Cavalry Fights at Aldie, Middleburg & Upperville
June 17th - June 22nd 1863
- Introduction - What's on this Page
- Cavalry Fight at Aldie, June 17, 1863.
- Reminiscence and Official Report from the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry
- The Ordeal of the First Rhode Island Cavalry
- The Adventures of Colonel Heros Von Borcke
- 3rd U. S. Artillery, Battery C
- Cavalry Fight at Middleburg, June 19th 1863
- General Pleasonton's Report
- Special Artist, Alfred R. Waud
- The Battle of Upperville, June 21
- Conclusion & Observations
Before the narrative begins, I want to acknowledge the resources I used to build this page. I began with a familiar blog authored by my 'cyber-friend,' Craig Swain, who is local to the region where these events happened. He wrote about the engagements at his blog here; "150 Years Ago Fighting: at Upperville."
Craig linked to the definitive study of these actions researched and funded by the American Battlefield Protection Program and the National Park Service. Here is a direct link to the study. "Civil War in Loudoun Valley."
Robert F. O'Neill is the acknowledged expert on these engagements. He wrote a book on the subject, "The Cavalry Battles of Aldie, Middleburg and Upperville: Small but Important Riots, June 10-27, 1863." The book has become an expensive collector's item. A shorter but still extensive article he wrote for Gettysburg Magazine, Issue #43, about these engagements can be downloaded at the Civil War Preservation Trust Website, here: "Battle of Middleburg."
My narrative is not original, and closely follows the narratives of these three resources, except for my study of the 3rd U.S. Artillery. Articles at other blogs proved very useful: "Not For Gain or Glory: The 1st Massachusetts Cavalry at Aldie" by Daniel Davis at Emerging Civil War Blog. Daniel granted me permission to use some of his photographs on this page.
I turned to the following primary sources to add detail to these accounts.
Records of the War of the Rebellion.
"History of the First Regiment of Massachusetts Cavalry Volunteers" by Benjamin W. Crowninshield, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1891.
"The Campaigns of the First Maine and First District of Columbia Cavalry" by Samuel H. Merrill, Portland, Maine, Bailey & Noyes, 1866.
"History of the First Maine Cavalry" by Edward Tobie, Boston, Emery and Hughes, 1887.
"Civil War Experiences Under Bayard, Gregg, Kilpatrick, Custer, Ralston, and Newburry, 1862, 1863, 1864" by Henry C. Meyer, New York, G. Putnam and Sons, 1911.
"The First Rhode Island Cavalry at Middleburg, Va., June 17 & 18, 1863" by George N. Bliss, Providence Historical Society, 1889.
"An Incident at the Battle of Middleburg, June 17, 1863" by Charles O. Green, 1st Rhode Island Cavalry, Providence Historical Society, 1911.
"Another Instance of Personal Bravery" by Oliver Downing, 1st Massachusetts Cavalry, Bivouac Magazine, 1883
Blogs that provided supplemental information were:
"A Hero Charges to Dusty Glory" by Brian Swartz provided details on the 1st Maine's Colonel Calvin Sanger Douty.
"Life Stories of Civil War Heroes" by author 'First Dragoon' had a biography of Henry Lee Higginson of the 1st Mass. Cavalry.
I would also like to thank Jim Rosebrock for his insights about the Federal Artillery. South from the North Woods.
Background information comes from the book, "The Gettysburg Campaign, A Study in Command," by Edwin B. Coddington,1st Touchstone Edition, 1997, Simon & Schuster, Inc.
I highly recommend visitors interested in more information check out these links. - Brad Forbush, April 20, 2014.
The Blue Ridge Mountains screened the Confederate Army as it marched north through the Shenandoah Valley, at the commencement of General Robert E. Lee's 2nd Northern invasion. The mountain ranges also protected General Lee's line of communications. They were were high with only a few passes suitable for an army to cross. The Loudoun Valley in-between was a no-man's land where the Cavalry fought, June 17 - 21, 1863. This page explores those battles.
On June 13th and 14th General Richard Ewell's corps, leading the Confederate advance north, surrounded and attacked the Federal Garrison at Winchester. At midnight Union General Robert Milroy attempted to retreat with his force to Harper's Ferry, but Ewell anticipated this and cut off the escape route. About 3,500 Federals were captured. Milroy himself, evaded capture and arrived at Harper's Ferry with about 1,200 men.
On June 17th the first phase of Lee's march north was complete. Ewell's Corps was along the Potomac River at Williamsport with a division on the north side. Longstreet's Corps was on the west side of the mountains holding Ashby's and Snickers Gap.
General Joseph Hooker commanding the Army of the Potomac, had ably moved his army north to counter Lee. Both army's were re-aligned on opposite sides of the mountains. But Hooker made no plans, wanting first to know something of Lee's intentions.
General-in-Chief Henry Halleck worried about the important Federal Observation post at Harper's Ferry, and reports of another impending Confederate invasion into Maryland bothered him. Panic was beginning to spread in the city of Washington and in the states of Maryland and Pennsylvania where Confederate Cavalry was spotted. General Halleck convinced General Hooker to send out his cavalry to "learn something definite about the enemy."
Hooker agreed, and ordered Brigadier-General Alfred Pleasonton, the new commander of the Union Cavalry Corps, to ride west on a reconnaissance, toward the mountain Gaps of the Blue Ridge, and to report what he could see on the other side. At the town of Aldie, Pleasonton's force unexpectedly encountered elements of Confederate General, J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry. Stuart was doing the same thing for General Lee, trying to ascertain something about the movements of General Hooker's army. Stuart was also screening General Longstreet's march north on the far side of the Mountains. Between June 17 -21 Pleasonton and Stuart battled it out along the turnpikes in the Loudoun Valley, between the two mountain ranges.
Whats on this Page
A brief summary of the Cavalry Battles at Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville, with selected battle reports and a few personal remembrances of participants are included on this page. It is estimated by those who have studied these engagements that 1,360 men were killed or wounded in the three engagements. I have taken the liberty to have a little fun with the memoirs of Heros Von Borcke, the dashing Prussian Aide to General J.E.B. Stuart. There is another 'stand alone' section on this page, a brief character sketch of extraordinary War Correspondent, Alfred R. Waud, whose on the scene drawings document this campaign.
The men of the '13th Mass'
could hear cannonading echoing from the mountains during the artillery
duel June 21st but they had no involvement in these
engagements. Sergeant John Boudwin of Company A wrote in his
firing at Leesburg by
PICTURE CREDITS: All images & Maps are from the Library of Congress digital images collection, with the following exceptions: Aldie, Bend in the Road & William Furr House, from Daniel Davis, & his article, "Not For Gain or Glory: The First MA Cavalry at Aldie," at "Emerging Civil War" Blog; Colonel Calvin Douty, 1st Mass. from Maine State Archives; "Carolinians Forward" by Keith Rocco from Keith Rocco's official site; 'Goose Creek near Benton Bridge,' 'Melborne/Millville Road,' 'Kinchloe's Mill Road,' 'Gibson Farm,' and 'Union View toward Mt. Defiance,' are all provided by Craig Swain; William B.T. Trego's painting, "Yankee Cavalry Charge" from website "19th Century American Art," "Goose Creek Bridge" from Wikimedia Commons; "Private Henry C. Meyer" form his memoirs (see acknowledgments above); "Charging Cavalry" from Battles & Leaders of the Civil War, author's collection; Grieving Woman at Soldier's Grave from the New York Public Library Digital Archives, Lithograph, Caldwell & Co., New York, Colonel J. Irvin Gregg from Cowan's Auctions; 1862; Lt. James M. Lancaster was found on line at relicsofhistory.com, the photo is credited as having been taken at Whitehurst Gallery in Washington, D.C.; Louis K. Harlow's illustration of an artillery limber is from an image shared with my by 13th Mass soldier descendant, Tim Sewell; ALL IMAGES have been edited in photoshop.
In the early evening of June 16, General-in-Chief Henry Halleck sent a telegram to General Joseph Hooker, venting concern over rumors of a Confederate invasion of the north, and dreading the possible capture of the Federal garrison at Harper's Ferry. Winchester and Martinsburg had already fallen with a loss of 7,000 captured Union soldiers on June 15th. Generals Halleck and Hooker did not get along, so Halleck was careful to explain his motives in urging General Hooker into action.
Hooker was reluctant to plan a march, and claimed he did not have enough reliable information about the dispositions of General Lee’s troops in the Shenandoah Valley. General Halleck's telegram suggested Hooker send a force to Leesburg, Va. on the Potomac River, to be within supporting distance of the Harper’s Ferry garrison and to have a foothold at a river crossing should that be needed. This was a very good suggestion. Halleck also suggested Hooker send out cavalry to “ascertain something definite about the enemy.” 1 Hooker agreed and ordered Brigadier-General Alfred Pleasonton 2, commander of the Union Cavalry, to ride out to the Loudoun Valley and make an extensive search for the enemy.
At 3 a.m. June 17, three brigades of cavalry started out to the village of Aldie, on the eastern edge of the Bull Run Mountain Range. Just west of Aldie, two roads diverged, "one leading almost due west to Ahsby's Gap, the second northwest to Snicker's Gap - both principal crossings of the Blue Ridge." General Longtreet's wing of Lee’s army was spread out on the other side, concealed from view. 3
It was a scorching hot day, the temperature at 94°F.
Brigadier-General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry brigade arrived at Aldie first, - tired from the long ride in the hot sun, and surprised to find dismounted Confederate Cavalry pickets already in the village. Both sides called up re-enforcements and a vicious 4 hour battle flared up between the two main roads west of town.
Battle of Aldie June 17, 1863
Pictured below, is brave but frequently reckless, Brigadier-General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, commanding the 2nd Brigade of Cavalry in Brigadier-General David M. Gregg's Division. Recently promoted, the five regiments in his new command would suffer the highest number of casualties during this week of fighting. By the end of the day, June 17, two of his five regiments were 'out of combat' ; disabled.
Kilpatrick’s lead troopers drove the Rebel pickets from the village of Aldie, then pressed forward, but were in turn pushed back by Rebel supports, often with hand to hand fighting. Seeing more of Kilpatrick’s men arriving on the field the Confederates fell back to the west, and took a defensive position along side Ashby’s Gap Turnpike at the Adam’s Farm.
Fifty Confederate Sharpshooters posted behind a stone wall, with cavalry and artillery support on a ridge behind, inflicted heavy casualties against two Union Cavalry assaults from adjacent farm fields. Meanwhile, a section of Captain Alanson Randol’s 1st U.S. artillery deployed on a knoll just outside the village and engaged the Confederate guns in an ongoing duel.
The 2nd Union charge outflanked the rebels and drove them from their strong defensive position behind the stone wall and sent them fleeing back toward the Adam’s farm house. Most were captured. A strong defensive position further down the road supported by Captain James Breathed’s Confederate Guns prevented the Yankees from pushing the attack forward along the turnpike. This ended the struggle on the Adam’s Farm.
The fight was deadlier to the North along the Snickersville pike.
The take away fact about the Battle of Aldie is that the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry was badly cut up, their regimental history reported the following losses, 1 officer and 23 men killed, 4 officers and 38 men wounded. The total was 154 officers and men lost, of a little more than 300 engaged, (4 squadrons, - eight companies, "nearly all of whom were well-trained and efficient.")
A small force of Confederate pickets was ordered north to blockade the Snickersville Turnpike when the fighting around the village began. Shortly afterwards, a squad from the 4th Virginia Cavalry, under Lt. Alexander Payne, and a cannon from Captain James Breathed’s battery of horse artillery, were sent in support, until other re-enforcing troops could arrive. The picket line was established, then some riders continued south along the road to scout.
Kilpatrick's Federal Troopers, as they arrived at the village of Aldie, were ordered forward to protect Randol's artillery, which was initially engaged with guns at the Adam's Farm along the Ashby Gap Turnpike. When they reached Randol, Companies H and F (Captain Lucius Sargent's squadron) of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry continued north, up the Snickersville Road to scout. They ran into Payne's Confederate scouts coming from the opposite direction and charged them. The Rebel horsemen turned and started back to their line. Caught up in the excitement, Sargent's squadron pursued the the enemy down the road, beyond the reach of Federal supports. Seeing this from Randol's knoll, Lieutenant-Colonel Greely Curtis ordered two riders out to call them back, but they also got swept up in the charge. When a larger force of mounted Confederate re-enforcements appeared on the road ahead the Yankee column came to a halt. It then turned round and slowly retired. The Rebels counter-charged, and a brisk scuffle followed, with hand to hand fighting. Both sides eventually fell back to their defensive lines.
A pause in the action allowed the arriving Federals to plan a co-coordinated attack.
Pictured above is Captain Lucius Sargent, 1st Mass. Cavalry.
1st Co-ordinated Federal Attack
Four Companies of the 1st Mass. Cavalry participated in the 2nd assault. Companies E and G charged up the road while Companies C and D, with the 4th N.Y., followed in the adjacent fields. Unfortunately for them, two regiments of Virginia Cavalry arrived just in time to set a deadly ambush at a bend in the road just past the farmhouse of William Furr. As the attackers turned the blind corner in the road they were met by gunfire from Confederate sharpshooters posted behind a stone wall lining the turnpike. A battery on a hill above the sharpshooters blasted canister shot into their ranks. Confederate Troopers then pushed the reeling Massachusetts horsemen backwards into a piece of woods nearby. The charging 4th NY approaching through the fields, were repulsed when the sharpshooters and artillery redirected their fire to meet the attack. The New Yorkers broke formation and fell back.
This gave the Virginia Cavalry an opening to counter-charge. The 2nd, 4th and 5th Virginia Cavalry attacked the 94 Massachusetts troopers of Companies C & D. Only 27 of the Massachusetts men escaped unscathed.
