Series 1, Volume 27, part 2, pp. 943-45, 1000-1005
Report of Maj. John J. Hoffman, Second West Virginia Cavalry.
Camp Piatt, W. Va.,
July 27, 1863.
Sir: Monday p. m., July 13, seven companies of the Second Regiment, [West] Virginia Volunteer Cavalry, B, C, D, E, F, H, and I, 365 men, all told, under the command of Col. William H. Powell, with Major McMahan and myself, crossed the river at camp, and joined the Thirty-fourth Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry (mounted), under Col. John T. Toland, commanding the brigade. The entire command marched up Coal River 50 miles, without meeting with any incident worthy of notice until Tuesday evening [14th]. While attempting to cross Piney Creek at Spangler’s Mills, east of Raleigh some 4 miles, Company C (Captain Allen), being the advance guard, was fired into by a party of rebels lying in ambush across the stream, and 1 killed and 4 wounded, one of whom has since died.
Immediately afterward we were ordered to fall back to the Wyoming pike, and there await the train with forage and rations. In the extreme darkness of the night and on the worst of roads, the command became separated, and a portion bivouacked in the woods until daylight, while the remainder went to Raleigh, and we met again about noon the next day at Harper’s, some 10 miles from Raleigh.
The whole command then marched toward Oceana Court-House, through which we passed Thursday, near 12 m. Friday [17th], we struck the Tug Fork of Sandy, and before crossing Tug Ridge, three companies, D, E, and F, with Colonel Powell, were sent in advance, and on the top of the ridge captured a picket of 6 men, and, some 3 miles farther on, dashed into Camp Pemberton, at the head of Abb’s Valley, and captured 25 prisoners belonging to a home-guard company, with several horses, a quantity of quartermasters and commissary stores, and 700 stand of arms, intended for arming a regiment in that vicinity. The stores were distributed as far as needed, and the houses and arms burned. On the North Fork of Clinch River a large flouring mill was burned. Saturday morning [18th], we passed Burk’s Garden, and, by order of Colonel Toland, turned a store and dwelling-house, containing a large quantity of powder, clothing, & c., intended for the use of the rebels.
Some 5 miles from Wytheville, Companies D and F, with Captains Ruker and Millard, were detached, and ordered to strike the railroad at a depot 10 miles from the town, and destroy it and as much of the road as possible. They reached the point, but, finding it strongly guarded, did not effect the desired object, and again joined the command on our return, after a rapid ride of 26 miles in less than four hours.
We reached Wytheville Court-House about 6 p. m. Saturday, the 18th, and immediately charged into town in the following order: Two companies of the First [West] Virginia Cavalry, Captains Gilmore and Delaney, in advance; next, Colonel Powell, with Company I, Second [West] Virginia. I came next, with Company B, and the remaining companies (excepting E), with Major McMahan, bringing up the rear. Company E was left as rear guard, and placed on picket by Colonel Toland, and did good service on our return that night.
The charge was gallantly made down the road leading to the head of Main street, under a very hot fire. The two companies, First [West] Virginia, and Company I, Second [West] Virginia, penetrated some distance into the street, when they were checked by a severe fire from the street and all the surrounding buildings, and the remainder of the command stopped near the entrance of the street by a similar fire. At this point, and within a few minutes after the fight fairly commenced, Colonel Powell was severely wounded in the back by a revolver fired by one of our men, and left the field. My horse was shot, and I was thrown over his head, receiving a severe fall, which stunned and disabled me for a time. It was a very close and hot fight, and our men and horses were falling fast, when they were promptly relieved by Colonel Toland, yourself, and Major Shaw, with the gallant Thirty-fourth, who did good service, and rapidly dislodged the enemy and drove them through the town.
In a very short time, Colonel Toland, while sitting on his horse, and handling his men to the best advantage, with as much coolness as on dress-parade, was killed. All honor is due the brave soldier and patriot who thus sacrificed his life for his country’s good.
After the death of Colonel Toland, the entire command devolved upon you, since which time the conduct of the troops, their success, their unflinching bravery, and their patient suffering under the extreme hardships caused by want of food and rest, and by incessant marching through the mountains and over routes thought to be impassable by any military force, however constituted, for four days and nights, will more properly be made a part of your report.
