THE MONTHS of September and October were ones of intense activity, consisting of heavy picket duty, arduous scouting and severe drilling. Scouting was the regular order, and it was the exception when one or more scouting parties were not out in the mountains or valleys, watching the movements of the confederates who were constantly hovering about. September 11th a flag of truce was sent out to ascertain the condition of our wounded at Rocky Gap. The Second Virginia went to Huttonville on the 14th for picket duty, where they remained until the 17th, being relieved by the Fourteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry. While here Lieut. Weaver was sent with a detail of seventy-five men from the different companies, on a scout to Monterey, Crab Orchard and other points. They had several skirmishes, capturing some prisoners. On their return to camp, the horse of Sam Knox of Company K, slipped over a steep bank and crippled it so that he could not continue with the company, and was left with some union people in the mountains, who agreed to take care of them until the return of some of the men for them. On the return to camp, Sergt. Quimby and twelve men were sent out after Knox, a distance of 43 miles. They found that the citizens had kept their word, their comrade was safe, and the horse had been cared for so that he could carry his owner to camp. When this party started for camp, on reaching Dry Fork, they learned that about 800 of the confederates had passed at daylight in the direction of Beverly, on the road they had to travel. They at once stuck down the river a few miles, then went over the hills and through the woods, arriving in camp safe, after a tramp of about two weeks. On reaching camp, they found that it was a part of this force, that had captured Lieut. Hutchinson and his party, while on picket.
On September 24, a detail for picket and patrol duty, was sent to Shaffer mountain from Company A, consisting of the following members: Lieut. J. R. Hutchinson; Sergts. F. H. Singer, H. Smith and M. Campbell; Corps. J. Breen, C. Britch, S. Croco and Ed. Saladin, and privates A. Campbell, J. Carrigan, J. Stone, S. L. Reynolds, W. S. Taylor, J. Mclarren, J. Washington, P. Kirsch, J. Slayer, L. Henrich, W. Heine, F. H. McCleane, M. Robel, W. Ludaking, L. Metz, H. Wagner, P. Romiser, F. Dickroger, B. F. Ackelson, W. Dever, L. H. Webster, C. Werner, B. F. Kurtz. They had orders to relieve Company B and send a patrol of 20 men to the mouth of Seneca, a distance of 20 miles, each day, until the third day, when they would be relieved. After reaching the picket post, details were placed out, and nothing, occurred until after 2 o'clock on the morning of the 25th. There was a heavy wind storm, and under cover of the noise and darkness, Maj. Lang, with his battalion of confederates, captured the picket on the mountain side of the post, and Lang's force, consisting of seven officers and 132 men, completely surrounded the picket. Taylor, the guard close to camp, gave the alarm, but the darkness was so dense that the firing was all at random, until Lang's men set fire to a hay stack, when it was seen that the union forces were surrounded. An attempt was made to escape, but it failed, and Peter Romiser was killed, and Ackelson wounded, the rest being captured, eight of whom were sent to Andersonville, the rest being imprisoned at Richmond until exchanged, being prisoners nearly six months.
Col. Latham with 152 men of the Second Virginia, went on three days' picket duty on the 26th, returning the 29th, without anything of note occurring. A confederate scouting party, 50 strong, came within two miles of camp on the 26th, but retired in precipitate haste when their presence was learned. On the 24th one of our scouting parties that went to Greenbrier, was fired into, and lost one man wounded and two prisoners.
Intelligence was received that the brave Maj. McNally had died on Sept. 22nd, from wounds received at Rocky Gap, and on the 29th a meeting of the officers of the regiment was held, to take action on the loss of this gallant officer. Col. George R. Latham presided, and Capt. J. K. Billingsley was secretary. Capt. N. W. Truxal delivered a eulogy on the life and services of the Major, expressing in chaste and beautiful language, the estimate in which he was held by the regiment. At the close of his remarks, he offered the following resolutions, which were unanimously adopted:
Resolved; That we have learned with profound sorrow of the death of Maj. F. P. McNally, late of this regiment, and we deplore it as a calamity not only to his family and friend, but in him the country has lost a brave and intrepid officer who had won him laurels on many battle fields, gallantly supporting the glorious flag of his country, and offering his life a sacrifice on her altar.
