THE CIVIL WAR MEMOIR OF RUSSELL HASTINGS
CAMPAIGN IN SHENANDOAH VALLEY UNDER HUNTER
July 10th to August 6th, 1864
Marched 201 Miles
General Jubal Early had commanded the Confederates before us at Lynchburg, and as soon as he had ascertained General Hunter was well off on his way to the Kanawha Valley he marched down the Shenandoah Valley, finding no Union troops until he reached Winchester. These he soon drove northward, and on the 2nd of July entered that town. Early had marched leisurely, not with that haste we had found necessary. From Lynchhurg to Winchester is some 185 miles with the best of roads and a country rich in food. The Union troops now before General Early were a nondescript lot posted along the Baltimore and Ohio Railway from Cumberland, Maryland, to Baltimore. Some were hundred-day troops who had never been under fire. Others were dismounted Infantry and Cavalry who had worn out their horses and the government had thought best not to remount them, a class of soldier sadly demoralized by their former service under inefficient officers. These troops Early easily brushed aside, and crossing the Potomac at Williamsport raided that part of Maryland, levying tribute on Hagerstown in the sum of $20,000 and on Frederick in the sum of $200,000, all of which was paid to save the town from destruction. The Union General Wallace, in command at Baltimore, gathered together the few troops he had with him in the city, many of them convalescents from hospital, and with General Rickett's Division of the 6th Corps (veterans) sent by Grant from City Point by boat, advanced to the Monocacy River near Frederick and gave battle on the 9th of July. It was a gallant little fight, but such a mixed body of men could do but little to stop Early's veterans. Early now rapidly marched on Washington arriving before the city at noon, July llth. If he had known how poorly the great works before Washington were manned he could have captured the city before night. He waited until the next day, when the 6th Corps from General Grant's army had arrived, and, before his face and eyes, marched into the outer works. At the same time the 19th Corps was disembarking from boats and marching out to the front. The 19th Corps was a large corps, having just returned by sea from New Orleans where it had seen duty with Banks up the Red River. Much skirmishing took place during the 12th of July, some of which President Lincoln witnessed. Early quickly decided that it was time for him to get away, and marching all night reached Darnestown on the morning of the 13th of July. He burned the private residence of Montgomery Blair following a pattern set by General Hunter at Lexington in burning Governor Fletcher's house. On the 14th he reached Edward's Ferry on the Potomac and hurriedly crossed with all his booty of meat, grain, horses and cattle, and marched away for the Shenandoah Valley. General Wright, now in command of the 6th and 19th Corps, very leisurely followed, reaching Poolsville, five miles from Edward's Ferry, where he remained quietly in camp until the 16th, then, learning that Early had gone on into the Valley, he as leisurely crossed the Potomac and marched toward Snicker's Gap, where Early's outpost was. During most of the time while Early was menacing Washington, our command was quietly resting at Charleston, Virginia [Kanawha Valley].
1864. July 10th. We were hourly expecting orders to move to the Shenandoah Valley, and as soon as the command had gathered in its stragglers and had refitted in the way of shoes, clothing and ammunition the order came to move by the way of Kanawha River to Gallipolis,
then the Ohio River to Parkersburg and thence by rail over the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to Harper’s Ferry. It was thought that by going by way of the river the still fatigued troops would gain more much needed rest; the wagon train went overland to Parkersburg.
On the morning of the 10th went aboard a fleet of small transports, and steaming down the river reached Gallipolis at 6 P.M., then turning up the Ohio reached Buffington Island, where we fought the Confederate raider General Morgan in 1863, at daylight.
1864. July 11th. Owing to the low stage of water in the Ohio, the boats could not here get over the bar so we disembarked and marched ten miles to Portland.
1864. July 12th. Remained at Portland all day waiting for steamboats.
1864. July 13th. Embarked on boats which safely carried us to Blennerhassett Island where we again disembarked because of low water, marched past the shoals and taking other steamers reached Parkersburg in the evening; taking cars immediately we were off for Harper's Ferry, or as far as we could go. General Early with his troops was cavorting about in the lower end of the Valley, and we didn't care to fight him in a railway train as seems the way of our British cousins now fighting in South Africa.
1864. July 14th and 15th. On board train.
This was not a pleasant journey. The line officers and men were transported in open cattle cars with a very few box freight cars. So many men were placed in each car that all had either to stand up or all lie down. The cattle cars were not remarkably clean and the locomotive soft coal smoke was at times almost suffocating. No opportunity was given to stop and cook coffee yet there was little grumbling.
In our late Spanish-American war the troops were transported in Pullman sleepers. Even a luxurious day-car would not suffice for these high and mighty gentlemen. But after all, these gentlemen (with few exceptions) when in the face of the enemy did very effective work.
Our Corps Commander General Crook had a day car into which he invited his Division and Brigade-Commanders, with their staff, so on this journey I fared nicely.
1864. July 16th. At 2 A.M. this morning we reached Martinsburg and Colonel Hayes with his staff wandered to the town, and, discerning a verandah close by the street, said, "This will do for me". We all followed suit and were soon fast asleep. In the morning we found ourselves on the verandah of a German lager beer saloon (now closed). In times of peace if we had been found in such surroundings it would have reflected somewhat on our temperance principles. The housewife in her broken English said we must come in to breakfast which she soon had smoking on the table. Her husband, a Union man, had "left very sudden" when the Confederates took possession of the town.
1864. July 16th. Remained in Martinsburg until night and at 9 P.M. when we marched towards Harper's Ferry. The day had been intensely hot and it was thought best to march by moonlight, when cooler.
About 2 A.M. Colonel Hayes sent me forward to find suitable camping ground. With three orderlies I pushed on, soon discerning a lone horseman approaching who at first hesitated then suddenly wheeled about and ran. We put spurs and galloped after him. He soon disappeared but as we came to that point we found a lane which dashing up we cornered our fellow at a farmhouse. He said he was carrying despatches but from whence to whom he was not clear. In the moonlight we searched him as best we could, found nothing suspicious, only we knew by the tone of his voice that he was a Southerner. I sent him to the command where he was placed under guard. Colonel Hayes concluded he was a soldier boy visiting home or friends and turned him over to the Provost Marshal at Harper's Ferry. Spent the balance of the night in camp near Harper's Ferry. Marched twelve miles.
1864. July 17th. Reached Harper's Ferry, now in possession of our troops, passing by the U.S. Arsenal (now burned) which John Brown had captured in 1860. The fire engine house from which he made his last fight and was captured was still standing. Although he was hung at Charles Town nearby, to all appearances his soul was marching on as an old negro man told me when pointing out the hill on which John Brown was hung, "Right over dar, sar, and we've had nary peace since".
Passing through Harper's Ferry and marching up the Shenandoah river camped about four miles beyond. Marched fourteen miles. Here we learned that the balance of our Corps (Hayes' Brigade only being here) had gone on past Harper's Ferry and turning south on the east side of the Blue Ridge was moving towards Snicker's Gap and, joining the 6th and 19th Corps, would attempt to force the Gap. Hayes' Brigade was to escort a large supply train up the west bank of the Shenandoah river and meet Crook at Berryville.
1864. July 18th. In camp all day, occasionally hearing cannon in the direction of Snicker's Gap. We have learned that on the 15th of July, General Hunter had asked the President to be relieved from our command, feeling that his usefulness was passed. He says, "when an officer is selected as the scapegoat to cover up the blunders of others, the best interests of the country require he should at once be relieved from command". Hunter was not relieved as General Grant asked that he might be retained.
In the afternoon of the 18th we heard much cannonading in the direction of Snicker's Gap: which we learned later was caused by an attempt of Crook with only one Division of his Corps (Thoburn's), under General Wright's orders to cross the Shenandoah and drive Early onward. General Wright had told Crook he would be supported by Rickett's Division of the 6th Corps. Crook fought his way across the Shenandoah; his men wading at shoal places gained the west bank, when Early turned on him with two Divisions of his Army, and drove Crook back across the river. Towards evening the 6th Corps arrived, all too late.
Crook's loss was:
1864. July 19th. Colonel Hayes was directed this morning from Hunter's headquarters at Harper's Ferry to move with his large train up the west bank of the Shenandoah. Hayes, not having any news from the supposed engagement of yesterday at Snicker's Gap, moved slowly and with much caution. If Early was still on the west bank of the Shenandoah, at Snicker's Gap, Hayes ought not to have been ordered to move, as a wagon train is a poor means of attacking an enemy's flank; especially Early's veterans. Near Shannon Springs our advance received the enemy's outpost fire. Hayes at once parked his train, and leaving it in charge of a portion of his brigade, pushed on with the 23rd and 36th Ohio.
I took charge of the advance, and with skirmish line out, gradually drove back the enemy. During one period of this advance I found myself in a roadway where I felt Old Whitey and I were attracting more attention from the enemy than was pleasant. One sharp-shooter was especially annoying, and his shots were coming altogether too close. I was in a cut with steep banks on either side, so I could not gain the open fields, where there was more safety. I disliked to turn about, feeling I might be hit in the back as I retreated. Looking to the front I saw that a hundred yards or more ahead the cut ended, so, putting spurs to Old Whitey, I rapidly gained this point, and jumping the fence, was in the open field, some distance in advance of my skirmish line, yet in comparative safety, as I could now zig-zag in my advance towards the enemy. As Old Whitey cleared the fence I took off my hat to the enemy, for which I got a rousing cheer. The enemy's line was now on the north outskirts of Kabletown, seeming determined to hold their ground, but with a decided push on the part of my men the town was gained, and the enemy driven on. A citizen here who said he was an original Union man, informed me that in the battle of yesterday at Snicker's Ford, the Confederates were successful, and that General Early's troops still held the west bank of [the] Shenandoah. This would mean that the enemy were in force only five miles away to the south. Pushing my line to the southern outskirts of the village I called a halt and awaited Colonel Hayes' coming up. He at once decided to push no further, but hold this point awaiting other events. We could hear musketry off to the south, and some cannonading.
At this moment a mountain howitzer mule battery, four guns, commanded by a German Captain from Chicago came up, much to our astonishment, from our rear. The whole concern was so much German that all orders were given in that language. He said he was unattached, but someone at Harper's Ferry had ordered him to report to the commanding officer at Snicker's Ford, and he was now on his way. If he had kept on an hour longer he would have reported to General Early. Colonel Hayes, thinking it best to report to General Crook of his whereabouts, ordered the German Captain to shell some haystacks four hundred yards to our front. His first shell exploded over a stack and the next moment we saw the Confederates skedaddle to the woods beyond. After firing some eight or ten shells Hayes said, "I think Crook now knows where I am". The unexpected appearance of this unattached mountain battery further shows in what confusion was General Hunter's command.
Both skirmish lines had now quieted down, and stopped firing, and I was asleep when my line opened fire, and began to advance. Not having received any order from me I was much surprised, supposing Hayes had ordered the movement. On the line went, down into a slight valley where having surrounded a flock of twenty or more sheep, came back to their old line. Short work was made of the lives of those sheep, and soon their meat was roasting over camp fires. (Fifteen years afterwards I received a letter from the owner, asking me to certify that the sheep were used by Union troops). We had hardly finished our much enjoyed roast mutton when firing opened in our rear, between us and the train. The command sprang into ranks, the men chucked the mutton in their haversacks, and away we went, to find what was at our rear. The Confederate line in our front began to advance, and things looked a little serious for a few moments. The Captain of our tramp Battery took in the situation at once, and rushing his guns to a rising bit of ground to our rear opened on the enemy with unprecedented vigor. How his guns did boom for such little things!
Hayes asked me if I could pass the enemy, and reach our train and other regiments of his brigade. Taking to the fields on our right, and making as much speed as possible over fences and ditches, I at last reached the vicinity of our train. At one point the enemy saw me and opened fire, and a few Cavalrymen pursued, but I had too much the start, and they gave it up. I found Colonel Enoch with the 5th West Virginia Regiment coming up the roadway towards the firing, and moving him to a position where it seemed the enemy might retreat, left him to join my Colonel Hayes. The firing had now ceased. Too much credit cannot be given to the tramp German Battery, who did so much towards scattering this force of the enemy's Cavalry, who anticipated an easy capture of our train. Our skirmish line left at Kabletown, valiantly resisted the advance of the enemy from that direction, and when night came down, we only had the enemy to the south of us. As we went into camp that night near our train, a squad of Crook's men from Snicker's Gap came in with a note from General Crook, warning Hayes to be very cautious and not advance, as Early held the west bank of Shenandoah in force.
Some of the historians (Geo. E. Pond, Campaign Civil War, Series XI) have spoken of this movement of Hayes in derogatory terms, but probably these men did not know of this immense supply train in his charge. If Hayes had been free from this train, he would most certainly have pushed on, and attacked Early's left. But it is well he did not, as General Wright and his 6th Corps at Snicker's Ford would not have helped by advancing from that direction, and Hayes would have suffered severely in an effort to whip all of Early's army. In this gallant little fight our loss was slight. We had marched during the day some twelve miles.
