Cedar Creek After Action Report, Commander, 3d Division, 6th Corps (OR, 43, 225-231)
Report of Col. J. Warren Keifer, One hundred and tenth Ohio Infantry.
commanding Third Division, of operations October 19.
HDQRS. SECOND BRIG., THIRD DIV., SIXTH ARMY CORPS,
Camp before Petersburg, Va., December 15, 1864.
MAJOR: I have the honor to report, in compliance with orders, the movements and operations of the Third Division, Sixth Army Corps, at the battle of Cedar Creek, Va., on the 19th of October, 1864:
The Third Division, Sixth Army Corps, occupied a position in two lines on the left of the other two divisions of the corps, connecting on its left with the right of the Nineteenth Corps. The Nineteenth Corps was in the center of the army, the Eighth Corps, or Army of West Virginia, being upon the extreme left, the whole army facing Cedar Creek. The troops of the division were to the right of the turnpike about half a mile and not to exceed one mile and a half from Middletown. Marsh Run, which in places was difficult to cross, flowed through a ravine a very short distance in rear of the division and divided the main body of the troops of the Nineteenth from the Sixth Corps. The troops of the division consisted of two brigades, commanded previous to the 19th of October, 1864, First Brigade, by Col. William Emerson, One hundred and fifty-first New York Volunteers; Second Brigade, by myself, and the division by Brig. Gen. James B. Ricketts. The First Brigade was located upon the right and Second Brigade upon the left of the division. The aggregate strength present for duty in line was 151 officers and 3,818 enlisted men. On the morning of October 19, at early daybreak, some firing was heard upon the right of the army and soon after rapid firing was heard in the direction of the extreme left of the army. Being in command of the Second Brigade at that time, it was immediately placed under arms, tents struck, and wagons packed, and preparations made for meeting any emergency. Immediately after the troops were formed in front of their camp, Capt. A. J. Smith, acting assistant adjutart-general, Third Division, with others of the division staff, reported to me with orders from General Rickets to assume command of the division, General Ricketts having assumed command of the corps, General Wright being in command of the army. I at once turned over the command of the Second Brigade to Col. William H. Ball, One hundred and twenty-second Ohio, and assumed command of the division. The firing continued to grow more rapid upon the left of the army, and it soon became apparent that the enemy designed to bring on a general engagement. I received an order from General Ricketts to move the division to the the turnpike, and commenced the movement, but soon after received an order to reoccupy the late position and look out for the right, as the First and Second Divisions of the corps had been ordered from the right across the run to the turnpike and to the support of the left of the army. The firing continued to grow more rapid upon the left and extended to the rear, parallel with the turnpike and toward Middledown. The troops upon the left had fallen back from their position in disorder, and, with small bodies of cavalry, army wagons, pack animals, &c., had crossed Marsh Run and were rushing through the lines of troops; it was only by the greatest exertions of officers that the lines could be preserved. While moving the troops back to their late position orders were received to take the hills opposite the rear of the camps of the division. When this order was received the enemy had gained them and a portion of my command had opened fire upon him. Colonel Ball was ordered to take the position with his brigade. The rear line of the Second Brigade, faced by the rear rank, was ordered to charge the hills, and orders were given to the other troops of the division to follow in close support. The troops advanced in excellent order notwithstanding a heavy fire from the enemy, but just after the advance had crossed the stream the troops of the Nineteenth Corps broke in disorder and fell back along the stream and in such numbers as to impede the farther progress of the movement and temporarily throw the advance line into some confusion. Fearing the danger of getting my command into disorder, and at the same time ascertaining that the enemy had turned the left of the army and were already advancing and threatening the rear, the troops were withdrawn from the charge and a rapid fire opened upon the