Doc. 59.-surrender of Winchester, Va.
camp of Second division Twelfth army corps, Bolivar Heights, Va., Dec. 7, 1862.Another successful reconnoissance was made from this place on the morning of the second instant, (Tuesday.) Our force consisted of three thousand infantry from the three brigades of the division, twelve pieces of artillery, four pieces respectively from Knapp's, Hampton's, and McGilvery's batteries, and one company of the first battalion Indiana cavalry, with one day's cooked rations in haversack, and five days rations carried in wagon. The column was formed by Gen. Geary in person, and moved at half-past 6 A. M., out the Charleston and Winchester turnpike. About half-past 8 A. M. we reached Charleston, where we unexpectedly encountered a company of rebel cavalry. A brisk skirmish ensued, in which the rebs were routed and made good time on a run toward Winchester. We advanced cautiously on toward Berryville, which we reached toward evening, and found a regiment of rebel cavalry upon a hill, drawn up in line of battle. A few pieces of artillery were soon placed in position, and some shell sent among them, soon dispersing them on the road toward Winchester. General Geary immediately moved the forces forward, with the cavalry thrown out as skirmishers. When about two miles out from Berryville, the firing was again renewed between our skirmishers and the rebel cavalry. Just as our infantry reached the scene of action, the rebel cavalry were making a charge upon our skirmishers. A few pieces of artillery were soon brought forward, unlimbered, and a few canister-shot thrown among them; at the same time the Seventh Ohio infantry poured a volley of musketry into them, scattering them in all directions, killing four, wounding twenty, and disabling seven horses. None of our forces were injured. By this time it was dark, and we bivouacked for the night on the grounds of the scene of action. So ended our first day out. Here, also, information was received that the rebel General A. P. Hill, with fifteen thousand men, was at Winchester. This threw somewhat of a damper on our party, so we remained nearly all of the second day (Wednesday) at Berryville, manoeuvring around and moving forward only about three miles toward Opequon Creek, where we bivouacked for the second night. Some of the rebel cavalry again showing themselves here, our artillery was again opened upon them, and they skedaddled toward Winchester. At this point Gen. Geary held a council of war with his general officers, the General informing them that he preferred being whipped rather than turn back and not have definite information from the enemy. Next morning (Thursday) we moved cautiously forward until about ten o'clock A. M. when we came in sight of Winchester, with a line of rebel cavalry in view drawn up to dispute our entrance into the town. The column was halted, and a line of battle formed. The two forts built by Gen. White, while he held that place, frowned down upon us with an ugly look. It was soon ascertained that there were no guns mounted on the forts. At this point, Gen. Geary sent a flag of truce to Winchester, demanding an unconditional surrender of the place. The flag was borne by A. Ball, Surgeon Fifth Ohio, and Medical Director of Second division, and Captain Shannon, of Gen. Jackson's staff. The demand was as follows:
In a short time they returned with a reply from Major Myers's cavalry, as follows: Headquarters, ash hollow, December 4, 1862.sir: I am credibly informed by a large number of citizens, that your city has been recently evacuated by the military. Unwilling to shed blood, and destroy property unnecessarily, I demand an instant and unconditional surrender of the city, pledging you, however, that the persons of non-combatants, and private property, shall be duly respected. If you decline to accept these terms, I will immediately move upon the city, in full force. I have the honor to be, respectfully,
To the Hon. Mayor, or Chief Officer of the City of Winchester, Va.:John W. Geary, Brigadier-General Commanding.
This the General refused, sending back Doctor Ball to inform Major Myers that our column would move forward without delay into the town, and that the citizens would not be allowed to leave and would not be disturbed, unless our troops were fired upon by them; but the Major had made good his time and made himself scarce, and was nowhere to be found. The Doctor went on and demanded the surrender from the Mayor of the town, which was given, as follows:Winchester will be evacuated in an hour's time, by the military forces under my command, which time I would request for you to be pleased to observe, to give non-combatants, desirous of leaving the town, an opportunity to do so. I have the honor to be, General, your obedient servant,Samuel B. Myers, Major Seventh Virginia Cavalry.
Up to the return of the flag of truce, General Geary expected a battle. Upon the receipt of the Mayor's reply, the General advanced the column up to the forts and halted. The Doctor also ascertained that the small-pox was prevalent in the town, and to avoid this contagious disease, the troops were advanced no further. The General and staff alone going into the forts and town and taking formal possession. As the General and staff went into the fort, the army below gave three cheers for the General. Upon a hill beyond the town, the enemy's cavalry were looking on; they also threw up their hats and cheered, but the General soon put a stop to their sport, by sending a few well-directed shells among them, and they made themselves scarce. Dr. Bell, and Lieut. Davis, A. D.C. on General Geary's staff, paroled one hundred and twenty-five rebel sick, in the various hospitals in town. About three P. M. the General ordered a countermarch, and the column moved homeward down the Martinsburgh pike, halting at sunset about six miles from Winchester, and bivouacking for the night. At daylight next morning (Friday) the column resumed the march, passing through Bunker Hill at nine A. M., and reaching Smithfield at twelve M. At this point a severe snow-storm arose, and the wind blew cold and biting. The column pressed on and halted about three miles south of Charlestown, and bivouacked for the night. Notwithstanding the severe snow-storm and cold night, the boys rested very comfortably, and not seriously inconvenienced, and on the next morning (Saturday) were as joyous and light-hearted as though the winter blast had no power to blight their energies. The prospect of soon reaching camp brightened the faces of all. We marched through Charlestown with colors flying, trudging through the snow, while ever and anon a fierce blast of wind would sweep into our faces from over the plains on either side, reminding us that we had other foes to encounter beside the rebel soldiery. At last, twelve M, we arrived at Bolivar, the boys marching in proudly, each regiment to its own encampment, with as light hearts as though they had just started out, instead of just coming back from a five days expedition. We did not lose a single man, killed or wounded, but some five or six stragglers were captured. The results of the reconnoissance were such as to satisfy us positively that there are no considerable bodies of rebels in this vicinity, beyond the guerrillas and bushwhackers, who will linger here as long as the war exists. On this expedition, the want of the requisite number of cavalry, so essential to reconnoissances, was severely felt ; the command had to grope, as it were, almost entirely in the dark, as the number of cavalry with us did not exceed sixty men. Dr. Ball informs me, that while in town, and after it became known that the Mayor had surrendered the town to the Federals, the citizens became jubilant, the ladies waving American flags and pocket-handkerchiefs, and very anxious that our forces should come in and take possession, showing their satisfaction generally in their Mayor's doings. This shows quite a different state of feeling of the citizens to what it was last spring.