Sigel Relieved - Hunter in Command - The Lynchburg Campaign - The Battle of Piedmont - List of Killed and Wounded - Marched to Lynchburg - Anecdote - The Battle - The Retreat to the Kanawha - Hunter's Loss of Artillery on Way - The Men Hard Pressed for Food.
(405) On the 18th of May, our regiment and the Thirty-fourth Massachusetts with two pieces of artillery moved from Cedar Creek, five or six miles up the Valley to Fisher's Hill, and occupied it as a picket. Gen. Sigel came out to our camp there. The next day the two regiments fell back two or three miles to Strasburg and occupied an old fort there built by Gen. Banks. We received today mail - always a welcome receipt to the boys, the first since leaving Winchester, ten days before. In the evening the Thirty-fourth band came to the headquarters of the Twelfth to give us a serenade. Speeches were made by Col. Curtis, Adjt. Caldwell and Capt. Smiley of our regiment.
(406) On the 2nd, Gen. Sigel was relieved from command here and Gen. Hunter assigned to his place. Three days later we were reinforced at Cedar Creek by three more regiments of infantry, the Second Maryland, the Fourth Virginia and the One Hundred and Sixtieth Ohio, and about this time, or a little later we were further reinforced by the Fifth New York Heavy artillery.
(407) On the 25th, we drew ten days' rations of coffee and sugar and three days' rations of hard bread. The troops from Cedar Creek came up, all having had marching orders. We were now about to start on the memorable campaign against Lynchburg. Hunter had issued his famous order announcing to his troops that they were about to enter on an explosion of hardships, in which they would have to live off the enemy, and if need be to eat mule meat. The infantry were required to carry each man 80 or 100 rounds of ammunition. A little after noon of this day the great march began of what was known as Hunter's raid. We camped in the evening near Woodstock. On the way the cavalry burned a house and barn, by orders of Gen. Hunter, the owner having been engaged in bushwhacking.
(408) On the 29th we resumed our march passing through Edinburg and Mount Jackson, crossing the Shenandoah here on a bridge newly built by the Rebels to replace the one burnt by Sigel and camped near New Market and the ground of the battle of two weeks before. Some members of the regiment looked over the battle field. They found that our dead had been buried in a heap where some stone had been quarried out. The dead of the enemy that had not been taken to their homes, had been buried in the cemetery at New Market. The enemy had left 31 of our wounded at this town and vicinity, who it had appeared had been quite well taken care of. This night our regiment went on picket on the bridge over the river in our rear.
(409) The second day after our arrival here, two companies of the Twelfth I and K were detailed to fill in with stone the wodden abuttments of the bridge, and the Thirty-fourth Massachusetts went out foraging; thus making a beginning of living off the enemy.
(410) We remained here until June 2nd, when we marched at 5 o'clock A. M. our regiment in the rear of the wagon train, arriving at Harrisburg in the evening, our advance having driven Imboden out of town. The Rebels left some sixty of our wounded and thirty of theirs here, brought up from New Market. Distance marched this day 24 miles.
(411) On the 4tb, we marched from here taking the pike leading to Staunton, but Hunter finding Imboden posted about seven miles ahead at Mount Crawford after examining this position, turned to the left taking a side road leading via Port Republic. Seven miles from Harrisburg we came to Cross Keys where the forces of Fremont and Jackson fought on June 8th, 1862, and a little farther on to where the Rebel Col. Ashy was killed. At Port Republic on the south branch of the Shenandoah our pioneers put a pontoon bridge over the river on which we crossed and marched about one mile on the road leading to Staunton.
(412) Early in the morning of the 5th, we resumed our march, but did not go far until our cavalry began skirmishing with the Rebels, driving them and capturing a number of prisoners. It may be well to say here that an Irish woman, who accompanied the First New York cavalry was noticed helping tenderly to bury some of the killed "my (her) boys" of that regiment that morning.
(413) Seven miles from Port Republic we found the Rebels in force, consisting of the commands of Generals Vaughn and Imboden, and a number of militia, numbering in all, as learned from prisoners, between 8,000 and 9,000 men, all under the command of Gen. W. E. Jones. Hunter's command consisted in all of 8,500 men, the infantry in two brigades the First commanded by Col. Moor, and the Second by Col. Thoburn. The cavalry were under command of Gen. Stahl, the infantry under Gen. Sullivan.
(414) The enemy were posted on either side of the pike their right drawn back somewhat. They had breastworks of rails extending at least from the pike to the Middle river on their left, several hundred yards distant. Hunter made disposition for battle at once, and the engagement that followed is known as the Battle of Piedmont. The First Brigade was formed on the right of the pike, and the Second Brigade on the left. The opposing forces faced each other from either side from the edge of woods, with several hundred yards of cleared land between.
(415) The battle began. It was opened by the artillery from each side. The Twelfth and the Thirty-fourth Massachusetts of Thoburn's brigade were ordered forward through the woods, on the left of the pike with a view to charging some of the enemy's artillery; when being discovered they were vigorously shelled by the enemy. After awhile they were brought back to the point where they had entered the woods. While waiting here for the coming of the balance of their brigade Colonels Thoburn and Curtis and Adjt. G. B. Caldwell with their orderlies, rode out into the open ground forming a group, for the purpose of watching the effect of the artillery fire. They were discovered by the Rebels, who threw a shell right into their midst, which exploding took off the fore-leg of the Adjutant's little mare. That group immediately dispersed.
