Report of General Benham.
Fayetteville C. H. Va., Nov. 16, 1861.I have the honor to report as follows in relation to the expedition from which I have this afternoon returned, by the order of General Schenck, from the pursuit of General Floyd, upon the road to Raleigh, by which he escaped by a most rapid and arduous march last night. Upon the night of the 11th inst., while at a kind of bivouac at Loup Creek mouth, where I had been with part of my command, by the directions of General Rosecrans, since the 5th and 6th insts., I received your orders to proceed as early as practicable with the force then at that point, about one thousand five hundred men, of the Tenth, Twelfth, and Thirteenth regiments, to occupy Cotton Hill, there having been previously stationed by his orders, under my directions, the Thirty-seventh regiment of seven hundred men at Loup Creek forks, about four miles up, and in detachments up to ten miles from the mouth of the Creek, also about three hundred and twenty of the Forty-fourth regiment, and four hundred and thirty of the Seventh about one mile upon the left fork. About the time of marching from Loup Creek, however, I had directed, as he had ordered me, about one thousand men from these last three regiments, to occupy Cassidy's Mills, about six miles up from the left fork toward this place, and the remainder, being part of the Thirty-seventh regiment, to endeavor to reach me at Cotton Hill by a march to the left of Cassidy's Mills by Nugent's. On the morning of the 12th, in accordance with the directions given, with the first-named force, and four mounted howitzers, and two rifled six-pounders, we moved up the left bank of the Kanawha, four miles from the mouth of Loup Creek to Gauley Falls; thence to the right, some five miles over Cotton Hill to Herschberger's by three P. M., where at Laurel Creek we met the advance pickets of the enemy in force, as it was ascertained afterwards, in a most strong position, prepared with abatis; and after skirmishing with them with the greater part of the Thirteenth regiment, until dark, we went into bivouac in the open air, on the escarped mountain road, with but few fires and but little water; myself and staff lying on the bare rocks with our horses held below us. Our loss in the skirmish was one man killed and four wounded, that of the enemy two, at least, killed and about seven wounded. The enemy were completely driven from the ground they occupied, but not much farther as a large reinforcement was seen coming to them; (I have since learned four regiments and one piece of artillery were sent.) And with only about one thousand six hundred and forty men, for Colonel Sieber's detachment had no fully joined, I did not think it would be safe to draw on a battle with the whole rebel force reported by yourself to me to be from four thousand to six thousand men, and as I hear afterward with nine to eleven guns, although as I reported to you that night, I felt I would hold my position in the mountain secu<*> against their force. During the night, at about two A. M. of the 13th, it was reported to me by a scout I have sent out to watch the rebel camp, that the wheels of heavy wagons, or artillery, we heard, rumbling in the direction of their camp but as this became no fainter it was uncert<*> whether they were retreating or receiving <*> inforcements. I immediately sent directions Colonel Smith, of the Thirteenth regiment, send out two other scouts to ascertain if <*> movement was a retreat, but most unfortunately, as Colonel Smith informed me in the moring, he did not understand it as a command but merely as a suggestion, and they were <*> sent out. On learning this at early light, I immediately sent forward a scout of ten men, s<*> ported by two companies of the Thirteen regiment; but the report from these men, <*> the retreat of the rebels, did not come till at four P. M., on which I immediately gave the <*>ders for marching to overtake them.. For this I felt the more prepared as I <*> ordered and expected down to join me, <*> force that were at Cassidy's Mills, having <*>thorized the aid, who was sent there, to or them direct to Fayette road, if the enemy w<*> proven to be retreating and it would be su<*> safe to do so. But this last order was <*> misunderstood, and although a portion of <*> command of mine had occupied Fayette fr<*>  eleven A. M., without finding they had the means to communicate with me, they were recalled and unfortunately made the circuit around to this place again. At length, by five P. M., we moved forward from the “Union School House” to the Dickerson's farm, which we reached before seven, finding there the evidences of a most hasty retreat, in the remains of large quantities of tents and camp equipage destroyed by fire. At a short distance beyond this farm the command was closed up, halted, and rested for about four hours, and the detachments of the Forty-fourth and Seventh joined me, making my moving strength about two thousand seven hundred men. With this force, at eleven P. M. I moved forward, arriving about four A. M. of the fourteenth at Hawkins' Farm, about five miles beyond Fayetteville, being delayed much by scouting the roads in advance. On the route farther evidences of the hasty retreat were shown in the tents, wagons, and large quantities of ammunition left behind. At seven o'clock we again moved forward with the belief, which proved to be the fact, that part at least of their train was encamped five miles from Hawkins. The advance was led by Col. Smith of the Thirteenth, to whose prudence and caution during that day we owe it, that not a single man of ours was killed or wounded, and scouting most cautiously, though of course slowly forward, we met the advance posts of the enemy after four miles' march at nine A. M., where a sharp contest with our advance continued for nearly half an hour, where besides several other losses the rebels had mortally wounded the colonel of Floyd's Cavalry--Col. St. George Croghan, (son of the late Inspector-General Croghan.) These outposts being driven in, we advanced carefully about one mile further, where the enemy were found posted in considerable force behind a ridge covering McCoy's Mills. A regiment of cavalry and different regiments of infantry are reported as distinctly seen. After an interchange of fire between these and our advance for twenty minutes, Capt. Schneider's rifle artillery was brought up with good effect, the officers reporting that they saw many fall at their fire. As, however, I soon discovered a ridge that made out from our rear to our right, that commanded at close musket range the left of the enemy, I sent my aid to direct Lieut.