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Doc. 258.-affair at Vienna, Va.

Report of Gen. Schenck.

I left camp with six hundred and sixty-eight rank and file and twenty-nine field and company officers, in pursuance of General McDowell's orders to go upon this expedition with the available force of one of my regiments. The regiment selected was the First Ohio Volunteers.

I left two companies, Company I and Company K, in the aggregate one hundred and thirty-five men, at the crossing of the road. I sent Lieutenant-Colonel Parrott with two companies of one hundred and seventeen men to Fall's Church and to patrol the roads in that direction.

I stationed two companies, Company D and Company F, one hundred and thirty men, to guard the railroad and the bridge between the crossing and Vienna. I then proceeded slowly to Vienna with four companies, Company E, Captain Paddock; Company C, Lieutenant Woodward, (afterwards joined by Captain Pease;) Company G, Captain Bailey, and Company H, Captain Hazlett. Total, two hundred and seventy-five men.

On turning the curve slowly, within one quarter of a mile of Vienna, we were fired upon by raking masked batteries of, I think, three guns, with shells, round shot and grape, killing and wounding the men on the platform and in the cars before the train could be stopped. When the train stopped the engine could not, on account of damage to some part of the running machinery, draw the train out of the fire. The engine being in the rear, we left the cars, and retired to the right and left of the train through the woods.

Finding that the enemy's batteries were sustained by what appeared about a regiment of infantry and by cavalry, which force we have since understood to have been some fifteen hundred South Carolinians, we fell back along the railroad, throwing out skirmishers on both flanks, and this was about 7 P. M. Thus we retired slowly, bearing off our wounded five miles to this point, which we reached at 10 o'clock.

The following is a list of the casualties: Captain Hazlett's Company H--two known to be killed, three wounded, five missing. Captain Bailey's Company G--three killed, two wounded, two missing. Capt. Paddock's Company E--one officer slightly wounded. Company C--Captain Pease and two men missing.

The engineer, when the men left the cars, instead of retiring slowly, as I ordered, detached his engine with one passenger car from the rest of the disabled train and abandoned us, running to Alexandria, and we have heard nothing from him since. Thus we were deprived of a rallying point, and of all means of conveying the wounded, who had to be carried on litters and in blankets. We wait here, holding the road for reinforcements. The enemy did not pursue.

I have ascertained that the enemy's force at Fairfax Court House, four miles from Vienna, is now about four thousand.

When all the enemy's batteries opened upon us, Major Hughey was at his station on the foremost car. Colonel McCook was with me in one of the passenger cars. Both these officers with others of the commissioned officers and many of the men, behaved most coolly under this galling fire, which we could not return, [406] and from batteries which we could not flank or turn from the nature of the ground.

The approach to Vienna is through a deep cut in the railway. In leaving the cars, and before they could rally, many of my men lost their haversacks or blankets, but brought off all the muskets, except it may be a few that were destroyed by the enemy's first fire or lost with the killed.

Robert C. Schenck, Brigadier-General.

The ambuscade at Vienna

A correspondent of the N. Y. Tribune, writing from the federal camp near Vienna, the day after the surprise, says: In the case of our surprise near Vienna, yesterday afternoon, there is another reason why a minute narrative should be received with interest. The general plan and intention of the rebels, for the present, seem to have been indicated here, and it will be our own fault if, understanding thus early their indisposition to meet >us in an open way — until they shall have united their forces in some desperate stronghold — and their fondness for lurking slaughter and precipitate retreat, we do not take thorough precautions against such fatal consequences in future as those which yesterday unhappily befell us

