Series 1, Volume 29, Part 1, pp. 33-38
Hdqrs. 4th Separate Brigade, 8th Army Corps,
Beverly, W. Va., September 1, 1863.
General: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of my brigade from the time I assumed command of it to this date:
* * * * * * *
On August 5, I left Winchester and marched over North Mountain to Wardensville, 28 miles. A lieutenant and 10 men of Imboden’s command were captured on the way by Captain von Koenig, who led the advance during the day. I arrived at Moorefield with my command at 8.30 p. m. on the 6th, after a tedious march of 30 miles over a difficult road.
At Lost River a company of the Fourteenth Pennsylvania was sent to Moorefield, via Harper’s Mills, where it captured a lieutenant and a party of the enemy, but subsequently, falling into an ambush after dark, lost its prisoners and 13 men captured. Four of the Fourteenth Pennsylvania were wounded, and 3 of the enemy were killed and 5 wounded.
On the 9th, left Moorefield and marched to Petersburg, 11 miles, leaving Gibson’s battalion on the South Fork. My command was at this time badly in want of horse-shoes and nails, clothing, and ammunition, requisitions for which had been made by my quartermaster, at Cumberland, on the 7th.
The order of Brigadier-General Kelley to move was received on the 15th, at Petersburg, but it was not until noon of the 17th that horse-shoe nails arrived. Some ammunition for Ewing’s battery was also received, but I was unable to increase my supply for small- arms, which amounted to about thirty-five cartridges to each man. Th[i]s was sufficient for any ordinary engagement, but we had a long march before us, entirely in the country occupied by the enemy, and I felt apprehensive that the supply would be exhausted before the expedition should be ended.
It was my opinion that the delay which would ensue by awaiting the arrival of ammunition would be more dangerous to us than undertaking the expedition with the supply we had. Therefore, on the 18th, Colonel Oley, of time Eighth [West] Virginia, was sent, with his regiment, up the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac, and Gibson’s battalion up the South Fork, and on the morning of the 19th, I moved with the Third [West] Virginia, Fourteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, and Ewing’s battery nearly to Franklin, sending forward two squadrons to destroy the saltpeter works 5 miles above.
On the 20th, proceeded up the South Branch to Monterey, over a rough road, the Eighth [West] Virginia and Gibson’s battalion joining the column on the march. A few guerrillas were captured on the road.
At Monterey the quarterly court was found in session. Upon my arrival it was adjourned and the principal officials arrested. It was learned that Imboden had been there the day previous to hold a conference with Maj. Gen. Samuel Jones upon the subject of attacking me at Petersburg. The road to Huntersville was taken on the 21st as far as Gibson’s Store, my advance, conducted by Lieutenant Rumsey, aide-de-camp, driving about 300 of the enemy before it, during the march, to within 5 miles of Huntersville.
Our casualties during the day were only 4 wounded, and 6 horses killed and disabled, although constantly annoyed by shots from guerrillas who infested the bushes along the way.
Learning during the night of the 21st that the enemy had assumed a position in a ravine about 3 miles from Huntersville, which was difficult to carry on account of the precipitous character of the sides, I made a false advance, on the 22d, with Gibson’s battalion, while the main body, taking a by-road to the right, reached Huntersville without meeting resistance, rendering the position of the enemy useless to him, and causing him to retire in haste toward Warm Springs.
Colonel Oley, with the Eighth [West] Virginia and one squadron of the Third [West] Virginia, was sent after the retreating enemy and overtook his rear guard at Camp Northwest, from whence it was driven several miles. Camp Northwest was burned and destroyed, with commissary buildings and stores, blacksmith-shops, several wagons, a number of Enfield rifles, gun equipments, and a quantity of wheat and flour at a mill nearby. A large number of canteens, stretchers, arid hospital supplies fell into our hands.