From the Federal position on the hill by Randol’s battery, Lt-Colonel Herbert P. Curtis, of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry, watched his outnumbered men falter. Unaware of the ambush, he hurried another squadron down the road to their support. Seventy-six men of Companies A and B, the last two companies of the regiment, turned the corner at the Furr House, where they too were blasted on both flanks, and the center, by sharpshooters and cannon fire. Fifteen men were killed, 25 wounded and 23 captured. Only 13 escaped unharmed. Now the Rebels counter-charged. The 3rd Virginia Cavalry rode out to gather in prisoners from the battered 1st Mass. and 4th NY. They noticed Randol’s Federal battery in the distance, on a hill beside the road. It was un-defended. The high spirited Rebels spurred their horses and excitedly charged down the turnpike to capture the guns. Captain Randol could not fire his cannon for fear of striking his own retreating troopers.
The map depicts the disastrous Federal charges of the 4th New York Cavalry and the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry against the strong Confederate position at the Furr Farm. Charging troopers were ambushed when they turned the blind corner in the road at the William Furr house. When the attacks failed the Confederates counter-charged. The map [cropped] was prepared by David W. Lowe for the American Battlefield Protection Program.
Maine to the Rescue
In the nick of time 6 Companies of the 1st Maine Cavalry arrived on the battlefield. They were the lead element of Colonel J. Irvin Gregg’s Brigade, which followed General Kilpatrick to Aldie. Two Companies of Maine men charged down the road to meet the approaching Virginians.
The fight turned into a melee below Randol's hill, as the 5th VA rode up in support of the 3rd VA. Another squad of the Maine Cavalry joined the fight with the re-formed 4th NY. Now the tide had turned and the Rebels were out-flanked. Overwhelmed, they retreated back to the Furr House. The re-enforced Yankees coordinated one more assault to drive away the Confederates from their strong defensive position. Two Companies of the Maine Cavalry attacked up the road, two in the fields, with two in reserve. The attack again stalled at the deadly ambush at the bend in the road by the Furr House, until the two reserve companies rode around the flanks and forced the rebel sharpshooters away from the wall.
Pictured is the William Furr House. Today it is a private residence. Photo courtesy of Daniel Davis, "Emerging Civil War."
The outnumbered Rebels retreated under orders, 5 miles west to Middleburg, and the fighting stopped.
General Stuart had encountered Federal Cavalry at Middleburg and ordered Colonel Thomas Munford commanding the Confederate force at Aldie to disengage. Colonel Munford maintained his position was still a strong one, and he would have remained at Aldie were it not for these orders from Stuart to withdraw.
Colonel Calvin Sanger Douty of the 1st Maine was killed in the final charge.
Both sides claimed victory.
The loss of Union troops at the Battle of Aldie was high. Federal casualties, were numbered at 305 killed, wounded, and missing. This does not include the high casualties in the First Rhode Island Cavalry on June 18th. Colonel Thomas Munford, who commanded the Confederate cavalry in these engagements reported a loss of about 120 men.
This 3rd map shows the successful charge and flanking manoeuvre of the 1st Maine Cavalry up the Snickersville Turnpike. Although his position at the bend in the road was taken, Colonel Munford claimed he would have remained at Aldie, but he received orders to withdraw. The map [slightly cropped] was prepared by David W. Lowe for the American Battlefield Protection Program report, funded by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior.
1. Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, XXVII, part 1, p. 47; cited in "The Gettysburg Campaign, A Study in Command" by Edwin B. Coddington, 1st Touchstone Edition, m 1997, p. 94.
2. Pleasonton was promoted to Major-General June 22, 1863
3. American Battlefield Protection Program Report, page 5.
Private Henry C. Meyer of the 2nd N.Y. Cavalry was an aide to General J. Irvin Gregg during this campaign. After the war he left a record of his services in his privately published memoirs, "Civil War Experiences under Bayard, Gregg, Kilpatrick, Custer, Ralston, and Newburry, 1862, 1863, 1864," published in 1911. He recalls the ride to Aldie and the death of Colonel Douty in the following passage.
On this march to Aldie General Pleasonton, the corps commander, was represented at General Gregg’s headquarters by one of his staff officers, Captain George A. Custer, afterwards General. When Custer appeared he at once attracted the attention of the entire command. On that day he was dressed like an ordinary enlisted man, his trousers tucked in a pair of short-legged government boots, his horse equipments being those of an ordinary wagonmaster. He rode with a little rawhide riding whip stuck in his bootleg, and had long yellow curls down to his shoulders, his face ruddy and good-natured.
While on this march we came to a stream beside the road, in which a full battalion could water their horses at once. As the headquarters staff and the troops following us had gone into line to permit their horses to drink, Custer, for some reason, concluded to go in on the other side of the stream, riding in alone to allow his horse to drink. He did not know how deep the water was, and after his horse was satisfied, instead of returning by the way he went in, concluded to cross the stream and come out on our side. The water was deeper than he anticipated and his horse nearly lost his footing. However, when he got to our side, he urged his horse to climb out at a point where the bank was steep. In his effort he fell over backward, Custer going out of sight in the water. In an instant, however, he was up on his feet and the horse struggled out amid the shouts of the spectators, when, mounting his horse, the march was resumed. The dust at this time was so thick that one could not see more than a set of fours ahead, and in a few minutes, when it settled on his wet clothes and long wet hair, Custer was an object that one can better imagine than I can describe.
In a short time, Kilpatrick, at the head of our column, met Fitzhugh Lee’s command at Aldie, and drove it through the town, where a desperate fight occurred just beyond it, the enemy being strongly posted there behind some stone walls.* As soon as the first shots were heard, General Gregg hurried to the front and took his position on a hill just beyond and to the right of the town, upon which Kilpatrick had posted a battery. It was then found that Kilpatrick was outnumbered, all his command had been charging and he had no reserves. General Gregg then directed me to go back and bring Colonel Irwin Gregg, commanding the Second Brigade, by a short cut back of the town, through the woods, to this part of the field as quickly as possible. Just as I went over the ridge to carry this order, I met the First Maine cavalry, with Colonel Doughty at its head, coming onto the field. As I passed him, the Colonel, who knew me, laughingly remarked, “You are going in the wrong direction.”
I replied: “Yes, I know it, but I will be back in a few minutes.”
Very shortly I returned to this spot with Colonel Gregg at the head of his brigade, when I saw a man leading a horse upon which was a body, evidently dead, as his arms were hanging on one side and the feet on the other, a man supporting it. Inquiring, “Whom have you got there?” the man replied, “Colonel Doughty.”
The Colonel, who was a most gallant man, as soon as he arrived on the field at a moment most critical for Kilpatrick, charged at the head of his regiment, routing a charge of the enemy that had repulsed the Fourth New York, then charged upon dismounted men behind stone walls, where he received two bullets through his breast. It was reported that night that some of the prisoners we had taken had said that the old fellow riding at the head of his regiment seemed so brave they hated to shoot him. This charge, however, routed the enemy, and Irwin Gregg having arrived with his remaining regiments, they withdrew.
[Colonel Douty, pictured right, Maine State Archives].That night was rather a blue time for us. Lieutenant Whitaker, a fine officer of my regiment, was among the killed, and the First Massachusetts cavalry had suffered severely. Our men induced a wheelwright in the village to work that night making coffins for some of the officers who had been killed.
*Brigadier- general Fitzhugh Lee's Cavalry was commanded by Colonel Thomas Munford during these battles.
Captain Alanson Randol pictured.
"We came in sight of the town of Aldie about four o'clock in the afternoon, having rode a distance of thirty five miles and only halted once which was to water the horses and they were pretty well jaded out. Two of our team horses giving out had to be taken out of harness and one of them fell dead a short time after. When we got within a mile of the town we turned out of the road and moved up in the fields on the right of us and halted a few minutes.
One of our scouts came in, dressed in a rebel uniform, and reported the enemy half a mile the other side of the town on a hill which could be seen from where we were. With (Gen.) Kilpatrick leading the van, the Second Massachusetts ahead and our battery close on their heels we went flying through the town, to the great bewilderment of the people who were gathered around the doors and windows of the houses, some of them too timid to venture outside and not wishing to be seen were peeking through the blinds of windows, and came in position on the hill designated and immediately opened fire on the enemy to which they responded. The right section of our battery was in position, the other remained in the town.
The rebels had six pieces firing on our two, the solid shot fell thick around us and the shells burst above and before us. Nothing daunted we kept up our fire making almost every shot tell and one shell we fired exploded and emptied sixteen saddles of rebel cavalry. We drove the rebel cannoneers twice from their guns by our sharp shooting and made it too hot for them to venture near for a few minutes which caused a lull in the firing. Another of our batteries had taken position on the opposite side of the road and the firing was again resumed and became hot and heavy.
There was a shell exploded between two of our officers and every one thought that they were killed until the smoke which had enveloped and obscured them from view cleared away, when it was found that they had received no harm.
The rebel cavalry made a charge upon our battery [Randol's] after having driven our cavalry back some distance and our guns were rendered utterly useless to fire on them by being up on the hill we could not get the elevation in the position we were in and besides we would have killed some of our own men had we been able to fire. We had our limbers back up and were just ready to limber up and decamp from the field to save our battery when Kilpatrick's brigade repulsed the charge and other regiments of cavalry arriving on the field [1st Maine Cavalry - B.F. ] the enemy were driven back and we then opened on them again.
Heavy cannonading and carbine firing was kept up until sundown at which time our cavalry held the position the rebels occupied at the commencement of the engagement. I think we done remarkable well."
Private Oliver Downing, Company G, (also F) of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry remembered the following incident at the Battle of Aldie, from the pages of the military magazine, Bivouac, 1883.
Another Instance of Personal Bravery
At Aldie, Virginia, a Cavalry skirmish took place. It was not a battle. Cavalry engagements rarely attained the honor of being denominated battles, though, as in this case, a whole regiment was nearly used up. The First Massachusetts Cavalry went into that skirmish with two hundred and ten men and came out with only fifty-four able to do duty; but bringing out beside their own colors those of the First Virginia Cavalry and the General of the Confederate brigade they had been engaged with.
After the Fifth Virginia had been beaten and driven back, the enemy charged with a fresh regiment up the road in front of our line, and our Colonel, wisely thinking it good policy to give way, but not too freely, ordered the retreat, and at the same time told four men to dismount and throw up a barricade of rails in the road to check the enemy’s advance for a few moments, while what was left of the regiment fell back to the vicinity of a battery of artillery that could help them with its guns.
The writer of this was one of those four men. We dismounted, and throwing our bridle-reins over stakes in the fence, set to work with a will. The enemy was advancing at a gallop, and we had the barricade a little more than two feet high, when two of the four men, concluding that they did not desire a nearer view of the enemy, mounted their horses and fell back “in good order.”
The leader of the advancing rebels in the road was swinging his saber in the air, and we could distinctly hear him shout: “Down with the Massachusetts hirelings,” “Down with the sons of -----!” I always disliked being called hard names and concluded I would get out of range of such talk, but my comrade, “Old Harvey,” as we called him, was of a different mind. He said : “That reb has too much to say,” and with that body of probably three hundred horsemen nearly on to us, picked up his carbine that he had laid down that he might the more conveniently work on the barricade, and putting on a percussion cap, deliberately took aim and fired. When “Old Harvey” fired at a man he did not usually have much more to say, and that rebel did not prove an exception. His days for cutting down Massachusetts hirelings were ended.
Meantime I had unhitched my horse and Harvey’s, and mounting my own, threw the reins of the other to my comrade and started for the rear. Before Harvey could get into his saddle the rebels were over the barricade and on to him. They cut him on the head and on the wrist with their sabers. He had succeeded in getting on his horse but was shot in the side and other arm, and fell from his saddle. They forced him to get on his feet and started with him to the rear. He was faint, but was forced along at the point of the saber, but not fast enough to escape from a charge of the First Maine Cavalry, who came to our assistance.
They charged eleven hundred strong, and threw that rebel cavalry division like shot from a shovel back three miles to Middleburg. Then the rebels got the best of them and they had to retreat with the loss of their colonel killed and four hundred men killed and wounded.*
The rebel who was driving Harvey to the rear was forced to surrender himself, and one of the Maine men ordered him off his horse and made him help Harvey on, and took both with him back to us.
Harvey recovered from his wounds, and leaving the hospital, rejoined the regiment, served his term, re-enlisted, was again wounded and captured, sent to Andersonville and died there.
No braver man – general or private – ever carried a saber than Harvey L. Vinton of G Company, First Massachusetts Cavalry. "O."
*The total number of casualties listed for the Battle of Aldie is 305, killed, wounded or missing. [OR Vol XXVII, Series 1, p. 171). Confederate Colonel Thomas Munford withdrew to Middleburg following the 1st Maine's successful charge. - - An Andersonville website lists Harvey Vinton's capture date as May 9, 1864 at Beaver Dam, Va. His status states he survived Andersonville but died October 31st in Savannah, GA. The History of Newton, Mass. erroneously states Vinton died at Belle Isle in Richmond, Va. His name is carved on the soldiers' monument at Newton Cemetery.
First Massachusetts Cavalry,
Near Warrenton, Va., September 5, 1863.
Captain: In accordance with orders from brigade headquarters, I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by this regiment in the battles of Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville:
The regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Curtis commanding, then in charge of the brigade commanded by General Kilpatrick, was ordered to advance up the Snickers Gap road and drive the enemy from the heights on our right. The first squadron, Captain Sargent commanding, deployed as skirmishers, advanced up the hill, driving the enemy a short distance, when they were charged upon by a squadron of the enemy's cavalry. This was met by that portion of the squadron acting as a reserve for the skirmishers by a counter charge. The enemy was driven 1½ miles, when a large body of the enemy's cavalry appeared in their rear. The remaining squadrons not coming up promptly and occupying the ground gained by the first squadron, it was entirely cut off from the main body, and the heights again held by the enemy. Lt.-Col. Herbert Pelham Curtis, pictured.