While returning on Monday [20th], I take special pleasure in referring to Captain Davidson, Company B, who, while in command of the rear guard, and being attacked by a cavalry force much larger than his, promptly resisted the attack, and, when struck at with a saber by the officer commanding the rebels, shot him through the breast with his revolver. Lieutenant Barber, of the same company, while aiding his captain, was shot through the side of the head, but not wounded severely.
The loss of horses and equipments is large, but cannot be reported to you in detail at present. Our loss of officers and men in killed, wounded, prisoners, and missing is as follows: _____
We reached camp Saturday, 2 a. m., the 25th, with men and horses tired and worn down with fatigue, having been in the saddle twelve days and a large portion of the nights.
I cannot close this report without expressing the high appreciation II have of the conduct of yourself and all the officers and men in the entire command. So far as I know, all did their duty nobly and well, and manifested a desire to co-operate with and assist each other at all times and under all circumstances, and with an ardent wish to fully accomplish the object of our expedition.
J. J. Hoffman,
Major, Comdg. Second [West] Virginia Volunteer Cavalry.
Lieut. Col. F. E. Franklin,
Comdg. Third Brigade, Third Division, Eighth Corps.
Hdqrs. Third Brig., Third Div., Eighth Army Corps,
Camp Piatt, W. Va., July __, 1863.
Sir: I have the honor, most respectfully, to submit the following report of the expedition of the Third Brigade, Third Division, Eighth Army Corps, recently made to Wytheville, Va.:
The expedition left Camp Piatt, Brownstown, W. Va., on the 13th of July, at 4 p. m., under command of Col. John T. Toland, Thirty- fourth Regiment Mounted Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The command consisted of the Thirty-fourth Regiment Mounted Ohio Volunteer Infantry, numbering 505 officers and men, under Lieut. Col. F. E. Franklin, and seven companies of the Second West Virginia Volunteer Cavalry, numbering 367 officers and men, under Col. W. H. Powell.
Colonel Toland proceeded, in accordance with your order by telegraph, dated July 12, by way of Raleigh, toward Shady Spring to gain the rear of the enemy. The march was up Lens Creek to Coal River, and thence up to the marshes, from which point moving toward Raleigh and striking the Wyoming pike, 12 miles from Raleigh Court-House. Colonel Toland proceeded by a path through the woods to the road by way of Spangler’s Mill, on the left of the enemy’s position, toward Shady Spring. The march was very laborious, being obliged to ford Coal River thirty times. This jaded the horses very much.
The head of the column reached a point about three-quarters of a mile from Spangler’s Mill at 6.30 p. m. of Tuesday, July 14, where the advance encountered a small outpost of the enemy’s guards, capturing 1 man with his horse.
Proceeding forward a short distance, our advance was fired upon by the grand guard of the enemy, numbering 50 to 60 men, and posted on a rise of ground just across Piney Creek. Colonel Toland sent forward two companies of the Thirty-fourth Regiment as skirmishers, which soon drove the enemy from his position. Our advance lost 2 killed and 3 wounded at this point. The enemy is reported to have lost 9 in killed and wounded.
While at this point the communication of General Scammon, of July 14, was received, referring to order sent by Captain Gilmore, and directing Colonel Toland to return to the forks of the Wyoming and Coal roads, and move immediately upon the railroad at Wytheville, Va.
The return march was immediately commenced, but, owing to the great darkness of the night and the exceedingly bad condition of the road or path, the column became broken and separated, and part of the command proceeded under Lieutenant-Colonel Franklin to the town of Raleigh Court-House. A part with Colonel Toland struck the Wyoming pike at a point 5 miles from Raleigh Court-House. This occupied nearly the whole night.
The horses had now been under the saddle for thirty-six hours, and had marched a distance of about 65 miles, according to information received from the guides. Lieutenant-Colonel Franklin was immediately ordered out from Raleigh with the forces at that point, and at 10 o’clock the whole command was united at Harper’s, 6 miles west of Raleigh, on the Wyoming pike. Here, also, Captain Gilmore, of the First West Virginia Cavalry, with two companies, joined the column, as per your order of the 14th July, with the train containing supplies. From this point commanding officers were ordered to send back to Raleigh all unserviceable horses, and all the men who were unfit to stand the trip.
