Frank Moore, ed. Vol. 5. New York: G. P. Putnam, 1863. pp. 141-144
BATTLE OF LEWISBURGH, VA
Colonel Crook’s Order.
Headquarters Third Brigade
Lewisburgh, May 25, 1862
It affords the undersigned great pleasure in congratulating the troops of his command on their brilliant success of the twenty-third inst. We were attacked by a greatly superior force, who not only had the choice of position, but had the morale of the attack. The Thirty-sixth and Forty-fourth regiments formed line of battle under fire – a movement that veteran troops find very difficult to make. They then advanced in good order, driving the rebels before them, dealing death to and destruction as they went, until the enemy fled in great confusion, leaving over one hundred of their dead and wounded on the field. We captured four pieces of artillery, three hundred stand of arms and one hundred prisoners – the Forty-fourth capturing their battery, and the Thirty-sixth advancing under the heaviest fire.
The result fully justifies the high standard these regiments were expected to maintain. To make particular mention would be invidious, since they behaved so nobly. The artillery, by a misunderstanding, was not brought into action. The Second Virginia cavalry being held in reserve, had the most difficult part to perform, that of being exposed to the enemy’s fire without being able to participate. The Medical and Quartermaster’s Departments deserve great credit for their energy and zeal in carrying the wounded and dead from the field. The surgeons and assistant-surgeons deserve particular mention for their skill and unfaltering attention to the wounded.
Col. George Crook
General Fremont’s Order
Franklin, VA May 24.
The following circular was issued from headquarters this morning:
The General Commanding congratulates the army on a new victory in this department, won by the skill and bravery of our soldiers against the superior numbers of the enemy. The Third brigade of Gen. Cox’s division, commanded by Col. Crook, was attacked yesterday morning at Lewisburgh, by Gen. Heath, with three thousand men, and after a lively engagement the enemy was routed and fled in confusion. Col. Crook captured four cannon, two hundred stand of arms, and one hundred prisoners. Our loss was ten killed and forty wounded.
The results of this victory will be important.
The General Commanding is confident that the forces now under his immediate command but lack the opportunity to emulate the gallantry and share the glory of their comrades of the army of the Kanawha.
This circular will be read at the head of every regiment or separate corps in this army. By order of
Colonel, and Assistant Adjutant-General
Cincinnati “Commercial” Account
Camp Third Provisional Brigade
Meadow Bluff, Western Virginia, June 6, 1862
A battle was fought at Lewisburgh on the twenty-third of May, between the Thirty-sixth and Forty-fourth Ohio regiments, under command of Col. George Crook, Acting Brigadier-General, and three thousand rebel troops, under Gen. Heath. Without doubt, it was the most brilliant and complete victory ever won in Western Virginia, and it is quite unjust to the brave Buckeye boys engaged, and to their many loving friends at home, that no notice whatever has been taken of the gallant affair.
Gen. Heath came up with great rapidity and boldness, driving in our pickets, which were three miles distant at Greenbrier Bridge, and took a very strong position on a high ridge which command the town of Lewisburgh, and also our camp, which was on a hill just north of the town. On the alarm being given by our pickets. Company G, of the Thirty-sixth, and company D, of the Forty-fourth, were sent out to investigate the nature of the alarm, and to check any force that might approach; but they were met a mile out by Gen. Heath’s whole force, as they were forming their line of battle on the ridge. They received a heavy fire, and fell back before the overwhelming numbers of the enemy. The rebel guns were promptly put in position, and shells were at once thrown into our camp. We could see a large force deploying on Gen. Heath’s right and left; but, nothing intimidated, Col. Crook ordered the Thirty-sixth to march to attack his right, and the Forty-fourth his left. This forming in line of battle, under fire, might well try veteran troops; but none of our brave men flinched. One man in the Forty-fourth was killed by a shell, in the ranks, as they were leaving the camp. That regiment moved gallantly on to meet Gen. Heath’s left wing, by this time advanced to a wooded knoll on the outskirts of the town. Col. Gilbert ordered all to reserve their fire until they were within about forty yards of the enemy’s line, when they and their foes belched forth their volleys at the same time. The next volley from the Forty-fourth completely broke the enemy’s line, and while a few still fought from whatever cover they could find, they could not rally to resist so cool and determined a foe. So rapid was the onward march of the Forty-fourth, that the enemy could not find time to remove their cannon. A well-directed volley from one or two companies, killed and wounded so many of their artillerymen, that there was soon no one to remove the guns, and thus four fine pieces, two of them rifled, and all that Gen. Heath brought upon the field, were gloriously won by the Forty-fourth. After this they had only to fire as they could get a shot, upon the scattered fugitives. The Forty-fourth lost six killed and eleven wounded.
