January 8, 1862
Rout of the Rebels from Blue's Gap!
Fifteen Rebels Killed and Twenty Prisoners Taken.
Lieut. Col. John G. Kelley, who is now in the city, yesterday received the following dispatch from the Colonel of his regiment:
Romney, Jan. 7.
We have routed the enemy from Blue's Gap, killing seven. James Evens,
Col. 7th Virginia Regiment.
Cumberland, Jan. 7.
Eds. Intelligencer: A detachment of Col. Kelley's forces, commanded by Col. Dunning, of the 5th Ohio regiment, left Romney last night at 12 o'clock, and attacked the rebels two thousand strong at Blue's Gap, east of Romney, at daylight this day. The rebels were completely routed, with a loss of fifteen killed, two pieces of cannon, their wagons, tents, &c., with twenty prisoners, including one commissioned officer. Our loss--none.
It is rumored here this P. M. that the rebels are in full retreat from Hancock.
I. M. Pumphrey.
[Blue's Gap is fifteen miles from Romney, on the Winchester road at the North river, and has been the advance post of the rebels for two months. It is a gorge in the mountains of great natural strength as a military position.]
January 20, 1862
From a letter in the Wheeling (Va.) Press, dated Romney, January 3d, we extract the following:
Night before last we were informed that we would move on Blue's Gap during the night. Our information of the country and of the force of the enemy was meagre and uncertain At about midnight the regiments began to master and form, and by half-past 12 the column was in motion. The night was excessively cold, and we suffered not a little from that cause.
About half-past 7 o'clock we arrived at a height from which we could see the gap and the bridge. Col. Danning, who commanded the expedition, seeing an attempt being made to burn the bridge, ordered the Frith Ohio regiment to advance at double quick. This was done with a shout, and in a few minutes they were on a bank within two hundred yards of the bridge, pouring in bullets at such a rate that the attempt to burn and tear up the floor were both abandoned.
Col. Dunning then ordered his men [ men ] to charge on the bridge and over it, and compelling a negro woman at Blue's house to show him the road up to the left. He fed the Fifth Ohio rapidly into the mountain, to which the rebels had fled. There a sharp engagement ensued; whole voifeys of musketry were heard, and it was soon discovered that the rebels were firing from behind a breastwork on the top of the mountain. As soon as Col. Dunning discovered this he ordered his men to fix bayonets and charge.--While this was being done the rebels left in haste for their camp, at the foot of the mountain and back of the Gap.
While the above action was going on Col. Mason charged up the mountain to the right with the Fourth Ohio, and drove the rebels from the rocks on that side. Some sharp firing occurred in that direction. In the meantime, but when the firing had nearly ceased on the mountains, the Eighth Ohio led the way down the Gap, followed by the First Virginia, Seventh Ohio and the Fourth Indiana.
Colonel Dunning having passed on and taken the two pieces of artillery, with their caissons and horses also a wagon and horses, with the Ohio regiment returned and ordered the cavalry to charge. His orders were obeyed with promptness, but the rebels had taken to the mountains. The artillery could not be used, and not a shot was fired from cannon on either side during the action. The rebels were surprised, and it was a complete rout. We found eight dead bodies on the field, or rather amongst the rocks; there may have been more, but they were not reported, and, singular as it may appear, not a man of ours received even a scratch from a bullet. I can account for this only upon the ground that our guns were some of the best in the world, while theirs were probably inferior arms.--The whole thing was a brilliant affair, and was over in half an hour after the action commenced on the mountain.
Our force consisted of detachments of the 4th, 5th, 7th and 8th Ohio; the 14th Indiana and the 1st Virginia, together with two companies of cavalry and Daum's battery, with a section of Howard's battery — in all about two thousand five hundred men. Our information led us to expect about two thousand rebels, but the citizens and negroes agreed in stating their force at eight hundred. All went on well until some crazy soldiers, encouraged by some of the officers, commenced burning houses, and I am sorry to say that several houses, were burned along the road as they returned. The milland Blue's house, which were used for soldiers' quarters, were burned, perhaps properly, as they constituted a shelter, and might have been used again for a nest of bush whackers; but the burning of dwellings along the road was a piece of vandalism which should be punished with death, not only of the men who did it, but the officers who countenanced and encouraged it.
January 21, 1862
The affair at Hanging Rock.
