previous next

[336] force of cavalry, which he mistook as the whole force left to garrison and protect the place. In a little skirmish that evening, while placing the artillery in position, I was struck by a fragment of a shell, which broke my arm above the elbow, injured my shoulder, and damaged me otherwise to such an extent that I have lain prostrate ever since. I commenced making preparations for any emergency that might occur that night or the next morning. Under cover of the night I ordered an entire brigade (Kimball's) to take up a strong position in advance. I pushed forward four batteries, having them in a strong position to support the infantry. I placed Sullivan's brigade on both flanks, to prevent surprise and to keep my flanks from being turned, and I held Tyler's brigade in reserve, to operate against any point that might be assailed in front. In this position I awaited and expected the enemy's attack next morning.

My advance brigade was two miles from the town, its pickets extending perhaps a mile farther along the turnpike leading to Strasburg. About eight o'clock in the morning, I sent forward two experienced officers to reconnoitre the front and report indications of the enemy. They returned in an hour, reporting no enemy in sight except Ashby's force of cavalry, infantry and artillery, which by this time had become familiar and contemptible to us. Gen. Banks, who was yet here in person, upon hearing this report, concluded that Jackson could not possibly be in front, or be decoyed so far away from the main body of the rebel army. In this opinion I too began to concur, concluding that Jackson was too sagacious to be caught in such a trap. Gen. Banks, therefore, left for Washington. His staff-officers were directed to follow the same day, by way of Centreville. Knowing the crafty enemy, however, I had to deal with, I omitted no precaution. My whole force was concentrated, and prepared to support Kimball's brigade, which was in advance. About half-past 10 o'clock it became evident we had a considerable force before us; but the enemy still concealed himself so adroitly in the woods that it was impossible to estimate it.

I ordered a portion of the artillery forward, to open fire and unmask them. By degrees they began to show themselves. They planted battery after battery in strong position, on the centre and on both flanks. Our artillery responded, and this continued until about half-past 3 o'clock in the afternoon, when I directed a column of infantry to carry a battery on their left flank and to assail that flank, which was done promptly and splendidly by Tyler's brigade, aided by some regiments from the other brigades. The fire of our infantry was so close and destructive, that it made havoc in their ranks. The result was the capture of their guns on the left and the forcing back of their wing on the centre, thus placing them in a position to be routed by a general attack, which was made about five o'clock by all the infantry, and succeeded in driving them in flight from the field.

Night fell upon us at this stage, leaving us in possession of the field of battle, two guns and four caissons, three hundred prisoners, and about one thousand stand of small arms. Our killed in this engagement cannot exceed one hundred men — wounded, two hundred and thirty-three. The enemy's killed and wounded exceed one thousand. The inhabitants of the adjacent villages carried them to their houses as they were removed from the field of battle. Houses between the battle-field and Strasburg, and even far beyond, have since been found filled with the dead and dying of the enemy. Graves have been discovered far removed from the road, where the inhabitants of the country buried them as they died. General Banks, in his pursuit of the enemy beyond Strasburg afterwards, found houses on the road. twenty-two miles from the battle-field filled in this manner, and presenting the most ghastly spectacle. The havoc made in the ranks of the rebels has struck this whole region of country with terror.

Such a blow had never fallen on them before, and it is more crushing because wholly unexpected. Jackson and his stone-wall brigade, and all the other brigades accompanying him, will never meet this division again in battle. During the night they managed to carry off their artillery in the darkness. We opened upon them by early light next morning, and they commenced to retreat. Gen. Banks returned from Harper's Ferry between nine and ten o'clock A. M., and placed himself, at my request, at the head of the command, ten miles from the battle-field, pursuing the enemy. Reinforcements, which we had ordered back from Williams's division, and which I had ordered forward during the night, now came pouring in, and with all these we continued the pursuit, pressing them with vigor and with repeated and destructive attacks as far as Woodstock, where we halted from mere exhaustion.

The enemy's sufferings have been terrible, and such as they have nowhere else endured since the commencement of this war; and yet such were their gallantry and high state of discipline, that at no time during the battle or pursuit did they give way to panic. They fled to Mt. Jackson, and are by this time no doubt in communication with the main body of the rebel army. I hope to be able in a few days to ride in a buggy, and place myself at the head of my command; but I have neither sufficient force nor sufficient rank to do that service to the country that I hope and feel I am capable of. No man could be better treated than I am by Gen. Banks; and yet if he and his command had been here on the twenty-third, you would have heard nothing of a fight, because our wily enemy would not have been entrapped. I want an efficient cavalry regiment — the Third United States cavalry, for instance — and additional infantry. I wish you would see the Secretary of War, for instance, in relation to this matter. I can do the country service if they give me a chance.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
N. P. Banks (5)
W. H. Jackson (3)
E. B. Tyler (2)
Nathan Kimball (2)
N. G. Williams (1)
J. C. Sullivan (1)
James Shields (1)
G. W. Graves (1)
Ashby (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
23rd (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: