SHENANDOAH CAMPAIGN; PARTICULARS OF THE LATE BATTLE; CEDAR CREEK : A REMEMBRANCE; BALTIMORE, SATURDAY MORNING, OCTOBER 22, 1864

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The following special dispatch of the New York World gives a graphic account of the great battle fought on Wednesday last in the Shenandoah Valley:

[Special Dispatch to the New York World.]

Full Account of the Battle -- Our Forces at First Surprised -- Subsequent Victory -- Splendid Conduct of the Soldiers -- What has been Gained by the Victory.

Headquarters Army of the Shenandoah, October 19 -- via Washington, Oct. 20. -- Another sanguinary battle -- the fortunes of which were in the beginning, apparently adverse, but the results of which are quite as encouraging as those of any which has preceded it in the Valley -- has consumed the entire day, from dawn to nightfall. I can furnish you to-night with only a hasty narrative of the engagement.

On every morning of the present week but this the troops had been in readiness at daybreak for an attack by the enemy, which the information furnished by our scouts led us to expect. The precaution, which proved to be unnecessary before, was, for some reason omitted this morning, apprehensions of an attack having died away. The army was posted as follows, along the north bank of Cedar run:

The army of Western Virginia on the left of the Winchester and Strasburg pike, its extreme left resting on the Shenandoah; the Nineteenth Corps on the centre, on the right of the pike; the Sixth Corps on the right. In the absence of General Sheridan, who was just returning from Washington from a visit, and who slept in Winchester last night, General Wright commanded the army, General Ricketts being in command of the Sixth Corps.

A dense mist enveloping all the country around favored the enemy's designs. On the previous night General Early, who proved to be in command of the rebel forces, had massed three divisions of infantry -- Pegram's, Gordon's and Ramseur's -- at a concealed point threatening our extreme left. The two remaining divisions, Wharton's and Kershaw's, were moved from Fisher's Hill along the pike, threatening our centre.

Shortly before daylight this morning, while the army of the Shenandoah, dreamless of danger, was soundly sleeping, a feint picket assault was made on our right.

A rapid and continuous discharge of sentinel muskets extended from thence along our whole front toward the left, when suddenly, with scarcely a moment's warning, the rebel infantry, massed there the night before, advanced against General Crook's position in solid columns, pouring in a fierce fire on flank and front. Only a portion of our troops manned the breastworks when the assault commenced. It was so energetic and deadly as to break the lines at once. The men of both divisions were swept from their breastworks into which the enemy came flooding like a sea, swarming on, yelling, firing. Driving all before them, they entered the encampments in the rear of the works where soldiers, scarcely awakened, were actually rising from their blankets. To save the artillery at the breastworks became a desperate object when the assault was first discovered, but the nature of the ground rendered this next to impossible. Battery B, Sixth Pennsylvania, six guns was captured entire. By superhuman efforts all but one gun of the Fifth regular battery were saved, leaving seven guns in the hands of the enemy.

In the meanwhile the latter had still advanced, completely tearing the left flank of the army, and were nearing the pike on the heights above. The whole army was by this time aroused, wagons, ambulances and artillery were making for the rear.

The Nineteenth corps, which had stood firm during the assault on Crook, now found itself confronted by the Second division of the enemy, which had moved up the pike and attacked it fiercely in front and flank with musketry and artillery. Col. McCauley's brigade, of the Second division on the left, swung out of its position in the front to receive the flank fire of the foe. The assault increased in fierceness. The whole division reformed itself to meet the shock. The rebels advancing, mounted the breastworks in its front and with withering volleys forced it back in retreat.

The entire Nineteenth corps, abandoning all its works, now fought retreating and partially broken. The scenery of the field at this juncture was fairly appalling. The left of the army completely turned, half the Army of Western Virginia flying in dismay through the fog. Its camps, and the greater part of its camp material, in possession of the enemy, the remnant, together with part of the provisional division and Col. Kitching, which had been camped in the rear, fighting still for the possession of the pike.

