Cedar Creek After Action Report, Commander, 2nd Division, Sixth Corps (OR, 43, 193-196)



November 15, 1864.


MAJOR: I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of the 19th of October, 1864, the battle of Cedar Creek:


At an early hour the camp was aroused by picket-firing on the flanks of the army, soon followed by heavy musketry on the left. The division was immediately ordered under arms, and at about 6 a.m. moved by the left in two lines toward the pike. On reaching Meadow Run, fire from the enemy's skirmishers occupying a piece of woods near the pike was encountered. Skirmishers were immediately thrown forward, the woods cleared, and the division formed in two lines along the run, nearly parallel to the pike, and connecting on the right with the First Division. As soon as formed, the lines were advanced across the run the left thrown forward in order to gain possession of the pike. At this juncture, observing the troops on the right falling back in confusion, and running through the artillery of the corps, and heavy lines of rebel infantry pressing in that direction, I withdrew the division to the west side of the creek, about 300 yards, to a strong crest, semi-circular in form and partially wooded. The second line was moved up and extended the first, it being necessary to cover as much ground as possible The right flank of the division was entirely uncovered; on the left, however, where the crest was refused parallel to and bordering the run, a skirmish line of Bidwell's brigade (Third), which held that flank, was extended along the height and connected with a skirmish line of a portion of Merritt's cavalry on the left rear. This movement was closely followed up by the enemy, and the line was barely established in the new position when he attacked in force, with great vigor, but was repulsed. The attack fell heaviest on the right, Warner's brigade (First), and on the left center, where Bidwell's and Grant's brigades joined. The enemy's lines charged to within thirty yards of the crest, when, unable to withstand our fire, they fell back in disorder. Reforming at the foot of the hill they again charged, to be again repulsed. The enemy now brought up his batteries and concentrated on the division a severe fire of artillery, but being sheltered by the ground the loss from this cause was lighter than could have been expected. After holding this position for over an hour, it at length became necessary to withdraw the division, the enemy having turned the right and opened a flank and reverse fire upon the line. Obliquing to the right to gain the pike, the division retired in perfect order, marching slowly and making several halts, to a position about a mile north of Middletown, where a new line was established, with the left resting on the pike, connecting with Merritt's cavalry, already in position on the east side of the pike and slight rail breast-works were thrown up. The line of skirmishers was strengthened and the farther advance of the enemy checked. While repelling the enemy's attacks on the crest held in the morning, I was informed that the command of the corps, General Ricketts being wounded, had devolved upon me. The command of the division was transferred to Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Grant. At this time no portion of the army, with the exception of this division, was fighting on the field. The infantry and artillery, driven by the enemy from the field, had fallen back some distance and were reorganizing.


On withdrawing from the position I sent orders to the commanders of the First and Third Divisions to conform to the movements of the Second, and when this division was halted the First and Third were brought up to the line and placed on the right, the Third holding the center and the First the right of the corps line. General Sheridan reaching the field between 11 and 12 o'clock, I relinquished the command of the corps to Major-General Wright and resumed that of the division. During all this time the division lay under a heavy artillery fire, and the enemy's skirmishers were sharply engaged with ours, who held them at bay and repulsed several attacks in some force. Just before 1 p.m. I received intelligence from Major-General Sheridan, through one of his aides-de-camp, Captain O'Keeffe, that the enemy were preparing for an attack, and that it would probably fall upon my right flank; also directions to mass in that direction. In obedience to these instructions, Grant's brigade (Second) was immediately moved to the right and posted by Major-General Wright in support of the right of the Sixth and left of the Nineteenth Corps. The attack was made at 1 o'clock, fell heaviest, I understand, Upon the Nineteenth Corps, and was repulsed. Grant's brigade was shortly after withdraw and placed in reserve in rear of the center of the division line. At 3.30 the general advance was made. The division, Grant's brigade having previously taken its position in the line, moved forward over perfectly open ground, with the exception of the extreme right, which was screened by woods, and under a heavy fire for half a mile, when a check was experienced. The Ninety-third Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, on the extreme right of the division, fell back in some confusion, for the reasons, it is alleged, that the troops on their right fell back. At the same time the Third Brigade, which held the left, resting on the pike, having advanced to a very exposed position, came under a terrific fire of infantry and artillery and was compelled to fall back. Grant's brigade (Second) and the bulk of Warner's brigade (First), however, stood firm, being somewhat covered by a stone wall. The Third Brigade and the Ninety-third Pennsylvania Volunteers were soon rallied and brought back on the line. The division then advanced again, and, charging over open ground, drove the enemy, who was strongly posted behind stone walls, from his first position back upon his second, near Middletown. Following up closely, he was soon forced from this position and driven through the town. The troops pressed hotly after the now broken rebels, without regard to lines or order, as far as Cedar Creek, where the command was halted, reformed, and marched back to the camps of the morning. During the advance in the afternoon Stevens' (Maine) battery of light 12-pounders and a section of Lamb's battery (10 pounder Parrotts) were brought up, placed in position by Colonel Tompkins, chief of artillery, and served with rapidity and effect.


