Harlan Bradford at the Battle of Cross Keys

The Battle of Cross Keys, Virginia was fought on June 8, 1862 and consisted of a clash of the Federal army under General John C. Fremont and Stonewall Jackson's Confederate army just north of the town of Port Republic, Virginia. Jackson had been retreating through the Shenandoah Valley for several days to escape three Federal armies that were in pursuit: Fremont's, Banks', and McDowell's.

Battery I of the 1st Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery under the command of Captain Henry F. Hyman (this is also sometimes listed as Hayman, the state roster says Hyman) was attached to Milroy's Brigade, which consisted of the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th West Virginia Infantry regiments, along with the 25th Ohio, 1st West Virginia Cavalry, and two more batteries: Ewing's Battery G, West Virginia Light Artillery and the 12th Ohio Battery.

The following letter, originally published in the July 2, 1862 edition of the Portage County Democrat, who written by Corporal Harlan P. Bradford, a loader on gun no. 2.

Harlan Page Bradford was born February 28, 1837 in Newburgh Heights, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio to Grafton and Charlaine Bradford, and grew up on a farm in Ravenna Twp., Portage Co., Ohio. The 23 year old farmer enlisted in the battery on October 15, 1861 and was appointed a Corporal on March 8, 1862. Bradford was wounded July 4, 1864 near Chattahoochee Bridge, Georgia and was mustered out of the service November 4, 1864 at Columbus, Ohio at the expiration of his three year term of service. Bradford was granted a pension for his war wound in 1873; he later married, had four children, and worked as a miller before he died on September 26, 1881 in Ravenna. Corporal Bradford is buried at Maple Grove Cemetery in Ravenna. (See https://findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=102099321)
Captain Hubert C. Dilger, Battery I, 1st Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery
Battery I, 1st OVLA saw service in both the eastern and western theaters, and gained much fame due to the colorful and supremely effective Hubert Dilger who led the battery starting in late 1862. Dilger, also known as Leatherbreeches, is a hero worthy of his own blog post, but as the focus here is Harlan Bradford and Cross Keys, I digress...
Battle of Cross Keys included in the OR- the Civil War Preservation Trust has a much more detailed map available at https://www.civilwar.org/learn/civil-war/battles/cross-keys
Mount Jackson, Virginia
June 13, 1862

Dear friends at home:

I improve the first opportunity to write, knowing you will be anxious to hear from me since the battle. I am enjoying life and good health, and that is all a soldier ought to ask for. Day before yesterday I received three letters, and was glad to get them, I assure you, for they were the first that I have received from old Portage since I left on April 24. I have not written you since we left Franklin, for we have been marching all the time in pursuit of Jackson. We left Franklin three weeks ago. Two weeks ago, we arrived at Strasburg where we found Jackson, but on our approach he lit out. Our cavalry and advance troops had some skirmishing with him, killing some. As we passed along, we could now and then see the dead by the roadside, with some one left to bury them. Jackson retreated so fast that we could not get the main force near enough to hurt them. He burned every bridge as he went, and the river was so high we could not cross until we put down our pontoon bridge, and this occasioned some delay. Jackson kept on the macadamized road until within 15 or 20 miles of Staunton, where he left it and broke across the country, and we after him.
Major General John C. Fremont

One day it was reported that he was about to make a stand, we camped that night, anxious for the morrow and the fight. The next day (Sabbath) came and we advanced upon him. The country was rolling, diversified with woods here and there. Our army was spread two or three miles in length. As we advanced upon an eminence, our battery was ordered to halt and take position to command the surrounding country, while the infantry scoured the woods. Before we could get into position, we heard their cannon (but could not see it) and a ball struck 10 feet one side of our guns, covering us with dust. Then another just in front, and another a few feet over our heads, but lucky for us, they had been wet and did not burst.

By this time, we were ready for them, and could discover where their guns were by the smoke (in the edge of the woods). We opened a fire upon them that soon drive them back. We advanced upon them and were just passing a strip of woods when they fired on us again. We changed ends with our guns and gave them the best we had. They were in plain sight this time. At first, they had five guns; they soon had five more, and then ten were playing upon our four. The shot and shell came scratching through the woods, cutting right and left. The limbs fell thick around us, and splinters flew in every direction. We stood their fire about an hour, when our ammunition gave out. We fell back to get more, and another battery was ordered in our place but the fire was so hot they refused to go.

Brigadier General Robert H. Milroy
When we got our supply, we took our position again and with the help of another battery, we soon drive them back. Our loss was one killed and several wounded. It seems a miracle that no more were killed. We lost but one horse. The next day, as we passed by the place where the rebel battery stood, I counted 14 dead horses. All their horses were behind the hill- while we were firing not one of them was in sight. I don’t know how we killed so many, probably the shells bursting on the hill. The ground was all tore up around them. We must have killed a good many men. After we silenced that battery, we drew out into the open field to await further orders. We had been there but a short time and a large number of officers and men gathered around, looking and talking, when another shell came from an unseen gun, and struck just in front of them. They scattered quickly, and we were left alone to do the best we could. We could guess very near where the enemy’s guns were, about a mile off in the bushes. The shells came thick and close this time, but did not hurt anyone. One passed just over our heads and went through an officer’s horse a few rods beyond, dismounting the officer against his will.

Some think it the hardest artillery fight except Pittsburg. Our officers say they never heard as heavy cannonading as that. Our boys say they are satisfied; they don’t want the shells to come any nearer.

We did not advance on Jackson that night. The next morning, we found he had retreated during the night, crossed the Shenandoah River, burned the bridge, and started towards Richmond, down the valley the other side of the Shenandoah mountains. The mountains ran out here and he passed around the south end. Fremont commenced putting down the pontoon bridge with the intention to follow him, but before it was the completed, the orders were changed. It was taken up, and we started back the same way we came. We heard heavy cannonading all the forenoon; it was the engagement between Jackson and Shields (Port Republic, June 9, 1862).
The Battle of Cross Keys as sketched by Edwin Forbes

We took 500-600 prisoners from Jackson. Some of our boys that he captured from Banks made their escape. They were glad enough to get away. The most of the prisoners that we have taken seem well pleased with their situation. They like it better than to be with Jackson. I don’t know exactly what our loss was, but I think not far from 150 killed. The rebel loss was much larger- our boys buried their dead. They report to have buried 400 in two trenches, they were very much scattered. When we came back, we found quite a number as we crossed the battlefield. We left our tents, knapsacks, and everything at Petersburg- were not allowed to take but one blanket each. When night comes, or rather when we stop (for we do not always when night comes), we lie down beside our guns and make the best of it we can. Often it rains all night and wets us through and through. Then all we have to do is make a big fire the first chance we get and dry. This is a beautiful valley we are in-rich in every respect- about 50 miles wide called the Virginia Valley. There are thousands of acres of beautiful wheat, open to the commons, the fences all used to cook the soldiers’ rations. We are camped not in a large wheat field at Mount Jackson. I like Capt. Hyman well- my position at the gun is No. 2 (help load it).

H.P. Bradford

A few additional details are provided on the Battle of Cross Keys in John Waddell's article from the May 7, 1903 edition of the National Tribune:


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