Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Receipt in full in red ink- Captain Warren P. Edgarton at Stones River

The Battle of Stones River, for a multitude of reasons, is my favorite Civil War battle to study, and like so many of the bloodiest battles of the war, there are certain stories, themes, and even legends that arise that become part of the lore and canon of the battle. Among my favorite stories are ones about the capture of flags and artillery pieces, the true trophies of battle, and that is the focus of today's post- the capture of Battery E, 1st Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery by the Texans of Ector's brigade in the opening moments of the battle on December 31, 1862. 
Union artillery in line at Stones River- author photo from May 2005. 

One of the most infamous pieces of battlefield lore made the rounds of the Army of the Cumberland after the Battle of Stones River arose from the fact that the veteran troops of Brigadier General Richard W. Johnson's division had been surprised and routed at the outset of the battle. I have come across dozens of accounts from AotC veterans who laid the entire blame for the disaster that befell the Union right wing squarely on General Johnson's shoulders. But one of the most common complaints soldiers made was the issue of lack of preparedness, the most dramatic symbol of which was the charge that Johnson was so ill prepared that he had sent "all of the artillery horses off to water," such that when the Confederates hit at around 6:30 A.M., the artillery couldn't be maneuvered into position or extracted from the field once it became clear that the two brigades in this sector (Willich's and Kirk's) could not hold the position. The charge was both unfair and unjust, and only time would correct it, but Johnson's reputation for a while was rather seriously tarnished by this incident. General Rosecrans, however, cited Johnson for gallantry at the battle and focused a portion of the blame on a junior officer: Captain Warren P. Edgarton.

Location of Battery E, 1st OVLA circled in red from troop location map drawn by Ed Bearss, Stones River National Battlefield Park

This facet of the battle is of great interest to this blog as the focus here is in telling the story of Ohio's soldiers in the Civil War, and the two batteries that comprised the artillery on the far right wing were both Ohio batteries. They included Battery E, 1st Ohio Light Artillery under Captain Warren Parker Edgarton which was attached to Brigadier General Edward N. Kirk's brigade, and Battery A, 1st Ohio Light Artillery under First Lieutenant Edmund Bostwick Belding which was attached to Brigadier General August Willich's brigade. 

Both batteries took heavy losses in the opening moments of the battle- Battery E's six guns were captured entire, while Belding lost three of the battery's six guns, but it was Edgarton who came under particular censure for his supposed negligence in allowing his horses to be taken off to water. (Belding's horses presumably remained with the battery, but as no official report was filed for the battery, one is left to wonder.)

Following the battle,  First Lieutenant Albert G. Ransom wrote the official report for Battery E as Captain Edgarton had been captured while bravely manning his guns during the opening moments of the battle. He reported that "at daylight on the morning of the 31st instant, the pickets gave the alarm, and skirmishers were firing, but as yet could see no enemy. The horses were quickly hitched, except a few, perhaps one-half of which were on their return from water, and were brought up at once. Failing to distinguish the enemy, two shells were thrown in the direction of their fire, and, when they appeared, canister. Six rounds were poured into the moving mass with great effect, but, attacked in front and flank, we soon saw our horses shot down, the work evidently of sharpshooters, who moved in the advance and on the right and left, until the whole column being now upon us, we had not horses enough to save our guns." Ransom continued, "allow me to express my heartfelt regret at the loss of Captain Warren P. Edgarton, whose manly voice rang out above the din of musketry, encouraging his men, and giving orders coolly and judiciously. He preferred to go a prisoner with his battery to leaving his much cherished pieces." 

Ransom rather deftly handled the later controversial question about the location of the horses by acknowledging that  some were being watered, but rightly laid the blame for the capture of the battery to the Confederate sharpshooters who shot down many of the horses that remained. His report was written a week after the battle, before press reports of the surprise of Johnson's division started to circulate. But what really hurt Edgarton's reputation was not the reports in the press (of which there were many), but the specific citation that General Rosecrans used in his own official report, in which Captain Edgarton was specially mentioned as being "guilty of a grave error of taking even a part of his battery horses to water at an unreasonable hour and thereby losing his guns." It is significant that Rosecrans' report cites only four officers negatively- two for cowardice in the face of the enemy (recommended for dismissal), one for drunkenness (recommended for dismissal), and Edgarton for an error of judgement. 
Major General William Starke Rosecrans

So one is left to ask- was it unusual for members of a battery to take their horses off to water in the morning? Was it, as Rosecrans charged, a grave error of judgement? Well, no. In John Billings' classic Hardtack and Coffee, Billings spends considerable time discussing the normal morning routine for artillery (at least in the Army of Potomac and likely not very different in the Army of the Cumberland) that one of the first items of duty was taking the battery horses to water, and to then feed them. So Edgarton's men taking the horses off to water shortly after dawn was part of the normal morning routine of the battery, and in no way suggested neglect of duty or a lack of vigilance. I would offer that nearly every other Federal battery did the same that morning- the Union army was on the offensive, and did not expect an attack from the Confederates. Animals need to be properly watered and fed if they are going to perform the work needed to support the offensive Rosecrans had planned, hence, there is no reason why the horses shouldn't have gone to water that morning.

Additionally, even though the battery was in the presence of the enemy, they were hardly alone- they were nestled in the midst of two veteran brigades of troops totaling roughly 4,000 men. As Edgarton argued in his report, "I was completely surrounded by veteran troops. I had a right to suppose that our front and flank were so picketed that I should have notice of the approach of the enemy. I ordered a half battery of my horses to go to water on a sharp trot, and return at the slightest indication of danger. The horses had barely reached the water when a fierce shout was heard at the front, and a terrible volley of musketry was poured in upon us." The Confederates had achieved surprise, and had caught the Union army in the midst of preparing for the efforts of the day. This achievement is more a result of superb timing on the part of the Confederates, not negligence on the part of the Federals. 

As such, Rosecrans' snub of Edgarton in his official report starts to smell to this researcher as an attempt to protect the reputations of those in high command who were responsible for security in this sector (Johnson, McCook, and ultimately, the commanding general himself) and shift some of the blame for the disaster to a junior officer, then a prisoner of war. Not one of Rosecrans finer moments in my opinion. 

Captain Warren Parker Edgarton, Battery E, 1st Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery

A few years ago, I came across a text for artillery officers dating from the 1890s that had an interesting passage that directly speaks to Edgarton's case. "An artillery officer should merely take care that each lost piece is well paid for by the enemy, and he should be able to repeat the gruesome pleasantry of the battery commander who said, "I lost my guns, but I took the enemy's receipt in full in red ink." The end note compliments Edgarton for his battery's work at Stones River and laments that "such were the mistaken views that were held at the time in regard to the loss of his guns, that he seems to have been censured for losing his battery rather than complimented for his gallant action." This is a direct jab at Rosecrans' report, and I think is spot on. 

Edgarton certainly didn't receive plaudits (and I don't think he received the court of inquiry asked for in his official report), but he retained his command and ended the war as one of Sherman's respected chiefs of artillery. 