The 23d was spent at Huntersville awaiting the arrival of the Second and Tenth [West] Virginia. The Tenth and a detachment of about 350 of the Second [West] Virginia, and a section of Keeper’s battery, arrived during the day from the direction of Beverly. The Second had 40 rounds of ammunition per man, with 1,000 rounds additional, which were transferred to the Third [West] Virginia. During the day, a reconnaissance under Lieutenant-Colonel Polsley, Eighth [West] Virginia, was made toward Warm Springs. One lieutenant and 5 men of the enemy were captured, and 12 killed and wounded. Our loss was only 5 horses shot.
On the 24th, the march was resumed toward Warm Springs, through which Jackson and his forces were driven over the mountains east of that place toward Millborough. Our losses during the day were 2 men severely wounded, some slightly hurt, and a few horses shot. Captured many arms, saddles, and other stores from the enemy.
The forces under Jackson having been driven out of Pocahontas County too soon to permit them to form a junction with any other bodies of the enemy, and the prospect of overtaking him being very small, I determined to turn my column toward Lewisburg, hoping that my movement up to the Warm Springs had led the enemy to believe that I was on my way to his depots in the vicinity of Staunton. I relied also upon some co-operation from the direction of Summerville. I therefore sent the Tenth [West] Virginia back to Huntersville, and on the 25th made a rapid march of 25 miles to Callaghan’s, in Alleghany County, destroying the saltpeter-works on Jacksons River on my way. Arrived at Callaghan’s, reconnoitering parties were sent toward Covington and Sweet Springs. Some wagons of the enemy were captured near Covington, and the salt- peter-works in that vicinity destroyed.
At 4 a. m. on the 26th, my column was formed, en route to White Sulphur Springs, in the following order, viz:
1. Advance guard, under charge of Captain von Koenig, consisting of two companies of the Second [West] Virginia and two companies of the Eighth [West] Virginia.
2. Second [West] Virginia Mounted Infantry.
3. Eighth [West] Virginia Mounted Infantry.
4. Gibson’s battalion.
5. Ewing’s battery.
6. Fourteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry.
7. Third [West] Virginia Mounted Infantry.
The road crossed two mountain ranges before 10 miles had been traveled over. About 9.30 a. m., when about 12 miles from Callaghan’s, a message from Captain Koenig was received by me, at the head of the column, that the enemy were resisting his advance, and desiring re-enforcements. A squadron of the Second was sent on at a trot, and a squadron of the Eighth ordered forward. A few minutes elapsed when the enemy’s cannon announced his purpose of disputing our farther progress and indicated his strength.
I at once started the column forward at a rapid gait down through a narrow pass, which soon opened out into a little valley a mile long, inclosed on each side by rugged rocky heights, covered with a stunted growth of pine, oak, and chestnut trees. At the opening the projectiles from the enemy’s cannon first struck the head of our column. A jutting cliff on the right afforded protection for the horses of the Second and Eighth, and the dismounted men of the Second were at once ordered to the summit of the ridge on our right, and the squadron of the Eighth dismounted to the hill on our left. A section of Ewing’s battery was brought up rapidly and planted on the first available position, where it opened briskly and with great accuracy.
The squadron of the Eighth, ordered to the left, mistook the direction in some way, and found itself on the right with the Second I West] Virginia. The main body of the Eighth [West] Virginia, led by Colonel Oley, however, soon made their way to the crest on our left. The Third [West] Virginia and Fourteenth Pennsylvania were ordered forward, and came to the front dismounted very soon.
I beg to call your attention to the fact that my column of horses, nearly 4 miles long, was now in a narrow gorge, and that during the time necessary for the Third [West] Virginia and Fourteenth Pennsylvania to arrive at the front, it was necessary that Ewing, supported only by the advance guard, should maintain his position against an attack of the enemy’s artillery and infantry combined. The Second on the right, and the Eighth on the left, afforded some support, but Ewing’s battery, with canister, not only resisted the approach of the enemy, but actually advanced upon him, in order to obtain a better position, and held him at bay until the arrival of the Fourteenth Pennsylvania and Third [West] Virginia, which were at once deployed to the right and left of the road, thus filling up the gap in my line.
