Cedar Creek Report, Commander, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Shenandoah (OR 43, 433-5)
HDQRS. CHIEF OF CAVALRY, MIDDLE MILITARY DIVISION,
October 19, before daylight, the enemy made a vigorous attack, having surprised and turned the left of the army. The cavalry was immediately put in the saddle and the First and Third Divisions (Brigadier Generals Merritt and Custer) put in position on the right of the infantry. The trains were then sent to the rear. The First Brigade, Second Division (colonel Moore commanding), being at Burton's Ford, on the Shenandoah, was by this move cut off from the main army and Colonel Moore, Second [eighth] Ohio, immediately passed around the enemy's right and came up on the left of our army at Middletown, on the Valley pike, having previously sent his trains to Winchester. This brigade immediately attacked the enemy and held them in check on the pike until they could be re-enforced. At daylight in the morning the enemy made his appearance in front of Brigadier-General Custer's pickets on the extreme right, but the gallant men of the Third Division prevented their farther advance. A great portion of the army, being badly broken was going to the rear by thousands. To check this stream of stragglers I deployed my escort, First Rhode Island Cavalry, as did Brigadier-General Merritt his, Fifth U. S. Cavalry. After an hour or two work it proved to be a fruitless effort. The escort were drawn in and officers sent farther to the rear to form the men. By this time the enemy had come near enough for the cavalry batteries to open upon them, which they did. The enemy did not bring their lines in the open country between them and the cavalry, but kept under cover of the woods. Between 9 and 10 o'clock I was ordered by Major-General Wright, commanding the army temporarily (Major-General Sheridan being temporarily absent), to move my whole cavalry force on the left of the army. This 1 was opposed to, but proceeded to obey the order, but on my own responsibility I left three regiments to picket the right, and to this fact thousands of our stragglers are indebted for their safety, for these brave men held their position against great odds for five hours. The First and Third Divisions (Brigadier-Generals Merritt and Custer) were ordered to the left of the army; the First Division (Brigadier-General Merritt) was put in position across the pike, just north of Middletown. the Third Division (Brigadier-General Custer) was formed on the left of the First Division; the First Brigade, Second Division (Colonel Moore), was formed on the left of the Third Division; the Horse Battery, B and L, Second Artillery, U. S,. Army, Lieutenant Taylor commanding,[Lieutenant Taylor commanded Batteries K and L, First Artillery.] was left on the right fighting on the infantry line, where it did admirable service, and was the last artillery to leave that front. Too much praise cannot be given to the officers and men of this battery for their coolness and gallantry on this occasion. When the infantry was forced back and the battery was obliged to retire it joined its brigade (Second, First Division) on the right of the pike, where it immediately went into action. As Soon as the cavalry was in position on the left of the army they attacked the enemy. Colonel Powell, commanding Reserve Brigade, First Division, dismounted a part of his little band, and they advanced to a strong position behind a stone wall, from which the enemy's infantry failed to drive them after repeated attempts. The cavalry fought infantry and artillery only on the left of the army. About 12 m. the cavalry was moved to the left about 300 yards, thus bringing it on the left of the pike. Thus matters stood with the cavalry until 3 p. m., holding on to their ground with more than their usual dogged persistence, displaying gallantry which has never been surpassed, while most of the infantry was reforming several miles on their right and rear. During this time the Second Brigade, Second Division (Colonel Powell commanding division), fell back slowly (by order) on the Front Royal and Winchester pike to Stony Point, and then to a point near Newton, followed by the rebel General Lomax's division of cavalry, where they remained during the greater part of the day' Colonel Powell thus prevented the enemy's
cavalry from getting on the pike to attack our trains and rear. About 2 p. m. Major-General Sheridan arrived upon the ground and directed me to send one division of cavalry on the right of the army. I immediately ordered the Third Division (Brigadier-General Custer) to that
position, where he arrived just in the nick of time, for the enemy had just succeeded in crossing infantry and cavalry over Cedar Creek on the right of the army, but the gallant Custer was equal to the emergency. He immediately charged the cavalry and drove them about a mile, in
the most beautiful manner, behind their infantry support, from which they did not dare show themselves in force again during the day. On the left the battle was going well for us; in fact, it could not be otherwise, with the cool and invincible Merritt on the ground, supported by such soldiers as Devin and Lowell. At this time the First Brigade, Second Division, was temporarily under the orders of Brigadier-General Merritt, who was constantly annoying and attacking the
