THE SALEM RAID.
GEN. BURNSIDE was besieged at Knoxville, Tenn., by confederate Gen. Longstreet, and in order to raise the siege by cutting off the latter's supplies, and compel him to move his base of supplies, Gen. Averell was directed to cut the railroad, and interrupt communication between Richmond and Knoxville, at all hazards, even if his whole force was captured or destroyed. By a dispensation of Providence, Gen. Averell was enabled not only to accomplish the plans laid down, and the results desired, but as well to return to our lines with the loss of a very small number of his men, and none of his artillery.
The command left New Creek December 8, 1863, the brigade consisting of the Second, Third and Eighth West Va. Mounted Infantry, the 14th Pennsylvania Cavalry, Gibson's Cavalry Battalion, and four guns of Battery G, First West Virginia Light Artillery, all under the command of Gen. Averell. Lieut. Col. Alex. Scott was in command of the Second, and Capt. Ewing in command of the battery. The morning was bright and beautiful, and gave little promise of the terrible weather that the command would be subjected to in the long and hard campaign. We reached Petersburg on the evening of the 9th, and the next day Franklin, where we were met by the First and 14th West Va. Infantry, one section 23d Illinois Artillery and the Ringgold Cavalry. The next day we reached Monterey, where three of the Third Virginia were wounded. Here we divested ourselves of all incumbrances and prepared for the great march. Our supply train went no further, rations being issued to the men and forage for the horses, to last until we should again reach our lines. All men and officers unfit for severe duty, were sent back to New Creek, only the able bodied, well equipped and well mounted men going forward.
The confederates were totally in the dark as to our movements, until Gen. Imboden learned of them through a young lady friend. By the time he received this information, the brigade had a fair start, and was off and away on its mission of destruction. Movements were made as if our destination was Staunton, which caused Gen. Lee to order Gen. Early from his army to Staunton, to assume command, and to meet us and our forces in the Shenandoah valley. They were completely deceived as to our real intentions. The weather became very cold on the 11th, and on the 12th rained all day, through which the command marched 21 miles. On the 13th we went 23 miles, and on the 14th 22 miles, camping near Callaghan's stand. On the 13th we overtook a body of the enemy, captured their wagons, etc., crossed the creek 13 times, which was swollen very high and was very swift, camping on its inhospitable banks. Everything in our front was brushed away from us, scouts were captured from whom we received some information, and we were aided to some extent by the loyal citizens, who gave us information about the roads, mountains, streams and bridges, and of the, number of the enemy and their movements. It rained steadily and had become intensely cold, the wind blew hard from the north, and snow and sleet, and the elements, air and water, seemed to be against us. We were in sore need of food and sleep, but the march never ceased on that account. On the 14th we marched to Covington, and passed it and Sweet Sulphur Springs. The next day Red Sulphur Springs were passed, the tired troops marching all night and crossing four mountains, on whose sides and plateaus but few signs of life were to be seen.
This night the advance of the command came upon a wedding party, enjoying the festivities of the occasion, who were unaware that the hated Yankees were so near. Comrade E. F. Seaman, quartermaster sergeant of the Second Virginia, gives the following graphic account of the affair:
"In our march over the mountains, between Sweet Springs and New Castle, I was in the advance guard. It was one of the darkest nights I ever saw. Almost the only light we could see was the sparks made by our horses' feet striking the rocks. When near the top of the mountain we suddenly saw a light in a window a very short distance ahead, and soon afterward heard the sound of music and the shuffling of feet in the dance. One of our scouts, who was dressed in the confederate uniform, came galloping back and said, 'Boys, there's some fun ahead. The rebs are having a big dance in that cabin. The other scouts and myself went in and had a good time shaking the foot with those pretty girls. They are daisies, I tell you.' Waiting a few moments till all the command came up, we quietly advanced, and soon had the house completely surrounded. I was in command of the squad, and soon as we were sure of everything I went forward to the door and ordered the crowd to surrender. You never saw a company more completely thunderstruck. About twenty Johnnies, as soon as they could could collect their wits, were compelled to release their fair partners and yield themselves up to less agreeable company.
'Fall in line,' was the command to the prisoners. All obeyed except one tall, finely-formed young man, who stood unmoved, with his hand resting lightly on the shoulder of a chubby maiden in white. The young thing clung closer to him with modest trustfulness, betraying no sign of fear for the sudden and rude disturbance of her joy. She was by far the calmer of the two, and was acting like a little heroine. The small left hand crept a little closer about his neck, and she said with a pleading sorrowfulness that thrilled my whole being:
We have just been married, sir; and you are not going to take George away from me now, are you?
Trained by the discipline of war, I was compelled to subdue what I felt, and try to make the best of the situation. I told her as gently as I could that war was a sad thing, and that as soldiers there was nothing left for us but to do our duty, but as men we deeply sympathized with her. I assured her that her young husband, as our prisoner, should be treated with every kindness, and that, doubtless, within a few months he would be exchanged and be with her again. As the young man pressed his fair-haired bride to his bosom that new love which, in its sweetness and its purity, is the same it has always been since time began, became too strong to be longer confined. It welled up from a full heart, and, bursting its bounds, gave vent in a torrent of convulsive sobs. A silence had fallen upon us all, and I saw many of the old weather-stained men draw their sleeves quickly across their faces. Somehow I felt like it would be inhuman to speak a word. In a few moments she gained some command over herself, and, unloosing her arms, raised her tear-stained face to his. He clasped her suddenly and kissed her three times passionately. 'Good-bye, George; good-bye,' she said; 'God bless you!' Her eyes followed him to the door as we moved out. Poor thing! That was her last sight of him on the earth.