(416) The other regiments having come up, Col Thoburn moved his brigade forward in the open ground into a slight hollow, within 200 yards of the enemy for the purpose of making a flank charge upon him. While the infantry were moving forward into this position, the artillery on each side opened up a heavy fire, and the Rebel band played "Dixie," while ours played "Yankee Doodle." Just before the charge that gallant young officer Capt. Meigs, of Hunter's staff rode backward and forward along the line encouraging the men to do their duty on this charge, and the day would be ours, that they must not hesitate or falter but go right through, that we were now a hundred miles from our lines, and that defeat would be disastrous. The First Brigade had made three charges right in the face of the Rebel front and had been repulsed. But we will let Adjt. G. B. Caldwell of the Twelfth tell the story of the battle in his graphic and enthusiastic way, as it came red hot from his pen a few days after for the Wheeling Intelligencer; or more particularly of the part taken in the engagement by the Twelfth. The letter was written from the headquarters of the regiment at Staunton and is as follows:
(417) This regiment moved from camp at Port Republic at 6 o'clock A. M., June 5, 1864. Our forces marching forward towards Staunton some four miles, our cavalry became engaged and drove the enemy a distance of one and a half miles, suffering a loss of thirty, killed and wounded. Capt. Imboden a brother of the general's was taken here. The ball then opened by the loud mouthed artillery bellowing forth, both Union and Rebel in hellish dialogue of the death answering each other's thunderous salutations. Post the crackling and roaring of Rebel woolen factories, consumed by flames kindled by the land of Union retributive justice; past the roaring batteries; past Carlin's braves stripped to the shirt sewing out iron vengeance to traitors, the Second Brigade, our fearless, cool and sound-judging Col. Joe Thoburn commanding, marched a mile to the very front, forming the left of our force. The position was 150 yards from the Rebel lines drawn tip behind a fortification of fence rails, so arranged as to make perfect protection against musketry. Here for one hour and a half in a woods at one and one-half miles range, the two twenty pounder Parrott guns of the enemy were served entirely against us with all possible rapidity and great precision, amid the tremendous explosion of shell, the profuse of rain of case shoe the fall of trees and limbs, amid wounded and dying among all these combinations of horror, with not a gun fired by us and no excitement to cause a wild carelessness of danger, our line never wavered.
(418) The first Brigade (our right) being heavily pressed moved us in retreat perhaps half a mile undetected by the enemy. This manouver was admirably masked in the woods like our advance before in the morning. A wide hollow whose descending sides were open fields stretched between the First and Second Brigades. Across this we must go. Our batteries open their fiercest fire, from hill to hill leap the ponderous black messengers of destruction, the reverberations of half a hundred, guns, on both sides, brought into action by the endeavor our batteries make to attract the attention of the enemy's ordnance, make earth tremble, and the air roar while we run the fiery gauntlet to reinforce our right. With unbroken lines we march over with steady tread.
(419) The Rebels occupy a woods in whose edge they have as on their right, an admirably improptu fence barricaded. Up we go to within 100 yards, lie down, fire and draw the Rebel fire. Men are struck all along the line. Most of the enemy's rifles are empty. Springing to their feet and cheering wildly the men rush forward and over the parapet. Our color bearer plants that banner of holy hopes and hallowed memories right where the sheet of Rebel flame runs crackling along, and mounting up cries, "Come on boys here's where I want you." Gloriously forward we go right into the woods our flag the first our regiment the foremost, the Rebels contending in a hand to hand struggle. Prisoners stream to the rear by the hundreds. Other regiments come to our support.
(420) The character of the conflict is attested by bayoneted Rebel dead. The emblematic rags of treason their battle flags, a few minutes before planted in the dirt. They flee in utter rout and one wild shout of "Victory is ours!" runs along for more than a mile through infantry, artillery, cavalry, through stragglers and wagon trains, till the very wounded in the hospitals cheer again and again. The conduct of the men cannot be too much praising. Often a soldier would press forward so furiously as to be enclosed single-handed among a mass of Rebels, surrendering to be recaptured instantly by his advancing comrades. The whole Rebel force having fled, we camped for the night in the woods among the Rebel dead, too numerous to be buried till the morrow.
(421) Thirty ambulances constantly running with the attendants, cannot collect all the wounded into hospitals, even in the long hours of this summer afternoon and evening. They have from two to three to our one in killed and wounded, and 1,000 able bodied prisoners, 60 officers, four or five colonels, Brig. Gen. Jones, their commanded killed, 1,700 stand of arms, four or five stand of colors and last and best Staunton grace our triumph.
