Series 1, Volume 27, part 2, pp. 805-816
Reports of Brig. Gen. William W. Averell, U. S. Army, commanding brigade.
July 4, 1863.
H. W. Halleck,
The following telegram is from General Averell, who, I believe, however, is not now in my department or command. I do not understand exactly of what the Eighth Army Corps consists:
Beverly, [July] 4, 1863.
Sir: Jackson, with force of 1,700 and two pieces of artillery, attacked Beverly on 2d instant. Measures had been taken to resist, and I directed the commanding officer, Colonel [Thomas M.] Harris, to hold the place until I could reach him with re-enforcements, which I did.
Three mounted regiments reached him yesterday; the enemy repulsed, and our forces in pursuit.
Wm. W. Averell,
Robt. C. Schenck,
July 5, 1863.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your General Orders, No. 1, to-day, and to report that the rebel force under Jackson, which recently threatened this post, attempted to make a stand yesterday at Huttonsville. I advanced upon them with the Fourteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, Third and Eighth Virginia, Ewing’s battery, and a detachment of 150 infantry, and drove them from their position and across the Elk Water, the enemy showing very little disposition to fight. I will send in a complete report as soon as the reports of subordinate officers are received.
Had Colonel Harris furnished me with timely warning of the approach of the enemy, I should have killed, captured, or dispersed his entire command. As it is, he has received but a slight lesson.
I shall replace Colonel Harris with the Twenty-eighth [Ohio] and Fourteenth [Pennsylvania Cavalry], post the Tenth [West Virginia] at Phillipi, the Second, Third, and Eighth [West Virginia] at Buckhannon, and assemble the independent companies of cavalry at Weston, under Major Gibson, of the Fourteenth, where they may picket the Bulltown and Sutton road, and learn a little discipline.
Wm. W. Averell,
Brig. Gen. B. F. Kelley, Clarksburg.
Report of Col. William L. Jackson, Nineteenth Virginia Cavalry, commanding expedition.
Headquarters, Near Huntersville, July 11, 1863.
Major: I have the honor to submit herewith the proceedings in the expedition to Beverly.
On Monday, the 29th ultimo, the force under my command moved as follows: Detachment of cavalry, under command of Capt. John S. Spriggs, moved from Clover Lick to Big Springs; detachment of cavalry, under command of Capt. J. W. Marshall, was advanced from a point near Green Bank to Clover Lick. The infantry at this camp, accompanied by a section of artillery commanded by Lieut. F. G. Thrasher, of Chapman’s battery, moved to within 5 miles of Big Springs. Capt. John Righter, with his company of cavalry and parts of [S. H.] Campbell’s, [W. W.] Arnett’s, and [Dudley] Evans‘ companies, moved on the Staunton and Parkersburg turnpike, through what is known as the Cheat Pass.
Lieut. Col. A. C. Dunn, with a detachment of his battalion and Capt. E. M. Corder’s company, accompanied by several excellent guides, on the same day moved from Hightown to a short distance beyond Slaven’s cabin, when he took a route to the right, leading to the rear of Beverly, on the Phillipi road.
On Tuesday evening, 30th ultimo, the infantry, artillery, and the detachments of cavalry under Captains Marshall and Spriggs encamped a few miles beyond Valley Mountain. On Wednesday evening, the 1st instant, Maj. J. B. Lady was ordered with two companies, which lie has raised under authority of the Secretary of War, and parts of three other companies of my command, to proceed to the rear of Beverly, on the road leading to Buckhannon. He turned to the left about 2 1/2 miles beyond the Crouch fortifications, and by blind paths through the woods succeeded, by his own indomitable energy, the assistance of his guides, and the patient perseverance of his men, in reaching the position. He was ordered to close upon the enemy whenever he heard my artillery. How he performed his duty will be seen by his report, herewith submitted. I am of the opinion that, unaided as he was by the attack, hereafter mentioned, to have been made by Lieut. Col. A. C. Dunn, he (Major Lady) accomplished all that he could under the circumstances.
I omitted to mention (and am compelled to interline) that I sent, to support Major Lady in his rear, Sergeant Rader, with 20 mounted men, to Middle Fork Creek Bridge, 18 miles in his rear. They performed their duty faithfully.
On Thursday morning, at daybreak, I reached Huttonsville, and found that Captain Righter, who had written instructions as to the position of the pickets of the enemy to within 5 miles of Beverly and orders to capture them, permitting none to escape, was engaged in executing his orders. He had surrounded the pickets at each post, and captured all, 14 in number.