1864. July 20th. During this day Hayes moved his train to Charles Town, there to await orders. In the afternoon he learned that General Early had, during the night of the 19th, retreated toward Winchester, and that the Union forces at Snicker's Ford were now on the west side of the Shenandoah river, near Berryville. Early's retreat was due to General Averell's movement from Martinsburg in the direction of Winchester.
At Charles Town we camped in the field where the gibbet was erected on which John Brown was hung. If our ghosts are allowed to wander about the earth, John Brown's must have, with exultant glee, wiggle-waggled and floated about our camp fires that night. I saw nothing of him. Marched five miles.
1864. July 21st. Today we convoyed our train to Berryville and, turning east, went into camp on Colonel Wier's farm. Colonel Wier was a distant cousin of Mrs. Hayes; a Virginian who "went out with his state." He had a large and productive farm, principally devoted to sheep, having at that time several imported ones. One Division of the 6th Corps on the night of the 20th camped here, and having orders to live from off the country, had obeyed it to the letter. In 1878 I had the pleasure of meeting Colonel Wier at the Executive Mansion, Washington, where he was at that time a guest of Mrs. Hayes. In talking over the war with him he referred to the night the 6th Corps had camped on his farm, and stolen his sheep, one being a buck for which he had paid five hundred dollars.
This winter (A.D. 1900) I met Captain Abbott, who served in the 6th Corps during the Civil War, and in relating one of his war stories, he spoke of a fine flock of sheep and a buck which fell to his lot in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864. I threatened to have the Captain indicted for sheep-stealing, forgetting for the moment that only two days before the Captain had committed his theft I had not only partaken of, but was party to the robbing of the old farmer at Kabletown. "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone". Marched seventeen miles, and were glad enough to be rid of that incubus of a supply train.
1864. July 22nd. This morning General Crook and staff with the balance of our Corps joined us from Snicker's Ford. Colonel Hayes reported to Crook of his doings for the past two days. General Crook said he had been much worried about us; that he heard our guns on the 19th and it was then he had sent the scouts to us with words of caution. Marched at 10 A.M. towards Winchester, an uneventful march, and camped south of Winchester on Staunton Pike. Marched fourteen miles.
While we were marching westward towards Winchester today, the 6th and 19th Corps were marching as rapidly as possible in the direction of Washington, there expecting to take boats and join General Grant before Richmond. This movement was made in the belief that General Early was retreating up the Valley, and that part of his command would leave this Valley and join General Lee at Richmond. In this our generals were all deceived, as the events for the following days will show.
1864. July 23rd. We spent the day in camp resting; a most beautiful location by the side of one of those wonderful springs of the Valley where almost a river in size gushes out of the rocks; in this case large enough to furnish power for a flouring mill. We could hear all day long our Cavalry well out on the Staunton Pike pounding away at the enemy's scouts; for which we cared nothing, so long as the sounds seemed so far away.
I suppose there was never such a heterogeneous mass of troops as had been assembled to meet and repel General Early at the time he menaced Washington. The mass consisted of veterans of the 6th and 19th Corps, one hundred days men, clerks, citizens and hospital convalescents and worse than all, a small brigade of some 1,800 troops of broken up and demoralized mounted infantry and cavalry regiments without horses. It is said that in this body of men could be found representatives of over twenty-seven regiments. This conglomerate army, some fifteen or twenty thousand [strong], was commanded by eight or ten brigadiers with no one of them as an acknowledged head. After Early's retreat began Grant placed General H. G. Wright of the 6th Corps "in supreme command regardless of the rank of other commanders.'' When General Hunter in person arrived at Harper's Ferry from the Kanawha Valley he yielded obedience to this order, and reported to General Wright, although he ranked Wright many steps. On this morning now that Wright and his 6th and 19th Corps were well off for Washington, General Hunter assumed command of all the troops in the Valley and vicinity; practically his old command, some 15,000 strong. Unfortunately there still clung to us this dismounted, non- descript brigade, dubbed "Provisional Brigade". One wag said they were dubbed provisional brigade simply because they were only good to eat up the provisions. At Winchester today was gathered only General Crook's Corps, some six thousand strong, the balance of Hunter's command being lower down the Valley and scattered along the Baltimore and Ohio from Cumberland, Md., to Baltimore.
Although there had been no material change in our Brigade since our Newbern Bridge raid, I think it best to restate its formation.
First Brigade, Second Division:-
Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes, Commanding.
23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry - Colonel J. M. Comly
36th Ohio Volunteer Infantry - Colonel I. A. Duval
5th West Va. Volunteer Infantry - Colonel E. H. Enoch
13th " " " " - Colonel Wm. Brown
Colonel Joseph Webb - Surgeon
Captain Russell Hastings - Adjutant General
Lieut. Wm. McKinley, Jr. - Aide-de-Camp
Lieut. A. W. Delay - Quartermaster and Commissariat
Lieut. B. A. Turner - Ordnance
BATTLE OF KERNSTOWN
1864. July 24th. On this bright sunny Sunday morning, while at inspection, the sound of cannon well out on our front towards the south was heard. Usually such sounds did not worry us much, as our Cavalry was always "banging away", with the Artillery attached to them. We did not, though, like the sound of it this morning, for to a veteran's ear the discharges seemed ominous, and apparently were coming nearer and nearer. Soon Cavalry couriers came in from the front, bringing word to General Crook that our Cavalry outposts on the Valley pike, some ten miles south of Winchester, were being driven in by a seemingly large force.
General Crook, still relying on the information of yesterday that Early was well off on his way to Richmond, did not feel the necessity of immediately moving out and forming line of battle; but as courier after courier arrived with the same report of large bodies of the enemy's infantry being seen, he finally ordered all his troops to advance to the front, and form line of battle at the little hamlet of Kernstown, some four miles south of Winchester. This ground had already been made historic, as here General Shields had met Stonewall Jackson in 1862, and repulsed him.
At about noon Crook had formed all his available troops in line, with his first Division forming his extreme right, reaching westward to the Romney pike, and this nondescript Provisional Brigade being next towards the left, and the second Division prolonging this line across the Staunton pike. Colonel Hayes' Brigade occupied the extreme left, extending eastward from the Valley pike out into some open fields, where a view of the country could be had for a mile or more to our left. The 13th West Virginia Regiment of Hayes' Brigade was posted some three hundred yards to the rear and left to act as reserve.
It was about these moments that Crook discovered that he had been deceived about Early's march for Richmond. On the 23rd July Early had halted at Strasburg, and there, learning the 6th and 19th Corps had withdrawn towards Washington, and that the forces occupying Winchester were only of Crook's, about one third his number, had determined to return and crush them without delay.
Several historians have made efforts to show that General Early was hardly fitted for the position he held as commander of the Confederate forces in the Valley. The Union forces, on the contrary, found him always watchful, alert, ready to seize upon such an opportunity as now presented itself; a hard fighter, full of vim and subtle cunning, able to manoeuvre his troops in such a way as to completely deceive our commander. Even after General Sheridan assumed command in the Valley in August with an army more than three times larger than Crook had on this day, there was much marching and counter- marching, much manoeuvring for an advantage, before Sheridan thought it prudent to give battle; but when he did attack, he gave Early a crushing blow.
I have always found the most trying time during a battle was when lying waiting the enemy's attack. All kinds of thoughts pass through one's mind. Sometimes presentiments assume shape, a condition most troublesome to dissipate. I cannot say I ever had a presentiment such as I have known many soldiers to have (though seldom materializing), but I remember, as I sat upon Old Whitey, while moving him slowly backward and forward in the rear of the line, the men lying idly on the ground, speaking to the officers I knew, that the thought came into my mind of what the results might be in the coming hour or more. How I wished General Crook would order an advance, and meet half way the anticipated charge of the enemy. It was well he did not, as such a movement would have been our annihilation.
For a half hour or more this inaction continued, with heavy skirmish firing aloud all along our front; our Artillery in our rear upon rising ground, firing over our heads; the enemy's Artillery replying, their shells exploding close by, but in our rear, until finally over the crest in our front came our skirmish line on the full run. Almost directly the enemy's infantry line of battle appeared, reaching far beyond our extreme left, and still beyond that, could be seen Confederate Cavalry, covering the open country for a mile or more, and rapidly driving back our Cavalry in great confusion.
On the appearance of the enemy's line of infantry on our front we opened fire, which caused them to halt, and fall to the ground. That volley must have caused much destruction in the enemy's ranks. We felt we could hold what was immediately in our front, but the enemy's line to our left, totally unopposed, was advancing rapidly. Our men fired in that direction with no perceptible results. At this moment the Provisional Brigade on our right broke for the rear, and fled in great confusion, leaving a sad gap into which the enemy were pouring.
Then, and not till then, and not until the enemy in our front was severely punished, did Hayes' Brigade turn and fall back, with but trifling confusion, in the direction of Winchester, maintaining our organization and battle line, then and throughout all the afternoon.
The battle was lost, and every effort must be made to save from destruction and capture. Now came hurrying times for staff officers; orders had to be carried in all directions; to one would be given to go to the rear at Winchester, and order the wagon train in full retreat towards Martineburg; to another to go to Battery and order it to rapidly form and unlimber on that adjacent ridge, and play with rapidity upon the advancing enemy with shot and shell; to another to direct the ambulance train down the pike; to another to gallop rapidly to the rear and form a guard line to stop stragglers; and so on and on, until this class of officers became scarce. At one time Crook was without a staff officer about him, having already borrowed of Hayes several and still he had need of more.
To me was given the order to form guard line to stop stragglers, and, galloping to the crest of a ridge some one fourth mile to our rear, I reached there just as the first straggler had appeared. I directed him to fix his bayonet and stop all men, telling them that Crook here expected to form line; passing along the crest a few feet, was placed another guard and so on for some distance; riding back to see what was being done towards forming a line, I noticed my first guard leading a running crowd down the hill to the rear, his bayonet still fixed. After striving for a few moments with the now increasing crowd, I gave it up, and went back to Crook to report. While I was gone Hayes had sent Lieutenant William McKinley to bring off the 13th West Virginia Regiment, which had been posted before the battle as a reserve. He performed his work in a most gallant manner, bringing the regiment out from under fire with but little loss.
Colonel Hayes now began a well organized retreat so far as his Brigade was concerned, and at no time during that afternoon did I see any organized body of our troops, or hear any firing other than that our Brigade did. We marched to the rear in line of battle as far as Winchester, with the enemy's Infantry pressing us hard as we marched to the rear, and his Cavalry annoying us from the east. The greatest loss to our brigade took place after the battle, and during our march, between the battlefield and Winchester (396 officers and men). Most of our wounded were left where they fell, falling into the hands of the enemy. At Winchester we gave up line of battle, and marched in columns through the several streets; the faces of the inhabitants plainly indicating on which side were their sympathies. The jubilant faces largely outnumbered the sad ones. One dear old Quaker lady, whom we all knew, stood at her door as we passed by, tears running down her cheeks, caused by sympathy for our misfortune. For her own safety with her Confederate neighbors looking on we did not dare to make any effusive display of our sorrow at her condition, but Lieutenant William McKinley, in his great kindness of heart, reined in his horse to the curbstone and in a low voice said, "Don't worry, my dear Madam, we are not hurt as much as seems, and we shall be back in a few days."
As we emerged on the north side of the town, line of battle was formed again, and we found quite a body of Cavalry to dispute the way. A few well directed volleys soon dispersed them, punishing them in such a way they knew we still had pluck enough left. The enemy's infantry did not pursue with any energy after we had left Winchester. They had many friends in town with whom they must have a word and stop for the food freely offered.
During most of the afternoon we were in line of battle, though occasionally, when no enemy was pressing, we took up the route march on the pike, making good time to the rear.
I will relate an incident of the afternoon, which occurred some six miles north of Winchester, to show that valor did not belong alone to either side, that we were brothers of the same Anglo-Saxon lineage, with like characteristics, and the two armies each in the other found "foemen worthy of [his] steel.''
A body of Confederate Cavalry had reached a point to the east of us on higher ground, and were formed in column to charge upon us. We were then in line of battle faced to the north, when the enemy came over the hill, intending to strike us on our right front. On they came, with the usual Confederate yell, and with sabres drawn - rather a fearful sight to men who, a few hours before, were somewhat demoralized by the battle at Kernstown; but not a thought of fear was seen upon the faces of our men; Cavalry to them was a mere pastime and after a few well directed volleys poured at the charging column, with many empty saddles this cavalry broke and fled. Only the officer in command charging at the head of his troops did not flee, but continued on, now veering to the right, kept at a respectful distance from us, riding the whole length of our line. We now discovered his horse was running away, and the only guiding power he had was to prevent the horse from running into us. Very little firing was directed upon him during these moments, as everyone watched his efforts. Finally he stopped his horse and turning, retraced his steps in the direction in which his troops had disappeared over the hill. An occasional shot was fired at him, but now the word passed along the line, "Don't shoot, he is too brave to be killed", and instead a cheer broke forth to which he responded by taking off his hat, and bowing in the most cavalierly style. He soon gained the crest of the hill, halted a moment and again saluting, turned away and passed out of sight.