Whether his guns were dearly bought is another question- the Texans that captured the battery (Ector's dismounted cavalry brigade) suffered 357 casualties (nearly a third of the command by Ector's report) during the battle, a goodly portion of which were sustained in their assault on Kirk's brigade at the outset in which they captured not only the colors of the 34th Illinois Infantry, but also Edgarton's battery. Dearly bought- a matter of opinion but it sounds like the answer is yes, especially given the short time the battery was in action that morning. 

When I think about this aspect of the battle, what strikes me is that this incident is in many ways a repetition of the mindset that pervaded the Union high command in the days leading up to Shiloh. There, Union commanders had an offensive mindset that couldn't conceive that the Confederates would leave their entrenchments in Corinth and make an attack at Pittsburgh Landing. The men did not entrench, and when the Confederates attacked, the Union army was hard pressed to hold them back. 

At Stones River, we see a variation on this same theme. As Rosecrans' army was on the offensive, one wonders that his commanders felt the same way as Grant's did before Shiloh: confident that the enemy would respond the way they expected them to, i.e. stay in their entrenchments and wait for the Union army to come to them. That had been happening for the past five days, why wouldn't that continue?  Besides, wing commander General Alexander McDowell McCook was breezily confident that he could hold his ground for several hours if attacked (and eventually did (if just barely), largely due to the hard fighting of Davis' and Sheridan's divisions) which would give time for the offensive Rosecrans had planned to be executed by Left Wing troops under Thomas L Crittenden to push back the Confederates beyond Stones River. This would negate any offensives by the Confederates on the west side of Stones River; at least this was the thinking. 
Brigadier General Edward N, Kirk
Died of his Stones River wound in July 1863

With the exception of a few brigadiers (Joshua Woodrow Sill in particular), the Federals on the right wing were just a bit too confident and sure of themselves this time, and the result proved to be a disaster. Rosecrans and his generals, like his former commander Grant, had focused too much on what he was going to do to the enemy, and made inadequate provision for what the enemy might do to him. As such, the success of the Confederate flank attack at Stones River (like a similar one against another Union right flank five months later at Chancellorsville) is a textbook case of the importance of constant vigilance in the face of the enemy, and a warning against hubris on the part of those in command. 

Consequently, Captain Edgarton, along with General Willich and 37 other captured Federal commissioned officers, was sent south from Murfreesboro on January 2nd, stopping in Chattanooga and being imprisoned for a time in Atlanta, before he was sent to Richmond and exchanged in April 1863. Edgarton returned home to northeast Ohio and while home, gave a series of talks in several town halls giving a description of his experience at Stones River and his subsequent imprisonment.  

But it was six months before he had the chance to make an official report of what happened at Stones River, and in so doing, he demanded a court of inquiry to investigate his conduct. 

Edgarton's official report, reprinted below from the O.R., gives his side of the story:

NASHVILLE, TENN., June 25, 1863

COLONEL: I have the honor to submit, for you consideration, a brief report of the action of my command (Battery E, 1st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery), at and immediately preceding the battle of Stone's River.

I have cause seriously to regret that my capture and subsequent imprisonment have so long delayed to recital of facts which I purpose to embody in this report, known only to myself, by which injustice has been done to the brave of my command, especially as there seems to have been very generally a misapprehension in regard to my position on the morning of the 31st of last December, and the cause which resulted in the capture of my battery.

We left camp near Nashville on the 26th of December, attached to General Kirk's brigade of General Johnson's division, right wing. We marched on the Nolensville pike. The next day, the 27th, approaching Triune, our brigade was ordered in the advance. After marching about 1 mile, we encountered a battery of the enemy posted in a commanding position. My battery was ordered forward to engage it, and, after a few rounds, we drove them from that position. We took a second position on a hill overlooking the village of Triune, and again discovered the enemy's battery planted in our front, well supported by cavalry. We dislodged them a second time, dismounting one of their guns. The enemy ceased to annoy us here, and we were ordered to bivouac near the village, one section being ordered on picket duty.

The duty of following the enemy on this day was very arduous. We were obliged to leave the traveled roads in order to gain position; we removed, dragged our pieces through the soft ground of cultivated fields, through streams of water, and climbed hills, where it became necessary of call for a detail from the infantry to help us along.

On the 29th we took the direction of Murfreesborough, passed over a very rough and hilly road, and arrived after dark near the scene of the contemplated battle. The utmost caution and vigilance was ordered. We were hitched up and ready for action at daylight of the 30th.

On this day the Second Division was held in reserve. We followed the advance till late in the afternoon, when we were ordered to oblique to the right, to cover the right of General Davis' division. The enemy had posted a battery on the right of General Davis, in a handsome position, enfilading his whole line. General Kirk ordered me forward with a regiment of infantry as support, with instructions to silence, if possible the rebel battery. Under cover of a cedar thicket, I was enabled to approach within about 700 yards of the enemy. The battery was silenced by six rounds from our pieces. They retreated, leaving a caisson disabled. An attempt was made to gain another position, but we followed them engaging the infantry that came to their support, and kept up a brisk fire until dark. General Kirk the ordered us to cease firing.

My battery was the only detachment of General Johnson's division engaged in the action of Tuesday, the 30th of December. I here represented to General Kirk that my men were very weary, my horses almost famished; that my ammunition was short in the limber-chests of the pieces, and asked permission to withdraw long enough to prepare for hard work on the following day. Believing horses to be the main dependence of a light battery, and not knowing when I should have I should have an opportunity to feed and water it brought into action, I asked time to prepare for the conflict of the morrow. General Kirk pointed out a spot about 100 yards in the rear of the position I then occupied, sheltered by a heavy growth of timber, and ordered to bivouac there for the night. I reported to him that I could not place my guns "in battery" there, or defend myself if assaulted. He replied that I should be protected, and that ample notice should be given when I was expected to take a position in the line of battle.

Brigadier General August Willich, like Captain Edgarton,
was captured early at the battle of Stones River and the two
officers spent the next several months together as prisoners
of war in Atlanta and Richmond. 

After I had brought my guns into park, the right of the brigade was thrown across the muzzles in front. General Willich's brigade marched up and formed on the flank. I found myself within the angle formed by the junction of the two brigades, retiring about 50 yards, and on a low and narrow piece of ground. I have before stated that it was dark when I arrived at this point. We were not permitted to have lights. The ground in our rear had not been reconnoitered. I rode back some distance, but failed to find water for my horses. I did not consider it safe to push the investigation far outside of our lines that night. I waited until morning. At daylight a small stream was discovered about 100 rods in our rear. It was quiet all along our lines. I could not hear a picket shot, nor any indication that the enemy was in our vicinity. I had no orders to take position. My horses were already harnessed, to hitch on at a moment's warning. I was completely surrounded by veteran troops. I had a right to suppose that our front and flank were so picketed that I should have notice of the approach of the enemy. I ordered a half battery of my horses to go to water on a sharp trot, and return at the slightest indication of danger. The horses had barely reached the water when a fierce shout was heard at the front, and a terrible volley of musketry was poured in upon us. I called the cannoneers to their posts, had a half battery hitched in, put my guns in battery where they were, and a moment was prepared, as best I could, to fight in that position. The infantry, our support, gave way on the front and flank in disorder, almost with the first volley. I then opened on the enemy with canister, firing from 16 to 20 rounds, with good effect, as I have cause to know, for I passed over the ground in our front a few moments afterward a prisoner.

