Cedar Creek Report, Commander, 2d Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Army of the Shenandoah (OR 43, 478-81)
Battle of Cedar Creek.—At daylight, on the morning of the 19th, the left of our infantry lines was attacked by the enemy. Immediately on hearing the firing I ordered the command to saddle up. I was soon after ordered by General Merritt to deploy my command toward the turnpike and drive up the infantry stragglers. On deploying my command as skirmishers toward the left I found large numbers of the infantry retiring by regiments, companies, squads, and stragglers. With some difficulty I checked the rout at this point (between the turnpike and the cavalry camp), it being necessary in several instances to fire on the crowds retiring, and to use the saber frequently. I now proceeded to the turnpike and found a brigade of the Second Division, which had just come in from the left. I immediately deployed the deft of my line in connection with them. At this time the enemy advanced through the town, and commenced to drive in the skirmishers of the brigade mentioned. A battery also opened upon us from tile rear of the town. As I was fearful that the enemy would turn our left at this point, gain possession of the turnpike, and make certain the disaster that was than imminent (viz, the loss of our trains, and perhaps the rout of the army), I requested the officer in command of this brigade to dismount his command and seize and hold the stone walls crossing the road at this point. He protested that his men had great objections to fighting dismounted, and declined to accede to my request. Fortunately, General Merritt had become aware of the state of affairs and ordered Colonel Lowell with the Reserve Brigade to my support. That gallant officer, at my request, at once dismounted a part of his command and seized the stone walls. I was soon after enabled to withdraw my command from the right and to re-enforce Colonel Lowell's line with the Sixth New York and part of the First New York, and the position was held until the general advance at 3 p. m., although the enemy made several determined efforts to drive us from it, and even gained our right and rear by the retiring of our infantry lines. Taylor's battery bad been placed in position on the right, but on ascertaining the situation on the turnpike I ordered it to that point and posted it immediately in rear of the stone walls referred to. The enemy immediately concentrated upon it a converging fire from several batteries, disabling cue 3-inch rifled gun and killing several men and a number of horses. I was obliged to retire the battery to another and more sheltered position on the left of the turnpike. In both positions, however, it was well served and most efficiently.. At 3 p. m. I WAS ordered to advance OD the right of the division and connecting with the left of our infantry lines, my right on the turnpike. On reaching the town (Middletown) it became necessary to dislodge the enemy, who occupied the gardens and inclosures. Twice the Sixth and First New York charged the town, and each time were compelled to retire under the terrible fire, as it was impossible from the nature of the ground to reach the enemy's infantry. The brigade was at the same time exposed to a hot fire on its right flank from the enemy's line on the opposite side of the turnpike, which line had not yet been dislodged by our infantry. On again advancing the brigade passed to the left of the town and advanced rapidly toward Cedar Creek. 1 was now ordered to charge down to the creek. On nearing the creek I ordered the leading regiment (Sixth New York) to break by platoons and charge the bridge. This bridge was about 150 feet in length. some 30 feet high, and so narrow that but two horses could pass abreast. The enemy's infantry were in line across the turnpikes The Sixth gallantly charged across the bridge, Lieutenant Blunt, of my staff, in advance. The enemy fired one volley, and as the Sixth dashed at them they broke for the woods on the left. Adjutant Mails, of the Sixth New York, was killed at this point, Sergeant Grimshaw shot through the groin, and several men wounded. l had sent (captain White, brigade inspector, to bring the other regiments across flee ford on the left, and had myself crossed with the Sixth New York. On the enemy's breaking l went to the left of the turnpike to form the other regiments as they came up. I ordered Colonel Gibbs to form two squadrons of his regiment and to look out for our right flank, and myself proceeded to the front. Up to this time I was not aware that any troops, except those of our own division, had crossed Cedar Creek. While the Sixth were charging up the road I had noticed a skirmish line (of certainly not over thirty men) advancing over the hill from the right, which I at first supposed to be a squad of rebel cavalry, and afterward thought must have been a part of my own men W}lo had diverged to the right. I afterward }earned that they were part of General Custer's force. While crossing to the right of the turnpike to ascertain if there was any movement on that flank I met a gun going to the rear, and some person, either a commissioned or non-commissioned officer, called out to me. " We have got the gun; a gun and a stand of colors for the First Vermont." I asked the men what they were doing there, and they answered that their regiment had crossed Upon the right. I proceeded down the road and soon met a non-commissioned officer of the Sixth New York with a gun. I at once ordered all of the First New York Dragoons to the front, except one squadron; I proceeded toward Strasburg and successively met men of the Sixth Jew York and First New York Dragoons with guns, caissons, &c. At this time Colonel Nichols, of the Ninth reported to me that he had met General Custer on the hill just above the bridge, and that the general had asked him to go into the woods to the left of the pike after some rebel infantry which he said were in there. Colonel Nichols had gone in there and captured eight prisoners and had then follow[ed] me. Captain White at this time sent me word that there were a number of guns beyond Strasburg, many of them overthrown beside the road, and that the enemy's trains were just in