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Doc. 71.-fight at Middle-Fork Bridge, Va., July 6, 1861.

A correspondent of the Cincinnati Commercial gives the following account of this skirmish:--

Buckhannon, Va., July 7.
A gallant band of fifty Buckeyes, Third Ohio Regiment, under Capt. O. A. Lawson, of [252] Columbus, made a good record yesterday afternoon, at Middle-Fork Bridge. Friday afternoon, without General McClellan's knowledge, General Schleich ordered Colonel Morrow to detach fifty men for a scouting expedition. Surgeon McMeans accompanied the party, five men being taken from each company of the regiment. The expedition proceeded by bridle paths across the hills to a point on Beverly pike, five miles this side of Middle-Fork Bridge, and encamped for the night. About midnight, Union men appealed to them for protection against marauding rebels, who had forced their women and children to flee to the woods for safety, and had pillaged their houses. Lawson scaled a rough mountain and crossed Middle-Fork in the morning, two and a half miles above the bridge. He followed the stream with great difficulty through unbroken thickets, until he reached a good ambush within musket range of the bridge, which was crowded with rebels. The enemy discovered his party, and an advance guard of five cautiously approached him from the bridge, all ready with their muskets. His men stood up and both parties fired simultaneously. Three of the rebels fled at the first round, and the other two dropped immediately afterwards. The enemy now opened upon his little band from three sides, from the bridge behind its embankments, and the thickets on the hill-side.

In order to get better opportunity, he moved his men into an open space, seventy-five yards from, and commanding, the eastern entrance of the bridge, and poured into the crowd of rebels a galling fire. The effect was awful imprecations and screams of “murder.” His men obeyed orders with absolute composure. A number had already been hit, and one was killed in the act of firing. After firing four rounds into the bridge, he ordered a retreat, and the lads backed slowly into the bushes, carrying their wounded. The enemy did not pursue, and his party recrossed the stream a mile and a half above the bridge. Capt. Lawson brought away the musket of the dead soldier, but was unable to carry off the body, the enemy's ambuscade from the hill-sides being too hot. He says his party was not much harassed by the rebels at the bridge, but the ambuscade was annoying.

Those in the bridge and behind the embankment would pop up their heads and blaze away without good aim, but those in the bushes were more deliberate. An Irishman in the party says it was “hot as hell.” Lawson says his men behaved splendidly; not a man flinched, and they obeyed orders just as promptly as if on dress parade. The men say the Captain himself animated them by his cheerful voice, which was heard above the din of the conflict. Dr. McMeans says the Captain was as calm and collected as if he were playing soldier.

The casualties were as follows: Samuel W. Johns, of Hamilton, Butler County, shot dead by a ball through the breast; Corporal Joseph High, of Columbus, shot in the right foot by a rebel from the hill-side. The ball struck on the top of his ankle, and passed downwards, shattering the small bones of the foot. The surgeons hope to save the foot, but it is doubtful. High was in the front of the battle, and fell exclaiming: “Captain, I'm hit, but I must have another shot;” raising and standing on one foot he loaded and fired twice more, when, being faint, two of his comrades assisted him into the bushes. Nicholas Black, a Brighton butcher boy, of Cincinnati, was struck in the forehead, over the right eye, by a buckshot, which lodged between the skull bones — a severe wound, but not dangerous. He fell, and rising again, he took two more shots at the enemy. Geo. W. Darling, of Newark, was shot in the left arm; the ball entered at the elbow, and traversed the muscles of the arm seven or eight inches, ploughing up a ghastly furrow; the bone was not broken. David Edson, of Barnesville, Belmont County, slightly wounded in the right arm. Joseph Backus, of Newark, slightly wounded in the left leg. William Dening, of Hamilton, Butler County, had the skin above his right ear cut by a ball; seven or eight of the men received scratches, and had their clothing riddled. Captain Lawson says Mr. Miller, of Worthington, was the coolest and pluckiest fellow in the fight. He was the last to quit the field, and left the bushes twice to get a fair shot; but Dr. McMeans said every man of the party displayed good pluck. The wounded were brought to the hospital in wagons this morning, and are comfortable. Capt. Lawson and his men are confident that some were killed on the bridge. Seven were killed outside of the bridge. All accounts agree that the rebels were about three hundred strong, mostly Georgians, including forty horsemen, armed with Sharpe's carbines.

General McClellan is much pleased with the gallantry of the men, but severely censures the expedition. Lawson gives valuable information about the topography of Middle-Fork.


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O. A. Lawson (7)
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