Cedar Creek After Action Report, Commander, Artillery Brigade, 8th Corps (OR, 43, 413-6)



Camp near Cedar Greek, Va., October 31,1864.

CAPTAIN: I respectfully submit the following report of the part taken by the artillery in the battle of Cedar Creek, on the 19th instant:

On the morning of that day the batteries were posted as follows:

Batteries B. Fifth U. S. Artillery (six 3-inch rifled guns), First Lieut. Henry F. Brewerton commanding, and D, First Pennsylvania Artillery (six 10-pounder Parrott guns), First Lieut. William Munk commanding, behind a line of intrenchments on a crescent-shaped ridge which rises from the banks of Cedar Creek, with their caissons, horses, and trains in the ravine lying between this ridge and a second parallel one commanding it somewhat and extending beyond it almost to the pike On the extreme right of this second ridge, where it stretches beyond the first, encamped near a little work overlooking the ford and bridge across Cedar Creek, was Battery L, First Ohio Artillery (four Napoleon guns), Capt. F. C. Gibbs commanding. The two first-named batteries were some 400 yards apart, Battery D, First Pennsylvania Artillery, on the left. Early on the morning of the 19th instant my attention was attracted by some picket-firing. As a matter of precaution I directed the reveille to be sounded at once. Not ten minutes after, as I was just starting to the works on the hill, the attack began. I instantly ordered the horses to be harnessed and hitched, and hastened to the batteries Upon reaching the hil] I found that the infantry were falling back in great confusion, the enemy having already carried the works at a point near the front of Battery D, First Pennsylvania Artillery, and captured the guns, after a most gallant resistance on the part of the officers and men, a number of whom were bayoneted and struck down with clubbed muskets at their pieces. Lieutenant Brewerton, commanding Battery B, Fifth U. S. Artillery, reported the battery loaded with canister, but no enemy in his immediate front. I directed him to bring some guns to bear on the point of attack if possible. He succeeded in getting a few shots from his two center pieces. Seeing that the only chance of saving the artillery still left lay in the prompt harnessing and hitching of the teams, I directed Lieutenant Brewerton to bold his position as long as possible, and hastened to the caissons of Battery D, First Pennsylvania Artillery, and ordered Lieutenant Munk to use every exertion to get off as many of them as possible. Thence proceeding to the caissons of Battery B. Fifth U. S. Artillery, and finding the drivers, with but few exceptions, hitching and harnessing their teams under a heavy fire, with the greatest steadiness, I went to Battery L, First Ohio Artillery, and at once ordered Captain Gibbs to open a section on a line of the enemy advancing on the other side of the creek toward the ford, and who were thus about to cut off the other batteries. 1 also directed him to immediately put his other section in position some 300 yards to the left on the more elevated portion of the ridge. The fire at the enemy's line across the creek, directed at the dashes of their guns, was very accurate, and caused them to callback. The other section, on reaching the point designated, found itself without support face to face with another line of the enemy, who were rapidly advancing and had at once to fall back to avoid capture. Captain Gibbs had also to withdraw for the same reason his other section. Lieutenant Brewerton meanwhile turned his guns upon the enemy within the works and continued firing until they had advanced to within twenty-five yards of the battery, when, abandoned by the infantry, he ran his guns by hand down the hill to the caissons, unlimbered them, and proceeded to limber up to the pieces. At this juncture the enemy, now holding the works on the bill to the front and left, as well as the ridge in rear, whence they had forced Battery L. First Ohio Artillery, to withdraw, almost completely enveloped the other two batteries. Fortunately they halted for a few minutes, seemingly to reform their lines, and contented themselves with pouring a heavy musketry fire into the ravine. They also fired some canister from the captured guns of the Pennsylvania battery. In consequence of the mist and the yet uncertain daylight tile fire was comparatively harmless, though some casualties occurred and a number of horses were shot. Taking advantage of this, three caissons of Battery D, First Pennsylvania Artillery, and five pieces of Battery B, Fifth U. S. Artillery, with its battery wagon and forge and wagon train, moved out to flee right and reached the pike, whence, though under a heavy fire for more than a mile, they all got out safely, except the battery wagon, the horses of which being shot, fell into the enemy's hands. In extricating Battery B, Fifth U.S. Artillery, Lieutenant Brewerton was captured at the rear of his column, and Second Lieut. Samuel D. Southworth, Second U. S. Artillery, the only other officer then with it, was killed. Battery L, First Ohio Artillery, having been withdrawn, with the loss of only one caisson, it was placed in position about 800 yards to the rear, and on the same side of the pike, where it fired with effect, until the infantry line gave way, when it fell back, and was put in position on some heights near the left of the Sixth Corps, where it again fired a few rounds. As the lines fell back, being without support from the infantry, I withdrew it, keeping it between the left of the Sixth Corps and the right of General Devin's cavalry brigade. General Devin afterward gave me a squadron to support it, and I then placed it in position near the pike just beyond Middletown, where it fired with marked effect on the enemy's infantry, who were advancing under cover of some buildings. Our lines then slowly falling back for about a mile, the battery ceased firing and retired. Battery B, Fifth U. S. Artillery, here joined me, having refitted as far as possible from its severe losses in the morning, and upon the advance of our lines, about 3.30 p. m., I placed it in position on the east side of the pike, where it fired with great precision Upon the enemy's artillery. The supply of ammunition becoming short in the absence of caissons, I was compelled to send three pieces back to the ammunition train to refill their limber-chests. I then moved forward Battery L, First Ohio Artillery, and two pieces of Battery B, Fifth U. S. Artillery, in charge of Second Lieut. C. Holman, up the pike, and put them in position a short distance north of Middletown, where I was able to get an enfilading fire upon a battery of the enemy and a portion of his infantry line who were making a determined resistance at a point of woods on the west side of the pike. Some very effective firing was done with solid shot from Captain Gibbs' Napoleons and shell from the section of rifled guns of Battery B, Fifth U. S. Artillery. The enemy being forced back, and being now joined by the three other pieces of Battery B, Fifth U. S. Artillery, I moved the two batteries up the pike at a trot through Middletown, and when about half a mile from Cedar Creek took the gallop until the column reached the heights above the creek, on the west side of the pike. From this position we overlooked the enemy's column for more than a mile beyond. His rear was some 600 yards only to our front. I immediately opened the Napoleon guns, firing toward the rear of the column, the rifled guns farther in advance. Tile firing was very accurate, almost every shell exploding directly in the crowded masses before us. After a very few rounds evidences of complete demoralization could be plainly seen, wagons and artillery abandoned by their drivers and dashing along the road in visible confusion, and damaging or destroying each other by collisions. Our cavalry, who bad now formed, then charged and easily captured everything in sight. The enemy attempted to cover his retreat by a battery, which fired with great precision for a short time, causing a number of casualties, among others Captain Gibbs, Battery L, First Ohio Artillery, who was severely wounded. Upon the advance of the cavalry I ceased firing. It was then almost dark.

