General George Crook
As we have just passed the anniversary of the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain, fought on May 9, 1864 as part of Union Major General Franz Sigel’s general-offensive out of the Department of West Virginia in the spring of 1864. Major General George Crook defeated a smaller Confederate force under the command of Brigadier General Albert G. Jenkins who was mortally wounded in the battle. The battle occurred in Pulaski County in Southwest Virginia, not too far from modern day Radford, which was known as Central Depot on the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, a key objective of Crook’s.
The ensuing letter was written by Chaplain A. H. Windsor of the 91st Ohio Volunteer Infantry, one of the finest, and perhaps most unsung, regiments that campaigned with Crook throughout 1864. I would also refer readers to John Hamill’s online tour of Cloyd’s Mountain Battlefield. The scenery is great and you have to visit that field and follow Crook’s route in.
Meadow Bluff, West Va
May 18, 1864
Mr. Van Law:
We have but today returned from the southern part of Virginia and though still some fifty miles distant from Fayette the point of starting, yet we feel in a measure at home. Some enterprising friend of the United States has erected the telegraph line from Gauley Bridge to this place and is extending the line on toward Lewisburg – “southward the Star of Empire takes its way.”
Another blow has been struck against the rebellion, and since the expendition if over, since the long, tedious march has been accomplished, the battle fought and the victory won, we may, far away from the field of strike and the din of battle, look calmly back over the past, see clearly the object of the movement, estimate its cost, and measure its effect upon the downfall of the rebellion.
It has been know since the first of February that a foce was being assembled in the Kanawha Valley for some purpose, but for what purpose the soldiers of the command knew as little as they did the activities at Richmond, or the more enterprising bushwhackers of Western Virginia. The General in command [Crook] knows how to keep his own secrets, showing that he is wise in counsel, as his success in the present undertaking indicated his qualifications for the field.
The army consisted of three brigades, each having a certain number of regiments, the whole supplied with batteries of artillery in proportion ot the number of troops. These troops began to pour into Fayetteville on the 2d of May, and on the 3d, at an early hour, they set out upon an expedition, nearly, if not quite as imortant and as full of peril as Napoleon’s celebrated crossing o fthe Alps. They did not cross as lofty mountains, but the forded larger and more rapid streams-they crossed and recrossed several ranges of the Allegheny Mountains. They traveled nearly three hundred miles, fought three battles, and were victorious in every contest. The route o fthe army lay through some of the roughestk, as well as the most beautiful country in Virignia. The army took the road elading form Fayette to Raleigh [now Beckley, WV], thence to Princeton, and then passed over the East River Mountains [?], and down Walker’s Creek to Poplar Hill. Five miles from that place on the road to Dublin was fought hte battle of “Claude [Cloyd's] Mountain.” The army passed on to Dublin, and form thence down the railroad to the bridge across New River, which was burned. It then began its retreat, “homeward bound,” by way of Blacksburgh-across Salt Pond Mountain, and the lofty Alleghenies, through Union [WV], across the Greenbrier River to Meadow Bluff where it reposes upon its well eanred laurels to recuperate, prepartory to other achievements-we trust as equally brilliant…
Besides the burning of the bridge, we conquered the rebels in one large engagement and two small ones, destroyed numerous stores at Dublin, took about three hundred prisoners, three pieces of artillery, accidentally came across several good horses, were joined by the colored population to the number of about four hundred and destroyed the railroad for fifteen or twenty miles. I never realized the hard ships that were endured by our brave soldiers till I learned by bitter experience some of their realities in this raid. If this rebellion is eer put down, the American nation will owe a debt of gratitude to the common soldier that it will never be able to pay….
Windsor’s detailed account of the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain to follow soon.