Tag Archives: Battle of Piedmont
On the 18th of May, our regiment and the Thirty-fourth Massachusetts with two pieces of artillery moved from Cedar Creek, five or six miles up the Valley to Fisher’s Hill, and occupied it as a picket. Gen. Sigel came out to our camp there. The next day the two regiments fell back two or three miles to Strasburg and occupied an old fort there built by Gen. Banks. We received today mail – always a welcome receipt to the boys, the first since leaving Winchester, ten days before. In the evening the Thirty-fourth band came to the headquarters of the Twelfth to give us a serenade. Speeches were made by Col. Curtis, Adjt. Caldwell and Capt. Smiley of our regiment.
On the 2nd, Gen. Sigel was relieved from command here and Gen. Hunter assigned to his place. Three days later we were reinforced at Cedar Creek by three more regiments of infantry, the Second Maryland, the Fourth Virginia and the One Hundred and Sixtieth Ohio, and about this time, or a little later we were further reinforced by the Fifth New York Heavy artillery.
On the 25th, we drew ten days’ rations of coffee and sugar and three days’ rations of hard bread. The troops from Cedar Creek came up, all having had marching orders. We were now about to start on the memorable campaign against Lynchburg. Hunter had issued his famous order announcing to his troops that they were about to enter on an explosion of hardships, in which they would have to live off the enemy, and if need be to eat mule meat. The infantry were required to carry each man 80 or 100 rounds of ammunition. A little after noon of this day the great march began of what was known as Hunter’s raid. We camped in the evening near Woodstock. On the way the cavalry burned a house and barn, by orders of Gen. Hunter, the owner having been engaged in bushwhacking.
On the 29th we resumed our march passing through Edinburg and Mount Jackson, crossing the Shenandoah here on a bridge newly built by the Rebels to replace the one burnt by Sigel and camped near New Market and the ground of the battle of two weeks before. Some members of the regiment looked over the battle field. They found that our dead had been buried in a heap where some stone had been quarried out. The dead of the enemy that had not been taken to their homes, had been buried in the cemetery at New Market. The enemy had left 31 of our wounded at this town and vicinity, who it had appeared had been quite well taken care of. This night our regiment went on picket on the bridge over the river in our rear. The second day after our arrival here, two companies of the Twelfth I and K were detailed to fill in with stone the wodden abuttments of the bridge, and the Thirty-fourth Massachusetts went out foraging; thus making a beginning of living off the enemy.
We remained here until June 2nd, when we marched at 5 o’clock A. M. our regiment in the rear of the wagon train, arriving at Harrisburg in the evening, our advance having driven Imboden out of town. The Rebels left some sixty of our wounded and thirty of theirs here, brought up from New Market. Distance marched this day 24 miles.
On the 4th, we marched from here taking the pike leading to Staunton, but Hunter finding Imboden posted about seven miles ahead at Mount Crawford after examining this position, turned to the left taking a side road leading via Port Republic. Seven miles from Harrisburg we came to Cross Keys where the forces of Fremont and Jackson fought on June 8th, 1862, and a little farther on to where the Rebel Col. Ashy was killed. At Port Republic on the south branch of the Shenandoah our pioneers put a pontoon bridge over the river on which we crossed and marched about one mile on the road leading to Staunton.
Early in the morning of the 5th, we resumed our march, but did not go far until our cavalry began skirmishing with the Rebels, driving them and capturing a number of prisoners. It may be well to say here that an Irish woman, who accompanied the First New York cavalry was noticed helping tenderly to bury some of the killed “my (her) boys” of that regiment that morning.
Seven miles from Port Republic we found the Rebels in force, consisting of the commands of Generals Vaughn and Imboden, and a number of militia, numbering in all, as learned from prisoners, between 8,000 and 9,000 men, all under the command of Gen. W. E. Jones. Hunter’s command consisted in all of 8,500 men, the infantry in two brigades the First commanded by Col. Moor, and the Second by Col. Thoburn. The cavalry were under command of Gen. Stahl, the infantry under Gen. Sullivan.