The casualties during the day in the artillery were 52—7 killed, 17 wounded, and 28 missing. Out of twelve commissioned officers present for duty at the opening of the battle, six were either killed, wounded, or taken prisoners.

I have to lament the loss of Second Lieut. Samuel D. Southworth, Second U. S. Artillery, serving with Battery B, Fifth U. S. Artillery, who was killed early in the action near tile rear of the column, while with drawing the guns of the battery. Lieutenant Southworth was one of the most promising young artillery officers in the service—efficient, zealous, and brave, beloved and respected by all who knew him. His loss is one which it will be hard to replace. Among the losses in prisoners were Surg. I. D. Knight, U. S. Volunteers, senior medical officer, subsequently released by the enemy in their flight, Capt. James Gilliss, assistant quartermaster, First Lieut. Henry F. Brewerton, Fifth U. S. Artillery, commanding Battery B, Fifth U. S. Artillery, and Second Lieut. James Boyle, Battery D, First Pennsylvania Artillery, who was knocked down close to the guns with a clubbed musket while in the act of sabering a rebel.

Capt. F. C. Gibbs, conmanding Battery L, First Ohio Artillery, was the only officer wounded. He was struck just before dark by a piece of the last shell fired by the enemy, after being conspicuous throughout the whole day for efficiency and gallantry. I desire to particularly call attention to the coolness and bravery evinced under the most trying circumstances of First Lieut. Henry F. Brewerton, commanding Battery B, Fifth U. S. Artillery. He succeeded in getting five of his six pieces off almost miraculously, and deserves the greatest credit in this connection.

I cannot speak too highly of the good conduct and courage displayed by all the officers and the enlisted men in general throughout the whole action. To the obstinacy and determination with which they stuck by their guns to the last moment are to be attributed the heavy losses in Battery D, First Pennsylvania Artillery. Battery L, First Ohio Artillery, came under my immediate notice during the whole day and behaved admirably at all times.

To the non-commissioned officers and privates of Battery B, Fifth U. S. Artillery, a special tribute is due for the coolness, steadiness, and unflinching bravery which they displayed throughout, and specially in the early part of the action in harnessing and hitching under a heavy fire and in the extricating of the battery and the saving of the greater part of its material when almost within the enemy's line. For further details I beg leave to refer you to the accompanying reports of the batteries.

The total losses in material during the day were: 7 guns, 10 caissons, 2 battery wagons, 1 forge, 3 army wagons, 1 ambulance, 21 sets of artillery harness for two horses. 45 artillery horses and 18 mules. About two-thirds of the animals were killed. All the guns except one, with most of the caissons, &c., were recaptured at the close of the action.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Captain, Fifth U. S. Arty., Chief of Artillery, 4rmy of W. Va.


Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Dept. of West Virginia.