The Stanley brothers of Co. D, 39th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. The 39th Indiana Infantry formed a major portion of the picket line of Willich's Brigade and were in front of Battery E during the opening moments of the Battle of Stones River. One of the brothers (William), was wounded at Stones River and later died from the wound.

The assault of the enemy was fierce and overwhelming. After the first fire, in which I had 1 man killed, a number wounded, and 12 horses killed, the enemy charged with an impetuosity which carried everything before him. The battery was taken.

It would have been impossible for me to have saved my battery, even if I had commenced a retreat on the first alarm. The enemy was very near us before discovered, and the fight commenced without any of the preliminary skirmishing before a general engagement. To the best of my judgment, it was not more than five minutes from the firing of the first shot to the catastrophe when my battery was taken and myself a prisoner. In the mean time some of my horses returned, were hitched in, and killed. The rest were driven back by the fierce fire from the front. I deemed it my duty to stay with my guns so long as a single shot could be fired, or a chance exist of their being supported and retaken. I did not realize the helplessness of the case until I was surrounded and retreat impossible.

In the brief time we were engaged I had 3 men killed, 25 wounded, and 22 taken prisoners.

I wish here to compliment my men for their determined bravery; they obeyed orders implicitly, and stood by their guns to the last.

I would not be understood in this report as casting the slightest reflection on the discretion or vigilance of my brigade commander. I am not capable of criticizing his orders, nor would I be permitted to do so had I the disposition. I had learned highly to respect General Kirk as a fine gentleman and accomplished soldier. I reverenced him for his heroic courage in the presence of an enemy. He was dangerously wounded in a desperate attempt to rally his broken regiments to support my battery, riding almost upon the bayonets of the enemy.

As I have been charged with grave errors on the occasion of the battle, I respectfully request that I may be ordered before a court of inquiry, that my conduct may be investigated.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Captain Battery E, 1st Regiment Artillery, Ohio Vols.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Indexing the Gallipolis Journal

I was thinking of just calling this blog post "Oh, the joys of indexing," but I figured that would probably elicit a collective yawn from much of my usual visitors although in all honesty, the blog post will share a bit of the joys I find from the slow painstaking work of constructing an index to the Civil War era correspondence in a newspaper. From the number of posts on this blog, you've already enjoyed the fruits of the indexing work- incredible accounts of the Civil War written by Ohioans. Now you can see a bit of how I discover these gems...

Today, I finished going through the wartime issues of the Gallipolis Journal, a Republican newspaper in Gallia County that was a consistent supporter of the Union war effort. Located along the bustling Ohio River, Gallipolis was on the front lines of the war in the early days as western Virginia lay just across the river.
Gallipolis on the Ohio River is circled in red on the map above. The Confederacy lay just across the river in the spring and summer of 1861- the first Union offensives were launched into western Virginia from river towns like Gallipolis.

One of the things that I most enjoy about putting an index together is that when you look at a series of newspapers, you really don't know what surprises reside within; it's the pure unalloyed joy of discovery when you come across something that fills a void in your knowledge, or answers that long-held question, or just makes you say wow. Its essentially a gift box waiting for you to open it- every once in a while, that gift box becomes a bit of a dud, other times, you are left shaking your head at how much great material you uncover as you sift through issue after issue. Last weekend, I shared the story of Lieutenant William H. Raynor of the 1st O.V.M., his experiences at First Bull Run, then subsequent imprisonment and escape from the Confederates. (see which I uncovered while putting this index together.

The process for doing these indexes is straightforward- start reading the issues closest to the firing upon Fort Sumter (April 12, 1861), and then document each letter (or really interesting article) that you uncover as you work your way towards Appomattox. The letters will often have the author's name at the top or bottom of the piece, and it may take some investigative work to figure out who that author was- perhaps scanning through a regimental roster, etc. I have run into instances where I can figure out the author (signed their name as just an "H." or an "N."), but figure it out later in when a subsequent letter that has their name references their previous letter. I try to note the soldiers name, company and regiment- once you have these three pieces of data, you can start putting the letter into context within a broader narrative.

You'll see some standard patterns which really mirror the story of the war for that community- the early war time enthusiasm which manifests itself in a flood of letters describing all the exciting action (or lack thereof) on the periphery of Virginia. The frustration of the defeat at First Bull Run gives way to a heady determination to get serious about winning the war- the flush of Union victories in the spring of 1862 which gives way to the horrors of lengthy casualty lists and a series of Union setbacks in the fall and winter of 1862. In the spring of 1863, war weariness gripped the North and you'll see a dichotomy- Republican papers loaded with letters from soldiers at the front encouraging the home folks to stand behind them and not give into "Copperheadism," while Democratic papers will gleefully publish soldiers' letters giving voice to the poor morale of the men, and lampooning some of the generals who lead them.

The summer of 1863 is marked by the dual excitements of Gettysburg and John Morgan's raid through Ohio, and gives way to the Ohio gubernatorial campaign of 1863 in which John Brough handily defeated the icon of the Copperheads, Clement L. Vallandigham. Union victories at Chattanooga in November 1863 presage a quiet winter in which hundreds of thousands of Union soldiers re-enlist for three more years, determined to "see the thing through." The spring of 1864 dawns with hope that under new leadership (Grant in the East, Sherman in the West), the war can be successfully brought to a conclusion. It was a tough summer that saw the calling up of the Ohio National Guards, another Confederate invasion of the North (Early's campaign), lengthy casualty lists from the Army of the Potomac and Sherman's force, and the nomination of "Little Mac" to run against Lincoln in the presidential election.

The Gallipolis Journal was delighted at the re-election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1864 and the above broadside spread across much of page 2. "The Rail Splitter Triumphant!"

Fall dawns with Union victories at Atlanta, then a series of triumphs by Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley which helps Lincoln secure victory at the ballot box. In many papers, the volume of soldiers' letters drops off significantly after Lincoln's victory, but you can usually find (in Ohio papers anyway) some nice accounts of Franklin and Nashville, or the March to the Sea, but the winter of 1865 will be fairly quiet, and the campaign season barely gets underway in April 1865 before Lee's surrender at Appomattox, and then Johnston's surrender at the end of April which virtually ends all combat.

Recruiting advertisement for the 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry from January 1864.
Along the way, you hear from dozens of men from a multitude of units- the Gallipolis Journal had quite a collection of letters from soldiers in the 18th OVI, 33rd OVI, 36th OVI, 56th OVI, 91st OVI, 7th OVC, 18th Ohio Battery, as well as scattered letters from soldiers serving in out of state regiments such as West Virginia and Pennsylvania.  Along the way we read about the battles of First Bull Run, Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Lewisburg, Fair Oaks, Cross Keys, the Seven Days, Antietam, Stones River, Champion's Hill, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Sabine Crossroads, Snicker's Gap, Cedar Creek, and more. Their stories of the combat that engulfed the country, the triumphs and defeats, and their sacrifices make for scintillating reading- I never tire of reading of letters. It is a fascinating window into the Civil War experience and the learning never stops...