It is probably known that no important movement in advance was intended by the Ohio regiment. The railway from Alexandria to Vienna had just been restored, and the day before a number of troops had passed over the line, and returned, though not without molestation. The shot which wounded the Connecticut soldier should have served us as a warning that treachery flourished in all this region. It was evident that the road would not remain safe without a proper protection, and the duty upon which the First Ohio regiment started was that of stationing efficient guards at all the bridges and other dangerous positions. The Ohio camp was situated about three miles outside of Alexandria, in the direction of Vienna, which is some thirteen miles distant. The expedition — if an affair with so comparatively peaceful a purpose requires to be called so — was under the direction of Brigadier-General Schenck, who, I believe, arranged the details. The immediate command of the regiment was in the hands of Col. McCook. The troops were embarked, and on their way early in the afternoon. They proceeded leisurely, pausing at intervals, and detailing guards. By this process, the regiment naturally grew thinner at every mile, until, when at the outskirts of Vienna, only four companies were left. However wise or necessary this plan of dropping squads behind might be in an ordinary advance, it certainly was of doubtful expediency in this case. There were no villages or groups of houses along the route, among which the enemy's men could have established themselves in force, and the only point from which an attack could be seriously apprehended was Vienna itself. Had the entire regiment — and a larger body would have been better — been pushed rapidly down to Vienna, we should have been more fully prepared to encounter and act against an ambush; and, had all proved quiet, nothing would have been lost, since we had the advantage of railroad speed, by stationing the guards on the return, instead of the advance. It ia true that the entire course of the road is through a valley, and that the hills on either side, and the heavy thickets which screen them, appear to offer excellent situations for ambuscade; but the roads in the neighborhood are few, and those which exist are quite impracticable for the ready transportation of troops, not to speak of artillery. Decidedly the suspicious spot was Vienna and its vicinity. A certain disposition to tardy caution was frustrated by the careless. ness of the engine-driver. le had been directed to stop at the distance of a mile from the town, whence skirmishers were to be thrown out, and proper reconnoissances to be made. Instead of doing so, he shot ahead until within half a mile or less, so that this single chance of averting the impending danger was wasted. The train was rounding a gentle curve, and the men were laughing, quite unconscious of peril, when the first round of shot fell among them, tearing five of them to pieces, and wounding many others. The rebels' guns had been carefully planted in the curve, and were hidden until the worst part of their work was accomplished. The first discharge was the most. fatal. The four companies were disposed upon open platform cars, and were first of all exposed to the enemy's fire. The engine was at the rear of the train. It was fortunate that most of the men were sitting, for the shot flew high, and only those who stood erect were struck. Major Hughey was among the foremost, but was unharmed. Gen. Schenck and Col. McCook were in a covered car behind the troops. The Col. instantly sprang out, and gathered the best part of his men together. The enemy's field-pieces had been stationed to command the line of the railroad and nothing else. They were at the termination of the curve, to the left of the track, and elevated a few feet above the grade. With the exception of that company which was the most exposed, and which suffered the most, the men promptly assembled near Col. McCook, who proceeded to form them in line of battle, and to lead them into the protection of a little wood, or thicket, at the right of the track, apart from the range of the battery. Meanwhile shot and shell continued to assail the train, and those who lingered near it. The engine-driver, in a panic, detached his locomotive and a single car, and dashed off at full speed. The rebel artillerists then directed their range, so as to menace Col. McCook's three companies, upon which the Col. quietly marched them over to the left of the track, into another clump of trees, where he collected all his little force, and arrayed them boldly in line. The shot from the rebels now flew very wild, [407] cutting the trees overhead and around, and, in their hurry, they made the frequent blunder of discharging their shell without opening the fuze. But, notwithstanding this, Col. McCook's position was far from comfortable. He saw that he was prodigiously outnumbered, and that if the enemy could only keep their wits for a few minutes, he must inevitably-be captured, or venture a struggle at fearful odds. He had only about 180 men, while the rebel force exceeded 2,000. Their field-pieces alone, decently managed, would have destroyed the little Ohio band in a twinkling. But the Ohio men never flinched, and this was the reward of their bravery: The rebels observing such a mere handful bearing themselves undaunted before their superior host, were at first amazed, and then startled into the conviction that powerful reinforcements must be close at hand. How else, it seemed to them, could this sprinkling of troops hold their ground. It could be nothing but the confidence of overwhelming strength that sustained them. And this is not conjecture. The information since received from Vienna proves it to have been their real belief. Disheartened by this belief, they became irresolute, their fire slackened, they wavered, and, in a few minutes, broke up their lines and slowly retired. At the same time Col. McCook, having secured his wounded, also withdrew, his two thousand assailants making no attempt or motion to oppose his retreat.

Thus, by a manly defiance, our Ohio men preserved themselves. The first indication of weakness or trepidation would have undone them. But now they can proudly and truly say that they stood before ten times their number of opponents, and saw those opponents, all men of South Carolina, glide away from their sight, while they never for an instant swerved. Their own retreat was in perfect order, and they would have carried away their dead, as well as wounded, had any been visible at the moment of their departure. But the poor fellows were all lying out of sight upon the platform cars, and were for a short time overlooked. When they were missed, their bodies were sought, and brought in. In most of the cases, death must have been instantaneous. They were frightfully mangled. One man's arm was torn and wrenched away by a round shot, and hung to the socket by a half-severed muscle. The rush of blood through the ruptured arteries must have put him beyond all suffering at once. Another's head was shot almost from the neck, and with another, the missile passed straight through his chest, beneath the shoulder. Still another was literally cut into shreds, below the waist, and his musket was bent into a curve. It was evident that all had been killed by heavy shot, and that the shell and smaller projectiles had inflicted only serious wounds, at the worst. The bodies, folded in blankets, were all brought to the 1st Ohio regiment's camp this morning. They were tenderly taken in charge by their former comrades, and in the afternoon, among the shadows of the woodland, the last offices were fulfilled, and they were buried together in the soil which their sacrifice makes truly sacred.

