Doc. 141.-surprise at Moorefield, Virginia.
Wheeling Intelligencer account.
camp near Petersburgh, September 12, 1863.on the morning of Friday, the fifth, at about reveille — say half-past 4 o'clock in the morning — that portion of the First West-Virginia volunteer infantry in command of Major E. W. Stephens--five companies — were surrounded by the combined forces of Imboden and Jones, some one thousand six hundred strong. By the judicious disposition of our small division — some two hundred and fifty men — by our gallant young Major, and the determined front displayed to the enemy, they were deterred from making an attack “from early morn till dewy eve.” Thus the cool courage and dauntless bravery of a comparatively young man and commander, saved our heroic band from the impending danger that menaced them from the vastly superior numbers of the insolent foe. Friday night the enemy retired into their mountain fastnesses, and our Major led us to the junction, the union of the Moorefield and Franklin pikes, a distance of twelve miles. We encamped at the junction from Saturday morning, the fourth instant, until the morning of the eleventh, when, according to the orders of Colonel Mulligan, we returned to Moorefield, where, barely arrived, our indefatigable young Major, thinking our camping ground unsafe in the extreme, from its exposed position and the numerous roads and by-paths converging there, at once  crossed the river, and selected a spot, less exposed, and in every way more suitable for the camp of our small detachment. Returning from his exploration, he ordered the men to be ready to start at an early hour, for the purpose of clearing a road to the selected spot; pickets were thrown out, an alarm-guard stationed, and the command retired to their repose. By some unaccountable remissness, or some combination of fortunate circumstances for the enemy, at daylight, or rather before, on Friday morning last, a large detachment of Imboden's cavalry, under the immediate command of Captain McNiel, got within our camp, and fired volley after volley into the tents of our sleeping comrades. The Major being awake, rushed down to the door of his markee, and loudly called upon the men “to form into line,” “to rally at the foot of the hill,” as our camp was completely in the hands of the enemy. It was too late to rally. We were surrounded; and as “discretion is the better part of valor,” we yielded to the successful foe; and by the flashing eyes, grinding of teeth, the compressed lips, lowering brows, and the curses loud and deep of the men of the First Virginia, we saw that the iron tooth of chagrin and the resolve of future revenge, dire and deep, had entered into the soul of the whole detachment. Several of our boys were shot while trying to make their escape; others were more successful, among whom, I am happy to state, was our worthy Major, who immediately hastened to bring reenforcements from the detachment at Petersburgh. These last, led by Colonel Thoburn, arrived too late. Our detachment were already upon their way to Richmond. Among the many valuable officers lost to the service by this surprise, may be mentioned Captains Craig, White, and Reed; Lieutenants Hall, Helms, McKee, and Baird. Captains Daugherty and McElvoy and Lieutenant Apple have already made their escape, and returned safely to the camp at Petersburgh. I am happy to state many of the men have also made good their escape. Foot-sore and weary from their wanderings upon “the dark and weary mountains,” they are greatly rejoiced to arrive, even to the shelter and protection that an exposed camp can afford. The sutler of the regiment, D. J. Smith, Esq., of your city, as I am informed, lost all the goods he had in camp, his company-books, team, and wagon. The loss falls heavily upon a worthy man. I had forgotten to state that, upon our return to Moorefield, no immediate cause of an apprehended attack was apparent, as all the information elicited from all sorts of men — spies, scouts, and citizens — went to prove that no enemy was in the vicinity of the village, except Captain Imboden and forty men. But we were deceived, and the result, as far as has transpired, is before you. I dare not trust myself to attempt to give a list of the killed and wounded. The camp is full of contradictory rumors, each worse than the other, and each diametrically opposing the other. When a close approximation of the truth can be arrived at, you may hear from me again.
J. F. S.