enemy; which stopped his farther progress in my front. So great were the number of broken troops of the other corps that for a time the lines had to be opened at intervals in order to allow them to pass to the rear. In consequence of the necessary movements of the morning the divisions of the Sixth Corps were separated and were obliged to fight independent of each other. The Third Division, having faced about, became the extreme right of the army. A number of guns belonging to the Sixth Corps were posted upon the hills on my left. These guns, under the command of Captains Backlight and Adams, and under the direction of Colonel Tompkins, chief of artillery of the Sixth Corps, were admirably handled and rapidly fired, although under a heavy and close musketry fire of the enemy. After over 100 artillery horses had been shot the enemy succeeded in capturing a portion of the guns, having approached under cover of the smoke and fog from the left, which was unprotected. A charge was ordered and the guns were retaken, three of which were drawn off by hand; others were left in consequence of being disabled, but were subsequently recaptured. The regiments principally engaged in this charge were the Tenth Vermont (of the First Brigade), commanded by Col. William W. Henry, and Sixth Maryland (of the Second Brigade), commanded by Capt. C.K. Prentiss. Great gallantry was displayed in this charge by officers and men. The rebels were fought hand to hand and driven from the guns. A position was taken upon the crest of a ridge facing the enemy, who by this time had thrown a force across Marsh Run, near its mouth, and were advancing along Cedar Creek upon my right. The right of the Third Division was extended to near Cedar Creek, and the left rested a short distance from Marsh Run. A heavy fire was kept up for a considerable period of time, and the enemy were twice driven back, with heavy loss. Orders were received from Major-General Wright in person to charge forward and drive the enemy, and the movement was commenced, and in consequence of the disorder into which the enemy had previously been thrown the movement bid fair to be a success; but, owing to the enemy's appearance in heavy force upon the left flank of the division, the charge was soon suspended and the troops withdrawn slowly to a new position. The battle raged with great fury, the line slowly retiring in the main in good order from one position to another. My line was at no time driven from any position, but was withdrawn from one position to another under orders, and each time after the enemy had been repulsed in all attacks from the front. About 10 a. m. the troops reached a road that ran parallel to my line and at right angles to the turnpike and a short distance to the rear and right of Middletown. The troops had been withdrawn not to exceed one mile and a half from the position occupied in the morning. At this hour the enemy suspended further attacks, but concentrated a heavy artillery fire upon the troops. In retiring almost all the wounded of the division were brought off, and but few prisoners were lost. From this position the division was moved, under orders, to the left and formed connection with the Second Division. Sixth Corps.
After General Ricketts was wounded Brig. Gen. G. W. Getty assumed command of the corps, from whom I received orders. The First Division, commanded by Brig. Gen. Frank Wheaton, was formed upon my right. Many of the troops thrown into disorder early in the engagement were reformed and brought into line; those of the Nineteenth Corps were formed upon the right of the briny. It was known about 10.30 a. m. that Major-General Sheridan had arrived upon the field and had assumed command of the army. Major-General Wright resumed command of the Sixth Army Corps. Unfortunately, Colonel Emerson, commanding the First Brigade, failed to keep connection with the Second Brigade of the division during a march to the rear, in consequence of which sorne delay took place in getting into proper position. As soon as a position was taken up a heavy line of' skirmishers was ordered forward from the Second Brigade to cover the front of the division. Colonel Ball, comrnanding Second Brigade, accordingly ordered forward the One hundred and tenth Ohio and One hundred and thirty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, under the command of Lieut. Col. Otho H. Binkley. They took up a position about 300 yards to the front, and along the outskirts of the woods. Desultory firing and skirmishing were kept up.
