Tag Archives: Shenandoah Valley Campaign

The Battle of Piedmont – An After Action Account of the Tragic Sights of the Battlefield

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:

 

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More on William H. Emory

Emory was a native Marylander who graduated from West Point in 1831, the same year that his commander in the Valley, Phil Sheridan, was born. After four years of service in the 4th U.S. Artillery that included duty at notable posts such as Fort McHenry in Baltimore and Charleston Harbor, SC, he resigned from the army and became an assistant United States Engineer. He quickly gained a reputation as a first rate cartographer and rejoined the army after a two year separation as a topographical engineer. During the Mexican War, Emory commanded a regiment of volunteers from Maryland and District of Columbia, which he led in Winfield Scott’s campaign from Vera Cruz to Mexico City.

When the Civil War broke out, Emory became Colonel of the 5th U. S. Cavalry and by the time of McClellan’s 1862 Peninsula Campaign, the Marylander was commander of the Army of the Potomac’s Reserve Brigade of cavalry. Later that year, Emory was transferred to the infantry and ended up serving as a division commander under Nathaniel Banks during the 1863 Port Hudson Campaign. In the spring of 1864, Emory gained distinction during Banks’ failed Red River Campaign by covering the retreat and saving Banks’ army from further damage. After that, he commanded the detachment of the Nineteenth Corps that was sent to Virginia as reinforcements to General Grant at Petersburg. However, Jubal Early’s Raid on Washington changed those plans, and Emory ended up going to the relief of Washington and subsequently campaigning in the Shenandoah Valley under Wright, Hunter and Sheridan.

On a personal note, Emory was married to Matilda Wilkins Bache, a great Granddaughter of Benjamin Franklin. One of his sons also served in the Civil War in the U. S. Army and another attended the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and went on to become and Admiral in the U. S. Navy after the Civil War.

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