19.-battle at Port Republic, Va.
The part borne by Colonel.
The first reports of battles are often incorrect.
The confusion incident to an engagement of itself precludes the possibility of a fair estimate of affairs at the first, and it is only after the smoke of battle has passed away that a clear view can be had.
The battle of Port Republic
forms no exception to this general experience.
Appreciating, as everybody could, after the disaster there had occurred, that it might have been avoided by the destruction of the bridge across the Shenandoah
at that place, it was taken for granted that it should have been burnt, and that orders had been given to that effect.
Upon that assumption, Col. Carroll
, who had command of the advance, has been loudly censured, and the failure of the expedition, and the terrible destruction of life consequent upon it, have been visited upon his head.
Without reflecting in any way upon others, it is the purpose
of this communication to show that Col. Carroll
acted strictly according to imperative orders, and that he carried himself in that execution like a true and gallant soldier.
On the fourth inst., while at Conrad's Store, Col. Carroll
received orders to go forward at once, with cavalry and guns, to save
the bridge at Port Republic
At that time it was impossible for him to move.
The heavy rains which had prevailed for some days days had so swollen the streams that Col. Carroll
was entirely separated from his command, having with him only his staff, fifteen cavalry, and two pieces of artillery.
His infantry was five miles in his rear, and compelled to remain there, by the impassable creeks, between two and three days.
On Saturday, the seventh, Col. Carroll
received orders to move forward to Waynesboroa, distant some thirty-five or thirty-seven miles, by the way of Port Republic
, for the purpose of destroying the railroad depot, track, bridge, etc., at that place, and to seize Jackson
's train and throw his force upon Jackson
marched, in obedience to these orders, on Saturday afternoon. His infantry, cavalry and artillery had in the mean time come up, and he started from Conrad's Store with less than a thousand of the former, with one hundred and fifty cavalry, and with a single battery of six guns.
Halting, in the night, six miles before reaching Port Republic
, Col. Carroll
sent forward a party of scouts, who returned with the information that Jackson
's train was parked near Port Republic
with a drove of beef cattle herded near by, and the whole guarded by about two or three hundred cavalry.
On learning this, Col. Carroll
pushed forward with the design of capturing the train and cattle, as his orders directed.
He halted some two miles from the town, made a reconnaissance, and received further information confirming the report of his scouts, and then dashed into town with his cavalry and two pieces, driving the enemy's cavalry out, and taking possession of the bridge.
He halted there for his infantry to come up, and disposed his pieces and little force to prevent a repulse from the train-guard, when, before he occupied the village twenty minutes he was attacked by three regiments of the enemy's infantry, by eighteen of their guns, and by a cavalry force superior to his own. In the face of this he was forced to retire, and the project of proceeding twenty odd miles further up to Waynesboroa had to be abandoned.
As stated above, Col. Carroll
did not hold the place twenty minutes; and there was no instant of time, after his arrival, in which he could have destroyed the bridge in the presence of such an enemy, even had he been ordered so to do.
Retiring from Port Republic
, Colonel Carroll
brought his force to a stand at the first defensible position, some two and a half miles distant from the town.
Here he was reinforced by Gen. Tyler
's brigade, numbering about two thousand. Col. Carroll
, appreciating the superior position of the enemy, as well as his vastly superior force, advised a retreat upon Conrad's Store under cover of the night.
In this he was overruled, and the battle of Monday
occurred on the ground to which he had retired from Sunday's repulse.
It is not the intention to apologize for Colonel Carroll
, but to show simply that he obeyed orders.
How he carried himself through the hot contest of Monday his superior on the field can testify to more properly and with better knowledge than any one else.
In this report of the engagement, as published in the papers, General Tyler
says, among other like compliments: “Col. Carroll
distinguished himself by his coolness and dashing bravery.
Upon him I relied, and was not disappointed.”
It is confidently stated that whatever blame may hereafter be attached to any officer on account of the disastrous battle of Port Republic
, none can be fairly laid to the charge of Col. Carroll
, but that the more the facts connected with it are investigated, the greater will be the praise accorded to him for his gallant and soldierly conduct on his advance and in the fight.--National Intelligencer