The enemy were posted on either side of the pike their right drawn back somewhat. They had breastworks of rails extending at least from the pike to the Middle river on their left, several hundred yards distant. Hunter made disposition for battle at once, and the engagement that followed is known as the Battle of Piedmont. The First Brigade was formed on the right of the pike, and the Second Brigade on the left. The opposing forces faced each other from either side from the edge of woods, with several hundred yards of cleared land between.
The battle began. It was opened by the artillery from each side. The Twelfth and the Thirty-fourth Massachusetts of Thoburn’s brigade were ordered forward through the woods, on the left of the pike with a view to charging some of the enemy’s artillery; when being discovered they were vigorously shelled by the enemy. After awhile they were brought back to the point where they had entered the woods. While waiting here for the coming of the balance of their brigade Colonels Thoburn and Curtis and Adjt. G. B. Caldwell with their orderlies, rode out into the open ground forming a group, for the purpose of watching the effect of the artillery fire. They were discovered by the Rebels, who threw a shell right into their midst, which exploding took off the fore-leg of the Adjutant’s little mare. That group immediately dispersed.
The other regiments having come up, Col Thoburn moved his brigade forward in the open ground into a slight hollow, within 200 yards of the enemy for the purpose of making a flank charge upon him. While the infantry were moving forward into this position, the artillery on each side opened up a heavy fire, and the Rebel band played “Dixie,” while ours played “Yankee Doodle.” Just before the charge that gallant young officer Capt. Meigs, of Hunter’s staff rode backward and forward along the line encouraging the men to do their duty on this charge, and the day would be ours, that they must not hesitate or falter but go right through, that we were now a hundred miles from our lines, and that defeat would be disastrous. The First Brigade had made three charges right in the face of the Rebel front and had been repulsed. But we will let Adjt. G. B. Caldwell of the Twelfth tell the story of the battle in his graphic and enthusiastic way, as it came red hot from his pen a few days after for the Wheeling Intelligencer; or more particularly of the part taken in the engagement by the Twelfth. The letter was written from the headquarters of the regiment at Staunton and is as follows:
This regiment moved from camp at Port Republic at 6 o’clock A. M., June 5, 1864. Our forces marching forward towards Staunton some four miles, our cavalry became engaged and drove the enemy a distance of one and a half miles, suffering a loss of thirty, killed and wounded. Capt. Imboden a brother of the general’s was taken here. The ball then opened by the loud mouthed artillery bellowing forth, both Union and Rebel in hellish dialogue of the death answering each other’s thunderous salutations. Post the crackling and roaring of Rebel woolen factories, consumed by flames kindled by the land of Union retributive justice; past the roaring batteries; past Carlin’s braves stripped to the shirt sewing out iron vengeance to traitors, the Second Brigade, our fearless, cool and sound-judging Col. Joe Thoburn commanding, marched a mile to the very front, forming the left of our force. The position was 150 yards from the Rebel lines drawn tip behind a fortification of fence rails, so arranged as to make perfect protection against musketry. Here for one hour and a half in a woods at one and one-half miles range, the two twenty pounder Parrott guns of the enemy were served entirely against us with all possible rapidity and great precision, amid the tremendous explosion of shell, the profuse of rain of case shoe the fall of trees and limbs, amid wounded and dying among all these combinations of horror, with not a gun fired by us and no excitement to cause a wild carelessness of danger, our line never wavered.
The first Brigade (our right) being heavily pressed moved us in retreat perhaps half a mile undetected by the enemy. This manouver was admirably masked in the woods like our advance before in the morning. A wide hollow whose descending sides were open fields stretched between the First and Second Brigades. Across this we must go. Our batteries open their fiercest fire, from hill to hill leap the ponderous black messengers of destruction, the reverberations of half a hundred, guns, on both sides, brought into action by the endeavor our batteries make to attract the attention of the enemy’s ordnance, make earth tremble, and the air roar while we run the fiery gauntlet to reinforce our right. With unbroken lines we march over with steady tread.