Ascertaining the time when the relief pickets would arrive, and that I had time to spare under the arrangement with Major Lady and Lieutenant-ColoneI Dunn, I sent forward Captain Marshall with a portion of his company, and he, in connection with Captain Righter, so posted the men as to surround a certain position when the relief came. The relief arrived on time, 14 in number, and they were all captured. The road was now clear to within a mile and a half of Beverly, and the surprise would have been complete had it not been for a woman, who in some way discovered our approach, and who met a party of about 25 of the enemy, including the colonel commanding at Beverly, taking a morning ride, unconscious of our proximity.
Within 8 miles of the place I moved about 200 men, including the company of Capt. George Downs, commanded by Lieut. William Harris; Capt. J. W. Ball’s company, commanded by Lieut. C. W. Minter (Captains Downs and Ball being absent, sick); parts of Young’s and Lewis’ companies, under Lieut. R. D. Lurty; Capt. S. H. Campbell’s company; some recruits, not organized, under Sergt. E. Tibbs, and some mounted men, under Capt. John M. Burns, all under the command of Maj. D. B. Stewart, across the Valley River, on the back road, so as to get on the right flank of the enemy, and to be in position to co-operate with or support Lieutenant-Colonel Dunn, if he advanced. Major Stewart performed the duty assigned him entirely to my satisfaction, and gives in his report an account of his operations, a copy of which is herewith inclosed.
I then moved to the front of Beverly, throwing forward the detachment under Captain Spriggs to the burnt bridge, which was the center of my operations in front, Major Stewart being on the right, and the detachment under Captain Marshall to the left, on the back road leading to the Buckhannon road. A considerable force of the enemy advanced on this road, but were promptly driven back by Captain Marshall, assisted by a flank movement of Captain Spriggs. Such was the disposition of my force, that the enemy were entirely surrounded if Lieutenant-Colonel Dunn was in position, and he had ample time and competent guides. The force of the enemy did not exceed 1,000, including infantry, cavalry, and artillery, of which they had four pieces. My force exceeded theirs by at least 200, including that under Colonel Dunn.
At 2 p. m. I ordered my artillery to open, which was the signal for the general attack to be made. From my position, having a clear view of the field, I saw no movement on the part of Lieutenant- Colonel Dunn. I then had my artillery, supported by Captain [John D.] Neal, with his and parts of two other companies (Captain Marshall also being in position to support), placed in position on a hill opposite the position of the enemy, about 1 mile distant, and then commenced an artillery duel (hoping that time would be given to Lieutenant-Colonel Dunn to come up and take part), in which the enemy had the advantage of position, number of pieces, and quality of ammunition. Not more than one in fifteen of our shells exploded.
No material damage was inflicted or incurred. Our howitzer was slightly disabled by a piece of shell, but was soon repaired.
The enemy occupied a very strong position on Butcher’s Hill, in the rear of the town, near the Phillipi road. I felt confident in the ability of my force, without the assistance of that under Lieutenant-Colonel Dunn, to drive them from that position; but as my object was to capture, not to run them, I delayed the assault, hoping to hear from and to see Lieutenant-Colonel Dunn, until it became too dark to operate.
In the meantime, I made every effort to find the whereabouts of Lieutenant-Colonel Dunn; but he was not to be found. During the night, I ordered Major Stewart back a short distance to a safe position, holding the ground I had obtained during the day in the front.
Early the next morning (the 3d instant), having heard nothing from Lieutenant-Colonel Dunn, I determined to assault the position of the enemy. Accordingly, I ordered Major Stewart up to the position he held the evening before. In advancing to do so, the skirmish referred to in his report occurred. I dismounted a considerable portion of my cavalry, and was moving to the assault, when I discovered a large re-enforcement coming to the enemy on the Phillipi road, and was also advised of the same by Major Lady and Captain Marshall. My own opinion is that the re-enforcement received numbered at least 700; others and prisoners estimate it at a greater number. I saw about 700 mounted men entering the place.
Having now become satisfied that, if Lieutenant-Colonel Dunn ever reached the position to which he was ordered, he had fallen tack, and that it was imprudent to continue the attack, I made demonstrations in front for four hours, in the meantime drawing in the forces under the command of Majors Stewart and Lady, and sending scouts to communicate with Lieutenant-Colonel Dunn.
