CAMPAIGNS OF 1864.
THE Department of West Virginia was under the command of Gen. Franz Sigel in the spring of 1864, who was in the Shenandoah Valley in personal command of the troops there, while Gen. George Crook was in command of large part of the forces, in the Kanawha valley. Gen. Averell's brigade, except Capt. Ewing's battery, went early in the spring to the Kanawha to operate with Gen. Crook, while the battery remained with Gen. Sigel. Gen. Grant directed the advance of these two columns, Crook to break the Virginia and Tennessee railroad at the New River bridge, while Sigel was to distract attention from Crook, by menacing the Virginia Central Railroad at Staunton.
We have first to notice the Shenandoah campaign. On May 9th Gen. Sigel's forces moved up the valley pike to Cedar Creek, thence through Strasburg to Woodstock, the cavalry advancing to Mount Jackson. Col. Moor advanced to the same place with his infantry on the 14th, and there the cavalry reported the enemy to be in force at New Market. Moor advanced still further, when the roar of the artillery announced the presence of the enemy. The confederate force thus met was the advance of Gen. Breckenridge, who marched rapidly from Staunton to oppose him, with a force of nearly 5,000 men.: Moor had four regiments of infantry, besides cavalry and artillery, of which Gen. Stahel assumed command the next morning. The union forces were scattered along the pike and were not prepared for battle, but it was upon them. Sigel came to the front and had in line the 18th Connecticut and 123d Ohio Infantry and a small body of cavalry, under Col. Moor in the advance, to break the enemy's onset. The main line was under the personal direction of Gen. Sigel, consisting of the 34th Massachusetts, 1st Virginia, 54th Pennsylvania and a few companies of the 12th Virginia, the artillery being carefully disposed, and the cavalry was behind the center of the left flank.
Breckenridge moved to the attack with the veteran brigades of Echols and Wharton, a battalion of cadets and other local forces, with cavalry and artillery. Breckenridge soon drove Moor in confusion, and promptly attacked Thoburn's brigade and was checked. Imboden's cavalry with artillery charged Sigel's left flank, which, with Breckenridge in front, caused our whole force to retreat, bringjng up at Cedar Creek.
Battery G had a prominent part in the expedition, being connected with some cavalry under Col. Wyncoop. On the 14th one section of the battery with the cavalry, was ordered up the valley, meeting the enemy before reaching Mount Jackson. The confederates fell back across the river, and were vigorously shelled by the battery, continuing the retreat. Then Col. Wyncoop ordered a charge, the battery to keep on the pike, and the cavalry to be deployed right and left, after crossing the river. The bugler sounded forward, and away went the charging forces, the enemy hastily getting out of the way. The chase was continued for three miles beyond New Market, and then our forces fell back to New Market. In the meantime the rest of the army was brought up, the rest of the battery also coming up, and went into camp for the night. It was a stormy night, the rain falling in torrents, but not so hard that the battery boys forgot their cunning; for a good chicken breakfast, of the fattest and choicest poultry from the Dunkard settlement near, attested their foraging qualities. The horses were not unhitched, or their saddles taken off, being ready for a sudden attack. The next day the battle was fought, the battery being in position on the left and had to wait until our troops got past, before they could do much. As our right and centre were driven back, Col. Wyncoop was like a caged lion, as his orders prevented him from doing anything, but his time came. The bugle sounded forward, and the cavalry and battery came out on the pike. Just as they crossed it, the battery unlimbered and opened fire with canister, keeping it up for about 10 minutes, when they had to fall back, and the battle was over. Alex. McKinzie, of the battery, was killed, and Jerry Leadom had an eye shot out, and was sent to the rear. Sergt. Evans lost his hat, and when he picked it off the ground, found the top gone. It might have been the top of his head. One of their guns was disabled in this fight.