After this incident we were not again disturbed by the Cavalry. Perhaps a liking for us had sprung up in the officer's breast, and he felt he would no longer, at least for that day, quarrel with us.
We now changed our march to column and, taking the pike, settled down to comparative peace, each man beginning to hunt in his haversack for a stray bit of hard tack which might happen to be there. Up to this time there had been but little opportunity to think of food.
It was now late in the afternoon, and while plodding along, wondering when we would find the balance of our division and Corps, we discovered that sometime during the afternoon there had been a stampede of our wagon train, and many wagons had been abandoned and left on the pike. Quick investigation was made for food, but finding none, a jolly fire was kindled in each wagon, and they were soon reduced to ashes, or so disabled they would be wholly useless to the enemy. Farther along the pike we found a battery of artillery, consisting of four guns, and their caissons, which had been abandoned and left for peaceable capture by the enemy. It is strange how the pluck of the men of a battery departs when not supported by infantry. What would we not have given for this battery during all the afternoon, and I dare say if it had been with us the officers and men would have displayed great courage. I know our German tramp mule battery would have done so. This was the second time we had found a battery in like condition during the war. One member of our staff, Lieutenant William McKinley, suggested that these guns should be dragged away, and saved from the enemy. It hardly, in the exhausted condition of our men, seemed practical, yet he insisted it could and should be done, and he thought his regiment would gladly aid him. Hayes, with a smile, said, "Well, ask them". Going to his own company in the 23rd Ohio, he called for volunteers, all stepped out to a man; and the infection spreading, the whole regiment seized hold of these guns and caissons and hauled them off in a vein of triumphal march. When we went into camp that night long after dark, and in a pouring rainstorm, that Artillery Captain was found, and the guns turned over to him. He cried like a baby. Now, this fearful day was over, and dinnerless and supperless, we each wound ourselves in our blankets and slept soundly until morning. We had marched during the day in going out to the battle field from Winchester and back, through town to Bunker Hill, our night camp, twenty miles.
Our losses were very heavy. In Hayes' little brigade of less than 1,800 men, 396 were killed or wounded, near one fourth of its number, and most of the wounded were left in the hands of the enemy. The balance of the command did not lose in like proportion, as Hayes' brigade bore the brunt of the battle, and were the only troops to cover the retreat during that long afternoon. The balance of Crook's command was scattered between the north mountain on the west, and Martinsburg on the north. The cause of the disaster was simply that we were out-numbered, and the surprise was that we were not captured as General Early anticipated.
Considerable effort was made at the time to impugn the bravery of Crook's Corps in this disaster; but a noted and unbiased historian has said the following, which I quote with much pleasure:- (Pond)
"Crook's Corps [troops] had campaigned too well at Cloyd's Mountain and during Hunter's bold march to Lynchburg, to be disgraced by this encounter; and while some of them, chiefly the recent additions, had proved of little value, it must be remembered that, whatever efforts had been made to challenge Early's retreat from Washington were the work of this command. Their defeat was not strange, for the force soon after assembled in the Valley as needful to match Early was thrice Crook's at Kernstown."
By the recent additions no doubt the author meant the nondescript Provisional Brigade. It would have been much better for the Government if this body of men had been at once mustered out of the service, as the better part would probably have re-enlisted in other commands, while the other kind would have remained at home and not been on hand to always lead a retreat in the pinch of battle.
1864. July 25th. At daybreak we were up and off for Martinsburg. Only the most provident of our men had any breakfast, and they only by chance had the gleanings of an almost empty haversack. At noon we reached Martinsburg, where a liberal issue of rations was made, all of which was received and cooked while in line of battle. We had hardly finished our meal when the enemy was again upon us with both infantry and cavalry. Hayes' brigade was still the only troops covering the rear, no cavalry or artillery being with us. A disorganized mob had been here and passed on north, 'twas said. After a skirmishing contest of a few moments, we retired some half mile to the north of town on the Williamsport road; then suddenly taking the offensive charged back through town, driving the enemy a mile or more to the south in the direction of Winchester. It was now dusk and Hayes, holding his brigade at this point until dark, turned and marched all night, reaching Williamsport on the Potomac at daybreak. This unexpected dash at the enemy caused him to be more cautious, and we were not annoyed again during our demoralized condition. At Williamsport we found the balance of our Division who had reached this point the day before. Reports were rife they said that Hayes' Brigade had been captured. "Not much," our boys shouted.
We were remarkably fortunate in loss, during the day. I only saw one effective shot: a boy in line near me receiving a wound in the leg. Enough shots of both sides were made to have killed hundreds, but it evidently was not a killing day. We had marched during day and night thirty miles.
1864. July 26th. After a good square breakfast and a few hours' rest, we crossed the Potomac and marching towards Sharpsburg, Md., camped on the battlefield of Antietam. Our command had participated in this battle on September 17th, 1862, and the men reveled in recollections of that eventful day. Many of the fences showed bullet marks, and in Sharpsburg, signs of shell were seen, but the fields were all under cultivation, as though no trampling host had ever been there.
We marched during the day twelve miles.
1864. July 27th. Marched to a point near Harper's Ferry on the Maryland side (Sandy Hook). Here our Corps was assembled for the first time since the disaster at Kernstown on the 24th. Marched ten miles.
1864. July 28th. Our Corps had orders at 4 P.M. to march towards Harper's Ferry. We crossed the river on pontoon bridge, and passing through, took the pike for Charles Town, and went into camp at Halltown. Marched six miles. Here we were joined by the 6th Corps, General H. G. Wright, which had been ordered to return to the Valley from Washington, on hearing of Crook's disaster at Kernstown, and of the information that General Early had not sent any of his troops to Richmond. This Corps formed a part of our army from now on until the end of the Campaign in the Valley in November.
When Early had driven the Union forces out of the Valley on the 26th he directed a body of Cavalry under General McCausland to cross the Potomac at Clear Springs above Williamsport, and raid into Pennsylvania. McCausland crossed the Potomac on the 27th, and passing to the west of Hagerstown, where was our General Averell with 2600 Cavalry, boldly marched on Chambersburg Pa., reaching there on the morning of the 30th, and attempting to levy ransom on the town in the sum of $500,000 in currency, or $100,000 in gold, this being the sum fixed by a written order of Early's. The town authorities being unable to raise any such sum, the town was burned to the ground. The excitement in Pennsylvania over this vandal act was intense. Governor Curtin summoned his legislature in special session, and called out 30,000 militia. General McCausland paid dearly for his temerity as General Averell fell upon him, and before he reached the shelter of the Valley and Early's Infantry, he was nearly annihilated, losing all his guns, three battle flags, 420 prisoners, including 38 officers, and many small arms. General Early says, "This affair had a very damaging effect upon my Cavalry for the rest of the campaign.''
1864. July 29th. All day in camp at Halltown.
1864. July 30th. News of [the] burning of Chambersburg reached us this afternoon, and our army took up line of march through Harper's Ferry in the direction of Frederick, Md., but turning off, marched up Pleasant Valley; marched towards Middletown all night, with little sense and judgment. Marched twelve miles.
1864. July 31st. Having marched all night we passed through Middletown about noon, and a few miles farther on went into camp at 2 P.M. Marched some fifteen miles.
The day and night had been intensely hot, the roads very dusty and the men fell out by hundreds and thousands. During the 31st hundreds of men had sun-stroke. The Sergeant's diary shows that only thirty-one of the Ohio men were in line when we made camp.
1864. August 1st. Line of march taken up in the afternoon, in the direction of the Pennsylvania line, but soon went into camp.
I think the command were never more demoralized than at this moment. With no enemy to fight, and with no enemy pursuing we had been marched night and day at a wicked rate to do what? To run down McCausland's Cavalry, who had burned Chambersburg. What a ridiculous idea, and how absurdly incompetent was a General who directed infantry to run down Cavalry. Still General Grant held on to Hunter. Marched three miles.
1864. August 2nd. Learning that McCausland had gone westward and Colonel Averell was after him we turned our faces towards Frederick, marching but five miles, went into camp.
1864. August 3rd. Changed camp marching a few miles nearer Frederick, went into camp. Six miles.
1864. August 4th. Marched through Frederick to the banks of the Monocacy river, and went into camp. Marched eight miles. This was a fine camp, beautiful open country, and the river large enough and deep enough for opportunity for bathing. The dust of the last five days march soon disappeared, and we began to be good natured again.
I very much dislike to write in the grumbling vein I have ever since General Hunter took command. There had been one disaster after another, from the time we joined him at Staunton in June. We were surprised that he had not been relieved immediately after his disastrous raid to Lynchburg, but it was to be otherwise; and now his complete incapacity was shown even to General Grant.
1864. August 5th. In camp all day. General Grant arrived this evening. Things really were so muddled that he felt he should see for himself why disaster after disaster should occur, so leaving his army before Richmond on the 4th of August, passing through Washington without stopping, reached Frederick this evening. The troops did not know of his being there until he was gone.
This morning the 23rd Ohio Regiment received one hundred recruits from Ohio, mostly "bounty-jumpers" and that class. We were sorry enough to be compelled to receive them, but much to our joy nearly all disappeared by desertion within the following two weeks. One of them had a very peculiar war history. He had enlisted in the 23rd Ohio as a Confederate deserter in the winter 63-64, while we were at Charleston in the Kanawha Valley; deserted the following spring, with rifle and accoutrements; was captured in the rebel ranks at Cloyd Mountain, escaped on our march homeward, and now appeared as a "bounty-jumper" from Ohio. Could any conduct have been more flagrant? A drum-head court martial was at once called, and he was quickly tried, found guilty and ordered to be shot at sundown. At that time President Lincoln had issued a special order that no soldier should be shot by order of any court martial without his approval. General Crook knew we were soon to advance up the valley, and that the prisoner would be likely to escape before the approval of the President could be obtained, so Crook ordered the execution to take place that evening "subject to the approval of the President"
Our Brigade after dress parade that evening drew up in hollow square, one side being open, and a squad of nine men as the firing party, facing the poor fellow kneeling by his grave soon put an end to his life. The surgeon reported every ball as hitting any one of which would have instantly killed.
We supposed we had settled, this fellow's impudence, but his wraith, or something else, arose in Hayes’ campaign for the Presidency and caused lots of trouble. It seems this "bounty jumper" had in his possession some four hundred dollars, the illicit gain of bounty jumping and during the Presidential campaign of 1876, the ex-chaplain of the 13th West Virginia Regiment stated that this money had fallen into Hayes' hands at the death of the soldier, and had never been paid over to his mother. I journeyed over the country from West Virginia to Wisconsin, hunting the ex-soldiers who might possibly know of it. After several weeks I ran the whole matter down. The soldier did have the four hundred dollars, it was placed in the hands of the judge advocate of the court martial, and he was mortally wounded at Berryville a few days afterwards, was taken to a hospital at Harper's Ferry where he died, and [the] body was sent home. The money had disappeared of course in hospital.
1864. August 6th. General Grant being on the ground, and conferring with General Hunter, found it necessary to re-organize this whole region, and put into one military district Washington, Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and an order was issued today from the War Department, creating the "Middle Military Division", and all to be commanded by General Philip H. Sheridan.
We had marched and counter-marched in the Valley and in Maryland since July 16th, when we arrived by boat and railway at Martinsburg from Charleston in the Kanawha Valley 201 miles.
Our distance moved by boat and rail was some four hundred miles.
Our troops had fought at:-
Snicker's Gap - July 18th
Kabletown - July 19th
Kernstown - July 24th
Martinsburg - July 25th
SHERIDAN'S CAMPAIGN IN THE SHENANDOAH VALLEY
From August 7th to September 18th, 1864
Marched 157 Miles
Reconnaissance in force,
Aug. 24th - slight loss
Aug. 25th - slight loss
Aug. 26th - 151 killed and wounded
Battle of Berryville
Sep. 23rd - 166 killed and wounded
1864. August 7th. In a very different temper did our troops march out of camp [Frederick, Md.] this morning in the direction of Harper's Ferry, than they had when they arrived on the evening of the 4th August. During that period General Grant had arrived, re-organized the command and given us a commander in whom we had the greatest confidence. The hopes and enthusiasm of the army suddenly arose in a high degree and the old rollicking cheer rang out again.
Not only was the army already on duty here reorganized, but large additions were made in the way of cavalry, infantry and artillery, until by far the most effective force ever assembled in the Valley was entrusted to Sheridan's command. General Grant also issued new orders as to conduct of affairs towards the inhabitants which was the key note of the subsequent campaign.
"In pushing up the Shenandoah Valley, as it is expected you will have to go first or last, it is desirable that nothing should be left to invite the enemy to return. Take all provisions, forage and stock wanted for the use of your command; such as cannot be consumed, destroy.
It is not desirable that buildings should be destroyed, they should rather be protected; but the people should be informed that so long as an army can subsist among them, recurrences of these raids must be expected and we are determined to stop them at all hazards.
Bear in mind the object is to drive the enemy south; and to do this you want to keep him always in sight. Be guided in your course by the course he takes.
Make your own arrangements for supplies of all kinds, giving regular vouchers for such as may be taken from loyal citizens."