At 2 p. m. of Friday, the 3d instant, I slowly retired in a manner to prevent my being flanked or the enemy reaching my rear. The enemy did not follow me on that day, and about 9 p. m. I went into camp at the Crouch fortifications with my infantry and artillery, posting my cavalry between that point and Huttonsville.
It is proper here to state that Maj. J. R. Claiborne, with a detachment of 100 mounted men of Dunn’s battalion, who on the way was ordered to follow me (which order, left at Warm Springs, he did not receive, and without it was coming up to re-enforce me), was met, as I was falling back, about 6 miles this side of Beverly. I left him in the rear during Friday night, as his men and horses were comparatively fresh.
In the morning (the 4th instant), I received dispatch, No. 1, from Lieutenant-Colonel Dunn, a copy of which, and copies of dispatches Nos. 2 and 3, are herewith inclosed. I immediately ordered Major Claiborne to cross the river at the point he then was, some 4 miles from Huttonsville, and move to a point near Stipes’, toward the Cheat Pass, and to communicate with Lieutenant-Colonel Dunn, who was supposed to be coming that way.
I ordered the detachments under Captains Marshall and Spriggs to Huttonsville, to cover this movement of Major Claiborne, and masked my artillery and infantry about 1 mile this side of the Crouch fortifications. The force at Huttonsville was directed to fall back toward me in good order, if any considerable advance was being made by the enemy on the route I was taking; and Major Claiborne, or Lieutenant-Colonel Dunn, if he came up to Stipes’, was, in the event of such advance, to come in upon the rear of the enemy, while I would attack them in front. If there was no such advance by 2 p. m., then Major Claiborne or Lieutenant-Colonel Dunn was to fall back toward Hightown, and the detachments at Huttonsville to fall back to me. Major Claiborne reached the point near Stipes’, and dispatched to Lieutenant-Colonel Dunn; but it now appears that he had fallen back to Camp Barton, and was not advancing.
A short distance beyond Huttonsville, soon after the arrival of the detachments there, Captain Spriggs, being in front, had a skirmish with the advance of the enemy, they falling back, with a view, no doubt, to draw him to their main force; but, as ordered, Captains Spriggs and Marshall fell back a short distance, and there awaited a farther advance.
While this was going on, Major Claiborne so maneuvered as to disconcert the enemy, as was evident by the hesitation and caution displayed. They did not anticipate the appearance of any force at the point where he was, and could not comprehend its strength. Advised of this advance, I moved my infantry and artillery back to the Crouch fortifications, directing the several detachments of cavalry to fall back slowly toward my position. This order was executed, the enemy advancing when the cavalry receded, and halting and hesitating whenever they halted and formed line of battle. A junction being formed of the three detachments aforesaid, Major Claiborne, by my order, took command of all my cavalry. The pursuing force numbered about 1,800.
Ascertaining that the enemy would not advance on my position or risk a general engagement, and that the waters were rising rapidly in my rear, I fell back with the main command to Marshall’s Store, and encamped there during the night, the cavalry encamping a few miles in my rear. While this movement was being accomplished, the enemy fell back to Beverly.
Lieut. Col. A. C. Dunn, it appears from his own dispatches, was in position at the time appointed. He was ordered to make a vigorous attack upon the rear of the enemy whenever he heard my signal. This it was impossible for him to avoid hearing. I am reliably informed that, instead of advancing and attacking, as ordered, he fell back when my signal was heard. His dispatches are contradictory in the attempt to explain this singular retrograde movement. I have felt it my duty to order him under arrest, and will prefer charges.
Maj. J. R. Claiborne is now in command of the battalion.
Our loss in the attack and various skirmishes is as follows: Killed, 4; wounded 5; missing, 4. Among the killed was the gallant Lieut. William Harris, who died after being mortally wounded while bravely leading his men in a brilliant charge.
The loss of the enemy, from the best information I can obtain, is as follows: Killed, 40; wounded, 67; prisoners, 55.
We also captured a number of horses and cavalry equipments and arms. These I will send you a list of, and ask what disposition shall be made of the horses, as soon as I can get the necessary reports, which, owing to the disposition of my force rendered necessary to carry out my orders, are delayed.
The officers and men of my command, with but few exceptions, performed their duty faithfully and cheerfully throughout the whole expedition, notwithstanding it rained every day but one, and the mud and deep waters through which they were compelled to wade.
