Numbers 7. Report of Major Philip G. Vought, Fifth New York Cavalry, of action at Front Royal, May 23.
On Friday last, the 23rd instant, I left Strasburg with my command, Company B and Company D, numbering about 100 men, in accordance with Special Orders, Numbers 28, to proceed to Front Royal and report for duty to Colonel Kenly, of the First Maryland Infantry. When about 3 miles this side of the town I received a message from the colonel to hurry on with my cavalry; that he had been fighting the enemy since sunrise; that they were in large force, and we much in want of aid. I immediately ordered my baggage to the rear about a mile and put my column under a fat trot, and in less than fifteen minutes we were at the colonel's headquarters.
Finding the colonel with his small command, less than 500 infantry, with only two pieces of artillery, on high ground about 1 miles north of the town, and being in much danger, the enemy having from 5,000 to 6,000 infantry and three pieces of artillery, but at that time not all in sight, I charged with my cavalry down the hill, intending to charge across the plain, being supported by the artillery; but finding such a large force of the enemy behind a stone wall on my left and in a small wood on my right, I withdrew my men under the cover of a hill until I could report to the colonel, who immediately ordered me to bring my men in line in rear of the artillery. We held our position for some two hours, sending out skirmishers and checking the enemy on every side, when we saw a large body of cavalry, from 1,000 to 1,500, deploying out of a wood some 3 miles on the opposite side of the town. We the commenced our retreat, and drew off our force in good order across both branches of the Shenandoah, my cavalry covering the rear and setting fire to the bridges, the enemy following close on us, and wading the river-both cavalry and infantry-with perfect ease.
I held with my cavalry the enemy in check for some 3 miles, making three several charges upon them, and driving them back with considerable loss on their side, until about 6 o'clock p. m., where we made another charge, and in rallying, the enemy having entirely surrounded our entire force, our own infantry fired into my men and very many fell. At this time the fight became general. Colonel Kenly having been wounded and taken prisoner, and most of his officers being killed, and his men being all cut up, I told my men we would take care of ourselves, and we cut our way through the ranks of the enemy, and fled toward Winchester, the enemy following in large force for some 2 miles. When about 3 miles from the battle-field I halted my horse and tried to rally my men, but could not do so with much success. I also urged on the baggage train, and was joined in my efforts by Sergeant-Major Smith, of my own battalion.
Believing that the enemy intended to march on Winchester that night I felt it my duty to ascertain their movements, and, if so, to notify General Banks myself. I therefore secreted myself with my sergeant-major in a thick wood close by the road, and in some fifteen minutes the enemy's cavalry came by, some 200 strong; but having no infantry and so small a force of cavalry I was convinced that they would not venture very far. I remained quietly in my place of concealment until about 11 o'clock, when the enemy returned with three of our baggage wagons; after which I mounted my horse and started for Winchester,