This order conveyed the true ring, and our army felt from head all through the rank and file, that namby-pamby work of protecting the inhabitants during the growing crop season to see this crop harvested and carried away to feed Lee's army was now over, and war in earnest was to be inaugurated
Marched twenty miles and camped at Sandy Hook.
1864. August 8th. Marched through Harper's Ferry and camped on west bank of the Shenandoah at Keyes Ford - at the point Hayes had taken charge of the large supply train on June 18th. Marched eight miles.
Here General Sheridan assembled his army which later bore the name of "The Army of the Shenandoah".
As I shall frequently write of the different branches of this Army, I had best enumerate it, as given in field return on September 10th, one month later.
Field return of troops of the Army of the Shenandoah September 10th, 1864.
General Phil[l]ip H. Sheridan, Commanding.
Present for Duty -
Sixth Corps General H. G. Wright Commanding
Three Divisions 668 Officers 12,028 Men
Artillery 22 Officers 626 Men, 24 Guns
Nineteenth Corps General W. H. Emory Commanding
Two Divisions 660 Officers 12,150 Men
Artillery 7 Officers 208 Men, 20 Guns
Army of West Virginia General George Crook Commanding
Two Divisions 306 Officers 6,834 Men
Artillery 12 Officers 355 Men
Cavalry General Alfred Torbert Commanding
In all Divisions 339 Officers 6,126 Men
Artillery attached 7 Officers 346 Men, 24 Guns
This sums up 2,021 Officers, 38,673 Men and 68 Guns.
I belonged to the Army of West Virginia and the First Brigade, Second Division. Division commanded by Colonel Isaac H. Duval, Brigade commanded by Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes.
I was still serving on Hayes' brigade staff as Adjutant General. About these days William McKinley had gone upon General Crook's staff, our commander. General Sheridan assembled this Army four miles south of Harper's Ferry in the following order -
In the Cavalry were such officers as General Wesley Merritt, General Custer, General J. H. Wilson, General Averell and General Duffie.
1864. August 9th. In camp: Sheridan organizing his army. During the days Sheridan was assuming command and calling together his army, General Early had gathered all his troops scattered over Maryland at Martineburg and along the Pike towards Winchester. His force was much less in number than the Union force, but acting on the defensive only, was able to keep up his manoeuvers to his great credit.
1864. August 10th. The whole army broke camp this morning marching southward. The 6th Corps occupying Charles Town, prolonging its line southward facing the west. While the 19th taking up the 6th line on its left prolonged that line to Summit and towards Berryville. Crook's Corps marched directly through Kabletown (of which you have heard) and at night camped at Berryville. Marched eighteen miles. Now Sheridan's line reached from Charles Town to Berryville with gaps of a mile or two between Corps, and facing the west, had the Opequan Creek and some six miles of rough country between him and Early's force now falling back to Bunker Hill and southward. Our Cavalry was scattered over the country in advance of us and burned much powder during the day. We found a few dead horses at Berryville.
1864. August 11th. Today the Army marched southward, the 6th Corps gaining the ford on Opequan Creek, where Millwood pike crosses it; the 19th prolonging this line toward White Post and Crook's Corps near Nineveh some five miles east of Middletown. Marched eighteen miles. While this movement upon the part of the Union troops was going on General Early withdrew from Winchester on the Valley pike and moving his army southward encamped for the night from north of Middletown to Strasburg.
During this day we had marched many miles in line of battle, through the fields paying no attention to roads or pikes, a tedious style of marching and not warranted by any sign of the enemy in our front. We old mountain troops smiled at such a method, and I think the other Corps saw the absurdity of such a movement as we never again were asked to do such a thing. Sheridan's Cavalry lost about 125 in killed and wounded in making today's movement.
1864. August 12th. Our army moved this morning, converging on the Valley pike where it crosses Cedar Creek. Crook's Corps was the first to reach Cedar Creek and learned the rear of Early's Army had passed southward only three hours before. Hayes' brigade took the advance and crossing the Creek found Early's rear guard, at Hupps Hill, which we pushed back through and beyond Strasburg. Spent the night in line of battle just north of Strasburg. We had marched fifteen miles. Early was now in strong earthworks at Fisher['s] Hill.
1864. August 13th. All our army was today withdrawn to the north bank of Cedar Creek, covering that bank for several miles: 6th Corps on right, 19th in center and Crook's on left, east of pike. General Early now again occupied Hupp's Hill north of Strasburg. Marched three miles.
There were rumors all day that General Early was receiving large reinforcements from Richmond, Longstreet's Corps being the body named, and that it would likely arrive by way of Manassas Gap. These rumors made Sheridan cautious and he sent large bodies of his Cavalry to Front Royal [to intercept Longstreet].
1864. August 14th. News came this morning from Grant, the despatch being sent by Cavalry from Washington through Snicker's Gap, that Lee had sent to Early two divisions of infantry, some Cavalry and twenty pieces of Artillery, that he (Sheridan) must be cautious and act now on the defensive. The Confederate troops which did really join Early were Kershaw's division of infantry and Cutshaw's battery and some Cavalry, but they joined him by way of Staunton.
1864. August 15th. This afternoon Hayes was directed to make a reconnoisance in force in direction of Hupp's Hill. Advancing his brigade we soon were skirmishing with the enemy, he showing such persistency that our skirmish line fell back, but upon being strengthened it pushed on followed by the brigade driving the enemy from Hupp's Hill and thence on Strasburg. Hayes was slightly wounded, our loss was two killed and ten wounded. At dark moved back to our camp at Cedar Creek. It is the desire of everybody that Early should assume the offensive, but he is too wily for that, knowing an attack and a defense are very different things in warfare.
Still [there are] rumors of his receiving reinforcements, [and] some fears expressed at Washington that Lee will leave Richmond and march for the north by way of [the] Valley and Washington. Grant says if he will only start on such a raid he will give him three days' rations(6). Marched eight miles.
1864. August 16th. In camp all day, enemy suspiciously quiet in front. At the ford of the Shenandoah near Front Royal a division of Early's force under General Anderson crossed and encountered two of our Cavalry brigades, Devin and Custer, who drove them back across the ford with heavy loss. Nearly 300 prisoners, mostly of General Kershaw's Division. Our Cavalry lost about 60 and at night retired to White Post. We could distinctly hear the battle from Cedar Creek. This movement of the enemy by way of Front Royal was thought by Sheridan to be a flank movement in force. As soon as it became dark the 19th Corps began the retreat towards Winchester, the 6th following them, and at 9 P.M. Crook's Corps marched with Cavalry covering the rear. It was an all night march reaching Winchester in the morning. Marched fifteen miles.
1864. August 17th. This morning Early's signal men on Massanutten Mountain discovered an empty camp while we were eating breakfast at Winchester. After breakfast the army continued its retreat, Crook and the 19th in direction of Berryville while the 6th Corps gained its position of ten days ago near Summit on east bank of Opequan Creek. A small force of the 6th Corps was left in vicinity of Winchester to assist the Cavalry in covering [the] retreat and in the afternoon had quite a battle, being attacked by General Ramseur and General Gordon's infantry division of Early's Army - Union loss 97 killed and wounded and 250 prisoners.
Crook's Corps reached Berryville in the afternoon and secured its line of ten days ago. Marched eleven miles.
1864. August 18th. Early with his whole army had followed us and was inclined to give battle though during the day it was only a heavy skirmish advance on his part. We had hastily built temporary earth works of logs, rails, corn stalks, rocks, or anything handy, covering them with earth by use of hands, tin plates and cups, using the bayonet to loosen the earth. Constant firing from morning until night.
1864. August 19th. The 6th and 19th today fell back to Charles Town there forming a new line, while Crook, changing his line somewhat, continued for the day in practically the same neighbourhood as yesterday. We had plenty of Cavalry on our left so we feared no bad results. Here we threw up new works in the same way as yesterday, still heavily skirmishing. Constant firing all day. Marched three miles.
1864. August 20th. Changed line to take up the left of 19th Corps near Charles Town. No special disturbance. Marched six miles.
1864. August 21st. Early made strong attack on 6th Corps on our right. driving it back with some loss - 260 killed and wounded. The 19th and Crook's held their line as no such determined attack was made on them. Held their line until after dark and then fell back to Halltown, our old line [which we] had left on the 10th of August - a strong point. Marched eight miles.
1864. August 22nd. Since we left here on the 10th of August we had marched 105 miles, not gaining much, except giving General Sheridan some practical knowledge of the country and had become somewhat acquainted with [the] metal of his troops.
As we fell back from Cedar Creek all wheat, forage and wheat mills were burned - no residences destroyed. Our Army now assumed the soubriquet of Harper's Weekly
1864. August 23rd. General Early again threatened Maryland by sending small bodies of Cavalry across the Potomac but he did not succeed in drawing Sheridan away from Halltown. Yesterday and today the two skirmish lines were very quarrelsome. I ventured out on foot to our line and found everybody kept well under cover. One silly boy was well covered by a pile of fence rails, but he would not restrain himself from occasionally getting on top and crowing like a young rooster. He did it once too many times for finally he received a shot in his leg and down he tumbled crow and all. Directly after this incident, I noticed a white handkerchief shaken on the Confederate line and a voice came over, "Hello Yank", "Yes Johnny Reb, what you want?", "Let's stop firing for dinner and get some roasting ears". Between the two lines was a promising cornfield full of luscious corn just fit for eating. After some parleying and talk of "honor bright", "honest Indian" etc. - the truce was agreed to and into the cornfield went both lines mingling quite freely, [swapping tobacco for coffee, etc.]. When dinner was over one of our boys called out, "Hello Johnnie Reb, all through dinner?" "Say when you are ready"and each skirmisher hunted his hole in a hurry. At the word "ready" bang went the rifles all along the line. After today the skirmishers called a truce and agreed not to fire on each other. Such truces were common and always kept most honorably.
1864. August 24th. This afternoon at 4 o'clock Hayes' brigade was ordered to make a reconnaissance in force to determine if the enemy were really in force in our front, Sheridan being suspicious that only a skirmish line was there, while Early was doing some mischief elsewhere. Pushing back the enemy's skirmish line a mile or more we developed him in force, drew his fire and returned to camp. Slight loss.
1864. August 25th. Enemy suspiciously quiet in front and at 4 P.M. Hayes was sent out again to reconnoitre. Taking the same direction as yesterday developed the same line with the addition of a battery which opened on us. We then retired to camp - slight loss.
1864. August 26th. Sheridan was getting puzzled. Rumors came to him by scout and other means that Longstreet's Corps had joined Early, and contradictory reports that Kershaw's division had been sent to Lee. General Grant sent word that he had captured some of Longstreet's Corps in front of Petersburg. Notwithstanding this, Sheridan believed that two Divisions of Longstreet's Corps were in his front. Sheridan thought it again advisable that Hayes' Brigade should again make a reconnaissance in force this afternoon. We were getting a trifle tired of these reconnaissances which were, as long as they lasted, just as dangerous as a general engagement, with many more chances of being entrapped and captured. But away we went with a cheer, down through the cornfield where the boys of both commands had fraternized only a few days before. Here we received the first fire of the enemy's skirmish line. There is no more trying place for troops than in a field of standing corn as the bullets seem magnified in number as they cut from leaf to leaf. We were soon through this and upon the outpost line, a regiment of South Carolina troops who were altogether too valiant for their own good, as we soon ran them over and captured the whole lot., Field and line officers and men. The Colonel said 280 men was all he had left of the large regiment he had brought to the war in 1861. But we had work to do farther on, and turning this batch of prisoners over to Lowell's Cavalry who were hovering on our left, we pushed on. (Lowell reported these prisoners as his capture).
Pushing on we developed the same line we had butted against the two previous afternoons and after exchanging a few shots, enough to plainly discern a long line of infantry and one battery, we retraced our steps for camp. As the command passed down out of sight, I was possessed of a desire to ride back to the crest and see if we were being pursued. Back I went and the battery immediately turned its attention to Old Whitey. I sat still upon the crest long enough to take in the fact that the main line was not pursuing and also began to realize that the battery shells were getting unpleasantly close - to the right, to the left, above and around, the whole Battery evidently using Old Whitey as a beautiful target. Then one came so directly towards me, a little black speck in the air, these line shells being the only kind one can see, that I involuntarily threw my head down upon the saddle pommel, when the shell went so close I felt its rush of air and it burst with a bang just a few feet in my rear. I have never quite forgiven myself for that one dodge, as no doubt the black speck was not so near as I thought. I am thankful Hayes didn't see me do it. I had accomplished my duty, so turned and galloped Old Whitey quartering down the hill and joined my command. Our prisoners reported two divisions of infantry, Ramseur's and Kershaw's (to which our captured regiment belonged) in our front. Our losses to the Brigade during these three reconnaissances were 151 killed and wounded.