The field-officers of the Forty fourth were Col. S. A. Gilbert, Lieut.-Col. H. Blair Wilson, and Major A. O. Mitchel, all of whom behaved with great bravery and coolness. No less gallantly moved the Thirty-sixth to the attack of Gen. Heath’s right wing. They had to meet the Twenty-second Virginia regiment, an old regiment, organized a year ago in the Kanawha valley, and containing the elite rebels of that region. They had met Gen. Cox at Scarey, Col. Tyler at Cross Lanes, Gen. Rosecrans at Carnifex and at Cotton Hill, and lately, General Cox at Giles Court House; and boasted that they had never yet been defeated. The regiment was large, and very confident. After the Thirty-sixth had formed its line of battle, it marched up a steep pitch, almost a ledge; and arriving at the top, where the slope became more gentle, received the fire from the foe, drawn up in line waiting to receive us. The battle at once became general, and the fire was hot and incessant. The Thirty-sixth never broke its line of battle, but moved firmly, and at times rapidly, forward in the open field. The enemy slowly yielded, yet disputed desperately every inch of ground. They took advantage of every fence, and from behind their fancied cover fired rapidly and bravely. By these fences their killed and wounded lay thick. Neither their bravery nor old Virginia pride could resist the steady onward movement of the Thirty-sixth. After being driven steadily back nearly half a mile, to the summit of the ridge, they at last broke and fled in utter rout. The Thirty-sixth lost in killed, five, and forty-one wounded, two of whom were mortally wounded, and died that night. Col. Crook, of the Thirty-sixth, being in command of the brigade, Lieut.-Col. Clark commanded the regiment during the action. Major Andrews was in his place on the field. Both of these officers exhibited great coolness and courage; and it was greatly owing to them that the Thirty-sixth regiment behaved so nobly.
The loss of the enemy was one hundred and fifty killed and wounded, of whom sixty were killed, or have since died. A considerable number of the wounded were carried away. One hundred prisoners were taken, including Lieut.-Col. Finney, Major Edgar, of Edgar’s battalion, several captains and lieutenants. Besides the loss of the field, their guns, their dead and wounded, and captured, and three hundred stand of arms, their army was greatly demoralized by the terrible discomfiture, and we have reliable information that one third of Gen. Heath’s whole force has since deserted him. Our victory weakened him in this way at least a thousand men. These men, on their return to their homes here in Western Virginia, will be each a radiating centre of cowardice, and a missionary of submission. These people have a deep horror of personal danger. They are unprincipled enough to be guerrillas, where they can, from a safe covert, attack the unsuspecting; but such square, open fighting as we gave them on the morning of the twenty-third, appalls them fearfully.
Gen. Heath confessed his defeat by at once burning the Greenbrier Bridge as soon as he had passed it with his fugitives. Had the ground been favorable for a cavalry pursuit, we should have taken many more prisoners before they could cross the bridge.
By a misunderstanding of orders, the battery of the brigade, under Lieut. Durbeck, of the Forty-seventh regiment Ohio volunteer infantry, was not brought into the action at all; neither was the battalion of the Second Virginia cavalry, under Col. Bolles, brought into the action.
Col. Crook received a slight wound in the foot. He went bravely into the action, and was where the balls flew the thickest. Ohio has never sent out a truer and better soldier. A graduate of West-Point, an office in the regular army, he has, during the long winter, drilled and disciplined in the most faithful and thorough manner the Thirty-sixth regiment, and he cannot but be gratified, and even exultant, that his officers and men, in their maiden battle, should fight so magnificently. Col. Gilbert is equally proud of his regiment, the Forty-fourth. Why should not such a brace, thorough, and accomplished officer as Col. Crook, be made a real instead of a nominal Brigadier?
