War of the Rebellion: Serial 015 Page 0688 OPERATIONS IN N. VA.,W. VA.,AND MD. Chapter XXIV.

Search Civil War Official Records

to be seen. Our fresh troops soon drove back the cavalry, and the retreating column reached the other brigades in position without further accident. There I prepared for battle, but the enemy fell back from before it much more rapidly than he had advanced.

At this moment I received a message from Major-General Fremont, giving me an account of his engagement of the previous day. I prepared a dispatch for him in return, giving him the intelligence of the day, and urging him to throw his pontoon bridge across the Shenandoah in the morning (surmising, as it happened, that the enemy would burn the bridge the moment he crossed) and attack Jackson's flank, while I would attack him with my whole force in front.

The messenger with this dispatch had started on his way when an orderly arrived with a dispatch from the general commanding, then in Washington, giving me positive orders to return to Luray immediately. I recalled the messenger and communicated this intelligence to Major-General Fremont, assuring him that I deeply regretted I could be of no further use to him. I report the facts and abstain from all comments, but I cannot omit to notice the courage and confidence which inspired such a small force, whose effective strength did not exceed 2,500 men, to calmly await the attack of an army of from 10,000 to 20,000.

The battle which followed shows that this confidence was not ill-founded; for, although the enemy must have made his dispositions during the previous night to overwhelm them, they contested the field for several hours, repulsing him with great slaughter several times. The artillery generally, in which I took such just pride, was managed splendidly, shattering the enemy's columns with canister, and frequently driving them in dismay from the field. The infantry never failed to repulse the enemy in close conflict. The right wing, as it appears from the reports, not only drove the enemy before it, but took possession of the ground he occupied. Our batteries on the left wing, as it appears, were unfortunately left without adequate infantry support, and it was only when 30 of their horses were killed and the enemy's bayonets at their breasts that Captain Clark and his gallant artillerists withdrew from the field, carrying off all their guns except such as had been wholly unhorsed by the enemy's fire. Nothing could exceed the general courage and daring of the force engaged, but I prefer referring to the reports of the different commanders engaged on the field for the names of those entitled to special praise. The number of guns engaged on our side was eighteen, of which they had to abandon seven, all the horses being killed. Our loss is severe for the number engaged, amounting to 40 killed and 313 wounded.* There were but few prisoners taken on either side. The list of missing is large, but many of them have since joined us. The enemy's loss must have been immense. Their advancing columns were several times broken and repulsed with canister by our batteries, leaving the ground covered with their killed and wounded. The Seventh Louisiana Regiment, 748 strong, left the field, it is said, with only 36 effective men.

Considering the locality, which was not defensible, being liable to be turned on both flanks, and the disparity of forces engaged, it is truly wonderful that our little army was able to effect its escape. This can only be attributed to the splendid manner in which the artillery was handled and the desperate manner in which the infantry fought in its close contests with the enemy. But defeat was unavoidable. It is fortunate they withdrew when they did. My whole division in that position, or rather in that locality, would have protracted the struggle

---------------

*But see revised statement, p. 690.

---------------