He was accidentally drowned while crossing Jackson river. In the summer of 1884, I went to the Sweet Springs, and while there got a buggy and drove over that mountain. By making inquiries I was able to find out that the bride of 20 years ago was still living, and after some search, discovered her, and had the pleasure of a short conversation with her. She never suspected, of course, that I knew her story, for 20 years had changed me as you may imagine, too much to make any recognition possible. She had remained true to her first love and refused all offers of a second marriage. Representing myself as a stranger, from common place topics I led the talk as easily as I could back to the war. She conversed very pleasantly till that subject was mentioned, when her manner became more quiet, and her gaze drifted from near objects to the long, blue horizon down the mountain, as if strained to discover something lost. I soon left, and have never seen her since."
We marched all night of the 15th, and the condition of the troops bad. Many horses were broken down, more lame, some of the men were obliged to walk, and the entering on the eventful day of the 16th of December was not as bright a prospect as we could have wished. We were about 200 miles from our base of supplies, in the very heart of the enemy's country, on the line of one of the great railways of the confederacy, with Imboden, Jones, Fitz Lee, Echols, McCausland and Jackson searching for us, and we had, all told, not more than 1,500 men and four guns. We entered Salem, the objective point, about noon on the 16th, and immediately began the work of destruction. The column moved to the right and left, burning the mills, depot, railroad bridges, tracks and culverts for several miles each way. A general stampede was in progress among the citizens and such confederate soldiers as were there. A passenger train was approaching the town, and one of the guns of the battery was placed in position to disable it. Comrade A. G. Osborne, corporal and gunner of the first piece, was ordered to throw the shot, and gives the following account of it: "I put in a percussion shell as soon as I heard the train coming, and had made up my mind to disable the engine, if possible, and was waiting until I could get a good view of it before firing. The smoke-stack had just come in view when Lieut. Meigs rushed up and asked me why I did not fire. I told him I was waiting for a better view so that I could put a shell into the machinery or boiler of the engine so as to disable it; but he ordered me to fire, when I could not see anything but about two feet of the top of the smoke-stack. Of course I had to obey orders, and the result was no damage to anything but the smoke-stack. Gen. Averell said after the shot that I was too quick. I told him I knew it, but that I was ordered to fire the shot by one of his staff." Before another shot could be fired the train was moving off at a rapid rate and soon was out of reach. Gen. Averell's report attached gives the amount of stores, etc., destroyed.
When the work of destruction was complete, the command prepared to retrace their steps, and about 3 P. M. of the 16th started homeward, returning through the North Mountain on the New Castle road. Not knowing the perils of the homeward march, we camped at Mason's Creek, about six miles from Salem. It rained and snowed incessantly during the night but the weary and overworked soldiers slept soundly until 5 o'clock the next morning, when the bugle called them from their slumbers to renew the march. The Fourteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry led the advance. Craig's Creek was reached about noon. The heavy rain during the night had swollen the stream to its banks, and it was full of slush, ice and driftwood. The valley was narrow, with but little ground on either side of the creek, and in many places none between the creek and the steep mountain side. The road crossed the creek seven times within a distance of ten or twelve miles. The enemy was pursuing us in large force, and there was no alternative but to ford the wild stream. The water was mid rib deep on the large horses, and the current so strong that the animals had to be kept with their breasts up the stream and worked across sideways. If the current were permitted to strike the horses sideways, which happened quite frequently, horse and rider were carried down the stream, and a number of men were drowned in this way. The artillery and ambulances were dragged through the stream with ropes by the men. The weather was so cold, part of the time below zero, that the clothing of the men was frozen stiff soon after leaving the water. The horses were covered with icicles and trembling from the cold. The whole afternoon was spent in crossing the creek, and when finally accomplished, men and horses were almost paralyzed, and suffered intensely from the cold as well as from hunger. After a few crossings had been effected it was with difficulty the horses were forced into the stream, and they were whipped and spurred to compel obedience.
Lieut. Col. Blakely, of the 14th Pennsylvania Cavalry, was ordered to cross the stream rapidly and proceed at once to New Castle, as the enemy were moving on that place. When the last fording was reached, several efforts were made to force the horses into the stream, but all efforts failed. The men found some sheaf oats and hay, and a few minutes were spent in feeding the poor brutes. Gen. Averell, without the attendance of aids or staff, came galloping up and took a survey of the ford. This one appeared more dangerous than any that had preceded it, and the general was fearful that the horses, in their weakened condition, would be unable to stem the current. He applied the spurs vigorously to his own horse, when rider and horse dashed into the stream, with many anxious hearts watching the desperate struggle of a brave man with the mad current. When he reached the opposite shore, he was cheered by the men. He acknowledged the compliment by lifting his hat and saying: "Come on boys," and then rode off hastily in the direction of New Castle.