Exaggerated and false rumors having gone abroad with respect to the retreat of our forces from Hanging Rock, in Hampshire county, Va., we copy from the Rockingham Register, of the 17th inst., the following statement of facts, obtained from a reliable gentleman who was present at the time:
Our forces fit for service, all told, did not, amount to over 300. They consisted of a skeleton of one troop of cavalry--Captain Sheets's — a part of Col. Monroe's brigade of Hampshire militia, Capt. Sibert's 8th Star Artillery, from New Market, (two guns,) and a part of Col. Mann Spittler's regiment of Page, Shenandoah, and Rockingham militia, under Lt.-Col. Buswell--these whole forces forming Col. Monroe's brigade, and amounting in all, as before stated, to not over 300 effective men.
The enemy, amounting to at least 7,000 men, on Tuesday, the 7th inst., came upon this small band of soldiers, guarding this mountain pass, between daylight and sunrise, driving in our pickets, filling the road in front, and flanking our forces on both sides of the gap.
Our soldiers opposed their overwhelming onset by a few well-directed shots, when it was deemed best to "retire," which our men did in as good order as possible under the circumstances. The enemy mortally wounded the gallant Capt. Aleshire, of Page, (who has since died,) killed outright Thomas Lloyd, of Shenandoah, and shot down at his gun and post of duty a brave-hearted Irishman belonging to the gallant 8th Star Artillery. One others man, a member of Capt. Hiram Kite's company, from Rockingham, received a slight flesh wound. These are all the casualties we suffered. Two of our men — Jona- than Whistler and Manoma J. Sluss, both residing near Mount Crawford — were taken prisoners, and are in the hands of the enemy. They were members of Capt. Samuel H. Wise's company.
The principal part of the clothing, bedding, &c., &c., belonging to Capts. Wise, Kite, and Aleshire, was captured by the enemy, and burnt, according to their manner of disposing of what they cannot steal and carry off with them. They captured the two guns belonging to the 8th Star Artillery, and a good many small arms, all of which, with the exception of "the big guns," they destroyed.
Our informant, who lost all the clothing he had, says the Yankees acted in a most cowardly and sneaking manner, notwithstanding their perfectly overwhelming forces. He says, also, that it was generally believed that some spy or traitor had communicated to the enemy intelligence of our numbers, situation, &c., at Hanging Rock. In support of this theory, he says that neither of our large guns could be got off, notwithstanding the gunners and drillmaster did their utmost to fire them. The enemy immediately beat a retreat, after firing Col. Blue's buildings, a church, &c.
Frank Moore, ed. Vol. 4. New York: G. P. Putnam, 1863, pp. 6, 21
January 7. A detachment of General Kelly’s forces, commanded by Colonel Dunning, Fifth Ohio, left Romney last night at twelve o’clock, and attacked the rebels, two thousand strong, at Blue’s Gap, Va., east of Romney, at daylight this morning. The rebels were completely routed, with a loss of fifteen killed, two pieces of cannon, their wagons, tents, etc., with twenty prisoners, including one commissioned officer. (Doc. 8)
The Battle of Blue’s Gap, Va.
The Wheeling Press published the following letter from Romney, giving the details of the expedition by a portion of General Kelley’s troops against the rebels at Blue’s Gap:
Romney, Va., January 8, 1862.
Night before last we were informed that we would move on Blue’s Gap during the night. Our information of the country and of the force of the enemy was meager and uncertain. At about midnight the regiments began to muster and form, and by half-past twelve the column was in motion. The night was excessively cold, and we suffered not a little from that cause.
About half-past seven o’clock we arrived at a height from which we could see the Gap and the bridge. Colonel Dunning, who commanded the expedition, seeing an attempt being made to burn the bridge, ordered the Fifth Ohio regiment to advance at double quick. This was done with a shout, and in a few minutes they were on a bank within two hundred yards of the bridge, pouring in bullets at such a rate that the attempt to burn and tear up the floor was abandoned. Colonel Dunning then ordered his men to charge on the bridge and over it, and compelled a negro woman at Blue’s house to show him the road up to the left.
Colonel Dunning led the Fifth Ohio rapidly into the mountain, to which the rebels had fled. There a sharp engagement ensued; whole volleys of musketry were heard, and it was soon discovered that the rebels were firing from behind a breastwork on the top of the mountain. As soon as Colonel Dunning discovered this, he ordered his men to fix bayonets and charge. While this was being done, the rebels left in haste for their camp at the foot of the mountain and back of the Gap.