At this time the second squadron, Captain Tewksbury commanding, arrived, and charging, with Lieutenant-Colonel Curtis and Major Chamberlain, then not on duty, drove the enemy a short distance. The latter soon rallied, however, and coming back in overwhelming numbers the squadron fell back through a ravine to a hill beyond occupied by the third squadron, under command of Captain Adams. The fourth squadron, Lieutenant Davis commanding, then charged up the road, but was immediately cut off and the larger portion killed, wounded, or captured. Capt. John Tewksbury - pictured, below.
At this time the third squadron advanced a short distance, but being met by a most severe flank fire from the enemy, who then occupied the road and the field beyond, the stone walls being lined by their sharpshooters, this squadron with the second was obliged to fall back at short distances with frequent loss. At this moment the Fourth New York Cavalry, being ordered to our support, came up, but immediately turned and fell back in confusion, thus causing a complete rout. Major Higginson, Captain Sargent, and Lieutenant Fillebrown, who accompanied the first squadron, were severely wounded, and Lieutenants Davis, Duchesney, Higginson, and Carey, of the fourth squadron, were taken prisoners; the latter is supposed to have been killed.
of the regiment in the above
engagement was as follows:
Killed, 26 enlisted men; wounded, 3 officers and 52 enlisted men; missing, 4 officers and 84 enlisted men. Very great gallantry was shown by officers and men.
In the battle of Middleburg the regiment acted as a reserve and was not actively engaged. During the battle of Upperville the regiment was engaged in supporting the Third U.S. Battery.(*) It met with no loss.
The above report has been compiled from the reports of the only officers now with the regiment, all of which reports are submitted with the exception of the report of Major Chamberlain, which he has with him on detached service, but which confirms the report submitted.
An order has been sent to Lieutenant-Colonel Curtis and Major Higginson for their reports.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel First Massachusetts Cavalry.
Capt. A. Wright,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen., First Cavalry Brigade.
*Battery C, Third U.S. Artillery
As a footnote to Sargent's report, author Robert O'Neil states Lt. Davis did not charge until after Adam's squadron was defeated. Col. Sargent, who wrote this report was not present at the engagement.*
*O'Neil, Robert F., "Aldie, Middleburg & Upperville," Gettysburg Magazine, Issue #43, p. 21, accessed via the web.
On the ride to the Mountain Gaps June 17th, the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry, commanded by Colonel Alfred N. Duffie, (pictured) was ordered to ride on a scout to Middleburg via another route, while the main body of cavalry proceeded to Aldie. The small command of 280 troopers encountered Confederate pickets at Thoroughfare Gap around 9:30 in the morning, but soon sent them riding toward their brigade at Salem. Duffie continued on roads west, then north toward Middleburg. Alerted to their presence, the Confederate brigade from Salem followed them at a distance. About 4:30 p.m. Duffie's force came upon the town, surprising General J.E.B. Stuart and his staff, who had also recently arrived, including Heros Von Borcke, who recounts the incident in his memoirs on this page. The Confederate staff beat a hasty retreat. From town, Duffie sent a courier to his commander at Aldie, announcing that he had arrived at Middleburg, and awaited re-enforcements. He barricaded the roads into town, posted some pickets there, then retired south to rest and water his horses, retracing his route on The Plains Road. Sixty men remained behind on the Plains Road, a short distance south from town, to lay in ambush for any Confederates that tried to follow.
At dark, General Stuart returned with 3 regiments; charged the western barricade and re-occupied Middleburg. A Confederate patrol rode south, with Heros Von Borcke, and crashed into the ambush on The Plains Road. After two failed charges the Rebels dismounted to manoeuvre through the woods and surround the Rhode Islanders. The small Rhode Island detachment mounted up and rode south to re-join the rest of their regiment at their bivouac on the Little River.
Duffie never received an answer from his superiors via his courier to Aldie, so he ordered another 20 riders out in the late night hours to try and get a message through to headquarters. In the wee hours of the morning scouts discovered their regiment was surrounded by the enemy. Rather than surrender, the men decided to split up, and fight their way out. Duffie, and about 60 others escaped. The rest were captured or killed.
Report of Colonel Alfred N. Duffie, 1st Rhode Island Cavalry
Rhode Island Cavalry,
Near Centreville, Va., June 18, 1863.
Sir: I have the honor to report that on the morning of the 17th instant I received from the headquarters of the Second Brigade, Second cavalry Division, the following order:
Col. A. N. Duffie,
First Rhode Island Cavalry:
You will proceed with your regiment from Manassas Junction, by way of Thoroughfare Gap, to Middleburg. On your arrival at that place you will at once communicate with the headquarters of the Second Cavalry Brigade, and camp for the night. From Middleburg you will proceed to Union; thence by way of Snickersville to Percyville [Purcellville]; from Percyville [Purcellville] to Wheatland; then passing through Waterford to Noland’s Ferry, where you will join your brigade.
In accordance with this order, I left camp on the morning of the 17th instant, and proceeded with my regiment (275 strong) to Thoroughfare Gap. At this place my skirmishers met and engaged the enemy, which proved to be Lee’s brigade of cavalry approaching the Gap. The enemy being much stronger than my command, I was obliged to make a demonstration on my left flank in order to pass my column unseen. At this demonstration the enemy retired, and I was enabled to pass my column on to the Middleburg road safely. Nevertheless they followed in my rear, but at a considerable distance, causing me no uneasiness. It was then 9.30 a.m., and at 11 o’clock their skirmishers disappeared, and I proceeded unmolested toward Middleburg, using a negro for a guide.
Arriving near Middleburg at 4 p.m., I again engaged the enemy, capturing his first picket in the road, and ordered Captain Allen, commanding the advanced squadron, to charge through the town. By this movement the rear guard of General Stuart was cut off, and then a sharp cavalry fight ensued between his rear and my advance guard. This engagement lasted half an hour, when the enemy was compelled to retreat in the greatest disorder and confusion, scattering in all directions. Having received information that Stuart, with 2,000 cavalry and four pieces of artillery, had left town but half an hour before my arrival, and was proceeding to Aldie, I directed that the different roads leading into the town be barricaded and strongly picketed, and gave instructions to the officer commanding the outposts to hold the town at all hazards, hoping that after effecting a communication with General Kilpatrick, whom I supposed to be at Aldie, I should receive re-enforcements. Captain Allen was selected to carry a dispatch to General Kilpatrick, and was directed to avoid as much as possible all main roads. The town was held by my command from 4.30 to 7 p.m., the skirmishers having been constantly engaged during that time.
At 7 o’clock I ascertained that the enemy was approaching in force from Aldie, Union, and Upperville. Determined to hold the position if possible, I dismounted one-half of my regiment, placing them behind stone walls and the barricades. The enemy surrounded the town and stormed the barricades, but were gallantly repulsed by me men with great slaughter. They did not, however, desist, but, confident of success, again attacked, and made three successive charges. I was compelled to retire on the road by which I came, that being the only one open to retreat. With all that was left of my command, I crossed Little River northeast of Middleburg, and bivouacked for the night, establishing strong pickets on the river.
In this engagement I lost Major Farrington, Captains Rogers, Wyman, and Chase, Lieutenant Brown, and 27 men killed, wounded and missing.
At 10 p.m., having heard nothing from my dispatch sent to General Kilpatrick, I sent 20 men, under an officer, with a second dispatch. I have heard nothing from either party, and believe that both have been captured.
At 3.30 o’clock the next morning, 18th instant, I was informed by scouts whom I had previously sent out that the roads in every direction were full of cavalry, and that the Aldie road was commanded by a brigade, with four pieces of artillery. Under these circumstances I abandoned the project of going to Union, but determined not to surrender in any event. I directed the head of my column on the road to Aldie, when an engagement commenced at once, the enemy opening on both flanks with heavy volleys, yelling to us to surrender. I at once ordered Captain Bixby, the officer commanding the advance, to charge any force in his front, and follow the Aldie road to the point where it connects with the road to White Plains. This order was executed most admirably. Captain Bixby’s horse was shot and he himself wounded. My command was in a most hazardous position, the enemy being in front, rear, and on both flanks, and we were intermixed with them for more than an hour, until we struck the road leading to Hopewell Gap.
I must openly praise the gallant conduct of the brave officers and men who were fighting side by side with overwhelming numbers of the enemy, with the most determined valor, preferring rather to die than to surrender.
I returned here exhausted at 1.30 p.m. to-day with the gallant debris of my much-loved regiment – 4 officers and 27 men. My colors did not fall into the hands of the enemy, but were destroyed when they could not be saved. The color-bearer was mortally wounded.
I shall praise no one more than another, but I desire to call your attention to the gallant conduct of all the officers and men of the First Rhode Island Cavalry.
The following is our loss in killed, wounded, and missing: Lieut. Col. J. L. Thompson, Maj. P. M. Farrington, Asst. Surg. A. A. Mann, Adjt. E. B. Parker, Capts. John Rogers, Joshua Vose, Frank Allen, E. E. Chase, J. J. Gould, Arnold Wyman, G. N. Bliss, and A. H. Bixby, First Lieuts. Lathrop B. Shurtleff, C. G. A. Peterson, W. P. Prentiss, Barnard Ellis, and H. B. Barker, Second Lieuts. J. A. Chedel, jr., Simeon A. Brown, and J. M. Fales – 20 officers and 248 enlisted men.
With much respect, your obedient servant,
Colonel, Commanding First Rhode Island Cavalry.
Army of the Potomac.
Alexandria, Va., June 22, 1863.
Sir: I have the honor to report that about 5 p.m. on the evening of the 17th instant I was sent from Middleburg, where the regiment was then engaged with the enemy, to carry a dispatch to General Kilpatrick at Aldie, accompanied by 2 men. I first attempted to proceed by the main road, but was halted and fired upon by a body of the enemy, who said they were the Fourth Virginia Cavalry. I then returned toward Middleburg, and, leaving the road, attempted to make my way across the country. I found the fields and woods in every direction full of bodies of the enemy. By exercising the greatest care, I succeeded in making my way through them to Little River.
encountered 5 of the
enemy, and forced them to give me
passage. Following the river down, I struck the main road
about 1 mile from Aldie, and, by inquiry, learned that our pickets were
on that road.
I reached Aldie, and delivered my dispatch to General Kilpatrick at 9 p.m. General Kilpatrick informed me that his brigade was so worn out that he could not send any re-enforcements to Middleburg, but that he would report the situation of our regiment to General Gregg. Returning, he said that General Gregg had gone to state the facts to General Pleasonton, and directed me to remain at Aldie until he heard from General Pleasonton. I remained, but received no further orders.
Captain First Rhode Island Cavalry.
Col. A.N. Duffie.
It's gratifying to post another excerpt from the memoirs of Heros Von Borcke, the gallant Prussian aide to General J.E.B. Stuart. With a name like that, if he hadn't had a larger than life story to tell he would have had to invent one. No worries though, the tales of the dashing aide do not disappoint. I last quoted him during General Pope's summer campaign of 1862. The 'Adventure at Verdiersville' reports how Stuart and his staff were nearly captured, and how Stuart lost his famous plumed hat. Here once again, Von Borcke tells of his near capture, and gives us a Confederate's look at the engagements of Middleburg. And, not unlike Baron Munchausen, he tells us how he died the second time.
Except it's all true.
Commencement of the Summer CampaignGeneral Lee had by this completed his preparations for an advance into the enemy’s country, whither the theatre of war was now to be transferred; and, whilst a comparatively small body of troops still maintained a show in front of the Federals at Fredericksburg, the bulk of our army was being concentrated in the vicinity of Culpeper, apparently with out any suspicion of the fact on the part of the enemy’s commander-in-chief.
The first object General Lee sought to compass, was to clear the valley of Virginia of its hostile occupants and to capture the town of Winchester. Ewell with his troops had already started in that direction some days before, and on the 15th the rest of our infantry began to move forward. Stuart was ordered to cover the movements of our army and protect its flank by marching on the Fauquier side of the Blue Ridge Mountains; and accordingly the morning of the 16th found us betimes en route, and in high glee at the thought of once more invading Yankeedom. Having crossed the Hazel and Rappahannock rivers, we marched on in the same line we had followed in our retreat of November ’62, and at noon halted for an hour to feed our horses at the little town of Orleans, where General Stuart and his Staff made a point of visiting our old friend Mrs M., by whom we were received with her usual kindness and hospitality. Our march thence lay through the rich and beautiful county of Fauquier, which as yet showed but little signs of suffering from the war, and at dark we reached the Piedmont Station of the Baltimore – Ohio Railway, where we bivouacked. Next morning as soon as it was light the famous guerrilla chief Major Mosby, who had selected this part of the country for the scene of his extraordinary achievements, made his appearance in camp, reporting that the enemy’s cavalry, which till recently had fronted us near Culpepper, was rapidly following a line of march parallel to our own, although as yet only small detachments were occupying the neighbouring county of Loudoun. Our march was continued accordingly towards the village of Upperville, where our cavalry separated into several commands, with instructions to move by different roads towards the Potomac. Stuart, taking with him Robertson’s and Fitz Lee’s commands, the latter of which turned off towards Aldie, proceeded in the direction of Middleburg, which place he and his Staff, galloping ahead of the troops, reached late in the afternoon.
