The occupation of Charlestown.
October 23, 1862
The occupation of Charlestown.
The correspondence of the New York Times, of the 20th, gives the following description of the occupation of Charlestown, for the fifth time during this war, by the Federal:
The column moved briskly over the broad, undulating turnpike, through ample fields, rich with shocks of corn; past solid, stately farm houses, with deep shade trees and orchards; by gray barns, with plethoric hay and grain stacks. Through our lines, over the debatable ground, past the enemy's picket stations of last night, within two miles of Charlestown, and yet no interruption. We began to think the rebels a myth.
But suddenly there was a gun in front of us. In a moment, another, and a rifled shot came singing by, cutting through the tree branches, with sharp, incisive music. The smoke showed it came from the spot, where, last night, Capt. Pettit pointed out to me, through his glass, two rebel field pieces, four or five miles from his battery.
Clark's guns, commanded by Lieut. Dickinson, began to reply vigorously, and Tompkin's battery, also soon in position, joined in the chorus. The rebels were using only two or three pieces, but they fired very rapidly. Nearly all their shells struck a few rods to the left of our column. Few exploded, owing to defective fuses. We learned afterward that the same was true of our own shells.
The cavalry was placed in a safe position — an infallible sign of danger — the infantry brought up and deployed. From the rear of our batteries the rebel cavalry was plainly discernible. On their front, far in advance of all others, a man on a milk white horse, in a dark, plowed field, which threw him out in strong relief, was a conspicuous temptation to our sharpshooters. Many shots were aimed at him, but he sat viewing the artillery duel complacently and persistently, as if enjoying a pantomime. Some of our men declared that they had seen that identical steed and rider on the rebel front in every fight from Yorktown to Antietam.
There was but little infantry firing, and that was confined to the skirmishers. Our principal loss arose from a shell which exploded near one of Dickinson's guns, killing four horses, wounding one of his men fatally, and four others slightly. One of the latter, who was struck in the head by a fragment of shell, had lost a finger and received a bullet in the leg in previous battles, but seems to be fire proof, and will soon be ready for duty again.--The enemy's loss, as afterward reported to us, was about the same as ours--one man killed, and six or seven wounded.
In two hours the rebel guns were silenced and withdrawn. At 11 o'clock we moved forward cautiously, as the country is well adapted to ambuscades. We passed their deserted camp, but found only its debris--a ten, two or three huts, a cooking stove and a frying pan.
Just out of the village we reached the residence of Mr. Hunter, a member of the Virginia Senate, which General Banks occupied as headquarters last year. It is a large, elegant house, with ample grounds. Of course the owner was not there to welcome us. But the rebel guns were planted just in front, and our shells out down palings and plowed up the ground about it. Many of them fell in the village, cutting roofs and knocking down chimneys, but injuring none of the citizens.
At noon we entered the village, and for the fifth time during the war Charlestown is occupied by National troops. But how different our reception from that given us in Frederick, Sharpsburg, and other Maryland towns. Not a flag flying, except the yellow index of the hospitals. Doors, blinds and windows closed, curtains drawn, and the few residents visible staring silently and sullenly at us. They looked even less kindly than the rebel wounded, of whom we found a hundred in the hospitals. I encountered but one citizen professing to be loyal, and he begged that his name might not be made public until he learned whether we had come to remain. There was no other smile or friendly greeting, except from the negroes, who welcomed us when they dared with their tongues, but always with their eyes.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: October 1862