enemy whenever an opportunity presented itself; although his men were completely within range of the enemy's sharpshooters, his shot and shell, and many a horse and rider was made to bite the dust, they held their ground like men of steel; officers and men seemed to know
and feel that the safety of the army in no small degree depended upon their holding their position, and they can never receive too much credit for the manner in which they did their duty. About 4 p. m. Colonel Moore, commanding First Brigade, Second Division, was ordered to join his division at Newtown, and Colonel Powell, commanding the division, directed to shove out a strong force to hold the Front Royal and Winchester pike. About 4 o'clock, in a charge, the gallant but lamented Lowell received a severe wound in the arm and side, but still kept his saddle. About 4.15 o'clock a general advance of the army was made, and it was truly grand to see the manner in which the cavalry did their part. In this general advance Colonel Lowell, Second Massachnsetts Cavalry, commanding Reserve Brigade, First Division, while
charging at the head of his brigade, received a second wound, which proved to be mortal. Thus the service lost one of its most gallant and accomplished soldiers. He was the beau ideal of a cavalry officer, and his memory will never die in the command. In the general advance
Brigadier-General Custer, commanding Third Division, left three regiments to attend to the cavalry in his front and started with the balance of his division to take part in the advance against the enemy's infantry Thus the cavalry advanced on both flanks side by side with the infantry, charging the enemy's lines with an impetuosity which they could not stand. The rebel army was soon routed and driven across Cedar Creek in confusion, the cavalry, sweeping on both flanks, crossed Cedar Creek about the same time, charged and broke the last line the enemy attempted to form (it was now after dark), and put out at full speed at their artillery and trains. They continued the pursuit to the foot of Fishers Hill, about four miles from Cedar Creek, and captured the following property and prisoners, viz: 45 pieces of artillery, 32 caissons, 156 sets artillery harness, 184 horses, 156 mules, 150 sets wagon harness, 46 army wagons, 672 prisoners of war, 5 battle-flags, also, many muskets, sabers, &c., which it took them about all night to bring ill. Darkness alone saved the greater part of the rebel army from capture, for there never were men who displayed more fear of cavalry than they did upon this occasion. The service of the cavalry on this day to the army and the country can never be too highly appreciated. The Horse Artillery, Companies K and L of the First United States, commanded by First Lieutenant Taylor; Companies B and L of the Second United States, commanded by First Lieutenant Peirce; Company C [Ll, Fifth United States, commanded by First Lieutenant Weir, and Captain Martin's battery, of the Sixth New York, rendered invaluable services on this day, as for five or six hours the only artillery used was that of the cavalry, and nobly did they do their duty, having but about two rounds per piece left after the engagement.
For the gallantry and good judgment displayed by Brigadier-Generals Merritt and Custer and Brevet Brigadier-General Devin and Colonel Lowell in this battle I must again recommend them for promotion, which on several occasions has been justly earned
I will take this occasion to recommend to the favorable consideration of the proper authorities the following members of my staff; as fit recipients of higher honors than lay in my power to bestow, for gallantry and courage displayed upon this and several other occasions during the campaign; braver and more efficient staff officers never drew rein or saber, viz: Maj. William Russell, jr., assistant adjutant-general; Capt. M. A. Reno, First U. S. Cavalry, chief of staff; Capt. R. Ellis, Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, acting assistant inspector-general; Capt. George B. Sanford, First U. S. Cavalry, assistant commissary of musters; Capt J. J. Coppinger, Fourteenth Infantry, U. S. Army, acting aide-de-camp, Captain Bailey, First New York (Lincoln) Cavalry, acting aide-de-camp Captain Martindale, First New York (Lincoln) Cavalry, acting aide-decamp; Capt M. Berry, Twentieth Pennsylvania Cavalry, acting aide de-camp; First Lieutenant Wallace, Fifth Michigan Cavalry, acting aide-de-camp; First Lieutenant Ellis, Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, acting aide-de-camp; First Lieutenant Slater, First New York Dragoons, ambulance officer; First Lieut. H. H. Goldsmith, Fifteenth New Jersey Volunteer Infantry, aide-de-camp.
I take pleasure in expressing my sincere thanks to division commanders and their commands for the hearty co operation given to me and each other. When such feelings exist, success must attend our efforts, and yours has been such that all in future can revert with pleasure to the fact that you belonged to the cavalry of the Middle Military Division, and participated in the successful campaign of Major-General Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley.
For further particulars I would respectfully refer to division and brigade commanders reports, herewith inclosed. Annexed is also a report of casualties.