Recapture of MiddleburgWe were received in this pleasant little town with marked demonstrations of joy; and as my friends here had heard from Richmond the news of my death, but not its contradiction, I underwent another ovation at my quasi-resurrection. While paying one of the many visits I had to make to give bodily assurance of my presence in the world of the living, and relating my adventures to a circle of pretty young ladies, the streets suddenly resounded with the cry of “The Yankees are coming!” raised by a party of horsemen who galloped through the town in frantic excitement, having formed part of one of our pickets, on whom the enemy, not supposed to be so near, had rather suddenly fallen. I had just time to rush out of the house and mount my horse when the enemy’s cavalry poured into the town from various directions. I soon joined General Stuart, however, and the remainder of his Staff, who were riding off as fast as their steeds could carry them in the direction of our advancing troops, which we soon reached; and General Stuart gave orders that General Robertson should move his regiments at a trot upon Middleburg, and drive the enemy from the town without delay. As I had a better knowledge of the country than Robertson I was ordered to accompany the General, who was an old friend, and gladly consulted me as to the best mode of attack. It was already dark by the time we came up with our advanced pickets, about half a mile from Middleburg, and we found them supported by their reserve, under the command of Captain Woolridge of the 4th Virginia, engaged in a lively skirmish with the hostile sharpshooters. We were informed by this brave officer that the Federals held the town in considerable force, and had erected a barricade at its entrance, which he begged as a favour to be allowed to storm. This was of course granted; and with a cheer forward went the gallant little band, driving the tirailleurs rapidly before them, and taking the barricade after a short but sanguinary struggle.
At the same moment our sabers rattled from their scabbards, and the main body of the brigade dashed forward to the charge at a thundering gallop along the broad turnpike road and down the main street, while two of our squadrons went round outside the village to protect us from a flank attack. As I had felt rather ashamed at having been forced to run from the enemy under the very eyes of my fair friends, and was naturally anxious to afford them a spectacle of a totally different character, I assumed my place of honour, leading the charge with General Robertson, and to my intense satisfaction plunged into the enemy’s ranks opposite the precise spot whence I had commenced my flight, and whence, regardless of danger, the ladies now looked on and watched the progress of the combat. It lasted but a few seconds, for the enemy, unable to withstand the shock of our charge broke and fled in utter confusion – a part of the fugitives taking the straight road along the main street, and the other turning off by the shorter route out of the town to the right. Leaving General Robertson to pursue the former with one of his regiments, I took upon myself the responsibility of following the latter with several squadrons, anticipating that the Federal reserves were in this direction. My supposition proved only too correct, for they were soon at hand to rescue their comrades, and in a few minutes we were engaged in a severe conflict. Bullets whizzed from either side – men and horses fell dead and wounded amidst unavoidable confusion through the extreme darkness of the night, and for a time it seemed doubtful whether I should be able to hold my ground against numbers so far superior. Fortunately General Robertson, hearing the firing, soon came up with his regiment, and, taking now the offensive, we charged the Federals with our united force in front, while the squadron we had sent round the village to the right took them in flank, the effect of which was to force our antagonists into a rapid retreat, in the course of which we took several officers and 75 privates prisoners.
Renewed Combat and Successes.
On our return to Middleburg the General and I remained another hour with our lady friends, who, with their accustomed devotedness, were busy nursing the wounded, large numbers of whom were collected in several of the residences. It was late in the night by the time we reached Mr Rector’s plantation, about two miles to the rear, where our troops encamped. This spot is situated on a formidable hill, and being the crossing point of several of the principal roads, was a point of considerable strategical importance.
[News of the Battle at Aldie]
Early the following morning a report was received from Fitz Lee announcing an encounter with a strong body of Federal cavalry near Aldie, which had ended in the repulse of the enemy and the capture of 60 prisoners, among whom was a colonel and several other inferior officers. Our own loss had been heavy in killed and wounded, and among the former I lost my poor friend Major Eales of the 5th Virginia, who was struck by several bullets while leading his men to the charge. We got news also from William Lee’s troops, commanded by Chamblis, who had come quite suddenly and unexpectedly on the cavalry we had driven from Middleburg, killing and wounding a great number and taking 140 prisoners. The glorious accounts had meantime reached us of the capture of Winchester and Martinsburg by Ewell, with more than 4000 prisoners, 30 pieces of artillery, and innumerable stores of ammunition and provisions, rendering the opening of the campaign as favourable to its prospects as possible. As the prisoners taken during the last few days amounted to several hundreds, I was sent to Upperville, whither they had been dispatched, to superintend their transfer by detachments to Winchester – a duty in which I was occupied the greater part of the day, until toward evening the sound of a brisk cannonade recalled me back to the front.
Fight in Front of Middleburg
There I found that the Federals had advanced in strong force on Middleburg, had driven back our troops, and were once more in possession of the town, and that all our efforts to retake it had been vain – the cause of these failures being attributed to General Stuart’s hesitation to direct the fire of our artillery on the village, fearing to inflict too much damage on the patriotic little place. The fighting was kept up till midnight, when, finding the enemy showed no intention of pushing their advantage any further for the present, our troops, with the exception of a strong cordon of pickets, were withdrawn towards Rectors’ cross-roads, where we all encamped.
The morning of the 19th dawned with all the bright beauty of the month of June, but the rising of the sun was also the signal for the recommencement of hostilities, and before we had had time to breakfast, a rapid succession of cannon-shots summoned us to the front. The enemy in strong force were advancing upon a patch of wood about a mile from Middleburg, which was held by our troops, consisting of Robertson’s and William Lee’s commands; the dismounted sharpshooters on both sides were exchanging a lively fire, and the shells from a number of hostile batteries were bursting with a sharp crack in the tree-tops. General Stuart took up his position on a hill about half a mile to the rear, commanding a good view of the plain in front, and over the fields to the right and left. Our Chief of Artillery being engaged in another direction, I received orders to place our batteries in position; and the nature of the ground allowed this to be done so favourably that the cross-fire of our guns at a later period saved us from serious disaster. I then rode forward to the extreme front, and, carefully reconnoitering the position of the enemy, I found that their force was far superior to our own, and that they were overlapping us on either wing.
My Report DiscreditedGeneral Stuart gave me so little credit for the accuracy of my report that he was for some time convinced that he could hold his ground with ease, and even entertained the intention of sending off the greater part of William Lee’s troops towards Aldie. Through my earnest remonstrances this was deferred, however, and I was again dispatched to the front to see if I had not overrated the forces of the enemy. What I saw only too thoroughly confirmed my first observations; and I reported to General Stuart that in my opinion he would be forced to retreat, even if he kept the whole of his force together. But again he refused credit to the result of my observations, and said laughingly, “You’re mistaken for once, Von; I shall be in Middleburg in less than an hour,” – requesting me at the same time to write out a permit for Longstreet’s Commissary, Major N., who wished to visit his friends in the town, to go there unmolested. I was just writing the document, and remarking to the Major that I was afraid he would not be able to make use of it when suddenly the firing increased in heaviness, and we saw our men hastening from the woods in considerable confusion, followed by a dark mass of Federals in close pursuit. “Ride as quickly as you can, and rally those men; I will follow you immediately with all the troops I can gather,” were Stuart’s hasty instructions to me as he suddenly, though rather late, became convinced that I had all along been right. Just as I reached our breaking lines, the 9th Virginia, which had been in reserve, dashed forward in a magnificent charge; the batteries I had previously posted opened a well-directed cross-fire on the Federal horsemen; the flying regiments responded to my call, and turned upon their pursuers, whom we drove rapidly back into the woods, killing and wounding a large number, and taking many prisoners, until a severe fusillade from the enemy’s sharpshooters, posted on the outskirt of the wood, protected their retreat.
The Author Severely Wounded.
I had just succeeded in re-forming our own men, about 200 yards from the wood, when Stuart came up, and, riding along the lines of his troops, who always felt relieved by his appearance in the moment of extreme danger, was received by them with enthusiastic cheers. He now ordered the regiments to withdraw by squadrons to a better position – a movement which was executed under cover of a spirited fire from our batteries. The General and his Staff being the last to remain on the spot, we soon became a target for the Federal sharpshooters, who, by the cheering, had become well aware that Stuart was in that small group of officers. Being dressed in the same fashion as the General – a short jacket and grey hat, with waving ostrich plume, and mounted on my handsome new charger – I was mistaken for him, and my tall figure soon engaged their particular attention, for the bullets came humming round me like a swarm of bees. A ball had just stripped the gold-lace from my trousers, and I was saying to the General, riding a few steps before me on my left – “General, those Yankees are giving it rather hotly to me on your account,” – when I suddenly felt a severe dull blow, as though somebody had struck me with his fist on my neck, fiery sparks glittered before my eyes, and a tremendous weight seemed to be dragging me from my horse. After a few moments of insensibility, I opened my eyes again, to find myself lying on the ground, my charger beside me, and a number of officers and men pressing round and endeavouring to raise me. My left arm hung stiff and lifeless, and the blood was spouting from a large wound on the side of my neck, and streaming from my mouth at every breath. Unable to speak, I motioned to my comrades to leave me, and save themselves from the hail of bullets the enemy were concentrating on them, two of the soldiers about me having already fallen lifeless. At the same moment, I saw the Yankees charging towards us from the woods; and, certain that a few minutes more would leave me a prisoner in their hands, the hateful thought inspired me with the courage to summon all my strength and energy, and, managing to regain my legs, with the assistance of Captain Blackford and Lieutenant Robertson of our Staff, I mounted my horse, and rode off from the field, supported by these two officers, whose devoted friendship could not have been proved by a more signal act of self-sacrifice. After a painful ride of more than a mile, coming across an ambulance, my comrades placed me in it, gave orders to the driver to carry me further to the rear, and then galloped off in another direction in search of our surgeon, Dr Eliason.
My Wound Pronounced MortalMeanwhile the Federals were rapidly advancing, and numbers of their shells burst so near the ambulance that the driver was seized with fright, and, believing that anyhow I was nearly dead, drove off at a gallop over the rocky road, regardless of my agonized groans, every movement of the vehicle causing a fresh effusion of blood from my wound. At last I could stand it no longer, and, crawling up to him, I put my cocked pistol to his head, and made him understand that I should blow out his brains if he continued his cowardly flight. This proved effectual, and, driving along at a moderate pace, we were overtaken by Dr Eliason, who at once examined my wound, and found that the ball had entered the lower part of my neck, cut through a portion of the windpipe, and, taking a downward course, had lodged somewhere in my right lung, and that my left arm was entirely paralysed by the same shot. A shadow passed over the Doctor’s face as he examined me, for he had a liking for me; and reading in my eyes that I wished to have his undisguised opinion, he said, “My dear fellow, your wound is mortal, and I can’t expect you to live till the morning,” offering at the same time to execute my last wishes. This was sad enough intelligence for me; but the very positiveness of the opinion aroused within me the spirit of resistance, and I resolved to struggle against death with all the energy I possessed. In this determined mood I was enabled to attend to some matters of duty, and to give orders on a piece of paper for our ordinance-waggons, which we met on the road. I was conveyed to Dr Eliason’s house, where a bed was put up for me in the parlour, and I was attended to by the ladies of the family, who nursed me as though I had been a son of the house, whilst the Doctor’s blind child was sobbing by my bedside.
We must unfortunately leave our hero, to cover other matters, but be not troubled dear readers, Von Borcke miraculously survived his fatal wounds and lived to tell the tale.
Battery C, of the 3rd U.S. Artillery was present and played a crucial role in these week long engagements.
Private William Henry Forbush, my ancestor, was present with the battery. He had served with Company K of the '13th Mass.,' through the 2nd Battle of Bull Run, August 30th 1862. Wounded in the left hand at that fight, he probably walked, with others, during the chaos of the Federal retreat, to Washington, D.C. After a few days in a hospital there, he was transfered to a large facility in Philadelphia, on the corner of Broad & Cherry Streets. (The hospital building was formerly the old Reading Railroad Depot.) On December 11, 1862, Lieutenant Charles Gibson of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry recruited William, into the Regular Army, Horse Artillery.*
Jim Rosebrock, a retired military officer, Antietam Battlefield Guide, and artillery re-enactor, tells me there was a First Lieutenant Charles Gibson, in the recruiting service at this time, an 1861 graduate of West Point.
William then 19 years old, served out the remainder of his 3 year enlistment with Battery C, 3rd U.S. Artillery.
Jim also explained to me,
“For much of its early Civil War history, Battery C, 3rd Artillery was combined with Battery G. At Antietam Battery C had two officers and 77 men present; Battery G had one officer and 23 men present. That is because it was very difficult to lure recruits into the regulars because they were not offered the same incentives that volunteers had. Some of the regular batteries were so under strength that they had to be combined. Horatio Gibson commanded the combined battery for much of the early days of the war. He was with it at Antietam as were Lieutenants Meinell and Pendleton (who was actually from Company G).
Jim Rosebrock's comments about field artillery service continue:
"In a six-gun battery, there were ideally eight men assigned as gunners to each piece. Rarely, there were nowhere near that number of men actually organized. On paper the battery would have 70 "cannoneers" authorized to actually fire the guns. But a large number of men known as drivers, were also needed to ride the horses that dragged guns and caissons. They were not cannoneers but were all usually cross trained into those duties. On paper, there were 52 men who had this job. When a gun was unlimbered for battle, the drivers moved the horses back from the lines.
"Twelve corporals were authorized one per gun (called a gunner) and one per caisson (called chief of caisson). Six sergeants known as Chiefs of Pieces commanded the six gun/caisson teams. There were also buglers and blacksmiths.
"A two-gun section was commanded by a lieutenant, and one lieutenant also commanded the caissons. A captain commanded the company. Usually however if you look at orders of battle you rarely see a captain commanding. That is because while there was a captain "on paper" commanding a battery, many captains had accepted volunteer commissions or they had been elevated (without a promotion sadly) to be chiefs of artillery at the division or corps level."