I regret that the limits of this report will not admit of honorable mention of all who exhibited personal bravery and high soldierly qualities. I am compelled, however, to bear testimony to the distinguished conduct of Captains Spriggs, Marshall, Righter, and Elihu Hutton, and Lieutenant Thrasher, of the artillery, and Lieut. Jacob S. Wamsley. I was much indebted throughout to Captain Marshall on account of his thorough knowledge of the country, personal bravery, and excellent judgment.
Accompanying this report is a rough and somewhat imperfect plat of the country, the various routes taken, and the prominent points, which will give a general idea of my movements.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Wm. L. Jackson,
Colonel Nineteenth Regiment Virginia Cavalry.
Maj. C. S. Stringfellow,
Asst. Adjt. Gen., Department of Southwestern Virginia.
Report of Maj. John B. Lady, C. S. Army.
July 11, 1863.
Sir: In compliance with your orders of the 28th ultimo, at 4.30 p. m. I proceeded to the rear of the enemy on the Buckhannon road with five companies, commanded by the following officers: Captains [D.] Evans, [W. W.] Arnett, [Joseph] Hayhurst, Duncan, and Lieutenant [William W.] Boggs, making a total rank and file 150 strong.
After a forced march of 12 miles over a series of the most rugged and pathless ridges of a densely timbered mountain section of country, fording streams, &c., I reached the base of Rich Mountain at 3 a. m. of the 29th ultimo. The men being exhausted and unable to advance without rest, I halted two hours. At the command “Halt,” the men dropped from their feet, and slept till 5 a. m., when, at the command “Fall in,” though weary and foot-sore, they cheerfully and promptly responded, and I proceeded as far as Armstrong’s cabin, near the summit of the mountain, where I allowed the men to wash and fill their canteens. Here Mr. Armstrong proffered his services to open a road, as the brush was so thick as to render it almost impossible to pass through between this point and the road, at which point I arrived at 10 a. m., being 5 miles west of Beverly.
I halted my men near, but concealed from, the road, where they were shaded and in reach of pure water. I immediately threw forward a picket of 20 men, under command of Lieutenant [John W.] Hunt, with orders to proceed carefully to within 2 miles of Beverly without causing alarm, and take a concealed position commanding the road, where he would be enabled to notify me of the movements of the enemy and cut off all communication on the road, and, at the first report of artillery, to move forward and cut off the enemy’s picket. I also sent a courier to notify Colonel [A. C.] Dunn of my position, and my readiness to co-operate with him in any movement on the town.
At 1 o’clock, Lieutenant Hunt sent in 2 prisoners, who were going home on furloughs granted by Colonel [Thomas M.] Harris, commanding the enemy’s forces, whose statements corresponded with your previous information, excepting in reference to the re-enforcement expected that day.
I remained in this position till 3 p. m., when the signal gun was fired, when I immediately ordered my men in line of march, and moved rapidly forward to within a mile and a quarter of the town, taking a position which I could have held against any force the enemy could have brought from town. This position was at the first abrupt turn in the road west of the Baker house.
I then sent forward Captain Arnett to take a concealed position in front, sweeping the road and commanding the only position on which the enemy could have posted artillery without first driving him back with an infantry force; to have done which would have brought them under fire of the reserve of my command on their left flank. At the same time, I sent forward Captain Evans with a squad, to reconnoiter between me and the town, and examine the fortifications near the Baker house. In an hour he reported that the enemy had evidently determined to make a stand in town, and that a strong position could be taken beyond the Baker house, near the old breastworks.
I moved forward my command as far as practicable without bringing it in range of the enemy’s artillery, and, halting the command, I went forward, and examined the ground in front, and fully approved the position selected by Captain Evans. I then moved my men forward to a strip of woods near where I had first halted them, and allowed them to remain there till I could move them under cover of night to the position selected.
About this time the cavalry scout reported to me that they had carried out all their instructions, besides finding the notorious Yankee spy and bushwhacker, [Jacob] Simmons, in his own house. On demanding of him a surrender, he peremptorily refused, and commenced firing, killing Private Dent, of Company , a gallant soldier, whereupon our men returned the fire, killing him, four balls passing through his body.
I immediately ordered them to endeavor to open communication with Colonel Dunn, which up to this time I had been unable to do, having had no mounted men with me, and my dismounted men being too much fatigued to attempt it. I placed Captain Evans, with 40 men, on the road, to blockade and picket the same, and open the engagement, should the enemy advance or evacuate the town. I at the same time posted Captain Arnett, with his company, on the adjacent height, to support Captain Evans, reserving the companies of Captains Hayhurst, Duncan, and Lieutenant Boggs under my command.