From New Castle the 14th Pennsylvania Cavalry constituted the rear guard. Lieut. A. J. Pentecost, and a number of men composed of quartermaster and commissary sergeants; wagonmasters, etc., had charge of the wagon and ambulance train. Gen. Averell was forced into the by roads by the enemy, and their condition made it difficult to move the train, each wagon requiring a number of men to prevent its upsetting. After two days and nights of marching and skirmishing with the enemy, the advance the ambulance corps, about 12 o'clock at night, reached the mouth of the gap leading through the mountain to Jackson river. Gen. Averell had during the day captured a confederate courier, with dispatches, from which he learned the movements of the enemy; and in consequence of imminent danger to his command, was compelled to move rapidly to Jackson river, to prevent the enemy from burning the bridge at that point, leaving the train from 10 to 12 miles in the rear. The roadway through the mountain to Jackson river, is a deep, narrow defile, from 2 to 3 miles in length, and so narrow that it was with the greatest difficulty for anyone to pass from the rear to the front. The road bed was covered with ice, and it was impossible to prevent the horses from falling, and at times many of them would be down at once. This, with the upsetting of the wagons, greatly retarded the movements of the wagon train and rear guard. The enemy had been pressing our rear vigorously. After Averell with the main column had passed out of the gap, charged the enemy that were guarding the bridge and routed them, the confederates under Gen. W. L. Jackson took possession of the gap and quietly awaited the approach of the train. The night was very dark and cold, and on the approach of the ambulances the horses were seized by Jackson's men and led into their camp. Three ambulances were captured in this way, and some of the men in them did not know they were prisoners until the next morning. Capt. Markbreit A. A. G., Averell's brigade, Lieut. Col. Polsley Eighth Virginia, and Lieut. McAdams, of the ambulance corps, were captured in this way.
Lieut. Pentecost, Commissary Sergeant G. H. Kirkpatrick, and Capt. W. H. Brown were riding in advance about this time, when they met a man and asked him where he was going and who he was. He replied that he was going to Jackson's camp. He held a revolver in his hand. Pentecost at once grasped his arm and took the revolver from him, at the same time informing him that he was a prisoner, which did not seem to disturb him much, and willingly accompanied his captors back to where some of the men had started a fire. Imagine the astonishment of our men on seeing a number of confederate officers standing about the fire, in conversation with some of our own officers. The confederates stated that we were surrounded and would be prisoners in the morning, and then retired. Lieut. Pentecost at break of day formed his detachment in line, composed of those that were with the train, and advanced toward the river some distance away. During the night the enemy had moved from our front to our rear, supposing that we would not be able to cross Jackson river, the bridge being burned, and the river swollen, and full of floating ice and drift. Col. Blakely brought up the rear with his regiment, skirmishing all the way until we reached the river. Several of the Fourteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry plunged into the river to cross, but some of them were drowned in the attempt. A citizen had been asked if the river was fordable at this place, when he stated that it was perfectly safe, which led to the drowning of our men. The citizen was at once thrown in and was drowned. A woman who lived near the burned bridge was then asked to inform us where we could find a fording place, which she at first refused to do but upon threatening to burn her house, she told us there was a ford some distance up the river. Capt. Jas. L. Kelley with a squad at once started to find it, and succeeded. In the meantime Majors Daily and Foley of the Fourteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, kept the enemy in check in the rear, and were hard pressed. The order was then given to park the wagons and burn them, which was at once done. The enemy then sent in a flag of truce demanding a surrender, which was promptly refused, when they began to shell the hard pressed union forces. Our men then retreated up a narrow path, along the river to the ford, two miles above. Arriving there they at once plunged into the swollen stream, and swam their horses over. Lieut. Pentecost was directed to cross the ford and take position with his men to cover the retreat and crossing of Major Daily and his battalion, which was done. The enemy having detected the withdrawal of our troops, advanced, but after a sharp contest with Pentecost, Major Daily's command succeeded in crossing safely. Had it not been for the gallant and determined resistance of Lieut. Pentecost and the genuine pluck of the men with him, Major Daily and his men would have fallen into the hands of the enemy. Our loss at the river was one officer, Lieut. Murphy troop G Fourteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry wounded, three men killed and four drowned, among the latter the unfortunate bridegroom whom we had captured on the mountain top. The ambulances with the sick and wounded, were left in the hands of the enemy. All the wagons of the brigade were destroyed by our own men.
The belated command at once started at a rapid pace for Covington, seven miles distant. The bridge at that place had also been destroyed, and again they were compelled to ford the river, which was accomplished without loss. They rode rapidly forward, expecting to join Gen. Averell and the main column at Callaghan's stand, at the junction of the Warm Springs and Rocky Gap roads, but here they found the column gone, they having given the delayed men up as lost. They rode on and caught up to the general during the night, on the top of the Allegheny mountains, where they had stopped a few hours for rest.
The command was now all together again, and Gen. Averell was taking a needed rest, and to give himself time to decide what to do next. It is said that the negroes were called to headquarters, and one, a boy perhaps twelve years old, said he knew a way across Greenbrier river by a ford far above Lewisburg. He had been there to mill with his master. Hearing this, Gen. Averell put the boy on a horse, ordered "boots and saddles" to be sounded, and then "forward." The boy led us up Oggle's Creek and down Antony's Creek, over the Allegheny Mountains - high, rough, wild and icy. The horses were taken from the artillery and long ropes attached; men were dismounted, and drew the pieces up and down that fearful mountain path. Our advance, reached the Greenbrier River at dark the evening of December 20. We found the stream swollen and full of floating ice. It seemed impossible to cross. Gen. Averell in person directed the crossing and tested the ford. Cakes of ice from ten to fifteen feet square, and heavy enough to submerge a horse, were constantly passing. The order came to plunge and cross. This was done without loss. The command was in no mood to hesitate. Hunger, cold, exhaustion had done their utmost. But they had barely gotten under way again, when a small party of the enemy attacked them in front, but were driven in confusion by a charge of our men. Here the command turned to the right, and on the 20th entered Hillsboro, where, they went into camp. The next day they moved to Edray, where supplies were ordered, which met the almost famished men twelve miles from that place. On Christmas day 1863, the gallant, intrepid men, entered Beverly, and were now safely in our lines.