Gallipolis was home to an army depot and hospital, and had a small garrison throughout the war which sometimes caused problems with the local townsfolk as drunkenness and fighting became common occurrences. (The town had over 100 drinking holes by the summer of 1863). Some units that served here gained the townspeople's general acclimation (the 37th Iowa for instance) while others (the 192nd Pennsylvania in particular), the citizens could hardly wait for them to leave.

The index is now posted online on my Columbian Arsenal Press website- please feel free to download the Excel file and then visit Chronicling America (link below) to read for yourself some of the incredible accounts documented in the index. Enjoy!

Columbian Arsenal Press:
Chronicling America: Gallipolis Journal:

Recruiting advertisement for the 56th Ohio Volunteer Infantry- the recruits soon saw hard service in Banks' disastrous Red River campaign. 

Saturday, June 2, 2018

At First Bull Run with the First O.V.M.

One of joys (or frustrations) of writing books is that oftentimes you discover material after you’ve gone to press that you kick yourself for not finding prior to publication. “This would have made a great addition to the book,” is something I have said after discovering some account or nugget that would have enhanced each of the four Civil War books that I have published. The following account from First Lieutenant William H. Raynor of the 1st Ohio Volunteer Militia falls into that category- I would have gladly added a portion of it to Bull Run to Atlanta which was published last year, but as I didn’t come across it until last week and lack time traveling capability, so posting to the blog will have to suffice.
To give some context, the 1st Ohio Volunteer Militia was the first regiment to leave the state, traveling east with the 2nd O.V.M. in the heady days of April 1861 in response to President Lincoln’s initial call for 75,000 troops to suppress the rebellion. The regiment, led by Colonel Alexander McDowell McCook (later commander of the XX Corps in the Army of the Cumberland), left the state uniformed in the various militia outfits worn by each of the component companies and must have presented quite a sight when they arrived in Washington. The troops there received their arms, M1842 smoothbore rifles, arms that belonged to the Federal government and upon the regiment’s mustering out were returned to the Federal government. As public pressure mounted for the army to take the field and end the rebellion, in mid July 1861 General Irvin McDowell led his army of eager greenhorns to the fields of Manassas to confront the equally green Confederate army led by Pierre G.T. Beauregard.
First Lieutenant William H. Raynor, Co. G, 1st Ohio Volunteer Militia. Later served as Colonel of the 56th Ohio Volunteer Infantry and saw extensive service in the western theater. 

In the ranks of Co. G (Portsmouth Guards from Portsmouth, Scioto Co., Ohio along the Ohio River) of the 1st Ohio Regiment, First Lieutenant William H. Raynor had suffered from sunstroke for several days, but with battle imminent, he stumbled onto the battlefield and assumed his place in line. The regiment formed part of the Second Brigade under Ohioan Colonel Robert Schenk, along with the 2nd O.V.M. and 2nd New York State Militia.
The following narrative, originally published in the Portsmouth Times and republished in its entirety by the Gallipolis Journal in January 1862, tells the story of Raynor’s experience at First Bull Run:
At the engagement of First Bull Run July 21, 1861, the 1st Ohio Regiment, being in front, arrived at the battlefield about 6 or 7 A.M., deployed to the left of the road, and there waited for the attack to be commenced by other divisions on the enemy’s flank. About 10 o’clock, it was advanced and formed in line of battle in an open field where it was immediately fired upon by a battery of six guns in position on the opposite side of the creek about 300 yards distant. It was then ordered to fall back into the woods where it was exposed to the fire of the battery for some time. The whole brigade was then ordered back to its old position near the large Parrott guns, which had been at work all the morning doing deadly execution as was afterwards learned. The regiment remained here on the Warrenton Road which crosses Bull Run at the Stone Bridge- which brigade was reported to have been mined by the Rebels- until 3 P.M. when the brigade (Schenk’s) was ordered to cross the Run at a point one half mile below, and a corps of pioneers 300 strong were ordered to the brigade with a bridge already formed to throw across, the Run being unfordable. While waiting on the pioneers, they were exposed to a severe fire from a battery of the enemy stationed on a commanding eminence some distance to the left.
In order to shield the men as much as possible from this fire, Colonel McCook ordered the 1st Ohio to shield themselves under the bank and in the ravine along the road. The Colonel remarked that the men “would have to lay here two hours, exposed to this fire until the pioneers got the bridge up.” This precautionary movement of the Colonel in sheltering his men saved them from a heavy loss for the 2nd New York in the rear of the 1st Ohio lost a great number from being exposed unnecessarily. The men were exhausted from the heat and excitement of the day and their march in the morning and were suffering greatly from want of water. Lieutenant Raynor, being unwell (having been carried from the ranks during the review the Saturday previous from the effect of sunstroke and still suffering therefrom) asked permission to go for water to a pond at the left of the regiment which he had observed during the day. The Colonel told him to go by all means and remarked that he (Raynor) was foolish for coming to the field in his sick condition.
Lieutenant Colonel Edwin A. Parrott (left) and Colonel Alexander McDowell McCook (right), commanding officers of the 1st Ohio Volunteer Militia from a photograph taken in May 1861. (Larry Strayer Collection)

While on his way to this pond (some 200 yards distant), he met the Brigade Quartermaster Lowery and Assistant Adjutant General Donn Piatt, who directed him to a house a short distance further where they said was a well of good pure water. On the way, he was overtaken by Sergeants Henry S. Cox and Henry E. Jones of the Portsmouth company who, seeing his condition, assisted him along, Cox taking his sword and belt. As he was much exhausted, he stopped to rest under a tree, not far from the house then being used by the surgeons as a hospital. While sitting under the tree, the cry was raised, “The Rebels! The Rebels!” On looking up, he saw a long line of their cavalry coming at full charge making for the hospital, at which were probably 200 soldiers getting water at the pump. Lieutenant Raynor asked Sergeant Cox for his sword, took it, and buckled it on while Cox said, “Come on, come on, you can do nothing.” Raynor answered “I will do the best I can.” This was the last he spoke to any of his company. Sergeant Cox was taken prisoner in this charge, but escaped and joined his regiment as it marched back past the hospital.
Lieutenant Raynor then turned to face the enemy who were coming at full gallop. He drew his revolver, gained new strength, and felt ready for the encounter. When the Rebels arrived within 20 yards, several horsemen immediately in front discharged their shotguns at him. He singled one out, fired, and the horse fell suddenly, throwing his rider with his gun still to his shoulder, over his head. The other barrel went off as the rider struck the ground. It was loaded with buckshot, one of which passed through his clothing and another struck him in the foot and caused him to drop on his knees. In an instant, the cavalry dashed by like a whirlwind and as they passed, Lieutenant Raynor discharged his revolver again but with what effect he does not know. About the same time he was struck over the head with a gun as he supposed (they having no swords) which blow rendered him insensible. The next thing he remembers is his raising himself on his elbow when he found himself lying near a dead horse and a Rebel pulling his canteen off. As he raised up, the man (who was holding a horse by the bridle and had his revolver, sword, scabbard, cap, etc. under his arm) immediately mounted and rode away, apparently astonished as he no doubt thought he was robbing a dead man. The cavalry were not in sight, having rode on to the hospital at which place he heard considerable firing which was partly caused by their encounter with a portion of Schenk’s brigade, the left of which extended within a short distance of the hospital. (Colonel Schenk wrote of this action in his official report, stating that “a dashing charge was made upon the retreating column by a body of secession cavalry which was gallantly repelled and principally by two companies of the 2nd Ohio with loss on both sides.” Corporal William Pittenger of Co. G, 2nd O.V.M. stated that the Rebel cavalry was turned back because the 2nd O.V.M. “retreated very slowly and halted repeatedly in columns prepared to form a hollow square. The cavalry, probably deterred by our being prepared, did not charge us but attacked the hospital.”)
Brigadier General Robert C. Schenk led the Ohio brigade at First Bull Run

