Letter from One of Our Wheeling Boys with Averill.
September 19, 1864
Letter from One of Our Wheeling Boys with Averill.
Near Leetown, Jefferson Co., Va.,
September 10th, 1864.
Sirs: I have the honor to beg leave of a trifling place in the columns of your excellent paper, for a few words that may interest the many readers of its columns, and benefit our many friends, who have husbands, fathers, brothers and lovers connected with this, the 2d Cavalry division of the Department, commanded by our brave and kind General, Averill, who is ever ready and willing to strike a blow when or wherever it is practicable; and in the desperate manner in which it is generally done, has been fully realized by the thieving and murdering bands of McCauslin’s and Johnson’s cavalry commands, of late. Since our glorious successes at Moorefield, West Virginia, this command has been almost constantly on the move day and night, dealing sometimes blows upon our accursed foe with terrible effect. And when compelled, we appreciated a skedaddle with as much coolness and satisfaction, apparently, as ever we did the skedaddle of the Jonnies.
Monday, 29th of August, we entered Martinsburg, West Virginia, with slight opposition. The enemy’s pickets were stationed one mile beyond, but instantly fled on our approach, leaving us in the quiet possession of the town and vicinity; apparently, much to the gratification of the citizens, who have always welcomed our coming amongst them, as the return of peace, harmony and friendship. No Union soldier who has ever been encamped near this place, or lie sick or wounded in its hospitals, but will say, and have cause to say, that never will or can they forget the “People of Martinsburg” for their kindness and hospitality.
All remained in quietude until noon of Wednesday, when of a sudden a great stir was visible in the camps of the different regiments of the command; our scout having just returned, bringing the news of the very near approach of the rebs. True enough, but a few moments had elapsed until skirmish line was seen coming on with a yell and rush. – Our skirmishers retired slowly and in order, contesting every foot of ground as they fell back; finding the overwhelming odds against us, our regulars gave them a few shells as a parting compliment and a retreat was ordered. We fell back with most perfect order, to Falling Waters, leaving our few killed and mortally wounded, in the enemies possession. Not being followed, we halted and lay in position until 3 o’clock next morning, when we fell back four miles and took a stronger position opposite Williamsport, Md., resting here quietly the remainder of the day. Early next morning, Sept 2d, we moved out on our advance, re-entered Martinsburg without meeting the enemy; passing directly through our advance met their skirmishers, a short distance beyond, driving them back, until we came up with a portion of their main force, occupying barricades of stone and rail, very strong. Then commenced skirmishing in reality, making it very interesting and exciting. But the time for skedaddling of the Johnnies had come and they yielded readily to the impetuous charges of the Yankee boys. – Making a stand near Bunker Hill, our battery opened on them. A charge was ordered and was quickly responded to by our eager lads, who with a deafening yell, went for the Jonnies. They not having any admiration for the qualities of our “seven shooters,” turned their faces towards the Sunny South, bidding defiance to our weary and broken steeds. We captured 53 prisoners, 2 battle flags, 13 wagons, 4 ambulances and shelled their main wagon train, with what result is not definitely known, but it is reported that we destroyed, or caused them to burn nine other wagons. All done as required and our success being so complete, we fell back to Bucklestown, four miles, and bivouacked for the night in a very strong position, during a terrible cold rain. Next morning the sun dawned upon us in all its brightness, but not as we had hoped, for a day or peace and rest, for at noon the rebels attacked us in all fury, with a large force much superior to our own in numbers, but proved not to be in might or strength, for after a very severe engagement, they were completely routed, our seven shooters again proving too much for their ravenous appetite for Yankee lead and blood. They fled in confusion to Bunker Hill, where they endeavored to make a determined stand, but after more severe fighting they were charged and again badly whipped and driven in confusion, leaving their killed on the field. We captured a Lieut. And 5 men and fell back to Bucklestown in our former position. Next day at 2 o’clock p.m., we again advanced, when within six miles of Winchester, it being night and very dark, to our great surprise we found ourselves within a quarter of a mile and in full view of their camp and camp fires, really close enough were our advance to hear their wicked oaths and orders to rally, “the Yankees were coming.” We faced about and beat a hasty retreat for two miles and halted in good position, until noon of next day when we moved on their strong position. We attacked them and after a very severe engagement and considerable loss on our side, leaving our killed and wounded on the field, we hastily, though in order; fell back to Bunker Hill. The enemy followed us closely for some distance but our brave regulars, with their efficiency in artillery practice, took advantage of every good position the ground would admit, of pouring shells rapidly into their advancing columns, covered our retreat most gloriously, saving the loss of many of our dismounted and wounded boys. So they gave up the chase, doubtless thinking Averills cavalry could not be caught. Next day, the 7th inst., at noon they were known to be marching on us in force, their advance was met and handsomely repulsed by our skirmishers after a brisk fight. In the evening we quietly fell back to Bucklestown and halted for sleep and rest.
Will D. P.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: August 1864