Doc. 59.-the affair at Princeton, Va.
Report of Brigadier-General Humphrey Marshall
Brigadier-General Heth with his force to Dublin depot rendered it unnecessary for me to proceed in that direction. But I ventured to suggest to that officer that a lateral movement, by me, cutting the line of the enemy's communication at Princeton, might assist him materially in clearing the country of the column which was endeavoring to penetrate to the railroad. General Heth approving the idea, I moved my whole force at once, via Saltville, towards this place, arriving here on the twelfth inst. I took the responsibility of ordering to the field some skeleton companies, just recruited, and intended to form part of a new regiment, authorized by an order of the Secretary of War, of ninth April, issued to Major McMahon, formerly General Floyd's Aide-de-camp. This corps, composed of seven companies, so called, did not number more than four hundred men, and none of them were trained at all. Under my order, they elected a lieutenant-colonel, for the time, only to lead them on this expedition. I also took the responsibility of placing in their hands the old muskets turned in to General Dimmock by Colonel Trigg, which I found at Abingdon. I left Abingdon with a force composed of the 54th Virginia, six hundred men; the 29th Virginia, four hundred and twenty men (four companies, wholly recruits, three raised by me this spring, and one by Lieutenant March); the 5th Kentucky, five hundred men; Dunn's battalion of recruits, four hundred men; Bradley's Mounted Kentucky Rifles, about two hundred and seventy-five men — making an aggregate of two thousand one hundred and ninety-five men, to which, add Jeffree's battery of six pieces, manned by recruits almost entirely. General Heth desired a delay of a day or two to reorganize the companies in Floyd's brigade, which were under his command. Having despatched couriers to Colonel Wharton, directing him to meet me in Princeton, on the night of the sixteenth, by advancing from Rocky Gap; and, having informed General Heth (who was in position at the mouth of Wolf creek), that he should attack the enemy at the mouth of East river, on the morning of the seventeenth, I put my column in motion on the fifteenth, and reached Princeton on the night of the sixteenth. My advance was unexpected by Brigadier-General Cox, who had his headquarters and body-guard at Princeton at the time, with a force variously estimated at from five hundred to twelve hundred men — the former probably nearer the truth than the latter. The pickets of the enemy were encountered by my advance guard about four miles from Princeton, and a skirmish continued from that place, through the woodlands and brushwood, to a point something over one mile from the Court House. This skirmish was conducted by the Fifth Kentucky, from which I lost Captain Leonidas Elliott, who fell mortally wounded (since dead) at the head of his company, while bravely beating the enemy back. In this skirmish the enemy lost some sixteen or twenty, who were left on the field. We had only four wounded, including Captain Elliott. None killed. I directed Colonel Trigg to move on the right of the Fifth Kentucky, and take the enemy in flank, and so to press on to Princeton. Arriving at the hill (subsequently occupied by me), from which the land drops into the level vale, in which Princeton stands, a halt was ordered by Brigadier-General Williams, and a line of battle formed, with a view of bringing up the artillery to shell the town from that point. I thought it best to take the place by small arms, arid, though daylight was now nearly gone, I ordered the battalions forward — Trigg leading to the right, May next, Moore's and Bradley's men next, so as to move on the place through the meadows and by the road we had traveled. In half an hour a sharp, hot fire on the right, announced Colonel Trigg in contact with the enemy. Fire, from a regiment, is seldom more steady than this I refer to. Succeeded by a general shout, and then by absolute silence, which lasted at least an hour and a half before I received any message from the troops in front, really I did not know but that we had met a check, and that regimental commanders were arranging for a new assault. As everything had to be left to them, under such circumstances, I waited about half a mile from town, placing my  battery in position at once, to command the town and our road. I supported the battery with Dunn's battalion. After a while I was informed that the enemy had fled before us, leaving his tents, clothes, swords, officers' uniforms, and even the lights burning in his tents. It is probable had we not halted before nightfall, we might have captured many prisoners, possibly the General himself; for I was informed he did not leave town until twilight. But none of us could foresee, and so far as I know, every one acted for the best. The regiment went in with hearty good will and promptly. Major Bradley lost one of his men, Weeden, of Halladay's company. Trigg had some six men wounded, one of whom, private Carter, of Company I, was mortally wounded. So the town of Princeton fell into my hands about ten P. M., on the sixteenth of May; the line of the enemy's communications with Raleigh was cut, and the headquarters of the “Kanawa division” was abruptly stampeded. A mass of correspondence fell into my hands. Letters and orders, dated from the tenth down to the sixteenth of May--fully disclose the intentions of the enemy and his strength. I send you several of these for your perusal. I learned from the inhabitants of Princeton