(422) And here let me pause to pay a tribute to the memory of one of our own country's martyrs in our holy cause, our color bearer Corporal Joseph S. Halstead. A braver spirit never bore the banner of beauty and glory forward amid the bursting shells and the leaden rain of death. With comrades falling all around him he went ahead of the bravest, ahead of his brigade. The head and front of that terrific charge into the jaws of death, he rushed forward and planted our flag on the very parapet sheeted with flames from the enemy's rifles. Then over and forward again goes our banner into the hand to hand conflict in which that glorious day's fate was decided. He falls at last, but if there be consolation in such an hour, and to a Christian and one so wholly a soldier as he, he has it to the full a knowledge of his country's glory and his own. In the moment of victory with a broken and dispirited enemy flying before us with the shouts of comrades drunk with the enthusiasm of the hour rendering the very sky, with the valor of our arms attested by the piles of grey-clothed dead and hurt around him with the deep heart-felt admiration of all, attracted by his surpassing daring, with his comrades standing around him in speechless and tearful sympathy, with prisoners streaming or crowding to the rear, colonels and subordinates in traitor regalia, their perjured leader stricken dead by loyal vengeance, he fell at the very acme of our triumph, battling the flag which be had borne so royally to glory and to victory, with blood as noble as ever coursed through patriot veins. Poor Halstead among the brave the choicest spirit of them all, long will his memory be cherished and his valor in that, hour of carnage and triumph be the theme of the bivonac talks of his comrades.
(423) Col. Curtis had the pleasure of receiving the sword of a Virginia regiment's colonel, whose surrender he demanded. One of our Marshall county boys had the honor of bringing a Rebel colonel "to time." He, the Marshall county boy is a young fellow of about 17. Another from Hancock county, I. N. Cullen, (Comp.) had a grey header Confed bring a musket to his breast with an order to surrender. He threw the musket aside and twisted it out of the old fellow's hands, then kicking him over the parapet and out of the woods saying, "Old man you're too old for me to bayonet." Another Ohio county boy mounted the parapet in the charge and looking down on the Rebs, says "Lookout Johnnys we're coming down on you like a thousand of brick" That was funny at such a time - It was "in the cool."
(424) In the morning before the fight, Gen. Jones drew his men tip and told them that we were going to avenge Fort Pillow, that to surrender would be to die; and such stuff for an hour. If anything was wanting to prove the superior humanity of the Union soldiers or the barbarism induced in the South by slavery here it might have been found. First Sergeant Hart Marks, of Company K, accepted the surrender of a Rebel lieutenant and passed on to the front. The Rebel drew a revolver from under his coat and shot him, fortunately slightly, in the back, yet our boys spared him. I know of more such cases, several. Marks shortly afterwards received two wounds, one in side, and one in the shoulder, the last having passed through a twisted blanket, while charging the woods, the Rebels being behind the trees. Another of our regiment, the eccentric Barney Wyles, pressed ahead too far and was surrounded; he surrendered but his captor shot at him after surrender, with a revolver, cutting his clothes. Our men rushed on him, wrested the revolver from him, and then spared him. All evening could you see Union soldiers feeding wounded Rebels, and food was scarce with us then, having to come all in the shape of forage. In every regiment a number of instances can be given of such treachery as above. Could any contrast be greater?
(425) The day after the fight we came to this place. I wish that some of our copperheads, who have "nigger on the brain" could come here. You have heard that southern people are darkened by their sun. One can hardly tell which are the whites - not that the whites are so black, but that the blacks are so white. Miscegnation is played out. At this place 1,700 rifles were captured and therewith a government armory; cotton factories, commissary stores, railroad buildings and bridges were burnt. A brass field piece was found here all right. Two 100 pound guns were rendered useless, by the trunions being broken off. But I cannot enumerate one-half the damage, and will leave that to more general correspondents.
(426) I append a list of killed and wounded in this regiment. In addition to this list David Severe, Company G, was killed. I have just heard on picket this morning, that Corporal W. L. Herbert and Frank Metz were captured, both of the same company as Severe.
(427) Returns of killed and wounded and missing of the Twelfth regiment, West Virginia Volunteer Infantry in the battle of Piedmont, Virginia, on the 5th of June, 1864.
KILLED - First Sergeant Wm. H. Leach, Privates Lewis Manning, Geo. L. Jones and Reuben G. Boyd.
WOUNDED - Capt. Hagar Tomlinson, left leg flesh wound: Sergeant John G. Jones, fourth finger, left hand off; Corporal George Orum, head slightly; Private Thos. M. Turner, left thigh, severely; Private Wm. F. Magers, right hand, slightly.
WOUNDED - James B. Manning, left thigh, flesh wound.
WOUNDED - Corporal Benjamin Chambers, left arm, flesh wound; Corporal Wilson Chambers, upper part left breast, not dangerous; Wm. H. Ambercrombie, shot through both cheeks, severely; Francis M. Gray, left thigh broken, dangerously; John Dacon, left breast, dangerously; Geo. Barnes, right arm, flesh wound; Isaac N. Fisher, second finger right hand; Harmon Crow, right hand, slight.
KILLED - Sergeant A. R. Gilmore, Corporal Joseph
S. Halstead, color bearer; Privates, C. W. Hamilton and Robert J. Anderson.
WOUNDED - Corporal Daniel Maxwell, top of head, severely, but not dangerously; Corporal E. M. Adams, left shoulder slightly; Jno. W. Murray, right arm, severely.
