Colonel Augustus Moor and The Battle of Piedmont

Col. Augustus Moor

Col. Augustus Moor

Colonel Augustus Moor has long intrigued me as a Civil War officer.  When I look at his picture, I see a man who would seem more at home relaxing on a stool at a beer garden in my hometown of Parma, Ohio after another loss by the Cleveland Indians than leading troops in battle in 1864.  Parma, for those not familiar with it, is noted for its strong Germanic and Slavic ethnic roots (read polkas, beer, sauerkraut, and kielbasa).  Moor certainly does not look the part of the prototypical “dashing and gallant” officer of either side with his stout build and clean shaven face.

However, looks can be deceiving and they certainly were for Colonel Moor.   Major Theodore F. Lang of Hunter’s staff observed that Moor was “an intelligent and efficient officer and gallant soldier who was well liked by officers and men.”  He had received military training at the Royal Academy of Forestry in his native Germany and was actively involved in revolutionary plotting against the monarchy. The latter activities resulted in an eight-month prison sentence and two-year banishment from the Fatherland.  Upon release from prison, Moor immigrated to the United States and settled in Philadephia to begin a new life. During the Second Seminole Indian in Florida, he served as an officer in a Philadelphia Dragoon Company.  He ultimately settled in Cincinnati where he opened “Moor’s Garden,” a popular bakery, coffeehouse and tavern.  He also joined the local militia and founded the city’s German Democratic Club, gaining prominence among Cincinnati’s burgeoning German population.  When the Mexican War broke out, he organized a company for the 4th Ohio Infantry and saw action under both Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott, rising to the rank of colonel.  After the war, Moor returned to to his family and prosperous business in Cincinnati until the outbreak of the Civil War.

In 1861, Moor organized the 2nd German Regiment or 28th Ohio Infantry and led it through the 1861 West Virginia campaigns.  He rose to brigade command in 1862, but was captured while leading an advance patrol during the Battle of South Mountain.  After returning to West Virginia, Moor experienced his greatest tactical success of the war leading his small brigade in a victorious charge in November 1863 at the Battle of Droop Mountain, the largest ever fought in West Virginia.

Battle Flag of the 28th Ohio

In the spring of 1864, Moor arrived in the Shenandoah Valley and soon found his brigade broken up by Sigel in the midst of the campaign.  Sigel then sent Moor twenty miles in advance of the main army, a “great mistake” to Moor who dutifully followed orders.  Moor advanced and drove Imboden out of New Market (See Charlie Knight’s Valley Thunder) and held the ground, waiting for Sigel to arrive.  When finally showed up, he posted his main force beyond supporting distance of Moor.  The Confederates attacked and drove his outnumbered force from the field in confusion.  Although Sigel was a fellow German, Moor mockingly described Sigel’s efforts as a case of “butiful management.”

During the battle of Piedmont, Moor led his brigade against the Confederate infantry in several attacks.  The first drove back the advance Confederate line.  Moor attempted to follow up his success, but was stopped by Confederate infantry entrenched behind a rail fence.  Hunter ordered a third attack, and Moor complied expecting to be supported on his left by Colonel Joseph Thoburn’s brigade.  Thoburn concluded that his flank was exposed and did not advance in conjunction with Moor, whose brigade was again repulsed.  This time the Confederates counterattacked, but fortunately, Moor’s veteran regiment, the 28th Ohio, held its ground in the center of the battle line.  Moor’s Germans laid down behind the brow of a hill and opened fire at the attacking rebels.  Supported by Captain Alfred Von Kleiser’s artillery on the right, Moor repulsed the rebel effort.  Thoburn’s brigade withdrew to the support of the United States artillery until ordered by Hunter to conduct a flank attack.  This time the assault came off as planned, and Moor’s brigade joined in the attack that routed the rebels from the battlefield, with the 28th Ohio making a bayonet charge against the entrenched Southerners.  In this battle, Moor’s brigade bore the brunt of the fighting losing nearly 500 men killed and wounded.  Moor’s old regiment, the 28th Ohio lost 138 of those casualties and counted 72 bullet holes in its battle flag at the end of the day.

After the battle, Hunter’s army occupied Staunton. Moor, whose enlistment was expiring was tasked with escorting the 1,000 Confederate captives to the Camp Morton POW Camp in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Hunter was disappointed that Moor was leaving the service, but expressed “. . . his high appreciation of your [Moor’s]  soldierly qualities and services, and his regret at losing you from this command.  The masterly management of your brigade at the recent battle of Piedmont on the 5th instant, did no more than sustain the creditable character given of you by your former commanders.”  Hunter’s adjutant also informed Moor that Hunter “. . . trusts that the service may not permanently lose so good an officer at a time so critical and to this end has written a letter to the Hon. Secretary of War.”  Nevertheless, Moor and the 28th Ohio escorted the prisoners to Indiana and after a short stay there were mustered out of the service.  The Germans were welcomed Indiana as conquering heroes and greeted by bands and a lengthy speech by Governor Morton.  Fortunately, Lieutenant Henry Ocker noted that Colonel Moor halted the 28th Ohio at a German beer garden and treated his men “to a few glasses of beer.”

Moor returned home to his family and business, living in Cincinnati until his death in 1883. He was buried in Cincinnati’s  Spring Grove Cemetery a prominent resting place for veterans of the War of the Rebellion.  Also buried there is his son-in-law, Major General Godfrey Weitzel who married Moor’s daughter

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6 Comments

Filed under Battles, Biographical, Regiments/Units

6 responses to “Colonel Augustus Moor and The Battle of Piedmont

  1. russ harbaugh

    Is there any chance that this is the same Augustus Moor who violated his word upon his parole by southern cavalry a little west of Middletown Md.? Whoops! not supposed to tell you folks about them rebels up in the gap.(would have done the same thing myself !) Moor WAS a good officer and did reasonably well later in the war.
    I must take issue however with the idea that Droop Mountain was the largest battle fought in West Virgina.Summit Point a.k.a Cameron’s Depot,Aldrich’s Depot, The Flowing (Welch’s)Spring, or Charles Town, fought 21 August 1864 in Jefferson County resulted in almost double the casualties attributed to Droop Mountain.Messy affair with no winner and little srategic value.

  2. William Moeller

    My gggrandfather served in the 28th OVI. I really appreciate you writing about Col. Moor. Not much is out there on him or his unique German regiment. Thanks. (PS. I’m glad to read that he bought them all a few beers. They deserved it.)

  3. craig

    do you know by any chance if the 45 Virginia was there i had two relatives one on the union which was 116OVI and the other rebel and my relative that was a rebel got captured there when union advance and i dont know if the 45 was there i looked at mps of the deployment and i didnt see any regiment numbers for confederates. just union regiments

    • Belated response, but yes the 45th Virginia was there. Its Colonel, William Browne, was killed there leading the brigade in the thickest of the fight. The regiment lost about 350 men as casualties.

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