Numbers 7. Report of Captain H. W. Benham, U. S. Corps of Engineers, of the pursuit of Garnett and action at Carrick's Frond.
CHEAT RIVER CAMP, CARRICK'S FORD,
Eight Miles South of Saint George, Va., July 13, 1861.
SIR: In accordance with your directions, this morning I took command of the advance guard of your column, consisting of the Fourteenth Ohio, Colonel Steedman, with one section of Colonel Barnett's artillery, the Seventh Indiana, under Colonel Dumont, and the Ninth Indiana, Colonel Milroy, in all about 1,800 men, and with this force, as instructed, I started from near Leadsville, at about 4 a. m., to pursue the army of General Garnett, which, consisting, as we learned, of 4,000 to 5,000 men and four to six cannon, had retreated from the north side of Laurel Mountain, near Belington, the day before yesterday. It being ascertained that the enemy had retired towards the village of New Interest, and thence, as was supposed, over a mountain road leading to the Shafer Fork, or main branch, of the Cheat River, to Saint George, the troops were brought rapidly forward on their route, so as to reach the entrance of the mountain - about seven miles' march - at about 6 o'clock. A short distance after entering this path the passage was found to be obstructed by large trees, recently felled, in about twelve to fifteen places, and in nearly every defile for three or four miles, but the information that was from time to time received that this force, which had some fifteen hours the start of us from Belington, were now only four to five miles in advance, encouraged our efforts, and though for nearly the whole time the rain was pouring in torrents and the clayey roads almost impassable in many places, the spirit of the troops, without exception, as it came under my eye, was such as to bear them most rapidly onward under all these trials, suppurated to that of hunger - with the great part of them for the previsious fifteen or twenty hours.
At about noon we reached Kaler's, or the first ford of the shaver Branch or main Cheat River, having, within the previous two or three miles, fired at and driven in several pickets of the enemy protecting those who were forming the barricades, and at one place we broke up a camp where the meals were being cooked. At the ford near Kaler's, and about one-half of the distance to another ford, which we afterwards met with about one mile farther on, we saw the baggage train of the enemy, apparently at rest. This I proposed to attack as soon as strengthened by the arrival of Steedman's second battalion, with Dumont's regiment, when the thoughtless firing of a musket at our ford set the train rapidly in motion, and long lines of infantry were formed in order of battle to protect it. In a few minutes, however, the arrival of Barnett's artillery, with Dumont close upon it, enabled the command to push forward in its original order, but the train and its guard had retired, leaving only a few skirmishers to meet us at the second ford, where, however, quite a rapid firing was kept up by the advance regiment, and the artillery opened for some minutes to clear the adjacent woods the more completely of the enemy.
We then continued our march rapidly to the ford, and as we approached it we came upon their train, the last half of it just crossing in the river. The enemy was found to have taken a strong position, with his infantry upon a precipitous bank of some fifty to eighty feet in height upon the opposite side of the river, while our own ground was upon the low land, nearly level with the river. Steedman's regiment,