KILLED - Corporal Jno. H. Wildharn.
WOUNDED - Privates Jno. H. Bennett, right leg, severely; and James Bachus, shot through cheeks, dangerously.
WOUNDED - Privates Henry Vortney, left leg, severely; Robert Heiskill, right fore finger; Ezra Wallace, left thigh, severely; Abia Warmsley, left fore arm, severely; A. M. Shroyer, left fore arm severely and Calvin L. Flemming, right thigh, slightly.
KILLED - Private Wm. H. Garrittson.
WOUNDED-Private Alphens Wyer, abdomen dangerously.
KILLED - Corporal Ed. O. Haymond.
WOUNDED - Privates Archer Wood, left elbow, severely, and left side slightly; Jacob Noes, right ankle, severely; Adam Price, shoulder, seriously; James W. Thomas, left, thigh, slightly; Frank McVicker, left side head, slightly; Jno. R. Wolfe, side head, slightly.
MISSING - Henry Bichur.
KILLED - Joseph R. Lyons, Wm. Beal, Andrew Daugherty, Joseph B. Durbin.
WOUNDED - Wm. H. Moore, right side, severely; Wm. B. Campbell, left shoulder, severely; Jno. R. Baxter, right breast, slightly; S. H. Minor, left thigh, flesh wound.
KILLED - A. W. White.
WOUNDED - First Sergeant T. H. Marks, flesh wound in side and shoulder, slight; Joseph Macks, left hand, not dangerous; Wm. H. Holbintter [Holbritter], right side, (shell) mortally, died; Alex. MeVoneha [McConneha], left arm and wrist, flesh wound.
MISSING - Corporal J. E. Fleming.
Total - Eighteen, killed; 41, wounded, and two missing.
(428) In addition to the foregoing letter from Adjutant Caldwell, a few further details and observations regarding the battle may not be unworthy of mention. A member of Company D, in a manuscript history of the company says that "early on the morning of June 5th, we were ordered into line before some of the boys breakfasted. After marching a short distance, we were halted, brought to a front and ordered to load at will. We were then informed by Col. Curtis that the enemy was near and that every man was expected to do his whole duty. The file-closers were ordered to take their positions in the rear of their companies. In looking along the line a determined expression on the countenances of both men and officers was notable, which boded no good to the enemy; and Adjt. Caldwell remarked, "The boys are full of fight today."
(429) This fighting spirit manifested by the regiment is perhaps explainable in part by the belief confirmed by information got from the citizens in coming up the Valley that we came near whipping in the New Market battle, and the consequent resolution, having come so near it then, to whip altogether this battle. And there the fact that our cavalry were driving the enemys cavalry this morning, doubtless had something to do in working up the fighting mood of the men.
(430) Col. Curtis having been mounted all day on a very fine horse wanted to try him in battle and see if he would be manageable under fire. When the order was given to charge he mounted him and looking over into the Rebel works he discovered that something had occurred to raise great excitement among the enemy. He repeated the command just given by Col. Thoburn to charge and shouted "Go in boys they're whipped." The position of the brigade, from which the charge was made was such that in making it the Twelfth would strike the right flank of the Rebel breast works extending from the pike to the river, at about the center of the regiment, compelling one-half of the men to climb over the breast works. But they went on cheering and shouting as they went, lighting among the Rebels when a hand to hand struggle for victory ensued for a few minutes when the Rebel line gave way, falling back toward the river, which was fordable at that point. The Twelfth followed the Johnnys briskley, capturing prisoners and killing those who refused to surrender.
(431) About midway between the pike and the river, the Forty-fifth Virginia infantry under command of Col. Brown held its position at the breast works until the Twelfth attacked it. Col. Brown was a graduate of West Point; but after being educated by the government was now trying to destroy it. A private by the name of Shinn, of Harrison county, it appears, ordered him to surrender; which he refused to do, because the order came from a private, but the private had the drop on him and was about to shoot him when he, Brown, observed Col. Curtis mounted on his horse which he had jumped over the breast works, moving along the line with his regiment. Brown threw up his hands giving Curtis a sign which the latter understood, exclaiming "I will surrender to you." The boys were ordered to take him to the rear with the other prisoners," and on his way back he took a very fine revolver from his belt and handing it to the boy said, "Give this to your Colonel with my compliments." The boy was honest and gave it to him and it was still in the possession of Col. Curtis at the time of his death.
(432) After the surrender of Col. Brown and his regiment the rout became general. Col. Halpine, Hunter's chief of staff is further authority for saying that the forces engaged in this battle were about equal, counting of the Rebels about 1,500 militia. Halpine says:
(433) "The fight though not large in numbers was singularly obstinate and fluctuating; the enemy beating back repeated charges of infantry and cavalry under Generals Sullivan and Stahl, and it was quite late in the afternoon after a long and sweltering day of battle, when the movement of the gallant Col. Thoburn's division across the narrow valley and its charge tip the hill upon the enemy's right flank decided the contest in our favor. But for the coming on of night and the broken heavily timbered nature of the country, the famous feat of "bagging" that army-so popular with congressional orators and enthusiastic editors - might have been easily accomplished; for a worse whipped or more utterly demoralized crowd of beaten men never fled from any field."
