Frank Moore, ed. Vol. 4. New York: G. P. Putnam, 1863, 14-17
The Fight At Hancock, Va.
A correspondent gives the following account of this affair:
Hancock, Jan. 10.
So many “reliable reports,” which have had not the shadow of foundation, have been sent your paper, that, for the sake for truth and justice, we purpose giving you something from the “seat of war.” The Fifth Connecticut regiment, which had been camping within a mile of Hancock, were ordered back to Frederick, and marched from here on New-Year’s day. On the 3d inst., the Massachusetts Thirteenth regiment – Companies A and B from Hancock, Company E from Sir John’s Run, six miles above, and Company H at Little Orleans, sixteen miles west – were ordered back to Williamsport. This left the Thirty-ninth Illinois stationed thus: Three companies at Alpine Depot, opposite Hancock; two companies at Bath, six miles south; two companies at Sir John’s Run, three miles from Bath, and two companies at Little Cacapon, (or Little Orleans, the writer does not know which.) In addition to these, there were at Bath the first section of Best’s Artillery, Lieutenant Muhlenberg commanding, and Company A of First regiment Home Brigade, at Little Cacapon Bridge, on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. The withdrawal of the Fifth Connecticut and the four companies of the Massachusetts Thirteenth was duly noted by the rebel scouts, and gave such excellent opportunity for them to again break up the railroad, that they could not resist the invitation. Accordingly, on Saturday, 4th, they came in force toward Bath. Major Mann, of the Thirty-ninth Illinois, and forty men were on a scout several miles below Bath, toward Winchester, and discovered the advance guard just in time to save most of his men. Their retreat was partly cut off, eight men were captured by the rebels, one killed, and the rest, with their Major, made good their retreat to Bath.
The guns were already fixed on a hill commanding the numerous roads centring in Bath, and began a good work as soon as the rebels came in view, holding them in check until reinforcements were sent for to Sir John’s Run, at which point the Thirteenth Indiana regiment had just arrived, (one P.M.)
News came to Hancock, to the Eighty-fourth Pennsylvania regiment, which had arrived the day previous, a few hours after the Thirteenth Massachusetts left. They were unarmed when they came, and the last arms had just been given them when the order to march was given.
I omitted to mention that Lieutenant Stewart, with forty men, was sent from Hancock, from Captain Patterson’s company of Cavalry, First Virginia regiment, on Saturday morning, to Bath. It was this part of a company which bore the several messages.
Colonel Murray, with the Eighty-fourth Pennsylvania, hastened over the river to the rescue of the Thirty-ninth Illinois. But, unfortunately, the new, greasy guns were unfit for use – not one in five would fire. For this or some other reason, the Colonel, who took precedence in command at once ordered the cannon off the hills into the road leading to Hancock. It is reported he did not inform the companies of the Thirty-ninth Illinois of his intention to retreat further; consequently, when ordered to fall back, they left their camp-equipage, stores, and all they had, in the hands of the rebels.
The whole force then fell back to the road leading to Sir John’s Run. Here the Thirteenth Indiana and Captain Kenssel’s company of Cavalry, First Virginia Regiment, met them. The retreat was, however, kept up, the cannon keeping the rebels at bay. In the mean time Lieut. Stewart returned to Bath, not knowing of the retreat until he found himself confronted by the whole column of rebels, part of whom fired, killing three horses. Two of the men took to the woods, one mounted a rebel’s horse which had been captured and escaped, one of the two afterward returned to Hancock, the other is doubtless a prisoner among the rebels, making nine in all, and two killed; one more was drowned in crossing the river, as several companies of the Thirty-ninth had to wade it. The rest returned in safety to Hancock. The rebels have lost in all at least twenty killed, but nothing certain is known. The presence of the rebels on the hills opposite was heralded by the firing of two shells at the Protestant Episcopal Church, which was at the time occupied by a small worshiping congregation, and being lighted made it quite a prominent object. After quiet was somewhat restored, Captain Patterson, in order to learn their further intentions, gave them, by order, a few shells. This caused them to fire upon the town at least twelve or fifteen shells, showing their malicious spirit. The guns from the Federal side were back of the town, near the Protestant Episcopal Church, but the range of their guns was upon the town itself. This, of course, produced the utmost consternation among the women and children. Fortunately “nobody was hurt.” The cannonading continued for an hour, and was a beautiful sight indeed. The whole town was quickly illuminated by the burning of a barn on the Virginia side, belonging to the notorious rebel, Johnston Orrick, a member of the rebel Virginia Convention, elected a Union man, but turned a traitor.