The enemy gave away his position to us, and endeavored to assume another about half a mile in rear of the first, with his right resting upon a rugged prominence, his center and left protected by a temporary stockade, which he had formed of fence-rails. I resolved to dislodge him before he should become well established, and then, if possible, to rout him from the field.
One of the guns of Ewing had burst, and the other five were advanced to within 600 yards of the enemy. Captain Koenig was sent to advance the Third and Eighth, and orders were sent to the right also to advance. Gibson’s battalion was thrown into a house and the surrounding inclosures which stood in front of the enemy’s center. The enemy clung tenaciously to the wooded hill on their right, and Gibson’s battalion was driven from the house by a regiment of the enemy which at that moment arrived upon the field. I immediately caused the house to be set on fire by shells, which prevented the enemy from occupying it.
The right was able to gain only a short distance by hard fighting. It then became an affair of sharpshooters along the whole line at a distance of less than 100 yards. The effort which my men had made in scaling a succession of heights on either hand had wearied them almost to exhaustion. A careful fire was kept up by small-arms for three hours, it being almost impossible for either side to advance or retire. During this time I reconnoitered the position, going from the hills on the right to the left.
At about 4 p. m., I determined to make another effort to carry the position. A squadron of the Fourteenth Pennsylvania, which had not been dismounted, was brought up and instructions sent to the commanders along the line that a cavalry charge was about to be made on the enemy’s center, and directing them to act in concert. The charge was splendidly made by Captain Bird, of the Fourteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, who led his men until he came to a stockade which the enemy had thrown across the road.
Orders had been given to the officers commanding the regiments on the right to press forward at the same time and endeavor to gain the Anthony’s Creek road, which came in on the enemy’s left. The order to the Second to advance was conveyed by Lieutenant Combs, the adjutant of that regiment, who, failing to find the colonel commanding the regiment in time, delivered the order to that portion of the regiment nearest to him.
Major McNally, on the right, and Lieutenant Combs, on the left, of the regiment, with less than 100 men, advanced on the enemy’s line and drove them out of the stockade, but, being unsupported by the remainder of the regiment, were forced to fall back, leaving Major McNally mortally wounded in the hands of the enemy.
The effect of the cavalry charge was to cause about 300 of the enemy to run away from the stockade, exposing themselves to a deadly fire from the Fourteenth Pennsylvania, Colonel Schoonmaker, but their position was soon regained by their reserves. No united effort was made to attain the road on the extreme right, as directed.
Reports soon reached me from all p arts of the line that ammunition was falling short. The slackened firing of the enemy evidently indicated that his supply was not plentiful.
The night came with no change in position and no tidings from the west, whence General Scammon was expected. During the night all the ammunition in the wagons was brought up and equitably distributed, and every available man was brought to the front.
It was quite evident to my mind that if the resistance of the enemy was kept up, I could go no farther in that direction. It was impossible to retire during the night without disorder, and perhaps disaster. By remaining until morning two chances remained with me; first, the enemy might retreat, and, second, Scammon might arrive.
The morning showed us that both chances had failed; that the enemy had received ammunition, and that re-enforcements were coming to him from the direction of Lewisburg. The battle was renewed, but every arrangement made in rear for a prompt withdrawal. The ambulances loaded with wounded, the caissons, wagons, and long columns of horses were placed in proper order upon the road, details made for the attendance of the wounded, trees prepared to fall across the gorge when our art4lery should have passed, and commanding officers received their instructions. The enemy’s re-enforcements arrived and attempted to turn my left about 10 a. m.