Resolved, That we offer to his bereaved companion and aged parents our sincere condolence, hoping that the Almighty hand that "tempers the wind to the shorn lamb," may guard his helpless child and bind up the bleeding hearts.
Resolved, That as a testimonial of respect for the memory of our beloved brother and officer, we will wear the usual badge of mourning on our sabre belts for thirty days.
Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be forwarded to the family of the deceased.
The month of October was a very busy one to the troops, and the service was hard and constant. On the 9th our regiment went to Huttonville on picket duty and remained there until the 12th. On the 11th Col. Latham with 75 men, went on a scout to Elkwater, after some confederate cavalry seen there, returning on the 16th empty handed. The picket duty was heavy and severe, and scouting parties were out nearly all the time. Thus we remained until the close of October, by which time all the preparations were completed for the successful expedition to Droop Mountain.
On the 1st of November, 1863, the order to march was again given, and the 2d, 3d and 8th Virginia Mounted Infantry, 14th Pa. Cavalry, Gibson's battalion of cavalry, and batteries B and G, First Virginia Light Artillery, Capts. Keeper and Ewing, took up the line of march, arriving at Huttonville that evening. Lieut. Col. Alex Scott was in command of our regiment. The next day the troops crossed Cheat Mountain Summit, marching to the Greenbrier river, camping within a mile of camp Bartow. The following day we took the Huntersville road, passing through Green Bank, and camping at night at Dunmore, capturing some of the confederate pickets, and securing plenty of hay for our horses. On the 4th we marched through Huntersville, and chased Jackson's cavalry, the Second being in the advance of the column. One squadron of the regiment was detached as the advance, under command of Lieut. A. J. Weaver, who captured two prisoners. The Third Virginia and Fourteenth Pa. cavalry were sent to head off Jackson's cavalry, while the Second and Eighth Virginia, with one section of Ewing's battery, were ordered to march at once to Marlin's Bottoms, six miles north of Huntersville on the Greenbrier river, where Jackson's forces were supposed to be encamped. Arriving about dusk, it was found that Jackson had received intelligence of our approach, and availed himself of the privilege of leaving before our arrival, taking the road to Lewisburg, which he partially blockaded. We encamped here for the night. The hills were filled with bushwhackers, who made things lively for us. Lieut. Russell, who was on picket during the night at the camp just vacated by the enemy, destroyed a considerable quantity of small arms and accoutrements, and also burned their quarters, consisting very comfortable log houses. The obstructions having been removed during the night, we were again in the saddle on the morning of the 5th at daylight, and followed the Lewistown pike. Cannonading was soon heard in front, which started us into a brisk trot, which was kept up until we reached Mill Point, some ten miles from where we had en camped the night previous. At this place we found the Third Virginia and Fourteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry in line of battle, with Jackson's force confronting them, whose artillery was firing at our columns. Our whole force was soon on the ground. The Second was ordered to take a position in support of Keeper's battery, when the enemy fell back and took a strong position on Droop mountain. Three men of our command were wounded in the little fight. During the night Jackson was reinforced by Genl. Echols, with his force from Lewisburg, consisting of four regiments, two battalions and a battery, thus giving the confederates the advantage in numbers.