The Nineteenth corps, fighting more or less stubbornly, falling back and constantly losing in stragglers, the entire country about Middletown and beyond, in rear, populated with a demoralized soldiery; the crack of rebel musketry, creeping farther up on the left towards Middletown; hurrying wagons, ambulances, caissons; the hiss and explosion of the enemy's shells from batteries planted in front of the Nineteenth corps; the appearances of defeat, impending disaster almost everywhere, might have shook the hope of fanaticism itself. Gen. Wright, with whom it was left to organize a plan which should change this dismal aspect of things, was not a whit discouraged. The moment that the Army of Western Virginia and the Nineteenth corps were found to be definitely falling back, went an order to a legion that never yet, on any field, had failed to achieve the possible. The Sixth corps on the right was ordered to change front, swing around, and stem the torrent. Scarcely a minute elapsed when its columns were seen moving majestically by the left flank straight into the heart of the conflict. Opening a moment for the passage of stragglers, its line closing up again before the assaults that still had not been stayed, but, like willow withes, as the tempest struck it, did not break.

For a moment, at least, the career of the rebels was brought to a pause. The artillery of the corps unlimbering close to the rear thundered its answer to their shells. This brilliant movement could not, however, check the movement of the foe on the left. -- Some of their cavalry had already penetrated Middletown, capturing a portion of General Crook's ambulance train, and it is reported, seriously wounding Colonel Thoburn of the Second division of that command. Their infantry had swung round, and were just possessing the pike above, when Merritt's, Powers's and Custer's divisions of cavalry were withdrawn from the right and sent to stem the disastrous advance. After the check of the enemy in the centre, the lines of the Sixth and Nineteenth Corps were reformed -- the Sixth on the left, the Nineteenth on the right of that.

It was found necessary to withdraw the whole line some distance in order to connect with the cavalry, who were just advancing to drive the enemy from the pike on the left, and hold the field at that point. This retrograde movement was not accomplished without loss. The enemy followed it up closely and vengefully. Their bullets rained in upon the artillery, killing off horses and men, and embarrassing the attempt of the artillerymen to move their guns to the rear. The guns were fought splendidly -- fought everywhere until the last moment, when it was found they could not be removed. Two of Capt. Stevens's guns were lost, two of Lamb's, one of McKnight's, and two of Adams's. -- Capt. Adams, with a corporal and man, stood by their piece when all other support had left, and until every horse was shot and the corporal and man were shot down beside him. He was then forced to retire. Colonel Tompkins, chief of artillery, while assisting to remove one of the guns of Cowan's battery, was slightly wounded by a musket ball. The infantry were also suffering heavily, particularly in officers.

When the lines reached a crest just to the right and rear of Middletown, where a second stand was made, and when two terrific charges of the enemy were repulsed, nearly every field officer in the first division of the Sixth Corps was wounded. General Ricketts, commanding the corps, had been so badly wounded that he was forced to leave the field. Gen. Bidwell, commanding the third brigade, second division, was mortally wounded by a shell, which tore his left shoulder to pieces, and shattered the left arm of Captain Orr, one of his aides. Col. Hamlin, commanding the first brigade (Upton's) first division, was wounded in two places, through the thigh and shoulder, but did not leave the field until after noon. Gen. Getty, commanding the second division, had a horse shot out from under him. Col. Penrose, commanding the Jersey brigade, was badly wounded in the right arm. Col Higginbotham, of the Sixty-fifth New York, had been killed. Col. Campbell, of the Fifteenth Jersey, wounded. Major Bowman, of the same regiment, killed. Gen. Wright, commanding the army, had been slightly wounded in the chin by a bullet. The Nineteenth Corps had also suffered severely.