The Rebels occupy a woods in whose edge they have as on their right, an admirably impromptu fence barricaded. Up we go to within 100 yards, lie down, fire and draw the Rebel fire. Men are struck all along the line. Most of the enemy’s rifles are empty. Springing to their feet and cheering wildly the men rush forward and over the parapet. Our color bearer plants that banner of holy hopes and hallowed memories right where the sheet of Rebel flame runs crackling along, and mounting up cries, “Come on boys here’s where I want you.” Gloriously forward we go right into the woods our flag the first our regiment the foremost, the Rebels contending in a hand to hand struggle. Prisoners stream to the rear by the hundreds. Other regiments come to our support.
The character of the conflict is attested by bayoneted Rebel dead. The emblematic rags of treason their battle flags, a few minutes before planted in the dirt. They flee in utter rout and one wild shout of “Victory is ours!” runs along for more than a mile through infantry, artillery, cavalry, through stragglers and wagon trains, till the very wounded in the hospitals cheer again and again. The conduct of the men cannot be too much praising. Often a soldier would press forward so furiously as to be enclosed single-handed among a mass of Rebels, surrendering to be recaptured instantly by his advancing comrades. The whole Rebel force having fled, we camped for the night in the woods among the Rebel dead, too numerous to be buried till the morrow.
Thirty ambulances constantly running with the attendants, cannot collect all the wounded into hospitals, even in the long hours of this summer afternoon and evening. They have from two to three to our one in killed and wounded, and 1,000 able bodied prisoners, 60 officers, four or five colonels, Brig. Gen. Jones, their commanded killed, 1,700 stand of arms, four or five stand of colors and last and best Staunton grace our triumph.
And here let me pause to pay a tribute to the memory of one of our own country’s martyrs in our holy cause, our color bearer Corporal Joseph S. Halstead. A braver spirit never bore the banner of beauty and glory forward amid the bursting shells and the leaden rain of death. With comrades falling all around him he went ahead of the bravest, ahead of his brigade. The head and front of that terrific charge into the jaws of death, he rushed forward and planted our flag on the very parapet sheeted with flames from the enemy’s rifles. Then over and forward again goes our banner into the hand to hand conflict in which that glorious day’s fate was decided. He falls at last, but if there be consolation in such an hour, and to a Christian and one so wholly a soldier as he, he has it to the full a knowledge of his country’s glory and his own. In the moment of victory with a broken and dispirited enemy flying before us with the shouts of comrades drunk with the enthusiasm of the hour rendering the very sky, with the valor of our arms attested by the piles of grey-clothed dead and hurt around him with the deep heart-felt admiration of all, attracted by his surpassing daring, with his comrades standing around him in speechless and tearful sympathy, with prisoners streaming or crowding to the rear, colonels and subordinates in traitor regalia, their perjured leader stricken dead by loyal vengeance, he fell at the very acme of our triumph, battling the flag which be had borne so royally to glory and to victory, with blood as noble as ever coursed through patriot veins. Poor Halstead among the brave the choicest spirit of them all, long will his memory be cherished and his valor in that, hour of carnage and triumph be the theme of the bivonac talks of his comrades.
Col. Curtis had the pleasure of receiving the sword of a Virginia regiment’s colonel, whose surrender he demanded. One of our Marshall county boys had the honor of bringing a Rebel colonel “to time.” He, the Marshall county boy is a young fellow of about 17. Another from Hancock county, I. N. Cullen, (Comp.) had a grey header Confed bring a musket to his breast with an order to surrender. He threw the musket aside and twisted it out of the old fellow’s hands, then kicking him over the parapet and out of the woods saying, “Old man you’re too old for me to bayonet.” Another Ohio county boy mounted the parapet in the charge and looking down on the Rebs, says “Lookout Johnnys we’re coming down on you like a thousand of brick” That was funny at such a time – It was “in the cool.”