Shortly after sunrise on the 6th, our brigade marched to Hillsboro, where skirmishers were thrown out, and the enemy opened upon us with their batteries. Genl. Averell made his dispositions for the battle, and assumed the offensive, though the enemy had a very strong position on the mountain, and were superior in numbers. About noon Lieut. Col. Scott was ordered to dismount the Second, to fight on foot, with instructions to detach one company and post them on an elevated position, as a guard for the horses of the dismounted troops. He was then ordered to take a position between the Third and Eighth Virginia and to act in support of those two regiments. The strength of the regiment when placed in position was about 200 men, a great many being detached. On arriving at the foot of the hill where the confederates were posted, the Second passed the Eighth Virginia, leaving them on our left, moving on for the purpose of ascertaining the position of the Third Virginia. Col. Scott was then ordered to begin his advance up the hill toward the enemy's works, which he did through briers, tree tops and obstacles of various kinds. After gaining an open piece of ground, the colonel reformed his men and moved further up the hill, where he formed in line of battle on the left of the Third Virginia. Soon battery B on the left, and the confederate artillery, opened up, and the result was an interesting and lively artillery duel, continued for some time. This and the skirmishing were kept up until about 3 o'clock, when the infantry, under Col. Moor, was sent around by a circuitous route to turn the enemy's left and strike him in the flank and rear. The Second and Third Virginia and two companies of the Eighth Virginia, advanced in front, and the Fourteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry and Battery B and Independent Cavalry Battalion were on the left, while Battery G was on the right. Presently a few reports were heard from the direction in which the infantry had gone, followed by volleys of musketry, which were being hurled into the ranks in the rear of the unsuspecting enemy. Then came the time for the forces in front to act, when the dismounted regiments, in accordance with previous orders, came out of their hiding places and advanced to the attack in front. Battery G now opened with their guns and joined with the effective work of Keeper's battery. When our line was within ten or fifteen yards of the crest of the mountain, the enemy opened upon us, and a sheet of flame issued from the mountain top, as the confederates poured a terrific fire of musketry into the faces of our brave boys. The whole line was then pushed forward with vigor, and never flinched or wavered, but advanced with the tread of veterans and returned the fire with telling effect. The fighting was fierce and terrible, a battle to the death, the musketry fire being very rapid. We had one advantage, that as we advanced up the steep mountain, the fire of the enemy passed over our heads, and thus saved our line from being mowed down. Steadily our men advanced, driving their foe from the breastworks of fence rails, logs and stones, that they had hastily thrown up. Battery G helped materially in breaking the line of the enemy, throwing shot and shell among them when our lines were within 20 or 30 feet of their line. Indeed we were at so close quarters, that the artillery fire endangered a part of our men, though fortunately hurting none, while effective shot were being thrown into the now hard pressed ranks of the confederates. Company B, of the Second was deployed as skirmishers, and relieved those of the Eighth Virginia on the extreme left of our line on the bluff in the woods. When the column came up on the right of the company, they filed right to join their regiment, then close to the top. As the men of the company emerged from the timber, they were saluted with shot from our own battery. C. E. Ringler got upon a high rock and tried to signal our gunners to cease, when another rattling shot saluted them. He quickly seized a tall sapling and substituted its top leaves with the front section of his white nether garment, whereupon they were relieved from this danger, but the enemy were not. After about two hours of fighting the Second and Third Virginia, with yells and cheers, loud and strong, charged into the jaws of death and fire, and carried the position by storm, driving the enemy like chaff before the wind, who retreated precipitately toward Lewisburg.
Lieut. J. B. Smith, of the Second, with some of his men, was the first to get inside the enemy's breastworks. Sergeant Keeny, of Company H, was stunned by a shot that struck a tree by him, and he claims that at least one-half hour of his life was lost by the shock. The line had advanced some distance before he regained consciousness. Lieut. A. J. Weaver, while waving his sword and urging his men forward, was struck by a musket ball, which stilled that noble heart. As he fell he said in a faint voice, "Tell Jimmie to write to Hattie." Jimmie was the bugler of the company, a lad of 15 years, now lieutenant, U. S. A., and Hattie was a lady in Baltimore, to whom the lieutenant was engaged to be married. His last words were in remembrance of her. When the breastworks were captured, Isaac Wilt, of Company K, came into the presence of a confederate lieutenant, who refused to retreat or surrender, but with bitter oaths was urging his men back to the work, Wilt plunged his bayonet through the man, who died with oaths on his lips, cursing the men that were defending their country.
The confederates retreated in great haste and disorder, and Gibson's cavalry battalion, which had been held in reserve, and a section of Ewing's battery, were at once sent forward in pursuit, and many of the rest of the troops, hastily mounting their horses, kept up with them, striking hard blows on the beaten and discomfited foe. Though in the hottest of the severe fighting, and punished considerably, the men of the Second were in the front in the chase, which lasted for about 12 miles. The ground was strewn with guns and accoutrements; and the upturned faces of the poor victims, formed a ghastly picture in this terrible scene of carnage. All the men behaved splendidly, and like veterans, and it is but just to say that our own regiment exhibited the qualities of true soldiers, excelled by none. Prompt, vigilant and heroic, they did their whole duty.