At 1 p. m. Colonel Toland moved forward, having in his command a total force of 818, exclusive of one company of the Second West Virginia as escort to the train.
The forces were as follows: Thirty-fourth Mounted Ohio Volunteer Infantry, 441, aggregate; Second West Virginia Cavalry, 298, aggregate; First West Virginia Cavalry, 79, aggregate.
At the marshes of Coal the column was halted and supplied with four days rations for the men and three for the horses. The train was sent back and the forces camped for the night at Jones’. The Marsh fork of Coal being impassable for horses without swimming a bridge was thrown across, and on the morning of the 16th July Colonel Toland moved the column forward over Little and Guyandotte Mountains and by way of Wyoming Court-House, a distance of 40 miles.
On the 17th, near Tug Mountain, it was ascertained that a small force of the enemy were stationed in Abb’s Valley, just beyond the mountain, picketing the gap, through which the route of our column lay. Colonel Toland ordered Colonel Powell to go forward with three companies of the Second West Virginia Cavalry and to surprise the rebel pickets, and, if possible, to capture their entire force. This Colonel Powell effected, capturing all but 1 man, who made his escape and gave intelligence to the enemy of our approach, the first intelligence of the kind that had preceded us.
At Abb’s Valley we captured 35 prisoners, 20 horses, five or six hundred stand of good arms, and considerable supplies of quartermaster and commissary stores. The buildings and stores were burned and the prisoners taken in rear of the column. Pushing on that night over very rough roads, the column encamped for the night at the Taylor farm, 5 1/2 miles from Jeffersonville and 45 miles from Wytheville, having marched 40 miles that day.
Colonel Toland moved from camp at 3 o’clock on the morning of the 18th, and moved forward in good condition on the Wytheville pike, leaving Jeffersonville 2 miles to the right; crossing the mountains into Burke’s Garden, a beautiful valley of 12 miles in length, we encountered a company of bushwhackers, which very soon dispersed. Thence the column moved on rapidly toward Wytheville.
Arriving within 10 miles of the town, information was received that the enemy’s force was small, not exceeding 300. Colonel Toland then detached two companies of Second West Virginia Cavalry, under Captain Millard, and when the column arrived to within 6 miles of Wytheville, sent them on a cross-road to strike the railroad at Mount Airy depot, 10 miles from Wytheville, with orders to tear up the track and cut the telegraph wires, moving toward town.
Colonel Toland’s plan was then to send forward the remainder of the cavalry to attack the town, while he should proceed with the Thirty-fourth Regiment by a cross-road, which leaves the pike at a distance of 3 miles from time place, directly to the large railroad bridge across Reed Creek, and destroy the same; but having sent away our only reliable guide with Captain Millard, and having obtained information that the enemy had received re-enforcements at the town, he determined to push on with the whole column into the place and then proceed down the railroad to the bridge.
Capt. G. W. Gilmore, with the two companies of the First West Virginia, was ordered to charge into the town, while Colonel Powell, with time remaining five companies of the Second West Virginia Cavalry, was ordered to support Gilmore, the Thirty-fourth Regiment being held in reserve.
Very unexpectedly to Colonel Toland, and entirely contrary to our previous information, the enemy was found to have taken their position in the houses of the town, both public and private, besides having a force in reserve on the street. Nevertheless, Captain Gilmore led his command forward with great gallantry, charging through a heavy fire. I regret to state that the Second West Virginia Cavalry did not behave so well, but were thrown into considerable confusion, many of them dismounting and leaving their horses, while they sought their own safety.
The Thirty-fourth Regiment was immediately dismounted and ordered forward on the double-quick. Just at this juncture Colonel Powell fell, dangerously wounded, with a pistol ball through the back, and the Second West Virginia were not led into the fight as a regiment.
The Thirty-fourth Regiment moved forward and, attacked the court-house and several private buildings, which were strongly garrisoned by the enemy. The fire of the enemy was very murderous at these buildings, and here Colonel Toland fell, pierced through the vitals, while in the act of urging his men forward and making disposition of his forces. I was at that time considerably in advance, with the advance of the Thirty-fourth Regiment, and failed to hear of Colonel Toland’s death until some time after its occurrence.
