Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood
October 22, 1863

Official Records
Series 1, Volume 29, Part 1

OCTOBER 18, 1863. ? Attack on Charlestown, W.Va., and Skirmishes on Road to Berryville, Va.


No 1.

Reports of Brig. General Jeremiah C. Sullivan, U. S. Army.

Clarksburg, W.Va.,
October 18, 1863.

Brigadier?General Cullum,
Chief of Staff :

The following telegram just received. I have ordered General Sullivan to make a thorough investigation as to the cause of the surprise of the force at Charlestown:

Harper?s Ferry, W.Va.,
October 18, 1863.

This a.m. at about 7 o?clock the forces of Imboden and White, numbering about 900 cavalry or mounted infantry and three pieces of artillery, surrounded the command of Colonel Simpson at Charlestown, and captured almost all his entire command, consisting of about 250 men. As soon as information reached me I sent out my cavalry under Major Cole, one battery of artillery, and two regiments, Thirty-fourth Massachusetts and Tenth Maryland, all under command of Colonel Wells. The cavalry came up with the enemy this side of Charlestown, and drove them through the town. Artillery coming up, drove them about 4 miles. A portion of infantry force, one regiment, reaching them, the enemy were driven from every position they took, to near Berryville. Night coming on, I ordered them to fall back. Our entire loss, irrespective of the force captured, will not exceed 25 killed and wounded.


Brigadier-General KELLEY.


October 18, 1863 ? 11.16.

I have driven Imboden out of Charlestown, and Major Cole is pursuing. The Ninth Maryland was captured. The Ninth Maryland was captured.

The enemy is retreating in direction of Berryville.


General Kelley,
Commanding Department of West Virginia, Clarksburg.

Harper?s Ferry, October 18, 1863 ? 7.14 p.m.

SIR: I have just received report from my force in pursuit of Imboden . We drove him into Berryville (as far as I thought prudent). We find his force to consist of about 2,000 men, with six pieces if artillery. There is no other force in the valley that we can hear of. Our loss in killed and wounded is so slight that I hardly mention it, not to exceed 5 killed.

I have collected a wagon load of muskets which are forces threw away when they ran off. I will telegraph fully the report made by my staff officer, who was with Colonel Wells in the pursuit. I have ordered one regiment from Martinsburg to report here.


General Kelley,

No. 2.

Reports of Col. George D. Wells, Thirty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry, commanding brigade.

October 19, 1863.

LIEUTENANT: I have the honor to report that the enemy?s force yesterday was, as nearly as I can ascertain, from 1,200 to 1,400 men, with one battery of artillery, commanded by General Imboden in person. Our own force engaged was less that 700, all told. Nineteen prisoners have been brought into the ferry from Gilmor?s battalion and Robert White?s battalion, the Forty-first Battalion Virginia Cavalry. This is not the old White, but ?another man,? whose men say they have been in the valley but two or three weeks.

The enemy apparently came to stay, as they abandoned along the road 5 wagons, 1 a heavy forge, and 1 loaded with the small bake ovens they use. Their loss in killed and wounded it is impossible to estimate. We saw, I should think, some 25 as we went along.

I am, very respectfully your obedient servant,

Colonel Commanding Brigade.

Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

Harper?s Ferry, W.Va., October 19, 1863.

LIEUTENANT: I have the honor to report the following-named officers of the Ninth Maryland Regiment as having escaped from Charlestown yesterday and arrived in town: Col. B. L. Simpson; Lieut. Col. T. Clowdsley; Maj. Royal W. Church; Surgeon Morgan; Assistant Surgeon Kemp; Chaplain G. T. Gray; Captain Lovejoy, wounded and paroled by the rebels; and Lieut. N. D. Porter.

I have ordered Lieutenant Porter to report to the provost-marshal for duty. I would respectfully recommend that the surgeons be ordered to report to the medical director for general duty.

I am respectfully, your obedient servant,

Colonel, Commanding Brigade.

Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

Harper?s Ferry, W. Va., October 20, 1863.

LIEUTENANT: I have the honor to report that some time since, by order of Brigadier-General Lockwood, a portion of the Ninth Maryland Regiment, Col. Benjamin L. Simpson commanding, and Company F, cavalry, Second Maryland (Potomac Home Brigade), Capt. George D. Summers, were stationed at Charlestown. By continual skirmishing, Captain Summers was killed and his command very much reduced.

I accordingly sent Company I, Sixth Michigan Cavalry, Lieut. Robert al. Moon commanding, to re-enforce Colonel Simpson. Captain Means? company of cavalry was also sent there about a week ago, but was not under my orders. On Saturday last, Colonel Simpson thoroughly scouted his entire front, but could learn of no force in his vicinity except a battalion (Forty-first Battalion Virginia Cavalry), under Maj. Robert White of Berryville, consisting of about 400 men. He sent a dispatch to me that effect, which I received Saturday night at 10 o?clock. It would appear that on Saturday night General Imboden concentrated his entire force (consisting of the Forty-first Battalion Virginia Cavalry, Sixty-Second Virginia Mounted Infantry, the Eighteenth Virginia Cavalry, two companies of the Twelfth Virginia Cavalry, Gilmor?s battalion, and one full battery of six pieces of artillery) on Charlestown. The prisoners taken estimate this force at from 1,500 to 2,500 men. I believe the lower figures to be not far from the truth.

This force was commanded by General Imboden in person. They reached Charlestown before daylight, planted artillery on the hill west of the town, formed a line of battle on each side, and by daylight the place was completely invested.

A flag of truce was sent in to demand a surrender of the place, to which Colonel Simpson refused to accede. Another was sent in to say that time would be given the women and children to leave. Almost immediately however, the commenced to shell the courthouse and jail, in which Colonel Simpson had concentrated his men, and which were loop-holed for defense.

The third shot entered the courthouse and exploded, killing 1 man and severely wounding the adjutant of the regiment. The men were then brought out of the courthouse, and an effort was made to reach the ferry. Upon reaching the east end of the town they were fired upon by the line holding that side. Colonel Simpson states that his men were completely panic-stricken; that himself and officers did their best to rally them, but it was impossible to get them into line or any other formation, they running and dodging in every direction and in utter confusion. It would seem that in this state of things Colonel Simpson, the lieutenant-colonel, major, and surgeon left by the Duffield?s road, which was clear. Most of the infantry were captured. Captain Means? company and about half the other cavalry escaped.

Almost simultaneously with the first report of the cannon a man arrived from the outer picket station with intelligence of the affair. I immediately ordered my brigade under arms and reported for orders to General Sullivan. He directed me to attack and ordered Major Cole to assist me with his cavalry. I took out such of the Thirty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry as were not on guard duty, Miner?s Seventeenth Indiana Battery, and about 50 men of the First Connecticut Cavalry, under Lieutenant Thompson, being all the cavalry of my command not on duty (this force was formed by Quartermaster Rockafellow, of the Sixth Michigan Cavalry, with 5 sergeants, all others of his company being on picket), and started, sending orders for Lieutenant Rosney?s battery to replace Captain Miners battery in the intrenchments, and for Colonel Revere to follow with the Tenth Maryland.

We numbered less than 700, all told. The enemy was found at Charlestown, which was reached within an hour of its occupation, driven through the town and followed on the Berryville pike, fighting vigorously all the way, for 10 miles and within 2 miles of Berryville, when I was overtaken by a dispatch ordering my immediate return.

The affair was as brisk and as rapid as could well be conceived. The road was over a succession of hills whose summits are wooded. The valleys are open. The enemy would plant a single piece of artillery and fill the woods with infantry and cavalry. Our cavalry would charge in upon them; the infantry, with three companies deployed as skirmishers, got up as soon as possible; the artillery got into position, and the enemy would fall back to the next hill, where the same thing would be repeated. Such of them as could not get away from us in front would fall back into the woods on the right and left, and we had no means of pursuit. Such was the rapidity of this work that the Tenth Maryland, who were only 2 mile behind at the start, were unable to overtake us or lessen their distance, although using every exertion.