The object of the rebels soon became apparent by the burning of railroad ties and the tearing up of the railroad. But, strange to say, they did not destroy the regimental stores of the Thirty-ninth Illinois, stored at Alpine Depot, nor did they remove them, though completely in their power. They perpetrated a shameless act of vandalism on Monday night by plundering the house of a Union man, Mr. Henry, at Alpine Depot, and then burning it to the ground. However, as an offset to this, they consumed with it the store-building of those notorious rebels of Hancock – Bridges & Henderson, who have given the loyal citizens of that place, as they say, more trouble than any enemies on either side of the river.
But I anticipate. On Sunday morning a flag of truce was brought over from the rebels to Gen. Lander, who had arrived a few hours previous, coolly demanding the surrender of the town, or its bombardment in an hour. Orders were given inhabitants to leave, which was quickly obeyed, and at 12 M. the Federal guns, three in number, opened on the five planted on the hill opposite. Several rebels are known to be killed by ours, but theirs did no damage whatever, and did not seem to be aimed at the town. They withdrew on Tuesday. We have no fears of their return to Hancock.
The rebels have done but little damage. The bridge at Little Cacapon was only partially destroyed, and may be repaired in a day. They were repulsed at all points above that. Their attack seems to have been all along the line, but by no means a successful one. If we had but the generals to lead us, and the quartermasters to provide us regular food, we could drive them out of the Valley of Virginia. They will not stand and fight at any other point than Manassas, and are not prepared to hold Winchester. Why can we not go after them as readily as they can after us?
REBEL ACCOUNT OF THE BATTLE.
Camp “Nary Camp,” near Ungoe’s Store,
Morgan County, Va., Jan. 10, 1862.
General Jackson’s command is now stationed in the woods around and about here, and as there has been no name given to the encampment, I have christened it “Nary Camp,” for we are in the wilderness, each regiment choosing the best ground it could, and no regularity has been observed in laying off the encampment.
This command left Winchester on the first day of January, and proceeded on the Romney road a short distance, when it filed to the right and marched towards Morgan County. The weather the first day was pleasant, but dusty; the second day was very cold, and as the road was a very bad one, our wagons were unable to keep up with the troops, and the men had to lie out on the ground, without covering and without any thing to eat. On the morning of the third day the wagons caught up, and the force was allowed a short time to cook and eat, and then again they proceeded on the march, the weather being very cold and the troops suffering much.
After passing another night with little rest we again proceeded on our journey, the weather being now intensely cold, and to add to our sufferings, it commenced snowing rapidly about the middle of the day. The troops, however, continued on until within about four miles of Bath, a small village, when our advance, consisting of Colonel Gilham’s brigade, came upon a scouting party of the enemy, which fired into them, and which was promptly returned by Company F, of Richmond, and Company B, of Baltimore, putting the Yankees to rout. Lieutenant Payne, of Company F, was seriously wounded in the leg, which had to be amputated, and which, I regret to say, has since caused his death. Our army now encamped for the night, and such a night I never desire to witness again. The snow, rain, and hail fell the whole night, and we had again to endure it without blankets or covering of any kind; but the men were so fatigued nature could hold out no longer, and down they would drop on the wet ground, and sleep as well as they could, having made large fires. They roads were now almost impassable, in consequence of the sleet and ice, and the horses with difficulty kept their feet. It was late Saturday morning before the wagons could reach us, when another opportunity was given the men to cook and eat something.
Another start was made on Saturday morning, and in a short time afterwards the sound of cannon announced our approach to Bath, where a force of the enemy had taken up winter quarters. As we advanced on them, they continued firing on us, doing no damage, however. A portion of our force was deployed to the left, for the purpose of charging their batteries, which the enemy no sooner saw than they spiked their two batteries, and ran helter skelter through the town and down the road to the Maryland shore, a distance of six miles, a portion of Ashby’s cavalry in hot pursuit, and the infantry and artillery following rapidly after; but so swift-footed were their movements that our cavalry did not reach them until they got to the banks of the Potomac, where they had got in ambush, and as our cavalry advanced, they fired a volley into them, wounded three of those gallant men seriously, a lieutenant having received shots in both arms and in the breast.
The cavalry then fell back to the main body, and a piece of artillery was ordered forward, and taking its position, it shelled the woods with grape and canister. It was now late in the night, and the whole force was ordered back a short distance, with the exception of the Twenty-third Virginia, Lieutenant-Colonel A. G. Taliaferro, a battery, who were ordered to remain as a picket-guard; and there they remained standing in the road, with no fires, and so intensely cold that numbers fell in their places and had to be borne to the rear. The soles of the shoes actually froze to the ground, and the suffering of the men was awful to witness; but still there was little complaint, and all were eager to meet the enemy who were so close to us.