that on the morning of the fifteenth, the two regiments, about nine hundred men each, had passed through town toward East River, and that two regiments had been expected to arrive at eight P. M., from Raleigh, the very evening I came. I had a knowledge that one or more regiments had passed on to the mouth of East River by the road from Dunlap, without coming through Princeton. Combining the information I had from the letters captured with the news I received from the people in Princeton, I learned that I was in the neighborhood of at least four regiments, of which General Heth had no knowledge. My own position had suddenly become very critical. I had only heard from Colonel Wharton that he had not passed East River Mountain on the morning of the fifteenth. He had not arrived at Princeton on the night of the sixteenth, as I had directed and desired. I did not know the direction in which General Cox had retired, whether to East River or Raleigh; but whether in the one or the other direction, I had no assurance but that the morrow would find me struggling with my force, more than half of whom were undrilled recruits, against largely superior numbers of well-trained troops, of every arm. Casting about as well as I could at night, to catch an idea of the topography, I found that the ruins of Princeton occupy a knoll in the centre on some open level meadows, entirely surrounded by woodlands, with thick undergrowth, which fringe the open grounds, and that through the entire circuit about the town, the central position at the court house can be commanded by the Enfield rifle. Roads lead in through these woods in several directions. My men had marched nineteen miles during the day, had slept none, and were scattered among the houses and tents to discover what had been left of the enemy. I at once determined to withdraw from the ruins before dawn, and to take position within range of the town site so as to cover the road by which I entered. This I effected, the dawn finding me in the act of completing the operation. My force was marched from the town. After daylight I received a despatch from Colonel Wharton, dated the sixteenth, at the Cross-roads, eleven miles from Princeton, promising to come to town by nine A. M., on the seventeenth. Before he arrived the enemy had re-entered the town, a force I could not estimate, but which was provided with artillery, and displayed more than two full regiments. Colonel Wharton arrived in the neighborhood by the road leading in from the Cross-roads, a little after nine A. M. The enemy was at the time throwing forward his skirmishers, to dispute with mine the woods and points overhanging the road, which led in from the Cross-roads to Princeton, which road ran nearly parallel to the one by which I had advanced. I had written to Colonel Wharton to press on, and he would have the enemy in flank. The Colonel opened with his single piece of artillery, a little after nine, upon my right, and the batteries in town and at my position at once opened upon each other at long range. Colonel Wharton soon came to me to report his position and force. The force was about eight hundred men. My estimate is, I now had some two thousand eight hundred men, of whom one-half were raw recruits. A regiment of the enemy coming down from the direction of Crossroads to Princeton, about this time, appeared in the rear of Colonel Wharton's command, and were attacked by it furiously. The struggle lasted but a short time. The havoc in the enemy's ranks was terrible. Colonel Wharton reports to me two hundred and eleven as the dead and wounded of the enemy. I understand that more than eighty bodies were buried on the field. The enemy appeared with a flag of truce, asking to bury their dead, and to remove their wounded. I refused, but hearing, after about an hour, that some officer had allowed it, and that the enemy were engaged in burying, I directed Brigadier-General Williams to permit the ambulances of the enemy to pass along my right for the purpose of carrying away the wounded also. There was no further battle. I waited for news from Brigadier-General Heth, or to learn of his approach to Princeton, as the signal for a general engagement with the enemy. If Brigadier-General Heth had successfully attacked at the mouth of East River in the morning, as requested to do, he might be hourly expected to communicate his approach to Princeton by his couriers or his artillery. If he had not attacked, but was still at the mouth of Wolf Creek, it would be imprudent in me to assail the enemy, for the probability was strong that he would hazard the assault himself against any position, attempting to beat me, while he preserved his front against Heth. If General Heth could by means of my diversion,  get through the narrows of New River, our forces should join the night of the seventeenth, and then, combined, we could fight on the eighteenth the whole force of the enemy, and, if successful, could pursue his vanquished column to Raleigh, burn his stores, and press our advantage as far as we desired. This was my reasoning. I would not move upon the town in the evening of the seventeenth; first, because the result would then be problematical, and that problem would likely be favorably solved on the arrival of General Heth's command. A grand result would then be easily obtained. Had I attacked under the circumstances, and had I failed, nothing could have shielded me from condemnation as a rash officer, who perilled all and lost all, when a few more hours would have doubled his force. I confidently expected at nightfall on the seventeenth, that the enemy, in superior force, would attack me in the morning, or that a junction with General Heth would enable me to attack his whole force, which was apparently concentrated around Princeton. He was in plain view under my glass — his wagons deliberately parked, his regiments exercising, and all the appearances given which indicate the purpose to give battle. My forces were masked to him. He could have no idea of its amount. In this fact was my safety, until Heth could come up. It seems Brigadier-General Heth did advance to the mouth of the East River, and found the enemy had abandoned tents and camp-equipage, both there and at French's, where he had been fortifying. The General passed on until he came within four or five miles of Princeton, on the evening of the seventeenth, when, hearing in the country from somebody that I had been repulsed and was retreating, he fell back in the night to the mouth of East River. His courier arrived at my position (one mile from the courthouse) about nine A. M., on the eighteenth, conveying to me the information that General Heth's force was now so required in another direction as to forbid further pursuit of the enemy, with a request to return Colonel Wharton to a post in the district of New River, indicated by the General commanding said district. The enemy had, during the night, vacated Princeton, taking the Raleigh road, his rear passing Blue Stone River about sunrise. I ordered my battalion of mounted-rifles to follow him. I ascertained that on the night of the eighteenth he encamped about ten miles from Princeton, in a very strong position, having some seven regiments with him in retreat, in all from five to seven thousand men. On the nineteenth, I again sent forward on his line of retreat, and ascertained that he had passed the Flat Top Mountains, had burned some of his caissons and gun-carriages, and had abandoned some of his wagons the preceding night. He was now twenty-five miles from Princeton. Nothing was now left to me but to return to the district whose interests are under my charge. I left a company of mounted men at Princeton, with orders to remain until General Heth could relieve them, and with the rest of my command I returned to this point. I left seventy-one of the enemy wounded in Hospital at Princeton, too badly shot to be moved at all. His surgeons were left in attendance, and a chaplain was permitted to be with them. I return a list of twenty-nine prisoners. The men themselves have been marched to Abingdon, where three others from the same army have been confined, whose names you have already. My Quartermaster has made return of our captures, among which I may mention about thirty-five miles of telegraph wire, horses, mules, saddles, pack-saddles, medical instruments, medicines in panniers, tents, a few stores, eighteen head of cattle, a number of wagons, and some excellent muskets and rifles. These last have been taken in charge by my ordnance officers, and will be issued to my command, unless otherwise ordered. Reviewing the whole movement, I have only to regret that Brigadier-General Heth did not join me on the seventeenth, and did not communicate to me his whereabouts during the day or night. All was accomplished that I anticipated from the movement, except the capture of prisoners. The invasion has been signally repulsed, and the enemy has been demoralized and broken. The country he threatened so imminently has been relieved. It is a triumph of strategy merely, without loss on our part. My list of casualties will only exhibit two killed on the field, and two seriously wounded, who will die; and some ten or twelve wounded, but not dangerously. The enemy has lost largely; and indeed I should not be surprised if, in killed and wounded, his loss reaches four hundred. One of his regiments scattered in the woods, threw away guns and uniforms, and its members are daily picked up by the country people. Your obedient servant,
H. Marshall, Brigadier-General, commanding.
Articles Captured from the Enemy.
Princeton, Va., on the sixteenth and seventeenth instant, viz.: Twelve bell tents, two wall tents and flies, five horses, eighteen mules, thirty-five pack saddles, four wagons, a lot of incomplete harness. Respectfully,
List of Prisoners Captured.
May 16, 17, 18, 1862.Twenty-eighth Ohio, Colonel Moore.--Privates Charles Cross, Daniel Chantemp, Company G; John Yagel, H. A. Miller, Company H; Charles Hertwick, Company F; Christian Ludwig, Corporal John Keen, Company C.  Twelfth Ohio, Colonel White.--Private John Klein, Company E. Thirty-seventh Ohio, Colonel Seiber.--Privates Frederick Rock, M. Kohl, Company A; Thomas Kemper, Company C; Frank Krobs, Company K; Henry Bergeichen, Company F; Paul Kapff, Charles Groth, Corporal Jacob Rauft, Company H; Private Henry Rothenberg, Company K. Twenty-third Ohio, Colonel Scammon.--Privates Leonard Beck, W. B. Waterhouse, Company C. Thirty-fourth Ohio, Colonel Pratt.--Captain O. P. Evans, Company B; Privates George W. Thompson, Company K; David Coleman, Company C; Frank M, Curl, Anthony Eblehart, Company F; Michael Kelly, Jacob Fasnacht, Company I; M. A. Blakeman, Company D. Second Virginia Cavalry, Colonel Bowles.--Private Robert Murphy (Irishman), Company K.
camp near Jeffersonville, Va.The above is a list of prisoners, except one wounded man, in hospital, whose name I have not yet learned. They consist of seventeen Germans, one Irishman, and ten native Ohioans. Some of the Germans are not naturalized. Besides these, there are two citizens of Mercer county, not reported herein, taken up on charge of disloyalty.