New-York “Tribune” Account
Lewisburgh, Greenbrier County
Western Virginia, May 24, 1862
Two regiments, the Thirty-sixth and Forty-fourth Ohio infantry, of the Third provisional brigade, under command of Col. George Crook, had a battle at this place yesterday morning with a considerable rebel force, under command of Brig.-Gen. Heth. We were encamped on a hill north of the town. General Heth, by a forced march, came from Union, Monroe County, and drove in our pickets at Greenbrier Bridge, three miles south, and rapidly followed them up with his whole force, which consisted of the famous Twenty-second Virginia regiment, the Forty-seventh Virginia, Edgar’s battalion, a part of the Fiftieth Virginia regiment, two companies of artillery, and two companies of the notorious Jenkin’s cavalry – in all, from two thousand five hundred to three thousand men. Colonel Crook sent out companies G of the Thirty-sixth and D of the Forty-fourth to ascertain the force of the enemy and check his advance, and meantime ordered the regiments to form. The two advance companies drew the enemy’s fire, but did no check his advance. Gen. Heth at once got some of his cannon in position, and occupied with his whole force a high hill commanding the town.
The Thirty-sixth and Forty-fourth were speedily formed in line of battle under the hill, the first on the left and the latter on the right, and began their firm and brave march upon the enemy. We were protected in part by the hill from the balls and shells of the enemy’s cannon, though several shells exploded in the air over our heads, and one man of the Forty-fourth was killed. On rising the hill we were at once engaged with the enemy’s infantry, who reserved their fire until we were within short range. On the right, the Forty-fourth, by two volleys, broke the rebel left, composed of the Forty-seventh Virginia, Edgar’s battalion, and two companies of the Fiftieth Virginia. Once broken, the left could not rally, and the Forty-fourth soon captured their four guns, (two rifled six-pounders, one twelve-pounder, and one large field-howitzer,) and that part of the field was won. On the left the Thirty-sixth met with a more stubborn resistance. The enemy (the Twenty-second Virginia) was organized in the Kanawha valley, and made up largely of the rebel elite of that region, and had been in several battles, Scarey Creek, Carnifex, Cotton Hill, and Giles Court-House, and boasted of its invincibility. They declared that they would be in possession of Lewisburgh in half an hour. They fought bravely, but, notwithstanding the advantages of position and the cover of high, large rail-fences, could not stand the rapid advance of the Thirty-sixth. The Thirty-sixth never broke its firm line of battle. In about fifteen minutes the Twenty-second Virginia was driven back over the brow of the hill, and completely routed. Gen. Heth’s retreat was much more precipitate than his impertinent advance, and he at once burned the large Greenbrier bridge behind him, to prevent our pursuit.
Our before breakfast work sums up as follows: Thirteen hundred Ohio Union boys formed their line of battle under fire, and utterly routed nearly three thousand of the enemy, under Gen. Heth, a regular military man, a graduate of West-Point, and a General who stood high in the confederate service, killed fifty of the enemy, wounded seventy-five, took one hundred prisoners, including Lieut.-Col. Finney, commanding the Fiftieth Virginia regiment, Major Edgar of Edgar’s battalion, a surgeon, several captains and lieutenants, four field-officers, all the enemy brought upon the field, and three hundred stand of arms. How many of the enemy’s killed and wounded were carried away by them is not know, doubtless a considerable number, as a trail of blood was left behind them. Had the ground been more favorable for a cavalry pursuit, we should have taken more prisoners, although the rout could not have been made more complete. Our loss was eleven killed and fifty-two wounded, of which the Thirty-sixth lost five killed and forty-one wounded, the Forty-fourth six killed and eleven wounded. Four men of the Thirty-sixth, on picket at Greenbrier Bridge, were captured.
This was the maiden battle of the two regiments engaged. They are, however, believe to be the best drilled regiments in the Mountain Department. Col. Crook of the Thirty-sixth regiment is a regular West-Point graduate, and has taken unwearied pains with his regiment in bringing it to a high degree of perfection in drill and discipline. He was quartered during the winter at Summersville, Nicholas County, Western Virginia, and there build a drill-house, seven hundred feet long, and drill his regiment daily, and in all weather. He is now amply compensated by the veteran-like manner in which his regiment moved forward and vanquished a greatly superior force. The Forty-fourth, commanded by Col. Gilbert, is also a well-disciplined and drilled regiment, and deserve high honor for their part in this, the most signal victory ever won in Western Virginia. By a misunderstanding, the artillery connected with our brigade was not ordered forward in time to take part in the battle. Indeed, the enemy was routed by the infantry before there was time to make much use of our artillery against them.
Last week Col. Crook marched a part of his brigade some fifty miles south-east of Lewisburgh on the Stanton turnpike in search of an enemy, but found none, and returned. Gen. Heth came up from the south-west. I close by asking why Col. Crook, who as acting Brigadier-General does so well, should not be made a real Brigadier?
Yours, etc., A. B.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: May 1862