-Col. Creighton with the Seventh and half of the Thirty-seventh under Major Ankele to pass down this ridge to attack their left. This movement, I regret, was delayed fully half an hour by the resistance of Colonel Sieber to this order, he at first neglecting or refusing to send the number of men required, and demanding the right to command it, as reported by my aid. When at length this attack was made it was entirely successful; and with the first concentrated volleys of this command, of about seven hundred and fifty men, uniting with the fire of the Thirteenth regiment, the whole of the enemy retreated in confusion with the last of their wagon train. Their position was soon, though cautiously, taken possession of, when it was found thickly strewn with blankets, clothing, camp equipage, &c., as evidences of a precipitous flight. A short time for rest was now given, and we then moved forward with the usual scouting parties in advance, through an escarped road upon a steep mountain side, to a defile continuing for about four miles between two mountains up the Big Loup Creek. We found, about midway of the defile, a bridge of some size broken down, which delayed us nearly an hour to repair; yet still, as the guides informed us that there was a long and difficult hill for the passage of wagons about two miles in advance of the bridge, I decided to push forward in the hopes of overtaking it, although the men had been marching, nearly all the night previous as well as during the most of that day, in, for a greater part of the time, a drenching storm, and over roads in many places to a great extent in tenacious mud, and many of them, by the failure of expected trains, with less than half their rations. On reaching, at four P. M., the outlet of this defile at Keton's Farm, about fifteen miles from Fayetteville and twenty-one miles from our previous bivouac near Cotton Hill, we found the expected steep hill some two miles distant, and their wagons over it or not in sight. And therefore I concluded to bivouac the men there with such food as we best could obtain, and report the case, as I did so, to General Schenck at Fayetteville, who had assumed the direction by order of yourself, suggesting to him to join me with his force, (about one-half of mine,) that we might attack or drive the enemy in Raleigh the next day. The first despatch of General Schenck informed me that he had sent the Twenty-sixth regiment and some mounted men to reinforce me; a second, received at ten P. M., informed me that the Twenty-sixth regiment was ordered to return, while it directed me also to return as soon as practicable to this place. As the men were still, for more than nine-tenths of them, without any shelter, in a most drenching rain or succession of violent thunder showers, many without their blankets even, which had been thrown off in the ardor of the chase, and as they were still standing round their fires, unable to sleep in the rain upon the open ground, the greater part of the command, though most unwilling to give up the pursuit, felt that, if it was so ordered, it must be best for themselves, after their few hours' halt, (it could not be called rest,) to retrace their steps that very night, rather than remain standing in the cold and wet till morning, with only the prospect before them of their return. We accordingly commenced our return soon after one o'clock, and, reaching McCoy's about four, we rested till after six A. M. of the 15th, or to-day, when we moved onward, and, with a single rest about midway, the command  reached this place soon after noon, being still in excellent spirits — their main disappointment being in not having been permitted to continue the pursuit of the rebels. We are at this hour partly in houses, but a great number out in the open air in the village, where it is now snowing upon them in their rest, which, added to their really great exposure, will, I fear, half annihilate their effective strength. The main facts and circumstances of the expedition are, therefore, that after remaining about one week upon Loup Creek, awaiting the cooperation of another force, and with my command of about three thousand, divided in four portions, as ordered by General Rosecrans, I at length moved forward with one-half the force to meet the enemy in front to the furthest point of Cotton Hill. There in the night after our first engagement with his outposts on the afternoon of the 13th, the enemy made a most precipitous retreat, leaving portions of his baggage, wagon-loads of ammunition, tents, clothing, &c., on the route, besides the evidences of the destruction of a much greater portion; that from the unknown and difficult nature of the country, some twenty hours had elapsed before his retreat was assured, and without which we did not feel it safe to pursue him to his works at Dickerson's farm (since found to be of the strongest character for field-works) with my force then less than two thousand, and not one-half of the least of his supposed numbers. He was then most vigorously followed up by my command through rain and storm and mud, till overtaken at about eighteen miles from the camp he left, and the heavy force of his rear guard was there routed, and further camp equipage taken after another action, by which his train was still kept in advance of us; and the pursuit was still continued, until, from the difficult nature of the defile beyond, the breaking of bridges, &c., our exhausted forces needed to rest for the night, when we were recalled by the orders of General Schenck: and this was accomplished with the loss of one man killed and four wounded on our part in the fight at Laurel Creek, and none at the affair at McCoy's Mills, while it is certain that the loss of the enemy was three times that amount, including that of their chief colonel of cavalry, killed. Floyd was pursued for thirty miles from his batteries of Gauley Bridge, and driven, as was ascertained, to Raleigh, and on some eight miles further than our last bivouac. I can only add in conclusion that, had I not been ordered to return, and had the forces which were sent over the river been moved up to Keton's to support me, as I asked, by a courier that evening, that they should be, we could have moved forward to Raleigh to-day as I intended, and, as I am well satisfied, captured that place and depot, with their train, and certainly routed if not captured the whole of Floyd's force. I have now but to report the noble conduct of my men during this most toilsome march, where, through all their great exposure in the storm, upon the route, and in bivouac, without shelter against the rain or snow that fell in each of the last three nights, not a murmur was heard by me, but every