While the above action was going on, Colonel Mason charged up the mountain to the right, with the Fourth Ohio, and drove the rebels from the rocks on that side. Some sharp firing occurred in that direction. In the mean time, but when the firing had nearly ceased on the mountains, the Eighth Ohio led the way down the Gap, followed by the First Virginia, Seventh Ohio, and the Fourth Indiana. Col. Dunning having passed on and taken the two pieces of artillery, with their caissons and horses, also a wagon and horses, with the Fifth Ohio regiment, returned and ordered the cavalry to charge. His orders were obeyed with promptness, but the rebels had taken to the mountains. The artillery could not be used, and not a shot was fired from cannon on either side during the action.
The rebels were surprised, and it was a complete rout. We found eight dead bodies on the field, or rather among the rocks; there may have been more, but they were not reported. And, singular as it may appear, not a man of ours received even a scratch from a bullet. I can account for this only upon the ground, that our guns were some of the best in the world, while theirs were probably inferior arms.
The whole thing was a brilliant affair, and was over in a half-hour after the action commenced on the mountain.
Our force consisted of detachments of the Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, and Eighth Ohio, the Fourteenth Indiana, and the First Virginia, together with two companies of cavalry and Daum’s battery, with a section of Howard’s battery – in all, about two thousand five hundred men. Our information led us to expect about two thousand rebels, but the citizens and negroes agreed in stating their force at eight hundred. All went on well, until some crazy soldiers, encouraged by some of the officers, commenced burning houses; and I am sorry to say that several houses were burned along the road as they returned.
The mill and Blue’s house, which were used for soldiers’ quarters, were burned, perhaps properly, as they constituted a shelter, and might have been used again for a nest of bushwhackers, but the burning of dwellings along the road was a piece of vandalism which should be punished with death, not only of the men who did it, but the officers who countenanced and encouraged it.
Another National Account.
From A Private Letter.
Romney, Va., Jan. 9
Fifth Regiment O. V., U.S.A.
You have no doubt learned by telegraph that at last our regiment has been brought in contact with the enemy. Perhaps a more detailed account, and one that you may be assured is honest, may not be uninteresting to you.
On Sunday night, the 5th inst., we were ordered to cook three days’ rations, and hold ourselves in readiness for a movement in light marching orders. The weather was intensely cold, the ground covered with six inches of snow, which a stiff northwester had drifted into heaps along the roads, rendering them almost impassable. Yet with what joy did the boys prepare their rations and discuss the prospects of a fight.
But that night passed and all day of the 6th – my birthday – I was detailed as acting sergeant of the guard nightly placed over the intrenchments on the Winchester road. With a foreboding that I was about to miss and opportunity of joining the gallant Fifth, in action, I walked the two miles of the slippery road, mounted the guard, and after giving the corporals their instructions, wrapped myself in my blanket and was soon asleep. I was awakened by the rumbling of artillery, and jumping up, learned from the boys that a large force was moving toward the enemy.
Taking my gun and blanket, and without saying a word to those I left behind, I joined the Fourteenth Indiana, then passing. Of course, you will say I was wrong in thus “deserting my post,” but you would hesitate to blame me if you could imagine how hard it is for a soldier, young and enthusiastic in the cause, to see his comrades go into action and remain behind.
Our outpost pickets were more than three miles from our intrenchments, and our forces were proceeding against those of whose approach we were ordered to give warning. I may have disobeyed orders, but think that in acting as I did, I followed the spirit of my oath of enlistment. Well, it was one o’clock A.M. on the 7th, when I joined the column. The night was clear and very cold, the stars shining with that sparkling radiance peculiar to winter. The hills and valleys were clothed in a glittering garment of snow, and the whole scene wrapped in winter beauty.
But this snow tended materially to delay our movements. Even where the road was level our feet slipping at every step, making the march, as we afterward discovered, the most severe we had yet undertaken. But the prospect appeared so good for a fight that we hardly felt our limbs gradually flag in their efforts, or our steps more dragging and painful. The column marched in the following order:
First the advance guard one hundred and fifty strong, composed of detachments from companies of the Fifth Ohio, all under command of Captain Symmes of Company C – Rovers. This guard, after we passed the outposts, was flanked by skirmishers, who scoured the hills on both sides of the road. Then came the Ringgold Cavalry, Captain Keyes, about seventy strong; then the Fifth Ohio, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick, six hundred strong; the Fourth Ohio, Colonel Mason, Daum’s Pennsylvania Battery, two pieces of Clark’s Reg. Battery, the Eighth Ohio, Fourteenth Indiana, Seventh Ohio, and First Virginia, the whole force under command of Colonel Dunning of the Fifth Ohio. I had to make my way from the Indiana boys to the Fifth. Being obliged, of course, to use greater speed than the rest, and exerting to the utmost my pedestrian powers, I reached my company before it had passed the pickets at our outpost.