In the morning before the fight, Gen. Jones drew his men tip and told them that we were going to avenge Fort Pillow, that to surrender would be to die; and such stuff for an hour. If anything was wanting to prove the superior humanity of the Union soldiers or the barbarism induced in the South by slavery here it might have been found. First Sergeant Hart Marks, of Company K, accepted the surrender of a Rebel lieutenant and passed on to the front. The Rebel drew a revolver from under his coat and shot him, fortunately slightly, in the back, yet our boys spared him. I know of more such cases, several. Marks shortly afterwards received two wounds, one in side, and one in the shoulder, the last having passed through a twisted blanket, while charging the woods, the Rebels being behind the trees. Another of our regiment, the eccentric Barney Wyles, pressed ahead too far and was surrounded; he surrendered but his captor shot at him after surrender, with a revolver, cutting his clothes. Our men rushed on him, wrested the revolver from him, and then spared him. All evening could you see Union soldiers feeding wounded Rebels, and food was scarce with us then, having to come all in the shape of forage. In every regiment a number of instances can be given of such treachery as above. Could any contrast be greater?
For more on the battle of Piedmont see:
Gen. John D. Imboden wrote about the battle of Piedmont to protray himself as a victim and the Confederate Forces who fought there as being incapable of victory. Unfortunately, he misrepresented the truth about the composition of the Confederate forces at Piedmont. In the process, thousands of regular Confederate soldiers were denied their place in history, because Imboden’s widely circulated writings have been overly relied upon by historians. In the following text, where Imboden is quoted, his false assertions will appear in italics.
In his post-war writings on the campaign, Imboden recalled organizing the troops sent him from Southwest Virginia on June 3 and wrote of the troops who joined him:
To my dismay, I learned from officers in command of the detachments arriving that no large organized body of troops was on its way to join me except Vaughan’s small Tennessee brigade of cavalry. Jones had cleaned out the hospitals from Lynchburg to Bristol of convalescents, and gathered them together with the depot guards along the railroad, aggregating all told less than 2,200 men. The largest organization was no more than a battalion, not a single complete regiment was coming on, except as stated, Vaughan’s brigade of about 800 men. Mostly they were in companies, and parts of companies.
This statement contained several misleading assertions which short-changed the Virginians, Tennesseans and North Carolinians who bore the brunt of the coming battle. General Imboden left the impression that his assertions applied to the army as a whole. Unfortunately, this post-war account appeared in the widely read Confederate Veteran and heavily influenced future interpretation of the battle of Piedmont.
Imboden’s statement that no unit larger than a battalion is an outright fabrication. In reality, General William E. Jones generously sent Imboden several organized infantry regiments. The 36th, 45th and 60th Virginia Infantry regiments numbered a minimum of five hundred men each. The Thomas Legion contained 390 men. The 45th Virginia Battalion numbered only 150 men but consisted of only five companies. These men were not Valley soldiers, however, they resided in Southwest Virginia and Counties that became West Virginia in 1863 and were not part of the usual Valley armies prior to June 5, 1864.
When Imboden’s account appeared in a Staunton newspaper, word of it filtered back to a veteran of the 45th Virginia. The veteran took Imboden to task and informed the paper’s editor of his oversight in leaving out the Virginia infantry. Jones also sent approximately five hundred dismounted cavalrymen from his own brigade to the Valley, but these proved the exception rather than the rule, as Imboden implied in his narrative.
Imboden also claimed that he appointed the acting brigadiers and organized the brigades. Most reinforcements already belonged to existing organizations. The 36th and 60th Virginia, the 45th Battalion and Bryan’s Lewisburg Battery belonged to an officially recognized brigade, formerly commanded by Colonel John C. McCausland. This brigade retained its organization under the command of Colonel Beuhring Jones at Piedmont, and Imboden clearly played no role in its creation and organization.
Imboden possibly organized the 45th Virginia, General William E. Jones’ dismounted men and the Thomas Legion into a brigade com-manded by Colonel William E. Browne. On the other hand, the 45th Virginia and the Thomas Legion had formed part of the Saltville garrison which Browne had previously commanded.