duty was performed with the greatest cheerfulness and alacrity. And the principal officers of the command were worthy of the men they led. Of Colonel W. S. Smith, commanding the Thirteenth regiment, I have previously expressed my opinion, in my report of the battle of Carnifax Ferry; and all there stated was here more than confirmed. Colonel White, of the Twelfth regiment, who has recently been promoted, and made the most praiseworthy and successful efforts for the discipline of his regiment of fine men, did not behave less nobly than if he had been fully in most successful battle, by yielding, as he did, to the exigencies of the occasion, a desire, with much of equity in it, which was shared by himself and his men, to lead the advance of the march. Colonel Woods, (of the U. S. Army,) at this time acting in command of the Tenth regiment, led that regiment in advance, at a rapid and safe pace, at the latter part of the march on the 14th, with great good judgment and gallantry; and Captain Schneider, of the rifled artillery, a very gallant and deserving officer, was most prompt and successful in the management of his guns. Captain McMullen, though his howitzers were not brought into play in action, was prompt and ready at every point on the march, as he is ever at every call of duty; and Lieut.-Col. Creighton, of the 7th, executed the manoeuvre from our right flank, which decided the rout at McCoy's Mills, in most gallant style, the Forty-fourth, under its very efficient officer, Major Mitchell, not having the opportunity of participating in the action, as well as the Thirty-seventh regiment, from their position in the rear. My high acknowledgments are also due to each of my personal staff, for their efficiency and gallantry on the field, with which every duty was performed. To the brigade surgeon, Dr. Shumard, ever most watchful over both the surgeons and the men for their health and safety; and my aid, Captain Atkinson, of rare ability and efficiency; and to Captain Stanage, assistant adjutant-general, of whose excellent character I have had the pleasure to report at Carnifax; as also to Captain Mallory, my commissary, of whom my expectations in that action were fully borne out; and to Brigade-Quartermaster Captain D. S. Smith, one of the most efficient in his department in the service, although detained by my orders at the camp, the highest praise is due for his care and fore-thought, not only in forwarding constantly the amplest supplies of provisions, but in having the tents, which had been struck at our late position, repitched by the time of the return of  the men from their toilsome and wearied march, and amply provided with all the necessary comforts of the camp. I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. W. Benham, Brigadier-General U. S. V.
Cincinnati Gazette account.
Fayette C. H., Va., Nov. 15.As I telegraphed you, Floyd retreated the night of the skirmish at Cotton Hill, leaving a strong rear guard behind him. Next morning discovering from our scouts that he had vacated his position, we followed up to Union School House, still apprehensive that he might attack us, knowing that in point of numbers his force was superior to our own. A scouting party under Sergeant Lambert, who I mentioned in my last, got on his track, killed one of his scouts, and brought information that induced the General to order a forward movement. We left Union School House late in the afternoon, marched some four miles to Col. Dickerson's place, well known through this part of the country, the colonel being probably the most influential secessionist in this part of the country. Here we obtained some items, and captured a few secesh guns. After halting for a couple of hours we took up the line of march, and, tired as we were, toiled on until four o'clock in the morning, when we again halted to allow the men and horses to refresh themselves. Soon after daylight the order to march was given, and we pushed on over roads rendered almost impassable by the heavy rains, and cut to pieces by the recent passage of Floyd's artillery and wagon trains. Our skirmishers, under the command of the gallant Capt. Gardner, of the Thirteenth Ohio, were in advance of the column on both sides of the road, and proceeded cautiously. Just as they reached a bend in the road, one of the company (private Seig, of Company F) crawled over and espied two squadrons of cavalry under Col. Croghan, of Kentucky, and here commenced the battle of McCoy's Mills. A volley was instantly opened on the enemy, who were, as their wounded afterward acknowledged, taken completely by surprise. At the first fire several saddles were emptied, and Col. Croghan fell mortally wounded in the abdomen. The rebels, though surprised, showed fight and retired slowly, firing as they went; but our men having possession of the elevated ground on both sides, exposed them to a galling cross-fire, and forced them back. The main body then advanced, having, as before, strong parties of skirmishers. Col. Croghan was carried to the nearest house, and was cared for as well as the state of the case would admit of by Surgeon Chase, of the Thirteenth Ohio. He was a gallant man and an accomplished officer, and, though an enemy, the sight of his dying agonies “drew tears from the eyes of men unused to weep.” The colonel's father and Gen. Benham were old acquaintances, (in fact, I believe, classmates at West Point,) and the interview between them was, of course, unusually painful. We did all we could for the unfortunate man, but human aid was vain, and he expired the same afternoon. We brought down the body on our return, and Gen. Benham intends forwarding it to his friends at once. At twenty minutes past twelve our advance reached McCoy's Mills, and a sharp action at once ensued. The enemy's forces consisted of the cavalry engaged in the former skirmish, and at least one--I think two--regiments of infantry. They held their own against our skirmishers, and, having the advantage of ground, bid fair to give us considerable trouble and delay, for some time at least, in our pursuit of their main force. Gen. Benham at once ordered the Seventh, under Col. Creighton, and half of the Thirty-seventh German, to take possession of a ridge on the right of the road. The advance, consisting of the Thirteenth, Col. Smith--who did the work as well as man could do it-occupied the left, and Captain Schneider's battery being brought to the extreme front, we prepared to dislodge them. Col. Smith discovered a large body of cavalry in an exposed part of the hill, within fair range; and the gallant German, only too glad of a chance to let his barkers speak, took deliberate aim, and bang went the gun, whiz