We remained in this position till the morning of the 30th. At about 8 o’clock, the cavalry reported that they had not been able to open communication with Colonel Dunn. An hour after this time and while the cavalry were grazing their horses, the front of the enemy’s re-enforcement, which I estimated at 700 strong, appeared on the Phillipi road, advancing rapidly in the direction of Beverly, and within a mile of my position. I sent a squad of cavalry to re-connoiter and ascertain more definitely their number, and report their movements. At the same time I dispatched a courier, notifying you of this re-enforcement.
At about 9.30 a. m., from the movements of the enemy’s infantry, cavalry, and artillery, I was assured that they intended turning a force on me for the purpose of cutting off my retreat. One piece of their artillery being so placed as to sweep the road on my line of re-treat, and deeming it inexpedient to unnecessarily expose my men, I fell back to the position first described on entering the road, so as to protect them from the range of artillery, allowing Lieutenant Clancy to remain, to notify the squad of cavalry of the change, and ordering them through him to report to me forthwith on their return from their reconnaissance.
While in this position, your first dispatch came to me, ordering me to fall back and join you immediately, and, should the enemy attack me, to fight him and fall back, which I bid already prepared to do. I had sent Lieutenant [David] Poe forward with a squad of 10 men as an advance guard, and Captain Duncan with 10 men back as a rear guard, to notify me of the enemy’s approach from either direction. From this point and in this order I joined you without any interruption whatever.
My thanks are due to the officers and men under my command for the patience and endurance exhibited on this fatiguing expedition, and for the prompt manner in which they responded to all calls made upon them. And I am especially indebted to Captains Evans and Arnett for their valuable assistance in selecting positions and the skillful handling of their men.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
John B. Lady,
Major, Commanding Detachment.
Col. W. L. Jackson,
Report of Lieut. Cot. A. C. Dunn, Thirty-seventh Virginia Battalion.
Hightown, July 9, 1863.
Colonel: Your communication of the 4th instant was handed me by Major [J. R.] Claiborne on yesterday. I am now in position at Hightown, carrying out my orders from you, I having a company at Monterey, which company are picketing and scouting as far as Franklin, in Pendleton County. I am diligently scouting, and I shall fight the enemy if ever they should advance. I have sent to Staunton for twenty days rations for command.
I am sorry our plans were not successful in capturing the enemy. I was in my position two hours before the time given by you, and did everything in my power to carry out your orders, and, in fact, did more than you ordered me to do.
Mr. Caplinger, one of my guides, left near Beverly on Tuesday. He says the enemy were re-enforced some 2, 500 men, and on Friday morning, shortly after I fell back, they advanced and surrounded the position I held, thinking I was still there. They could not find out how I got in their rear, or how I went out. He says the re-enforcement had left for Grafton, leaving Colonel Harris’ forces still in Beverly.
I am, colonel, your obedient servant,
A. C. Dunn,
Col. W. L. Jackson.
Report of Maj. D. B. Stewart, C. S. Army.
July 9, 1863.
Sir: I herewith transmit the following report of the part taken by me and the troops I had the honor to command during the late investment of Beverly, in Randolph County, Va.:
After leaving you below Huttonsville on the morning of the 2d instant, we moved forward, as directed, on the back road as fast as the condition of the men would permit. Received a dispatch from Captain [J. W.] Marshall, to which I replied, as I dispatched to you from Mr. Wamsley’s. As I had information from the front that was entirely satisfactory, I depended entirely on my cavalry scouting the road till some 2 miles above Henry Harper’s, where I detached Captain [S. H.] Campbell’s company, and ordered it to deploy on my right as skirmishers. I had been informed by soldiers, who reported to me at Wamsley’s that they had scouted the road from a short distance above the burnt bridge, that the enemy had no picket at Harper’s house. I moved my skirmishers so as not to discover my approach to the enemy till a point opposite Ward’s, from which the position of the picket could be determined. I here found them still in position at Harper’s house, and accordingly detailed 25 men, and sent them forward to take possession of both roads beyond their post. With them I sent my two guides--Wamsley and Currence.
Shortly after they had moved forward, a courier came from below (from Beverly, perhaps), and on his approach they withdrew at a full run in the direction of Beverly.
