from the enemy when they received a perfect volley of fire upon their right, indicating that the rebels were in force in that direction. Company A, commanded by Capt. Rathbone, was ordered to deploy as skirmishers to the right, up the side of the mountain, and if possible to flank the enemy on their left.
Company C, commanded by Capt. Miller, was ordered to the right, up a similar mountain, to flank the enemy on their left.
Company I, commanded by Capt. Anderson, was ordered directly up the ravine, on the left. In this position he drew the concentrated fire of the rebels upon his company, who made use of the knowledge thus obtained by rapidly charging upon and destroying the enemy’s breastworks. The centre moved directly up the road. With this disposition of the forces, Col. Piatt routed them from their strongly fortified and well-selected position, in confusion. Capt. Anderson was the first to mount their breastworks, his men following him in the face of a terrible fire without flinching or confusion.
As Capt. Anderson scaled the breastwork, Capt. Miller closed upon the left, and Capt. Rathbone came in upon the right, his men crying “Zouave!” – the main column moving up the road in double-quick – until they were brought to a temporary halt by onstructions placed in the road by the enemy. The rebels, terrified by the strange bravery and almost wild enthusiasm that were exhibited by each advancing column, ran in confusion, leaving their dead, wounded, clothing, guns, horses, &c., making their escape by Capt. Rathbone’s right, his company being too far up the mountain to cut off their retreat. Capt. West, commanding Company F, was detailed to scour the mountain on the west, on the left of the road. Capt. O. P. Evans on the west side of the mountain, on the right side of the road. Capt. Herman Evans, commanding Company H, on the east side of the mountain, on the left of the road. Each of these companies moved with dispatch, yet such was the knowledge of the rebels of the by-paths in the mountains, and belonging to the “F. F. V.’s”, and having been drilled at running all summer, that but two were captured. Among interesting objects captured was a genuine secession flag, captured by Lieut. Brown. The perception of Col. Piatt in planning the battle, and his coolness during its execution, show him to be worthy of the high and responsible position to which he has been called. Lieut.-Col. Toland, from the part he executed during the entire engagement, demonstrated fully that he has courage to fight and ability to command. During the engagement the peculiar whistling of Minie balls was heard at that part of the column where Cols. Piatt and Toland were commanding. There were found two Mississippi rifles, which were aimed at our worthy commanders; but our colonels were protected, while Col. Davis of North Carolina fell, engaged in sustaining an unholy rebellion.
The enemy’s loss was thirty killed and fifty wounded.
We regret to know that four of our men were killed and eight wounded. They killed are as follows: George Robinson, Company A; home Ameilia, Clermont County, Ohio, Joseph Harvey, Company H; Cincinnati, O., Jeremiah Hullinger, Allen County, O., and Jefferson Black, Circleville, Auglaize County, Ohio; both of Company I.
Seriously wounded: John Essex, Isaac Z. Bryant, Henry A. Massey.
Slightly: Second Lieut. R. B. Underwood, B. A. Harper, J. G. Young, Jacob Genagi, Henry W. Price, and G. R. Wait.
We hope every report from the Thirty-fourth Ohio, Piatt Zouaves, may be better, until rebellion shall be crushed and peace and harmony restored.
The Fight Of The Piatt Zouaves.
The following letter is exclusively devoted to the fight which the Piatt Zouaves had with the rebels near Chapmansville, Va.
Camp Enyart, Kanawha, Oct. 2.
