Report of Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes, Twenty-third Ohio Infantry, commanding First Brigade, of operations July 23-25.
HDQRS. 1ST Brigadier, 2nd INFTY. DIV., DEPT. OF W. VA.,
Pleasant Valley, Md., August 8, 1864.
LIEUTENANT: In accordance with directions this day received from division headquarters, I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the troops under my command in the actions of July 23, 24, and 25, 1864, in the Shenandoah Valley:
On the 23rd the First Brigade was camped on the Staunton pike, about one mile south of Winchester. About 9 a. m. I was ordered to march the brigade toward and, if the enemy was not in too great force, through Kernstown, and to push the enemy far enough to ascertain his force. A line of battle was formed north of Kernstown, covered by a strong line of skirmishers, and moved forward from one to two miles beyond Kernstown, meeting but feeble resistance. From what was seen of the enemy, as well as what could be learned from citizens, it was believed that the rebel force consisted of, perhaps, 1,000 cavalry and two or three pieces artillery. This was reported to Major-General Crook, and soon after the brigade was ordered to return to camp.
On the 24th at 12 m. I was directed to form the brigade in line of battle on the left of Colonel Mulligan's brigade, and to advance against the enemy, the movements of my brigade to correspond with those of Colonel Mulligan. I found Colonel Mulligan's brigade beyond Kernstown, and proceeded to form on his left. This placed my brigade in the valley left of the pike, with a ridge of hills perpendicular to my line, and within easy rifle range of it. On the ridge there was a body of Union cavalry, who it was supposed was placed there to protect that flank of our forces. The troops of my brigade were formed, beginning on the fight next to Colonel Mulligan, in the following order, viz: Thirteenth Virginia Volunteers, Colonel Brown; Fifth Virginia Volunteers, Colonel Tomlinson; Twenty-third Ohio Veteran Volunteers; Lieutenant-Colonel Comly; and Thirty-sixth Ohio Veteran Volunteers, Colonel Devol. As soon as the formation of the line was completed I was directed to advance in line with Colonel Mulligan and charge the enemy, gradually wheeling to the right as we advanced, so as to take the enemy, who were believed to be passing around our right, on the flank. About this time indications were observed of a force of the enemy on our left. I reported this to Lieutenant Moore, aide-de-camp the Major-General Crook, and also to Colonel Mulligan, but was told to advance promptly as before directed. The movement was made rapidly and in good order, but had not proceeded far before the enemy in large force, in at least two lines of battle, preceded by a strong line of skirmishers, moved rapidly over the ridge of hills on our left and opened fire on our flank and rear. An effort was made to change front to meet this attack, but the fire was so heavy and destructive that left was doubled back in confusion on the right of brigade. A new line was soon formed, however, in rear of a stone fence, perpendicular to the original direction, the right resting near the point reached by the right of the brigade at the time the enemy attacked us on the left. A fire was opened on the enemy and his course checked long enough to enable a great part of the wounded