The battle of Drainsville.
Reinforcements sent — the probable loss of the enemy — Heroism of the ladies — the suffering of our troops from cold, &c.
[correspondence of the Richmond Dispatch]
Camp near Centasvills, Fairfax county, Va. Dec. 24th.
About 9 o'clock last Friday night an order was received calling out cur regiment (the 18th Virginia) to repair as hurriedly as possible to Drainsville, the scene of conflict of the previous day. We marched as fast as we could without going at the double quick.
We arrived at or near a church, known as the Frying-pan Church, about 2 o'clock of the same night.
We had no blankets with us at all — simply our overcoats — to protect us from the rigor of the cold.
We procured fence calls, which we diddled with case; after which we laid down on the naked earth.--Some of our regiment, however, remained up the remainder of the night.
At early dawn the next morning the drum beat the signal for the formation of our regiment.
We marched briskly along, it being-quite cold, and we therefore felt the more inclined to exert ourselves to give warmth to our bodies.
We had no idea of going so far when we started, but willing to follow Gen. Stuart
anywhere, even to the banks of the Potomac
Onward, still onward we went, winding our way up and down circuitous and zigzag roads, which, though wearisome, were in excellent condition, being entirely free from the stiffing influence of dust.
Still we went, and it is a singular fact that the nearer you approach a given place the further off are you from it; since the uniform reply to an interrogatory as to how far we were off from Drainsville and it more remote than the answer of the man previously met a mile or two back.
This provoked us to such a pitch of desperation that we could scarcely refrain from insulting the author of the answer we had so much solicited.
We reached Drainsville about 11 o'clock A. M., and went just beyond it to a house on the hill, near which was the fiercest portion of the fight.
Our regiment was halted here and broken, when an opportunity was afforded the curious of visiting the battle ground.
My attention was directed to the house immediately on the Leesburg turnpike
, at the front of which stood several charmingly looking ladies, who very soon became the paramount attraction.
I eyed them awhile with interest, then sided towards them, when I got into quite an interesting conversation.
They narrated many incidents connected with the battle.
They were in the town of Drainsville when it occurred.
They say that it was a most fiercely contested fight, and that the enemy had four or five to our one.
They were kindly attending our wounded, or which there were eight in this confiscated house.
They say the Yankees
were very kind to our wounded, in bringing them to the house; they also left with them a good many bandages, to be used in dressing their wounds.
They said the Potomac
was not more than three and a hall or four miles distance, and Washington
I was speaking with two ladies, one of whose names was Miss Day. She was very sprightly; said that her father had been taken the day before — both her father, Dr. Day
, and a Mr. Day
They were charged, she said, with fighting against them on a certain occasion on the Potomac
mean while proceeded to have his wounded placed aboard the ambulances and wagons.
Our men cheerfully assisted in bearing them out of the house and putting them in the conveyances.
These ladies with their mothers had come up from their comfortable homes, bringing with them beds and bed clothes.
They also prepared soups and such like delicacies suited to the conditions of the wounded.
As they were being placed on the ambulances, one of the ladies remarked that that was her patient.
I told her I prophesied for him a speedy recovery, having been nursed under such favorable auspices.
These things over, I, in company with several of our company, took our rifles and went to the battle ground.
Spectacles of horror met our eyes there.
The detail of men, who had been sent for the purpose, had collected our dead along side the road.
I was horror-struck by the ghastly appearance of the dead, as they lay all besmeared with their own blood, which in the agents of death they had gotten all over their faces, having as soon as shot clapped their hands to the part affected and drawn across their faces; shots of a more deadly character, I never saw. The bullets and grape took effect in the most vital parts, indicating with what unvarying precision and accuracy the enemy shot.
Corporal B--,who was one of the number who accompanied me to the field, put himself to some trouble to ascertain the number of the dead, which he says was thirty-four.
Passing on farther down, we saw a calison which had been set on fire by a bomb from the enemy, causing immediate explosion, which I am told, caused the instant death of two men of the Sumter. Artillery, of Georgia
The head of one of them was entirely severed from the body, that of the other cut off just above the nose.
I never saw such a sight before.
Our killed was thirty-four and as many wounded.
The enemy are supposed to have sustained but a small loss--three killed and thirty or forty wounded. The Federal victory is owing of course to the superiority of their position; we could not get our battery in position for action, at least but one or two pieces.
Some sixteen of our artillery horses were killed.
The enemy had seven large pieces, which played upon our men and artillery from three different points, all playing upon one focus.
Having put all our dead in wagons, we set out about four o'clock for Centreville
, distant, the way we went, not less than twenty miles. In twenty-four hours we traveled over more than forty miles, with not half enough to eat. The suffering from cold, too, was intense.
Our men were in high glee when they started, at the prospect of an engagement with the enemy — in fact the whole of the time we were up there, we were in momentary expectation of an attack, but the cowards would not show themselves.
It is proper to state that there were but two regiments, our own and a Georgia regiment, where the day before, four regiments and a battery had received a defeat.
Albert, we did not engage the enemy, yet our following Gen. Stuart
, goes to demonstrate our willingness to hazard our lives.
It was reported that 15 regiments were sent in the direction Drainesville
, subsequent to our setting out for that place — I have since learned that such was not the case.
About night, on our way back, our Colonel
halted us, and put the vote to the regiment whether or not we were willing to go the entire distance to Centreville
, the reply was ‘ "yes!"’ with emphasis.
So on we went; poor fellows!
some of our men complained bitterly of sore feet, made so by traveling so much on this hard frozen ground.
Some one or two were so lucky as to get a ride on horseback.
Others were obliged to remain the over-night, and come in the following (Sunday) morning.
No order as to regularity of marching could be maintained, each getting along as best he could.
My Captain, myself, and several others were amongst the first to get to camp — how glad were we to get there.
We found hot coffee and warm fires.
So, drinking the coffee and toasting our feet, we retired for the night.--We got to camp about 11 P. M.
‘"R,"’ 18th Virginia Regiment.