went the ball, and — away went the cavalry under cover. I rode by the side of the artillery and distinctly saw the shot strike among them. We now poured it in hot and heavy, and they scattered in all directions. All this time our troops on the right were firing whenever they had a fair chance, and constantly advancing. At or before this time a portion of the Thirteenth took up a position on their extreme left, threatening to get in their rear. The rebels, finding the climate becoming too warm for even their Southern constitutions, and the thermometer constantly rising, fled in disorder — dashing down through a cornfield, our men popping away at them in the most lively and pleasant manner. They did not seem to see the point of the joke: and, from what we saw afterward, it is my deliberate opinion that they are running yet — at least we never got within gunshot of them again. It is difficult to correctly estimate the loss of the enemy, as we were too much hurried to make search for them, but it could not have been less than fifteen killed and wounded--probably much more. We did not lose a man. This all sounds rather fishy, but they had no artillery, and all of our men within reach of their musketry were kept carefully under cover by their commanding officers — whose caution and skill cannot be too highly commended. From this point we had abundant evidence of the utter route and hasty flight of the enemy. They were badly scared, and though in the course of our march we passed positions which competent officers assured me were almost impregnable, they did not attempt to  take advantage of one of them. Floyd was blind drunk the night he came through Fayette C. H., and I think has been in a state of chronic intoxication for some time; he certainly is much better adapted for pilfering than fighting, having not the least stomach for any thing in the shape of danger. All along the road we found flour, clothing, knapsacks, canteens, tents, &c., &c., scattered at short intervals. Now commenced our hardships. We had been much delayed by the action; and knowing that the Virginia chivalry are perfect race horses, in running from an enemy, however dilatory they may be when advancing on one, we hurried our movements as much as possible, hoping, if nothing else, to capture the wagon train, which was in the rear; but we fought against insurmountable difficulties. From the General down there never was a more gallant body of men. They struggled on mile after mile, through the most wretched apology for roads that the imagination ever conceived of. Some, worn out by fatigue, dropped down by the way, (all were picked up afterward,) but those who could by any possibility keep their feet struggled on. Colonel Smith I noticed particularly wading through the mire nearly knee-deep, having dismounted to give his horse to a sick captain, as jolly as if he were on four horses. From information received from our guide, (who by the way is a rara avis in this country, a true-blue Virginia Unionist,) we thought we should overtake the wagon train at Three Mile Hill, seven miles from Raleigh. On reaching the Blake farm, one mile from the foot of the mountain, we sent forward mounted scouts, who returned with the disheartening news that the aforesaid vehiculary conveyances, like the “hieland laddie” of musical notoriety, were “o'er the hills and far awa‘.” What could we do? Our men were used up; we had neither tents, provisions, ambulances, nor heavy artillery, (having been obliged to leave Schneider's pieces some distance behind,) and were deep in an enemy's country with a chance of our retreat being cut off if we advanced further. General Benham wisely resolved to proceed no further that night. We bivouacked in the open fields, and if I had loved Western Virginia before with all the ardent affection of one of her own gallant bushwhackers, that night would have turned my love to bitter hate. I strongly advise all who read this, and who may be afflicted with a mania for this part of a soldier's life, to do it on paper, for, take my word for it, “it don't pay, sir, nor can't be made to pay.” That night at ten o'clock, the General received orders from General Sehenck--who had crossed the river at Gauley, but none of whose reinforcements had as yet reached us — to return. We took up our line of march at two o'clock A. M., and reached this place at about one P. M., where both brigades are now stationed. This ends the campaign in Western Virginia. Floyd is driven clear out of the country, and swears he will never return. I admire his taste, though I cannot say as much for his courage. And here, before closing, let me pay a well-merited tribute to the army which I had the honor to accompany. General Benham's plans were laid with skill, and carried out with his usual promptness and energy. If the reinforcements which were promised had reached him in season, and permission had been granted him to advance upon Raleigh, I have no doubt that he would have succeeded in getting possession of the wagon train, if not capturing the entire force. There appears to be a disposition on the part of some of the military authorities here to tie General Benham's hands; but, in spite of all his disadvantages, he has done the fighting. He was put in the rear to guard the point where the enemy was not expected to be, but when the fight came, he was in the advance; and, tired as his troops were, he maintained his position till ordered back. I have had occasion before to mention Colonel Smith, 13th Ohio, who led the advance. He performed his arduous duties untiringly; and to his skill, caution, and gallantry, the army owes much of its success. If all of our Brigadier-Generals were as well, or half as well qualified for the position, we would have fewer military blunders, and more successes to record. Colonel Smith is a West Pointer, and does credit to the institution at which he graduated, and the cause which he serves. I have neither space nor time to mention others; how can 1, when all deserve more praise than I can give them? It is a gallant army, this same fighting brigade of the Kanawha. God speed it, wherever it goes, and send it the good fortune it so richly merits. I subjoin a detailed list of the force now under General Benham's command, as possibly of interest to some of your readers:
|13th Ohio, Col. Smith||600|
|12th Ohio, Col. White||500|
|10th Ohio, Col. Wood, (acting Col.）||600|
|7th Ohio, Lieut.-Col. Creighton comm'ding||500|
|37th Ohio, Col. Siebur||700|
|44th Ohio, Major Mitchell commanding||500|
|McMullen's Battery, mountain howitzers.|
|Schneider's Battery, rifled cannon.|
|Small detachments of West's and Pfau's Cavalry.|
New York world account.