Sunday morning, about daybreak, found the Potomac river and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad directly in front of us, half a mile distant, with the pretty little town of Hancock on the opposite shore, in Maryland, where the enemy, in considerable force were quartered. General Jackson, early in the morning, sent a flag of truce by Colonel Ashby, to the authorities of the town, notifying the inhabitants to vacate the place, as he intended to bombard it, and gave them two hours to do so. Our batteries were then placed in position, the remainder of the force being still in the rear, excepting the Twenty-third and First Georgia, who still remained within range of the enemy’s guns.
At the expiration of the time allowed, our batteries opened on the enemy’s batteries, which they faintly replied to, their shots falling short. Our guns kept up a brisk fire for about an hour, and the firing then ceased on both sides for the day. Not a man hurt on our side; on that of the enemy we were unable to tell. For reasons known to himself, General Jackson concluded not to burn the town, and did not fire a shell into it for that purpose.
Monday morning the enemy commenced the ball, and having no doubt been reinforced during the night, their shot and shell fell thick and fast all around us, without, however, doing any damage, saving wounding severely a Tennessean in the face and head. Our pieces did not reply at all to their firing; but a large number of the troops were busily engaged in carrying off from the enemy’s Commissary Department, which was on this side of the Potomac, large quantities of army stores, clothing, shoes, etc., which was done with considerable exposure, as the house was in range of the Yankees’ muskets, and occasionally they would fire shells at the buildings.
While this was going on in the main road, Rust’s Third Arkansas, Fulkerson’s Thirty-seventh, and Marye’s Hampden battery were ordered at Bath to take a road to the left of the main body, and proceed in that way to the Potomac and burn the Capon bridge and tear up some of the railroad track. In marching down they were ambuscaded by the enemy, but the two regiments nobly stood their ground, and the gallant Thirty-seventh charged them at the point of the bayonet, which, of course, the enemy could not stand, as they are decidedly opposed to cold steel. Our regiments then proceeded to perform their work – the destruction of the bridge – in the execution of which they were at first annoyed by the enemy’s long-range guns, until Marye sent them howling away by a few well-directed charges of grape and shell. They succeeded in burning the bridge, tearing up some of the railroad, and then returned to the main body on Monday. They lost in the engagement two men in each regiment, and several wounded. Colonels Rust, Fulkerson, and Carson, and Majors Manning and Williams, were in the thickest of the fight, and nobly led their men on; but their gallant men did not need much enticing to engage their hated foe. I regret to say that Captain Alexander, of Company I, Third Arkansas, lost an arm in this engagement. Both of these regiments belong to Colonel Wm. B. Taliaferro’s Fourth brigade, and the other two – Twenty-third and First Georgia – were on picket-duty from Saturday night till Tuesday morning, when our army proceeded to return, having accomplished its object.
The results of this expedition, as far as I am able to sum up, is as follows: The capture of thirty or forty prisoners, the driving of the enemy from this part of Virginia’s soil, the capture of a number of guns, overcoats, clothing, shoes, four wagon-loads of fine dressed leather, and a number of other articles, the destruction of a fine bridge and a portion of the railroad track.
The sufferings of the troops have been intense, and several have died from exposure to the cold and inclement weather. There are large numbers now sick, and one brigade reports five hundred and thirty-two on the sick-list.
We reached our present encampment Wednesday night, and are now waiting further orders. Where we are going next and what we are to do, deponent knoweth not.
Brigadier-General Loring met with an accident yesterday, by his horse slipping upon the ice. He was badly bruised, but I am pleased to say that his injuries are slight.
Marye’s battery, Company F, and the Sharpshooters, from your city, are with this army. The men are in tolerable health, I believe, and have behaved well. Colonel John M. Patton, Jr., is also with us, and in good health.
Series 1, Volume 5, pp. 400-402
Report of Capt. Samuel S. Linton, Thirty-ninth Illinois Infantry, of skirmish near Bath, W. Va.
HDQRS. CO. D, THIRTY-NINTH REG’T ILL. VOLS.,
January 8, 1862.
SIR: In accordance with your orders I make the following report of the doings of my company on Friday and Saturday of last week:
On Friday morning [3d instant] we were occupying the same position at Bath, Morgan County, Virginia, that we had held since our first entry into that place on December 22 last. During the day indefinite reports had reached us to the effect that the enemy in force were marching upon the place.