At 10.30 o’clock the order to retire was given, and in forty-five minutes from that time my column was moving off in good order, my rear guard at the barricades repulsing the enemy’s advance twice before it left the ground. Successive barricades were formed, and my column reached Callaghan’s about 5 p. m., where it was halted, fires built, and the men and horses given the first opportunity to eat for thirty-six hours. After dark the fires were left burning and the column took the road to Warm Springs.
A scouting party of the enemy in front of us had left word with the citizens that Jackson was at Gatewood’s, with a strong force. This shallow attempt at deception did not deter us from marching to that point, where we arrived at daylight on the 28th.
At 9 a. m. the march was resumed to Huntersville, without interruption, but with considerable annoyance from guerrillas. At evening we marched to Greenbrier Bridge, or Marling’s Bottom, where Colonel Harris, with the Tenth [West] Virginia, was posted. The ensuing day the command moved to Big Spring, where it was ascertained that a party of the enemy had entered the road before us for the purpose of blockading it.
At 2 a. m. on the 30th, we were again en route, and at daylight came upon a blockade, half a mile long, made by felling large trees across the road. While delayed in cutting it out the animals were fed, and a strong blockade made in rear.
The command arrived at Beverly on August 31, having marched, since June 10, 636 miles, exclusive of the distance passed over by railroad and of the marches made by detachments, which would increase the distance for the entire command to at least 1,000 miles.
This command has been mounted, equipped, and drilled; has marched over 600 miles through a rugged, mountainous region, fighting the enemy almost daily; had one severe battle; destroyed the camps of the enemy; captured large amounts of supplies and 266 prisoners, in less than eighty days.
The strength of the enemy opposed to mom the engagement at Rocky Gap was 2,500, as near as could be ascertained by observations and from the reports of prisoners, and also from statements of rebel officers. I did not have 1,300 men in the front the first day.
I inclose tabular statement of my loss; also the report of the medical director, and a copy of orders received from Brigadier-General Kelley, at Petersburg.
I cannot conclude this report without expressing my high commendation of the conduct of the officers and men of my command, who, heretofore accustomed to a lax discipline, have yielded to me always a cheerful obedience. With few exceptions, their behavior in battle has been worthy of great praise.
Among those who particularly distinguished themselves in action for gallantry and ability I would mention the following officers, viz:
Capt. Paul von Koenig, aide-de-camp, killed.
First [West] Virginia Artillery: Capt. C. T. Ewing, wounded.
Second [West] Virginia Mounted Infantry: Maj. P. McNally, died of wounds.
Eighth [West] Virginia Mounted Infantry: Capts. W. L. Gardner, W. H. H. Parker, and Lieut. J. A. Morehart, killed.
Fourteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry: Capt. John Bird, wounded and prisoner; Lieuts. John W .M cNutt, M. W. Wilson, James Jackson, and Jacob Schoop, wounded.
I was greatly indebted to the following-named officers for their untiring energy and hearty co-operation during the battle: Lieuts. J. R. Meigs, of the Engineers, U. S. Army, and Will Rumsey, Capt. C. F. Trowbridge, and Lieut. L. Markbreit, aides-de-camp; Maj. T. F. Lang, acting assistant inspector-general; Lieut. G. H. North, assistant quartermaster; Cols. J. N. Schoonmaker, Fourteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, and J. H. Oley, Eighth [West] Virginia Mounted Infantry; Lieuts. J. Combs, adjutant Second [West] Virginia Mounted Infantry, and B. H. H. Atkinson, Battery B, First [West] Virginia Artillery.
I regret to report that Capt. Robert Pollock, Fourteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, failed to make his appearance within view of the enemy, and remained behind in a secluded place, with most of his company, where, I am informed, he was found asleep by the enemy after the command had been withdrawn.
Capt. James K. Billingsly, Second [West] Virginia Mounted Infantry, was too much intoxicated to perform his duties properly. He will be brought before a general court-martial.
Wm. W. Averell,
Brigadier-General of Volunteers.
Brig. Gen. Lorenzo Thomas,
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: August 1863