Gen. David Hunter was appointed to the command in the valley, relieving Gen. Sigel, taking charge of the army May 21. On the 26th he broke camp at Cedar creek, and marched to New Market, where he remained until June 1, having with him Sigel's troops, reinforced until they amounted to 8,500 of all arms; including 21 guns, the infantry being commanded by Gen. Sullivan, and the cavalry by Gen. Stahel. From New Market Gen. Hunter proceeded to Harrisonburg, and June 2d found Imboden posted on the pike about seven miles ahead, whom he avoided by moving on a side road to Port Republic, a large supply train being overhauled and partly captured by the cavalry. On the morning of the 5th he advanced toward Staunton, and found that the enemy, commanded by Gen. W. E. Jones, had taken position at Piedmont, to resist the union march. This place is on a road about seven miles southwest of Port Republic, which forks to Staunton and Waynesboro. Stahel's Cavalry soon drove in the pickets of the enemy, when the main line advanced in front of the Piedmont line, with Moor's brigade on the right and Thoburn's on the left, with Wyncoop's brigade of cavalry in rear of Moor. Then followed an artillery fire of two hours, the good work of our batteries causing the enemy to slacken their fire. Moor's brigade then attacked the confederate left, advancing across the open and driving them through the woods to the main works; but being unable to carry the works, he fell back a short distance. The enemy then attempted to crush Hunter's right, but was effectually checked by Moor, aided by the batteries, among which were the section of Battery G, and Carlin's Battery of the same regiment, First West Va. Light Artillery. While Jones was concentrating for this attack, Thoburn moved across a ravine to gain the enemy's right flank. He gallantly charged on the woods and heights, Moor and Wyncoop co-operating, and the enemy abandoned his position, a part of his men rushing over the steep bank into the river which covered his left. Over 1,000 of the enemy, including 60 officers, were captured on the field, and among the killed was the confederate commander. The next day others were captured, making the total number of prisoners about 1,500, to which must be added the killed and stragglers. Three guns and many small arms fell into the hands of Hunter, whose loss was about 420. Gen. Hunter then marched on to Staunton, being the first union troops to enter the city, and here was joined by Gen. Crook's and Averell's forces from the Kanawha, fresh from the victory of Cloyd Mountain.
At the beginning of Hunter's campaign, Ewing's battery was pretty badly used up, and being short of horses, it was ordered that all of the battery but one section should be relieved. It was the only mounted battery in the command, and it was required that at least part of it should stay. The best horses and guns were picked out, and Lieut S. J. Shearer was put in command of the section. Being a part of Wyncoop's brigade, they were in the advance until they reached Staunton. On approaching Piedmont they skirmished all the time until they reached the river, where the battle was fought. It became their duty to ascertain the position of the enemy, so they unlimbered in the wheat field, and threw a shell about where they thought the enemy ought to be, and the response was one that made the valley fairly ring, killing four of Shearer's horses and wounding several. Sergeant Evans' horse was hit three times, showing the heavy fire, but fortunately none of the men were hurt. They then fell back and waited until the rest of the artillery came up, when they took another position, the other batteries forming on their right and left. The battle then opened in full earnest, and presently this section limbered up and went with Wyncoop to the right. But when they reached the river they found they could not cross it, so they returned and took a position in front of the rail breastworks, which the enemy had built, the section being on the right hand side of the road next to the river, and remained there until the battle was over. The execution that was done here was fearful. Behind these rude and frail breastworks, the enemy lay all around, many with pieces of rails driven in them in almost all shapes, and the rails on fire. Some were torn horribly, showing the worst features of the horrors of war. It was the worst sight seen during the war by many, if not all, of the troops present. After the battle was well under way, Sergeant Evans was ordered by General Hunter to take charge of and send up all the ammunition needed for the batteries. It was a new duty to the sergeant; and he had considerable difficulty with the ordnance officers, but performed his work with entire satisfaction to the authorities. That was a habit battery G had, however, and never fell short of their full duty.
The section went with the command to Staunton, and from there was sent back to Wheeling by the way of Cheat Mountain, Beverly and Webster, and were mustered out of the service, their term of enlistment having expired.
On May 1, 1864, the command of Gen. Averell, consisting of three brigades, left Charleston, West Va., for an expedition southward. The Fifth West Virginia Cavalry was in the brigade commanded by Col. Oley. Nothing of interest occurred until the 4th, when our pickets were attacked and two of them captured, and our men took three prisoners. On the fifth the command marched twenty-five miles, crossing a high mountain, camping at Wyoming Court House. The next day, after a very fatiguing march of thirty miles, over rocks, roots and creeks, in single file, the troops, camped for the night, and the next day went to Princeton Court House. On the 8th we left Princeton, passed the confederate forts toward Wytheville, over mountains and through ravines, until within nine miles of Dublin station, where we met Gen. Crook's division of infantry, and camped on New River. In the morning Sergt. W. F. Graebe, of Company C, was in charge or the picket force, and in a few minutes after being placed, the enemy appeared on the road and hillside, when our men emptied their guns and struck out for camp, leaving the sergeant to meet the confederates alone, but he was relieved by Capt. Grubb, who came in time to prevent his capture.