He had scarcely collected himself and, half-stunned, was holding on to a sapling when they came charging back. As they passed, an officer halted a moment on seeing him and asked, “Is that a Yankee?” One answering yes while another exclaimed “Blow his brains out then!” The officer replied, “No, bring him along.” He was at once seized by the arm, thrown across a horse in front of the rider, and in the manner carried back, probably about a mile and a half, our men pouring after them several sharp volleys. One cannon, which was at the hospital, was turned on them, and just before they reached a hill which sheltered them from its fire, a cannon ball struck an officer riding just in front between the shoulders and literally tore his right shoulder from his body, dreadfully mangling him and of course causing instant death.
As they arrived behind this hill, a halt was called and they proceeded to ascertain their loss. He observed seven horses riderless. He was taken from the horse and laid on the ground and told that the surgeon would attend to him as soon as he attended to their own men. A large number crowded around him with great curiosity to see the Yankee and began asking questions as to his name, residence, our force, and “What did you come down here for” was a common inquiry. To these questions he returned no answer. Some called out “Let’s hang him” or “Cut his God damn tongue out; as he don’t talk, he has no use for it!” and other similar expressions. Turning over on his side, he observed the surgeon dressing a man’s arm which had been broken above the elbow with such violence as to cause the bone to protrude through the flesh. He afterwards ascertained that this was the man whose horse he had shot, and the army had been broken by the suddenness of the fall.
After dressing his arm, the surgeon attended to the wounds of Lieutenant Raynor and this man with others crowded to see the Yankee prisoner. He observed Raynor closely and remarked “I believe this is the Yankee who shot my horse” and at the same time with his left hand drawing his pistol, he rushed forward and placed the muzzle at Raynor’s cheek and cocked it. His hand was grasped just in time to save the life of the lieutenant. An officer declared “It is a shame to shoot and wounded enemy and you have done that once.” He remarked “The other was not the right one; this is the man who shot at me and killed my horse.” Someone observed “it was done in a fair fight- never kill an unarmed prisoner.” The wounded man struggled and seemed determined to carry out his threat upon which the Rebel Colonel Radford (Richard C.W. Radford of the 30th Virginia Volunteers which later became the 2nd Virginia Cavalry) came up and ordered a corporal and two men to take Raynor down to the Junction saying “If the damned Yankees hang their prisoners, we will not do it until we give them a fair trial.” This result of this altercation caused the lieutenant little anxiety as his condition- being wounded, sick, stunned, and worst of all, a prisoner- that life seemed of little value and not worth preserving. He was at length mounted on one of the riderless horses and with a soldier on each side and one in the rear- all with shotguns loaded and cocked- safely escorted to Manassas Junction, a distance from this point of three miles.
On the way they met five different regiments and numerous small bodies coming fresh to the battlefield- and trains were still arriving bringing troops from Richmond and points further South. They were invariably stopped and eagerly asked “How goes the fight” and after inquiring if that was a Yankee prisoner, permission was generally sought to shoot him. “Let me have a crack at him” were the pleasant words that fell repeatedly upon the ear of the prisoner. The corporal who had in charge seemed much annoyed by these expressions and often replied, “No, he is not a Yankee.” His dress gave no indication of his character, having been relieved of sword, cap, and all marks of his rank. Riding, however, as he was unarmed and under guard, was suspicious and led them to believe that he was an invader of the scared soil. Lieutenant Raynor noticed a Masonic breastpin on the corporal and observed “I see you are a Mason.” He answered, “I travel on the square, do you?” Raynor said he did. The corporal replied, “We have cut loose from you and do not acknowledge Yankee Masons anymore.” Raynor told him he asked no favors on that account, and no other conversation relative to the matter passed. But his subsequent conduct was no doubt influenced by this fact. Afterwards he spoke in a kind tone and made personal inquiries, took the address of his family, and promised to endeavor to inform his friends of his condition and whereabouts.
When they arrived at the Junction, he was taken at once to a cavalry shed which the surgeons had converted into a hospital and which was then filled with the wounded brought from the battlefield. He was left alone for a few minutes and when the corporal returned with a basin of water and a sponge and accompanied by a surgeon, who washed the blood and dirt from his head, examined his foot, and remarked that they had men who needed attention more than he did, and that he was only a Yankee anyhow; but he would come back when he had time, put something on his head, and he would be all right in a few days. The corporal remained talking with Raynor some half hour, when he declared he would have him attended to anyhow and going off soon returned with another surgeon. This one examined his head, said it was nothing serious, only a stunning blow- rest only was needed and an application of cold water or ice would reduce the swelling and remove the pain.
The corporal left and soon he returned with about two pounds of ice, a portion of which he wrapped in his own handkerchief, pounded it fine, knelt down, and bound it carefully around Raynor’s head, giving him the other piece to relieve his thirst. Raynor, of course, was much affected by his kindness and asked his name and residence. His name, he replied, was J.H. Lemon and he hailed from Albemarle County, Virginia. The lieutenant shook hands with him and told him if they were alive at the end of the war they would meet again. He replied that he hoped that would be soon, but would never be until the independence of the South was recognized. The lieutenant told him he was sorry he was engaged on that side. “We are right,” he replied with earnestness, “We believe we are right. We have boys 16 years old in our regiment and men 75, all of whom will die before they acknowledge the Lincoln government.” And this was the general feeling he observed among the men. Before Lemon left, he asked Raynor if he had any money. He informed him that he had, for feeling in his pockets, he was surprised to find his watch and purse safe, which were no doubt saved from the Rebel who had robbed him on the field by his sudden and timely revival. He said he thought a few dollars would be of great benefit and if Raynor needed any, he would divide. The corporal then rode off, apparently solicitous for the prisoner’s comfort and Raynor now felt that he had lost his last friend.
He lay in the shed all night amid the wounded and dying- the surgeons operating immediately around him. The sufferers made the night hideous by their cries of anguish, some shrieking, some praying, some swearing. Long will he remember that night as he lay there wounded and sick-expecting that every moment would bring his friends and release him from this dreadful imprisonment. At the time of his capture, the enemy was supposed to be in retreat and he had no doubt that victory was with our forces. In the morning, a Negro came with a wheelbarrow, gathered up the limbs which had been amputated during the night, and wheeled them away for burial.
He was afterwards accosted by a surgeon with “Oh, you are the Yankee prisoner. I’ll have you attended to.” After an examination, he said he needed no medical attendance and thereupon procured a file of men who took him to a stable in which were about 20 Federal officers including Colonel Michael Corcoran (69th New York) and the Honorable Mr. Alfred Ely (R., New York). From these he received the first intelligence of our defeat. About 9 o’clock they were put aboard a car. At noon they were furnished with fat bacon and bread, the train being delayed until nearly 1 P.M. by the constant arrival of prisoners. The train took down about 600 prisoners, officers and privates. The latter were put in closed baggage cars while the first class passenger car was given to the officers who were under the charge of Major Praddes of Louisiana who treated them in an extremely gentlemanly manner. They went as far as Warrenton Junction where they remained all night to permit 12 trains loaded with soldiers to pass up to Manassas. They reached Gordonsville about noon on Tuesday where, as at other places, boys and girls, blacks and whites, came with trays filled with sandwiches, chickens, liquors, etc. for sale. Here Lieutenant Raynor procured something to eat, having eaten nothing since the Saturday night previous to the battle. They waited here over an hour for an up train. Meantime, some of the privates being without funds, offered buttons from their clothes in exchange for eatables. It took well: the people were willing to trade and buttons passed current for dimes- in consequence of which many arrived at Richmond buttonless.