Seeing that all chance of their capture was now at an end, I moved my infantry forward, moving my skirmishers near the road where there were woods to conceal them, and out of sight of the road where there were none, while I made a detour to the right with the main body. Captain [J. M.] Burns I left with the cavalry at Ward’s, where they were concealed from below.
On reaching the crest of the first ridge, of which there are a complete succession running at right angles to the river and road, I discovered a scouting party, numbering 8, of cavalry, coming on the road from the direction of Beverly. I here directed a message to be sent to Captain Burns, informing him of their approach, which I learn he did not receive, though it was unnecessary, as he could not but discover their approach.
We then moved forward so as to gain the top of the next ridge, which we did just in time to prevent the scouts being fired on by Captain Campbell, who had halted, and his men were in the act of taking aim as the scouts passed up, 6 in number, 2 having halted at Harper’s. I ordered him not to fire, and, as soon as I could do so without giving any alarm, moved the head of the column forward to the position occupied by Captain Campbell, reaching this just as Captain Burns opened fire on them, and ordered a charge from his position above. I moved my right down to the road, with orders to fire on them in case they could not halt them.
Not reaching the road in time, they fired, killing 3 and wounding 1, 1 having been wounded in Captain Burns’ fire, and 1, by having his horse shot under him, was thrown in a fence corner and taken prisoner. The whole 6 were thus killed, wounded, or taken prisoners. One of the killed we found to be Clay Ward, a son of the Mr. [A. B.] Ward at whose house we had halted. We took 3 head of horses, which were brought off--1 escaping, wounded, 1 being so badly wounded as to be unfit for service, and 1 being killed--and I presume 5 sabers, 5 Colt’s pistols, and 5 Sharps carbines, though they were not all reported to me. We pursued the 2 scouts, who had halted at Harper’s, but as the flanking party sent out by me had not gotten in position on the road toward the burnt bridge, they escaped in the direction of Beverly.
As your artillery had not yet opened fire, I here halted, and ordered back my flankers, and again moved as directed by your dispatch dated 1 p. m. Some delay was here caused to our movements on account of the non-arrival of my scouts or flanking party from above the burnt bridge, who had not gotten in position when my messenger arrived at the point to which they had been sent. I moved, however, as nearly as I could in the direction of the Earl Hill at 1.40 p. m., without my guides, and the road being blockaded above, I moved across the country, keeping my skirmishers well out in front, and halting them at intervals, the woods being so dense they could not see each other; occasionally we could move but slowly, and our course was not direct on account of the difficulties already mentioned. Indeed, I was thrown almost entirely on my own resources, as Lieutenant [J. S.] Wamsley knew nothing but the general course.
With the arrival of my guides, whom I had directed to come up, I received a dispatch from you, requesting me to move so as to support Captain Marshall if he moved toward the Earl Hill. I was at that time in no position to see any movements that were making on my left, and as I had not sufficient cavalry to scout the country, all I could do was to move so as to gain a point from which I could do as you directed; and at about 5 p. m. I reached Fontaine Butcher’s farm, on the hill immediately south of Files Creek.
Here I found myself some half a mile to the right of the Earl Hill, but was enabled to get a full view of the position of the enemy on Butcher’s or Collett’s Hill, northeast of Beverly, where he had his artillery planted. Here I sent out scouts to find out whether Captain Marshall had made the movement indicated, and also dispatched to you. I intended to move to the Earl Hill after sunset. Why I did not bring on an action, you know.
At 7.30 o’clock I received your dispatch, ordering me to take position above Harper’s, which I reached by the back road at 11.30 p. m.
On the morning of the 3d instant, I moved at 6.45 o’clock, being compelled to delay longer than I had intended, in order to find the command; and at this point I had to leave about 30 men, who were unable to march. These I ordered up to Henry Harper’s, to be used in case I should need them.
I moved forward, sending my cavalry ahead to scout the road, and detaching an advance guard from Captain [G.] Downs company, which I placed under the command of Lieutenant [J. W.] Morgan. In this manner I was enabled to reach the point indicated by you much sooner than I could otherwise have done, and as your order to me was imperative, I did not hesitate to move in this manner; and, indeed, I consider it as safe as any I could have adopted on such ground.
On reaching Daniel’s farm, at the top of the hill, on this side of Files Creek, and where there is a road leading to the Earl Hill, I detached Captain [J. W.] Young, with his cavalry, to scout the roads, and ordered Captain Burns forward to reconnoiter the position I had occupied on the previous evening, and moved my infantry forward in supporting distance in case he was attacked.