Floyd has fallen back before our forces, and with the same fleetness and secrecy that characterized his previous retreat across the Gauley. He has been driven back, but otherwise the affair is not very creditable to our arms, as we should have bagged his force. Floyd's army is composed of good runners; his artillery is of light field-pieces, easily transported, and he is numbered with no heavy baggage which would embarrass a quick march. Consequently he left nothing of importance behind,  and we have gained, by the events of the last few days, only a present foothold where his batteries were stationed. I have no desire to underrate the value of merely gaining a deserted camp in an enemy's territory, but the result does not appear to have been as decisive as it might have been, had wise and prudent counsel, combined with vigorous action, prevailed. The Great Kanawha and New rivers form less than a right angle in Fayette County, just at the junction of the Gauley. In this angle, and along the banks of both, Floyd had encamped his troops. On the opposite side, that is, the east side of New River, Gen. Rosecrans had his Headquarters. The supplies for our troops came from the Ohio River, along the north side of the Kanawha, by wagon route, crossing the Gauley. Previous to the time that Floyd was engaged in taking his position, Gen. Benham, who foresaw the movement, urged Gen. Rosecrans to change his position, alleging that by a timely and dextrous passage of the New River by a part of the forces at some distance below, they could surround, and capture, or cut to pieces Floyd's entire army; but that, if we kept our army in its present position, Floyd would soon be prepared to enforce a retiring of our lines from within range of his field-pieces on the opposite heights. Gen. Rosecrans deemed it a very ingenious but improbable theory. He had no apprehensions of an attack, situated as they then were. Consequently, no. steps were taken to provide for such a contingency, other than those usual to a military force when near the enemy. Gen. Benham, however, caused a road to be cut through from that place to a point on the next bend of the river, where he established camp McNeil, and stationed himself so as to be able to cross over in skiffs and attack Floyd's advance. Gen. Rosecrans, however, did not regard the plan with much favor, and declined to give Gen. Benham either orders for crossing, or skiffs, but mere permission to do so. Floyd, as Benham anticipated, finally did commence to shell Gen. Rosecrans' camp with his batteries, which were so distributed as to command both rivers from Loup Creek to a point below Gen. Benham's position. By this time, therefore, it was not only impossible to cross the New River, but no supplies could reach our camps through the fire that Floyd kept up along the wagon road, except in limited quantities, and in the night. Gen. Benham was therefore ordered to vacate his position and march up to Camp Huddleston, as far up the Kanawha as he was then down the New River. This was done, and here he was obliged to wait a week longer for orders to cross and attack the enemy. These orders were finally received, and Gen. Benham crossed the Kanawha and commenced the attack. Floyd found himself hard pressed, and was obliged to fall back gradually from all his positions, except Cotton Hill, near the junction of the three rivers. Here he became rapidly hemmed in, until the night of the 12th, when he took advantage of the darkness to escape, and with so much adroitness that it was not immediately known. He was, however, followed to Fayetteville and thirty miles beyond, where one regiment was overtaken. Our brigade opened the action upon them with great spirit, and the rebels again fled in the greatest confusion. Only one officer attempted to turn them to the conflict. He displayed great courage in endeavoring to rally his retreating men, and attracted the admiration of our entire troops. While our bullets fell thick around them as we advanced at quick-step, he was in the very rear of his regiment cheering his men, and vainly trying to turn them to face us. They fled, but he refused to follow them, and fell in his place before we reached the ground. He was not immediately killed, but his wounds were fatal. He represented himself to Gen. Benham as Col. Croghan, son of a United States navy officer of Pennsylvania, who, in our last war with England, distinguished himself in the defence of a western post against the combined attack of a large force of British and Indians. General Benham conversed with him, received his last wishes, and placed him in care of the brigade surgeon, but he died on the evening of the 14th. The following letter, addressed to General Floyd, shows that General Benham has done all in his power to regard the last wishes of the brave but fatally mistaken man:
Gen. Benham was within three miles of Floyd's army when the order came giving his command to Gen. Schenck, of Vienna renown, and the brigade was ordered back to a more retired position. His troops, who repose the greatest confidence in his prudence and energy, manifested great regret, but obeyed like soldiers. Gen. Benham resigned his command to Schenck, who immediately withdrew the brigade to a more retired position. Thus, for the present, we are again in statu quo. The soldiers here look upon Gen. Benham as the “coming man” of this war. He is a brusque, imperative, and rather overbearing man with his equals and superiors, but his rapidity of movement, fertility of resource, and consummate military capacity are recognized by the rank and file, with whom he is wonderfully popular.Headquarters First Provl. Brigade, U. S. Forces, Nov. 15, 1861, at Hawkins' Farm, Five miles S. E. of Fayetteville.sir: In the skirmish which occurred yesterday between the United States forces under my command and your brigade, I regret to be obliged to inform you that Colonel St. George Croghan, commanding your cavalry regiment, as he stated to me, was mortally wounded. He was shot through the right wrist and side of the upper portion of the abdomen, the ball passing entirely through the body, and lived from half-past 9 A. M., when he was wounded, till half-past 2 P. M. I saw him in passing, a few minutes after he was wounded, and he recognized me, conversing freely, but with pain, and, shaking my hand on leaving him, he requested me to state that he “died the death of a brave soldier,” --as he did, in every way worthy of his gallant and noble father. I left him in charge of my brigade and one other surgeon, with hospital attendants and a guard, and on my return this morning from my camp ground, the hospital steward handed me a small blank memorandum book, in