(434) Gen. Jones, the commander of the Rebel force, was shot in the head and fell dead upon the field. This was what caused the apparent excitement among the Rebels, noticed by Col. Curtis, as before mentioned. The Rebel leader was shot just as he was getting his troops ready for a charge. He fell in front of the Twelfth, and it was supposed that some member of it fired the fatal shot. Among the prisoners captured was Capt. Boyd Faulkner, of Gen. Jones' staff. The demoralized and routed Rebels many of whom ran into and across the river, making their escape in that way, reported on their retreat, so we learned the next day, that the Yankees before the battle had been dosed and mad drunk with whisky and gun powder, so that they fought recklessly and charged upon their works regardless of the slaughter made in their ranks.
(435) A comrade of Sergt. Halstead's company records a striking and touching incident concerning him, showing his devotion to patriotic duty. He was mortally wounded in the battle, falling upon the flag and staining it with his blood just after he had crossed the enemy's breast works. He was carried off the field of battle and cared for by his comrades. He lived until about 8 o'clock that night. Just before he died he sent for Col. Curtis to come and see him. The Colonel came immediately and kneeling by his side and taking his hand, said, "Sergeant, you are badly wounded." "Yes," Halstead replied, "I feel that I have but a few minutes to live, but before I die I desire to know if I have done my duty as a soldier." The Colonel ansewred, "Yes, you have gallantly sacrificed your life for your country; you could do no more." Halstead said, "Then I am ready to go," and died soon afterward.
(436) This battle of Piedmont was the third engagement for the Twelfth and its first victory. It having been our fortune up to this time to fight our battles in the Shenandoah Valley, in which the Union arms had hitherto met with an almost uniform series of disasters, and which had indeed become a valley of humiliation to us owing to the fact that we had generally out numbered, the Twelfth had hitherto met with defeat. This time the day was ours, and we got to view the battle field instead of having to yield that privilege to the johnnys; and that the regiment behaved so gallantly as it did in this battle is all the more creditable to it that it did so in spite of the demoralizing tendencies of previous defeats.
(437) Gen. Hunter was a large dark visaged stern man of severe aspect; a man not at all of a sympathetic genial disposition, who was calculated to win the personal attachment of men generally. He was not only severe in appearance but he was really so. On one occasion on the march to Lynchburg, a man was noticed as the army passed by, tied up to a tree by order of Gen. Hunter it was said. It is not remembered that any other general under whom the Twelfth served ever punished a soldier in like manner, by direct personal order. Notwithstanding Hunter's lack of popular qualities, now that he had won a victory, he was at this time popular with the boys; and they were disposed to cheer him when he made his appearance before them. They were thus merely paying a tribute to success.
(438) That night after the battle, we slept in the woods held by the Rebels during the battle, and owing to the great reaction of feeling after the fight, the letting down of the high tension of excitement kept up all the long day of strength, the boys generally slept well, though in some instances the moaning of an enemy wounded beyond relief could be heard nearby. In the morning we marched for Staunton some 11 miles distant, which place we reached that day after an easy day's march. After having gone about four miles on the way toward Staunton, we met an aid who informed us that the enemy had fled from that place, and that we now had communication with Generals Crook and Averell, who had moved from the Kanawha Valley, when cheer after cheer went up all along the line over the announcement.
(439) On nearing Staunton we passed one or more houses where the occupants had hung in front of their homes white cloths as indicative of submission or with a view to securing protection. When we got into the town the women seemed dreadfully frightened; some of them were in the streets wringing their hands and crying as if they were afraid the Yankees might eat them alive. Their conduct was in strong contrast with that of the women of Winchester to whom the Yankee was no new sight; they being not in the least afraid of him, having learned that he was no dread monster. But rather they were, in some cases, haughty, defiant and saucy. If we had stayed awhile in Staunton these women would soon have got over their dreadful alarm, finding that they were as safe as with their own.
(440) We were the first Union soldiers that had ever set foot in Staunton as victors. This early summer of 1864 was marking a distinct advance or progress of the Union cause. Grant was planting himself firmly before Petersburg never to yield his ground. Sherman was moving on toward Atlanta and before long would capture that important point, we of Hunters command had pushed farther up the Shenandoah Valley, than any Union army had ever done before and we were soon to menace. Lynchburg, an almost vital point to the enemy and a place that had never been seriously threatened before; thus causing the enemy to detach heavily from his force at Richmond to send troops into the Valley and to thereby prepare the way for Sheridan to gain, in the fall of the year, his important and telling victories, and thus make his great military reputation.
(441) After arriving at Staunton in the evening the Twelfth went into camp on a hill east of the town. That night the prisoners captured at Piedmont were confined in the stockade which the Rebels had used for the confining of our men. The next day, the 7th, our regiment was sent on the march for what reason it is not known on the road leading to Beverly, W. Va. When about six miles on the way while we were stopping for a rest, orders came to us to return and we marched back to Staunton. While remaining at this place, the large number of prisoners we held, and our surplus wagons, with some of our not too severely wounded in them, were sent in charge of Major Samuel Adams, a quartermaster, from here to Webster on the Baltimore and Ohio railroal guarded by the Twenty-eighth Ohio infantry, whose time had expired.