The enemy abandoned five wagons, which we found, one a battery forge, one loaded with mess pans and bake ovens and drawn out into the woods. Their loss I cannot estimate. We saw, I should think, 25 dead and wounded, and 21 prisoners have been sent in to the provost-marshal.

The troops behaved finely. Major Cole went ahead with his usual gallantry and judgment, and the artillery was admirably handled. The Thirty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry (Lieutenant-Colonel Lincoln), for the first time under fire, was as steady as if on drill. They reached camp about 11:30, after a march of about 35 miles, with but 3 men missing, who fell out on the return this side of Charlestown and came in the next morning.

Our loss in the action, as far as known, was : Killed, 6; wounded (report of surgeon in hospital), 43. I think that the complete and perfect return, which we have not had time to make yet, may increase this. Some men were left in the houses along the road, too seriously wounded to be moved, and it is possible the return of the killed may be too small.

The lost of Charlestown was : Killed, 2; wounded, 3.

Captured (estimated) : Ninth Maryland, 16 line officers and 365 enlisted men; Company F, Potomac Home Brigade, cavalry, 35 enlisted men; and Company I, Sixth Michigan Cavalry, 2 officers and 25 enlisted men. I think this estimate will be decreased by perfect returns. The books and papers were all lost, and it will be a work of some time to make the returns complete.

It is represented by officers of that regiment that the Ninth Maryland, while leaving Charlestown and before any of the enemy had entered it, was fired at from the windows of the houses in the streets; that Captain Lovejoy had his arm broken, and 2 men were wounded by this fire. I will endeavor to verify this report.

I believe the cause of this disaster to have been the want of sufficient cavalry force, and not any neglect on the part of those we have. It was impossible for a force of not over 400 men available for that duty to keep the two counties of Jefferson and Loudonn properly scouted when the enemy had within reach for either county four times that number. What man can do I think has been done by the cavalry force which we have had.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Colonel, Commanding First Brigade.

Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

No. 3.

Report of Col. Benjamin L. Simpson, Ninth Maryland Infantry.

Charleston, W.Va.,
October 18, 1863.

SIR: I have the honor to report to you that at ten minutes past 5 o?clock this morning the enemy commenced driving in my pickets. I immediately started a messenger to headquarters to notify you of the fact that I was surrounded by a force reported to number 2,000 men, with six pieces of artillery.

I at once mustered my force and occupied the court-house, my number being some 300 men. The enemy sent in a flag of truce demanding an unconditional surrender of forces at Charlestown. I replied that if they wanted Charlestown to come and take it. I sent out a cavalry force to feel the enemy, and they found the place surrounded by the rebels, with artillery on the north and south sides and a heavy cavalry and infantry force on the Harper?s Ferry pike, masked in the woods. The enemy sent in another flag of truce to notify the women and children to leave the town. Before the bearer could turn around to find out the time allowed, they began shelling us from their battery on the north side of the town. After remaining some time, and finding that every shot took effect upon the courthouse, I ordered the officers to form their men in column in the street, but with all my efforts and the officers assisting me, it was impossible to do it. The men broke and ran in every direction. The enemy also opened the battery on the south side of the town.

I lost 4 wagons, 2 ambulances, and all the Government stores I had on hand. My loss in men will, I think, amount to 250 in killed, wounded, and missing.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Colonel, Commanding Ninth Maryland Regiment.

Lieut. SAML. F. WOODS,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

No. 4.

Report of Capt. Samuel C. Means, Virginia (Union) Rangers.

Harper?s Ferry, W.Va.,
October 20, 1863.

