Cedar Creek Report, Commander, 1st Division, 19th Corps (OR, 43, 308-311)
HDQRS. FIRST DIVISION, NINETEENTH ARMY CORPS,
Cedar Creek, Va., October 197 1864.
SIR,: I beg leave to submit the following report of the part taken in the battle of this date near Cedar Creek, Va., by the First Division, Nineteenth Army Corps, temporarily under my command:
At about 5 a. m. I was awakened by the sentinel before my tent, who reported an attack on our pickets. On getting up I heard rapid firing on the extreme left of the position of the Eighth Corps and constantly increasing in rapidity. I at once ordered my command under arms, and proceeded to report to the brevet major-general commanding, whom I found on General Grover's front, at a point nearest the enemy's attack. Our extreme left was rapidly- giving way before irresistible force, and I was at once ordered by General Emory to put my Second Brigade, which was entire, in reserve, in position on General Grover's left and nearly perpendicular to his line of intrenchments, for the purpose of checking the enemy, who were evidently rapidly advancing to the rear of and perpendicular to our position. I put the Second Brigade, Colonel Thomas, into the position indicated, occupying a deep ravine and thick copse of wood, from whence it was soon driven by overwhelming force, but not until completely flanked and nearly one third of its members were killed, wounded, or captured-, but in the meantime the troops on the extreme left, that were rapidly being surrounded, were enabled to make their escape through the line thus formed, from what seemed inevitable destruction or capture, and pass to the rear and reform their confused ranks. As soon as aware of the magnitude of the attack I rode rapidly to the First Brigade, Colonel Davis commanding, and after ordering the One hundred and sixteenth New York and the One hundred and fifty-third New York to hold their position on the hill as long as tenable, I put the Thirtieth Massachusetts, Captain Shipley, and the One hundred and fourteenth New York, Major Curtis, in line of battle about 400 yards in the rear of the Second Brigade, for the purpose of holding the position in which they were placed and form a junction with the Sixth Corps. They held the position stubbornly and quite as long as it was necessary for the purpose for which they were put in position, when they fell back in good order and rejoined their brigades. The advance of the enemy along our intrenchments was so rapid as to prevent Captain Taft, commanding Fifth New York Battery, from bringing off three pieces of artillery, which, I regret to report, fell temporarily into the bands of the enemy, but without the caissons, which were safely brought off, as was one of the guns. The two regiments left on the fortified hill held their position until all other troops had passed to the rear, and the enemy were Passing to their rear and left, when they fell back to the brigade line, when the whole brigade fell back, fighting all the way to a line in continuation of the line of the Sixth Corps, where a stand of nearly one hour was made; then the whole line to my left began to fall back slowly, but in tolerable order. I fell back also, but constantly occupied a position in line in advance of all troops in sight on my left. We continued to fall back for a distance of 1,200 yards and about 2,000 yards to the rear of my camp, when the whole line halted and we continued in line for probably forty-five minutes, during which time Colonel Thomas, with the remnant of the Second Brigade, joined me, and I put him in rear of the First Brigade in a second line. At the time above referred to General Grover, accompanied by a staff officer, rode up to me and notified me that Major-General Wright ordered the whole line to fall back to a position to be indicated or selected afterward. We at once commenced a movement as directed, which was continued for a distance of 1,000 yards, when we halted and formed a line of battle in a good position apparently, and by order of Brevet Major-General Emory fortified it partially with rails and logs.