The enemy about 1 p. m. attempted another advance, and after a brisk fight with the skirmishers caused them to fall back to the main line. The attack was then immediately repulsed, and the skirmishers retook their former position. A small detachment of the Army of West Virginia, under the command of Col. R. B. Hayes, of the Twenty-third Ohio, was formed upon the left of the Third Division and connected with the right of the Second Division, Sixth Army Corps, the left of which rested upon the Valley turnpike, about one mile in rear of Middletown. The troops remained in position until 3.15 p. m., when a general advance was made, the order to do so having been received by note from Major-General Wright. Immediately after the advance commenced the troops of the Army of West Virginia were withdrawn from the line, leaving a short interval between the left of my line and that of General G. W. Getty, commanding Second Division. In accordance with instructions from Major-General Wright my line was ordered to dress to the left in the general advance and close up all intervals. Specific instructions were given by me to brigade commanders to dress their troops to the left in the advance, leave no intervals, and to be careful to avoid dressing them too rapidly and closely. The troops were in one line of battle and without reserves. When the advance commenced the division moved forward in splendid style and very rapidly It soon encountered the enemy in great strength and well posted. The enemy opened a deadly fire with artillery and musketry upon the troops, but for a. time they continued the advance, although suffering heavy losses. The order to avoid massing the troops in the advance was not complied with by the First Brigade, the troops of which, after coming under fire, dressed hastily, and in some confusion, o left end soon became massed behind and merged into troops of Second Brigade. In addition to the confusion that necessarily ensued the right was left unprotected. The greater portion of' the division, after returning the enemy's fire vigorously for a short time, temporarily gave way. To the failure to keep the troops properly dressed and to the fact that the Third Division moved forward too rapidly and in advance of the troops upon its right I mainly attribute the failure to succeed in this advance. The troops upon my left also temporarily gave way. The division lost very heavily in this attack. Not to exceed five minutes elapsed before the troops had been halted and were again charged forward. The enemy this time gave way and were forced back several hundred yards, when he again took up a position behind a stone fence upon the face of a hill sloping toward my troops. The division charged forward to a stone fence which was parallel to the enemy's position and about 200 yards distant therefrom. An open field lay between the opposing troops. A stone wall extended at right angles from the right of my line to the left of the enemy's. A sharp and fierce musketry fire was kept up between the contending forces for about three quarters of an hour. Orders were received from Major-General Wright in person to charge the enemy's position. Preparatory to giving the order for the division to charge I ordered Colonel Emerson to send a competent staff officer with volunteer soldiers along and under cover of the stone wall upon the right of the line, with orders to throw themselves upon the enemy's left and open an enfilading fire upon him. This order was immediately carried out and had the desired effect. Capt. H. W. Day, One hundred and sixth New York Volunteers, and brigade inspector of the First Brigade, was charged with the execution of the order. His gallant conduct on that occasion was highly meritorious, and for which he deserves promotion. Lieut. Col. M. M. Granger, One hundred and twenty-second Ohio Volunteers, volunteered to assist in this strategic movement. As soon as troops could reach the flank of the enemy the troops of the division poured a destructive fire upon the enemy and at once charged across the open ground, driving him in utter rout from his position. A considerable number of prisoners were taken in this charge, also small-arms and two battle-flags. Leander McClurg, One hundred and twenty-second Ohio, captured the battle-flag of what he supposed to have been the Forty-fourth (rebel) Virginia Regiment, which he was forced to give up to a staff officer, not since recognized by him. Corpl. Daniel P. Rleigle, [Awarded a Medal of Honor] Eighty-seventh Pennsylvania, captured a battle-flag from a color bearer of the enemy. The enemy retreated precipitately, throwing away guns, accouterments, &c., in their flight. He was closely pursued by the infantry to and across Cedar Creek. His columns were completely routed, disorganized, and demoralized. Troops of this division were the first to plant colors upon the works along Cedar Creek, which had been abandoned by the Eighth and Nineteenth Corps in the morning. The cavalry of the army was hurled upon the broken and flying troops of the enemy after he had crossed Cedar Creek. Night came on and the infantry gave up the pursuit. The abandoned and disabled guns and caissons of the corps were retaken upon the ground upon which they had been left in the morning.
The cavalry, in its playsuit of the enemy, captured many of the substantial fruits of the great victory which had been so richly earned by the hard fighting of the infantry soldiers. The loss in killed and wounded of the cavalry, compared to that in the infantry, was light, which of itself proves upon whom the burden of the battle rested and was borne.
At dark the troops, under orders, went into their respective camps, from which they had been called up in the morning. Many officers and soldiers spent the night in ministering to their wounded and dying comrades. Instances were not a few where the miscreant enemy had stripped the persons of our wounded of clothing, and left them without covering upon the ground. The bodies of the dead were generally robbed of all clothing and effects. It may be said, however, that many of the bodies of the enemy's dead had been robbed and stripped by their own troops. A rebel officer was killed, upon whose body was found clothing and other private effects of Capt. E. M. Ruhl, Eighty-seventh Pennsylvania, who was mortally wounded in the morning.