In the early part of the campaign, Capt. Thomas E. Day's Company E were sent out on a scouting expedition, remaining two or three days without encountering any of the enemy's forces. On the way back to camp, J. W. Stonebreaker and M. E. Moore were riding in the advance, when they discovered a confederate soldier ahead of them, to whom they gave chase. A running fire was kept up, the chased trooper firing at his pursuers until his revolver was emptied except one barrel. This he held back for close quarters. Others of the company had joined in the chase, and the fleetest horses soon gained the front, until James A. Robinson and M. L. Lohmire galloped up to the confederate, one on each side, and demanded his surrender. He aimed his last shot at Lohmire, who knocked the revolver upwards, and the man was a prisoner. He declared that he would never enter a union prison, and he made good his word, escaping a few nights afterward.
Gen. Crook's forces, of which Col. Oley's brigade of cavalry, about 400 strong, formed a part, found the enemy posted in force, several thousand strong, at Cloyd Mountain, under the command of Gen's. W. E. Jones and Jenkins. They were entrenched on a wooded spur behind rail breastworks, with their guns so placed as to sweep a broad field that fronted the works, while a knee deep brook wound around the foot of the steep slope crowned by the rifle pits. "The enemy is in force and in strong position," said Crook, lowering his field glass; "he may whip us, but I guess not."
Forming under cover of the thick timber, Gen. Crook sent Col. White, with his own brigade and two regiments of Sickels' brigade, to turn the enemy's right, and the moment they were engaged moved the rest of his forces directly against the works. The advancing column was received with a hot fire as the men struggled across the open space, but after a severe fight they carried the intrenchments at all points. Crook's loss was 600, while that of the enemy was fully as heavy, if not greater. Our regiment was covering the rear and guarding the wagon train the morning of this engagement. When the main body under command of Gen. Crook struck the enemy's fortification on Cloyd Mountain, we were a mile or two in the rear. As soon as the first gun was fired, a detachment from each company amounting in all to about 100 men, was placed under command of Major Barclay and gathered forward to the scene of action. We found the rebels posted in a splendid position on the mountain, well fortified and commanding the valley about six miles from Dublin Depot, on the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad. Our infantry were just deploying through the woods to the right and left to the road. Two pieces of our artillery came forward and took up a position on a little ridge to the right of the road, and our detachment was ordered to dismount and support these guns; this we did by advancing some distance in front of the battery on lower ground, and there lay down exposed to the fire from the enemy's cannon, our own battery firing over our heads. The enemy had some large guns, twenty-four pound howitzers, and they tried hard to dismount or disable our little battery, but in vain. For one hour, while our flanking forces were getting into position, we lay there exposed to the rain of shot and shell and unable to employ the time by even firing a gun, and all we could do was to dodge the heavy shot and shell as they fell amongst us. It was as all old soldiers will admit, the most trying position in which troops could be placed. Then an hour seemed like half a day to us. At last our flankers arrived within range of the rebels lying behind the breastworks, and the troops in front ascended the hill and the fight became hot and furious. About noon our men carried the breastworks by storm, capturing the battery of twenty-four pounders and a large number of prisoners. As soon as our men reached the breastworks, we were mounted and ordered to charge the fleeing rebels; this we did with alacrity, and for awhile we kept them on the dead run capturing all who fell behind. Discovering however that we had no sabres, and were only mounted infantry; a large body of the rebels rushed into the woods alongside the road, and poured a heavy volley into us, wounding our chaplain, Rev. J. W. W. Bolton, who was charging with us, and a number of men, among others Hiram Qualk of Company I, who was shot through the breast. Of course we could not get at them on horseback, so we dismounted, and one-fourth of the detachment holding the horses, the rest rushed on foot into the woods and soon dislodged the enemy. We kept up the pursuit, driving them up hill and down valley for a mile or two, until we were overtaken by the remainder of the regiment mounted, and led by our gallant quartermaster, A. J. Pentecost, who, waving aloft a sword that he had picked up in crossing the battle field, went dashing past us. An open wood stretched across the valley in their front, and into it they rode yelling like demons. They had hardly disappeared from our sight in the woods when a terrible rattle of small arms opened up, and back they came, or some of them, and many riderless horses along with them. Close behind came 2,000 exultant rebels on a charge. It seems that 2,000 fresh troops, rushed by rail from Kentucky, had arrived at Dublin depot too late to take part in the battle on the mountain, but were thrown forward to check pursuit if possible. Our mounted men had run into them and received a withering fire, compelling an immediate change of front. We all fell back some distance until our supports came in view, when we faced about, and, with the help of the infantry drove the reinforcements whirling through Dublin depot, capturing several immense store-houses, containing several thousand stand of arms, large quantities of ammunition, bacon, tobacco, etc. Over 300 wagons, a number of caissons and quartermaster's stores of all kinds also fell into our hands. The next day, after burning all of them we could not carry away, we advanced along the railroad to the large bridge that spanned New river, where we found the rebels had made a stand, determined to save the bridge. They had some heavy artillery there, and for two hours we had a lively artillery duel, but we finally charged them and they fled before we were fairly within musket range of them, and the bridge was ours, and along with it two more siege guns. They were too heavy to transport, so we blew them up, burned the bridge and started on our return trip North.