The battle-line of the infantry was reformed on the crest alluded to, just after Gen. Torbert, with the cavalry, had swept on the left, pitching into the enemy in that direction off the pike, establishing his line in conjunction with it, and holding his own against some of the fiercest shelling that was ever showered on devoted soldiers. At this time, about 10 o'clock, A.M., although the appearance of things in the rear was still not that generally seen in the rear as the appearance of a victorious army, and although an appearance of retreat prevailed along some portions of the lines, in front, the army had for the first time during the day so far won a victory over its opening disasters as to have disposed a consistent and wieldy front towards its foe, holding its own in the main against further attack. The results of the contest were otherwise gloomy. We had been surprised and driven out of a splendid position; had lost multiplyingly in prisoners; had lost twenty-four pieces of artillery, thirty-four ambulances, including all the medical wagons and medical supplies of the nineteenth corps, and several headquarter wagons. We had yielded more than two miles of battlefield to the enemy; many of our finest officers were killed and disabled, and the killed and wounded were thick around.

A lull. The enemy relinquishing his attack, contented himself with a lively use of artillery. At this moment a faint cheer echoed along the line in the rear. Gen. Sheridan, who had ridden post haste from Winchester, was approaching. His appearance created wild enthusiasm. Beginning at the left of the line he rode along the whole front of the army, waving his hat amid uproarious cheers. Retreat was stopped in an instant from that time until three P.M. Every nerve strained to get the army into an offensive position, and at three o'clock the whole army, the Sixth corps in the centre, the Nineteenth corps on the right, Crook's command on the left, Merritt's cavalry division on the extreme left, Custer's division on the extreme right made a magnificent, resistless charge which swept the enemy off the face of the earth before it everywhere.

The enemy had actually begun to throw up breastworks, and was preparing to go into camp when this charge was made. He was driven back at the double quick through Middletown, across Cedar run, where he came from, and was thence pursued by our cavalry through and beyond Strasburg. Forty-three pieces of artillery, including some guns taken from us during the day, were captured at Strasburg; also over a hundred wagons and ambulances, and caissons innumerable. The rebel General Ramseur was captured in an ambulance, seriously, if not mortally, wounded. Probably 1,000 prisoners were picked up along the road. Two hours of daylight would have given us the rebel army almost entire. Any just estimate of our own losses or those of the enemy is at present impossible. The army is ordered to move against the enemy to-morrow. J. B. Stillson.

Over Fifty Pieces of Artillery Captured -- Our Lost Guns Recaptured -- Wagons and Ambulances Captured -- The Rebels Retreating

[official bulletin]

War Department, Washington, Oct. 21 -- 11.40 A.M. -- Major General Dix, New York: The following telegram received this morning contains further particulars of the battle of Cedar Creek:

"Cedar Creek, Va., 11:30 A.M., Oct. 20, 1864. -- Lieut. Gen. U. S. Grant: We have again been favored with a great victory -- a victory won from disaster by the gallantry of our officers and men.

"The attack on the enemy was made about 3 P.M. by a left half-wheel of the whole line, with a division of cavalry covering, turning each flank of the enemy, and the whole line advancing.

"The enemy after a stubborn resistance, broke and fled, and were pushed with vigor.

"The artillery captured will probably be over fifty pieces. This, of course, includes what were captured from our own troops in the early morning.

"At least sixteen hundred prisoners have been brought in, also wagons and ambulances in large numbers. This morning the cavalry made a dash at Fisher's Hill and carried it, the enemy having fled during the night, leaving only a small rear guard.

"I have to regret the loss of many valuable officers killed and wounded -- among them Col. Jos. Thoburn, commanding a division of Gen. Crook's command, killed; Col. Howard Ritchen, commanding a brigade, wounded; Col. R. G. Kenzie, commanding a brigade, wounded severely, but would not leave the field. I cannot yet give exact details. Many of our men captured in the morning have made their escape and are coming in.

"General Ramseur, commanding a division of Early's army, died this morning.

"P. H. Sheridan,

"Major General Com'g"

The Sun's Report

This report about the Batle of Cedar Creek is reprinted from The Sun's edition of Oct. 22, 1864. The type has been reset to enhance readability.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
41°