Eds. Com.: The Zouave Thirty-fourth regiment, Ohio, have had a chance to show their metal. This was on Wednesday, on Kanawha Gap, near Chapmansville, Va. After marching forty-two miles, they came upon the enemy, who were behind breastworks, but could not stand our boys’ steady fire, for they retreated in utter consternation, their Col. J. W. Davis, of Greenbrier, Va., (but the traitor is a native of Portsmouth, Ohio,) being mortally wounded. We killed twenty, took three prisoners, a secesh flag twenty feet long, with FIFTEEN STARS, four horses, one wagon, ten rifles, (one of which I claim,) twelve muskets, and commissary stores, (very low.) We lost three killed, nine wounded; one since died. The rout of the enemy was complete, although they had a brave and a skilful commander, and strong position, with two days’ information of our intentions. They fled the moment their commander fell. The fight lasted about ten minutes opposite the breastworks, but a running fire was kept up previous to that, by the Bushwhackers and rebel cavalry for two hours. At every turn of the road over the mountains, they would fire upon our advance men, wheel round, and gallop away. This kind of fight was kept up till we came suddenly upon their breastwork, immediately in line of our entire column. It was made on the side of a knoll, between two mountain sides, the road running between the mountain and knoll on our right, and a small ravine running between the knoll and the mountain on our left. The wily rebel commander had adroitly cut down the brush on the right, placing a force of one hundred men on the mountain top on our right, who raked our column from the front to the centre. This was to draw our attention from their breastworks. Our men naturally fired upon the rebels on their right, steadily advancing up the road, until within twenty feet of the enemy’s works, when the rebels suddenly opened fire from their right, left, and centre. The order from Col. Piatt and Lieut.-Col. Toland, to flank right and left, was immediately responded to by the Zouaves with a hurrah, a Zouave yell, and a cry of “wood up” from Little Red; a dash by our boys upon the enemy’s right, left, and centre; a fire from the enemy’s breastworks, above which about three hundred rebel heads suddenly appeared, unknown by our men till that moment. They sent a perfect storm of bullets, over, under, and into our men. A few minutes more and our boys were inside the breastworks, chasing them over the mountains, the enemy running away like cowards as they proved to be. They left twenty-nine dead behind. Their force was four hundred and fifty infantry, and fifty cavalry. Our force was five hundred and sixty, composed of Co. A, Capt. Rathbone; Co. B, Capt. O. P. Evans; Co. C, Capt. Miller; Co. F, Capt. S. West; Co. I, Capt. Anderson; Co. H, Capt. H. E. Evans. We buried our three brave dead comrades that night, carried our wounded to the house wherein the rebel colonel lay mortally wounded, desserted by all his men but one. Our whole column finally marched into the little town of Chapmansville, formerly head-quarters of the enemy, and camped for the night.
In my next I may describe our homeward march – or, I should perhaps say homeward swim, for we were in the water two days and two nights, and only half a cracker to each man was given out by our commissary.
Yours, in truth,
Cincinnati Commercial, Oct. 8, 1861.
October 22, 1861
We noticed the fact several weeks since that Col. Jas. W. Davis, of Greenbrier, in command of the militia force, had a fight with the enemy in Logan county, and that he was wounded and taken prisoner. Of this fight, the South Western Times, published in Tazewell county, has the following:
From Samuel Smoot, Esq., of Boone county, who was in the fight, we learn the following account of the battle near Chapmanville, Logan county, on the 25th ult: The Yankees numbered 700, and commenced the attack upon our troops--the Logan militia--in a low gap between Guyandotte river and big Creek, where they were engaged in raising a temporary breastwork.--Our troops numbered 220, but there were only about 80 of them engaged in the fight. They were commanded by Col. J. W. Davis of Greenbrier, a brave and gallant officer, who was severely, but not dangerously wounded, in the arm and breast. As soon as it became known that Col. Davis was wounded the militia commenced a retreat. The commanding officer of the Lincoln troops afterwards confessed to Col. Davis, who was taken prisoner, that at the same moment a portion of the Yankees were running, and that one more round would have completely dispersed them.
The loss of the Yankees by their own confession to Col. Davis, was forty killed and a number wounded, among the former were four Union men, all of whom are represented by the Yankees to be most arrant thieves and cowards.--Our loss was two killed and three or four slightly wounded, besides Col. Davis, whose valuable services are at present lost to the Confederacy, being paroled by the enemy.
October 18, 1861
From Capt. Shaw’s Company – The following letter was written by Charles A. Stough, a member of Capt. Shaw’s Company:
Camp Piatt, Oct. 7th, 1861.
Messrs. Editors: Sirs: At the request of one of my officers, I give you a poor and disconnected account of the first tramp and fight which the Zouaves had. If you think them worthy of a place in your paper you may publish it, or take extracts and publish them for the benefit of your numerous readers.
On the twenty-third of September, six of our Zouave Companies, and two of the Companies out of the first Kentucky Regiment left Camp Enyart for to clean out some rebels, who, we were informed, had encamped near Platona, a place about fifteen miles from our Camp. After marching four or five miles, our number was increased by an addition of four Companies of Home Guards, making our number about one thousand strong. We marched to Platona without finding any rebels; here we encamped for the night. The next morning the Kentucky boys and the Home Guards started off for Raleigh, while the Zouaves started for Boone, a place which the Kentucky boys burnt some time ago. In the evening about five o’clock, we arrived there. All that could be seen was the smoky walls of what was at one time a pretty village. We went on about a mile farther, and encamped for the night.