The rebels deserted Vienna, but their brief opposition transformed our movement into a regular and important advance. Many regiments have since changed places. The 69th New York regiment moved on to Vienna. The two Ohio regiments are encamped upon the way. The Connecticut men are near at hand. Cavalry and artillery support the 69th, so that, if an attack is made upon them, (which is not immediately apprehended,) they will be able to show the rebels, in whatever force they come, that retreating is a game of which we do not seek to share the glory. The Ohio men are fixed in their new position. Last night they slept upon the grass, without shelter, in the rain. But no one thought of the exposure. They were looking forward, and you may feel sure that when these men and the men of South Carolina meet, the reckoning will be no light one.

A rebel account.

A gentleman who arrived in Richmond, direct from the scene of action, furnishes the following account of the Vienna fight:

On Sunday morning, Col. Gregg received orders to go out on a reconnoitring expedition. He took with him 600 South Carolinians, a company of Kemper's artillery, and two companies of cavalry, including 45 of Capt. Ball's Chester company and Capt. Terry's company, of Bedford. He started at 8 o'clock A. M. They remained Sunday night at a place called Dranesville. On Monday morning, Col. Gregg, with a detachment of cavalry, went forty-five miles down to the Potomac River to make observations. They remained in the vicinity about an hour, and distinctly saw tents and men on the Maryland side. They judged they were about 300 men encamped at that point.

Col. Gregg afterwards returned to Dranesville, formed his command into column and marched down the road to a place. called Vienna. Here they remained only long enough to tear up the track of the Alexandria, Loudon and Hampshire railroad, and destroy a water tank — probably about an hour — after which they started to return to Dranesville. The troops had proceeded about half a mile when the whistle of the locomotive was heard in the distance, whereupon Col. Gregg ordered a halt, wheeled his column, and marched rapidly back to Vienna. They had scarcely time to place two cannon in position, when a train of cars, consisting of six flats and a baggage car, came slowly around the curve, pushed by a locomotive. Each flat was crowded with armed men, whose bayonets glistened in the evening sun, and gave our men an impression that a severe contest was at hand. This, however, was not realized, as the result will show. [408]

Just as the train was about to stop, the artillery fired a well-directed shot from one of their guns, which raked the Hessians fore and aft. Consternation and dismay were distinctly visible, and, after another fire, the enemy were seen hastily leaving the cars and taking to the woods. The engineer of the train was smart enough to uncouple the locomotive and take the back track for Alexandria, leaving the entire train to be captured by our troops. Col. Gregg's infantry and the cavalry pursued the fugitives a short distance through the woods, but were unable to overtake them. A few of the party exhibited some bravery, and endeavored by shouts to rally their flying comrades, but it was impossible. They then turned and discharged their pieces at our men without effect. Six of the enemy were left dead upon the ground.

It is believed that this invading party consisted of regulars and Michigan volunteers. Col. Gregg has received information that a detachment of Federalists came to Vienna on Sunday evening, and brought timber to repair the bridge; and that they stated, while there, that they would come on Monday with men enough to whip and hang every d — d secessionist in the neighborhood. They made a slight mistake in their calculations.

About twelve rounds were fired by our artillery, but the enemy scattered after the second. Neither the infantry nor cavalry fired a shot.

Our troops burnt the cars and captured a considerable quantity of carpenters' tools, blankets, and other baggage, together with about twenty muskets and a number of pistols. Mr. Hancock brings with him as trophies a U. S. soldier's cap, a havelock thoroughly saturated with blood, and a bayonet.

The fire of our artillerists was most effective. One man was found with his hand shot completely off, another with his arm shot off at the shoulder, and other ghastly objects proved the destructive effect of the shots. It is thought by some that one of the balls broke the couplings of the locomotive; at all events, the engine was taken away from the scene of action with all possible speed.

After the engagement, Colonel Gregg retired with his command to Fairfax Court House.--Louisville Courier, June 29.

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A. D. McCook (7)
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George G. Bailey (2)
S. H. Woodward (1)
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