After the battle of Cloyd Mountain, when our troops had reached Dublin depot, heavy guards were thrown out to protect the lines from the enemy, whose forces had been greatly scattered. Sergt. John Caton, of Company E, and nine of his company, were posted to the extreme right, with orders to watch for straggling confederates. They stood guard all night, and as no relief came, in the morning the sergeant sent one of the men into camp to ascertain the reason. He soon returned with the information that the command was gone, when the sergeant and his squad double quicked to the depot. Just as they arrived there the magazine exploded, when the bursting shells created a noise and confusion that would have been amusing had it not been so dangerous. The citizens, blacks, and the guard, got out of the place as hastily as possible, and fortunately no one was hurt. Before leaving the place the troops had fired the magazine, and in their hurry, no doubt, had overlooked the guard and left it in its exposed position. Ascertaining the direction in which the troops had gone, the squad followed and overtook them four or five miles out, after traveling over the railroad track, which was made hot by the fires built along it to destroy the rails. It was a hot walk and a trying occasion for the belated men. A somewhat similar experience happened some of the same men a little later. A band of confederates who had charge of some wagons filled with old muskets, and had two six-pound guns, were attacked by our forces, when they hastily decamped, leaving their wagons and guns. The union troops piled the muskets on heaps of rails and set fire to the latter, and when the old muskets got warmed up they opened a regular fusilade, bullets flying in every direction, causing the few troops near them to stampede. It was one of the biggest scares of the entire trip, and a regiment of confederates couldn't have done as good service in routing the Yankee boys.
On the 10th we left Dublin station for New river bridge at Newbern. Our troops attacked the enemy on the heights and carried their position by a charge, capturing 100 prisoners and three siege guns, our loss being small. We marched about fourteen miles and camped on the bank of the river. Our troops burned a very large railroad bridge, destroyed culverts, etc., and the enemy burned the pike bridge, our men crossing the river on pontoons. On the 11th we crossed New river, marching twelve miles, and the next day marched about twenty miles to Salt Pond Mountain. This day the enemy tried to cut off our wagon train at Newport, but were repulsed with heavy loss. On the 13th we left this place and camped at night on the western slope of Peter's Mountain. One regiment of the enemy followed our rear guard, and we burned about forty wagons and 700 guns which we had captured. At the foot of Peter's Mountain we captured thirty-four wagons and two twenty-four pound guns from Gen. Jackson, who retreated at the mere sight of our advance guard. The next day we took the road to Lewisburg, the Fifth being in the advance of Crook's division. We passed through Salt Sulphur Springs, and drove the enemy out of the town of Union, where we camped, the Greenbrier river being too high to cross. On the 16th the division followed the road to Meadow Bluffs, where we went to cross the river. All the cavalry and dismounted men under Averell were here drawn up in line of battle, the enemy having occupied the town, who were under the command of Jackson and McCausland. The horses were kept saddled all night, and the command remained under arms all of the next day but no conflict took place.
The mountains were full of bushwhackers, who made it decidedly uncomfortable for our pickets and scouts. May 18th the command marched toward Lewisburg, our regiment as rear guard, arriving at Meadow Bluffs the next day, where they went into camp. The Fifth and Seventh West Virginia Cavalry were ordered toward Gauley river, and left for there the next day. They crossed the Little and Big Sewell mountains on the Charleston road, arrviving at Loop creek on the 22d where they went into camp. On the 27th, all the men except the veterans and recruits, of Companies A, B, C, D, and E, of our regiment, went to Charleston to be mustered out, their term of enlistment having expired, while Companies F, H, I, and K, with all the veterans and recruits, under Lieut. Col. Scott, went in the direction of Lewisburg, where they arrived on the 29th. Here the cavalry under Averell, and the infantry under Crook, were united. June 3d the combined forces left Lewisburg and marched in the direction of Staunton. At Warm Springs, June 5th, a number of our men in advance of the column were killed or wounded. The next day the command crossed Cow Pasture river, along a branch of the Central Virginia railroad. They passed through a very deep mountain gap, where the enemy were protected by fortifications. Gen. Crook drove them out, and the advance destroyed a very long and fine railroad bridge. On the 8th the forces reached Staunton and joined the command of Gen. David Hunter, in his expedition to Lynchburg, taking part in that memorable and unfortunate advance, and shared in the losses and hardships of the retreat.