(442) On the morning of the 9th, Col. Curtis received orders from Gen. Hunter to proceed with his regiment to a certain point on the railroad leading to Richmond to burn the brides, tear up the track, and make the road as difficult to repair as possible. In performing this work, the ties and rails were so piled up that when the ties were set on fire, the rails would be so bent it would require much labor to make them serviceable again. The men engaged heartily in this work.
(443) On the morning of the 10th we set out on the march to Lexington our division taking one road and Crook's division, it having joined us two days before, another road to the right of ours. At Staunton large quantities of the enemy's tobacco had been by authority thrown into the streets. Nearly every man bad picked up more than he could conveniently carry and for a day the army might have been tracked by the tobacco plugs strewn along the road. When seven miles on the road toward Lexington a courier came to us bearing the news that a large wagon train was coming with coffee and sugar for us, and that Grant had driven Lee inside of his entrenchments around Richmond. The boys, of course, cheered this news heartily. We camped this night at a place called Midway, 18 miles from Staunton, and the same distance from Lexington which place is situated on the north branch of the James river, and is the seat of the Virginia Military Institute. When near this latter town we were rejoined by Crook's force. Before we reached the town the Rebels burned the bridge leading across the river to it. After some skirmishing and a few shells thrown from our side the Johnnys who were still in the town left. But we did not enter the town this day.
(444) The next morning we crossed over the river on a bridge constructed by the Pioneer corps and camped near the town. The Institute, where about two hundred cadets were attending at the time, Governor Letcher's house and some houses belonging to Rebel officers were burned at this place by order of Gen. Hunter. There were also some iron works burned here. Stonewall Jackson's grave is here at the head of which there was a pole, bearing a flag when we entered the town; but the flag and pole somehow soon thereafter disappeared. We remained at Lexington two days and during this time the supply train referred to with rations and quartermaster's stores came up.
(445) At 5 o'clock on the morning of the 14th, we marched taking the road leading to Buchanan in Botetourt county on the south branch of the James river. We passed within two and a half miles of the Natural Bridge over Cedar Creek and arrived at Buchanan a little after dark. The Rebels had burned the bridge over the river before leaving, but the pioneers soon made another in its stead, on which we crossed. According to an account by W. W. Foreman, of Company D, a spy, was taken this day, and after a court martial was shot the following morning.
(446) This past day we had had a long hard marched, considering the heat of the weather. Pertinent to this matter of hard marching this anecdote which should have been told sooner, is given. It will be remembered that when Hunter set out on this expedition the men were required to carry from 80 to 100 rounds of ammunition per man. Grant in assuming command of the armies of the United States ordered the heavy artillerymen to be armed as infantry and sent into the field. Some of these soldiers were sent to Hunter. They were given to straggling considerably, not being used marching, and besides many of them wore tightly fitting boots, which they had worn while in the fortifications, making the matter worse. One day one of these soldiers who was straggling behind, as we marched somewhere, in the Valley, was accosted by an officer, doubtless with the intent to reprimand him, and asked to what command he belonged. The soldier in allusion to the heavy amount of ammunition he was carrying, answered with a big oath, "I belong to Gen. Hunter's ammunition train."
(447) The next day, the 15th, we resumed our march; but Crook's division taking the advance we did not get started till late in the day and marched only 11 miles this day, camping for the night at the Peaks of Otter. Our route today led over the Blue Ridge on which we saw a dead man in citizen's dress by the roadside, who had been shot by our men. It appeared that he with others had been felling trees across the road in front of us, and had been killed in the act.
(448) Early the next morning we were en route, and a march of nine miles brought us to Liberty, a pretty little town on the Virginia and Tennessee railroad. A great many wounded Rebels from Lees army were in the hospital here. After doing considerable damage to the railroad, and burning the depot here, we passed on five miles farther, on the road toward Lynchburg and camped. The next day at an early hour we pushed on toward this city. We were now in an apparently fine country. It was this day or the afternoon of the day before, that a fine residence near the road was burned by order of Gen. Hunter, it appearing that our troops had been fired on from it. We passed through the town of New London. About 4 o'clock P. M., when some three miles from Lynchburg, Gen. Crook whose division was in advance, engaged the enemy at an outpost driving him from his entrenchments there to his inner line of defense and captured about 70 prisoners and two or three pieces of artillery. We camped upon the field.