Lieut. Col. Scott, in his official report of the battle, had this to say: "With but few exceptions the men and officers behaved nobly. I take pleasure in making special mention of the gallantry and daring exhibited by Lieut. J. B. Smith, of Company E. He is the youngest officer in the regiment and is deserving of great credit. Adjutant J. Combs and Lieut. A. J. Pentecost, exhibited great coolness and daring, and rendered important service throughout the fight. I also mention the names of Capt. Barclay, Lieuts. J. R. Frisbie, L. P. Salterbach, A. P. Russell, Charles H. Day and Felix Hughes, as being actively engaged during the entire engagement."
The losses of our regiment in this expedition were as follows:
Killed - Charles Ritz, Company C; Andrew Bernard, Samuel Bowden, Edward Doyle and Wm. L. Hughes, Company D; Thos. J. Akers, John Murphy and Moses Moore, Company E; Lieut. A. J. Weaver, Company K.
Wounded - William Jenkins, John Kerns, Company B; Henry Emmering (died of wounds), Company C; Michael Brubach, Company D; Wm. Garroll (died of wounds), W. H. Foulke, Geo. Dent, S. L. D. Hudson, Company E; John Hope, Sergt. Thos. Williams, Company H; Lieut. C. H. Day, Company I; M. D. Kenny (died of wotinds), Edward) C. Maley (died of wounds), Thomas McConkey (died of wounds), John Salyards, Company K.
On the 7th we marched to Lewisburg, where we met Gen. Duffie with four regiments of infantry and four pieces of artillery. He did not even get a shot at the enemy, but burned their camps at this place. The next day we left Lewisburg and passed through White Sulphur Springs and over the Rocky Gap battle ground, and camped on the Warm Springs road near Callaghan's. At White Sulphur Springs we released such of our men as were wounded at Rocky Gap, as were able to join us. The brave fellows were rejoiced to see us, and the meeting with their comrades was a happy and an affecting one. Gen. Duffie left us two miles from Lewisburg and went on the Union road. The Tenth Virginia and Twenty-eighth Ohio infantry and battery B left us here, and went back to Beverly with our wounded and prisoners, and cattle. We had left then only the mounted regiments, and our own battery G, the pride of the regiment. On the 9th we marched to Gatewood, about seventeen miles. Lieut. Schmolze and twelve men of Company F Second Virginia, were in the advance, and they captured fifteen confederates, with their horses and accoutrements. We were threatened by Gen. Imboden near Covington, and prepared to give him battle, but he declined it. On the 10th we marched to Green Hill on the Monterey road, and were considerably bushwhacked, one of the men of the command being killed and another wounded. The next day we marched beyond Monterey about nine miles. At Crab Bottom a part of our brigade was met by some of Thoburn's brigade, who had come out to see us. We reached Petersburg on the 13th, where we remained until the 16th, when we resumed our march. About nineteen miles from this place, we learned of the capture of a wagon train of seventy wagons, containing stores for the troops at Petersburg, by McNeill's guerillas. The Third Virginia and Gibson's battalion were sent after them, but without effect. We arrived at New Creek November 17th, and went into camp, where we remained without any special incidents, until the brigade started on the Salem raid.
Since leaving Beverly, seventeen days, we marched 296 miles, a part of the time suffering intensely from the cold, constantly subjected to the hidden attacks of bushwhackers, and having fought one of the most gallant and triumphant little battles of the war.