Captain Gilmore pressed forward toward the depot, where he found the enemy in small force, but strongly posted, with two pieces of artillery. Lieutenant Abraham, of Captain Gilmore’s company, with a detachment of, the Thirty-fourth Regiment, charged upon the guns, shot down the gunners just as they were preparing to fire their second shot, and captured both pieces.
In the meantime, the Thirty-fourth Regiment had deployed through the town and driven the enemy from every position, capturing a considerable number of prisoners. The soldiers and citizens, and even some of the women, fired from private dwelling-houses, taking deliberate aim. As soon as the dead and wounded were removed, Lieut. E. W. Clark, acting assistant adjutant-general of the brigade, ordered the court-house and private and public buildings immediately adjacent, from which the rebel fire had been hottest, to be burned, and, subsequently, the main part of the town was fired and reduced to ashes. In the meantime, I had sent a force to the left of the town to destroy some small bridges and a culvert which were reported there. This was successfully accomplished. One short bridge and one culvert were destroyed. It was about 8.30, the fight having been commenced at 7 o’clock.
Having completely routed the rebels and driven them from every part of the town, I drew off my forces, when information came that the rear guard of the column, in charge of the prisoners, had been attacked by a force of 300 rebel cavalry and the prisoners retaken, together with several of our own men, including Captain Cutler, of Company C, Thirty-fourth, who had charge of the rear guard.
By this time, Captain Millard, who had been sent to the Mount Airy depot, had returned and reported that a force of 300 rebels occupied the place, and that the bridge over Reed Creek was strongly garrisoned. Upon consultation with the regimental commanders, it was thought inadvisable to make any further demonstrations against the enemy. It seemed impossible to obtain accurate information of the enemy’s position or strength, though all reports represented the bridge as strongly occupied.
To remain and attack in the morning was to hazard the whole expedition, without assurance of accomplishing the object. I therefore concluded to draw off my command, and at 3 a. m., of July 19, commenced the return march. Having reached Queen’s Knob, a spur of Walker’s Mountain, about 12 miles from Wytheville and ascertaining that the enemy had a force in our front, and the road blockaded, we paroled the prisoners taken at Wytheville, 86 in number, destroyed the artillery captured, and after proceeding a short distance took a mountain path to the right, crossing Queen’s Knob, Walker’s Mountain, Brushy Mountain, and thus through Hunting Camp, leaving Stony Gap on our right; thence northwesterly over Wolf Creek and East River Mountains, crossing the Tazewell and Mechanicsburg, the Tazewell and Parisburg, and the Tazewell and East River main roads, or pikes; thence we proceeded across Stone Ridge, Blue Stone River, and Mud Fork Ridge, into the mouth of Abb’s Valley, on the Laurel Fork of Blue Stone.
Here we halted for the night, having marched about 45 miles during the day. At about 4 p. m. of this day our rear guard was attacked by the enemy’s cavalry while on the Tazewell and Parisburg pikes, but without any loss, the rebels being repulsed.
Moving forward at 3 a. m. of Monday, the 20th of July, we proceeded to mountain paths across the west end of Great Flat Top Mountain, over Indian Ridge, Pinnacle Ridge, and down Pinnacle Creek; thence across Casey’s and Barker’s Ridge, and along Pond Mountain, finally crossing Guyandotte and Pond Mountains to the marshes of Coal River, where we struck the Maple Meadow road, at a distance of 9 miles from Raleigh Court-House, from which point we marched through the town of Raleigh and rested at Francis farm, on the Raleigh and Fayetteville road, at 5 p. m. of July 22.
Our march had been through a country almost entirely barren of provision and forage, without food for horses or men. Only once after leaving Wytheville had we been able to obtain anything for the men. On the night of the 21st, we obtained four small steers and a small quantity of meal, which served to appease their hunger for a short time. The paths along which we passed presented obstacles almost impassable, being filled with fallen timber and winding over rocky steeps, which are beyond description, and seem almost incredible at the present time, the enemy being upon our rear with a considerable force of cavalry until about noon of the 21st.