In moving from the last position I was directed to conform to General Grove's movements, inclining to the right in retreat. After occupying the last-mentioned line from thirty-five to sixty minutes General Emory directed me to be ready to continue the move to the rear in accordance with instructions from Major-General Wright, constantly inclining to the right, gaining ground toward the Winchester pike, and completing connection with the Sixth Corps. This move was continued for about 2,500 yards, when the whole line in my view again halted for about twenty minutes, when I received an order from General Emory to face about and reoccupy as rapidly as possible the position last abandoned. After moving about 900 yards in the direction from
'whence we came, the command was halted a few minutes, when it again moved to the front and left nearly one mile, when we again were halted, and after forming line of battle in a heavy wood began to fortify as best we could. While on the march last referred to Major-General Sheridan made his appearance, and was most heartily cheered along the whole line, as far as I could observe. The officers and men seemed at once to recover from a kind of lethargy- for it was no panic- into which the reverses of the early part of the day had thrown them, and by the time the commanding general had perfected his arrangements for attacking the enemy the men were in as good mental condition to fight as at any period when victory encouraged and stimulated, though much fatigued by the incessant labors performed from the hour of attack until between 3 and 4 p. m. While laying in the position last referred to., at about 1 p. m. the enemy made a light attack on the First Division and a portion of the line to my left, but were easily repulsed. During the whole day I occupied the extreme right of the line when advancing, consequently the extreme left when retreating. The fighting of the division was a; good as I could wish it at all times, and at all times while retreating was in rear of the line of the whole of our force in my view. So much was the Nineteenth Corps to the rear in the retreat that when about 1,800 yards from. our camp I expressed to General Grover fears that the enemy would get between us and the Sixth Corps. He expressed a similar apprehension, and said, "We must keep a sharp lookout for that." Had there been concert of action through our whole force, I believe there was no time after we formed on the line of the position of the Sixth Corps that I could not have driven the enemy in my front without difficulty. While I was constantly driven back, I do not believe my command was It any time whipped, in its own opinion, or unwilling to turn and attack the enemy, assuming the offensive instead of the defensive. About 2 p. in. General Dwight resumed command of the First Division; 1, consequently, of the Second Brigade, though after resuming the offensive, and the command advanced on the enemy after driving them from a naturally strong position, covered by dense woods, and temporarily fortified with rails, having to charge across an open field about 400 yards, the Second Brigade encountered a most murderous fire from hidden enemy on the right and rear. At this critical moment I wheeled the Second Brigade, and by Colonel Davis' assistance, two of his regiments to the right, farming a line perpendicular to the one of direct attack, and in a few moments drove the enemy flying from his cover. After moving to the right a short distance, I again began to get my command in its former position, to the left and front, when Major-General Sheridan rode up and told me to move to the left, so as to complete the line as when it first advanced.
So rapidly had we driven the enemy that. a horseman could with difficulty get through the woods as rapidly. After changing the direction of the troops, by direction of Major Forsyth, of Major-General Sheridan's staff, I halted my command to wait for General Custer to get into position to protect my right, when I again ordered an advance through a thick wood, well filled with rebels, but so impetuous was the advance that I was left nearly out of sight in the thick woods. When I got through the woods I found I was a long distance ahead of our forces, and under fire at short-range of a section of the enemy's guns. Having advanced so rapidly to the front and left, the First Division appeared to move into the fire of a battery I afterward learned belonged to the Sixth Corps. I at once sent my aide Lieutenant McMillan, who met Major French, of General Emory's staff who accompanied him to request the battery to stop. On reaching the Sixth Corps they were informed that word had already been sent the battery commander, but the officer commanding the infantry requested my aide to go to Major-General Wright with the request, but on approaching the battery learned it had already ceased firing. At this point the whole rebel force was apparently flying in utter confusion from the field, and I could have captured many prisoners, but the men were too much fatigued to advance rapidly. So rapid had been our advance, that when we came on the open fields near the pike the left of our line appeared to be nearly 1,500 yards to the rear, though driving the enemy apparently as rapidly as we.
In conclusion, I must claim that the fighting of the First Division was unsurpassed, if equaled, by any.
To the officers of my command, during the whole day, I desire to offer most grateful thanks for their cheerful obedience of orders and exhibition of gallantry in leading their commands. To Captain Leefe, especially, of. General Dwight's staff, I am under great obligations for the prompt and gallant manner in which he discharged his responsible duties during the time I was in command of the division. I cheerfully commend the entire division staff for the efficient manner in which all duties required of it were performed while under my command. Of my own staff I cannot speak too highly. Of Captain Lynch, especially, I cannot speak too highly in commendation of his gallantry and activity.Though his term of service had expired, and he entitled to be mustered out of the service several days previous, he was ever at his post and in the hottest fire, cheering the men forward while advancing or cautioning them to move slowly while retreating. I must also call the attention of my commanding officers to the gallantry displayed by Colonel Davis, commanding First Brigade, and Colonel Thomas, commanding the Second Brigade. Both of these officers, at all times while under my command, displayed gallantry of the highest order, and I cannot too earnestly recommend them for promotion.
The losses of my brigade are as follows: Four officers and 77 men killed.; 19 officers and 233 men wounded; 2 officers in the hands of the enemy; 182 men missing, most of whom are in the hands of the enemy; making a total loss of 517 officers and men.
While approaching- my camp of the morning, driving the enemy in confusion, I received orders from Brevet Major-General Emory and from Brigadier-General Dwight to follow the enemy to Cedar. Creek and reoccupy my old camp. When in camp about one hour I received orders to move at once to Strasburg and occupy a position, holding the town and vast quantities of property abandoned by the enemy, including caissons, wagons, ambulances, besides large quantities of other ordnance and uartermasters stores.
JAS. W. McMILLAN
Brigadier- General, Commanding
Maj.DUNCAN S. WALKER,
Assistant Adjutant- General.