Considering the unfortunate circumstances under which the battle commenced in the morning, and its long and sanguinary character, too much praise cannot be given to officers and soldiers. Col. William H. I Ball, commanding Second Brigade, showed superior judgment, coolness, skill, and gallantry. Col. William W. Henry, Tenth Vermont, Lieut. Cols. M. M. Granger, One hundred and twenty-second, and Otho H. Binkley, One hundred and tenth Ohio, James W. Snyder, Ninth New York Heavy Artillery, and Majs. William D. Ferguson, One hundred and eighty-fourth New York, Charles Burgess, Ninth New York Hleavy Artillery, Charles M. Cornyn, One hundred and twenty-second Ohio, and Aaron Spangler, One hundred and tenth Ohio, together with many others, were particularly efficient in the discharge of their important duties.
It is impossible to mention names of the many who displayed acts of distinguished gallantry. The Ninth New York Heavy Artillery and a battalion of the One hundred and eighty-fourth New York Volunteers, commanded, respectively, by Maj. (now Lieut. Col.) James W. Snyder and Maj. W. D. Ferguson, for their noble behavior deserve to be specially mentioned. The former regiment had several hundred recruits and conscripts who had just entered the service. The battalion of the One hundred and eighty-fourth New York had never before been engaged
It is painful to mention the bad conduct of Lieut. Col. Charles G. Chandler, Tenth Vermont, Maj. G. W. Voorhes, One hundred and twenty-sixth Ohio, and Gilbert H. Bargar, One hundred and twenty-second Ohio Volunteers. These officers shamefully deserted their comrades in arms, and went to the rear without authority or good cause. Captain Bargar had just received a leave of absence. He abandoned his company while it was in actual combat with the enemy, and under his leave of absence attempted to shield himself from shame and disgrace.
Staff officers of brigades were very efficient in the performance of their duties. Lieuts. John A. Gump, acting assistant adjutant-general, J. T. Rorer (now Capt.), brigade inspector, R. W. Wiley, acting aide-de-camp, Second Brigade, and Capts.Charles H. Leonard, assistant adjutant-general, H. W. Day, brigade inspector, First Brigade, are among the most conspicuous. Lieutenant Gump was mortally wounded and has since died.
Capts. Edgar M.Buhl, Eighty-seventh Pennsylvania, L. D. Thompson, Tenth Vermont, and Orson Howard, Ninth New York Wavy Artillery; also Lieuts. W. B. Ross, Fourteenth New Jersey, Augustus Phillips, one hundred and eighty-fourth New York, Orrin B. Carpenter and John Oldswager, Ninth New York Heavy Artillery, and Thomas Kilburn, One hundred and twenty-second Ohio, were killed while valiantly discharging their duties. Capt. Wesley Devenney, One hundred and tenth Ohio, and others of the division, have since died of' their wounds.
Lieut. R. W. Wiley, acting aide-de-camp on Second Brigade staff, was the only officer captured in the division; he, mistaking the location of troops, rode into the enemy's lines.
Of the good conduct of the division staff I cannot speak in too high terms. Capt. Andrew J. Smith, acting assistant adjutant-general, throughout the whole action displayed great bravery, skill, and judgement. Capt. Osgood V. Tracy, division inspector, Capt. George B. Damon, judge-advocate of division, Capt. Anson S. Wood, chief of pioneers, each carried orders faithfully and gallantly in the thickest of the battle. Each member of the division staff was especially efficient and active in preserving lines, keeping up and urging on the troops. Capt. George J. Oakes, acting ordnance officer of the division, deserves much credit for his energy and efficiency in supplying the troops with ammunition.
Robert Barr, Sixty-seventh Pennsylvania, chief surgeon of division, W. A. Child, Tenth Vermont, and William M. Houston, One hundred and twenty-second Ohio, chief surgeons of brigades, with the other medical officers of the division, deserve high commendation for their great skill and energy in taking care of and ministering to the many wounded
Forty-three officers and 632 enlisted men were killed and wounded in the division.
A summary of casualties by brigades is hereto appended.
Copies of brigade and regimental reports are herewith transmitted.
I am, major, with high esteem, your most obedient and humble servant
J. WARREN KEIFER,
Colonel 110th Ohio Volunteers, Bvt. Brigadier-General, Comdq.
Maj. C. A. WHITTIER,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-general, Sixth Army Corps.
Summary of casualties by brigades in Third Division, Sixth Army Corps, at the battle of Cedar Creek, Va., on the l9th day of October, 1864.