Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Fighting Near Winchester


WINCHESTER, Va., March 25. – On Saturday at 2 o’clock p. m., the enemy showed themselves a mile and a half from Winchester.  The enemy consisted of 500 of Ashby’s cavalry and two guns.  They drove in our pickets and then skirmished with the Michigan cavalry and a portion of the Maryland 1st.

Gen. Shields brought up his artillery and fired several rounds of shot and shell, drove them back and took several prisoners.

Gen. Shields was wounded in the arm by the first fire of the enemy.

Jackson had been informed by the inhabitants that the town was destroyed by the union troops and he advanced to retake it.

Gen. Shields’ forces slept on their arms Saturday night.

On Sunday morning at sunrise, Jackson being reinforced, he attacked Gen. Shields near Kingston.

The enemy’s force consisted of 500 of Ashley’s cavalry, 5,000 infantry, nine pieces of artillery with a reserve of 18 pieces of artillery.

The fight was kept up till noon, when a charge made by the Ohio infantry, 1st Michigan and 1st Virginia Cavalry on their right, drove them back half a mile when the enemy got their guns in position again in a dense wood, flanked by infantry, they drove us back.  A short artillery engagement ensued.

At 10½ the enemy made a feint on our left, when Gen. Shields ordered Col. Tyler of the 7th Ohio, to turn their left flank, which was executed by our troops by with considerable loss, the enemy being protected by a stone bridge.

The 84th Pennsylvania and 13th Indiana charged their centre and the fight became general.  Col. Murry, of the 84 Pennsylvania was killed.

The enemy retired slowly, bringing their guns to bear at every opportunity.  Our men rushed forward with yells when a panic ensued among the enemy.  Our troops followed and drove them until dark, capturing three guns, three caissons, muskets, equipments, &c., innumerable.  Our troops bivouacked on the field.  Gen. William’s first brigade, Col. Donelly, of the 28th New York, commanding, reinforced Gen. Fields.

Gen. Banks, who was on his way to Washington on Sunday, returned and assumed command.

Gen. Shields’ Division pursued the enemy beyond Newton, shelling them the whole way.

Jackson’s men were perfectly demoralized beyond control.  They threw overboard the dead and wounded to lighten the wagons.

It is noticeable that nearly all the Confederate wounded were shot in the head and breasts, testifying to the superiority of our marksmen.

The loss on our side were chiefly Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana troops.

Those who conveyed the false intelligence to Gen. Jackson, causing this disaster to the rebels have a heavy weight of guilt to shoulder.  It was evidently known to many in the town that Jackson was approaching from the holiday attire and buoyancy of spirits among men and women here.  Gen. Shields’ command being screened from observation on the east side of the town led the informants to believe that all our troops were evacuating and that Jackson could enter unmolested.  Good Judges say the enemy’s loss is over 200 killed 500 wounded and 300 prisoners including an aid to Jackson.  Our loss is about 65 killed and 125 wounded.

On Sunday morning the rebels received reinforcements under Gen. Garnett, amounting to 500 men.  The Union forces did not exceed 1000 men, and with the exception of about 500 were of Gen. Shields’ division exclusively, commanded by acting Brig. Gen. Sullivan, opening a heavy fire of artillery, while the real attack was directed against our right, with the object of flanking it.  Gen. Kimble commanded on the right, where the heaviest fighting was done. – The enemy were strongly posted in woods and behind a stone wall, and the rebel artillery was posted on eminences on both sides of the left wing.  Our whole artillery force was engaged consisting of 24 parrot guns in all.  The combat raged furiously till 3 o’clock p. m., the fighting being done chiefly by the artillery and musketry at a range of not more than 300 or 400 yards, and often much less.

The rebel infantry opposite our right emerged from the woods and attempted to capture David’s Battery by a charge.  The first effort was nearly successful, but the heavy discharges of grape compelled to retire in confusion.  A second and third attempt likewise failed, and the enemy fell back with heavy loss behind the stone parapet.  Gen. Tyler now ordered his brigade to charge the enemies batteries on the left and a most deadly encounter followed.  Twice our men recoiled under the storm, but in the third effort they routed the rebels with tremendous slaughter.

Our loss in these struggles was heavy.  Out of 300 men in the 84th Pennsylvania 26 were killed and 83 wounded.  Many officers were killed and wounded.

The Fifth and Eighth Ohio shared the glory and the loss with the Eighty-forth Pennsylvania.  The enemy’s killed and wounded strewed the ground in profusion and their left wing was utterly broken and their centre wavering.  On their side the Fourth and Fifth Virginia Regiments suffered most.  The former was totally demolished.  Several attempts to rally the right wing failed, and to add to the confusion the Irish Battalion of 150 men, were brought forward, ordered to fire upon our troops refused and a rebel regiment immediately drove this gallant little band forward, but could not compel them to fire upon us.  Forty corpses of the hundred and fifty afterwards strewed the field.  Meanwhile the rebels gave way on their left and center with a loss of 70 killed and wounded and 236 taken prisoners.  Besides these about 1500 muskets were taken and many other valuable trophies.  Our loss does not exceed 100 killed.

– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, March 29, 1862, p. 3

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