front. I at once ordered Colonel Nichols to hold a small reserve and go to the assistance of Colonel Gibbs and remove all the property possible. My headquarters were at this time in front of the brick house at this end of the town of Strasburg. My horse had been shot in the off fore leg while charging the bridge, and by this time had gone dead lame. I was quite anxious with regard to our right rear flank, which was open from the direction of the grade road that intersects the Middle road, and comes out on the hill overlooking Strasburg, in advance of which road my whole organized force was at this time. I remained at this point until between 10 and 11 p. m., at which time one of my staff reported that the Ninth New York had reached the stone bridge at the foot of Fisher's Hill and had cut off' the rear of the enemy's train besides capturing all the guns that were left on this side of Fisher's Hill, and that we had flow on the way back all the property we could escort but that there was a large amount that would have to be left. I had already sent two of my staff (Lieutenants Chamberlin and Blunt) across Cedar Creek in charge of guns, Be. The rest of my staff (Captains Mahnken and White) were beyond Strasburg sending property to the Tear, and I determined to go back to General Sheridan and endeavor to have a force sent over to hold the town. I ordered tile squadron in reserve to be deployed as a rear guard, when the last of the column should be ready to come in, and myself' proceeded to General Sheridan some time before midnight. The captured property—22 -pieces of artillery, 8 caissons, 29 army wagons, 30 ambulances, 117 horses, 143 mules, 2 stand of colors, a large number of small-arms, and in addition 352 prisoners—was safely brought across Cedar Creek, parked near the pike, and duly turned over on the morning of the 20th instant to Captain Bean, provost-marshal of' the First Cavalry Division.
I have been thus particular in detailing the operations of my command while in pursuit of the enemy on the night of the 19th instant, as some misunderstanding appears to have arisen as to what command charged the rear of the enemy and captured his guns, trains, &c. I have no hesitation in asserting that the Second Brigade of the First Cavalry Division was the only organized force that approached within one mile of Strasburg on the night of the 19th instant; that I was the only brigade commander, and was in any event the senior officer, present after General Custer had retired after the capture of the gun on the hill above the creek; that no troops except those of my own command went beyond Strasburg; that none other (except perhaps some stragglers) entered the town, and that I alone had made any disposition to protect the captured property. A gallant officer and some valuable men of the Sixth New York were killed and wounded while charging the enemy between the bridge and tile top of the hill, and an officer of the Ninth New York was knocked down and his horse killed while clotting off' the rear of the enemy's train at the stone bridge at the foot of Fisher's Hill. The Ninth New York alone captured three guns between the old mill beyond Strasburg and the stone bridge. On the hill this side of Strasburg, Lieutenant Blunt, of my staff, chased a 3-inch rifled gun into the woods and brought it off with its drivers.
My officers and men were repeatedly fired into after passing the railroad and one man of the First New York Dragoons killed. As I was returning I met a field officer, a major of the Fifth New York Cavalry; I saw also another officer, a staff lieutenant. These were the only officers I saw except those of my own command. I respectfully trust that nothing in this latter explanatory report will be construed as rejecting. on the gallant soldiers of the Third Division, who charged with my men. The glory acquired was Juiciest for all. and they are heartily welcome to their share
October 20, at daylight the Ninth New York, with part of the First New York Dragoons, were ordered to proceed to Strasburg, and, if' possible, gain Fisher's Hill, and ascertain whether the enemy remained in that vicinity. Soon after, the brigade was ordered to march with the division to that point. Colonel Gibbs, on reaching Fisher's Hill, found it occupied by two squadrons of the enemy holding the approach on the turnpike. He succeeded in ascending the bill on the left, charged and drove the enemy to near Tom's Brook The brigade advanced with the division on the turnpike to Woodstock, where the command was massed and the men and horses were fed, after fasting for thirty-six flours, during which they were almost constantly fighting, marching, or working. At 4 p. m. I was ordered to return to Tom's Brook and sweep the country east of the turnpike as far as the uountams. The Ninth New York was ordered to move up on the east side of the river; two squadrons of the First New York were deployed to move up the west bank, and with the remainder of the brigade I moved to the right of the ridge east of the turnpike. We succeeded in picking up some twenty-five infantry stragglers from the rebel army. The brigade encamped north of Tom's Brook. October 21, I was ordered to march to Strasburg; thence crossing Cedar Creek, the brigade moved into camp with the division on the left of the army.
Throughout the whole of these operations the officers and men of this command behaved with distinguished gallantry. During the early pert of the engagement at Cedar Creek, when all seemed lost, I did not see a single cavalry straggler, and the men stood up nobly under a most withering fire. When obliged to retire the movement was effected in perfect order, and new lines formed as if on parade.
I respectfully trust that it may not be considered out of place here to mention tile hearty and willing co-operation that was at all times extended to me by the brave and lamented Colonel Lowell, commanding the Reserve Brigade. In him the service has lost an estimable gentleman7 and a gallant soldier whose future was bright with promise.
List of casualties and returns of prisoners and property captured have already been forwarded to division headquarters.
THOS. C. DEVIN,
Capt. A. E. DANA,
Asst. Adjt. Gen., First Cavalry Division.