Imboden did indeed organize the convalescents from the hospitals and the Maryland Line into a battalion, organized a medical department and called up a regiment of local reserves before any rein¬forcements arrived. Quite clearly, General Imboden organized some of the troops, but he misled his audience when he de-scribed the nature of the troops from the Department of South-western Virginia and East Tennessee.
Imboden also stated that the troops at Piedmont were strangers to one another and had never fought together before. To some limited extent this held true, but the infantry which did the bulk of the fighting had much shared experience. The 45th Virginia previously had fought side by side with McCausland’s Brigade at Cloyd’s Mountain. Before that, the Virginians fought together in several Western Virginia campaigns. Some familiarity definitely existed in the Confederate ranks at Piedmont.
Imboden further exaggerated the situation when he described the “heterogeneous materials” which composed the Confederate army at Piedmont. He wrote that the Southern soldiers “touched elbows with strangers, and obeyed orders from, to them, unknown and unfamiliar lips.” While Vaughn’s brigade, the Virginia Infantry and Imboden’s cavalry had not fought together as an army previously, the units within each brigade were well acquainted with each other. The companies and regiments had been together for most of their service, and the officers who commanded them at Piedmont knew their men well. Imboden’s exaggerations por-trayed the Confederate Army at Piedmont as one which had little chance to achieve victory. In truth, General Jones had assembled a formidable force of infantry and dismounted cavalry given the exigency of his situation. And he did so in a remarkably short period at a time when the Confederacy was hard pressed across all fronts.
Jones and the men who did most of the fighting at Piedmont deserved better than Gen. John D. Imboden gave them.
After New Market, Confederate operations in the Valley ground to a halt, contrary to the wishes of General Robert E. Lee. The day after New Market, Lee telegraphed Major General John C. Breckinridge:
Spotsylvania Court House
May 16, 1864
I offer you the thanks of this Army for your victory over Genl. Sigel. Press him down the Valley, and if practicable follow him into Maryland.
R. E. Lee
Later that day Lee sent Breckinridge a second dispatch:
May 16, 1864
If you [do not deem] it practicable to carry out the suggestion of my dispatch of this morning to drive the enemy from the Valley & pursue him into Maryland, you can be of great service with this army. If you can follow Sigel into Maryland, you will do more good than by joining us. If you cannot & your command is not otherwise needed in the Valley or in your department, I desire you to prepare to join me. Advise me whether the condition of affairs in your department will admit of this movement safely, & if so, I will notify you of the time & route.
R. E. Lee.
Lee’s instructions permitted Breckinridge to decide upon his own course of action based on circumstances in the Shenandoah Valley. Clearly, Lee preferred Breckinridge to go on the offensive in the Valley and rattle the northern politicians in Washington as Stonewall Jackson did in 1862. Lee hoped that such action would cause Grant to detach troops from the Army of the Potomac and thereby ease the pressure on the Army of North-ern Virginia. Breckinridge examined his options and determined that pursuing Sigel’s force was not feasible, for the Federals had a running start and had burned the bridge over the Shenandoah River. Regarding the Valley as safe from Federal aggression, the former Vice-President of the United States decided to join Lee in the struggle against the tenacious Grant. The Kentuckian’s departure left only Brigadier General John D. Imboden‘s Brigade and local reserve troops to resist any renewed Federal advance. This decision also surrendered the initiative in the Shenandoah Valley to the Federals. It allowed Grant to replace Sigel with Hunter, who rapidly reorganized his army with no concern of being bothered by Confederate forces. Lee and Breckinridge would now learn the hard way that Sam Grant was a different kind of general. No longer would defeat send Union forces into hibernation, but the pugnacious Ohioan would press on toward final victory.
Breckinridge’s decision later brought criticism upon Lee from the Richmond Press, calling it that “wise order” in the Richmond Examiner of June 13, 1864:
For more on the Battle of Piedmont get:
Franz Sigel bequeathed Maj. Gen. David Hunter an army that the former
had run into the ground logistically, militarily and morale wise. Yet Lt.