Lieutenant Raynor soon arrived in Richmond, where he spent more than a month as a prisoner at the infamous Libby Prison. A second article from the Portsmouth Times gives an account of experience at Libby, but to close this story, suffice it to say that on the evening of September 5th, Raynor escaped from prison by wearing a red rosette on his collar (the Rebel authorities gave captured Federal surgeons freedom of the city, and used a red rosette so that guards would know that they could pass unhindered) and meeting up with a pair of prisoners, including Captain Jason R. Hurd of the 2nd Kentucky Infantry who had been captured (and whose story is told in this blog post a few days before Raynor at the Battle of Scary Creek. 
The three men tramped north through the wilds of eastern Virginia for eight days, living on purloined potatoes and wheat and crossed the Potomac River in a stolen boat. They then worked their way towards the Federal fleet blockading the Potomac River and turned themselves over to Captain Franks of the Howell Cobb. The captain transferred the men Commodore Craven aboard the U.S.S. Yankee, the flagship of the blockade. Captain Craven sent the men on to Captain Ulric Dahlgren at the Washington Navy Yard aboard the U.S.S. Resolute, where they arrived the evening of Friday, September 13, 1861. 
Captain Ulric Dahlgren, U.S. Navy

“Captain Dahlgren ordered his carriage to convey them to Willard’s Hotel where they were soon surrounded by a corps of inquisitive newspaper reporters. Having fully carried out the demand of ‘On to Richmond,’ they were glad to be at home once more.” The following day, Lieutenant Raynor was given his discharge and went on to serve as the Colonel of the 56th Ohio Volunteer Infantry with such distinction that he was given a brevet promotion to brigadier general at the end of the war.
Willard's Hotel, Washington, D.C. marked the end of this adventure for Lieutenant Raynor. (White House Historical Association)

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day for Captain Franklin J. Sauter, Co. B, 55th Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Each Memorial Day, I make it a point to visit one of our nation’s war dead at a local cemetery- this year, my boys and I chose to pay tribute to the memory of Captain Franklin John Sauter of Co. B, 55th Ohio Volunteer Infantry who is buried at Fort Meigs Cemetery here in Perrysburg.
Gravestone of Captain Franklin J. Sauter of Co. B, 55th Ohio Volunteer Infantry at Fort Meigs Cemetery. It is unclear as to whether Captain Sauter is actually buried here or if his remains are still in Virginia- he is not listed as being buried at Fredericksburg National Cemetery but as there are so many unknowns there from Chancellorsville, its possible that his remains are in an unmarked grave. 

Captain Sauter was born in 1838 to John and Helena Sauter of Perrysburg, Ohio. In the fall of 1861, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in Co. B of the 55th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, being promoted to First Lieutenant to date July 16, 1862, and to Captain April 4, 1863 upon the resignation of Captain Augustus M. Bement. Captain Sauter had just returned to the Army of the Potomac in its camps near Falmouth, Virginia after a 15 day furlough at home, and upon his return he learned that Captain Bement had resigned and that he was now the company commander. During the journey home in early March, he traveled with Captain William S. Wickham of Co. D from Norwalk- Captain Wickham would later relate the circumstances surrounding Captain Sauter’s death on the battlefield at Chancellorsville.
Captain Sauter’s war journal is in possession of the Fredericksburg Spotsylvania National Military Park and is quoted extensively in Albert Conner and Chris Mackowski’s book Seizing Destiny: The Army of the Potomac’s “Valley Forge” and the Civil War Winter That Saved the Union (

The story of the Jackson’s famous flank march and devastating attack on the 11th Corps at Chancellorsville is a familiar one to most Civil War buffs and is one that I reference on my Columbian Arsenal Press page (, giving an account from Captain Alfred E. Lee of the 82nd Ohio. The 55th Ohio Infantry, under Colonel John Calvin Lee of Tiffin, was part of the Second Brigade (Brigadier General Nathaniel G. McLean), Second Division (Brigadier General Charles Devens), of Oliver O. Howard’s 11th Corps. As shown on the map below, McLean’s brigade was stationed on the far right of the 11th Corps along the Orange Turnpike- the neighboring First Brigade of Colonel Leopold von Gilsa held the extreme right which was at a right angle (at least partially) to the Second Brigade. 
Map showing the positions of McLean's and Von Gilsa's brigades on the afternoon of May 2, 1863. From Hartwell Osborn's book Trials and Triumphs of the 55th O.V.I.

The 55th Ohio was the right flank regiment of the Second Brigade- to its right was the two German regiments- the veteran 45th New York and the green 107th Ohio. The 55th Ohio faced south behind a line of rifle pits and entrenchments awaiting a Confederate attack from Lewis Run which lay in their front- warnings all afternoon that the Confederates were moving toward the Union right passed through the regiment to brigade command and beyond, but the sightings were dismissed and not acted upon. When the Confederate attack began around 5 in the evening- it fell upon a lightly guarded flank and hit with the strength of an avalanche.
Captain William S. Wickham was a frequent contributor to the Norwalk Reflector newspaper during the war. 