Personal adventures on this expedition were many and very thrilling, a few of which are given in the article on the scouts. The capture of the wedding party is the theme of letters from some of the boys, who evidently relish it as one of the bright spots in that dark and dreary trip. Seyeral of the hungry boys feasted on cake to their stomach's content, and cleaned up every thing eatable that could be found about the house.
On the night of the 18th, Lieut. Russell, with Company H, was sent to the top of the mountain near the main road, to guard the signal corps, remaining all night. On the morning of the 19th they found that our command had passed, and left no orders for their relief. They soon started for the regiment, having satisfied themselves that they were left alone, and though a good many of the enemy's cavalry were between them and their regiment, they caught up with the rear guard about 9 o'clock, and the regiment about noon.
Comrade O. P. Bower, Company B, Second Virginia, with Will. Shirley, was riding in front of column, the night before Salem was reached. Shirley stopped for a few minutes' rest, Bower riding ahead, and was suddenly confronted by four confederates, and asked where he belonged. He replied that he was one of Early's men, and parleyed with the men until four of the scouts rode up, when Bower demanded the surrender of the confederates. A fight followed, resulting in the death of Confederate Captain Chapman, the severe wounding of one other, and the capture of Capt. Tomlinson and one man. Bower got a splendid horse in the capture. Shortly afterward they captured a wagon loaded with hospital stores, with two men and a girl. The latter was left at a house until the raid on Salem was over, when she was picked up on the retreat and came along with the regiment, going to Martinsburg. Afterward she married one of the regiment, a member of Company I, it is said, and settled near Pittsburgh. On the retreat, shortly after leaving Salem, Bower, Jos. Walton, W. A. Wiley and another member of Company D., had a lively experience with a party of confederates, who made an attack on them. Wiley's gun was forced from his hands and an attempt made to shoot him, but Bower shot the assailant in the shoulder, at the same time calling on his imaginary force to charge the confederates, which had the effect of driving them away, without any of our men being hurt. On the fight of the 19th Bower was captured, and had on a confederate Major's overcoat, and a cap that once belonged to the notorious bushwhacker, Bill Harper; but in the confusion, when a confederate charge was ordered on Averell's rear guard, Bower was foremost in the attack, but was so impetuous that he never stopped until he got in our lines, his captors firing several shots after him. He passed the ambulances just before they were captured.
S. J. Clendaniel of Company I, gives a bit of his experience of the trip, in a night's sleep he and comrades got, when the raid was about over. They slept well, but when morning came, they found themselves frozen in their blankets. The latter had been soaked by the rains, and the fearful cold weather froze them solid, but within, the men were comfortable, if such a thing were possible. A further inspection showed that Clendaniel and his comrades, eight in all, had slept on a frog pond. It was frozen of course, and they had lain on the ice, with their blankets wrapped around them, and slept soundly. But that was comfort compared to a part of that awful, horrible expedition. Hundreds of broken down constitutions attest to this day its severity.
Averell had outwitted the men who attempted his capture, and it was a bitter dose for the confederates. The Richmond Examiner of December 28th had the following sarcastic article on the failure to capture Averell:
The great Gen. Averell has gone, not "up the spout," but back into his den. Cast your eye upon a map, and I'll tell you how he went and how he came. He came from New Creek, a depot on the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, in the county of Hardy, along the western base of the Shenandoah mountains through Covington to Salem, burnt things generally and returned over nearly the same route. 1mboden seized the gap where the Parkersburg turnpike crosses the Shenandoah, and prevented a raid on Staunton. Averell left five hundred men to hold Imboden there, and pushed onto toward Salem. That general could not pursue without uncovering Staunton - the forces threatening nearly equaling his own. Gen. Lee was informed of the situation of affairs. Here commences the reign of major generals and military science. Maj. Gen. Jubal A. Early came. Maj. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee came. Brig. Gen. Walker came. Brig. Gen. Thomas came. Their staffs came. They all took a drink. Gen.. Early took two. Brig. Gen. Wickham came. Col. Chambliss, commanding brigade, came. They smiled also.
When Averell was opposite Staunton, Fitz Lee was at Ivy depot, on the Virginia Central railroad, a day's march from that town. A fortunate occurrence, indeed. Everybody thought Averell was "treed" now. He passed through Brown's Gap and struck the valley turnpike at Mount Crawford, eight miles above Harrisonburg - a miserable mistake. One day's march lost. He then marched toward Harrisonburg - then toward Staunton. Another day gone for nothing. He finally reached Staunton, where he ought to have been on the first night. Still there was plenty of time to cut Averell off. Lee and Imboden marched day and night to Lexington, and then toward Covington. They have yet time enough to intercept.