which was a history made by his request, of which I enclose you a copy. He left his address, &c., with the chaplain of the Tenth (Col. Lyttle's) Ohio regiment, Rev. H. E. O. Higgins, and told me that his family were residing in Newburgh, New York. I will endeavor to communicate with them as early as possible, and send each  little memorial from him as I shall be able to collect them, for I yet cannot ascertain where most of his property has gone, as the people of the house where he died would not attend to it. I have sent his remains toward Fayetteville, where they will be interred, if we are not able to take them to Gauley; though I will, if possible, place the body there in a box with salt, to preserve it for his friends. It will be subject to the order of Gen. H. S. Rosecrans. And now, having for the third time the opportunity of extending courtesies somewhat of this character to your officers — as first, in returning the baggage, uniform, &c., of Colonel Porterfield, at Philippi, and afterward, of preserving the sword, effects, and body of General Garnett at Carrick's Ford — I trust your officers will appreciate the desire thus exhibited of mitigating in every way the horrors of this fratricidal strife, as I think you yourself will do me the justice to believe that I most earnestly wish it. I send this by a private citizen, as I thought you would prefer it to a flag of truce, and on account of the uncertainty of the means do not send forward any of the little memorials preserved. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brig.-Gen. J. B. Floyd, C. S. A.:H. W. Benham, Brigadier-General U. S. V.
A. “soldier's” account.A private in the Thirteenth regiment of Ohio Volunteers, Colonel Smith, gives the following account in the Cincinnati Commercial:
camp Huddleston, Thirteenth regiment O. V. I., Nov. 19, 1861.Editors Commercial: Knowing full well that the hearts of those at home are with those now fighting for the national welfare, and sacrificing their personal interests for the re-etablishment of our shattered Government upon its once firm footing, I take this opportunity of informing your patriotic readers of the last hazardous expedition in this part of Western Virginia. This brigade, consisting of the Thirteenth, Twelfth, and Tenth Ohio regiments, under Brigadier-General Benham, crossed the Kanawha at this point on the 6th of November, and remained five days at the mouth of Loup Creek, with but six tents per company, in accordance with orders, and one blanket per man. During our sojourn at this point, our force was joined by McMullen's battery, or, as it is more vulgarly termed, the “Ass battery,” and, together with the seventh, Thirty-seventh, and Forty-fourth regiments O. v. I., our entire command amounted to about three thousand men. Thus equipped and organized, we set out on the march toward Fayette, over a district of the country characterized by lofty mountains and romantic streams, on the 12th of November. Every man was full of life, and eager for the pursuit of old Floyd and his force, numbering three thousand men and thirteen pieces of artillery, as was ascertained from reliable sources. The Thirteenth regiment had the advance position, and was preceded by Company A of the Thirteenth and Company H of the Twelfth, as skirmishers. Nothing transpired to vary the monotony of our rapid march and bold pursuit, until upon our arrival at Cotton Hill, where our progress was suddenly impeded by the sharp volleys of a detachment of the enemy, probably forming the rear guard of the arch-traitor. Too much praise cannot here be bestowed upon our skirmishers for their brave action in the face of an overwhelming force in ambush. Our loss was but one killed and two wounded, although our daring fellows pressed forward, regardless of their own lives, and with a strong determination to outflank and annihilate their opponents, but the bugle sounded the “assembly,” and reluctantly our comrades returned to their regiments. Here we rested for the night in the woods, and every preparation was made for an attack on our part on the following day, but when daybreak occurred not a living being was in sight to oppose our advance. At this point, every indication was a proof of there having once been a large encampment of traitors, and from information gained our calculations as to their force were substantiated. November 13th was not marked by any change in our proposed plans. We moved forward through their strong intrenchments, having however, halted at Camp Dickerson for a few hours, where our fun was of the nature of robbing hen-roosts and pig-sties of a secessionist, and justice must be given to us for such theft, for our hunger was great, and especially so was the fact in regard to our Dutch brethren, who ran short of subsistence. The intrenchments were of a most formidable character, and so situated as would have enabled them to withstand the assault of a large force, and had they possessed our spirit, havoc in our ranks would have been produced, and our plans doubtless frustrated. Their only excuse, however, is their unmitigated cowardice and bad consciences. Company F was now detailed as our skirmishing party, and after a halt upon the field three miles beyond the breast-works to  rest our weary limbs for two hours under a single blanket, the command was “Forward!” and onward we trudged, awake because of the prospect in view, and not in accordance with other feelings, and at midnight Fayette was reached. Here quietness reigned supreme — not even a dog-howl greeted us, and, in short, this deserted village presented inhospitality in all its phases. This village was the proposed winter-quarters of Floyd and horde, but our unwelcome approach produced an alteration in their plans. Any one who has experienced a night march can appreciate our feelings, when moving in silence over an unknown road, in expectation of meeting the enemy at any moment. The dull, heavy, and monotonous tread of the men, and the sound of the horse hoof on the hard road made the most self-possessed of us reflect upon what may be our fate, with no unconscious anxiety. Silence, in its majesty, produces thoughtfulness, but especially when a battle stares one in the face. The excitement of the encounter absorbs every reflection, and awakens a desire to push ahead or become victorious at least. Such, I doubt not, were the considerations of many of my comrades, and such is the weakness of human nature. War is an unavoidable necessity under present circumstances, and none but a brute loves to take the life of his fellow-man. Excuse this diversion from my subject, which will be read with more interest than an expansion on individual meditations. After