The following is General Averell's report of this expedition:
On the 1st day of November, I left Beverly with my command consisting of the Twenty-eighth Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Col. J. A. Moor; Tenth West Virginia Volunteer Infantry, Col. J. M. Harris; Second West Virginia Mounted Infantry, Lieut. Col. A. Scott; Third West Virginia Mounted Infantry, Lieut. Col. F. W. Thompson; Eighth West Virginia Mounted Infantry, Col. J. H. Oley; Fourteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, Col. J. N. Schoonmaker; Gibson's Battalion, and Batteries, B. and G., First West Virginia Light Artillery, Capts. J. V. Keeper and C. T. Ewing. The command moved on the Staunton pike to Greenbrier Bridge and thence by Camp Bartow and Green Bank to Huntersville, driving before them the enemy's pickets, and capturing or dispersing the guerrilla bands which infest that part of the country. The command reached Huntersville at noon of the 4th and it was there ascertained that Lieut. Col. Thompson, of Jackson's command was at Marlin's Bottom, with a force of about 600 men. I at once sent the Fourteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry and Third West Virginia Mounted Infantry on the direct road to Mill Point, to cut off Thompson's retreat toward Lewisburg, and the Second and Eighth West Virginia Mounted Infantry and one section of Ewing's battery to Marlin's Bottom, to attack him at that place. At 9 o'clock I received information from Col. Oley, Eighth West Virginia Mounted Infantry, commanding detachment to Marlin's Bottom that the enemy had retired toward Mill Point, blockading the road in their rear. A dispatch from Col. Schoonmaker, Fourteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, received about midnight, informed me that Thompson had effected a junction with the remainder of Jackson's command, and that it was all in position in his front and threatening an attack. The infantry and Keeper's battery were moved about 3 A. M. to join Schoonmaker, and Oley was ordered to cut out the blockade and march to the same point as fast as possible. I reached Mill Point with the infantry and Keeper at 8 A. M. on the 5th, and found that they had just arrived, and that the enemy were retiring. This was Thursday, the 5th of November. We were thirty-four miles from Lewisburg, at which point it had been directed that my force should arrive on Saturday, at 2 P. M. It was not thought proper to press the enemy vigorously on this day, in order to keep him as far as possible from Lewisburg, and not to permit him to be re-enforced from that direction, and to gain the advantage which would follow from the arrival at Lewisburg of the force under Gen. Duffie from the Kanawha Valley. An attempt was, however, made to capture the force under Jackson by sending three mounted regiments to cut off his retreat. The rapidity of the enemy's movements made this attempt unsuccessful, and he succeeded in reaching Droop Mountain, upon the summit of which he made a stand. My advance was withdrawn from the fire of his artillery and the attack postponed until the ensuing day. On the morning of the 6th, we approached the enemy's position. The main road to Lewisburg runs over Droop Mountain, the northern slope of which is partially cultivated nearly to the summit, a distance of two and one-half miles from the foot. The highway is partially hidden in the views from the summit and base in strips of woodland. It is necessary to pass over low rolling hills and across bewildering ravines to reach the mountain in any direction. The position of the enemy was defined by a skirmishing attack of three companies of infantry. It was thought that a direct attack would be difficult. The infantry and one company of cavalry were therefore sent to the right to ascend a range of hills which ran westward from Droop Mountain, with orders to attack the enemy's left and rear. To divert the enemy's attention from this, the Fourteenth Pennsylvania and Keeper's battery made a successful demonstration upon his right. The remainder of the command prepared for action. While these movements were progressing; the arrival of re-enforcements to the enemy was announced by the music of a band, the display of battle-flags and loud cheers of the rebels on the top of the mountain. The attack of our infantry 1,175 strong was conducted skillfully and resolutely by Col. A. Moor. The guide who had been sent with him proving worthless, he directed his column nine miles, over the mountains and through the wilderness to the enemy's left, led by the flying pickets and the sound of his cannon. The intermittent reports of musketry heralded the approach of Col. Moor to his destination, and at 1:45 P. M. it was evident from the sound of the battle on the enemy's left and his disturbed appearance in front, that the time for the direct attack had arrived. The Second, Third and Eighth West Virginia dismounted, were moved in line obliquely to the right up the face of the mountain, until their right was joined to Moor's left. The fire of Ewing's