Here was committed the fatal and foolish blunder. While Lee and Imboden were on the road to Covington, in striking distance of that place, word, was sent the Yankees are marching towards Buchanan, instead of Covington. No man ought to have put credence in a statement so utterly absurd as that the enemy were going from Salem to that place. Such a statement presupposes Averell deliberately placing himself past escape, and therefore run raving mad. Such improbable rumors should never be entertained a moment, much less made the basis of important military movements. The order was obeyed. The troops turned and marched back, and at night were neither at Buchanan nor Covington.
The story is told in a few words. The Yankees passed through Covington, and, to their great amusement, escaped. The rumor about Buchanan was the tale of some frightened fool. The enemy, in terror and demoralization, fled from Salem at full speed, destroying their train and artillery. Jackson knocked some in the head; the citizens beat the brain out of others; one farmer in Allegheny killed six; some were scattered in the mountains, and are being picked up here and there; the rapid stream drowned many, but the main part have gone whence they came, wondering how they did get away. It is hardly necessary to add, the humblest private in the ranks, if he possessed sense enough to eat and drink, not only could, but would, have managed better. Old Stonewall would have marched on, caught and killed the Yankees. What Lee thought the writer don't know. They who know, say Imboden begged to go to Covington. He made it plain to the dullest mind that the Buchanan story was past belief. What's done is done.
No language can tell the suffering of our men. They were in the saddle night and day, save a few hours between midnight and day. They were beat up by their officers with their swords - the only means of arousing them - numb and sleepy. Some froze to death, others were taken from horses senseless. They forded swollen streams, and their clothes, stiff frozen, rattled as they rode. It rained in torrents, and froze as it fell. In the mountain paths the ice was cut from the roads before they ventured to ride over. One horse slipped over the precipice - the rider was leading him - he never looked over after him.
The whole matter is summed up in a couple of sentences. Averell was penned up. McCausland, Echols and Jackson at one gate, Lee and Imboden at the other. Some ass suggested he might escape by jumping down the well and coming out at Japan, i. e.., go to Buchanan. Early orders them to leave a gate open and guard the well. He did not jump in. Meanwhile, the Yankees cooly came up the valley, through Edenburg, New Market, up to Harrisonburg, within twenty-five miles of Staunton - "these headquarters." This was bearding the lion in his den. Jubal took the field, at the head of Company Q and a party of substitute men, farmers and ploughboys, called "home guards." The Yankees got after him and the "major general commanding" lost his hat in the race. The last heard of him he was pursuing the enemy with part of his division - footmen and cavalry - with fine prospects of overtaking them somewhere in China, perhaps about the "great wall." The Yankees were retreating toward the "Devil Hole." Early bound for the same place. They did very little damage in the valley. Here is the moral. The marshals under Napoleon's eye were invincible - with separate commands, blunderers. A general of division, with Gen. Robert E. Lee to plan and put him in the right place, does well. Moseby would plan or execute a fight or strategic movement better than Longstreet at Suffolk and Knoxville, Jubal Early at Staunton.
The losses of the brigade on the Salem Raid were 8 killed and drowned, 8 wounded, and 122 captured; total 138. Our regiment lost 1 wounded, and 17 captured.
The following is General Averell's thrilling and complete report of this great raid, one of the most wonderful of the war:
I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of my brigade since the date of its arrival at New Creek, W Va., November 18: Having been notified by the brigadier general commanding the department, that active service would be expected of me very soon, measures were at once taken to place the command in as good condition as possible, but owing to the meagre supply of horses, shoes, nails, coal, and forges furnished, and the shortness of the time allowed, the mounted forces of the brigade were but poorly prepared to make a long march on the 6th of December, when I received orders to move on the 8th. My orders did not contemplate the movement of any co-operative forces excepting a small force under Col. Thoburn, but after representing to the department commander the importance of such movements, and my desire that they should be made, he kindly invited me to accompany him to his headquarters at Cumberland and arrange a plan for them. I went with him to Cumberland on the evening of the 6th, and drew up a plan which was briefly, as follows, viz: Brigadier Scammon, commanding forces in the Kanawha Valley, to be at Lewisburg on Saturday, December 12; to look out northward and endeavor to intercept the enemy from that direction; to remain until 18th, taking advantage of any opportunity to strike the enemy in the direction of Union or elsewhere. Col. Moor to be at Marlin's Bottom, Friday, December 11; to feel the enemy in the direction of Lewisburg on the 12th and 13th; to remain near Frankfort until the 18th, and on his return to bring off the wounded left after the battle of Droop Mountain. Brig. Gen. Sullivan, commanding forces in the Shenandoah Valley, to be at Woodstock on Friday, December 11, to make careful demonstrations until the 18th, when he was to move toward Staunton, and threaten the same boldly on the 20th and 21st. The command of Col. Thoburn was to turn off at Monterey, and moving toward Staunton, keep the attention of the enemy fixed upon the Parkersburg pike. A copy of the above plan was given to the dep't commander and I received his promise that his orders should be given in accordance with it, with the exception of Moor's and Thoburn's commands, which were to receive orders from me. It was thought that between the two demonstrations of the Kanawha and Shenandoah forces, I might pass the enemy's lines without delay, and that the threatening of Staunton on the 20th and 21st with the operations in the direction of Union, would divert the enemy from offering any great resistance to the return of my fatigued command.There is nothing of value or interest in the official report of Maj. Gen. Sam Jones, who commanded the confederates, and it is omitted from this work.