As soon as this point was passed, I was detailed, with others, to take charge of the squads from our company who were skirmishers. You can imagine what work this was – breaking through the tangled undergrowth over the slippery snow. We were ordered back to our company as soon as relived, and managed to remain with the extreme advance. As we approached very house on the road we surrounded it, and extracted from the owner what information we could concerning the pickets and position of the enemy. When we had got about fourteen miles we came upon their pickets, three of whom were cavalry and one infantry. As soon as we came in sight the hors[e]men mounted and galloped off toward the Gap, but Captain Keyes’ men overtook and captured them. The foot-soldier was asleep when his comrades aroused him; he raised his musket, but Captain Keyes, pointing at him his revolver, ordered him to surrender, whereat he dropped his gun in the snow, and gave himself up. It was now broad day. The Gap was distant two miles, and the enemy unaware of our close proximity, and yet, to our surprise and disappointment, no rest was given us. The cavalry was ordered to the rear of the artillery, and Colonel Dunning, in a stentorian voice, ordered: “Forward double-quick!” No sooner did the boys take up the cadence of the step, than they commenced to yell like so many savages. This was unfortunate; for long before we came within good shot, the enemy was aware of our approach, and made their preparations.
About four hundred yards this side of Blue’s Gap, is a bridge crossing a large stream. I was in the advance guard, and on coming to the bridge we saw four or five of the rascals tearing up the planks at the other end.
On seeing us they fled, but we had the ineffable consolation of tumbling them over, as they were running down the road. We replaced the plank, and now rejoined our company by command of Col. Dunning. I will now try to give you a brief description of the position, strength, and character of the enemy at Blue’s Gap. The Gap is formed of two, very high hills, which, as they approach the road, become fearful and towering precipices. The road and stream between these two hills are not more than twenty feet wide. This pass, so strongly fortified by nature, was defended by the two cannon of the enemy. The hill north of the Gap was protected by a rifle-pit, that on the south was undefended, the rebels supposing that human beings could not mount the rocky and almost perpendicular mountain side. Just back of the earthwork, on the north side, the hill descends abruptly to the road beyond; the hill, on the south, has a much more gradual slope. At the upper end of this gap are two roads branching from the main one, leading north to Little Capon, on the railroad, and on the south to Moore[e]field. Col. Dunning ordered the Fifth Ohio to charge the works on the north hill, the Fourth to go over the mountain on the south, and the Seventh to push along the road, as soon as we had well opened the action.
The Fifth mounted the hill with alacrity, but so difficult was the ascent that long before the brow of the hill was passed, and we came under fire, all order was at an end. I passed ahead of the company, and going among the Company A boys, was among the first to come into range.
There were only about three hundred men in the intrenchments. They fired about five rounds at us before we got to them. The Colonel, with his voice of thunder, as near us as the fallen timber would let him, encouraged us on to the fight. “Go in, now, at last, my bullies; go over their entrenchments!” “Remember Cincinnati!” For a time the bullets whistled over our heads with quite a charming music, but when about twenty yards from the rebels they scattered in every direction over the hills, leaving about twelve killed in the works, and as many prisoners. We who had come up first, rushed down the hill on the other side, and reaching the two cannon as they were about to be limbered up, bayoneted the gunners and secured the pieces and caissons. A few of us ran up the Capon road after the fugitives, but they soon scattered over the hills and disappeared. Two of them, however, fired at us from a house by the road-side, into which we rushed, accompanied by an Irishman from Company A. The rebels tried, in an awkward manner to defend themselves, but we pinned them to the logs of the wall and left them crying: “Oh! Oh!” The Irishman said they would never get any further in their letters!
In the mean time, the Fourth Ohio had gone over these hills like so many wild-cats, and captured thirty-five of the enemy. The other regiments were too far in the rear for the fun. We learned from the prisoners that the rebel force was one thousand eight hundred men, Virginia militia, under Col. Blue.
Of these forty were killed and about the same number captured. I counted thirty dead, and, strange to say, we did not lose a man! We burned Col. Blue’s house, his mill and out-buildings, and many other houses in the vicinity used for quarters. We drove home a large herd of cattle, and hauled away a number of wagon-loads of ammunition and stores. After everything of value was destroyed, the order was given to return home. Although the road was in much better condition than during the night, yet the walking was fatiguing enough. We left the Gap at noon, and reached camp at four P.M., thus making the expedition and march of thirty-two miles in seventeen hours.