Gen. U.S. Grant expected Hunter to get the campaign going again right away. There could be no excuses as Grant had a war to win and he had already taken a chance on Sigel and lost. To begin the rejuvenation of the Union army in the Valley, Hunter issued the following order on May 22, 1864 to “jump start” the Army of the Shenandoah for the renewed campaign in the Shenandoah.
Headquarters Department of West Virginia,
In the Field, Near Cedar Creek
May, 22, 1864
General Orders No. 29
It is of the utmost importance that this army be placed in a situation for immediate efficiency. We are contending against an enemy who is in earnest, and, if we expect success, we, too, must be in earnest. We must be willing to make sacrifices, willing to suffer for a short time, that a glorious result may crown our efforts.
The country is expecting every man to do his duty; and this done, an ever kind Providence will certainly grant us complete success.
I. Every tent will be immediately turned in, for transportation to Martinsburg; and all baggage not expressly allowed by this order, will be at once sent to the rear. There will be but one wagon allowed to each Regiment, and this will only be used to transport spare ammunition, camp kettles, tools and mess-pans Every wagon will have eight picket horses, twodrivers, and twosaddles. One wagon and one ambulance will be allowed to Department Headquarters, and the same to Division and Brigade Headquarters. The other ambulances will be under the immediate order of the Medical Director
II. For the expedition on hand, the clothes each soldier has on his back, with one pair of extra shoes and socks, are amply sufficient. Everything else in the shape of clothing will be packed today and shipped to the rear. Each knapsack will contain one hundred rounds ofammunition,carefully packed; four pounds of hard bread to last eight days; ten rations of coffee, sugar and salt, one pair of shoes and socks, and nothing else.
III. Brigade and all other Commanders will be held strictly responsible that their commands are supplied from the country. Cattle, sheep, and hogs, and if necessary, horses and mules must be taken, and slaughtered. These supplies will be seized under the direction of officers duly authorized, and upon a system which will hereafter be regulated. No straggling or pillaging will be allowed. Brigade and other Commanders will be held responsible that there is no waste; and that there is a proper and orderly division amongst their men, of the supplies taken for our use.
IV. Commanders will attend personally to the prompt execution of this order, so that we may move to-morrow morning. They will see that in passing through a country in this way, depending upon it for forage and supplies, great additional vigilance is required on the part of every officer in the command of men, for the enforcement of discipline.
V. The Commanding General expects from every officer and soldier of the army in the field, an earnest and unhesitating support; and relies with confidence upon an ever kind Providence for the resuLieutenant The Lieutenant General commanding the armies of the United States, who is now victoriously pressing back the enemy, upon their last stronghold, expects much from the Army of the Shenandoah; and he must not be disappointed.
In conclusion, the Major General commanding, while holding every officer to the strictest responsibility of his position, and prepared to enforce discipline, with severity, when necessary, will never cease to urge the prompt promotion of all officers, non commissioned officers, and enlisted men, who earn recognition by their gallantry and good conduct.
By command of Major General Hunter
Chas. G. Halpine, Assistant Adjutant General.[i]
The issuance of this order created a stir in the Army of the Shenandoah and gave the enlisted men a negative first impression of their new commander. This order differed greatly form anything Sigel would have issued. Sigel had commanded the army in a most benevolent fashion and seldom challenged his men. One staff officer noted, “The troops are very much dissatisfied at losing General Sigel.”[ii]
[i] OR, 37:1:517-518.
[ii] Frank S. Reader Diary, West Virginia Regional History Collection, West Virginia University Library. (cited hereafter as WVU)
For more on the Battle of Piedmont and Hunter’s Campaign see:
The Battle at Staunton, Va.—The Fifteenth Cavalry in the Reserve.
The following is a copy of a private letter to Hon. R. Woolworth, from his son-in-law, a member of the Fifteenth Cavalry, who is detailed upon Gen. Stahl’s staff.
IN THE FIELD, STAUNTON, VA.,
June 8, 1864.