Captain William S. Wickham of Company D related the following about the flank attack at Chancellorsville in Hartwell Osborn’s Trials and Triumphs of the 55th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. In it, he also describes the death of Captain Sauter:
You will remember how we were posted, beside a nearly east and west road facing southerly with a rail fence chinked with broken wood our only protection. You will recall a limited open field in our front across which scampered wild animals of the country, including deer, roused from their rest by the maneuvering forces of Stonewall Jackson who were hastily forming for an attack- and how all else, so far as we could see or so far as we in the ranks could know, was densely wooded country- a wilderness indeed. My heart sickens even now when now when I think how easily we might have been prepared for the struggle that was about to open, and how, through criminal carelessness or gross incompetency, a probably glorious victory was turned into disaster and for a time into utter rout.
Instead of coming in our front, the attack was made on our right and rear by Jackson’s full corps, 25,000 strong. The 55th Ohio held the right of brigade that day and with the exception of Von Gilsa’s brigade which was still farther to the right and somewhat refused, the extreme right flank of the Union army. So unexpected was the assault that the guns of Von Gilsa’s brigade were stacked at the time, and the men were actually engaged in preparing their evening meal with scarcely a thought that their repast was to consist of steel and lead rather than of their almost equally unimpressionable hardtack and guileless bacon. And you will recollect, no doubt, that at this very moment the band of the 55th Ohio was in the pines just across the road from us engaged in laudable efforts to cheer the hearts of the boys with such familiar pieces as “The Girl I Left Behind Me” and “Get Out of the Wilderness,” and how their endeavor to accomplish the latter on foot were accelerated by the crash of Jackson’s guns and the Rebel yell from more than twice 10,000 throats.
Stricken as we were in flank, there was but a single thing to do- fall back across the road and attempt a reformation behind the 25th and 75th Ohio regiments which were lying there in reserve in column formation- and this was what was attempted. I can still see, despite the lapse of more than a third of a century, our regiment falling back from the worse than useless position it was occupying, breaking away from right to left with a regularity that was simply wonderful under the circumstances and the change of base might well be described as a change of front to the rear en echelon.

The only guns the enemy could bring to bear, owing to the heavily timbered condition of the country in which they were operating, were those I have already referred to as posted in the road above us and which startled us with their crash, but they did their work with a too fatal precision and decimated our ranks with fearful rapidity during the brief moments they had us within their range. The road was a narrow one, however, and soon traversed, though many were destined never to cross it. It was here that I saw Captain Sauter of Company B who was a few yards to my right and a little in front fall headlong by the roadside, dead in his tracks- the first officer and perhaps the first soldier to die that day. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Scary Affair at Scary Creek

The Battle of Scary Creek, Virginia was fought July 17, 1861 upon a series of hills along the banks of Scary Creek at the junction with the Kanawha River in western Virginia. Confederate forces under Captain George S. Patton had emplaced a masked battery that commanded the river road and an important bridge over Scary Creek in days previous to check the Union advance up the Kanawha. Patton commanded a force of several independent companies in Virginia state service, along with a few cannon from Hales Artillery under Lieutenants James Welch and Charles Quarrier, the entire force numbering roughly 800 men.
Union Brigadier General Jacob D. Cox determined to send out a reconnaissance force of roughly 1,000 men consisting of the 12th Ohio Infantry under Colonel John Lowe, about 100 troops from two companies of the 21st Ohio Infantry under Colonel Jesse S. Norton, a cavalry company under Captain John S. George, and two rifled cannon under Captains William S. Williams and Charles S. Cotter. Colonel Lowe commanded the expedition and was ordered to locate the enemy and determine the size of his force- its mission was not to get into a fight, but a fight it had.
The below letter from Captain William S. Williams published in the July 31, 1861 issue of the Ohio Repository gives a sparkling account of the part played by the Union artillery in this small battle- his gun knocked out one of the iron pieces of the enemy (killing Lieutenant Welch in the process) and made the fire so hot on Quarrier’s gun that he retreated from the field. A second letter from Corporal Jeriboam “Jerry” B. Creighton, who served Williams’ cannon as the gunner, saw publication in the Tiffin Weekly Tribune from July 26, 1861.
It is interesting that both men laid the blame for the “failure” of the expedition at the feet of General Cox, ignoring the fact that the mission was to develop the position of the enemy, not drive them away from Scary Creek. But once action commenced, the ardor of these early volunteers was such that anything short of driving the enemy with the bayonet was viewed as an unjust restraint. Colonel Lowe’s lack of firm direction elicited comment from Captain Williams, and Williams’ statements were corroborated by Colonel Norton after his release by the Confederates. The press blew these comments up to charging that Colonel Lowe showed cowardice at Scary Creek and had he properly supported Norton’s charge as Norton had requested, victory would have been won at Scary Creek. As Gunner Creighton surmised, “Had the infantry officers done their duty after we had silenced the enemy’s battery, we would have routed them from the field.” Colonel Lowe would be killed in action less than two months later while leading his regiment into action at the Battle of Carnifex Ferry. 
Knowing the interest you have been taking in our artillery company, I thought I would drop you a line as to our whereabouts. We are now about 50 miles up the river. I have command of two pieces, one rifled and the other smooth, acting lieutenant with the rank of captain. Captain Suland of Frankfort, Kentucky has also command of one rifled piece and one smoothbore, and commands the battery. Going up the river we acted as advance guard. We were compelled to throws shell into nests of Secesh on several occasions. On Wednesday morning last, we were ordered by General Cox to take up two rifled pieces, Cotter commanding one and I the other, and Colonel Lowe of the 12th Ohio with his regiment and command, and Colonel Jesse S. Norton, the gallant little fellow with two companies of the 21st Ohio, about 100 men. And with this handful of men we were ordered to take Governor Wise’s division stationed about four miles above on the river.
Colonel John Williamson Lowe, 12th Ohio Volunteer Infantry

We started and got along very well, when nearing their camp we drove in one of their pickets, the great body of infantry then flanked our right and left on each side of the road. The artillery was then ordered forward by Colonel Lowe. We went up the road with our horses under the gallop and the first thing we noticed was a shower of grape and ball falling thick and fast, which apparently for the moment appeared to dumbfound our boys. We were in a narrow lane, and I ordered them to throw down the fence and we took our position over the fence in an open wheat field right in range of their guns and about 300 yards distant. Their balls at first flew over us, but soon lowering them to bear on us. I came to the conclusion there was rather much buzzing about my ears and took my place by my piece and tried to keep the boys cool, which was unnecessary for they were all right.
Colonel Jesse S. Norton, 21st Ohio Infantry. The "gallant little fellow," as Williams remembered him, won fame for his gallantry at Scary Creek where he was wounded and captured, but his penchant for controversy eventually led to his undoing.