About 3 p.m. I was ordered by Maj. O. L. Mann, commanding, to divide my company into several squads and scout in the direction of the enemy until I had ascertained with some degree of accuracy their position and strength. I immediately dispatched Lieutenant Towner, with 10 men, up on the west side of Warm Springs Mountain, that he might discover any attempt of the rebels to get in our rear, and with the remainder proceeded up the center of Bath Valley along the Winchester grade. The reports throughout the day had all indicated that they were approaching us by way of this road. We had marched but 1½ miles from town when we came suddenly upon their advance guard, consisting of 8 mounted men. They fled without returning our fire. I at once detached Lieutenant Linton to the right and Sergeant Snowden to the left, each with 5 men, to discover any ambuscade and guard against my being suddenly flanked by the enemy, while I continued up the grade. After getting beyond our range some distance the enemy’s guard that we had put to flight halted and fired three signal shots. Just at that time Maj. O. L. Mann, accompanied by Lieutenant Belcher and 6 cavalrymen, of Captain Russell’s company, came up and passed my men on the road and ordered them to follow close upon their heels, which order they obeyed, thus leaving my flanks entirely in the rear. The road just there making a turn to the right, Lieutenant Linton took advantage of it to go in his proper position, while Sergeant Snowden and his squad were thrown still farther in the rear. After passing this turn in the road a short distance a large party of the enemy’s infantry, with scattering horsemen on their right and left, showed themselves in the edge of a small piece of timber, but about 150 yards in our advance, and opened fire upon us. The lieutenant’s squad and mine immediately took cover behind a fence that ran from the grade up over a bare hill on the right (the only available shelter), along which we deployed, and opened fire upon them so briskly that they were obliged to retire full 100 yards into the timber. As we fired we gradually worked our way towards the summit of the hill. While behind this fence the enemy’s balls rattled against it like hail, still not one of my men exhibited the least symptom of fear or excitement, but loaded their pieces with promptness and fired as coolly as though practicing at a target. By thus keeping up a steady and well-directed fire we forced the enemy to remain in the woods until we had reached the summit of the hill.
By this time Sergeant Snowden and his squad, who had been laboriously making their way along the left side of the road suddenly came upon a battalion of the enemy that lay concealed in a ravine to our rear, and drew the fire of every one of them. By falling flat upon the ground he and his men escaped uninjured. This volley discovered to us that our direct retreat was cut off. The cavalry party of our side made good their escape when the firing first commenced. We continued the firing from the summit of the hill until we had collected all of our men that were engaged along the fence, and then retreated towards Warm Springs Mountain, which we reached without difficulty, and by mountain paths made our way to Bath, where we arrived about 12 o’clock at night without further adventure. Sergeant Snowden became entirely surrounded, and only escaped by taking advantage of the darkness of the night to pass close by the enemy and being mistaken by them for a party of their own men. Lieutenant Towner, with his squad, proceeded up the west side of Warm Springs Mountain, and when 2 miles from town came in collision with a large party of the enemy’s infantry, apparently a whole regiment. He and his men exchanged a few shots with them and then retired. He reached town about 11 p m.
I have no means of knowing the number of the enemy that were killed and wounded in these skirmishes, but have reasons for believing that it was quite large.
After refreshing my men with three hours’ rest and their supper, I took position, in accordance with an order from the commanding officer, on the summit of Warm Springs Mountain, where we remained until ordered to march with the other forces to Sir John’s Run. We then crossed the river in boats and marched to Hancock, where we arrived about 9 o’clock of Saturday evening without incident. My company is now posted in the east end of this town, as by you ordered.
During the skirmish of Friday afternoon and night I had 3 men slightly wounded, lost 8 as prisoners to the enemy, and 1 that I cannot satisfactorily account for, though I have good reasons for believing that he has neither been killed nor taken prisoner.
The order for our march from Warm Springs Mountain to Sir Johns Run and thence to Hancock forced us to desert one of our men, named Clark Spinnings, who was too sick in bed at Bath to be moved. We have since learned that the rebels placed a guard over his room and forbid his being disturbed; also that a rebel physician, more solicitous than ever our own surgeons had been for his welfare, visited and prescribed for him without compulsion. Any assistance that you may render in securing the return of the above members of my company to their comrades by way of exchange or otherwise will cause you to be ever remembered with the warmest feelings of gratitude by all the members of my command.
Your obedient servant,
SAMUEL S. LINTON,
Captain Company D, Thirty-ninth Regiment Illinois Volunteers.
Lieut. Col. T. O. OSBORN.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: January 1862