The Second West Virginia Mounted Infantry, Lieut. Col. Scott; Third West Virginia Mounted Infantry, Lieut. Col. Thompson; Eighth West Virginia Mounted Infantry, Col. Oley; Fourteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, Lieut. Col. Blakely; Maj. Gibson's battalion of cavalry, and Ewing's battery set out from New Creek on the morning of the 18th of December, with fair weather, but with many misgivings on account of our poor condition to overcome the weary distances and confront the perils incident to such an expedition. During the march of two days to Petersburg, constant exertions were made to complete the shoeing of the horses, but lack of means and material rendered it impracticable to attain the desired object. At Petersburg, on the 10th, the command of Col. Thoburn about 700 strong joined mine, and together we proceeded southward, arriving nearly at Monterey on the 11th. The most of my train was placed in charge of Col. Thoburn and, on the morning of the 12th, my command and his started in a severe and discouraging rain storm. Thoburn toward McDowell and my command down Back Creek. The secluded road which runs along and across this now swollen stream, was pursued, the ensuing day without any incident worthy of note, until our arrival at Gatewood's, where the rear guard of Jackson's forces, flying from the advance of Moor, was encountered and dispersed, and four wagons destroyed, loaded with ammunition and stores. The storm continued on the 14th, and Jackson's river was found hardly fordable. Upon arriving at Callaghan's reports reached us that Scammon had advanced and occupied Lewisburg, and that the rebel forces, commanded by Gen. Echols, had retired toward Union, under orders from Maj. Gen. Sam. Jones. We halted a few hours to rest and feed the animals, and to make a false advance in the direction of Covington. At 2 A. M. December 15, the column was in motion upon a dark and difficult road, which runs up Dunlap Creek to tne pike, connecting the White with the Sweet Sulphur Springs. We reached the beautiful valley of the Sweet Sulphur about 10 A. M., and halted two hours, availing ourselves of the plentiful forage found there. * * * *
At the Sweet Springs it was learned that Echols' forces were encamped four miles from Union, to the northward, and that Gen. Scammon had retired from Lewisburg. The road to New Castle was taken at 1 P. M., and near the summit of the Sweet Springs Mountain a rebel quartermaster met us and was captured, which assured me that our advance was unknown as yet to the enemy. From the top of this mountain a sublime spectacle was presented to us. Seventy miles to the eastward the peaks of Otter reared their summits above the Blue Ridge, and all the space between was filled with a billowing ocean of hills and mountains, while behind us the great Alleghanies, coming from the north with the grandeur of innumerable tints, swept past and faded in the southern horizon. When within twelve miles of New Castle another halt was made to feed and rest, while a squadron advanced toward Fincastle, conveying to the enemy a false impression, and bringing to us some sixty horses and some prisoners. New Castle was passed during the night and efforts were made to reach Salem by daylight in the morning. A party of rebels, under Captain Chapman, reconnoitered our advance during the night, and all were captured except their leader, who, declining to surrender, was killed. The head of my column was preceded by vigilant scouts, armed with repeating rifles, mounted upon fleet horses, who permitted no one to go ahead of them.
We approached Salem unheralded, and the whistling of locomotives could be heard from that point long before it was reached by us. Four miles from Salem, a party of rebels from the town in quest of information concerning the Yankees, met us. From some of these it was learned that the division of Gen. Fitzhugh Lee, had left Charlottesville on the 14th to intercept my command, and that a train loaded with troops was momentarily expected at Salem to guard the stores at that point. I hastened with my advance, consisting of about 350 men and two 3-inch guns, through the town to the depot. The telegraph wires were first cut - the operator was not to be found, the railroad track torn up in the vicinity of the depot, one gun placed in battery and the advance dismounted and placed in readiness for the expected train of troops. An inspection and estimate of the stores contained in the depot and two large buildings adjacent were made, and upon a subsequent comparison of notes taken, found to be as follows: 2000 barrels of flour, 10,000 bushels of wheat, 100,000 bushels of shelled corn, 50,000 bushels of oats, 2,000 barrels of meat, several cords of leather, 1,000 sacks of salt, 31 boxes of clothing, 20 bales of cotton, a large amount of harness, shoes, saddles, equipments, tools, oil, tar, and various other stores and 100 wagons. A train from Lynchburg, loaded with troops, soon approached. My main body was not yet in sight, and it was necessary to stop the train; a shot was fired at it from one of the guns, which missed; a second went through the train diagonally, which caused it to retire, and a third and last shot hastened its movements. My main body arrived, and parties were sent four miles to the eastward and twelve miles to the westward to destroy the road. The depots with their contents were burned; three cars standing upon the track, the water-station, turn-table and a large pile of bridge timber and repairing material destroyed. Five bridges were burned and the track torn up and destroyed as much as possible in six hours. The "yanks" with which we had provided ourselves, proved too weak to twist the U rails, and efforts were made to bend them, by heating the centers, with but partial success. A few small store houses, containing leather and other valuable articles were destroyed in the vicinity. The telegraph wires were cut, coiled and burned for over half a mile. Private property was untouched by my command and the citizens received us with politeness.