Our Brigade of four regiments was now being rapidly depleted from death, wounds and sickness. I remember one morning return I made about these days at Halltown of there being for duty only 1650 men. This shows an average to each regiment of some 412 men. I had best state here that Crook's Corps, officially designated as the Army of West Virginia, had now lost that name and accepted the name of Eighth Corps. All came about because of this despicable Provisional Brigade attached to the Corps. In this Brigade were many who had formally belonged to the 8th Corps, a corps which had for some cause gone out of existence, they wearing on their caps a star quite resembling our Corps badge, so the 6th and 19th dubbed us the Eighth. In the history of the War in the Shenandoah Valley when the word Eighth Corps is used, it should be read "Army of West Virginia". I always use the term Crook's Corps as we idolized him, and were always proud to carry his name.
1864. August 27th. In camp at Halltown all day. It was learned during the day that the Confederate force in Crook's front had retreated on the night of the 26th to Stephenson on the Winchester pike, six miles north of Winchester. We were glad they had gone, as we did not care to have any more little independent battles while the other Corps were looking on.
1864. August 28th. It was now known that General Early had moved back and taken his old line on the west side of Opoquan Creek upon the Winchester pike.
General Sheridan marched his whole army to the south of Charles Town, taking up his old line though not extending it so far toward Berryville. The town of Charles Town had an unpleasant day of it. The Sixth Corps reached town early in the morning when every brass band, every fife and drum band and every voice was raised to the tune of "John Brown's Body", the 19th and Crook's Corps followed the 6th, all singing the tune at the tops of their voices. Imagine all this melody passing your door from eight in the morning to four in the afternoon. The poor inhabitants closed every door and blind, but it availed them little as the sound if it could not get through the front door would steal around to the back, and get in that way. The colored folks as they sat on the curbstone were joyous and enjoyed it all.
1864. August 29th. In line of battle south of Charles Town throwing up earth works. All peaceful in our immediate front, but from south of Berryville to north of Martineburg our Cavalry were pounding away.
1864. August 30th. Still at earthworks.
1864. August 31st. Intact in camp on line of battle.
1864. September 1st. Slight change of line to the south. Cavalry still pounding away.
1864. September 2nd. Watching and waiting. Sheridan was posting his troops on the line adopted on August 10th, to the eastward of Opequan Creek.
1864. September 3rd. Broke camp this morning and marched towards Berryville passing the lines of the 6th and 19th and went into camp on the left of the 19th just north of Berryville, reaching there about 3 P.M. The 23rd Ohio was sent out on picket to the south of Berryville, the Provisional Brigade [were] to the west of Berryville toward Winchester. Our camp fires were built and supper was cooking when we heard a fierce firing by the Provisional Brigade. Little attention was paid to this as we could not believe any enemy in force could be attacking, thinking this Provisional Brigade had become nervous, and were giving a brigade fire to repel a skirmish line. But Cavalry scouts came in reporting to Crook that apparently a large force was approaching. Then hurriedly the bugle sounded the alarm and every sprung to ranks. It was a laughable sight to see the line formed with nearly man every man holding a tin cup of coffee in hand, chewing and munching crackers and bacon. The three regiments of Hayes' brigade in camp, 36th Ohio and 5th and 13th West Virginia, being nearest to the firing, were the first off, taking the double quick toward the Winchester pike. Crossing the pike, and while hurriedly forming on a stone wall facing the west the Provisional Brigade ran through our ranks to the rear, and safety, our boys jeering them as they went by in panick stricken fear. Nothing could be more demoralizing to troops than to have such a stampede through their lines at such a vital moment. But our attention was quickly diverted from this fleeing mob by the onrush of the Confederate line. On the keen double-quick they came yelling like devils no doubt thinking the battle was won. I can assure you such a sight is not pleasing and such a rush is not easily stopped. When the Confederate line was not more than a hundred feet away our boys gave them a murderous volley and Hayes, jumping the wall, called the charge which was taken up with a rousing cheer. The Confederates halted but an instant, then turned and ran, our boys after them. Many were captured, but most of them retreated behind a second line they had, and which they held against us. Dark now coming on, no further movement was made, only holding our line with constant rifle fire until ten P.M. when the firing on both sides ceased. The Confederates had Artillery which they used almost incessantly, creasing a big noise, but doing little damage. Our 23rd Ohio returned from picket and in the height of the formed on Brigade right. Later on a Regiment of the second brigade of division (9th West Virginia) joined us on our left. This constituted our whole force in line that evening, the brunt of the fight having been received by only three regiments of our brigade, about 1200 men in line. In the deepening gloom terrifically lighted by the flashes of our rifles and the enemy's shell exploding in the trees above us, I discovered a wounded Con- federate officer lying at Old Whitey's feet. He greeted me with the remark, "Who are you 'uns anyhow?". On being told he exclaimed, "Only a brigade! humph! Down Richmond way our Division thought nothing of amusing a whole Corps, and now a brigade stops us, I reckon it's a right peart Brigade as to size. You 'uns must keep your eyes skinned though, for our boys are mighty tricky and say, you'd better get down from that horse." Thanking him I passed on. Riding in rear of one of the regiments of our brigade, I found its Colonel prone on the ground flattened like an adder. "Are you hurt, Colonel?", was my question. "No, not hurt." "Your command is fighting well." "Yes, they are good boys." At that instant the Colonel was hugging the ground flatter than ever, as a shell exploded by. He was in such abject fear that he would not when talking with me raise his head one inch from the ground, keeping it in close touch just behind a small boulder. An uncontrollable rage seized hold of me at his poltroonery and I said, "Colonel, wouldn't it be well for you as Colonel of your regiment to walk about among your men, to let them know you are with them and give them some assurance of your courage?" "Oh, my boys know I'm with them somewhere about." I rode away in such disgust and rage that I determined if I came out of this fiery hell hole I would in the morning report him. I did speak to Colonel Hayes the next morning and he said, "That regiment is one of the best, each man is a full colonel, and Colonel B - is simply a super-numerary colonel." Passing on to the rear of the 23rd Ohio (my regiment) Colonel Comly informed me that Captains Austin and Gillis had received their death wounds and that he was losing many men. "If it was not dark," he said, "I should ask the privilege of charging the enemy in my front and have it over one way or the other, this is hellish work and hard to bear." But there was no other way than to continue as we were. Night attacks or any movement in the dark in the presence of the enemy, are too dangerous to be considered for one moment.
Later on the firing ceased and Hayes and Crook, learning from the prisoners that our opponent was Anderson's Corps largely outnumbering us, thought best, about midnight after we had gathered our wounded, to retire to our camp of the afternoon leaving only a picket post on the battle field.
This battle came about by mere accident. Early had at last concluded to send Anderson's Corps (Kershaw's division) to General Lee by way of Snicker's Gap, and so on the east side of Blue Ridge to Richmond. Unfortunately Sheridan had this same day concluded to advance his left as far as Berryville by sending Crook's Corps to effect this change and the two commands had stumbled on each other by chance. The day before the road had been open and if that day had been selected by Early the much desired depletion of Early's army would have transpired and Sheridan would have at once attacked Early. As it was Anderson went back to Winchester and did not march for Richmond until two weeks later.
Our loss was 166 killed and wounded out of some 1600 in line. We captured 60 prisoners which we brought away leaving the wounded on the field for their friends to pick up, which under a flag of truce was arranged for the next morning.
1864. September 4th. Remained in line, throwing up earth works awaiting events.
1864. September 5th. Learning that the Confederate troops, (Kershaw's division) who had fought us on the evening of the 3rd, had retired to Winchester, General Sheridan moved us northward to be in closer touch with the 19th Corps, where we again threw up earth works. Our Cavalry were constantly skirmishing to the south and west.
1864. September 6th. Nothing of importance transpired today.
1864. September 7th. Still waiting for something to happen. We were then ignorant of what all this delay was for.
1864. September 8th. Broke camp and moved to the right of the Army, joining the right of the 6th Corps at Summit Point. Marched six miles.
1864. September 9th. Paymaster. Whenever the paymaster arrived an agent appointed by the Governor of Ohio appeared and carried the boys' money home to friends if desired.
1864. September 10th. No earth works were built in this camp. A regiment was sent each day to escort supply trains from Harper's Ferry. It took two days, one going and one coming. All supply trains had to be heavily guarded as the guerilla Mosby was constantly on the watch and made frequent dashes on weakly guarded trains(.
1864. September 11th. Monotony itself reigned supreme.
1864. September 12th. We are living on rumor which is poor diet for a soldier's mind. I trust something exciting may in the near future compensate for this stagnation.
1864. September 13th. One advantage of this quietude is a good resting time. Overcoats would now come in play as the nights are really cold.
1864. September 14th. Our Cavalry are very busy, if noise is a sign. Cannonading is going on in all directions. I dare say those boys would gladly change places with the infantry.
1864. September 15th. Stupidly quiet.
1864. September 16th. A ten mile march would be a relief. But here we must stay until things are arranged between Sheridan and Early. Any day Sheridan may dash at Early or Early at Sheridan.
1864. September 17th. We conclude this is a quiet before the storm and try to wait in patience. It is reported that Early's force is scattered from Martinsburg to Winchester.
1864. September 18th. Rumors of General Grant having been in camp last night. We hope if it is true that there will soon be an end to this inaction.
Since General Sheridan had assumed command of us on August 7th we had marched 151 miles, had taken part in four reconnaissances in force, one battle and had been on the skirmish line many days. The Brigade's loss [was] as follows:
Reconnaissance at Strasburg, August 15th, 2 killed, 10 wounded.
Reconnaissance at Halltown, August 24th,
Reconnaissance at Halltown, August 25th,
Reconnaissance at Halltown, August 26th,
In the three, killed and wounded 151.
Battle of Berryville, September 3rd, killed and wounded 166.
From September 19th, 1864 to July 26th, 1865
BATTLE OF OPEQUON
Mustered out of the Army
1864.September 19th. Since our battle at Berryville on September 3rd we had not heard the "zip" of a bullet or the bang of a shell; and I cannot say we were anxious to hear another, but our inaction had grown monotonous. We were not spoiling for a fight as much as in the early years of the War: but we had become restless, and glad enough we were to again be in line this morning at daylight ready for the march. I had information of the projected movement by order from General Crook's Adjutant General issued at 8 P.M. the night of the 18th. This order I had sent on to the Colonel of each regiment of our Brigade. Where we were to march was not known to any lower in rank than General Crook. We might go to Harper's Ferry or Cedar Creek and as the men stood in ranks for an hour the subject of direction was discussed somewhat, not much though, as we were veterans who took little interest in what the orders were to be, only executing the order when it came.
Since the close of the War we have learned all about this long period of inaction at Summit Point and that region. It was well known by General Grant and Sheridan that General Lee at Richmond was constantly urging Early to send him Anderson's Corps, (Kershaw's Division and Cutshaw's Battery), "if it could possibly be spared from the Valley". Unfortunately, as I have already told, Crook's Corps was innocently responsible for the presence of Kershaw's Division by stumbling on it at Berryville, September 3rd, when it had already started for Richmond. General Sheridan knew this Division or Corps must eventually go, as Lee under Grant's blows was suffering fearful loss from day to day, and so Sheridan impatiently sat on the east bank of the Opequan awaiting that time to arrive.
Probably Sheridan could have defeated Early even if Kershaw had been present, but no needless risk should be taken at this juncture, as defeat to Sheridan would mean another robbing and burning raid into Pennsylvania
On the 15th September Sheridan's spies got inside the Confederate lines and learned, through a loyal young lady (Miss Rebecca Wright), a resident of Winchester, that Kershaw's Division and Cutshaw's battery had already left for Richmond. This spy reached camp on the 16th and on the 17th every arrangement was made by Sheridan for an advance, and in the evening General Grant arrived at General Sheridan's headquarters and it was then arranged that a determined attack should be made. Grant at once fell in with Sheridan's plan of battle and gave that memorable order to "Go in."
As the sun came up over the Blue Ridge on this morning of the 19th, the bugles sounded the march and the head of the column (Crook's Corps) turned southward, and marching across country, not following roads, went along the east bank of the Opequon Creek until we had reached the Berryville pike where it crosses the Opequon Creek, some six miles east of Winchester. Our march this morning was some eight miles when we were halted at 11 A.M., and, stacking arms in a beautiful clover field overlooking the country toward Winchester, waited further order. It had been a beautiful morning and the delight of being once more on the march filled everyone with satisfaction. The only drawback was the sound of much cannonading by our Cavalry, which to our veteran ear, now well practiced in the signs of a general engagement, coupled with General Grant's appearance in camp, convinced us there was serious work to be done before night.
BATTLE OF OPEQUON
The plan of battle was for the 6th and 19th Corps, who had proceeded us, to cross at the Opequon ford on Berryville pile, march through a wooded ravine [for] about three miles, and suddenly form on the plateau and push Early to battle. It was well known that only Ramseur's infantry division was at Winchester while the rest of Early's army was scattered along the Winchester pike as far as Martinsburg. If the movement by the 6th and 19th Corps should be sudden enough, Ramseur would be crushed before Early could get his troops from the north on to the field. Crook's Corps was to be held in reserve until victory was assured and then were to be pushed rapidly to the south of Winchester on the Valley pike and cut off Early's retreat.
