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Doc. 42. the battle of Lewinsville, Va.


Report of Lieut.-Colonel Shaler.

Headquarters First United States Chasseurs, camp advance, September 11, 1861.
Colonel Stevens, Assistant Adjutant-General, commanding detachment for special service:
sir: I have the honor to report that in compliance with special orders from Headquarters, I reported myself at your quarters, with four companies of the First regiment United States Chasseurs, at a quarter of six o'clock this morning, and was placed by you in command of a reserve, composed of the Seventy-ninth regiment and four companies of the Chasseurs regiment. Shortly afterward this reserve was reported to General Smith, at his Headquarters, and assigned a position in the column to be moved toward Lewinsville. On arriving there we took up a position and threw out pickets under your direction.

At two o'clock P. M., on the recall being [123] sounded, our pickets retired and were formed in line. The battalion of Chasseurs and Seventy-ninth were countermarched by the right flank, on the ground they respectively occupied, which brought the Seventy-ninth in the rear. Line of battle was formed, faced to the front, and while in this position, waiting for the column then in the rear to move forward to the right, a deadly fire of shell from the enemy's guns was opened upon us, the first bursting in the road, near the right of the line. This surprise created, as a matter of course, consider-able excitement, but the cover furnished by the fence on the roadside and the coolly exercised authority of the company officers, effectually prevented the men from becoming seriously alarmed, notwithstanding a rapid fire was continued for half an hour before Griffin's battery could be got in position to bear on the enemy. By your command the detachment was moved forward until they took position on a prominence on the left of the road; and by your command the Seventy-ninth was detailed to protect them, while the battalion of Chasseurs was ordered to advance and protect a section of Griffin's battery, which had taken position a little in advance and on the right of the road. From this the battalion was ordered further down the road to protect another section, and again, by General Smith's command, moved on to the rear of a section stationed at Langley's tavern. The guns of the enemy having been silenced, we were directed to proceed homeward, which we did. We were joined at the Headquarters of General Smith by the Seventy-ninth, and returned to quarters at about half-past 5 P. M., without the loss of a single man. The conduct of the officers and men of the Seventy-ninth while under my command was in the highest degree praiseworthy. They gave undoubted evidence of their bravery and resoluteness.

Great credit is also due to the young and in-experienced officers and soldiers of the Chasseur battalion. Considering that this was the first fire to which they were ever exposed, their conduct was surprisingly cool and deliberate. I commend them, therefore, to your favorable notice in connection with the noble Highlanders.

With high regard, &c., I have the honor to subscribe myself your very obedient servant,

Alexander Shaler, Lieut.-Col. First regiment United States Chasseurs.


Adjutant Ireland's report.

Camp advance, Va., Sept. 11, 1861.
The Seventy-ninth regiment of Highlanders, New York State Militia, ordered on the special reconnaissance in the direction of Fall's Church, left camp at one o'clock A. M., Sept. 10, and proceeded to the place designated, through the various by-paths, without disturbing the enemy's pickets, and arrived there at daybreak. The command was divided into two wings to guard the approach of the enemy. Soon after the men had been posted firing was heard in the direction of Lewinsville, and a body of cavalry came from the direction of Fall's Church, and when endeavoring to pass where we were posted our men were ordered to fire, which they did, causing the enemy to retreat. Previous to their retreating, which was caused by a well-directed fire from the left wing, under command of Captain John Falconer, the enemy fired on us, killing one, private John Downie, of the eighth company. At the same time the right wing captured a prisoner, who was wounded, and who had on when captured a Major's shoulder straps. His name is Hobbs, of Colonel Stewart's Cavalry regiment.

Having successfully accomplished the mission we were ordered on — the prevention of the pickets at Lewinsville being reinforced — and the enemy having retreated, and the alarm being sounded in all the enemy's camps in the neigh-borhood, we left our position, and arrived in camp by way of Langley at half-past 10 o'clock A. M. The lowest estimate of the enemy's loss is four killed, two wounded, and one prisoner. Much of the success of the expedition is owing to the exertions of our guide, Mr. Sage.

Lieutenant Alexander Graham, of the eighth company, was conspicuous for his coolness and bravery during the engagement. Mr. Hazard Stevens, volunteer, distinguished himself in the expedition for his usefulness and his bravery during the engagement.

With these remarks I beg to submit the above report.

Yours, obediently,

David Ireland, Adjutant Seventy-ninth regiment.


Gen. McClellan's despatch.

from General Smith's Headquarters, September 11, 1861.
To Simon Cameron, Secretary of War:
General Smith made a reconnaissance with two thousand men to Lewinsville. He remained there several hours, and completed the examination of the ground.

When the work was completed and the command had started back, tile enemy opened fire with shell, killing two men and wounding three.

Griffin's battery silenced the enemy's battery. Our men then came back in perfect order and excellent spirits.

The men behaved most admirably under fire.

Geo. B. McClellan, Major-Gen., &c.


National account.