I take great pride in recapitulating the services of the division in the operations of this eventful day. At daybreak the division was on the extreme right of the infantry of the army. Immediately after daylight it moved by the left toward Middletown, with a view of gaining possession of the pike and the high ground near the town. On its march it encountered the enemy, formed line rapidly, and immediately advanced, driving the enemy and taking some prisoners. At this time, finding itself on the extreme left, compelled, from unforeseen causes, to halt and occupy a crest 300 yards to the rear, it held this position unsupported and unaided for over an hour after all other troops had left the field, checking the farther advance of the enemy and repulsing every attack, thus giving time to the scattered commands to reorganize and reform. Finally, outnumbered and outflanked, the division moved back leisurely, contesting every inch of ground, about a mile-to the north of Middletown, with its left resting on the pike, and in this position served as the nucleus on which the lines of the army were reformed. In the afternoon the division advanced upon the lines of the enemy over almost entirely open ground, in the face of a heavy fire of musketry and artillery, and although parts of the line had to yield for the moment to the galling fire encountered, the mass of the division moved steadily OD, driving the enemy from his first position back upon his second, and eventually forcing him from this position and driving him in confusion through Middletown and the plains beyond to and over Cedar Creek.


The conduct of the officers and men was gallant and steady throughout the day. Brig. Gen. L. A. Grant, Col. J. M. Warner, Eleventh Vermont Volunteers, and Lieut. Col. W. B. French, Seventy-seventh New York Volunteers, brigade commanders, are entitled to great credit. But two members of my staff were present on the field, Maj. Charles Mundee, assistant adjutant-general, wounded, and Capt. Hazard Stevens, both of whom deserve special mention. The others were either absent under orders or engaged in their legitimate duties.


Attention is called to instances of individual bravery and good conduct mentioned in the reports of brigade commanders.


The loss of the division in killed, wounded, and missing was severe, as follows, viz: Killed, commissioned officers, 10; enlisted men, 95. Wounded, commissioned officers, 36; enlisted men, 535. Missing, commissioned officers, 1; enlisted men, 59. Aggregate, 736. [Revised to 738, OR, 43, 131].


Brig. Gen. D.D. Bidwell, who commanded the Third Brigade, was struck by a shell and mortally wounded early in the day. Actuated by a true sense of duty and patriotism, General Bidwell took up arms at the outbreak of the rebellion, and for more than three years followed the banner of the Republic, sharing with his troops the dangers and privations of active field service. As a regimental and brigade commander in the Army of the Potomac he took part in all the arduous campaigns and bloody battles of that army from Yorktown to Petersburg, and was always at the head of his command, at the post of duty and danger. Brave and devoted as an officer, earnest, upright and single-minded as a man, he was beloved by his command and respected by everyone. In his death the country and his service have suffered a great loss.


The reports of brigade commanders are herewith respectfully submitted with a list of casualties.


The number of small-arms recovered from the field fought over by the division, as reported by Captain Gifford, ordnance officer, is as follows, viz: 461 Enfield muskets, 405 Springfield muskets, 35 U.S. Springfield muskets; total, 901.


I am, major, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers, Commanding Division.


Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.