We were glad enough to occupy this position as we had had enough of hard fighting and also wanted to see what these bragging doughty warriors of the 6th and 19th could do with Early's veterans. Mean, slurring remarks had been made by these two Corps because of the defeat of Crook's Corps at Kernstown on July 24th, when Crook was attacked by this same army of Early's, out-numbering Crook three to one. The 6th and 19th Corps undertook to carry out Sheridan's plan of battle, but their march through this wooded ravine of three miles was made in such a dilatory shambling way that by the time they had emerged upon the plateau ready for battle it was nearly twelve o'clock. These Corps had reached Opequon ford about six A.M. and were nearly six hours in marching three miles and forming line. There was no enemy in their immediate front as our Cavalry under General J. H. Wilson had crossed the ford at early dawn driving in the enemy's pickets, and forcing his way through the ravine and emerged on the plateau about sunrise, capturing a fort held by few of Ramseur's men. Wilson held this fort against great odds until the right of the column of the 6th Corps appeared, then, he moved southward. covering the 6th left flank.
It has always been a mystery what the 6th and 19th could have done with themselves in that ravine. General Sheridan says in his memoirs "much time was lost in getting all the 6th and 19th Corps through this narrow ravine ... and it was not until late in the forenoon that the troops intended for the attack could be got into line ready to advance." General Early in his memoirs says, "A skillful and energetic commander of the enemy's forces would have here crushed Ramseur's before any assistance could have reached him, and thus insured the destruction of my whole army." This was just what Sheridan intended to do, but this great delay of 6th and 19th Corps in coming up gave Early an opportunity of reinforcing Ramseur's division.
I believe Generals Wright and Emory (commanding these Corps) had considerable amicable correspondence about the "great delay", neither accusing the other, leaving the whole subject undecided and carrying to an outsider the idea that they each got in the way of the other and thus both were in fault if there was any. I am inclined to think that in the perfect safet y of that ravine they stopped and cooked breakfast. Be that as it may, this delay changed the character of the battle plan , as will be shown farther on.
When the 6th Corps began to arrive, thus relieving General Wilson and his Cavalry, as each succeeding division came up it was placed in line of battle reaching northward from the Berryville pike toward Red Bud Run, and when the 19th Corps began to arrive it prolonged this line in the same direction reaching nearly to Red Bud.
At twenty minutes before noon the Union line began an advance, meeting with success at first, but later on some portions of the 6th and 19th were driven back in much confusion and this somewhat affected the whole line and it fell back to a point near where the first line was formed
One can imagine what this discomfiture would mean to a man of General Sheridan's impetuous temperament. Instead of turning the enemy's right in the early morning as contemplated, crushing Ramseur and pushing on into Winchester and annihilating Early's army, his own Army then in line had met with a repulse, had retired in much confusion and then had in a measure rallied, but were barely holding their line and might at some unforeseen movement of the enemy be driven back in utter rout. Some of his staff present say he uttered words which, if recorded in Heaven, would appear on the debit side of his account.
Now there must be a change in the scheme of battle "as the Sixth and Nineteenth must have help or the day is lost". No use to send Crook's Corps to the south of Winchester to cut off retreat - evidently there was to be no retreat. Sheridan immediately ordered Crook's Corps which had been massed at Opequon ford to rapidly move up and form in the rear of the Nineteenth.
This movement was very reluctantly ordered. Sheridan in his memoirs says, "As my lines were being re-arranged, it was suggested to me to put Crook into battle, but so strongly had I set my heart on using him to take possession of the Valley pike, and cut off the enemy that I resisted this advice, hoping that the necessity for putting him in would be obviated ... "
I will now ask the reader to go back to the Opequon ford and watch the operations of the "Army of West Virginia" (or Crooks men as we dearly loved to be called). I will now begin to follow the movements of Hayes’ brigade during the day. I had this morning as Adjutant-General of the Brigade made my morning report which showed 1450 men in line.
When Crook had reached the Opequon ford this morning he was halted and told to await orders. This his command was glad enough to do, as they were not anxious to show their valor - if they had any - ready and willing if needed, but quite contented to watch the battle from afar, much preferring that that part of the army then engaged, should succeed in crushing Early and take and keep all the glory to themselves. But these veterans of the Army of the Potomac, as they were pleased to call themselves, now engaged, had evidently met something which staggered them. If they had dashed on with the pluck they claimed they were endowed with, Crook's men would not have been called into battle and had to make the deadly but victorious charge across a morass at 3.30 P.M. and thus turn the tide of battle into a complete rout of the enemy.
As we lay in that beautiful clover field on that bright sunny midday we could look down upon the battle as it was going on some three miles away; we could hear the sound of cannon, the volleys of small arms and see the smoke arising through the trees, but were far away to discern the troops. Our practiced ear brought to us the impression that our troops were not advancing, possibly not holding their line. An impression began to prevail that the battle was not going on as it ought and that our position as reserve would soon be broken and that we should be ordered into the thick of it.
Crook and Hayes with the members of their several staffs were lying upon the grass, chatting, laughing, bandying words and cracking jokes. To a disinterested looker on it would hardly seem that for an instant it entered the minds of these jolly rollicking young fellows that at any moment they might have to face the fortunes of a bloody battle, as they did a few hours later, some of them not seeing the sun go down that night, but were lying cold upon the sod where they met a soldier's fate.
General Sheridan's headquarters and signal station was not far away from us in plain sight. All the morning the signal flags had been constantly fluttering; but now they were worked in a quick nervous way, as though the information and orders must be passed as quickly as thought. Something was evidently wrong at the front. We saw a staff officer leap upon his horse, saw Sheridan talking to him in an energetic forcible manner. An officer at my side said in an undertone, "I wonder if that d - fool isn't coming over here to tell us to go in." The officer wheeled his horse and rode directly toward us, on the keen gallop. As soon as this officer was seen coming in our direction every man of the command sprang to his feet, the officers tightening their sword belts, the enlisted men straightening their belts and cartridge boxes and all stood ready to seize their rifles when the word should be given. Now the staff officer approaches end alighting saluted General Crook and gave his orders. "I present the compliments of General Sheridan who directs you to move up your Corps as rapidly as possible and form in rear of the Nineteenth Corps; I will conduct you." A very polite way of ordering a fellow into the jaws of death. Now we learned from this officer of the disaster of the morning, of the necessity of great haste, of the sad plight of the Union Army and the need of reinforcements.
The Corps fell into line; the march was taken up; a look of fixed determination settled on the faces of the men; on we marched down through the Opequon ford, on through the field hospital established on the bank under some spreading oaks, with the amputation tables standing on either side of the line of march, and the surgeons already at work upon some of Wilson's Cavalry boys, who had opened the fight in the morning. On we went meeting ambulances crowded with the wounded too disabled to walk, others by the hundreds wounded yet able to walk and seemingly altogether too many stragglers. Those of the wounded who still had some pluck left urged us on telling of the necessity of our presence as quickly as possible; that the line was fearfully pressed and might give way at any moment. It certainly was not a pleasant afternoon walk, but on we went through this fearful scene, for an hour, until at last the wooded ravine through which the Sixth and Nineteenth had previously marched, now blocked with the ambulance train and artillery not yet brought into action, was passed, and emerging upon the plateau [we] marched rapidly past the rear of the Sixth and Nineteenth, and forming on the right of the Nineteenth thus closing the gap to Red Bud Creek.
Crook's Corps had reached this point at 2:30 P.M., and a galling artillery fire from the enemy was being received; shells were exploding all around, limbs being cut from trees and falling on the troops below, while the infantry was keeping up a desultory fire, more as a reminder that each side was in line, than for effectual work. A feeling was rife all along the Union line, that Early's veterans might at any moment burst upon them in a desperate charge, as now it was well known the whole Confederate force was before them. To gain this point we had marched nearly six miles, through three miles of the blocked ravine and about three miles on the battlefield in rear of the Union troops.
General Sheridan had arrived on the field before we did and we found him anxiously awaiting our arrival. He directed General Crook to withdraw one division from his line and send it on a detour to the right (north) with directions to find the enemy's left, "there strike and carry it at all hazards. Let there be no question as to the movement being a success." He further informed Crook that General Torbert with the Union Cavalry was advancing from the north and that no mistake must be made of firing on him. General Crook having received these orders, which division would he select for this independent and hazardous work? His decision was quickly made and the Second Division commanded by General Isaac H. Duval, with Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes and Colonel Benjamin F. Coats as brigade Commanders, was drawn out of line and General Sheridan's orders repeated to them. General Duval was wounded during the afternoon and the command of the division devolved on Hayes.
The line of march of this Division was northward over Red Bud Run, through deep valleys over wooded hills across open fields and through dense thickets; on we went for a mile or more and then turning westward, marching over the same kind of obstructed country until an estimated half mile had been passed, when turning to the south we marched in the direction of the firing and toward the supposed enemy's left flank.
It was slow work moving a division over such rough impeding country, but every effort was made by division and brigade commanders to urge the men forward in the most expeditious way. Every man of the command knew a crisis had arrived which must be met in the most urgent haste and felt in a manner that the results of the battle rested on him. This was the same Confederate Army our corps had met at Kernstown (July 24th) only reinforced by [Hugh] Fitz-Lee's Cavalry, and the boys saw their chance to wipe out that disaster with a glorious victory. As the Corps was turned, marching southward, line of battle was formed by brigade, Hayes in front, Coats in rear.
I can imagine how anxiously Sheridan must have waited and listened for our guns. Under what severe mental strain must he have been, from the time Wilson and his troopers had carried the fort in front of Ramseur in the early morning, on up to and through the disasters to the Sixth and Nineteenth; then the long hour waiting for Crook coming up from the Opequon ford; and now, with probably to him the longest hour of the day while our Division was making the most important and hazardous movement of the battle; he stood waiting and listening.
Our Division was pushed on as rapidly as possible and soon the left of the enemy's line which was in front of the Nineteenth Corps came into view some half mile or more away to the south. Now came hurrying times to the enemy. Plainly could be seen batteries of artillery suddenly wheeling to the north and opening fire on our advancing division. Other disposition of troops was hurriedly made by bringing the Confederate reserve to form on his left facing the north. All this could be seen from the more elevated ground over which we were advancing.
Now everything on the enemy's left was turned on us, bullets, shot, shell, shrapnel rained like hail. Could our boys stand it? Would they stand it? But remembering Kernstown they never flinched. Moving forward, now taking up the double-quick across an open field under this galling fire, to a thicket, which bursting through, the men of the Division to their great surprise found themselves on the brink of an old abandoned mill pond, some hundred yards across, filled with reeds, slimy mud and water of an unknown depth,while across on the opposite bank was a strong Confederate line behind a stone wall. If the earth had opened to engulf us, no more fearful surprise could have seized upon our minds. This morass, totally unexpected and dread- ful in its appearance, staggered our line for a moment. Now was needed quick decision on the part of our leaders, which came instantly from Hayes, who, spurring his horse into the morass called out in voice clearly heard above the hellish sound of battle "Come on boys". That Come on boys was no new sound to us - not laid down in the tactics, but more effective than the whole of Hardee from introduction to index: not time for any orders but those naturally springing to the lips in the urgency of the moment. And now with a cheer, to this time withheld, in the division pressed, floundering in the mud and slime; Hayes' horse sticking in the mud, off he got, floundering along with his boys, who with cartridge boxes thrown upon their shoulders, wade and plunge and drag themselves along. Can they get through, with such a rain of deathly hail from above and the mud and slime below? They did get through - not all of them, as many bones are now lying in that oozy morass - and Hayes, first across, reaching the brink led the charge up the steep bank over the stone wall and the day was won: and at that instant Sheridan's first and greatest victory in the Valley was practically assured, though many a bloody clash by our division and Corps was had that afternoon before the enemy was routed through Winchester (with Hayes still in the advance) and sent "Whirling up the Valley." In that movement I was fortunate enough to be on the extreme right of our brigade and Old Whitey and I passed over a bridge, dry shod. At this point the enemy was grouped around a large stone farm house and adjacent out buildings (Hackwood Farm) and fought most stubbornly, as the 36th Ohio found out to their cost. This regiment being on the extreme right of our brigade, its line thus partly reached past the morass to a farm bridge spanning the creek emptying into the morass. While charging across this bridge and creek and directly in front of this stone building they suffered severely. All about the bridge, along the banks of the creek and up the lawn to the buildings the dead of the 36th were literally lying in heaps. The lady who owned Hackwood Farm has told me since, that, for years afterwards, when the grass each spring began to start upon the lawn, here and there could be seen greener spots where some poor fellow "had ebbed his life away."
Several years after the close of the War I met General Gordon who commanded the Confederate left, on that afternoon. He pointed with pride to a scar on his cheek and said, "I am indebted to Hayes' boys for this beauty spot." He further said, "When we first saw Hayes and his men coming over the hills, we rather laughed the movement to scorn, knowing of this morass on our left, but when on you came, plunging into the morass as though it was mere pastime, we began to wonder of what metal such men were made. One of my staff officers remarked, 'they must be devils', and as you rose to the brink of the bank away went my boys as though ten thousand devils were after them. After that charge my men always spoke of your Corps as 'Crook's devils"'. He further said, "At the battle of Fisher's Hill three days afterwards when Crook played the same trick on us, of turning my left, my men, as soon as they saw you charging down the mountain side, passed the word along the line, 'here come Crook's devils again, we'd better be getting out of this', and away they ran".