half an hour, we passed through the village with an involuntary desire to reduce it to ashes, and continued on the road to Rolla, and here we began to discover evidences of the increased activity of the rebels' retreat, Wagons, ammunition, tents, &c., were strewn along the route, and ere long a halt till day-break was ordered. General, colonel, and private lay down together in sleep, and all military distinctions were subservient to the all-controlling desire to rest. Here the Seventh, Thirty-seventh, and Forty-fourth rejoined our forces, having preceded us up Loup Creek. It was only necessary to issue the order and soon we resumed the pursuit, in the same order as upon the previous evening. A drizzling rain soon commenced, and a “heavy” road was our lot, but the life and animation were unabated. About nine o'clock A. M., Company F surprised a detachment of the rebel cavalry under Col. Croghan, (formerly of the United States army,) and, in addition to killing the colonel and some men, captured horses, &c. Our success was complete, and consternation among them was the effect. It would be injustice did I not mention the coolness and bravery of our skirmishing party, and their valuable services rendered. Colonel Smith has exhibited to his command his high military qualifications and excellent management in deploying his advance companies, and evinced his complete self-possession under the circumstances, which were calculated at the moment to convince us that a great engagement was about to take place, although the contrary was soon known. There is no commander in this valley who is esteemed more highly as a true soldier and gentleman, or one who is favored with more entire confidence of his command than the colonel of the Thirteenth regiment. His military education, experience in the army and elsewhere, in every respect make him worthy of a place among the highest if not most distinguished officers in our country, and the standing of the regiment, in comparison with others, as a well-disciplined and well-officered body of men, is the strongest proof of his capacity to lead and command. After reconnoitring the surrounding country and forming the regiment again in order, we moved forward, passing old encampments, &c., and admiring the many sights of the antiquated and novel-looking houses and churches; but upon our arrival at McCoy's Station a degree of activity was visible on all sides, which afforded us much pleasure, even in the midst of such a serious affair as a skirmish. When our advance parties were about to cross the bridge, they were visited with a few volleys of musketry, but after a few moments' delay Schneider's battery, under the supervision of Colonel Smith, was placed upon a high eminence, and while the Tenth regiment and part of the Thirteenth were secreted from view behind the brow of the hill, our cannon were brought into action and succeeded in making the rebels double-quick through a corn-field at a faster gait than is allowed by their companion VI et armis Hardee. The scene of this action is peculiarly adapted for carrying into effect their peculiar mode of warfare, being very mountainous, and covered with woods. The road defiles through a valley surrounded by the most abrupt sloping eminences, and winds around on the opposite side of the creek, one of the hills making sharp turns. We skirmished and scouted this section of the country perfectly, and to such a degree that the men and officers were worn out with fatigue, and gladly gave the advance position to the Tenth regiment, Capt. O'Dowd, with his company, acting as skirmishers. But after an advance still further of five miles, Gen. Benham thought proper to halt for the night, and, after making the necessary arrangements, as is customary on encamping, this body of troops sought sweet soothing sleep upon the hills and in the woods, lying on the ground, and getting drenched by the heavy rain falling. It was an awful night, and so trying upon our physical natures as will be ever remembered by those on this march. For prudent and just reasons, at three A. M. Nov. 15th, (following morning,) we commenced our retrograde march, wet, chilly, and with empty bellies. Upon our arrival again at Fayette, Capt. Mallory, with his accustomed pleasantry, procured houses for the major part of this command, and fed us upon plenty of good, substantial food of the ration kind. Here we were snowed upon, and never did men appreciate more highly a house and  warm fires. The former luxury they have not enjoyed during their service in the army. The Court House was filled, and so jovial were the men, that they really neglected the more prudent course of going to sleep until late at night. They joined in the merry song, and cracked jokes over their cup of warm coffee and hard bread, as we are accustomed to witness at home, surrounded with all its comforts. Here, the thought of the great privation they had endured was overwhelmed by the joys of the moment, and this meagre show of comfort was great in their estimation. In short, all of us were well fed, warm, and happy. At Fayette we found encamped General Schenck and brigade, who, together with our own force, made this village quite a city, and presented a very lively appearance. At eight o'clock A. M. the next day, we resumed our homeward march, under command of our gallant Lieutenant-Colonel Hawkins, Colonel Smith having gone ahead to make arrangements for recrossing the Kanawha. The rumor was current amongst us that we were on our way to Camp Dennison to winter, and although we justly deserve just treatment, on account of our labors for the last six months, no substantial confirmation of the fact has as yet reached us. An exceedingly rapid march was made. We crossed the Kanawha about half-past 4 P. M., and now are again going through the daily routine of camp duties, but looking forward to the gladsome tidings form Headquarters. The general character of the expedition was an adventurous pursuit of Floyd, meeting with great success, and worthy of all praise at the hands of those in power. The report is here, that the flight of Floyd is to be attributed to some cannon shots sent from Tompkins' farm, but our sharp skirmishing and the recently deserted encampments, together with the vast amount of clothing, tents, stores, etc., thrown out of the rebel wagons on the retreat, prove too conclusively that only an actual pursuit would have driven them from Gauley. Our officers in command acted with care and military discretion, and the men endured hardships. All that is now asked is credit for what was done. We are here to do our duty, but not, in the performance of it, to be slighted.soldier, Of the Thirteenth Regiment O. V. I.