It was intimated to some inquisitive ones that we were going back by Buchanan, but about 4 P. M. my command quitted the work of destruction and returned upon the road it came some seven miles, when it halted for the night. The last eighty miles had been marched in about thirty hours. Little sleep had been enjoyed by my men during five days and nights; it was necessary to pause and collect our energies for the return. During the night of the 16th it rained heavily and also the ensuing day and night. My column was caught in the many windings of Craig's Creek, which was now swollen to a dangerous torrent, which uprooted trees and carried them away. Heavy caissons were swept down the stream, and great exertion and skill were required to save them. In the river and in the rain forty-eight hours, it was impracticable to keep our ammunition dry, and my command, drenched, muddy and hungry arrived at New Castle about sun-down on the 18th, in a miserable condition to make the march before us. Information that Fitzhugh Lee was at Fincastle reached me at New Castle, and that Jones was between me and Sweet Springs. At 9 P. M. while a false advance was made toward Fincastle, my column took the road to Sweet Springs. We soon encountered and drove the enemy's pickets about twelve miles, to the junction of the road with the Fincastle pike, to the Sweet Springs. The command halted and built camp fires.
The condition of my ammunition made it prudent for me to avoid a fight. It was evident from a survey of the enemy's positions, that I could not get to the Sweet Springs without a contest, and that with Lee only a few miles to my right and rear. Two ways were left, both difficult and obscure; one to the southwest leading around Jones' right, through Monroe and Greenbrier counties; the other, northeast to the Covington and Fincastle pike, which I took, as it was the most direct and dangerous, consequently the safest if I could only make the march. We left our camp fires burning and went forward in the darkest and coldest night we had yet experienced. Thirty miles through the forest and frost, brought us to Fincastle pike about noon of the 19th. It was yet fifteen miles to the bridge. The river was reported unfordable on account of the depth of the water and the obstructions formed by the ice. I had carefully calculated the possible marches of the enemy, and felt certain that we could make the march through the points they deemed most secure, but no halt could be made. When eight miles from the river a force of 300 mounted rebels opposed our advance. As soon as they were broken, they were closely pursued at a gallop to the first bridge, five miles below Covington, and thence to the bridge at Covington, both of which were saved from destruction, although faggots had been piled upon them ready to burn. The head of my column reached the first bridge about 9 P. M. and three officers and six orderlies were sent back to keep it closed up.
The approach to the river is through a gorge which opens to the stream a mile below the first bridge. There the pike from Covington passes along the right bank to Clifton Forge and Jackson's River Depot, where Jackson was supposed to be with about 1,000 men. I sent a company upon the road to Clifton Forge, with orders to dismount and move out three-fourths of a mile and hold the road until the column passed. A captured dispatch from Maj. Gen. Sam. Jones to Maj. Gen. Early, at Millborough, confirmed my opinion with regard to the position of the enemy, and gave me the information that Gen. Early's division had been added to the forces opposed to my return. The dispatch is as follows:
ON TOP OF THE SWEET SPRINGS MOUNTAIN, Dec. 19, 1863- 7 A. M.
GENERAL: The enemy drove the pickets about twelve miles from here, near Mrs. Scott's, in the direction of New Castle, about 2 o'clock this morning. Gen. Echols has a strong position here and I think can effectually block this way to them. To avoid him, I think it probable that the enemy may attempt to escape by Covington or by Clifton Forge. Col. Jackson's troops are at Clifton Forge. I would suggest, instead of keeping any force at the Warm Springs you would place it at Morris Hill and picket at Callaghan's. I presume that you are in communication with Col. Jackson, and he may be able to give you information of the enemy's movements. I expect to ascertain the enemy's movements in the course of the morning. If he attempts to avoid Echols here and escape by Callaghan's we can reach Callaghan's before he can. Echols will hold the place here until he ascertains the enemy's movements. It is possible that they will attempt to pass Echols' right by Gap Mills, by passing one of the many gorges in these mountains to the south of this position between Echols and McCausland, who is at Newport, in Giles county. If he does that, he will pass out by the western portion of Monroe and Greenbrier; if he does so, you cannot touch him. Under all the circumstances of the case, as I see them now, I think that you should have a force at Morris Hill and a strong picket at Callaghan's. The enemy were certainly at New Castle at sun down yesterday. They cannot pass Echols here. They may escape by Clifton Forge or by Covington if you do not prevent them. Echols will give you all the aid that he can. We are closer to the enemy than you are and will be more likely to know their movements. I will endeavor to keep you informed. A portion of our small mounted force has been directed if the enemy attempts to pass from New Castle direct to Covington, or by Clifton Forge, to fall back in front of them so as to give Col. Jackson and you the earliest information.
The operator at Jackson's River will use every effort to get the above to Gen. Early and a copy to Gen. Jackson. Col. Jackson must have a copy of it.
SAM JONES, Maj. Gen.
