Series 1, Volume 25, Part I, pp. 1099-1102
Reports of Maj. Gen. Samuel Jones, C. S. Army, commanding Department of Western Virginia.
Dublin, Va., May 4, 1863.
Sir: Enemy’s cavalry, reported over 800, attacked Lieutenant-Colonel [George M.] Edgar’s small battalion at Lewisburg early on morning of 2d. Edgar repulsed them without loss. At 5 p. m. the enemy had fallen back 5 miles. His loss 30 killed and wounded, and 7 prisoners. Indications are that the attack would be renewed with increased force. I have sent forward re-enforcements, and shall send all the Eighth Virginia Cavalry that are mounted, unless you order me to send them to General Lee. Please answer immediately, and give me the latest news of military operations in the east.
General S. Cooper.
Hdqrs. Department of Western Virginia,
Dublin, Va., May 5, 1863.
General: Lieutenant-Colonel Edgar repulsed the enemy’s cavalry at Lewisburg on the morning of the 2d instant so effectually that they fell back beyond the Sewell Mountains, and had not renewed the attack up to 12 m. on the 3d instant. By his judicious arrangements to receive the enemy; and the gallant and spirited conduct of his men, Lieutenant-Colonel Edgar repulsed the enemy, outnumbering him by about three to one; killed and wounded something over thirty; captured a number of arms and several horses, fully caparisoned, without the loss of a man. While vastly more important military operations are going on in the east, I trust that the handsome conduct of Lieutenant-Colonel Edgar and his men in the west will be gratifying to the War Department.
Very respectfully, general, your obedient servant,
General S. Cooper,
Adjutant and Inspector General, C. S. Army, Richmond, Va.
Report of Lieut. Col. George M. Edgar, Twenty-sixth Virginia Battalion.
Captain: It becomes my duty to submit through you a report of the engagement which took place west of Lewisburg on the morning of the 2d instant, between the Twenty-sixth Virginia Battalion and a regiment of United States cavalry, commanded by Col. J. C. Paxton.
A report reached me about 2 p. m. on the 1st instant that United States cavalry had been on Big Sewell Mountain the night before, and had avowed their intention of capturing Lewisburg. I immediately sent out a strong cavalry scout to ascertain the truth of the rumor, watch the enemy, if any could be seen, and report as to his probable strength and intentions.
About 11 p. m. one of the scouting party returned with the report that a large cavalry force of the enemy was advancing upon the town, and was already within 9 miles of it. After ordering the stores, prisoners, and sick to the rear, I formed the battalion, and marched it to Handley’s Mills, 2 miles west of Lewisburg, the position selected for defense. The dispositions for battle were as follows: Company A, Captain [J. S.] Swann, in a skirt of woods on the Blue Sulphur turnpike, to prevent the enemy from turning our right flank; Company B, Lieutenant [G. W.] Hines, and Company F, Lieutenant [James] Dunlap, along an important bend in the road on the west side of the hill, with instructions to refrain from firing until the head of the enemy’s column had passed the left company; Company E, Captain [Joseph] Scott, and Company G, Captain [Z. F.] Morris, behind the barricade across the road, and the fencing to the right and left of it; Company C, Lieut. James H. Peck, and Company D, Captain [Frank C.] Burdett, about 100 yards on the right of the barricade, to act as a reserve; a detachment of 20 men of Company D, under Lieutenant [A. W.] Folk, 200 yards to the right of the reserve (where a good view, of the enemy could be had), with instructions to that officer to watch the enemy, and report if he should attempt to turn our right flank. With these dispositions, we awaited the approach of the enemy.