We came along our route very comfortably and with but little opposition, until we reached Piedmont, about twelve miles north of this, on Sunday last, (5th inst.,) in the morning about seven o’clock. Met the enemy in full force, and they pitched in, expecting another New Market affair. Very soon the ball commenced with artillery, and very soon the whole army on both sides were hard at it; and continued so until 4 o’clock in the afternoon, when the battle was ended by some of the rebels throwing down their arms and others running away, leaving their killed and a portion of their wounded on the field. Among the killed was the rebel Gen. W. E. Jones, a brother-in-law of Dr. Brown, at Saltville. I went to see him, and sure enough, it was him, with a rifle-ball through his head, entering at the corner of his right eye. He is a horrible looking sight. The battle-field I visited, and never wish to visit another, as it was the worst looking place I ever saw. The part occupied by the rebels was literally covered with the dead; officers and privates lying side by side, and not a bit of difference between them then—one as good as another. Their loss was immense, and their killed alone must have been certainly three or four hundred, and possibly more, and their wounded, no one knows how many, as they took with them all they could and left a large number on the field. Every house and barn between the battle-field and Staunton is a hospital.
Our troops entered this place and took possession of it without firing a gun. We captured in the fight about nine hundred rebels, and have them yet (many commissioned officers) in a large yard that they had just prepared (I have been told) with a high fence for the purpose of keeping us in, but we are not there yet. They are a curious looking set of beings, hardly two in the whole lot dressed alike, old and young mixed together, and all in all, they are a miscellaneous looking set.
This town is very finely situated in a valley, and a person can hardly see it until he gets to it, but the majority of the residences are of the first- class and are very tasty, and the grounds, which are large, are laid put with much taste.
The General Hospital of the Confederate States is located here and is a beautiful building, very large and spacious, and the grounds, they say, are magnificent; but I have not visited it, and probably shall not. The railroad and its buildings, bridges, and all the freight stored in them, have been burned by our folks, and all the Government stores here have been destroyed that could not be transported. The cars left here the night before we came, with a large train of supplies, but a very large amount was left behind and is destroyed. They have not been in regular running order for two or three weeks, but occasionally making a trip for stores. They run from here to Lynchburg and then to Richmond, but their direct route is from here to Gordonsville, and then direct by the Virginia Central Railroad, but they do not, I suppose, consider it safe just now.
During the engagement on Sunday, General Stahl was slightly wounded in the shoulder, but is improving rapidly, and soon, I hope, will be able to take his saddle again. You need not think, by any means, that in the fight our men all escaped; but our loss, I do not think, is near as large as the rebels, and in fact I know it is not, but as yet the result is not ascertained.
The 15th Cavalry was not engaged that day, being on duty as rear guard to the train, so they all escaped.
I write this on rebel paper so you can see it, but don’t think that we have no other, as we have a plenty.
Yours, A. W. D
For more on the Battle of Piedmont and Hunter’s Raid on Staunton see:
Thanks to Andrew Wagenhoffer over at Civil War Books and Authors.
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.
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
Today is the 146th Anniversary of the Battle of Piedmont, Virginia. It is a much forgotten battle although in terms of killed and wounded, it exceeds all of the Valley Battles save Opequon and Cedar Creeks which were fought by armies many times larger. The infantry portion of the nearly day long battle lasted for three hours of almost continuous combat. By the end of the day, the Union forces had lost 875 men killed and wound, while the Confederates lost at least 500 killed and wounded and more than 1,000 captured, of whom 988 made it to Camp Morton POW Camp in Indiana. The most significant casualty was Southern Brigadier General William E. “Grumble” Jones who was killed leading a last ditch counter attack. Major General David Hunter’s victory at Piedmont opened the door for the occupation of Staunton by the United States Army on the following day. In honor of the anniversary of the battle, I am posting another letter from the 34th Massachusetts, which participated in the final U.S. attack that won the battle.
Company D, 34th Massachusetts Regiment
Staunton, Va., June 8, 1864.