I relied somewhat upon the demonstration which was to be made against Staunton on the next day. I also thought that Gen. Scammon might divert the force under Echols from interfering with mine. In both these trusts I was at fault. From all the information I have been able to collect, I believe the Kanawha force retired from Lewisburg on the 13th without waiting until the 18th, as prearranged, and without making an effort in the direction of Union. The detachment sent from the command of Gen. Sullivan was too feeble to make the threat upon Staunton of sufficient avail to keep Early from besetting my command upon its return. Instead of approaching Staunton on the 20th and 21st, it was retiring through New Market on the 20th. The dispositions of the rebels had been prompt and skillful; Rosser's brigade had crossed the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg on the 14th, made some demonstrations upon the Orange and Alexandria railroad near Bull Run; thence passed the Blue Ridge through Ashby's Gap; were stopped by the high water in the Shenandoah, and moved up by Front Royal to cut off the detachment from Harper's Ferry. The division of Early left Hanover Junction on the 15th; arrived at Staunton the same night; marched to Buffalo Gap the ensuing day and thence to the Warm Springs and Millborough. Fitzhugh Lee's division, leaving Charlottesville on the 14th, came into the valley, where it was deceived by Thoburn's presence and diverted by the detachment from Sullivan's command, for a day or two, when it set out for Buchanan.
At Jackson's River, though trusting in the co-operation of the Kanawha and Shenandoah forces, I acted as though they would be of no assistance to me, which was, indeed, the case. My column, nearly four miles long, was hastened across the first bridge. When all had passed but my ambulances, a few wagons and a regiment in the rear, an attack was made by Jackson's force. The company on the Clifton Forge road was driven away; three ambulances were captured and an effort was made to take the bridge, which was unsuccessful. A night attack is always appalling even to experienced troops:. Unavailing efforts were made to open communication with the regiment cut off, until morning, when it appeared that the enemy was determined to maintain his position upon the high cliffs which overlooked the bridge. During the night the balance of my command had been concentrated upon Callaghan's, and an efficient defense established upon all the roads approaching that point. Finding it impossible to dislodge the enemy as long as the bridges remained, I directed them to be destroyed. The enemy at once left the cliffs and endeavored to reach the flank and rear of the regiment which remained on that side. Orders were sent to the regiment to swim the river or come to me over the mountain, around the bend; and after destroying the train, it swam the river with the loss of four men drowned. When nearly across, a formal demand from Gen. Early was received by the officers commanding the rear guard to surrender, addressed to the commanding officer of the United States forces. As my column was then in motion over the Alleghanies, no formal reply was returned to the demand.
During the night attack five officers and 119 men were lost by being captured. It was thought that had the regiment in rear been advanced steadily forward, these captures might have been mostly prevented, and we should not have been obliged to destroy our wagons and ambulances the following day. The road over the Alleghenies led us to Antony's Creek, between the White Sulphur Springs and Huntersville. A force of the enemy was reported at Gatewood's, which is twelve miles east of Huntersville. My command was yet thirty miles from that point. If I could cross the Greenbrier and reach Marlin's Bottom before the enemy, my command would be safe. By a very obscure road the Greenbrier was reached and crossed on the 21st, opposite Hillsboro, and we encamped for the night at the northern base of Droop Mountain. My scouts thrown out kept me informed of the enemy's movements and positions.
For thirty hours after my command left Callaghan's, the enemy made great efforts to intercept my force, but they generally took wrong roads. The citizens who knew the country best regarded our capture as unavoidable. It was expected, as may be seen from the orders given Col. Moor by me, that he would remain near Droop Mountain until the 18th, but owing to orders he received from the general commanding the department, subsequent to the reception of mine, he also retired on the 4th, thus leaving 110 co-operative forces except Col. Thoburn's, in the positions I had reason to expect them to be on the 20th and 21st. Unaided, with a weary command of 2,500 men, I had marched through a difficult country in which not less than 12,000 rebels were maneuvered to effect my capture.
On the way to Edray, my rear guard experienced some trifling attacks on the 22d. The road thence to Beverly was a glacier, which was traversed with great difficulty and peril. The artillery was drawn almost entirely by dismounted men during the 23d and 24th. Couriers had been sent forward to Beverly to bring out subsistence and forage, which we succeeded, after extreme hardships, in meeting on the 24th. The officers and men undertook all that was required of them and endured all the sufferings from fatigue, hunger and cold with extraordinary fortitude, even with cheerfulness. The march of 400 miles, which was concluded at Beverly, was the most difficult I have ever seen performed. The endurance of the men and horses was taxed to the utmost, yet there was no rest for them. Believing that some retaliatory operations would be at once inaugurated by the enemy, I telegraphed to the general commanding the department that I thought it advisable to get my command into the valley as soon as possible, and set out for Webster, whence, by means of the railroad, I arrived at Martinsburg just in time to confront the enemy, who was advancing toward this place. * * * *
The command left Beverly on December 27th, in a heavy rain, and on the 28th reached Webster. From there they went to Martinsburg, Va. The trip to Martinsburg was a very severe one, the cold being intense, so much so that bread froze in the box cars in which the men were transported. It will never be forgotten by those who participated in it. Upon reaching Martinsburg, our regiment went into camp without tents or covering of any kind, and suffered severely. Fuel was scarce, and there was really no condition of comfort.
General Order No. 39, War Department, dated January 26, 1864, was issued, changing the Second Virginia Infantry to the Fifth West Virginia Cavalry, by which designation it was known until mustered out of the service. The regiment remained at Martinsburg until March 19, 1864, with a vast amount of picket duty and scouting. One of the most pleasant incidents of the stay here was the visit of Gen. Milroy to the brigade on January 31, three regiments of which were formerly in his brigade. A happier meeting was seldom seen in the service. He made a speech full of the old fire, and very flattering to the boys.
At noon, March 19, 1864, the brigade left Martinsburg, went into Maryland, thence back into Virginia, and marched to Charleston, West Va., arriving there April 30, 1864.