In June, 1863, the Battery was commanded by First Lieutenant William Duncan Fuller, an 1861 graduate from West Point Military Academy. It was comprised of six 3 inch rifled cannon. The battery was divided into three sections of 2 guns each. The right section, or lead section, was commanded by First Lieutenant Henry C. Meinell. The left, or rear section, was commanded by First Lieutenant James Rigney Kelly. Second Lieutenant James Madison Lancaster of Kentucky, another West Point Graduate, was chief of the center section. [Lt. James M. Lancaster, pictured, left].
References are ambiguous but William's diary entries suggest he was with the center section. Commander Fuller's official report for these engagements, imply he relied foremost upon Lt. Meinell, with whom he had a longer personal association. Whenever a section had to be detached on dangerous duty it was usually Meinell who went.
*Another recruit who joined the 3rd U.S. Artillery at this time was John S. D. Day, a farmer from North Salem, (Hendricks), Indiana. Day was about 22 when he transferred from the 27th Indiana Infantry to the battery on October 26, 1862. He mustered out of the service August 7th, 1864 from Geesboro Point, Va. He died at the National Hospital for Disabled Veterans, May 3rd 1916; Leavenworth, Kansas. He is buried in Leavenworth National Cemetery. Day's descendant is the only contact I have made with other descendants of soldiers who served with William Henry Forbush in the 3rd U.S. Artillery, Battery C.
July 28, 1863.
Captain: I have the honor to make the following report of the movements of Horse Battery C, Third U.S. Artillery:
I assumed command of the battery on June 6, at Falmouth, Va.
On June 7, I reported to General Russell at Hartwood Church, and marched from that point on the 8th with his command to Kelly’s Ford, on the Rappahannock River, where we encamped.
Early the next morning the battery crossed the river there, and marched as far as Brandy Station, the right section in advance, under Lieutenant Meinell, firing on the enemy. Later in the day the battery recrossed the river at Rappahannock Station, and was put in position to cover the ford. Three guns were sent up to Beverly Ford, but were sent back the same night. The whole battery was under fire at Brandy Station. The battery reached Bealeton Station on the 11th, and on the 13th reported to General Gregg, at Catlett’s Station, from which place it marched to Union Mills, near Fairfax Station.
On June 17, it marched with General Pleasonton’s cavalry to Aldie, and went into position in front of the town that night.
On the morning of the 18th, Lieutenant Lancaster moved with his section toward Middleburg, and was engaged.
The whole battery marched to Middleburg on the 19th, taking position beyond the town, and engaging with the enemy’s skirmishers.
On the morning of June 21, the right section, Lieutenant Meinell, advanced beyond the woods in front of the town, and was engaged with a Confederate battery. General Pleasonton having sent for another section, I ordered the whole battery forward, and came into action on the right of Lieutenant Meinell. After a hot cannonading of a little over half an hour, the limber case of one of the enemy’s guns was blown up by a percussion shell from this battery, when they moved off hastily, leaving behind one gun and its limber, the horses of which had been disabled by the explosion of the ammunition chest.* The battery immediately advanced, taking up new positions, and engaging the enemy in his next position, from which he had again opened fire. The enemy was driven from this position as before, leaving 1 man dead on the ground, horribly mangled, and traces of blood where they had carried off their wounded, to testify to the accuracy of our fire.
The battery was also engaged at Goose Creek, Upperville, and near the entrance to Ashby’s Gap. At the latter place it remained in position until after dark, in advance of all but our pickets, when it was withdrawn to Upperville for the night, and returned next day to Aldie. On this occasion our loss was 1 man killed by a round shot, and 3 wounded by the accidental explosion of an ammunition chest.
We captured from the battery which engaged us one iron rifled gun (Blakely’s patent), limber, and caisson. The gun was turned over by the battery to the quartermaster at Fairfax Station for transportation to Washington, D. C., as a trophy. This gun threw a projectile weighing 16 or 17 pounds with great force and precision. It was stamped with the date 1862, and was made in Liverpool, England. It is superior to our 3-inch ordnance gun in every respect.
On June 26, we marched to Leesburg, and on the 27th crossed the Potomac at Edwards Ferry. The same night marched on, reaching Frederick City, Md., about noon on the 28th. The same day the battery was ordered to move with the cavalry to meet Stuart’s cavalry, then moving toward Washington. The battery marched to Ritchieville, remained all night on the road in position until the next night (29th), when we marched all night, reaching Westminster early in the morning of the 30th. After a few hours’ rest, the battery marched to Manchester, and encamped.**
Waud drew a picture of this explosion which can be seen on this page.
**The report is addressed to Captain J. C. Tidball, Commanding Second Brigade, Horse Artillery. It continues with the battery's actions through July 26, 1863. The rest of it will be posted on a later web page. - B.F. January 2, 2014.
Left Manassas Junction in the morning and came to within a mile of Aldie where we came in to the Rebels. Took about 200 prisernors. Camped for the Night –
Harnessed and saddled up and went out in pursuit of the Rebels but they had fell back from Aldie we went into a peace of woods to Camp for the Night Shower at Night –
Left Aldie and came through to this side of the Town of Middleburg and came upon the Rebels. Our Cavalry fought them all Day and took some priserners. Remained in position all Day. Shower at Night–
A side note, William's 20th Birthday was June 16th, 1863, the day before he set out on this campaign.
When General Hooker received communications that Confederate Cavalry had been encountered at Aldie, he ordered General Pleasonton to find out what was behind J.E.B. Stuart's Cavalry. Pleasonton sent out 2 reconnaissance patrols on the 18th; Colonel J. Irvin Gregg brought a brigade to Middleburg, and Colonel William Gamble's brigade shadowed Confederates to Snicker's Gap and back. The rain at night probably relieved the heat a little.
On June 19th the two adversaries clashed once again. Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart delayed the Union advance toward the Blue Ridge Gaps from a strong defensive position along a ridge known as Mount Defiance, just outside the town of Middleburg.
In the morning Union Colonel John Irvin Gregg's brigade left their bivouac at Aldie about 6 a.m. and rode down the Turnpike for the village of Middleburg. The four regiments encountered Confederate picket fire near the town. While the 10th NY spread out north and south of the road, the 4th PA continued forward. Out-flanked, the rebel pickets retreated to their main lines at Mt. Defiance west of town. Colonel Gregg proceeded cautiously to the west side of the village. He deployed his troops north and south of the Ashby Gap Turnpike and slowly started them forward - skirmishing. Resistance was obstinate. Lieutenant William Fuller’s battery (3rd U.S. Battery C) was brought up and took position on a ridge west of the town to face off with Confederate gunners about 1,000 yards distant.
Lieutenant Fuller’s report for the day states:
“The whole battery marched to Middleburg on the 19th, taking position beyond the town, and engaging with the enemy’s skirmishers.”
In his diary my Great-Great Grandfather wrote:
“Left Aldie and came through to this side of the Town of Middleburg and came upon the Rebels. Our Cavalry fought them all Day and took some priserners. Remained in position all Day. Shower at Night–“
The artillery duel lasted about an hour while Federal re-enforcements arrived.
When an aide from Division Headquarters questioned the delay in the advance, Colonel Gregg requested re-enforcements. About mid-morning his cousin, Division Commander David McMurtrie Gregg arrived on the scene and began deploying more troops north and south of the road to extend the flanks of the Union attack force.
A Little Conjecture
The First Maine were among the re-enforcements to deploy forward from the west side of Middleburg, about 10 A.M as stated in their report of the engagement. But before then, they wrote:
“During the morning it was stationed in Middleburg, supporting a section of a battery, commanded by Lieutenant Fowler, of the Second Artillery."
Artist Alfred Waud sketched the 1st Maine regiment skirmishing on this day. The picture appeared in Harper's Weekly, September 5th 1863. The current date attributed to the sketch, by the Library of Congress, is June 19, 1863.
In the background of the sketch is a section of artillery; two cannon.
The 1st Maine report states this was the "2nd US Artillery, commanded by Lieutenant Fowler."
Battery A of the 2nd US Artillery was present during the week long cavalry fights. Captain John Calef commanded the battery. But their report for June 19th, states that only a section of battery was deployed that day:
"June 19. - Lieutenant Roder on picket with a section, posted on an elevation commanding roads leading to Aldie from the north.”
This report places the 2nd U.S. Artillery near Aldie, not Middleburg, on the 19th.
I’m pretty sure that The 1st Maine were skirmishing in front of Lt. Fuller’s section of the 3rd U.S. After all, those Mainers have a down-east manner of speaking and I could easily imagine them pronouncing Fuller as ‘Fowler,’ when trying to determine the officer in charge. Having just lost their Colonel in battle, two days earlier, and sustaining several casualties during this week of fighting, getting the name of the battery probably wasn’t foremost on their minds.
There are no officers named "Fowler,' listed as having served in the 2nd Brigade Horse Artillery during this campaign.
If this assumption is correct, my Great-Great Grandfather may be one of the shadowy figures in the background of this drawing, among the limbers and the teams.
Or he could be one of the men standing a little further to the rear with the horses beside the clump of trees..
In any case I believe this is William D. Fuller's battery behind the Maine men. Here is a close up of the clump of trees behind the soldiers:
Private Henry C. Meyer's reminiscences continue. (Meyer's re-telling of the death of Col. Douty is posted in the 'Battle of Aldie' section above.)
When Division Commander David McMurtrie Gregg arrived on the scene at Middleburg, he sent Meyer, acting aide, forward to question Colonel J. Irvin Gregg for the delay in the advance.* Meyer tells the story :
General Gregg was with our battery on a ridge some distance back. As the enemy were making a determined stand General Gregg turned to me and said “Ride up to Colonel Gregg, present my compliments, and ask him why he does not drive those people out of there.” As I rode to deliver this message I wondered how Colonel Gregg would receive it from me, who was not then a commissioned officer, though he knew me as the General’s clerk.
When I reached the woods in which his command was, I started to ride in, when an orderly holding a couple of horses called out, “Here, you can’t go mounted through there.” Asking him then if Colonel Gregg was in there he replied that he was, and that he was holding his horse. Leaving my horse with this man I walked through the woods on the edge of which was Colonel Gregg’s line. He was standing with his shoulder against a tree at the very front of it. As I approached him he reached out, grabbed me by the arm, saying, “Keep back, they will hit you,” and drew me up alongside of him where we were somewhat protected by the tree. He then said, “Well, what is it?”
I then repeated General Gregg’s message, expecting an irritated reply, since it seemed to imply a censure. Instead of that, he, in the mildest manner possible, said: “I will tell you. You see their line across this clearing?”
Replying “Yes,” he continued : “You see where their guns are on the right of the road covering this, and you also see a line of dismounted men behind that stone wall at the wheat field. Now, if I order a charge across there it will be subjected to an enfilading fire from those men behind the wall and it will be very expensive of men.” He then asked me if the General had a spare regiment that he could send around in a ravine beyond the wheat field, have them dismount and crawl through the wheat unobserved and attack the men who were facing him from behind the stone wall. I told him there was, and he asked me to go back and explain the matter, saying, "If the General will send some men to get those fellows started behind that wall I will charge.”
[Colonel J. Irvin Gregg, pictured.]
I returned and described the situation to General Gregg, who directed a battalion of the Harris Light, I think, to make a detour, crawl through the wheat field, and attack the men behind the wall, who were practically right under the guns of the enemy, which were, however, fining over their heads across the road into the woods from which they were expecting a charge to be made. The General then directed me to return and tell Colonel Gregg to charge as soon as the men behind the stone wall were attacked. In due time the Harris Light suddenly appeared only a few rods in the rear of the Confederates behind the wall, who, without any warning, received a volley in their backs. They were at once in confusion and at that moment the bugle sounded the charge and the First Maine and Fourth Pennsylvania from the woods, and the Tenth New York in column on the turnpike, charged and took the ridge, the Confederate battery getting away just in the nick of time. I recall seeing the body of one of their colonels lying out in the turnpike just near where their guns had stood. This finished the fight for that day. This incident is mentioned somewhat in detail because I think that Colonel Gregg’s coolness and solicitude of the safety of his men, where, by the use of a little strategy a needless loss of life was saved, deserve recognition.**
Gregg was General Gregg's 2nd cousin.
**This account is from "Civil War Experiences under Bayard, Gregg, Kilpatrick, Custer, Ralston and Newburry, 1862, 1863, 1864" by Henry C. Meyer, private printing, 1911; pages 36-41.
Map - The Battle at Middleburg
Once General Gregg deployed two additional brigades to extend the Union attack force beyond the rebel flanks, the Federals pushed forward. South of the turnpike the troopers charged on foot with carbines blazing. Two adjacent mounted companies of the 1st Maine ran over the rebel line. It was then that Heros Von Borcke was severely wounded, speculated to be somewhere near the Old Zulla roadbed. Two other mounted companies of the 1st Maine charged up the turnpike followed by 6 companies of the 10th New York, while dismounted troopers north of the road pressured the Rebels on the left wing.
The fighting swirled near the road around a blacksmith shop atop Mount Defiance, where Confederate artillery was posted and in danger of being captured. Stuart sent the 9th Virginia Cavalry into the fighting to slow the Federal advance. This bought him time to haul his cannon to safety. The Confederate brigade on the north side of the road was pressured enough to fall back 500 yards to form a new line. When the Rebel brigade south of the pike reached the road all the Confederates retreated to the high ground of the Bittersweet Farm a half mile or more to the rear from their initial position.
General Gregg advanced and occupied Mount Defiance and the fighting along the turnpike ended.
Buford's Flank March
About mid-morning Brigadier-General John Buford [pictured] arrived at Middleburg and was directed to take his two brigades north above Goose Creek to see if there was a way to loop around and turn Stuart's flank. Their route along Pot House Road, was briefly contested at Benton Bridge, but Buford's men soon sent the Confederate pickets scurrying.