On the trip, after the Cloyd Mountain fight, M. E. Moore, of Company E, was captured and taken to Staunton, where he had charge of thirteen of our soldiers wounded at Piedmont, and witnessed the passing of both armies through the place. Was started on the way to Andersonville, but had some boils on his arm, which he carefully bandaged, and put his arm in a sling, and was sent to City Point for exchange along with the other sick. The boys had reached perfection in foraging. Some colored folks met the line at the New River, when Will. Latta, of Company I, hailed one, asking where they had put that meat that they hid. The poor darkey denied any knowledge of contraband pork, when Latta threatened destruction to him if he did not tell, and then the colored contingent came down, and led the boys to a hiding place, where they secured seventy-two pieces of meat. Latta's chance shot produced good results. Corp. Steve. Ward was then sent with a detail to look for some cattle, but came back with a quantity of the finest ham in the state. Lieut. J. B. Montgomery was sent out with a squad of his men to hunt for horses and came to a field where there was a fine assortment of just the animals he needed. He dismounted his men, who went after the horses, when the Johnnies raised a fuss about it, and Montgomery's horse holders became frightened and started for the command, compelling him and men to walk several miles before they caught up with their own horses.
During the retreat of Gen. Hunter, the battalion left of our regiment had a jolly time. On the second day out, Sergt. Steinaker of Company D, went out with a foraging party to seek something for the battalion to eat. After securing what they wanted, they started to return to the command, and after dark entered what they supposed to be their camp. Not recognizing the surroundings, D. O. Carpenter of Company I, went to a soldier and asked what regiment it was in camp, when he was told that it was the Ninth Georgia. Greatly surprised, he went to the Sergeant and told him they were in a confederate camp, which he could not credit. They then went to another squad and made the inquiry, and were informed that it was a part of the Twelfth South Carolina. There were 15 of our boys, with a colored guide, and they started at once to get out of their bad scrape. Carpenter led the way, and they soon reached the Salem pike, when putting spurs to their horses, they galloped past the pickets, calling out to them as they passed, "Look out for us," we may be back here in a hurry." But they made no attempt of that kind, only too glad to reach our own lines, which they did in safety about midnight, saving all their forage.
The remaining companies of our old regiment, whose term of service had now expired, were sent back to Grafton by the way of McDowell and Beverly, to be mustered out. They had in charge 1,100 prisoners, captured on the expeditions to Staunton, who were turned over to the authorities. The reenlisted men, about 200 in number, were consolidated with the remnant of the Sixth West Virginia Cavalry in September 1864, all taking that name. In March 1865 they were ordered to Washington, and were engaged in provost duty until June 16, when they received orders with other troops, to proceed to Louisville Kentucky. From there they went to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, then across the plains to Colorado, thence to Dakotah. There they were frequently engaged with the Indians, and were highly complimented for their gallantry. Many of the men served nearly five years of service.
The Historian has received the following letter from Governor Pierpont, which we place here as a fitting conclusion of the history of the regiment. No man in Western Virginia knew more about the regiment than he, and he is a capable judge of its merits as a command. After a few words of introduction, he says:
Some that came to Wheeling were mere boys. Major Oakes, the mustering officer, a very judicious man, told me that some of the boys ought to be home with their mothers, but they persevered, and those boys came out veterans. It was the first regiment I had mustered in, the three months regiments being formed before I became governor. Those that came from Pennsylvania were in citizens' light clothing, and there was a great deal of hardship and destitution until clothing was issued to them, which was some time after their muster in.
There was one pleasing feature of the troops from the two states, Ohio and Pennsylvania, that was their perfect assimilation in spirit and purpose. The Pennsylvanians seemed to feel that they were with the Virginians to defend the Virginia homes from invasion, and partook of all the enthusiasm of the Virginians in the fight. And I have always suspected that when it came to the soldiers voting on the new state constitution that they voted, but I never knew. But this is certain that whenever I heard of a fight where the Second Virginia or Fifth Cavalry, after they became mounted, was, I heard a good report of them. They were reported brave to recklessness sometimes. It was said of them that whenever they got in a close place, every man was a general, and that they were almost invincible. They certainly achieved some victories that seemed in the beginning almost hopeless. It is strange how soon men will become allied in a common cause, and the alliance seems to become a part of their nature. I frequently meet old soldiers after they have met some of those Pennsylvania comrades, and they say it is wonderful what an interest these old Pennsylvania soldiers of the Second West Virginia take in everything about West Virginia.
I am yours with great respect,
F. H. PIERPONT.