We had scarcely finished our preparations when the enemy’s column appeared, and began to file up the hill by fours, the men talking and laughing, apparently unconscious of our close proximity. Unfortunately, before the head of the column had reached the center of the line of riflemen, one of the men fired his gun. This, of course, obliged the whole advance to fire, the enemy retiring behind the bend of the road in great confusion. The firing then became general between the enemy’s advance and ours, and lasted several minutes. In less than a minute after the firing ceased in front, I was warned by a quick volley on the right that the enemy was endeavoring to turn our position. I immediately ordered the two reserve companies to Lieutenant Folk’s support, and hastened in the direction of the firing. I had scarcely gone 150 yards, when I met the enemy charging in line through the woods. I immediately caused Company D to file into the woods and commence tiring, and afterward hurried forward Company C (the other reserve company) to its support. The firing between these two companies and the enemy was heavy, and, realizing that our safety depended upon the repulse of the enemy at this point, I ordered the two rifle companies from the front, and formed them in supporting distance of the two companies engaged. I had scarcely taken this precaution, however, before I had the satisfaction of seeing the enemy give way.
Just as this took place, the enemy’s right charged up the road in front of the barricade, but was handsomely repulsed by a volley from Companies E and G. This was the last volley fired, the enemy withdrawing both from our front and right. As he withdrew, I sent out squads of both cavalry and infantry to watch his movements, and very soon received information that he had formed in line in the open field in rear of our right, apparently for the purpose of charging our line from that direction. At the same time, from the noise I heard in front of the left of our position, I conceived the idea that a portion of the enemy’s force had been dismounted and would probably attack us from that direction also. I immediately withdrew my whole force within the inclosure on the left-hand side of the road, and disposed it to meet the enemy in both directions, placing the rifle companies along the fences to the front, and the remaining force along the fences in the direction from which I supposed the charge would be made. With the force disposed as I have indicated, we again awaited the approach of the enemy, feeling assured the attack would be renewed at daylight if not before. At early dawn, however, it could be plainly seen that the enemy’s force, with the exception of a picket, had been withdrawn beyond the hill in our front, and about 6 o’clock a correspondence commenced between the commanding officer of the United States forces and myself, which resulted in a truce until 11 a. m., the enemy asking the privilege of burying his dead and taking care of his wounded. I caused those of his dead that had fallen within our lines to be conveyed to him, and sent my surgeons forward, at his request, to assist his in attending to his wounded. I herewith transmit a copy of the correspondence.
I am sorry to have to add that the enemy took advantage of the truce to cover his retreat, and, as I have since ascertained, had reached with his main body a point 10 miles west of the battle-ground by the time the truce expired. He left his surgeon and a sergeant to take care of 4 wounded men, 1 of whom is a lieutenant. It is impossible for me to tell with any accuracy the loss the enemy sustained. His acknowledged loss is 12 killed (including an officer killed on Sewell by the cavalry) and 7 wounded. I have every reason to believe, however, that his loss was much heavier, for his ambulances were running busily for three hours, and citizens assure me they were filled with dead when he retreated; and, from the number of carriages and buggies he seized in his retreat for the accommodation of the wounded, it is reasonable to suppose the number was much larger than was acknowledged.
It is gratifying to be able to report that there were no casualties on our side. The enemy returned our fire with spirit, but with no effect. They took, however, 4 prisoners--3 infantrymen and 1 cavalryman. During the engagement 9 prisoners (including the wounded), a number of horses, sabers, guns, rifles, and pistols were captured and 6 horses killed.
It gives me great pleasure to bear testimony to the soldierly bearing and gallantry of the majority of the officers and men of my command during this engagement. All were aware of the disparity of numbers between our force and that of the enemy, and yet with but few exceptions both officers and men discharged their duties faithfully and bravely. Deeming it invidious to instance particular officers among so many who discharged their whole duty, I will only mention those who were but temporarily connected with my command, viz: Lieut. John A. Feamster, of the Greenbrier Cavalry, and Lieutenant [J. T.] Elmore, of the Engineer Corps. The former, who had charge of 28 mounted men, disposed his men to the best possible advantage, and acted himself throughout the engagement with distinguished gallantry. The latter served as my aide during the engagement, and behaved with marked coolness and bravery.
The number of men engaged on our side did not exceed 250. The strength of the enemy has been variously estimated by prisoners and citizens at from 500 to 700. The attack was made at 1 o’clock in the morning, and lasted fifteen or twenty minutes.
I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Geo. M. Edgar,
Capt. R. H. Catlett, Asst. Adjt. Gen., First Brigade.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: May 1863