But I must return to the battle where I left Hayes and his heroes charging over the stone wall and past Hackwood farmhouse. The enemy were completely surprised, though at that moment not as demoralized as General Gordon would have us think, for Early's veterans were not so easily thrown into confusion, stubbornly they fought every inch of the way. All our division being now over the morass, the line was quickly reorganized and with a ringing cheer begotten of the enthusiasm of the moment, on we pressed with a determination nothing could withstand. And now the Confederates did become demoralized and fled in great confusion, taking a diagonal course towards Winchester, our division pressing them back fully half a mile, until from sheer exhaustion the men fell at the base of a stone wall, prone on the ground.
During this rout of the enemy the Union Cavalry performed a most gallant act. Soon after we, as infantry, had broken the Confederate line and hurled back brigade after brigade, striking them on their left flank, until not one of the enemy was left to confront the Nineteenth Corps as they had done all this long fearful afternoon, our Cavalry under Custer and Devin, which now was coming from the north on our right, drove the Confederate Cavalry pell mell before them, General Custer seeing this fleeing demoralized infantry drifting off toward his front, ordered a charge. Our attention was first attracted to this charge by the well known Union cheer and as they rushed past our right like a whirling tornado, charging with an impetuosity only belonging to a Custer or Sheridan, with the Confederate cavalry and infantry fleeing for dear life, our boys stopped, stood in their tracks watching for an instant, this grand display of the force and power of cavalry when used at the right moment and handled by such officers as Custer and Devin. What an inspiriting sight it was! Several of the young staff officers of Hayes' and Coats' could not withstand the infection and leaving their Generals joined in the charge. What confusion there was' What a mixture of Confederate Cavalry and infantry with Custer's and Devin's Cavalry, sabres flashing in the sun, hand to hand fighting with bayonet against sabre, the blue against the grey, until eight hundred of Early's veterans laid down their arms and surrendered.
While this charge was going on the first division of our Corps (Thorburn's) arrived led by General Crook, our own much loved commander. This Division had been left with the main line, to the right of the Nineteenth Corps, while our Second Division was making the wide detour hunting the enemy's left and charging through the morass. Glad enough were we to see our comrades as our line was getting thin and reinforcements were greatly needed. They joined with us in the rout and, reaching the stone wall, [we all] fell to the ground.
From the morass on up to this stone wall our command was but a mob,each man struggling to get to the front, no matter where in the line or with whom. Regiments were mixed in the mob, no man caring where he was, if he only was near and with his Division or brigade flag. Hundreds of our colleagues had gone down; some on the hills beyond Red Bud, others in the morass and about Hackwood house, and the line was too weak and exhausted to venture on. Our Cavalry had left us to gain the Confederates' left and rear by passing west of Winchester over beyond Apple Pie Ridge.
Now came a lull in the battle although the enemy's shells were exploding about us in greater numbers than was pleasant. We were tired, hungry, ex hausted, no food having passed our lips since the early breakfast of the morning long before daylight, and "our mess" eagerly looked back over the ground towards Backwood, scanning closely each soldier we saw approaching hoping that one of them might be our cook, Billy Crump, who had never failed us before, no matter how hot was the fight. At last we saw him coming from the direction where we supposed the Nineteenth corps was lying (to our left and rear) loaded down with haversacks, tin cups and large pot of coffee. With an angered look on his face he burst out, "That damned Nineteenth Corps wouldn't let me pass through, they said there was nothing between them and the enemy, but I knew better, I heard the sounds of your guns and knew your cheer and stole through their lines in a gap between divisions". Billy was one of the most faithful cooks of our command and it hurt him much that he had been prevented from performing his duty. His beloved General and staff should have had their lunch at one and now it has four. Billy, jumping on the wall and looking to our left and rear, said, "Here comes that damned Corps now, you best look out that they don't fire on us." Looking in the direction indicated by Billy, we could see far off to our rear the Nineteenth Corps just coming into sight, and now moving up directly in our rear in fine order, and marching over the ground we had so hotly contested.
The Chief Surgeon of our Brigade, Doctor Joseph T. Webb, had a story he always liked to tell of the coming up of the Nineteenth Corps. Perhaps I ought not to relate it, but without meaning any offense or in the least disparaging the valor of this Corps, will tell it in true "Camp Fire" spirit, where we give and receive jokes all in good nature. As the Nineteenth advanced towards us, a young officer dashed ahead of his command and addressing Doctor Webb in an exultant tone said, "See how the glorious Nineteenth Corps comes up in perfect order"' Doctor Webb's retort was, "Yes, and I've been gathering the wounded of my Corps from this field for the last half hour, even before you came in sight." How differently humanity looks upon conditions. This Nineteenth officer was exultantly proud of the good order in which his command came up with no enemy to contend with. While Doctor Webb was equally proud of the work of his Division in routing under the most disadvantageous conditions a force which had held the 19th in fierce grip for four long hours of this fateful afternoon.
It was a mistake to have stopped at the stone wall even the few minutes we did, as it gave Gordon and Breckenridge an opportunity of gathering together quite a respectable line of stragglers, who now seemed ready to stem our onset.
It was now 4:30 P.M. and we had practically cut out the Nineteenth Corps, leaving them far in our rear and they had not fired a rifle since 3:30 and did not fire once again that day; but we could hear off to our left the Sixth Corps pounding away at Ramseur on the Berryville pike. Ramseur had stubbornly fought the Corps before him and although beaten and driven, at no time did he lose his organization, but fell back in good order, and later in the day by moving to the pike on the south of Winchester, saved Early's army from annihilation.
General Crook now having his Corps re-organized and well aligned, and thinking it best not to wait longer for the Nineteenth, ordered the advance. Our men were delighted to go on, as it is fearful work to lie quietly under artillery fire, and the enemy's artillery in some old forts near town built in 1862 had got our range and was knocking the wall before us into bits, and many men were being wounded by these bits of stone. On our Corps dashed at a double-quick; at first an effort was made to keep up the alignment, but soon in the eagerness to get at the enemy and put a stop to this terrible artillery fire, the Corps broke up into a struggling mass, pushing on with a fierce rapidity. Now the Confederate infantry broke and ran as a confused demoralized mob, and the artillery limbered up skeddaddled away through Winchester.
Our men again fell to the ground through exhaustion, that half mile of double-quick being past human endurance, while Gordon and his troops fell back to the fort and earthworks just evacuated by the artillery. What stubborn fellows Gordon and his men were! After being driven over two miles in utter rout, receiving two Infantry charges which broke them in confusion, suffering from one Cavalry charge where they lost eight hundred of their men as prisoners of war, and no one knows how many killed and wounded, yet what was left of this brave little band were determined to make one more effort to save their army. Why could not our sharpshooters bring down the officers seen riding about amongst their troops? One was seen to fall from his saddle, but for some good reason Gordon was saved, saved to keep up the gallant fight, till at last in 1865, with Sheridan still his opponent, he, with Lee at Appomattox, turned over his sword in honorable and final surrender; saved perhaps for special work for a reunited country.
While Crook was now again re-organizing his exhausted corps, the men lying on the ground under cover, a sergeant creeping to the crest of the rolling hill before us reported, "there is lots of them over there". I did not care to ride to the crest to investigate and thinking by riding to our right, still under cover, to a clump of bushes, I might see what the enemy had in our front. At the clump of bushes I could see nothing and venturing still farther to our right, I came in full view of a long line of the not far away, lying in a farm ditch. This line opened on me and the bullets hummed like bees about Old Whitey, not one touching either him or me. I wheeled and galloped back and while gaining the ground to cover, one bullet struck me near the right knee joint. The sensation was that of being struck by a club, without pain. I well remember the feeling of relief which came to to me when, moving my leg aside to look at the saddle flap, I found no hole in the flap, and knew Old Whitey was unhurt. Directly meeting Colonel Hayes, he said at once, "You are hit". I dare say I looked somewhat pale from the shock, and under his advice to go to the rear, I turned my back to the enemy and, following a farm road, sought the rear. An intense craving for water came on and, meeting a straggler coming up, I asked for water from his canteen. His canteen was empty and, noticing some water at Old Whitey's feet in a wagon. rut through which a cannon wheel had but just passed, making it very muddy, I asked him to give me some of that. He dipped it up with his tin cup, and I never tasted sweeter water in my life. This revived me somewhat and continuing on I soon met our Surgeon, Doctor Webb, who, holding me on Old Whitey, conducted me to a limestone sink hole where I would be safe from stray bullets and shell. I remember looking to the rear as, sick and fainting, I was helped from my horse and there saw the Nineteenth Corps still coming up in perfect order.
The Doctor mounted Old Whitey and went to seek an ambulance for me. In this sink hole were many men with all conditions of wounds, some slight, others serious, and on the opposite side was one in the last gasps of life. The Ambulance Corps men were bringing in the wounded from different parts of the field and giving "first relief" treatment to many. I needed none.
It was a long hour of waiting amidst this misery before Dr. Webb returned just before sundown, with an ambulance. From him I learned that my corps had been the first troop into town and fighting through the streets had routed the enemy, driving them southward on the Valley pike. Being placed in the ambulance with another wounded man, I was driven into town escorted by Dr. Webb. At the edge of town we were met by Billy Crump, who had been sent by the Doctor to secure me rooms, and he conducted us to the house he had seized.
The family living in it were, for a wonder, Union people, a mother with five daughters, while the father was in Baltimore as he did not dare stay in Winchester. A bed had been set up in the little parlor of the house and I was soon snug in bed. I had by that time recovered from the shock and was feeling passibly well. Upon a hasty examination of the wound that night, the Doctor had said, "It was good for a thirty day leave." The bullet was not readily found and it was thought it must have passed into the muscles in the back of the leg and had best be let alone. For a week I was in fine condition, the wound showing signs of healing on the surface and I had made application for leave, when there was a change in surgeons. This new surgeon, on examining the wound, found the ball imbedded in the bone some two inches above the joint. "The ball must be extracted," he said, and the next day plunged in his forceps and drew out a bruised mass of lead having somewhat the semblance of a conical bullet. In an hour's time I had completely collapsed and all thoughts of going home were dissipated. My sister Mary(15) came on to nurse me and from September 19th to February 20th, five long months, I was never from my bed. I dislike to tell of all the agony I suffered, my case became one of the interesting ones of the hospitals. The Surgeon in Chief of the Army being in Winchester on an inspection tour in January, directed different treatment which soon brought a favorable change and a stretcher was built of sufficient length on which I was placed with leg in iron splints, and thus transported to my home in Willoughby. It was not until May I was able to use crutches.
Our loss in the battle of Opequon, as this battle is officially called, was enormous. Sheridan had in line, that 19th September, a few less than 20,000 men and the loss in killed and wounded was 4,500 men, every fifth man going down. The enemy suffered as greatly and in Winchester from the results of this battle there were over six thousand wounded including both sides, on the night I entered town.
The next morning after the battle my command took up the pursuit, and on the 23rd September again met the enemy at Fisher's Hill, which was strongly intrenched, but General Crook, after much persistency of argument, was allowed to make a flank movement and he again routed the enemy. The Sixth and Nineteenth Corps, having the whole front, moved up very leisurely and only reached the works of the enemy in time to find them empty, while Crook's Corps was rushing on after the fleeing enemy. The loss in the Nineteenth was but 11 killed and 47 wounded, which tells the tale of the day for them. General Sheridan after Fisher's Hill pursued the enemy as far as Harrisonburg but Early was too nimble to be caught. It was found impossible to feed the troops so far from the base, so on October 5th the Union troops began to fall back and made a fortified camp at Cedar Creek.
On October 4th, while still at Harrisonburg, Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes wrote me and I copy his letter in full.
( COPY ) October 4, 1864.
I am glad to hear you are doing well. It would make you forget any reasonable pain, if you could hear all that is said about you and your gallantry. The Old Whitey and his rider were greatly missed at Fisher's Hill, or North Mountain. You would have enjoyed that rout more than any other day of your life. Don't be in too much of hurry to get well.
Write to me:
Capt. R. Hastings, In haste,
Winchester. R. B. HAYES.
Letter from General R. B. Hayes to Sardis Birchard.
September 26, 1864.
You will have heard enough about our great victories at Winchester and Fisher's Hill. I will say only a word. No one man can see or know what passes on all parts of a battle field. Each one describes the doings of the Corps, Division, or what not, that he is with. Now all the correspondents are with the 6th and 19th Corps and the Cavalry command. General Crook has nobody to write him or his command up, they are of course lost sight of. At Winchester at noon, the 6th and 19th Corps had been worsted. In the P.M. General Crook (who is the brains of the whole thing) with his command, turned the Rebel left and gained the victory. The Cavalry saved it from being lost after it was gained. My Brigade led the attack on the Rebel left, but all parts of Crook's command did their duty, the 6th Corps fought well, the 19th failed somewhat, and the Cavalry was splendid and efficient throughout. This is my say-so. My Division entered the fight on the extreme right of the infantry. Merritt's splendid Cavalry on our right and Averell still further on our right; we ended the fight on the extreme left, so that we went in at the rear and came out at the front, my flag being the first into and through Winchester. My Division commander was wounded late in the fight and I commanded the Division from that time. It is the 2nd, General Crook's old Division.
