Cedar Creek Report, Commander, Rodes Division (OR, 43, 598-600)
HEADQUARTERS RODES' DIVISION,
October 31, 1864.
CAPTAIN: In obedience to orders from corps headquarters I have the honor of submitting the following report as the part taken by Rodes' division in the action on the 19th of October. 1864:
About dark on the evening of the 18th the division moved from carnp on Fisher's Hill and was halted for an hour or more near the pike in order that Major-General Gordon, in command of the force which was to move to the enemy's rear, could communicate, with Lieutenant-General Early. This halt was caused, as I unofficially learned, in consequence of information received that the enemy were fortifying that evening on their left flank. About 8 p.m. the march was resumed, and after passing the stone bridge filed to the right and passed by a circuitous route around the base of Fort Mountain by a blind path, where the troops bad to march in single file. The order of march was, Gordon, Rodes, Pegram. Upon reaching the Shenandoah, where crossed by the Manassas Gap Railroad, the column was halted and massed for the rear to close up. So soon as this was done (about 1 a. m.) we again moved forward, following the track of the railroad until near Buckton Station, where we again halted for an hour and a half, waiting the arrival of the cavalry, who crossed the river in advance and drove in the enemy's pickets.
About 4.30 a. m. the infantry commenced crossing the Shenandoah near Colonel Bowman's house in two columns. The passage was effected with great rapidity and in good order, though the rear necessarily bad to double quick for [a] distance to close up. The -order of march was as follows: Battle, Cook, Cox, Grimes. On arriving within half a mile of the Valley pike Battle's brigade was formed parallel with the same and moved forward in line of battle. The other brigades continued moving by the Rank for about 300 yards, when they were faced to the left and ordered forward, changing direction to the right. Battle soon struck the Eighth Corps of the enemy and charging gallantly drove them, in great confusion, but was himself seriously wounded, while nobly leading his brigade, the command of which then devolved on Lieutenant-Colonel Robson, Fifth Alabama. Cook and. Cox continued to advance, swinging to the right, driving the enemy in their front with but slight resistance for upward of half a mile, when General Cox reporting that he was flanked on the left, a temporary halt was made until, re-enforcements were seat forward, when these two brigades again advanced. Cook captured several cannon, caissons, ammunition wagons, &c. This movement left a wide interval between Cook's right and Battle's left, which was subsequently filled by Pegram's division.
In the meantime Grimes' brigade was recalled from the left and moved by the right flank through the abandoned camp of the Eighth Corps, which had been completely routed, faced to the front, and advanced to the pike, connecting with Battle's right. This formation was perfected about sunrise, the enemy being then in position on a small creek to the left of the pike, with their artillery on a high ridge in their rear and firing into our line of battle, but the smoke and fog obscured the troops so that their fire was inaccurate. Here Major-General Ramseur had skirmishers thrown to the front and to the right, driving the sharpshooters of the enemy from Middletown. The division remained here perhaps half an hour until a battery was brought into position on the right of the pike, when General Ramseur again ordered an advance, which was made in good order and with a gallantry never exceeded. In this advance Battle's brigade charged a battery in its front, capturing in addition to six guns many prisoners and a flag. The Sixth corps was found posted on a hill in rear of this battery, and made a most stubborn resistance. Grimes' brigade was ordered forward and charged them most gallantry, but being greatly overlapped on both flanks was forced to fall back and reform after advancing as far as the cemetery.
At this time there was an interval of 300 yards between this and Battle's brigade. Colonel Smith's brigade, of Wharton's division, was now brought into action on Grimes' right and charged the same wooded hill I but was likewise repulsed, when Wofford's brigade, of Kershaw's division, which had been ordered to report to Major-General Ramseur, arrived on the ground and was posted behind a stone fence to the right of Grimes, it not being thought advisable to move it against this strong position of the- enemy. The artillery was at this time (about 8 a. m.) massed on the hills near the pike, and the infantry remained quiet until, by a concentrated fire from the artillery, the Sixth Corps was dislodged from its position, where they had erected temporary breastworks of rails, stones, &c. Upon this hill the division was reformed, cartridge-boxes refilled, and rested upward of an hour.
During this time skirmishers were advanced and found that the enemy had again made a stand at the edge of the woods about three-quarters of a mile in advance. We then moved forward and joined our left to Kershaw's right, halting in the road leading from Middletown and at right angles to the pike. Here again we halted perhaps for an hour, and then moved forward en echelon by brigade from the left, which was occupied by Cook, with Cox's brigade in reserve, and took position behind a stone fence.
Daring this time the enemy were firing from their artillery, engaging ours on the hills in our rear. Our skirmishers all the while were engaged with those of the enemy and had driven in our left, but they in turn were repulsed by our line of battle. In this position Grimes' brigade was about 100 yards to the right and rear of Battle's, with an interval of from 200 to 300 yards between-his right and Pegram's left.
At 3.30 p. m. our skirmishers were driven in and the enemy advanced their line of battle. Grimes' brigade was double-quicked upon the line with Battle to meet this advance on the part of the enemy, and Cox moved up on a line with Cook and to his left, which advance was repulsed most gallantly, the enemy fleeing in disorder and confusion, throwing down their arms and battle-flags in their retreat. The musketry on our left still continued to increase, and at the time our troops were cheering for this repulse of the enemy the line on our left was seen to give back and the troops to retreat without any organization. General Ramseur then ordered the different brigades of this division to fall back and form [behind] a stone fence about 200 yards in rear, which was promptly done, and the advance of the enemy in our front pre. vented. While holding this position the gallant and chivalrous General Ramseur was mortally wounded and brought from the field.
The troops on the left had by this time entirely given way and were running to the rear in great confusion. The enemy were then in front and to the left and rear of the left flank of. this division, when they began to fall back in the same disorderly manner as those on the left. Our organization up to this time was intact. Upon the order being given to retire, did so; but the stampede on the left was caught up, and no threats nor entreaties could arrest their flight. Great and repeated exertions, were made, by the officers of the higher ranks to check the men, but all their exertions were unavailing. Upon reaching the south side of Cedar Creek a few-perhaps to the number of 200-from Cook's and Grimes' brigades formed on the right of the pike near Hupp's Hill, but when the stream of stragglers came running over the hill with the cry that the cavalry were across the creek and prepared to charge, these few likewise scattered and could not be kept together. Up to the hour of 4 p. m. the troops of this division, both officers and men, with a few exceptions, behaved most admirably, and were kept well in hand, but little plundering, and only a few shirking their duty. After that hour all was confusion and disorder.
The brigade commanders conducted themselves, each and all, with great coolness and judgment, and are deserving of especial mention, using all possible efforts to check their troops, but without success.
The death of the brave and heroic soldier, General Ramseur, is not only a loss to this division but to his State and the country at large. No truer or nobler spirit has been sacrificed in this unjust and unholy war.
The conduct of the officers composing the staff of this division cannot be too highly lauded for their gallantry and efficiency. Major Peyton, for the coolness and promptness with which he conveyed orders on the field; Major Hutchinson, for his efficiency (who was captured, escaped from the enemy, and again captured late in the evening). Captain Randolph displayed his usual daring.
Major Whiting, inspector, rendered signal service by preventing all straggling and plundering, and Lieutenant Richmond, aide-de-camp, for his assistance and alacrity in transmitting orders.
For the conduct of others deserving especial mention you are respectfully referred to reports of brigade commanders, herewith transmitted.[Not found]
I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier- General, Commanding Division-
Capt. S. J. C. MOORE,
Assistant Adjutant- General, Army Valley District.