Leaving a detachment of cavalry and artillery posted at the bridge to protect the crossing, the rest of his force continued riding to the village of Pot House. Here Buford formed battle lines to meet some harassing fire from two Confederate regiments commanded by Colonel Thomas L. Rosser. Rosser had been ordered by Stuart to delay any Yankees, but not to bring on any engagements. Buford's artillery blasted Rosser's probing attacks, and the Colonel retreated from whence he came.
At this time Buford received orders from General Pleasonton to send along his reserve brigade to the sound of the fighting along the Ashby Gap Turnpike. This elite brigade of Cavalry 'regulars' back tracked 2 1/2 miles and followed the noise of battle south and west. From Millville Road they crossed Goose Creek again at Millville Ford. Stuart had just arrived at his new position at Bittersweet Farm when it was reported to him, Yankees were riding down on the left flank. Both sides raced to take a little hill commanding the Millville Ford and the turnpike. The Federals arrived first and took a defensive position behind stone walls atop the knoll. The Confederates harassed them for a little while, then fell back to harass them from a safer distance. [Buford's 'battle knoll' can be seen in the map above.]
About 6 p.m., fighting sputtered out and the tired troops of both sides rested for the night. The heat of the day had taken a toll on the soldiers.
The next morning the reserves abandoned the knoll and fell back to Aldie to re-join the rest of Buford's command.
Quarters, First Maine
Middleburg, Virginia, June 19, 1863.
A. A. A. General, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, Cavalry Corps.
Lieutenant: - I have the honor to report the following as the part taken by my regiment in the action of the nineteenth. During the morning it was stationed in Middleburg, supporting a section of a battery, commanded by Lieutenant Fowler, of the Second Artillery. About ten o’clock A.M., advanced up the Winchester pike about two miles and took a position in the woods on the left of the pike to support skirmishers.
When ordered to advance, two companies, viz: M and E, commanded by Captain Brown and Lieutenant Ellis, charged through the woods on our front and left, across an open field to a stone wall, where, after a sharp engagement, they captured a Lieutenant Colonel, three line officers, and twenty-one enlisted men; a daring feat and gallantly performed. Lieutenant Taylor of company M, and Lieutenant M. Neville, company E, both fell in the contest.Two other companies charged through the woods on our front and right, driving the enemy in superior numbers before them to a point where the belt of woods crosses the pike, where they united with the rest of the regiment that charged directly up the pike. In the belt of woods the enemy was posted in force behind a stone wall, and had succeeded in forcing our skirmishers to fall back. A regiment charged upon them and drove them from their strong position. Advancing through the woods, they encountered a strong force posted in an open field. The enemy held his ground with great obstinacy and a severe contest ensued. By one desperate charge, however, he was compelled to abandon his chosen position and retire.
Our loss was three commissioned officers killed and one wounded. Seven enlisted men killed and twenty-six wounded.
Charles H. Smith,
Lieut. Col. Com’ding First Maine Cavalry.
An incident occurred on the day of the fight at Middleburg, which must be here related. Major Chadbourn, (at the time Captain of Company I, and serving on detached duty with his company, at the head quarters of General Pleasonton, commanding the Cavalry Corps,) accompanied by three men, was on his way with despatches to General Hooker, whose head quarters were then near Fairfax Court House. They had just passed one of our wagon trains, (some thirty mule teams), when they saw a squad of cavalry, some two score in number, coming toward them. As those in front were dressed in our uniform, they were supposed to be the train guard. The Captain continued to advance, all the while, however, keeping his eyes well open. When within a few paces, he saw them fumbling for their weapons.
“Boys,” said he to his men, in a low tone, “they are rebs; we must get out of this,” and as he wheeled his horse, Mosby, (for he it was in command,) called out, “Don’t run, we are friends.”
One of the men hesitated, and the next moment was a prisoner. The Captain, with his other two men, made good time for the rear, with the enemy at their heels. A portion of Mosby’s men took possession of the wagon train, whilst the balance pursued the Captain and his men.
The rebels were well mounted, but the “race is not always to the swift.” This race had continued less than a mile, when the Captain came upon a squad of our own cavalry, halted in the woods, some thirty or forty in number.
Never did a more welcome sight greet the eye, and never did the voice of command ring out more clearly than that of the gallant Captain.
“Mount, men, mount and fall in quick!”
By this time the two foremost of the pursuers were so near upon him that when the Captain wheeled his horse, as he did while giving the word, the action brought him directly between the two and both were secured.
Meantime some twenty of our men were mounted. The position of the parties was now reversed. The rebels were driven back on their main force. Squad after squad was charged and captured or dispersed, till in a few moments the whole rebel force was disposed of, the wagon trains re-covered, the drivers re-captured and re-mounted, and sent on their way.
At the end of the day's fighting along the turnpike near Middleburg, June 19th, the Federals lost nearly 100 men killed wounded and captured. The Confederates lost about the same. About 4,500 troops were engaged. This excludes Buford's actions north of Goose Creek which went un-reported.
A heavy rain relieved the uncomfortable heat of the preceding days and kept things quiet. Fresh troops arrived for both sides, including two infantry brigades for General Pleasonton. Generals Hooker and Pleasonton exchanged communications. Pleasonton wanted permission to throw his whole force at the Rebels, and Hooker approved, and suggested Pleasonton use a flanking manouevre to get around Stuart's line. Hooker ordered infantry supports from the 5th Corps to General Pleasonton.
Report of General Pleasonton
Cavalry Corps, June
20, 1863 – 7 a.m.
(Received 12.10 p.m.)
General S. Williams,
General: The dispatch of Major Barstow, of 4.15 p.m. yesterday, is received.
There are some 10 officers and 60 or 70 men of Duffie’s returned here, and they are gradually coming in. I shall forward his report during the day.
Longstreet’s corps has not passed through either Middleburg or Union. I am holding both of these points with three brigades, and some 2 miles beyond. Stuart is just in front, and has called up Hampton’s Legion and Fitzhugh Lee from Warrenton. Some infantry soldiers with knapsacks on were found on the field yesterday. These belong to Garnett’s and Pickett’s division. The gaps in the Blue Ridge are guarded, and from their signal station they can see every man we can bring against them. I judge Longstreet has the covering of the gaps, and is moving up his force as the rebel army advances toward the Potomac.
One of Duffie’s men, who was paroled, has come in, and states there is a considerable force of infantry behind Stuart’s cavalry and in front of Upperville.
I have been attacking Stuart to make him keep his people together, so that they cannot scout and find out anything about our forces.
Their cavalry force is very numerous; a great deal of it mounted infantry. Lee is playing his old game of covering the gaps and moving his forces up the Shenandoah Valley.
Chester Gap has been the gap they passed through. The infantry on this side is simply to assist Stuart. We cannot force the gaps of the Blue Ridge in the presence of a superior force.
“There had galloped furiously by us, backward and forwards during our journey, a tall man, mounted on a taller horse. Blue-eyed, fair-bearded, strapping and stalwart, full of loud cheery laughs and comic songs, armed to the teeth, jack-booted, gauntleted, slouch-hatted, yet clad in the shooting-jacket of a civilian, I had puzzled myself many times during the afternoon and evening to know what manner of man this might inwardly be. He didn’t look like an American; he was too well dressed to be a guerrilla.”
"I found him out at last and struck up an alliance with him. The fair-bearded man was the “war-artist” of Harper’s Weekly. He had been with the army of the Potomac, sketching, since its first organization, … He had been in every advance, in every retreat, in every battle, and almost in every reconnaissance. He probably knew more about the several campaigns, the rights and wrongs of the several fights, the merits and demerits of the commanders, than two out of three wearers of generals’ shoulder-straps. But he was a prudent man, who could keep his own counsel, and went on sketching. Hence he had become a universal favourite. Commanding officers were glad to welcome in their tents the genial companion who could sing and tell stories, and imitate all the trumpet and bugle-calls – who could transmit to posterity, through woodcuts, their features and their exploits – but who was not charged with the invidious mission of commenting in print on their performances. He had been offered, time after time, a staff appointment in the Federal service; and, indeed, as an aide-de-camp, or an assistant-quartermaster, his minute knowledge of the theatre of war would have been invaluable. Often he had ventured beyond the picket-lines, and been chased by the guerillas; but the speed and mettle of his big brown steed had always enabled him to show these gentry a clean pair of heels. He was continually vaulting on this huge brown horse, and galloping off full split, like a Wild Horseman of the Prairie. The honours of the staff appointment he had civilly declined. The risk of being killed he did not seem to mind; but he had no relish for a possible captivity in the Libby or Castle Thunder. He was, indeed, an Englishman – English to the backbone; and kept his Foreign Office passport in a secure side-pocket, in case of urgent need." 1
Fay’s book continues with an interesting biography of the great Special Artist which includes the following facts and anecdotes:Alfred Rudolph Waud was born in London, England, October 2nd 1832. At a young age he was apprenticed to a decorator but turned to art when he came of age. He studied at the School of Design at Somerset House, London. After some time spent as a scene painter for the theatres he came to America, having a “sentimental liking for republican institutions." 2
He came to New York City in 1850 with a letter of recommendation to John Brougham, a popular Irish Actor and playwright, then building a theatre on Broadway. The new theatre wasn’t finished so after doing various art jobs Waud relocated to Boston. Here he learned to draw on blocks for engravers.
He did work for various publications in Boston and New York during the 1850’s. He was married in the mid 1850’s and had the first of his four children. His original intent was to be a painter of maritime subjects, to which he devoted a lot of serious study. In 1860 he accepted a position with the New York Illustrated News, established 1859, one of the big three illustrated papers of the time. The other two were Frank Leslie’s Illustrated and Harper’s Weekly.
Waud was dispatched to Washington in April, 1861 when war broke out. One of his first sketches was Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth and his fire zouaves successfully battling a blaze at Willard’s Hotel May 9th. On May 26 he sketched the funeral of the very same Colonel Ellsworth, one of the first casualties of the war, shot dead when he pulled down a Confederate flag flying over his hotel in Alexandria. At Washington, Waud also lined up a sitting from a reluctant, General-in-Chief Winfield Scott.
Alfred accompanied photographer Mathew Brady and his wagon, with 2 other reporters from the New York Tribune to the Bull Run Battlefield, advancing with General Irvin McDowell’s Federal troops. During the rout of the Union army, artist Waud was credited with hopelessly trying to rally the fugitives. Brady was caught in the rout and barely saved his photographic plates. Waud and the two journalists reached Centreville and slept for the night thinking the army would settle somewhere nearby. In the morning they found the Union Army gone. They had to carefully make their way to Washington, 20 miles away. His sketches of the battle appeared in the August 8th 1861 issue of the New York Illustrated News.
In August The News sent Waud to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina with General Benjamin Butler’s expedition. The affair was short lived, and Waud was soon back at Fortress Monroe. While things were relatively quiet during this period he spent time sketching details of camp life. He was a good writer and a long article, “A Day in Camp,” appeared in the October 21st issue of The News, on this subject.
Late in the year 1861 Waud made the switch to Harper’s Weekly, established 1857, with a thriving circulation of 120,000. He would follow the fortunes of the Army of the Potomac for the rest of the war.Waud was the finest sketch artist in the field. Other highly talented men worked at the trade including Waud’s younger brother William, who covered the war periodically for Leslie’s then Harper’s. But William's assignments often sent him further south than his brother.
Arthur Lumley, Henri Lovie and Fred B. Schell, were all at Leslie’s. Leslie’s also employed Edwin Forbes. Forbes was a better figure and animal artist, who could work up the finest of finished drawings, but Waud was a better quick sketch man. Waud could capture the action of a battlefield with a short hand that was extraordinarily accurate. None surpassed him. ["Surrender !" sketched 'Near Aldie,' June 17, 1863.]
The News described the work of the Special Artist in an article June 7, 1862:
“Their duty calls them into all sorts of dangerous places, and professional rivalry, and the eagerness to obtain news “exclusive” and in advance of the correspondents of other journals, kept them constantly in the advance, and on that dangerous and disputed ground that has not yet been made safe by the onward march of our soldiers.” 3
In those days sketches were rushed by mail or courier, overland or by ship, depending on location, to the illustrated weekly offices in New York. A staff of engravers copied the drawings on boxwood blocks, several often working on the same picture simultaneously. There were figure specialists and background specialists. Blocks were bolted together to form a completed picture. A double page spread took as many as 40 blocks. Then, an electrotyped metal impression was made for printing on the rotary presses which rolled off more than 100,000 copies a week. It usually took about 3-4 weeks to process from sketch pad to printed page.
During the course of his daily work he had plenty of opportunities to get shot at. In October, 1863 in Harper’s Waud wrote in part:
“Your artist was the only person connected with newspapers permitted to go upon the recent advance to the Rapidan. An order of General Meade’s sent all the reporters back. It was a very wet and uncomfortable trip part of the time. I did not get dry for two days; and was shot at into the bargain, at Raccoon Ford, where I unconsciously left the cover and became a target for about twenty sharp-shooters. Luckily I was not touched; but I did some tall riding to get out of the way.” 4
Fortunately, Special Correspondent Alf Waud was hard at work in the Loudoun Valley in June, 1863, covering General Pleasonton's Cavalry campaign. In addition to the battles, which he documented quite nicely, - especially the Battle of Upperville, June 21st, he was busy sketching other subjects including the porch of the house used by General Pleasonton's staff at Aldie. (This is just the barest notation of the place.)
Alfred Waud experienced his own personal loss following the week long cavalry battles in the Loudoun Valley.