SIR: I respectfully report the loss in the fight at Charlestown, on Sunday, October 18, as 17 men prisoners and 1 wounded; also 19 full sets of arms and horse equipments, 1 wagon, 4 sets of harness, and 23 horses killed and taken, besides several badly shot, now in camp.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Captain, Comdg. Independent Virginia Rangers.

To General SULLIVAn.


Harper?s Ferry, W.Va., October 22, 1863.

The inclosed reports of the engagement at and near Charlestown with the rebels under Imboden are respectfully forwarded to department headquarters.

At the same time, I bear testimony to the gallantry of the officers and men of the cavalry, artillery, and infantry, who drove the enemy from Charlestown (which they no doubt intended to hold) to a point far beyond our lines.

Brigadier-General, Commanding.

No. 5.

Report of Brig. Gen. John D. Imoden, C. S. Army, commanding Valley District, and congratulations from General R. E. Lee,


Fork of Shenandoah, near Front Royal, October 19, 1863.

COLONEL: Yesterday (Sunday) morning at 2 o?clock I moved from Berryville to surprise and capture the garrison at Charlestown. The surprise was complete, the enemy having no suspicion of our approach until I had the town entirely surrounded.

I found the enemy occupying the courthouse, jail, and some contiguous buildings in the heart of the town, all loop-holed for musketry, and the court-house yard inclosed by a heavy wall of oak timber. To my demand for a surrender Colonel Simpson requested an hour for consideration. I offered him five minutes, to which he replied, ?Take us if you can.? I immediately opened on the buildings with artillery at less than 200 yards, and with half a dozen shells drove out the enemy into the streets, when he formed and fled toward Harper?s Ferry. At the edge of the town he was met by the Eighteenth Cavalry, Colonel Imboden, and Gilmor?s battalion. One volley was exchanged, when the enemy threw down his arms and surrendered unconditionally. The colonel, lieutenant-colonel, and three others who were mounted fled at the first fire and ran the gauntlet, and escaped toward Harper?s Ferry.

The force I captured was the Ninth Maryland Regiment, and three companies of cavalry, numbering between 400 and 500 men and officers. I have not had time to have them counted. In wagons, horses, mules, arms, ammunition, medicines, and clothing (the captures) were considerable; all of which I have saved and will have properly accounted for.

As I expected, the Harper?s Ferry forces (infantry, artillery, and cavalry) appeared at Charlestown in less than two hours after I fired the first gun. Having promptly sent off the prisoners and property I was prepared for them. I retired from the town and fell back slowly toward Berryville, fighting the enemy al the way from 10 o?clock till near sunset.

My loss as far as ascertained is very small, 3 killed, 3 or 4 mortally wounded, and 15 or 20 wounded, more or less. Captain Calmes will lose an arm, and Captain Currence was badly shot in the hip. I think a few (10 or 15) broken-down men who straggled behind were captured.

We killed and wounded dreadfully several of the enemy in the courthouse, including the adjutant of the Ninth Maryland, and in the fight along the road t he enemy?s loss was considerable, as we ambuscaded them several times with good effect.

I marched nearly all night, and reached the river here at day break. It was quite full, but I have effected a safe crossing of the north branch. The other branch I cannot cross to-day, but I feel safe from father pursuit. A part of my command marched yesterday and last night 60 miles, and the remainder 48 miles, a part of the latter on foot.

A gentleman, direct from Martinsburg on Saturday, reports four regiments of infantry and four of cavalry now at that place. There are two small brigades at Harper?s Ferry. These forces are so much larger than my own that I cannot remain lower down t he valley than Shenandoah County without too much risk, as there is no forage to be had in sufficient quantities, except as low down as Clarke and Jefferson. I shall therefore retire to Shenandoah County for the present.

If General Lee could spare for a few days a division of cavalry to set in conjunction with me, I am perfectly confident that in six days we could break up all the posts of the enemy from Harper?s Ferry to New Creek, and again destroy the railroad and canal.