In accordance with orders from General Mc-Clellan, early on Wednesday morning General Smith, commanding the advance brigade on the south side of the Potomac near the Chain Bridge, directed a topographical reconnaissance in force to be made in the direction of Lewinsville. The reconnoitring party consisted of battalions from the Seventy-ninth New York Volunteers, Third Vermont Volunteers, the Nineteenth Indiana Volunteers, the First United States Chasseurs, four pieces of the West Point battery, Captain Griffin; one company of [124] United States Cavalry, Lieut. McLane commanding; and one company of Young's Cavalry — the whole under command of Colonel Isaac I. Stevens, acting Brigadier-General.

The scientific corps was in charge of Lieutenant Orlando M. Poe, United States Topographical Engineers, assisted by Lieutenant West, of the United States Coast survey, who were to conduct the reconnoissance. The reconnoitring party, thus organized, left Camp Advance about seven A. M., and proceeded without molestation to Lewinsville, a distance of four or five miles, reaching that point at half-past 10 A. M., just in time to get a sight of the heels of a secession cavalry picket, about fifty strong, which evacuated the village, and retreated in the direction of Fall's Church, without firing a shot upon the approach of our advance guard. After the arrival of our troops in Lewinsville, cavalry and infantry pickets were thrown out on all the diverging roads and prominent places for a distance of half a mile. Scouting parties were also sent out to observe the movements of the enemy. At about eleven o'clock A. M., a large body of secession cavalry were seen in the distance watching the movements of our troops. They did not come within cannon or musket range, and therefore their appearance did not interfere with the operation of the reconnoitring party. Lieutenant Poe, of the Engineers, with a corps of assistants, commenced his surveys, and proceeded over an area of four miles square, obtaining valuable topographical information. At half-past 2 o'clock the reconnoissance was completed, and orders given to recall the pickets, preparatory to returning to Camp advance. All the pickets responded to the recall except a picket of the Third Vermont and one from the Nineteenth Indiana regiments. Colonel Stevens sent a detachment out to learn the reason of their detention, and subsequently learned that they were watching the advance of a column of the enemy, consisting of seven hundred cavalry, two regiments of infantry, and four pieces of artillery, who were coming from the direction of Fall's Church. Little or no attention was paid to the enemy's advance, as the objects of the expedition had been accomplished, and our troops had proceeded but a few rods on their return home, when the enemy's battery, which by this time had attained a position within three-fourths of a mile of our troops, opened a rapid cannonade upon them with shot and shell. The firing was kept up for ten minutes, when a section of Capt. Griffin's battery, consisting of two ten-pounder rifled cannon, was immediately placed in position, and returned briskly the fire of the enemy. Simultaneously with the secession cannonade they opened a fire of musketry from behind trees and other places of concealment, while our troops were formed in line of battle, with orders not to fire unless the enemy came out of their hiding-places. They did not, however, come out into the field. The cannonading continued until the enemy's guns were silenced. General Smith, in the mean time, had arrived at the scene of the conflict. He left his camp immediately upon hearing the firing, having first given orders to send after him a large reinforcement of troops. On reaching the scene of action, however, he found that they would not he needed, and caused them to be halted on the way. The enemy's battery consisted of two rifle guns, throwing Hotchkiss shell, and two six-pounders, the rifled guns being heavier than those of Griffin's battery. A thirty-two-pounder was sent after the force, but did not get up with Colonel Stevens until after Griffin had silenced the enemy's guns. A single shell was afterward thrown from this gun into a body of secession cavalry, some seven or eight hundred in number, who made their appearance in the rear of our forces, as if disposed to dispute the way with them. The shell caused the cavalry to make a hasty retreat, scattering in all directions. Colonel Stevens, it is stated, had to restrain the ardor of his command, who were anxious to advance upon the hidden enemy after their artillery had been silenced. No force ever showed a better spirit for the fight. They returned to their camp in good order. General McClellan, on receiving intelligence that the enemy seemed disposed to dispute Colonel Stevens' return to our lines, mounted, and accompanied by his staff, hastened in the direction of the affair. He was enthusiastically cheered by the troops wherever he was seen by them, both going and returning. Our loss was one killed on the field, one died in a short time, five badly and five slightly wounded. The killed and the wounded were all brought away with the exception of one man, too badly wounded to be moved, and he was left at a farm-house to be cared for. The wounded in the hospital are Moses A. Parker and Newell R. Kingsbury, of Vermont; John Hamilton, of Indiana; James H. Van Ripper, James Elliot, and John Colgan, of New York. All are but slightly wounded except Elliot, who received a mortal wound in the side from a shell or a canister shot. The others are quite comfortable, and will soon recover.


Secession report. Colonel Stuart's official report.

Headquarters Munson's Hill, September 11, 1861.
General: I started about twelve o'clock with the Thirteenth Virginia Volunteers, commanded by Major Terrill, (three hundred and five men,) the First section of Rosser's battery, Washington Artillery, and a detachment of First cavalry, under Captain Patrick for Lewinsville, where, I learned from my cavalry pickets, the enemy were posted with some force. My intention was to surprise them, and I succeeded entirely, approaching Lewinsville by the enemy's left and rear, taking care to keep my small force an entire secret from their observation. I at the same time carefully provided against the disaster to myself which I was striving to inflict [125] upon the enemy, and felt sure that, if necessary, I could fall back successfully before any force the enemy might have; for the country was favorable to retreat and ambuscade.