On June 22nd, his close friend, Lynde Walter Buckingham, from a prominent Boston family, a correspondent for the New York Herald, rode toward Washington with his reports of the recent cavalry fights. Near Aldie, he was ambushed by Mosby's guerillas, who fired shots. Buckingham's horse bolted at the shots then raced and stumbled down a steep hill. Buckingham was thrown to the ground. Union pickets found him and took him "to a little brick church being used as a hospital where he died of a fractured skull." The Herald reported Waud "hearing of the affair repaired to the place, and himself dug the grave for the burial of his old friend in a little graveyard adjoining the church, where the remains were interred." Taking charge of Buckingham's personal effects, the bereaved Waud rejoined the Army of the Potomac, then moving north." 5
1. From George Augustus Sala, a correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph, who visited the Army of the Potomac in January 1864, found in "Alfred R. Waud, Civil War Artist" by Frederick E. Ray.
2. Ray; page 12.
3, Ray, page 28.
4. Ray, page 29. [Harper's Weekly, October 3, 1863].
5. Ray, page 42.
Summary - The last battle of the week was the deadliest. Pleasonton's Cavalry was re-enforced with Colonel Strong Vincent's Infantry brigade from General George Meade's 5th Corps. Confederate General Stuart replaced one of his battered brigades along the turnpike with reserves. With both sides re-enforced, General Pleasonton pressed Stuart all day long, in a succession of aggressive attacks all the way through Upperville towards the looming pass of Ashby's Gap. Stuart gave ground slowly, falling back to a new strong defensive line after each Union thrust. In the afternoon, once his wagon supply-train was safe, Stuart retreated to Ashby's Gap where infantry support was dug in waiting to assist if necessary. After dark General Pleasonton called off his attacks, satisfied with the beating he gave Stuart's vaunted cavalry.
3rd U.S. Artillery Battery C - Lieutenant Fuller's battery again played an important active role in these battles. To quote once more from his report :
"On the morning of June 21, the right section, Lieutenant Meinell, advanced beyond the woods in front of the town, and was engaged with a Confederate battery. General Pleasonton having sent for another section, I ordered the whole battery forward, and came into action on the right of Lieutenant Meinell. After a hot cannonading of a little over half an hour, the limber case of one of the enemy’s guns was blown up by a percussion shell from this battery, when they moved off hastily, leaving behind one gun and its limber, the horses of which had been disabled by the explosion of the ammunition chest. The battery immediately advanced, taking up new positions, and engaging the enemy in his next position, from which he had again opened fire. The enemy was driven from this position as before, leaving 1 man dead on the ground, horribly mangled, and traces of blood where they had carried off their wounded, to testify to the accuracy of our fire.
The battery was also engaged at Goose Creek, Upperville, and near the entrance to Ashby’s Gap. At the latter place it remained in position until after dark, in advance of all but our pickets, when it was withdrawn to Upperville for the night, and returned next day to Aldie. On this occasion our loss was 1 man killed by a round shot, and 3 wounded by the accidental explosion of an ammunition chest."
Artist Alfred Waud sketched the explosion of the rebel ammunition chest mentioned in Fuller's report. Fuller's battery is indicated on the map above, on the Turnpike just beyond Mount Defiance. The map [slightly cropped] was prepared by David W. Lowe for the American Battlefield Protection Program report, funded by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Click for a larger image.
General Stuart made a stand this day, east of the village of Upperville. His first position was 2 miles west of Middleburg at Bittersweet Farm, south of the Ashby's Gap Turnpike. Brigadier-General David Gregg's cavalry division probed west down the turnpike from the Federal position at Mount Defiance. Captain James Hart's Confederate artillery posted astride the road halted Gregg's advance with artillery fire. Lieutenant William D. Fuller's guns returned fire from Mount Defiance and opened an hour long artillery duel with Hart's 4 guns at a distance of about 850 yards. This was William Henry Forbush's battery, and his diary entry for this day reads:
"5th Section had one man killed. Cratka. Left the Position at Middleburg and advanced to beyond Upperville to the Ashby Gap fighting all the way. Our Cavalry charged through the Town and took two brass howitssers and one Steal Gun." [Cratka is Private Charles A. Kratka, Co. C, - B.F.]
During the contest Colonel Strong Vincent's Infantry Brigade moved south to flank the right of Stuart's line. Vincent's men bent the right of Stuart's line back far enough to gain their rear making the Confederate line unravel from south to north. Hart's battery became vulnerable to attack and capture and pulled back. Just at this time, one of Fuller's gunners struck the limber and exploded an ammunition chest of one of Hart's prized English made Blakely guns. A tremendous explosion went up disabling its team of horses. The prized gun was captured, and is mentioned in Lt. Fuller's Official Report. It was the first field artillery piece lost by General Stuart during the war. The Rebels fell back, first to Crummy Run, then Rocky Creek, where Hart's Battery took a 2nd position.
The ground in front of the new Confederate line was too steep for mounted cavalry to attack and Hart's battery covered the turnpike. Fuller's Battery moved up the road and took a 2nd position at a hill alongside, to engage Hart's artillery, while once again Colonel Strong Vincent's Infantry crept around the right of the Rebel lines. The Confederates fell back from Crummy Run to Rocky Creek. Vincent's infantry followed them up on the right each time. Again they were flanked and Stuart fell back along the road to Goose Creek. The Yankee push toward Ashby's Gap was delayed another 2 hours by all this maneuvering.
Buford's Flank Ride
While Gregg's Division was battling along the turnpike, Brigadier-General John Buford’s Cavalry Division rode north, then along parallel roads in an attempt to get behind Stuart’s line. Buford departed from Mount Defiance about 7:30 a.m., the time the artillery duel began along the turnpike. Early in the morning, he reached the partially burnt Benton Bridge over Goose Creek, where rebel skirmishers opposed his crossing. Two hours were lost searching for an alternative place to cross the creek, but muddy roads and fields prevented this. Buford finally forced a crossing at Benton Bridge.
Pictured is a modern bridge over Goose Creek, near where the old Benton Bridge once stood. Photo by Craig Swain.
From here, Buford headed west on Millville Road. Confederate Colonel Lumsford Lomax commanding two regiments, slowed Buford’s advance with harassing sharpshooter fire from high ground above Millville Ford. Buford halted his column, deployed skirmishers and called up a section of artillery to clear the way. Lomax withdrew a mile to the west and formed a new defensive position re-enforced with artillery and a third regiment. It was essential for the Confederates to hold Buford back from an intersecting road which led south to Stuart’s flank at Goose Creek Bridge.
Fighting along the Turnpike at Goose Creek Bridge
After their repulse from Rock Creek, the 1st South Carolina held off the Yankee advance along Ashby’s Gap Turnpike while General Stuart reformed a strong defensive position at the stone bridge over Goose Creek. When Colonel Strong Vincent’s infantry appeared on the flank of the 1st SC, they fell back to the bridge. The road was clear of troops but Confederate cannon posted on the hills behind the bridge blasted solid shot down the Turnpike to prevent Pleasonton getting too close. General Pleasonton called up his artillery to the high open ground north of the road and initiated another artillery duel, this one lasting nearly two hours.
William D. Fuller’s 3rd U.S. Battery C, assisted by Captain Alanson Randol’s 1st U.S. Batteries E & G, concentrated accurate fire against the enemy, killing and wounding many of Hart’s horses and dis-mounting two of his guns. The thundering cannon was heard as far away as Washington D.C. A chaplain posted near Gainesville, Va. counted the discharges:
“Four guns per minute. Five guns per minute. The thunder of artillery has been heard since early morning. Seven guns in a minute we count now.”
Sergeant John A. Boudwin of the '13th Mass' in camp at Guilford Station on the Leesburg Railroad, recorded in his diary this day,
sunrise.. heavy firing at Leesburg by
Anxious to take the Goose Creek Bridge, General Pleasonton called forward two regiments, ordering one of them to dash across it. Both assaults were repulsed. Once again, Col. Strong Vincent’s infantry was called upon to circle south and find the rebel right flank. Eventually Vincent drove back Rebel skirmishers and Pleasonton again charged Goose Creek Bridge. Knowing Buford’s troopers were to the north seeking his left flank, Stuart fell back for the 5th time this day. He took a position just east of the village of Upperville at Vineyard Hill, a place he was very familiar with having used it in times past.
*John Boudwin Diary, Pierce Collection, Navarro, TX
About the time Stuart fell back from the Goose Creek Bridge line to Vineyard Hill, he sent word to his rear guard posted to the north (Chambliss' and Jones' Brigades) to pull out of their current position and rendezvous at Ashby’s Gap where Confederate Infantry re-enforcements were holding the mountain pass. Col. Lomax (Chambliss’ Brigade) was still engaged with Buford along Welbourne Road. Behind Lomax troops was a crossroads which the Confederate supply train had to clear in order to get to Ashby’s Gap. If Buford’s troopers gained the intersection first, these wagons and troops would be cut off, unable to proceed to the Gap, and most likely captured. So until the crossroads was clear of wagons and troops, Lomax continued to hold Buford’s force at bay. When the supply train cleared the intersection Lomax withdrew.
Pictured is the Welborne/Millville Road. Photo by Craig Swain.
When Lomax pulled out, Buford’s troops pursued but could not catch the fast moving Rebels. Hearing cannon fire to the south General Buford paused to ascend a nearby hill and look around. To the southwest he saw Stuart’s line reforming at Vineyard Hill in front of the village of Upperville. Looking west beyond Upperville, he saw Chambliss' and Jones' brigades moving south towards Ashby’s Gap on Trappe Road. Buford decided to try once again to come down on Stuart’s left flank. His troops rode about a mile further west then turned south on another road leading toward the Turnpike and Stuart’s left flank.
General Stuart took up a 5th defensive position for the day at Vineyard Hill just east of Upperville. The formidable Confederate line stretched over the north and south sides of Ashby Gap Turnpike. Artillery covered the road. Several rash un-coordinated Federal attacks upon this position were beat back by the Rebels. And here, the battle got bloody.
Initially, three regiments of General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick’s brigade charged the Confederate line astride the turnpike. (6th OH, 2nd NY 4th NY). During the charge, Buford’s sizable cavalry force appeared riding down from the north upon the left of Stuart’s defensive line. This caused the troops on the extreme left of Stuart’s line to break and run through Upperville to the west side of town. But Buford’s riders could not reach the battlefield. A raging creek blocked his path. On the south side of the creek Kilpatrick’s men pursued the fleeing Rebels but Confederate reserves plowed into their left flank. The enemy troopers mixed it up with pistols and sabers until the 1st NC arrived to turn the tide in favor of the Confederates. Kilpatrick’s force was overwhelmed and fled.
Map at right shows Stuart's position at Vineyard Hill. The map [slightly cropped] was prepared by David W. Lowe for the American Battlefield Protection Program report, funded by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Click for a larger image.
General Pleasonton ordered another charge across the fields south of the turnpike. Two regular army regiments of cavalry raced forward without proper organization and were repulsed. After falling back they dismounted and took cover behind stone walls lining a side road facing the enemy. A third regiment of regulars, the 1st U.S. Cavalry, continued undaunted to battle the whole Confederate right wing for 20 minutes. When they tired out, Union artillery covered their retreat.
North of the turnpike, Kilpatrick rallied his troopers and tried once again to break Stuart’s left flank where he had had some success earlier, thanks to the panic provoked by Buford’s unexpected appearance. The push was unsuccessful. General J.E.B. Stuart himself, led a counter-charge that sent Kilpatrick and his men back to their own lines.On the west side of Upperville, the Confederate troops that fled at Buford's appearance reformed a new strong defensive position behind the stone walls that lined Trappe Road at its intersection with the Turnpike. With the Federals repulsed, the rest of Stuart’s force leisurely fell back through the town to join the new line.
About a mile to the north along the
Buford and the fight at the Thomas and Ayers farms to the north
When the raging creek prevented Buford’s two brigades from joining Kilpatrick at Vineyard Hill, they continued west on sunken Kinchloe's Mill Road parallel with the turnpike.
[pictured, Kinchloe's Mill Road, looking west. Photo by Craig Swain.]
Two Confederate brigades lay in wait for them as the road rose up to the fields of the Thomas' and Ayers' Farms.
Buford had been chasing Col. John Chambliss' and Brig-Gen William Jones' Cavalry all day. The two commanders set up a defensive position in the fields and along the stone walls of the Thomas and Ayers farms near the Trappe road. This protected their wagons as they moved south to rendezvous with Stuart. Artillery was aimed toward the sunken road from which the Yankees would approach.
When Buford’s lead brigade road up from the ravine in battle formation, Captain Robert Chew’s battery blasted them. The Yankees immediately charged Chew's guns posted on a hill on the near side of Trappe road. A cannon blast killed the horse of Brigade Commander Col. William Gamble, leading the charge.
Before the Yankees could take the cannon, troopers from Jones’ Brigade rode to rescue the guns, and counter-charged. This gave the Confederates a numerical advantage. Col Gamble’s men were pushed back through the Thomas farm fields to Kinchloe’s Mill Road from which they came. But now, the Confederates were in range of deadly point blank gun fire sent from Yankee skirmishers posted behind stone walls in the back fields. After 10 bloody minutes of fighting the Rebels fell back. [Click map to view a larger version.]
Mean-while, Gamble’s brigade reformed and a 2nd attempt was made to take the guns of Chew’s battery. This charge was met mid-field by two fresh regiments of Confederate cavalry. The ensuing mêlée drew in troopers from all parts of the field and dissolved into chaos. Col. Gamble recovered from his fall and re-entered the fray on a new mount.