(449) The next morning, the 18th, we moved forward, our skirmishers driving the Rebel skirmishers, until we could see the enemy's fortifications within two miles of the city. Our division, or at least the part of it to which the Twelfth belonged, was on or across the Bedford road. There was no considerable fighting except skirmishing and shelling until about 2 P. M., when heavy firing was heard on our left. Hunter having attacked there in force. There was no fighting on our part of the line just at this time, but soon thereafter, the Rebels being observed to be getting ready to sally out of the works to charge us on the Bedford road, we here, at a brigade were massed on the left of the road in five close lines in the edge of some woods, with clean open ground between us and the Rebel works, some 500 yards distant. Soon the Rebels were ready and charged us; and at the same time they began shelling us. The most of the shells, however, crashed through the tree tops above our heads doing little harm. We opened fire on the charging column before it had come far and kept up a steady and continuous roaring of musketry until the Rebels broke and "skedadled" back to the works, which they did before they got half way to our lines. We repulsed them easily. Some soldiers, who were in the rear during this charge said afterward that they had never before heard so heavy mustketry and that they thought from the tremendous roar kept up that we must be getting slaughtered. Hunter failed to capture any of the enemy's works this day; but the Rebels thought best to keep on the defensive. Our loss was about 200 hundred and it was thought the enemy's was heavy.
(450) When the Rebels charged us on the Bedford road a number of men in the front line about opposite the center of the Twelfth, broke making quite a gap a dozen or so of them trying to get behind one tree. A number of the Twelfth boys ran forward to the gap and fired on the advancing Rebels. And here at this point it is desired to pay a tribute to an enlisted man, Sergt. Thomas J. Ormsby, of Company C. The soldier in the ranks has not been without praise but it is doubtful if he has had his full due relatively with the officers. Ormsby ran the gap going perhaps 30 feet in advance of the front line trusting that our own men would not shoot him. He was the one man, it is believed, who thus went forward of the 2,000 or more massed men. He wanted to watch the progress and outcome of the fight. When the Johnnys began to break he turned toward our ranks and said laughing, "They're running boys."
(451) This same sergeant when a battle seemed emminent was in the habit of talking to the men of his company in an encouraging way, telling them to not fear, that we would whip them and all that. He was no bully nor broggart, but simply wanted to inspire the men with his own confidence. A soldier in another company called this peculiar habit of Sergt. Ormsby "preaching." One day when a fight was threatened this soldier called the attention of a comrade to the sergeant's conduct saying, "Did you ever notice Ormsby when there is likely to be a fight? Listen to him preaching to Company C. He's the d---dst man ever I saw." Sergt. Ormsby seemed almost devoid of fear. The soldier who drew attention to the sergeant, was afterward killed in the Valley of Virginia under Sheridan.
(452) After the repulse of the Rebel charge we were moved from the woods and reformed into line. There was no more fighting except skirmishing. The spirit of the men was still good, as was evidenced by the way they were disposed to expose themselves to the Rebel fire. Hunter, however, was just one day too late attacking Lynchburg, for the very day he arrived before the city, Early's corps arrived in it, and all night thereafter the Rebels were beating drums and cheering over more reinforcements. It seems almost certain that if Hunter had been only one day earlier in his attempt against Lynchburg, the place would have fallen. But after all the result as it was may have been best, for it led to Sheridan's opportunity to establish his great ability as a commander, to his signal victories in the Valley as before written, and thereby, very probably to the hastening of the downfall of the rebellion.
(453) Hunter having satisfied himself that Early's corps had come to the defense of the city started just after dark on the retreat. We marched all night stopping at Otter creek in the morning, the 19th, to rest and prepare something to eat, having marched 18 miles. After breakfast we marched on, passing through Liberty and camped three miles beyond along the line of the Virginia and Tennessee railroad. Now that Hunter had failed in his attempt against Lynchburg he was compelled to abandon his Shenandoah line on account of Early's having the shorter route to it, and retreat to Charleston on the Kanawha by way of Buford's Gap, following the railroad from Liberty to Salem, at which point 36 miles from Liberty the railroad was left.
(454) We left camp near Liberty about 2 o'clock in the morning the 20th, passing through Thoxton's and Buford's stations, at which places some subsistence was obtained and going on after a march of 17 miles we stopped in Buford's Gap in the Blue Ridge to eat of our scant supply and rest. A little after dark we resumed our march. Shortly after the infantry started, our cavalry staying behind for a time captured about a hundred of the Rebel cavalry, in the pass, who had been harassing our rear. We marched all night reaching Salem in the morning. Here we halted to meal, breakfast and dinner. While here the enemy atttacked our rear. The attack not very serious, was repulsed. The wagon train and some artillery were sent ahead, some cavalry having gone ahead a while before.
(455) About three miles from Salem the rear of the train which from oversight or want of precaution had little or no guard with it, was attacked by McCausland, capturing or killing a number of horses, cutting down the carriages of five guns so that they had to be abandoned and getting off with three guns. The infantry were hurried up from the rear and he was driven off with a loss to us of thirty men. After this affair with the Rebels we marched on ten miles farther, passing over a mountain and camped for the night of the 21st, to have our first good rest. We had marched in the last twenty-four hours 26 miles, and in all for the last three days 70 miles doing most of the marching after night though the nights were short, with little or no sleep. The men were so worn out for want of sleep that when a short stop was made for a rest, they would fall asleep and were hard to waken up. Though our march had thus been rapid the bridges, stations, and water tanks along the railroad as far as we followed it were pretty thoroughly destroyed by our men.