At a point nicely screened by the woods from Lewinsville, and a few hundred yards from the place, I sent forward under Major Terrill a portion of his command, stealthily to reach the wood at a turn in the road, and reconnoitre beyond. This was admirably done, and the Major soon reported to me that the enemy had a piece of artillery in position in the road just at Lewinsville, commanding our road. I directed him immediately to post his riflemen so as to render it impossible for the cannoneers to serve the piece, and, if possible, to capture it. During subsequent operations the cannoneers tried in-effectually to serve the piece; and finally, after one was shot through the head, the piece was taken off. While this was going on a few shots from Rosser's section, at a cluster of the enemy a quarter of a mile off, put the entire force of the enemy in full retreat, exposing their entire column to flank fire from our pieces. Some wagons and a large body of cavalry first passed in hasty flight, the rifle piece and howitzer firing as they passed; then came a flying battery, eight pieces of artillery, (Griffin's,) which soon took position about six hundred yards to our front and right, and rained shot and shell upon us during the entire engagement, but with harmless effect, although striking very near. Then passed three regiments of infantry, at double quick, receiving, in succession, as they passed, Rosser's unerring salutation; his shells bursting directly over their heads, and creating the greatest havoc and confusion in their ranks. The last infantry regiment was followed by a column of cavalry, which at one time rode over the rear of the infantry in great confusion. The field, general, and staff officers were seen exerting every effort to restore order in their broken ranks, and my cavalry videts, observing their flight, reported that they finally rallied a mile and a half below, and took position up the road, where they supposed our columns would be pursuing them. Captain Rosser having no enemy left to contend with, at his own request was permitted to review the ground of the enemy's flight, and found the road ploughed up by his solid shot and strewn with fragments of shells; two men left dead on the road, one mortally wounded, and one, not hurt, taken prisoner. The prisoner said the havoc in their ranks was fearful, justifying what I saw myself of the confusion. Major Terrill's sharpshooters were by no means idle, firing whenever a straggling Yankee showed his head, and capturing a lieutenant, (captured by Major Terrill himself,) one sergeant, and one private, all belonging to the Nineteenth Indiana, (Colonel Meredith's.) The prisoners reported to me that General Mc-Clellan himself was present, and the enemy gave it out publicly that the occupancy of Lewinsville was to be permanent. Alas for human expectations! The officers and men behaved in a manner worthy of the General's highest commendation, and the firing done by the section under direction of Capt. Rosser and Lieut. Slocum (all the time under fire from the enemy's battery) certainly, for accuracy and effect, challenges comparison with any ever made. Valuable assistance was rendered me, as usual, by Chaplain Ball; and Messrs. Hairston and Burks, citizens, attached to my staff, were conspicuous in daring. Corporal Hagan and Bugler Weed are entitled to special mention for good conduct and valuable service.

Our loss was not a scratch to man or horse. We have no means of knowing the enemy's, except that it must have been heavy, from the effects of the shots. We found in all four dead and mortally wounded, and captured four. Of course, they carried off all they could. Your attention is specially called to the enclosed, which was delivered to me at Lewinsville, and to my endorsement. I send a sketch also. I returned here with my command, after reestablishing my line of pickets through Lewinsville. Please forward this report to General Johnston. Your obedient servant,

J. E. B. Stutart, Colonel Commanding.

General order--no. 16.

Headquarters advanced forces, army of the Potomac, Sept. 13, 1861.
The Commanding General is pleased to express his high appreciation of the conduct of the officers and soldiers under Colonel Stuart in the combat at Lewinsville, on the 11th inst. Such deeds are worthy the emulation of the best-trained soldiers. Three hundred and five infantry, under Major Terrill; a section of artillery, under Captain Rosser; and a detachment of First Cavalry, under Captain Patrick, met and routed at least three times their numbers of infantry, artillery, and cavalry, without loss. This handsome affair should remind our forces that numbers are of little avail compared with the importance of coolness, firmness, and careful attention to orders. If our men will do themselves justice, the enemy cannot stand before them.

By order of

Brig.-Gen. Longstreet. Peyton T. Manning, A. D. C. and A. A. Adj.-Gen.

General order--no. 19.

Headquarters army of the Potomac, Sept. 13, 1861.
The Commanding General has great satisfaction in making known the excellent conduct of Colonel J. E. B. Stuart and of the officers and men of his command in the affair of Lewinsville, on the 11th instant. On this occasion, Colonel Stuart, with Major Terrill's battalion, (Thirteenth Virginia Volunteers,) two field pieces of the Washington artillery, under Captain Rosser and Lieutenant Slocomb, and Captain Patrick's company of cavalry, (First Virginia,) attacked and drove from their position in confusion three regiments of infantry, eight [126] pieces of artillery, and a large body of cavalry, inflicting severe loss — incurring none. By command of


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