Cedar Creek Report, Commander, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Army of the Shenandoah (OR 43, 459-61)


November 8, 1864.

CAPTAIN: In compliance with instructions from Brevet Major-General Merritt, I have the honor to submit the following report of operations of the First Brigade, First Division Cavalry, from September 26 to October 27, inclusive, during which time I was in command:

On the morning of 26th of September, Brigadier-General Custer having been assigned to the command of Averell's division, I was directed by him to assume command of the brigade, which I did, and proceeded with the division to Port Republic, having the advance until connection was made with General Devin's (Second) Brigade. Arriving at Port Republic I was ordered by the general commanding division to send two regiments across the Shenandoah to capture small parties of the enemy who were in sight. The Sixth and Seventh Michigan Cavalry, commanded by Major Deane and Major Darling, respectively, were sent, and charged the enemy until they encountered a largely superior force of cavalry arid infantry, which was massed at a convenient distance and under cover, disclosing only enough to invite an attack. Having made such dispositions of the regiments as to prevent a flank movement, which was attempted, I held the line the entire day and picketed it during the night. Martin's (Sixth New York) battery was in position and aided in checking the enemy after our charge was repulsed. The Fifth Michigan Cavalry was on picket, the First in reserve.

September 27, ordered to Cross Keys; went into camp near that place at night, Sixth Michigan on picket. 28th, drew in my picket-line and moved to Port Republic; remained there (with Seventh Michigan Cavalry on picket) until the 29th, when marched in rear of the division, the Sixth Michigan deployed as skirmishers, with orders to burn all barns, &c.; the Fifth Michigan Cavalry (Major Hastings), marched on the left, via Piedmont, to Mount Crawford, where the entire brigade went into camp, having destroyed a large amount of property and driven in a large number of cattle and other stock. Seventh Michigan Cavalry left on duty at Port Republic. 30tl~, moved camp; the Twenty-fifth New York Cavalry on duty at Conrad's Ferry; Seventh Michigan at Port Republic; two squadrons (First and Sixth Michigan) on picket in front of brigade.

October 1, remained in camp; Fifth Michigan sent to Port Republic, and while there made two reconnaissances through Brown's Gap. 2d, attacked and fell back in conjunction with the force on right of the brigade. 3d, ordered to Cross Keys; picket-line extended by patrol to Conrad's Ferry, a distance of twenty-five miles; three regiments constantly on duty. 4th and 5th, ditto. 6tb, marched to Timberville, via Harrisonburg, from whence, on the 7th, to Woodstock.

The 8th, marched, the Fifth Michigan Cavalry in rear, acting as rear guard, to Fisher's Hills slight skirmishing all day with Major Hastings' rear guard. At Fisher's Hill received orders from the general commanding division to drive back the force following, if possible. The Sixth Michigan Cavalry, commanded by Major Deane, supported by the Seventh Michigan Cavalry (Major Darling), drove the enemy at a run as far as Woodstock. Here they were re-enforced, and I deemed it prudent to withdraw, the Fifth Michigan Cavalry (Major Hastings) having the rear. About one mile from Tom's Brook I halted (the enemy not having made his appearance). The Seventh was sent to make a demonstration in favor of General Custer, while the Fifth Michigan picketed the road toward Woodstock. The enemy was soon discovered charging with heavy columns on either side and on the pike, supporting an unusually strong skirmish line. I directed the Sixth Michigan and Twenty-fifth New York to move back and take up the position on Tom's Brook, while the First Michigan remained to support the Fifth Michigan, which I ordered to fall back slowly to the same point. I cannot speak in terms of too great praise of the gallantry of Major Hastings and the officers and men of his command, who three times repulsed desperate charges made by a greatly superior force of the enemy; nor of the squadron of the First Michigan Cavalry, commanded by Capt. Charles Shier. According to the testimony of citizens and negroes, the force which attacked that night consisted of two brigades of cavalry with artillery. Having taken the position at Tom's Brook, and brought up one section of Martin's battery, I made preparations to hold that position. The enemy not pressing the attack, I ordered Major Birge, with one battalion of the Sixth Michigan Cavalry, to advance and reconnoiter their position. He found the enemy posted near the point where their charge was repulsed. On account of darkness, and order to recross Tom's Brook, no attack was made that night.

On the morning of the 9th, this brigade having the advance, I was ordered to make an attack on the flank of the force confronting the Third Division, commanded by Brigadier-General Custer. The attack was made and vigorously followed up by the Sixth and Seventh Michigan and Tweuty-fifth New York Regiments, the Fifth Michigan Supporting the battery, the First Michigan on picket. The enemy was driven a distance of two miles. An attempt made by several organized regiments to charge my line was handsomely repulsed by the Seventh Michigan Cavalry and the enemy scattered in contusion. Receiving orders to halt until the brigade on my left, which was at first repulsed, had come up, I was unable to press the pursuit until the enemy had made his escape to the two roads between which my line rested. From Woodstock, hearing heavy firing in that direction, I went to the right, arriving near the "Furnace" simultaneously with General Custer's skirmish line. The First Michigan Cavalry, I was informed, did good service in supporting the flank of the Reserve Brigade.

October 10, in camp at Fisher's Hill. 11th, fell back to Cedar Creek. 12th, 13th, and 14th, in camp. 15th, moved in advance of division to Front Royal. 16th, turned to camp. 17th and 18th, in camp.

October 19, the picket-line of the Seventh Michigan Cavalry was driven in; the entire brigade moved out to the support. Found the enemy strongly posted with artillery; w as ordered back and ultimately took position on the extreme left of the army. My left was not supported by General Powell's division. That the First Brigade was engaged that day the casualties bear witness. One stand of colors and many prisoners were captured. Darkness intervened to prevent perfect success. Kershaw's division, which confronted us, was utterly broken and scattered. The First Michigan Cavalry, commanded by Capt. A. W. Duggan, the Fifth Michigan, commanded by Maj. S. H. Hastings, the Sixth, by Maj. C.W. Deane, and the Seventh by Major Darling, all deserve special mention. They never behaved with more consummate gallantry. I have to regret the loss of Capt. Charles Shier, First Michigan Cavalry, who was mortally wounded while leading a charge. A gallant officer, a polished scholar, and an accomplished gentleman, his loss is keenly felt by all who knew him.

October 20, moved with division to Woodstock. 21st to 24th, except detail for picket and reconnaissances, no duty assigned to the brigade. 25th, I received orders to move through Little Fort Valley and attempt to attack the enemy in flank at Milford. After having lost about two hours by a misunderstanding in regard to the roads I found the passage through the mountains so obstructed that, in my own opinion and that of every officer whom I consulted, it was impossible to accomplish anything that day. This fact I reported to the general commanding division and also to the chief of cavalry, and received orders to return to camp. 26th, I was relieved from command by order of the chief of cavalry.

In closing this report I would tender thanks to the officers and men of this command who gave me cordial co-operation and support in what I attempted to do.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Colonel, Commanding Brigade.

Capt. A. E. DANA,

Asst. Adjt.Gen., First Cavalry Division, Mid. Mil. Div.