On the morning of the 25th, we started off for Chapamnsville about thirteen miles from Boone. After crossing the mountain, with another right in front of us, we halted to rest, but had hardly seated ourselves comfortably, when we were aroused from our thoughts of home, and the loved ones that are there by the sharp report of twenty pieces fired at our scouts, by rebel cavalry, who, as soon as they fired, retreated up the mountain. We jumped to our feet, got into our places right faced, and were off on the double quick, in less time than it takes to write it. Every few minutes the fire was repeated, and so on for the distance of three miles, when they commenced firing on us from different parts of the hill. We kept on until the fire became so hot that the Colonel ordered skirmishers out on the right, when we again moved on up the hill, until we came up to what is called the Kanawa Gap. Right above this place they had erected an ambush breastwork upon which they could sweep the road for one hundred yards. They had placed their Cavalry on the road to draw us into this place, where they supposed they could whip us and cut us up at will; but before entering this place, more skirmishers were thrown out, and we advanced without knowing any thing about their designs and before we were aware of it, they poured in a volley, which made the very mountains tremble, but not so with the Zouaves – they were as firm as the rock of Gibraltar. We returned their fire, when the command was given to charge bayonets, which was done with a wild and a hearty “Zouave.” We carried their breastworks at the point of the bayonet, at which they retreated, not being able to withstand our old muskets and rusty bayonets. Off they went, as though Satan, with all the imps of the infernal regions, was after them. We scoured the woods and hills all around us, and then returned to the road where we had the pleasure of seeing a flag of truce, which was taken to the Colonel with the bearer, who also stated that the rebels had retreated to Logan, (which is some twelve miles from Chapmansville.) Col. Davis was wounded and delivered himself up as a prisoner of war, and requested medical aid. The Colonel then despatched a Lieutenant to take possession of the place, while he got the column in order to follow after, and take up quarters for the night at Chapmansville. We have since heard that Col. Davis has died of his wounds.
Our loss in the fight, is four killed and nine wounded. There is but one out of our Company who was hurt in the engagement: it is I. Bryant, whose arm was so fractured by a ball, that it had to be amputated. And being unable to be moved, we were compelled to leave him behind in care of a “secesh” doctor, who took the oath of allegiance to the Union, and also said he would see Braynt well, and on his way home as soon as his arm was well enough for him to travel.
Their loss is estimated at thirty killed, and a large number wounded. This is the report of some of their own men.
In a conversation which our Colonel had with Col. Davis, he (Col. Davis) stated that he never expected to see the bravery displayed by Northern troops, which the Zouaves showed them in the fight, and that if his men had half the courage, he would have defeated him. He says his force was only two hundred and fifty men, but the citizens and the muster rolls of the Regiment show over six hundred men. While our force all told was between five and six hundred.
We remained in Chapmansville that night and the following day. About four o’clock it commenced raining, and at two o’clock we were called out to start for home on account of being out of provisions. We started amid rain and mud, and marched all day without a mouthful to eat, until four o’clock in the afternoon, by which time we were at Cole River, and could not ford it, as it had been swollen so by the rain, which still came beating down, as though the very heavens were open, making our prospects very good for remaining at this place for two or three days. Piatt was at the head of the column, when it arrived at the above place, and by the time that I got up, he was holding an ear of corn over a sickly fire, roasting it for his supper, and most of the men did not even have that much., Several of the boys and myself went into a field, and brought out a lot of pumpkins, which we held up over the fire, in slices, of which we poor, half famished boys made a meal, and I acknowledge, we relished it.
Here we lay until Sunday, the 29th, when we commenced crossing the river in a very fantastic manner. We took off our Zouaves, put them on our heads, and into the river we jumped. The water was so cold that several of the boys took the cramp before they got across.
About noon we started of[f] for Camp Enyart, in better spirits than could be expected. We marched all day without anything to eat and about five o’clock we came to Platoona, but here as elsewhere, we could not get anything to eat. We went to bed without supper, or rather lay down on the hard ground, and slept till morning, without being disturbed by the “secesh.”
On Monday, we left Platoona, expecting to make Camp by six o’clock in the evening, but in this we were disappointed, for the recent flood had torn up the roads in some places in such a manner as to make them almost impassable for our teams. When within about six miles of our Camp, we met a wagon load of provisions which had been sent out for our relief. When the boys found out that the provisions were for them, they gave one of the heartiest “Zouaves” that hungry mortals ever gave before. The next day we made Camp Enyart, to find it had been overflowed by the great Kanawa, which had been forty feet above the low water mark. Our tents were in the mud, which made the Camp a place which was not very inviting to boys who had been wading in the mud and water over thirty hours. We remained here that day, and the next evening we removed our Camp to this place.
Let me say to our friends at home that Col. Piatt is as brave a man as there is in the service. Our Company officers are also the right sort, but who of the 34th is not. I do not believe there is a man in the Regiment, who would not suffer death, rather than flinch from his duty.
Our earnest desire is, that this war which the Southern fanatics have inaugurated, will not end until the Stars and Stripes float over the whole South, as free and unsullied as in days gone by. Then let our friends at home remember those who are fighting for the Union, the Constitution, and the Laws of our common country. Respectfully yours,
C. A. S.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: September 1861