At the same time Federal skirmishers crept up through the fields toward Chew’s battery, to pressure the gunners. The battery was forced to fall back across the Trappe road. A well timed advance by the 9th Virginia Cavalry drove the Federals away from the fields in front of the road and covered the battery’s move across the road. The charge successfully bought time for Chambliss and Jones to disengage from the Yankee attackers. They started south to link up with Stuart. Chew’s repositioned gunners covered the withdrawal. The attack of the 9th VA ended when they reached the dismounted Federal skirmishers at the stone wall in the back fields. Twenty seven Virginians fell from repeated volleys.
Pictured are some fields of the Gibson Farm, looking west from Trappe Road, north of Upperville. Chew's battery covered the Confederate retreat through these fields to Ashby's Gap. Photo by Craig Swain.
It was near dusk. The wagon train was well on its way to the Confederate rendezvous at Ashby’s Gap, and the remaining Confederates from Chambliss & Jones Brigades started southwest across the fields of the Gibson Farm to join them. Chew’s battery covered the retreat from its new position on a hill on the west side of the road. The guns slowed the advance of Colonel Devin’s battle line when its 4 regiments arrived on the scene and slowly extended the Federal left wing to the north. The 3 regiments of Gamble’s brigade were used up and withdrew from the fight. Devin ordered a charge to take Chew’s guns but stone walls lining the farm fields and the Trappe road broke his troopers’ attack formations. By the time they reached their objective Capt Chew had withdrawn. The Confederates kept up a stiff resistance as they moved back into the mountain pass until finally the Yankee pursuit sputtered out. The final charge of the week long battles played out along the Ashby Gap Turnpike about a mile south from Buford's fight.
The Final Charge Through Upperville
Before dusk, as Stuart pulled back to the west from Vineyard Hill through Upperville, General Pleasonton called up Colonel J. Irvin Gregg’s brigade, his last reserves, to follow them. The 1st Maine Cavalry lead the charge through town followed closely by the 4th PA & 16th PA.
With drawn sabers they dashed through Upperville. A brass howitzer fired one round of canister shot over their heads before it was captured. At the opposite end of town at the intersection of the Turnpike and the Trappe Road, the 4th and 5th NC were formed in large numbers ready to meet them. After the initial clash the Maine men moved into the fields north of the road, and dismounted behind a stone wall. From here they fired a volley at the Confederates counter-charging down the pike. The Carolinians were halted by the advance of the Pennsylvanians and returned to their lines. The Pennsylvanians pursued and another wild brawl of pistols and sabers developed in the road. The Confederates were finally pushed away from the Trappe Road intersection. Things quieted for a moment, but before the fighting ended the 5th NC decided to make one last charge.
“Riding out of the lowering sun, the 5th North Carolina …pounded down the turnpike to crash through the Pennsylvanians’ ranks. In the resulting bedlam, enemies stood stirrup-to-stirrup shouting, slashing, clubbing, and firing their pistols. The mêlée ended almost as abruptly as it began. The Tar Heels retired, [leaving their Colonel] mortally wounded on the turnpike.” 1
Colonel William E. Doster of the 4th Pennsylvania said of this last fighting, “The counter charging over the fallen troopers of several thousand horses gave even the slightly wounded no chance for life."2
As the sun sank in the west, General Pleasonton organized another force of tired troopers to pursue the retreating Confederates into the mountain gap, but it was a half-hearted effort.
“Robertson’s brigade as rear guard, struck back belligerently, keeping the pursuers at arms length. Chew’s guns leapfrogged backward toward Paris, firing from every advantageous ridge as deep shadows descended into Loudoun Valley. In the gathering gloom, Pleasonton strained his eyes to peer somehow beyond Ashby’s Gap.”3
1. American Battlefield Protection Program Report, page 33.
2. Col Doster, Lincoln and the Civil War p. 213-214, cited in Robert O'Neil's article.
3. American Battlefield Protection Program Report, page 33.
Fourth Pennsylvania Cavalry,
September 3, 1863.
Sir: I have the honor to report that, on the morning of June 21, I received orders from Colonel Gregg to mount my regiment, which was encamped in the woods about 1 mile from Middleburg, on the Upperville road, and to move out in column of squadrons on the left of the Tenth New York and one battalion of the First Maine, on the right of the road leading to Upperville, which I accordingly did, moving at intervals from the protection of one knoll to another until we had advanced perhaps 1 mile, when my pioneer corps took possession of a small rifled gun which had been abandoned by the enemy in his flight.
After proceeding about 1 mile farther, I was ordered to cross the road and proceed parallel to it. This I did, at the same time deploying one company, dismounted, as skirmishers on my front, and afterward adding one squadron on my left. In this manner we reached a point within one-half mile of the town, occasional shots being exchanged between our skirmishers and those of the enemy. Here I was ordered to form my regiment as a support to and on the left of, I think, some regular regiments. Before the order to advance was given, I was ordered to the support of Tidball’s battery, then on the rising ground on the right of the road, in full view of the town and of the enemy.
After remaining here a short time, I was ordered forward to the support of the battalion of the First Maine, which had been ordered to charge and drive the enemy from and beyond the town. I immediately ordered my regiment forward at a gallop, and, after passing through and beyond the town some hundreds of yards, came up with the First Maine, which was formed on the road, apparently awaiting a charge by the enemy. In a few minutes the enemy came dashing down the road, when I ordered my first two squadrons to advance carbines, to be ready to receive them. The First Maine, after firing a few shots, scattered to the right and left. The fire of my regiment being too hot for him, the enemy wheeled, and I ordered a charge, which was obeyed most promptly and gallantly by both officers and men. The enemy were driven from the field, leaving a number killed, many wounded, and several prisoners in our hands. I then deployed two squadrons in the field on the right of the road as skirmishers, falling back some distance in the field with the principal part of my command. The enemy again charged, my men at the same time wheeling, so as to throw a flank fire into him as he passed along the road. About 20 of my men then dashed into the road in his rear, and, after a desperate hand-to-hand conflict, utterly routed and discomfited him, thus preventing his escape, and causing the capture of the entire party, variously estimated at from 20 to 50 men. The division coming up at this time, it was impossible to give the exact number.
I now received orders to rally my men and fall back beyond Upperville, where I encamped for the night.
During the actions of the day the regiment sustained a loss of 1 killed, 3 severely wounded, 1 slightly wounded, and 2 taken prisoners.
am, sir, very respectfully,
your obedient servant,
W. E. Doster,
Lieutenant-Colonel Fourth Pennsylvania Cavalry.
Lieut. John B. Maitland,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen., Second Cavalry Brigade.
On June 22nd, a patrol from Buford's Division reached the top of the Blue Ridge and spied Rebel infantry camps stretched out for 2 miles in the Shenandoah Valley below. General Pleasonton, without knowing this, but satisfied that he had bloodied Stuart's vaunted cavalry and pushed them back all the way through the valley, drew back to Aldie in the morning. The Confederates followed him up. Buford's patrol provided additional valuable information for Pleasonton to include in his final report to General Hooker at headquarters.
Evidence suggests the goals of this expedition changed immediately from the outset and continued to change during the week according to General Hooker's vacillations. After starting out for Aldie with orders for an aggressive reconnaissance, a communication was received en-route, from Headquarters urging caution and a halt.1 Hooker was hoping to fight the enemy around Manassas and wanted his cavalry close by in case that scenario materialized. General Pleasonton urged pushing forward as originally planned. Once Stuart's Cavalry was encountered in the valley, Hooker ordered Pleasonton to find out what was behind them, to make sure the valley was clear of enemy infantry. Later in the week General Hooker provided infantry support for Pleasonton's proposed attack when re-enforcements were requested.
The predominant view of the cavalry fights at Aldie, Middleburg & Upperville is that Stuart did an excellent job fighting defensively, and kept Pleasonton from reaching the mountain gaps to spy Lee's army. And, that the recently re-organized Union Cavalry secured its reputation as a hard fighting force worthy of its opponent, but that General Pleasonton ultimately failed in his objective to find Lee's army. This is all true. That said, I agree with Edwin B. Coddington's assessment of these engagements. He stated that Pleasonton's reports gave Hooker good information. Hooker knew Lee's infantry was not massing in the Loudoun Valley for a thrust toward Washington and;
"He also confirmed Hooker's fears that Confederate infantry and artillery held all the gaps in the Blue Ridge so as to cover the movement of Ewell across the Potomac"2
Also, on June 17th, officers of the Signal Corps set up an observation station on Maryland Heights. Brigadier-General Daniel Tyler in command of the Harper's Ferry garrison, sent out an observation patrol to high ground near Sharpsburg and scouted the area east and west with what little cavalry he had available. Between June 17 and 26, Tyler sent a stream "of unusually complete and accurate information directly to Hooker and Halleck." 3
"The tenor of these dispatches agreed with information which Hooker had secured from other quarters and should have removed all doubts about Lee's location if not his intentions." 4
1. O'Neil, Robert F., "Aldie, Middleburg and Upperville"; p. 45, Gettysburg Magazine accessed via the web; O'Neil's footnote cites General Pleasonton's testimony in the "Report of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War," (Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office, 1865) vol. 2, pp. 32-33..
2. Coddington, Edwin B.; "The Gettysburg Campaign, A Study in Command"; 1st Touchstone Edition, 1997, Simon & Schuster, Inc., This is a direct quote, p. 80. Coddington's footnote references General Pleasonton's June 22 report posted on this page.
3. Coddington, p. 93. Footnote #66 given for this passage in Coddington references OR 27, pt 2. pp. 22-33; pt. 3, p.245. I omitted the rest of the footnote which addresses the amount of cavalry Tyler had available.
4. Coddington, p. 80. He references OR 27, pt. 3, pp. 247-249, 266, 268, 272, 275-276, 281. Gen. Slocum at Leesburg obtained some very accurate information.
At various times General Stuart committed each of his 5 brigades numbering near 9,000 troopers to the task of defending the Blue Ridge Mountain Gaps. General Pleasonton pushed all of his 8,000 available men into the fight. With infantry support, altogether 19,000 men participated in these engagements. Records are incomplete but historians have estimated combined casualties for the three battles to be about 1,360 men, (850 Union, and 510 Confederate). There was a similar loss of horses.
Aldie, June 22, 1863 – 10 a.m.
General: I have just returned. The enemy have not followed us. I leave a brigade to hold Middleburg, and have one on the Snicker’s Gap road, picketing as far as Philomont.
Two deserters from the Ninth Georgia Regiment of infantry came in this morning, and state they deserted day before yesterday while their regiment was crossing the Shenandoah River. They belong to Longstreet’s corps. They state that General Lee is at Winchester, and that Longstreet’s troops were on their way to that place; that A. P. Hill’s corps was on the road up from Culpeper, on the other side of the mountains but had not yet joined. Pickett’s division was holding Snicker’s Gap. The rebel forces in the Shenandoah Valley were a good deal scattered; the greater part had crossed the river. Infantry and artillery held all the gaps, and no one is allowed to come or go from this side of the mountains.
Longstreet’s wagon train passed through Ashby’s Gap on Saturday. The people at Upperville told me that about four hundred wagons of wounded were carried through Ashby’s Gap yesterday during the fight. This is probably exaggerated, but at least 50 dead of the enemy were left on the field; what they took off can be conjectured. Our loss will run in killed, wounded, and missing to 175.* In my report of yesterday I omitted to mention that the enemy left a gun-carriage of a 10-pounder Parrott on the field. It is thought they threw the gun into Goose Creek. Their loss in artillery horses yesterday was considerable. In one caisson 5 out of 6 were killed. We have captured upward of 100 prisoners, including several officers of rank, and yesterday’s fight cost the rebels 2 colonels.
I had five brigades engaged, and the enemy had fully as many men as we had. Colonel Vincent’s brigade was kept busy by their dismounted infantry.
I especially commend Brigadier-Generals Gregg and Kilpatrick for their gallant zeal and efficiency throughout the day. I desire to inform the general commanding that the losses my command has sustained in officers require me to ask for the promotion of good commanders. It is necessary to have a good commander of the regular brigade of cavalry, and I earnestly recommend Capt. Wesley Merritt, to be made a brigadier-general for that purpose. He has all the qualifications for it, and has distinguished himself by his gallantry and daring. Give me good commanders and I will give you good results.
General Buford operated independently yesterday on the right to turn the enemy, but their force was too great. He drove them handsomely, and took a number of prisoners, among whom were 2 lieutenant-colonels. He sent a party to the top of the Blue Ridge, that saw a rebel infantry camp about 2 miles long on the Shenandoah, just below Ashby’s Gap. The atmosphere was so hazy they could not make out anything more beyond.
Being satisfied I had accomplished all that the expedition designed, I returned to this place.
I am general very respectfully,
Brig. Gen. S. Williams,
*The revised statement in Vol XXVII, Series 1, p. 172, puts the total number of officers and men killed, wounded or missing at the Battle of Upperville, at 209.
I will let my Great-Great Grandfather have the last word. - B.F.
Diary of William Henry Forbush; 3rd U.S. Artillery, Light Battery C.
Monday 22. (Left Position at Middleburg and advanced (something) all Day fighting all the way to Upperville. The Cavalry charged) Left Upperville and came back to Aldie the Rebels followed us up.
Tuesday 23. Laid in Camp all Day. Pleasant Day
Wednesday, June 24, 1863. Laid in Camp all Day. My Horse put in the team and I took Shoupes Horse. Warm Day. [Private John Shoup.]
Thursday 25. Wrote a letter home and sent three pictures. Laid in Camp all Day and Night. It rained all Day and Night -
Friday 26. Harnessed and Saddle up about 7 A M and Came as far as Leesburg, Va. and Halted for the Night. Rainy all Day and Night
Saturday 27. Left Leesburg, Va. in the morning and crossed the Potomac at Edwards Ferry Md. at about 6 P.M. Halted until 11 P.M. and then started and came to the other side of Poolesville Md. and there Halted-
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© Bradley M. Forbush, July 20, 2014.
Page Updated July 21, 2014.