Cedar Creek After Action Report, Commander, 1st Division, 8th Corps (OR, 43, 372-4)
HEADQUARTERS, FIRST INFANTRY DIVISION
ARMY OF WEST VIRGINIA
Cedar Creek, Va., October 26, 1864.
CAPTAIN I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by this division in the late action of the 19th instant:
At about 4.30 a.m. the enemy advanced in heavy force against the works of the First division, pushing in rapidly whatever of the picket-line he failed to captured. The division, having been aroused by the firing along the picket-line and the subsequent skirmishing of the pickets with the advancing foe, as also by the division officer of the day, who reported the advance of a heavy force, was quickly formed behind the works, and put in position for defense as far as practicable. Very soon the enemy's lines advanced close up to the works, and were greeted by a volley from our whole line. The action here was sharp and brief, the greatly superior force of the enemy enabling him not only to turn our left, but also to effect an entrance between the First and Third Brigades, then holding the works. Being thus subjected to enfilading fires, as also to a direct fire from the front, these two brigades were driven from the works, and so heavy and impetuous was the enemy's advance that their retreat was soon, for the most part, converted into a confused rout, a large proportion of the men flying across the fields to the rear in great disorder. It is proper that I should here remark that during this portion of the action my command consisted of that portion of the Third Brigade then present, viz, the Tenth, Eleventh, and Fifteenth West Virginia and Fifty-fourth Pennsylvania Volunteers. The Twenty-third Illinois, having been for some time previous temporarily detached from the brigade, was not in the action. Having my headquarters some distance in the rear of the works, I did not arrive in time to participate in their defense, notwithstanding I had made all possible haste to do so from the moment I was awakened by the report of the firing of our pickets. I was only in time to meet our flying forces coming to the rear, and from their numbers, as well as their reports, I was at once convinced not only that the works were irretrievably lost, but that the panic amongst our troops was so great as to preclude the possibility of their being speedily rallied by the individual efforts of officers. I at once hastened toward the headquarters of Colonel Thoburn, commanding the division, to inform him of the nature and extent of the disaster, and suggest that we should immediately get a line formed by the forces occupying the field to our rear, consisting in part of the Second Division, to arrest our flying command and afford us such support that we might be able to rally and reform in their rear. I met the colonel near his headquarters hastening toward the scene, who upon bearing my report and suggestion assented to the latter, but, as if to assure himself by a personal inspection, hastened forward. I passed at once to the position indicated, and found the forces there rapidly forming for action but before the proposed arrangement could be effected the forces on their left were being assailed by the enemy and becoming engaged; at the same time our fugitives were beginning to pass through their intervals in considerable numbers, continuing their progress to the rear.
From this time I labored assiduously for the next two hours to arrest the retrograde movement of the command and form it for use. In this labor, which was rendered very difficult by the fact that the whole left of our lines consisting of the Second Division and then in turn the Nineteenth Corps, was being steadily driven back in more or less confusion by heavy columns of the enemy that had completely succeeded in turning our left, and were in their turn contributing largely to swell the numbers who were in disorder attempting to find their way to the rear. In these efforts I was carried back as far a s the fields to the right of Middletown, having been joined and aided in my efforts by the general commanding and various members of his staff and also of the staff of the colonel commanding the division. By this time we had arrested and brought together a sufficient number of officers and men to justify an attempt on our part to aid in checking the enemy's advance, and were directed by the general commanding to a point of the line in the woods on the right of the Nineteenth Corps. In our advance toward these woods we were joined by Lieutenant-Colonel Wildes, commanding First Brigade, and Colonel Wells, commanding Fifteenth West Virginia, each of whom brought a considerable accession to our strength. This force, now numbering 300 or 400 men, was pushed forward into the woods, driving back the enemy and holding the woods until its withdraw it was rendered imperative by the giving way of our lines on our left as also by a movement of the enemy to tern our right. We now retired to a point about a mile to the rear, where the general commanding selected a position for collecting together and reforming as much as possible of his command, and after two or three hours spent in efforts to this effect, the division was raised to about half its maximum strength, and under the direction of the general commanding was directed to an elevated position on the left of the Winchester pike, where it was disposed for the support of a battery and held in reserves with tile remaining portion of his command, until our now reformed and advancing lines called for our being put in motion, when we were directed to the front, and without encountering a foe advanced and reoccupied the ground from which we had been driven in the morning, establishing our pickets exactly on the line they had previously occupied. Early in the day the colonel commanding the division, being engaged in efforts to arrest and reform his command, was assailed in Middletown by the cavalry of the enemy, who from being dressed in our overcoats were enabled to approach him closely without exciting his suspicions, and received a mortal wound. An orderly reported to me at the point where the general had selected for reforming his command with the flag of the division, and a message from the colonel turning over to me the command.
I should say in justice to the officers generally of the division that they exerted themselves gallantly to retrieve the disaster which had befallen us in the morning. The Tenth and Eleventh West Virginia, having position on the right of our works, deserve much credit for their exertions to save a battery which had a position between these two regiments, by which five out of the six pieces were safely brought away. The commanding officers of these regiments deserve great credit for the good order in which they brought off their respective com. mends, and their earnest and energetic efforts to co-operate with the Nineteenth Corps in the defense of their works.
The battery on the left center of the Third Brigade was lost, but the appearance of that part of our works on the following morning showed that it was not without a severe struggle, as we there found eight of the enemy's and six of our own dead.
Amongst the casualties I have to lament the loss of Capt. J. P. Kuykendall, Company K, Tenth West Virginia, and Lieut. Joseph Peck, acting adjutant Fifty-fourth Pennsylvania Volunteers, killed. The former lost his life in a noble effort to save a gun; it would be difficult to find a more gallant and efficient officer. Lieutenant-Colonel Hall, commanding Tenth West Virginia, was wounded, and taken to the rear.
Accompanying please find reports of brigade and regimental commanders, also inclosed list of casualties.
I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
T. M. HARRIS,
Capt. WILLIAM McKINLEY,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.