He had been several times repulsed, and the major in command killed by the rear guard. When attempting a charge upon our rear he was met by a galling fire from Company F, of the Thirty-fourth Regiment, which had been placed in ambush, emptying fifteen saddles at one volley. The major in command of the rebel cavalry having been killed, and the ranks thus thinned by our infantry, the rebel force drew off, and we were not again molested.
The, whole distance marched from Wytheville to Raleigh by the route pursued is about 140 miles. My reasons for marching my column over the mountains was the fact of all the gaps on the main road through which we must pass being occupied by the enemy and blockaded, and we could not afford the time to contend with the enemy at these points or remove the obstructions.
Owing to the lack of forage and the severe labor obliged to be undergone, many horses gave out and were left on the road. I estimate the number roughly at three hundred. Many of these were replaced by horses captured in Tazewell and Wythe Counties, so that not more than 100 men were dismounted and obliged to march into camp on foot.
From Raleigh I sent forward messengers to Fayetteville for supplies of forage and provisions for my famishing command. The next morning a train reached us at daylight bearing supplies. My thanks are due Colonel Duval, of the Ninth West Virginia Infantry, then commanding at Fayetteville, for the energy and promptness he [displayed] in supplying our necessities.
From Francis’ farm I moved my command to Fayetteville on the 23d. On the 24th we moved to Loup Creek, and the next morning to Camp Piatt, arriving at this point at noon of July 25th. The whole march occupied twelve days, and was over 400 miles in length. During four days of the time the command was entirely without rations. During all the fatigues and privations not a murmur or complaint was heard from any of the men.
With the exception mentioned above in the fight at Wytheville, the whole command acquitted themselves with the greatest credit. I would especially mention Captain Gilmore’s command, of First West Virginia Cavalry, who led the charge at Wytheville. They were the most exposed and suffered most severely. Captain Delaney, of Company A, was killed in the first of the engagement while gallantly leading his command at the head of the column. Both his lieutenants were subsequently severely wounded while successively commanding his company, and left on the field. Major Shaw, who took command of the Thirty-fourth Regiment upon Colonel Toland’s death, rendered efficient service, and is especially deserving of praise. I would also mention Lient. E. W. Clark, jr., acting assistant adjutant-general of the brigade, who was continually at his post at all times, and rendered efficient service upon the field and on the march.
Our whole loss in killed, wounded, and missing was as follows:
Thirty-fourth Regiment Mounted Ohio Volunteer infantry. Killed: Col. John T. Toland; enlisted men, 3. Wounded: Second Lieut. N. W. Hays; enlisted men, 10. Prisoners, 17. Missing: Capt. John Cutler; enlisted men, 9. Aggregate loss: Killed, 4; wounded, 11; prisoners, 17; missing, 10-42.
Second West Virginia Volunteer Cavalry. Killed: Enlisted men, 3. Wounded: Col. W. H. Powell (severely), First Lieut. J. P. Barber (slightly); enlisted men, 4. Missing, 9. Aggregate loss Killed, 3; wounded, 6; missing, 9-18.
Detachment First West Virginia Volunteer Cavalry. Killed: Capt.. Dennis Delaney; enlisted men, 3. Wounded: First Lieut. W. E. Guseman (severely), Second Lieut. C. H. Livingston (severely); enlisted men, 13. Missing: Enlisted men, 7. Aggregate loss: Killed, 4; wounded, 15; missing, 7-26.
Aggregate loss of entire command. Killed: Commissioned officers, 2; enlisted men, 9. Wounded: Commissioned officers, 5; enlisted men, 27. Prisoners, enlisted men, 17. Missing: Commissioned officers, 1; enlisted men, 25. Aggregate, 86.
The loss of Colonel Toland is a severe one, and cannot be replaced. He is mourned by the whole command. It is hoped that Colonel Powell’s wound will not prove mortal. Most of our wounded were left at Wytheville, as will be seen by the official report of killed, wounded, and missing, which will be forwarded as soon as practicable. The enemy’s loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners cannot, I am satisfied, fall short of 200, and is probably greater; Captain Oliver, of Oliver’s rebel battery, and the major commanding the cavalry battalion, are known to have been killed. Five commissioned officers were captured.
I neglected to mention above that some 500 stand of small-arms were captured from the enemy at Wytheville and destroyed.
I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
[F. E. Franklin,]
Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding Brigade.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: July 1863