All but two regiments have had orders to leave this post for some point on the railroad; we are to remain behind.
Cincinnati Gazette, January 21.
Series 1, Volume 5, pp. 403-405
Report of Brig. Gen. Benjamin F. Kelley, U. S. Army, of skirmish at Hanging Rock Pass, West Virginia.
Cumberland, Md., January 17, 1862.
GENERAL: I herewith inclose[sic] you Colonel Dunning’s report of the expedition to Blues Gap on the 8th [7th] instant.
I am happy to say that the expedition was an entire success. The effect was, as I intended, to divert the attention of General Jackson from Hancock, he supposing that I was moving on Winchester with my whole force, and therefore beat a precipitous retreat from Hancock and fell back on Winchester.
I am happy to say that the troops under my late command evinced on that occasion the same energy and gallantry that have characterized them ever since they have been under my command.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
B. F. KELLEY,
General L. THOMAS,
Adjutant- General U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.
Report of Col. Samuel H. Dunning, Fifth Ohio Infantry, of skirmish at Hanging Rock Pass, W. Va.
ROMNEY, VA., January 9, 1862.
GENERAL: In obedience to your orders by telegraph, received at these headquarters January 7 , directing me to make a detail of six Companies from each of the following regiments: Fifth Ohio, Fourth Ohio, Seventh Ohio, First West Virginia, Fourteenth Indiana, and, by special request of Colonel Carroll, six companies of the Eighth Ohio, with one section of Baker’s Parrott guns, Daum’s battery, the Ringgold Cavalry, the Washington Cavalry, and three companies of the First West Virginia Cavalry. Owing to sickness and large numbers on picket duty, the response was small, and the whole force did not exceed 2,000 men.
The command assembled about 11 p.m., and by 12.30 o’clock the column was in motion for its destination at Blue’s Gap. The fall of snow, with the disagreeable and cold night, rendered it difficult for the troops to march, but by 7 o’clock in the morning we reached a hill within about a mile of the gap. On this hill the Parrott guns were planted, and from it the enemy could be seen preparing to fire the bridge. I then ordered the Fifth Ohio to advance by double-quick. The order was responded to by a shout, and in a few minutes the advance of the regiment was on a bluff near the bridge, and with a few shots compelled the rebel forces to retire from the bridge to the gap. The column was then ordered to advance rapidly on and over the bridge, and the Fifth Ohio was deployed up the mountain to the left and the Fourth Ohio to the right. A sharp action then ensued, first on the left of the gap and then on the right. Our forces pressed on, driving the enemy from the rocks and trees, behind which they had taken position, and to the top of the mountain to the left they were found in rifle-pits. A charge was ordered, but before bayonets could be fixed the rebels had left their pits and were fleeing down the mountain in haste to the back of the gap. At this time the remaining detachments of infantry pressed through the gap, and the victory was complete. The cavalry was then ordered to charge, which was done promptly, but the enemy had by this time scattered in the mountain, rendering the charge of little avail.
The enemy left behind them two pieces of artillery (6-pounders, one a rifled gun), their caisson, ammunition, wagons, and ten horses; also their tents, camp equipage, provisions, and correspondence. Seven prisoners were taken and 7 dead bodies were found on the field. Not one of my men were either killed or wounded.
I take pleasure in stating to you that our officers and men seemed to vie with each other in the promptness with which they obeyed orders, and all advanced with the bravery of veteran soldiers.
I desire to return my sincere thanks to Lieut. C. W. Smith, acting adjutant Fifth Ohio, and Adjutant Green, of the Fourth Ohio, for the assistance rendered me on the occasion; also to Lieut. William B. Kelley and Assistant Adjutant-General Hawkes, of General Kelley’s staff, for the efficient manner in which they discharged their duties as volunteer aids in this enterprise.
Finding the mill and hotel in the gap were used for soldiers’ quarters, I ordered them to be burned, which was done; but I am sorry to say that some straggling soldiers burned other unoccupied houses on their return march.
The force of the rebels was stated by negroes and citizens at from 800 to 1,000, but their papers show that rations were drawn for 1,800 men.
We marched to the gap, fought the battle, and returned to camp within 15 hours, bringing with us prisoners, cannon, and other captured articles.
S. H. DUNNING,
Colonel Fifth Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Comdg. Post of Romney.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: January 1862