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Doc. 46.-fight on Loudon heights, Va.

A national account.

camp on Loudon heights, Loudon County, Va., January 10, 1864.
Our new camp on Loudon Heights was, just before the early dawn this morning, baptized in blood. Precisely at half-past 4 o'clock this morning, Mosby's rebel battalion, himself in person at their head, avoiding our pickets on the roads, crossed the fields and dashed into our camp with a fiend-like yell. They poured a volley of bullets into the tents where our officers and men lay sleeping, wounding many at the first fire. Many of the tents of officers and men were soon surrounded by mounted and dismounted cavalry, and a demand for instant and unconditional surrender made.

This demand was answered by a shout of defiance from our boys, as they rushed from their tents, half-naked, in the midst of their assailants, and with their trusty carbines and revolvers drove back the astonished rebels, who had promised themselves such an easy victory over the “sleeping Yankees.” The rebels rallied, and so did our men, as best they could, and a “rough and tumble” fight of fifteen minutes ensued, when Mosby sung out: “Retreat, boys; they are too many for us!” And the discomfited Major and his midnight assassins made a precipitate flight in the direction of Hillsborough. The rebels fought with the most desperate vindictiveness, [330] which was only equalled by the coolness and undaunted valor of our gallant boys, who fought, I will venture to say, as scarcely ever men fought before, partially surprised, as indeed they were. To show the animus of the rebels, I will here state a fact, which, as a faithful chronicler of events, it pains me to record.

Corporal Henry C. Tritch, and others of Captain Frank Gallagher's company, declare that at the first assault of the rebels Captain William R. Smith called out to his men: “Give the----Yankees no quarter, but secure the arms and horses.” “Horses” was the last word he ever uttered, for at that instant a Yankee bullet went whizzing through his heart, and he fell lifeless from the saddle. His dead body now lies in its white winding-sheet of snow on the spot where it fell, a few feet from the tent in which I write. A few yards from Captain Smith lies cold in death, in a pool of his own now frozen blood, the body of Lieutenant Colson, of Baltimore, and one of General Trimble's rebel staff, as will appear from the following pass found upon his person:

Culpeper Court-house, July 27, 1863.
Guards and pickets will pass Lieutenant Colson, Major-General Trimble's staff, in and out at pleasure.

By order of

General R. E. Lee. H. B. Bridg, Commanding, Major and Provost-Marshal, Army Northern Virginia.

A photograph of a beautiful young lady was also found, on which was written in pencil--“For brother Willie, from Florence.”

Further on, on the edge of the camp, lie three dead rebel soldiers, name and rank unknown.

Three prisoners are also in our hands, two of them severely if not fatally wounded; of the latter, one is Lieutenant William Turner, of Baltimore. He says his uncle, Captain Turner, recently commanded the United States war vessel Ironsides, at Charleston.

The name of the other wounded rebel soldier is Paxton, who resides near Leesburgh, in this county.

Many of the wounded rebels are lying in farmhouses between this place and Hillsborough.

Our own loss is four killed and fifteen wounded, among the latter of whom is Captain G. W. F. Vernon, of company A, who is severely, but I rejoice to say not fatally, wounded in the head. Lieutenant Rivers, I regret to state, is severely wounded in the foot.

Another account.

Harper's Ferry, Va., January 11, 1864.
Mr. Editor: Since the rebel General Early attempted to make that raid down the Shenandoah Valley, but which, you remember, he didn't make, for the simple reason that he couldn't make it — a small force of our cavalry, commanded by Major Cole, numbering in all not over eighty men, have been stationed in Loudon Valley, near the Potomac, on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains, about a mile and a half distant from this village. The principal object of this disposition of Cole's men was to protect the suspension-bridge over the Shenandoah River, and to guard against any surprise which might be attempted by the guerrillas in Loudon Valley upon our main force in Harper's Ferry. The battalion had gone into winter quarters, and were very comfortably situated. A line of pickets was kept thrown out across the valley, and every one thought that all approaches to the camp were securely guarded, and that a surprise was just about an impossibility. But the affair which took place on the tenth taught us that to be seriously mistaken is not a thing so impossible after all.

Before daylight Sunday morning, while our cavalrymen were sound asleep in their quarters, about two hundred of Mosby's cut-throats, under command of one Captain Smith, formerly a resident in Loudon Valley, made a sudden dash into the camp of Major Cole, fired a volley into the tents where our men were sleeping, killing and wounding several, and for a few minutes having things pretty much their own way. But let it be known hereafter — if the fact has not already received publicity — that the brave and hardy men commanded by the gallant Major Cole are soldiers whom nothing can daunt, and who will shrink in no encounter, however desperate. They are, and have been for some time, the terror of the guerrillas in this region, and in fighting them rarely get quarter, nor expect nor ask it.