Night before last I received a telegram from Colonel Nadenbousch, at Staunton, that Lieutenant Siple, commanding a detachment of my men at Hightown, reported Averell at Huttonsville with 5,000 men and the 15th instant, and everything indicating a purpose to advance. This makes me a little uneasy about the upper valley, and on that account I ought to go up the valley some distance. I move in that direction at 1 p.m. by way of Powell?s Fort Valley.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Chief of Staff, Army of Northern Virginia.

P.S. ? I also captured a very handsome stand of colors. This moment a count of the prisoner?s is completed. The number 434.

October 23, 1863.

Brig. Gen. J. D. Imboden
Commanding, & c.:

GENERAL: Your letter of the 19th instant, reporting the capture of the enemy?s force at Charlestown, has been received. The movement was well conceived and executed in a manner that reflects great credit upon yourself and the officers and men of your command, to whom I desire to express my appreciation of the brave and valuable service they have rendered.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R. E. LEE,

Wheeling Intelligencer
October 24, 1863

Letter from Our Original "Wheeling Boy" Correspondent.

Harper's Ferry, Va., Oct. 21, 1863.

Editor's Intelligencer:

On Saturday night and Sunday morning there were quite stirring times about the foot of the valley. The famed "Jim Boden," as the soldiers call him, was around. At Charleston he captured two hundred of the 9th Maryland six months men, and a company of cavalry, with arms, rations, wagons and other equipments. A report of the affair in the Baltimore American has been polished by a correspondent giving our troops great credit, but undoubtedly the whole affair was most disgraceful. - No scouts were out, and the town was completely surrounded, the first intimation of the presence of an enemy being the flag of truce and a summons to surrender. This the Colonel of the9th Maryland refused. The attack occurred just after daylight. Imboden opened six pieces of artillery on the Court House, in which our troops were quartered. They never formed a line or showed any fight, but ran panic stricken or surrendered by companies. They suffered no loss in killed or wounded to justify any confusion, six or eight wounded and two or three killed being all. The Field and Staff, except the Adjutant, who was wounded, got out safe. One line officer and not thirty men, all told, escaped. Rather significant. The men are not to be blamed, or line officers either, for not doing better, when their leaders left them incontinently.

It is the universal testimony of those sent in pursuit of the enemy from this post, that no considerable force of the rebels were between Charlestown and here - Had the 0th formed in line and charged they must have scattered the one or two hundred and got off safely. It is lamentable the garbled tales and untrue statements that are palmed off on the public as accounts of encounters with the enemy, concealing and justifying disasters in order to shield some favorite officer who has given a paid correspondent a fat dinner, a drink of whiskey, etc. It would not be worthwhile to correct such stories but for the infinite importance of holding every coward and skulker to an accountability; and ferreting them out from our army. - On Friday night last Co. G, Capt. James Moffat commanding, took part in a very neat surprise on the guerrillas commanded by Harry Gillmore. This company of rebels, about forty, were hidden in a secret mountain nest, waiting a chance to gobble Co. G, and burn Back Creek bridge. Information by scouts being gained, 20 men from Co. G and 20 from the 116th Ohio, the whole commanded by Capt. Moffat, went in, and routed the gentlemen from their camp and slumbers, took 7 prisoners and 12 or 15 horses. The 12th Pennsylvania cavalry and the 1st New York Cavalry outside increased the number of prisoners to 30 and the captured horses to 40, by picking up stragglers as they ran. - I have seen an account of the affair in the Baltimore American, in which no mention is made of the 12th Virginia, and the whole credit is given to the cavalry. I would mention that I have been informed that there is a special correspondent connected with the 12th Pennsylvania cavalry.

As the papers have made you aware, we are anticipating the advent of the rebel Lee. Gen. Sullivan ordered us, therefore, from Martinsburg here. We are encamped on Maryland Heights.

Yours, 300 feet nearer heaven,

_______ever before,

12th W.Va.

Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: October 1863

West Virginia Archives and History