On consultation with Lieutenant Wamsley (and you had requested me to give his opinions due consideration), I agreed to move my infantry to nearly their old position, which I would not have done if I had not taken his advice, but would have placed them on the right, in a woodland. As you had dispatched to me that you were about to dismount Spriggs command, and send them in the rear or flank of the enemy, and added, “You may come up with him, or he with you,” I directed scouts to be sent toward Earl Hill, supposing he might come up from that point. As there was but a small skirt of woods, and part of that cut away, I deemed it safe to send but the cavalry forward, afterward moving up the infantry, and resting in place, preparatory to moving forward in line of battle, the ground having been passed over by Captain Burns.
Your artillery had now (8.45 a. m.) nearly ceased p laying, and no firing of small-arms being heard, I wrote a dispatch to Captain Young, directing him to scout fully the road in the direction of Earl Hill, and was on the point of sending one to you, informing you where I was, &c., when I was fired on by the enemy in ambush, the first fire, a single shot, striking my horse.
I immediately ordered the men to fall in, and on that order being given, the fire became general along the enemy’s line, which I then discovered to be an extended one, and at some 40 or 50 yards distance, excepting on the right flank--now left, as we formed for action faced to the rear.
This fire at first produced some excitement along the line, and produced a little wavering, which pervaded the action till nearly its close. A simultaneous movement was immediately ordered of the whole line, and the battalion now rushed forward with deafening cheers on the position of the enemy in our immediate front, giving him a raking fire, which we were enabled to do before he could reload. A few, however, had either reserved their fire or had gotten their arms reloaded, and gave us one fire, though scattering, at which time Lieut. William Harris, commanding Captain Downs company, fell, mortally wounded, while gallantly leading his company.
The men, with few exceptions, now pressed forward, and the rout of the enemy became complete; and as he was formed with a stout worm fence, staked and ridered, in his rear on his left, and another old worm fence grown up with underbrush on his right, leaving but a single place for his men to retreat, in their attempt our men were enabled to deliver their fire with such deadly aim that 14 of his killed and wounded were left immediately on the ground.
The skirmish now became a running one, our men following and firing, the enemy retreating, and not returning our fire. On the right (now left), where I now was, I saw 3 of the enemy fall while running through an oat-field, and from the most reliable information I could get, and from a report made me by Lieutenant [William E.] Lake, who afterward examined the field, some 14, at least, of the enemy were left on different portions of the field, making in all from 30 to 35 of the enemy left on the field, not including those wounded slightly.
Our loss was trifling compared with theirs, and consisted of the following: Killed, 3; wounded, 5.
It would afford me great pleasure to bear testimony to the several acts of gallantry performed by the several companies I commanded. I must here bear testimony to the good conduct of Lieutenant Wamsley, of Captain Marshall’s company, who advanced with the first charge, calling out, “Come on; don’t let the d____d Yankees whip us on our own soil;” to Lieut. J. G. Gittings, my acting adjutant, who rendered me valuable assistance by bringing up the right with loud cheering; and to that of Randolph Wamsley, of Captain Marshall’s company, who rushed into the fight, though acting only as a guide, but who, I am sorry to record, fell, mortally wounded.
After calling back the troops and rallying them on the ground where the skirmish took place, I had the wounded cared for, and communicating with my cavalry command, I ordered the infantry back to a rise immediately in my rear, where I could not be flanked, and sent out a picket to occupy the ground in front of where the skirmish took place. Here I received your dispatch ordering me to fall back to Ward’s, which I immediately proceeded to do, going to the rear to attend to the wounded and have the dead interred. The wounded I had taken to Mr. W. Daniel’s, and made arrangements to have them cared for, the citizens agreeing to have the dead decently buried.
In falling back to Huttonsville, I made arrangements to have all my broken-down troops brought up, ordering my cavalry to dismount in order to bring them up.
As you are fully aware of the condition in which I turned over the command to you, allow me to suscribe myself, very respectfully. your obedient. servant,
D. Boston Stewart,
Col. W. L. Jackson,
Commanding Huntersville Line.
P. S. The enemy’s force in the skirmish on the morning of the 3d instant, as stated by his wounded, amounted to over 200 men. Ours did not amount to more than 140 men in infantry. Our cavalry was not in the action.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: July 1863