battery was added to that of Keeper's. At 3 P. M. the enemy were driven from the summit of the mountain upon which they had been somewhat protected by rude breastworks of logs, stones, and earth. Gibson's battalion and one section of Ewing's battery were at once ordered to pursue the routed rebels. Fragments of each regiment were already eagerly in pursuit. The horses of the Second, Third, Eighth and Fourteenth were brought up the mountain as soon as possible. The infantry pushed forward, and as soon as details had been made for succoring the wounded and burying the dead, the entire command followed the enemy until dark, It appeared from the reports of prisoners that the enemy's force had consisted of the Fourteenth Virginia Cavalry; Twenty-second Virginia Infantry, Derrick's Battalion, Edgar's Battalion, Jackson's Brigade and seven pieces of artillery; in all, about 4000 men. His loss in killed and wounded was about 250, one piece of artillery and one stand of colors. Several men of my command reported having seen and measured two other pieces of artillery abandoned by the enemy and secreted by the wayside. Time was not had, however, to look after them. I did not desire to reap more than the immediate fruits of victory that evening. It was yet twenty miles to Lewisburg, and I hoped that by letting the enemy alone during the night, he might loiter on the route and be caught the next day between my command and the force expected from the Kanawha Valley. As we went down the mountain the following morning, we could see the smoke of several camp fires along the mountains to the eastward, showing that the enemy had been somewhat dispersed. On the 7th I moved rapidly forward over an excellent road toward Lewisburg. The Fourteenth, which was in advance, reached that place at 2 P. M., and found Gen. Duffie with four regiments and one section of artillery already in possession of the town. He had reached it at 10 P. M., capturing a few stragglers and such material as the enemy had been unable to remove in his flight. I learned that a small portion of the enemy's main body had passed through Lewisburg in great disorder early on the morning of the 7th on their way to Dublin. I also learned that Gen. Lee had promised Brig. Gen. Echols ample re-enforcements at or near that point. I determined to move with my whole command to that place, and accordingly set out on the morning of the 8th. After proceeding a few miles a formidable blockade was encountered through which it was necessary to cut a passage. Gen. Duffie reported his command as unfit for further operations, as his infantry had but one day's rations and was so exhausted as to be able to march only ten miles per day. My own infantry was encumbered with the prisoners, captured property and material. I, therefore, ordered Gen. Duffie to retire to Meadow Bluff, and Col. Moor, with the Twenty-eighth Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Tenth West Virginia Volunteer Infantry and Keeper's Battery to return to Beverly, taking with him all the prisoners and such of the wounded from the battle of Droop Mountain as could be transported. Col. Moor brought from Hillsborough fifty-five of our own and one rebel wounded. He left with those who were too badly wounded to bear transportation, Asst. Surgeon Blair, Tenth West Virginia Volunteer Infantry, and supplied them with all the rations, hospital stores and medicines which could be spared. His command reached Beverly on the 12th, bringing with it all the prisoners, property, etc., which had been captured up to the arrival of my command at Lewisburg. With the cavalry, mounted infantry and Ewing's battery of my command, I moved via White Sulphur Springs to near Callaghan's, passing through the battleground of Rocky Gap on my way. At White Sulphur I retook the wounded of my command who had been left after the battle of Rocky Gap in August last. At Callaghan's, on the morning of the 9th, I learned that Gen. Imboden, with from 900 to 1,500 men, was at Covington on his way to re-enforce Echols at Union. Not deeming his command of sufficient importance to delay my march, and knowing the impossibility of bringing him to a fight, I sent two squadrons of the Eighth West Virginia Mounted Infantry, under Maj. Slack, to drive him away from my line of march. This was accomplished after a sharp skirmish, in which Imboden was reported wounded, and one lieutenant and twenty men of his command were captured. From Callaghan's I moved by Gatewood's up the Back Creek road to Franklin; the main body of the command moved through Monterey and joined me about eight miles beyond that place. At Hightown I met Col. Thoburn, with a brigade of infantry and two pieces of artillery, whom I directed to return to Petersburg. My command reached Petersburg on the 13th where it was supplied with rations and forage. On the 17th I arrived at New Creek, bringing with me about 150 captured horses and 27 prisoners, exclusive of those which were sent from Lewisburg with Col. Moor. Several hundred cattle were captured on the march.