A secession account.A correspondent of the Richmond Whig (Dec. 11) gives the following:
Richmond, December 10, 1861.Sir: General Floyd's retreat from Cotton Hill, having been referred to by his friends as a proof of his masterly skill as a tactician, I invite your attention to the following letter, addressed by a reliable party to the Lynchburg Virginian, giving in brief the salient incidents of that retreat. On this letter the editor of the Virginian observes: “It gives, we doubt not, an honest and truthful, as well as detailed account of the most disgraceful rout that our armies have suffered during the war. This unfortunate affair eclipses all the rising fame of General Floyd and ends the ill-fated campaign in Western Virginia in a blaze of glory for the Yankees.” Yet the Examiner designates General Floyd as the hero of thirty engagements. Well may General Floyd exclaim, “No more of that, Hal, an' thou lovest me.”
Lynchburg Virginian narrative.
camp Cantonment Verina, Nov. 29, 1861.Mr. Editor: Perhaps you have not had a correct detailed account of General Floyd's retreat from Cotton Hill, although you may have heard various accounts about it. I was at Meadow Bluff at the time of the retreat, but soon after left there, and joined the brigade here two days ago, and have carefully taken notes from accounts of the retreat furnished me by various officers. It is another dark shadow in the campaign of Western Virginia. It is an event that gives encouragement to and emboldens the enemy on all sides. I regret that it has to be related, but we must be honest, and give a correct account of failures as well as triumphs; though this is not the policy of the enemy, who never give a correct account of their defeats, but magnify them into victories. Our policy is truth, let the consequences be what they may. On the evening of November 11, the enemy made strong demonstrations, near Cotton Hill, of an attack on the next day, and General Floyd ordered the army to fall back three miles, to Dickerson's encampment, where the fortifications were. Next morning it was reported that the enemy were advancing to Fayetteville, to cut off our retreat, and surround our brigade. This news caused General Floyd to order a retreat, which took place about eight o'clock at night, when the brigade retreated back to Fayetteville, two and a half miles, and halted to guard the road which the enemy were expected to come in to attempt to cut off our retreat. Here the brigade remained until just daylight, without shelter, victuals or repose, when they were ordered to continue their retreat. This was on the morning of the 13th, when the report that the enemy was marching to Fayetteville to cut off our retreat proved to be false, as the scouts returned and reported no enemy near. The brigade continued its retreat ten miles on the 13th, and halted at Camp McCoy for the night. During the whole of the retreat, thus far, there was a great deal of excitement, fear, and especially loss of baggage, property, and provisions and on the night of the 11th, they burned about three hundred tents, several bales of new blankets and overcoats, and a number of mess chests, camp equipage of all kinds, and flour barrels were burst, contents scattered on the ground, and all kinds of provisions wasted and scattered, all to prevent the enemy from getting them. Wagoners were compelled to take the horses from the wagons,  mount them, and fly for safety, leaving about fifteen wagons in the hands of the enemy. On the morning of the 14th, the brigade took up their march from Camp McCoy, and had gone but two miles when it was reported that the enemy were near and rushing on the brigade. At this the cavalry under command of Col. Croghan were ordered back to scout the country and ascertain the enemy's distance. When they had gone back two miles they met the enemy's pickets advancing, when Colonel Croghan ordered his men all to dismount, though he did not, when the pickets of the enemy fired on him, and he fell mortally wounded. His men took him up and carried him some two hundred yards to a house, when they discovered that the enemy — who were formed into a V, to flank our cavalry, and the signal to close in was the fire of the pickets in the road who had killed the colonel — were closing in, and the colonel told them to fly and save themselves, for he was dying. At the moment those who were with the colonel discovered that their horses had been taken by the Yankee pickets, who had rushed upon them,they turned and fled, and the whole cavalry came within five minutes of being all cut off and captured. The cavalry then all swept on in abreast until they came up with the rear of our infantry, and proclaimed that the enemy were pursuing in double-quick time. Then appeared a scene in our army indescribable, and of terrific confusion. At the word, “the enemy are pursuing,” all broke off in a wild run, some so frightened that they threw away their knapsacks and all they had, but gun and knife to defend themselves with. It required great effort upon the part of the officers, who were somewhat cool, to prevent a perfect rout. The enemy seemed to have the advantage, and pursued faster than our men could retreat, and came upon them even with the cannon, and fired six shot upon the rear of the brigade. The road was so bad and muddy, that the brigade could not march more than eight miles a day. There had been so much rain and wagoning along the road that it was a perfect mire, about half a leg deep, and all had to wade right through it. After this day the brigade continued its retreat on toward Pack's Ferry, but with a great deal of toil and difficulty, and finally encamped here on the 24th of November. This encampment is near Peterstown, in the south edge of Monroe County, and it is expected that the brigade will winter near here.