So, when under the cover of darkness the guerrillas made their dash yesterday morning into Cole's camp, the rebel commander cried: “Take no prisoners, men! Give the d — d Yankees no quarter. Shoot every d — d son of a b — h down!” It was evident to Cole's men that they were indeed in a somewhat uncomfortable predicament — that their situation was unquestionably a desperate one; they were taken at a great disadvantage, they were contending against numbers almost thrice their own, and they were fighting the most desperate men in the rebel army. But our cavalrymen had met Mosby before, and knew him well, and a knowledge of the fact that to surrender to these guerrillas was to surrender life itself, nerved them to the most desperate and pertinacious resistance.

With weapons in hand, our men rushed forth from their tents, half naked, and engaged the rebels in a hand-to-hand encounter. Meantime a messenger had been despatched to Major Pratt, now in command of the Thirty-fourth Massachusetts infantry, which is still stationed here in this village. In fifteen minutes after Major Pratt had received the intelligence the Thirty-fourth was on the “double-quick.” But the rebels becoming aware of the approach of our infantry, immediately took to the road and fled up the valley, leaving ten of their dead and four of their wounded. Cole's men immediately mounted and pursued the enemy, but I believe they were unable to come up with them.

Nearly all of the prisoners taken by the rebels succeeded in making their escape to Loudon [331] Heights, where they concealed themselves among the rocks and cliffs of the mountain. The weather being extremely cold, and the sides of the mountain being covered with snow and ice, the men who thus escaped being barefooted and almost destitute of clothing, suffered severely, and a number had their feet badly frozen; yet, strange to say, nearly all of them came into camp laughing and joking over the adventures of the night. Certainly, never before have I met with such a rough and hardy set of fellows.

In this affair we lost four men killed and about fifteen wounded. The rebels, owing to the brave resistance made by Cole's men, and the early arrival of the Thirty-fourth, succeeded in taking only three of our horses. Captain Smith, the leader of the rebels in this expedition, was killed in this manner: It appears that one of our cavalrymen having been awakened by the firing, went out of his tent to see “what was up.” He was met by three rebels, who demanded his revolver. He gave it up. They asked him if he had any more. He said he had in his tent. They ordered him to get them and give them up. He entered his tent, and, taking his carbine, escaped from the back side, and running along behind the string of horses, reached the other end of the camp just in time to see Captain Smith when he gave his men orders to “give no quarters.” Of course, the cavalryman “drew bead” on the reb, and let the approaching daylight into the body of the Captain, who would give no quarter and got none himself.

The manner in which the camp was surprised was thus: The rebels, by taking a circuitous route, succeeded in flanking our pickets, and getting in the rear of the camp. Then, taking a cowpath, they stole, in single-file, up to the camp. They were challenged by the guard. The commander of the rebels then dismounted, and, on approaching the guard, instead of giving the countersign, inquired where Major Cole's quarters were. Suspecting that all was not right, the guard replied that he did not know, and then attempted to discharge his carbine and give the alarm; but his piece unfortunately “missed fire.” He was then immediately secured, and the dash was made on the camp; but, thanks to the coolness and bravery of Cole's men, the “rebs” got the worst of the affair in the end.

On the day following the engagement, the rebels sent a flag of truce, asking for the bodies of Captain Smith and two lieutenants who were killed. I am told that Major Cole's reply was, that if Mosby wanted the bodies of his killed, he'd better try to surprise his camp once more.

The weather continues very cold, and the snow still covers the ground. Colonel Wells, formerly commander of the brigade stationed at this place, has been ordered to preside at a court-martial. Supply-trains run on the Winchester and Potomac Railroad as far as Haul Town. It is said that General Early, with a considerable force, is still at Winchester, and that he has gone into winter quarters there.

H. E. T.

List of killed and wounded.

Medical Director's office, Harper's Ferry, Va., January 10, 1864.
sir: I have the honor to report the following list of killed and wounded in the Independent battalion Maryland cavalry, Major Cole commanding, during an attack made on the camp on Loudon Heights, Va., by Mosby's and White's forces, at three o'clock A. M. on the tenth of January, 1864:

Killed.--Sergeant J. J. Kerns, company B; private George Buford, company D.

Wounded.--Company A: Captain G. W. F. Vernon, wound of head and left eye; Orderly Sergeant L. Zimmerman, flesh-wound of the left leg; private D. W. Carnes, gunshot, compound fracture of right leg; private H. F. Null, wound of abdomen; private I. Craighton, flesh-wound of left leg; private E. Goodwin, gunshot, compound fracture of left leg; private Samuel Stone, wound of abdomen.

Company B: Lieutenant Samuel Rivers, flesh-wound of left foot; Orderly Sergeant J. C. Stouffer, flesh-wound of left hip; Sergeant C. W. Ham, flesh-wound of left arm; private Samuel Rivers, gunshot, compound fracture of left thigh; private Gotlieb Foos, wound of shoulder and left lung; private B. F. Fillen, wound of right shoulder; private A. Sosy, wound of abdomen.

Company C: Private Weaver, flesh-wound of left thigh.

Company D: Private R. Cross, wound of right hip; Henry Howard, flesh-wound of right thigh.

The above I believe to be a correct list of the casualties.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

William Hayes, Surgeon U. S. A., Medical Director. Brigadier-General J. C. Sullivan, Commanding First Division, Department of West-Virginia.

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