The 34th had the left of the line. We moved steadily up the hill towards the enemy’s flank; the right of our line got in sight of the Rebs and commenced firing before we did, so that as soon as our heads showed above the brow of the hill the Johnnies were ready for us. They gave us a volley that killed four, shot down our color-bearer, and wounded several others. Two men fell dead right in front of me; one of the color-corporals threw away his gun and caught the colors before they reached the ground. The Colonel gave the order, and with a cheer that would have been heard a mile, our boys rushed forward. When within less than 20 yards of the edge of the woods, we delivered a volley that sent many a poor Reb to his long home, and loading as we ran, we pushed on into the woods.
I expect we made enough noise for 5,000 men, at least so the boys say who were behind. We drove them about six rods through the woods when they rallied and poured the lead into us like hail stones. It was just the prettiest fighting you ever saw, give and take. During this time one of our batteries was brought into position and poured in an awful raking fire along their barricade. For about 10 or 15 minutes it was nip and tuck with us in the woods.
I saw a great six foot Reb behind a tree about six rods in front of us, loading as fast as he could. I dodged through the line, flanked him and had just got the b est bead on him you ever saw when the scamp saw me and threw down his gun and surrendered to some one on the other side,. I felt quite disappointed to be cheated out of my shot for I was sure of him. Just then the Adjutant got a messenger through his left shoulder, but as he was able to walk I did not go back with him.
About this time the Rebs were reinforced on our left and came crawling down side of a short piece of fence to flank us. We were firing from two directions as you will see. Their fire from the fence was very hot, as you may imagine when I tell you that Companies B and D which were on the left lost 50 killed and wounded within a few moments — as many as all the other companies together.
I ran and reported the situation of affairs to the Colonel, who was on the right and then ran back to get another shot at them; found that I had used up all the cartridges in my pocket, and so picked up a cartridge box beside a wounded boy. The Colonel brought some men from the right and we held them at bay. Captain Thompson had just picked up a musket that one of our wounded had dropped. I pointed out to him a “Gray Back” kneeling side of a large pine tree about 15 rods in front of us and told him that I’d just bet I could spoil his aim for him. He was just bringing his gun to his shoulder in our direction; the captain said he didn’t believe I could hit him. I took good aim and fired. The Johnny fell over backwards. About that time the Rebs concluded that they had enough of it, and began to give ground a little. Our boys seeing it, advanced cheering and drove them completely out of the wood and on the road to Staunton. They were completely routed. We captured 900 prisoners, and amongst them 60 commissioned officers.
We found Major General H.E. Jones who commanded the rebel forces dead in front of our line, shot through the head. As we passed the big pine tree, I saw my Reb lying there with a bullet through his head. I felt sorry for the poor fellow and to ease my conscience as much as possible, and went to work and did all in my power to relive the sufferings of the poor fellows who laid wounded around among the trees.
As we came through the woods I found a handsome field glass that some of their officers had dropped in their hurry to get away. You never saw such a sight as the field presented. Everywhere were strewed clothes, blankets, provisions, arms and equipments. We gathered together and burnt over 1600 stand of arms.
After the battle I went up along the barricade where our battery had poured in its fire. There were within the space of 30- rods over 50 dead rebels, mangled in every conceivable manner. At one time during the forenoon while we were lying in the woods, the rebels got one of their brass bands up by the barricade, where it played “Southern Rights” and The Bonny Blue Flag.” In our charge we captured the leader of the band and the instruments but thy broke them up before leaving them.
We moved toward Staunton Monday morning expecting to have an engagement before advancing far, but the rebs were too thoroughly whipped — we marched into Staunton with colors flying and bands playing — stopped over night, burnt any amount of good property — destroyed the railroad buildings and burnt a large amount of arms and equipments stored here which the rebs were unable to take away. We captured about 200 stragglers on our way here from the battle field; we also found in hospitals here some 400 wounded from Lee’s army, whom we paroled.
Tuesday morning wee started on the Salem road to effect a junction with Gens. Averill and Crook — after marching about 5 miles our signal corps reached Averill’s signals so we cam back into town and this morning they cam marching in. They have torn up any quantity of railroad along this route.