Charley Myers took my horse and the next thing I saw him doing was leading the horse around hunting some tobacco he had lost in the stubble, cannon balls and grape flying in all directions about his head- characteristic of a Dutchman! About this time Johnny Haven of Ravenna was cut nearly in two by a ball. All of their fire was directed at our guns. The first ball we fired was a little high, passing over their entrenchments and took off a colonel’s head while sitting on his horse on the other side of their breastworks. It was diamond cut diamond for a time until we could see through the smoke that their guns were in a bad condition, wheels flying in all directions and in a few minutes one of their guns was knocked about 20 feet and another round dismounted and dismantled their forces entirely, and not a soul about them.
Battle of Scary Creek, Virginia overlaid on modern map of Scary, West Virginia. (Author's work)

A number of sharpshooters were stationed under cover of the woods attempting to pick us off at our guns, but did not succeed although there was more than one of the boys’ caps knocked off. We then moved our pieces over by a house and fired into some old log houses under the hill that were full of Secesh, and who were pouring a destructive fire into Colonel Norton’s little band. We bored them and they came out like bees, while the colonel at the head of his men was disputing the ground at the point of the bayonet. Here the colonel fell wounded and many a brave fellow was attempting to drag himself away from this point, although men were biting the dust in all directions, yet victory seemed to be ours for the enemy was retreating and where the Secesh battery had been we saw through the smoke the old stars and stripes were waving.
Our artillery boys set up an unearthly yell, but before they were through cheering we had a dose of grape from the flag in question. When the smoke cleared away, much to our dismay, we discovered it had but three stripes. I told my gunner Jerry B. Creighton to fetch it down and the next moment the color bearer was seen dangling ten feet in the air. Colonel De Villiers of the 11th Ohio and Colonel Woodruff of the 2nd Kentucky and his lieutenant colonel and several other officers (who were up on the other side of river scouting) hearing the cheering of our boys, supposed the victory won and crossed the river in a boat just in time to be taken prisoners for when that flag was replanted on their entrenchments, they had received large reinforcements from Coal Creek along with a field piece which accounted for the grape. We silenced their remaining gun again, but our ammunition was fast giving out and our guns were so hot we could scarcely work them and so with the infantry, those that did fight had not more ammunition (there was part of the 12th Ohio that had done but little) and our boys were almost exhausted.
When we fired our last ammunition, our boys dripped down by the guns covered black with smoke and powder and lay there panting with fatigue and asking for water. All our boys did nobly, not one flinched. We lay there expecting reinforcements from camp; General Cox had about 4,000 men there but none came. The cavalry made one charge, shot off three of their guns, and then stayed behind the church until the battle was over. Thus out of ammunition and a few men against all of southeastern Virginia, as we have since learned, we had all but one thing to do and that was retreat. Colonel Lowe was in the rear behind the hill. There we went into things under Lowe’s directions, pell-mell, and our retreat of course was about the same thing. Lieutenant Colonel Neibling of the 21st Ohio and several others sent to General Cox and pleaded and begged of him to let them take men up to our rescue, as they knew well from our firing that we were fighting a much superior force. Lieutenant Colonel Neibling cried like a child to take up the balance of Colonel Norton’s regiment. But General Cox told him to get back to his tent and not show his weakness.
Lieutenant Colonel James M. Neibling, 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry. "Colonel Jim" became incensed when General Cox refused to allow him to march the remaining 8 companies of the regiment to Scary Creek. Cox told him to "go back to his tent and not show his weakness," but relented when news arrived that the expedition had met with defeat at Scary Creek. Colonel Neibling wrote the following,

"You may judge our feelings when we first heard the firing of the cannon. The General and myself were talking at the time and I insisted on going to their support, but he refused to listen to anything I might say. As the fight was on the other side of the river, I insisted on crossing but he would not hearken to my entreaties until the dispatch came that Colonel Norton was taken prisoner and that Colonel Lowe of the 12th was returning. We started on double quick time, but before I could get there, we met our boys returning, some of them out of ammunition, and entirely worn out, so much so that I could not rally men and officers to go back as they said it was almost night."

Well, we retreated, the artillery leaving the field last. The notorious Jenkins was ordered to charge after us but he said, “he’d be damned if he would ride after those guns with his men.” The fight lasted about two hours and 40 minutes. After we got near to camp, we found another regiment coming to our relief, but it was too late. The amount and killed on the enemy’s side is unknown, nor never will be. Our dead were all left on the field, but a great many of our wounded we brought away with us. Johnny Haven, as we picked him up, tried to cheer when he saw the stars and stripes. The amount of wounded I can’t tell, suffice to say the cabins of three steamboats are laying full. We’ll give them another turn up there in a few days again.
Tiffin Weekly Tribune, July 26, 1861, pg. 3; account of Corporal Jeriboam “Jerry” B. Creighton, Williams’ Independent Battery, Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery:
“You will of course know the result of the battle of Scary Creek before these few lines reach you. I was in that battle and let me tell you in all candor it was a hot little battle. We were in range of musketry and rifle shot and at the same time in open sight of the enemy’s artillery. I must say in due respect to the Rebels that they have done some damned good shooting. Your humble servant was gunner of one of the deatchments (we had two pieces in action) and green as he is, being only 15 days in the service when the battle was fought, he had the good luck of knocking a colonel’s head off at the first shot. Shortly after we dismounted one of the enemy’s guns, sending it whirling in all directions. I believe my whole mind was on the enemy’s battery, trying my best to knock it to Kingdom Come and I feel confident of having done it to them.
Brigadier General Jacob D. Cox not only incurred criticism from his troops, but drew General George B. McClellan's ire for his expedition's less than triumphant performance at Scary Creek. McClellan pleaded with Colonel Edward T. Townsend "in Heaven's name, give me some general officers who understand their profession." 'Mother' Cox learned, and by the end of the war became a respected commander in the 23rd Corps and later Governor of Ohio.  

We stood a good two hour’s fight and had not our ammunition given out, we would have driven the devils off the field. We are under obligations to Mother Cox, our general, for this inhuman defeat. We were about 1,000 strong with two six-pounder rifled cannon. Had Cox given all the available forces under his command, instead of keeping the greater part of it within three miles of the battlefield for his protection, we would have gained a glorious victory. I believe every man in his brigade is down on him for mismanagement, cowardice, etc. We are told that ex-Governor Henry Wise ordered Captain Jenkins’ cavalry to charge on our artillery, but Jenkins said he would be damned if it would pay to charge on the artillery and that the devil himself could not stand before them. We were only 400 yards from the enemy’s battery from the commencement of the fight and closed on them several times during the engagement. Had the infantry officers done their duty after we had silenced the enemy’s battery, we would have routed them from the field.”
Captain Albert Gallatin Jenkins wisely refused to charge the Union cannon at Scary Creek, but his troopers gathered in quite a haul when several Union officers imprudently crossed the Kanawha on a skiff after the battle thinking that their forces had driven the Confederates from town. Jenkins' men captured Colonel William Woodruff (2nd Kentucky Inf.), Colonel Charles De Villiers (11th Ohio Inf.), Lieutenant Colonel George W. Neff (1st Kentucky Inf.), and two captains from the 2nd Kentucky (Austin and Ward). Captain Gustavus Bascom of General Cox's staff related that the group had galloped away from camp to attempt to watch the fight, and seeing a building fired, mistakenly believed it was a signal that Federal forces had won the day. They crossed the river and galloped amongst Jenkins' troopers (few of any of the men who fought on either side at Scary Creek wore uniforms that would give clear identification as to which side they represented) and Bascom relays what happened next:

"Woodruff cheering and speaking of their victory and DeVilliers scolding them and threatening to report them to General Cox for burning some buildings which were being destroyed to prevent our force from occupying them. They were of course nabbed. Some of them seized hold of DeVilliers’ horse to arrest him, but he declared that he would trample them if they did not release him. He would not surrender to any but the commanding officer.”