At Fisher's Hill, the turning of the Rebels' left was planned and executed by General Crook against the opinions of the other Generals. My Division led again. General Sheridan is a whole-souled brave man (like Dr. Webb) and believes in Crook, his old class and roommate at West Point. Intellectually, he is not General Crook's equal, so that, as I said, General Crook is the brains of this Army.
The completeness of our victories can't be exaggerated. If Averell had been up to his duty at Fisher's Hill, Mr. Early and all the rest would have fallen into our hands, as it is, we have, I think, from the two battles, 5,000 Rebel prisoners unhurt, 3,000 wounded, 500 killed, 25 pieces of Artillery, etc. In the Fisher's Hill battle, the Sheridan Cavalry was over the mountains going around to the rear. This, as it turned out, was unfortunate. If they had been with us instead of Averell, there would have been nothing left of Early. General Averell is relieved. I lost one orderly, my Adjutant-General, Captain Hastings, and field officers in all regiments wounded. No officers specially intimate with me killed. I had my scene which I described in a letter to Lucy.
S. Birchard, Esq. R (R. B. Hayes)
On the 19th October, the Union Army then lying at Cedar Creek met with a sad reverse. General Gordon of Early's army, having received two lessons in the flanking business from General Crook, conceived the idea of making a flank attack on Sheridan's army. Crook's Corps held the extreme left, in touch with the Nineteenth Corps on his right and the Sixth Corps still farther on, on their right. Gordon gained, by capturing picket post, the rear and left of Crook's Corps and in the dawn of a foggy morning fired into Crook's camp, while the boys were still rolled in their blankets fast asleep. Troops never stand under such conditions and our boys ran to save capture. Hayes organized a weak line and held back the Confederates for a few moments to give time for the Nineteenth and the Sixth to shake themselves out of their blankets. Hayes being compelled to retire, the enemy struck the Nineteenth on its flank and doubled them up on the Sixth. The Sixth being on the west side of Meadow Brook and having an hour's notice for preparation did not receive much of a shock from the enemy, but in some confusion fell back with the disorganized Nineteenth and Crook's Corps. Drifting back some five miles, a line was formed awaiting the approach of the enemy. At this juncture, General Sheridan appeared, having ridden from Winchester where he had spent the night. Early in the morning he began to meet stragglers and he turned them back, saying, "Boys we will whip them out of their boots before night." Reaching the now depleted line he rode the whole length to show the boys he was there. Buchanan Read has written a poem on the coming up of Sheridan from Winchester twenty miles away. I advise all my descendants to read it.
THE BATTLE OF "CEDAR CREEK"
By T. Buchanan Read.
Up from the South at break of day,
Bringing to Winchester fresh dismay,
The affrighted air, with a shudder bore,
Like a herald in haste to the chieftain's door
The terrible rumble and grumble and roar,
Telling the battle was on once more,
And Sheridan twenty miles away.
And wider still those billows of war
Thundered along the horizon's bar
And louder yet into Winchester rolled,
The roar of that red sea uncontrolled.
Making the blood of the listener cold,
As he thought of the stake in that fiery
And Sheridan twenty miles away.
But there is a road from Winchester town,
A good broad highway leading down,
And there, through the flash of the morning light,
A steed as black as the steeds of night
Was seen to pass as with eagle flight,
As if he knew the terrible need,
He stretched away with his utmost speed,
Hills rose and fell but his heart was gay
With Sheridan fifteen miles away.
Still sprung from those swift hoofs, thundering South
The dust like smoke from the cannon's mouth
Or the trail of a comet sweeping faster and faster
Forboding to traitors the doom of disaster
The heart of the steed and the heart of the master
Were beating like prisoners assaulting their walls
Impatient to be where the battle field calls
Every nerve of the charger was strained to full play
With Sheridan only ten miles away.
Under his spurning feet the road,
Like an arrowy Alpine River flowed,
And the landscape sped away behind,
Like an ocean flying before the wind,
And the steed, like a bark fed with furnace ire,
Swept on with his wild eye full of fire,
But lo' he is nearing his heart's desire,
He is snuffing the smoke of the roaring fray
With Sheridan only five miles away.
The first that the Genl. saw were the groups
Of stragglers, and then the retreating troops.
What was done? What to do? A glance told him both,
Then striking his spurs, with a terrible oath
He dashed down the line, 'mid a storm of huzzas,
And the wave of retreat checked its course there because,
The sight of the master compelled it to pause.
With foam and with dust the black charger was gray,
By the flash of his eye and red nostrils play
He seemed to the whole great army to say,
"I have brought you Sheridan all the way
From Winchester down to save the day."
Hurrah! hurrah for Sheridan!
Hurrah! hurrah! for horse and man!
And when their statues are placed on high
Under the dome of the Union sky
The American soldiers' Temple of Fame,
There with the glorious general's name
Be it said in letters both bold and bright
"Here is the steed that saved the day
By carrying Sheridan into the fight
From Winchester twenty miles away!"
At 4 P.M. Sheridan ordered a general advance along his whole line. The Confederates met the advance with some spirit at first but they soon gave away and fled as a disorganized mass. A Confederate hates to believe that Sheridan did not bring up 10,000 troops when the facts are he came with only his staff. Some of the stragglers returning reached the command and their line before the advance began.
The victory was complete; the cannon lost in the morning were recaptured together with twenty four pieces left by the enemy. The loss by my Corps was killed 46, wounded 268, missing 534, Total 847. A great loss, but not as large as at Opequon, [in killed and wounded] by 106. What troubled the boys the most was the large number of missing (which meant capture). Never before had so many of our boys surrendered.
This day was an eventful day to me on my wounded bed at Winchester. Every arrangement was made for the evacuation of Winchester. It was supposed the Confederates would reach Winchester by the next morning. My sister Mary secured food supplies for the family (Diefenderfer), and the Doctor who expected to stay with me got in a large amount of medical supplies. Mrs. Diefenderfer hid my sword in some secure nook of the attic, and thus the day wore on. At five o'clock in the afternoon news came of Sheridan's advance and an hour later of his victory.
On November 9th Sheridan ordered his army back to Kernstown four miles south of Winchester so as to shorten the line of supplies. The railroad was now rebuilt from Harper's Ferry to Stephenson, six miles north of Winchester. On the 9th of December, the Sixth Corps went to Washington and later joined Grant before Petersburg.
In January most of Crook's Corps was sent to garrison the Baltimore and Ohio Railway, west of Harper's Ferry. I well remember my comrade officers coming in to bid me good-bye. I was then at my lowest ebb, not expected to live, and this call was anything but joyful. We never expected to see each other again because of my low condition, but today (1900) of those I most distinctly remember as calling - Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes, Colonel Comly, Major Thompson, Major Webb, Captain McKinley, Major Carey - McKinley only is now living, showing the battle is not always to the strong.
As I have heretofore told, it was about six weeks after this call that I was carried home to Willoughby on a stretcher. Under my mother's and sister's nursing I made slow recovery. At times it was almost unbearable after my four years of active warfare, to be compelled to lie there on my wounded bed. and how strongly at times came the desire to once more mount Old Whitey and "go in"! The dear old horse had been kindly cared for at Hayes' headquarters, and I believe was in two more battles after I was wounded, but who rode him I do not know, probably my successor on the staff. Strange it was, that the old fellow in all his many battles and days without number on the skirmish line never received a wound. His bullet was never moulded.
About the first of April, I became strong enough to be carried to a lounge by the window where I could look out upon the world. I was lying there when news came of the surrender of Lee at Appomattox and later of the assassination of President Lincoln. I was so weak those days, the tears were very near the surface, but the whole Nation was in tears that day over this dastardly act.
I had already been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, skipping the step of Major, and later I was brevetted Colonel and later still Brigadier General, for some little things I had done in the campaign in the Shenandoah Valley.
In June I had gained so much strength, now being on crutches, and I had made a short journey on the railway cars, that I thought best to join my Regiment at Cumberland, Md.
I reached Cumberland on July 3rd, and found my Regiment had been ordered to Martinsburg, whither I followed. It was not the same old Regiment though, as there had been so many changes since I left it in 1862. I had been in the same brigade with my regiment, but I was not in that close touch which kept me well acquainted with the officers. General Hayes had resigned and gone to take his seat in Congress, to which he had been elected in the fall of 1864. The brigade had been broken up and the staff had been scattered to their different regiments. McKinley was away on Staff duty with General Hancock. General Hayes had taken Old Whitey home to Fremont, Ohio, so you can imagine how desolate the conditions seemed.
One more story of Old Whitey and his history will end. At the time of the surrender General Hayes was stationed at New Creek on the Baltimore and Ohio Railway. The Confederates were coming in from all directions to surrender and take the oath of parole. Part of a regiment of Cavalry which had been on our front all the past summer came in for this purpose. General Hayes dined the Colonel and the conversation at the table was of course much in the line of last summer's campaign. The question was asked, "What became of the white horse ridden by a tall officer and much in evidence at the front?" Hayes said, "I think I can show him to you," and, having Old Whitey brought around, the officers recognized the horse. They said they had fired at him time and time again, one officer saying, ten thousand times, which was drawing the long bow somewhat. The Confederate enlisted men gathered around and all had some story to tell. The dear old fellow was the hero of the moment.
The last days of "Old Whitey" were in clover. He was given in charge of Mr. Sardis Birchard of Fremont, Ohio, an uncle of General Hayes. The horse outlived Mr. Birchard, but Miss Grant, a ward of Uncle Birchard's, kept him as a pet, until about ten years after the close of the War, when he died of old age and was buried with honors of war, at "Spiegel Grove", the home of President Hayes at Fremont, Ohio. I have caused a large glacial boulder to be placed on his grave with the following inscription:
A Hero of Nineteen Battles
1861 - 1865
While at Martinsburg, rumors came of our being mustered out of service, which culminated soon after. On the 26th of July, 1865, the 23rd Ohio Vol. Inf. Regiment was mustered out of service at Cumberland, Md. On my discharge papers, I am described as follows, "said Russell Hastings, was born in Greenfield in the State of Massachusetts, is thirty years of age, six feet four inches high, light complexion, brown eyes, brown hair."
The regiment was transported by the government to Cleveland, Ohio, and our last assembly was around the 23rd Ohio Monument, erected by the regiment in Woodlawn Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio. From there each man went his own way into civilian life. The monument spoken of was erected by the members of the Regiment. Offers of assistance from friends and relatives of the members were freely made, but we much preferred to have a plain shaft all our own. The work of saving a fund began in 1861, directly after our epidemic of typhoid fever. The shaft was erected in 1864 and on it are the names of our dead, who died previous to July 26th, 1865.
I have caused a granite tablet to be erected on the battlefield of Opequon near the place where I was wounded with inscription stating the fact It is north-east of Winchester about one half mile.
The Regiment had enlisted from beginning to end of the War 2,800 men, and at date of muster out we numbered (in round numbers) 700 men. the 2,100 missing men were by no means all killed or dead from disease, though this roll was large. Many were mustered out for expiration of three years service and others because of disability from wounds or disease.
Well! I suppose it would be in keeping that I should here moralize on many subjects now in my mind, but I shall leave that for each descendant of mine who may read this record. I remember that which was most in my mind on that last day, was that at thirty years of age I had become seriously crippled for life (anchylosis of right knee)(30) with no known means of earning my bread and butter. I was thankful for one thing, that I had no wife or children dependent on me. I returned to my Mother's house on the day of disbandment with mixed feelings of joy and sorrow.
Mama has rather insisted the following extracts from General Hayes' war diary shall go into this record. So here goes!
1864. October 15th. Rebs still in front. Elections said to be favorable. Captain Hastings I fear is worse.
1864 . October 30th. Another beautiful day. We are having delicious weather. The only shadow on my spirits now is the critical condition of Captain Hastings - so brave, so pure - so good - God grant him life.
1864. November 10th. Rode to Winchester, saw Hastings. He is better. Very great hopes of his recovery.
1864. December 27th. Rode into Winchester. Hastings in good heart and plight, but improving so slowly!
Letter from Colonel Hayes to Sardis Birchard.
November 2, 1864.
... I fear that Capt. Hastings my Adjutant General will die of the wound got at Winchester Sept. 19th. I cannot bear to lose him, but his chance is less from day to day ...
R. B. HAYES
Letter from General Hayes to Sardis Birchard.
Camp Hastings near Cumberland, Md.
January 8, 1864.
. . . P.S. My Adjutant General Captain Hastings is getting well. He is at Winchester and can't be moved from his bed. He will be Major of 23rd and in two or three months can probably ride. I have named my Camp after him.
S. Birchard, Esq. R. B. HAYES