(456) Near the summit of the mountain over which we had just passed on the road in our rear up which the Rebels were expected to come our men had placed in position two pieces of artillery to give them a salute if they should venture up the mountain. In the night cavalry were heard coming and when they were near enough the artillery was opened on them, sending them down the mountain flying. The Rebels followed us no farther.
(457) We remained in camp at the foot of the mountain till 1 o'clock P. M., when the 22nd, we resumed our march. We passed through New Castle, over Middle Mountain, Peter's Mountain, through Sweet Springer, over Allegheny Mountain, through White Sulphur Springs where the men being so hard pressed for something to eat pulled up growing potatoes and ate the old tubers; crossed the Greenbriar River, passed through Lewisburg, over Little Sewell Mountain, and over Big Sewell Mountain, camping at its foot. It was on coming tip one of these mountains that many dead horses were seen. So many were they, it seemed that, for a mile or two, there was one to every rod or two. They had given out from want of feed and were shot to keep the enemy from getting them.
(458) It was now the 27th, the 9th day since we had left Lynchburg. We had marched from that time 168 miles. For the last three or four days we had had in the way of subsistence little or nothing except coffee, sugar and very poor beef, of which latter the men became very sick, getting it only partially cooked by roasting it over a fire. We had got to that extremity that we were glad to get bran or raw corn to eat. It was said that an officer in one case at least, offered a dollar for a pint of corn. Here at the west base of Big Sewell, however, the train of supplies which had been promised us for a day or two, finally came up to the great gladness of all. And the race for rations was now at an end.
(459) The next day we pushed on and passed the Hawks nest on the New River, the 29th, an almost perpendicular precipice of rocks, eleven hundred feet high, overlooking the river; crossed the Ganley River the same day at its junction with the former river, the two streams forcing the Kanawha river, and camped. We remained here two days, being now within easy reach of supplies, and were mustered for pay while here. July 2nd, we marched to Camp Piatt on the Kanawha ten miles from Charleston, having marched 227 miles from Lynchburg.
(460) Col. Strother, Gen. Hunter's chief of staff in his report of the expedition, gives these results: "About 50 miles of the Virginia Central railroad had been effectually destroyed. The Virginia and Tennessee road had been destroyed to some extent for the same distance; an incredible amount of public property had been buried, including canal boats and railroad trains loaded with ordinance and commissary stores; numerous extensive iron works, manufactories of saltpetre, musket stocks, shoes, saddles and artillery harness, woolen cloths and grain mills. About three hundred muskets and twenty pieces of cannon with quantities of shells and gun powder fell into our hands; while immense quantities of provisions, cattle and horses were captured and used by the army." Col. Strother claims also the infliction of a loss of 2,000 killed and wounded on the enemy, besides the taking of 2,000 prisoners with a total loss of only 1,500 men and eight guns in Hunter's command (see Pond) Hunter, however, lost a great many horses, mules and wagons by reason of lack of subsistence for the horses and mules.
(461) It appears that a far greater result was achieved by Hunter's expedition than any, or it may be, of all those by Col. Strother; for Jefferson Davis explained to the people of Georgia after the fall of Atlanta that "an audacious movement of the enemy up to the very walk of Lynchburg had rendered it necessary that the government should send a formidable body of troops to cover that vital point, which had otherwise been intended for the relief of Atlanta."
(462) Hunter regarded the achievements of his command as valuable. He sent a dispatch from Lomp Creek near Ganley Bridge, June 28th, saying that "the expedition had been extremely successful inflicting great injury upon the enemy.' He added, "The command is in excellent heart and health." Gen. Hunter, who had kept up during the raid a rather luxuriant table, comparatively sumptuously supplied, was perhaps himself in pretty good health and heart; but that his troops in general - who had suffered much deprivation and hardship, having to live mainly on meat for some days inferior no doubt to good mule meat, and having been so exhaustively marched that a few days before we reached rations he ordered those of the command, who could not keep up to keep in squads so that they could defend themselves from bushwhackers - would agree with this opinion is hardly to be believed.
(463) July 3rd, the Twelfth with a considerably portion of Hunter's infantry besides, took steamboats at Camp Piatt on the Kanawha for Parkersburg on the Ohio, to take cars of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad back to the Shenandoah Valley again. We passed down the Kanawha and up the Ohio getting along pretty well till we came to Buffington's Island where we had to go ashore and foot it a short distance on account of the boats not being able to pass the schools there with her load of passengers. After passing the shoals we boarded the boats again. From this point we got along pretty well till we got to Blannerhassett's Island, about six miles from Parkersburg, where we had to go ashore again on account of low water, and march to that city, arriving at a village opposite the 4th, having marched up on the Ohio side of the river and camped for the night.
(464) We crossed the river the next day and took the cars for the Valley. It was five days later when we reached the village of Hedgersville on the western skirt of the Valley, having been detained on the way on account of the Rebels having burnt several bridges east of Cumberland, Md., which had to be rebuilt before the trains could go on. At this village we began to hear reports and rumors as to the nearness and strength of the enemy; but notwithstanding whatever the commanding general may have known the troops generally seemed to have no definite information as to the strength of the Rebels near us.