Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Lieutenant-Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes to Colonel Eliakim P. Scammon: Sunday, May 11, 1862

Camp At Adair's, Near Narrows Of New River,
May 11, 1862.

Sir: — Yesterday morning, 10th inst, at dawn, our mounted pickets three miles south of Parisburg [Pearisburg] gave notice that the enemy was approaching in order of battle. It was soon discovered that his force was from twenty-five hundred to three thousand, and that he had a battery of five pieces. In pursuance of your order and according to a plan previously arranged, the following disposition of my command was made. All our teams and all the teams we could press were loaded and started for the Narrows of New River. The cavalry under Captain Gilmore, numbering thirty-five, and detachments of two companies of the Second Virginia V. C. [Volunteer Cavalry] under Captains Emmons and Scott respectively were dispatched to the front with instructions to harrass and delay the enemy. Company H, Captain Drake, and Company B, Captain Sperry of the Twenty-third Regiment O. V. I. were assigned a similar duty. The remaining seven companies (Company C not having joined the regiment) of the Twenty-third Regiment were drawn up in line of battle on a ridge in the rear of the village and about a half a mile in rear of our skirmishers. My whole force did not exceed six hundred men.

The enemy on approaching the first line of skirmishers halted and opened upon it with their artillery. The enemy, soon after the firing commenced, sent detachments right and left to flank our skirmishers. The skirmishers slowly and in good order withdrew keeping up a constant and galling fire upon the advancing lines. The enemy continued to press forward slowly and occasionally halting until they reached the seven companies of the Twenty-third Regiment in line of battle. Our whole force was gradually pushed back, the enemy following with his whole force, halting frequently to place his guns in position. In this way the fight was kept up four or five hours when we reached the Narrows of New River five and a half miles north of Parisburg [Pearisburg]. Here we were able to take advantage of the narrow pass and brought the enemy to a stand. He made no serious effort to enter the Narrows in the face of the force I had posted at the extreme southern entrance of the Narrows at Wolf Creek Bridge.

After perhaps two hours' delay the enemy succeeded in getting two guns on the opposite bank of New River and at a distance of two hundred and fifty or three hundred yards began to throw shell into the detachment defending the pass. Our force drew back to a new position out of range. The enemy again advanced his guns, and thus gradually we were forced to the lower entrance of the Narrows. No part of the enemy's force succeeded in getting through the Narrows. About the time the enemy ceased to push forward, the cavalry under your command came up. The fighting lasted seven or eight hours during which time the detachment under my command retreated about seven miles.

Our loss was two killed and ten wounded and six missing. Of these the Twenty-third O. V. I. lost Private Hoyt C. Tenney, Company B, killed; and Privates Thomas Redmond, Company I, John Leisure, Company D, and Henry Ward, Company B, missing and probably taken prisoners. The wounded are all doing well. Sergeant-Major Eugene L. Reynolds was hit in the head by a fragment of shell while fighting in the front line of skirmishers and knocked down. He had a narrow escape, but was not seriously hurt. A severe wound was received by Sergeant O. H. Ferrell, Company H. The other wounds are all slight. The names of the injured in the Second Virginia Cavalry have not been sent in.

We brought off our prisoners taken when we entered Parisburg [Pearisburg] and carried away all our quartermaster stores and ammunition. We lost the provisions we had previously captured from the enemy (except what we had consumed), of which there was a large quantity. The enemy's loss in killed and wounded is not known.

The officers and men of Captain Gilmore's Cavalry behaved with the greatest gallantry during the entire day. The two companies of the Second Virginia Cavalry rendered important service when dismounted and acting as skirmishers on the right of our line in the morning. The Twenty-third Regiment, officers and men, were cool and steady and the whole retreat in the face, and for the most part under the fire, of an overwhelming superior force was conducted without the slightest confusion or haste on their part.

It is much to be regretted that reinforcements which I had so frequently and urgently requested could not be sent in time to save Parisburg [Pearisburg], as the loss of position and property is very serious.*

Lieutenant-colonel 23D'regiment O. V. I.,

Copy [of] report to Colonel Scammon of retreat from Giles C. H. May 10, submitted May 11.

* [This paragraph] erased before signing on request of Colonel Scammon — not because I did not deem it true, but because he wished it, and I did not want to embarrass him.

SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 263-5

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