Opequon & Fisher's Hill
After Action Reports The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies
Report of Col. J. Warren Keifer, One hundred and Tenth Ohio Infantry, commanding Second Brigade, of operations September 19 - 22
HDQRS. SECOND BRIG., THIRD DIV., SIXTH ARMY CORPS,
Camp at Harrisonburg, Va., September 27, 1864.
CAPTAIN: As directed in orders, I have the honor to submit a report of the operations of this brigade in the late engagements at Opequon and Fisher's Hill, Va.
This brigade was composed on the morning of the 19th instant of the Sixth Maryland, One hundred and thirty-eighth and Sixty seventh Pennsylvania, One hundred amid tenth, One hundred and twenty-sixth, and One hundred and twenty-second Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiments, and First and Third Battalions, Ninth New York Heavy Artillery Regiment, commanded, respectively, by Col. John W. Horn, Col. M. It. McClennan, First Lieut. J. F. Young, Lieut. Col. Otho H. Binkley, Lieut. Col. Aaron W. Ebright, Col. William H. Ball, and Maj. Charles Burgess, numbering in the aggregate about 2,000 muskets. At 3 a.m. September 19, 1864, the brigade marched from its late camp near Berryville to the Berryville pike and along the Pike in the direction of Winchester, Va., crossing Opequon Creek near the pike and about five miles from Winchester; from thence it was moved to within three miles of Winchester and formed behind the crest of a hill to the right of the pike and upon the right of the Third Division which was the right of the Sixth Corps. Skirmishers were thrown forward from the front line, under command of Maj. Charles M. Cornyn, One hundred and twenty-second Ohio, who immediately became engaged with time enemy's skirmishers. This position was attained about 9 a.m. The Nineteenth Army Corps was formed about 11 a.m. upon the right of my brigade. Heavy skirmishing continued until about 12 in., when the whole line advanced. I was ordered by Brigadier-General Ricketts to dress my brigade toward the turnpike and upon the First Brigade, Third Division, Sixth Corps. As soon as we commenced to advance we were exposed to a heavy artillery fire from the enemy. The Nineteenth Corps did not move and keep connection with my right, and the turnpike upon which the division was dressing bore to the left, causing a wide interval between the Sixth and Nineteenth Corps. As the lines advanced the interval became greater. The enemy discovering this fact hurled a large body of men toward the interval and threatened to take my right in flank. I at once caused the One hundred and thirty-eighth and Sixty-seventh Pennsylvania and One hundred and tenth Ohio Regiments to break their connection with the right of the remainder of my brigade and move toward the advancing column of the enemy. These three regiments most gallantry met the overwhelming masses of the enemy and held them in check. The Nineteenth Corps soon came up and encountered a very heavy force of the enemy in a woods to the right of the three regiments named. As soon as the Nineteenth Corps. engaged the enemy the force in my front commenced slowly retiring. I pushed forward the three regiments until we came upon two batteries (eight guns), silencing them, and compelling the enemy to abandon them. The three regiments had arrived within less than 200 yards of the two batteries when the Nineteenth Corps, after a most gallant resistance, gave way. The enemy at once came upon my right flank in large force; successful resistance was no longer possible; the three regiments had already suffered heavily, and were obliged to fall back in some disorder. The enemy regained a portion of the ground from which they had been driven. In falling back we lost no prisoners. The broken troops of my brigade were halted and reformed in a woods behind troops from the reserve, which had come forward to fill up the interval. As soon as reformed they were moved forward again over the same ground they had advanced time first time. While moving this portion of my brigade forward I received an order from Brigadier-General Ricketts, commanding division, to again unite my brigade near the center of the corps and to the right of the turnpike, near a house. This order was obeyed at once and my whole brigade was placed in one line immediately confronting the enemy.
The four regiments of my brigade that were upon the left kept connection with the First Brigade, Third Division, and fought desperately, in the main driving the enemy. They also captured a considerable number of prisoners in their first advance. Heavy firing was kept up along the whole line until about 4 p. m., when a general advance took place. The enemy gave way before the impetuosity of our troops, and were soon completely routed. This brigade pressed forward with the advance line to and into the streets of Winchester. The rout of the enemy was everywhere complete. Night came on, and the pursuit of the enemy was stopped. The troops of my brigade encamped with the corps on the Strasburg and Front Royal roads, south of Winchester.
This brigade lost in the battle of Opequon some valiant and superior officers. Lieut. Col. A. W. Ebright, commanding One hundred amid twenty-sixth Ohio, was killed instantly early in time action. He was uniformly brave and skillful. He had fought in the many battles of the Sixth Corps during the past summer's campaign. Capt. Thomas J. Hyatt and Lieut. Rufus Ricksecker, One hundred and twenty-sixth Ohio, and Lieut. William H. Burns, Sixth Maryland, also fell in this action. Each was conspicuous for gallantry on this and other fields upon which they had fought. Col. John W. Horn, Sixth Maryland, whom none excelled for distinguished bravery, was severely, if not mortally, wounded. Col. William H. Ball, One hundred and twenty-second Ohio, received a wound from a shell, but did not quit the field.
He maintained his usual reputation for cool courage and excellent judgment and skill. Capt. John S. Stuckey, One hundred and thirty-eighth Pennsylvania, lost a leg. Maj. Charles M. Cornyn, One hundred and twenty-second Ohio; Captains Feight and Walter, One hundred and thirty-eighth Pennsylvania; Captain Williams, Lieutenants Patterson, Wells, and Crooks, One hundred and twenty-sixth Ohio; Captains Hawkins and Rouzer and Lieutenant Smith, Sixth Maryland; Lieutenants Fish and Colvin, Ninth New York Heavy Artillery; Captains Van Eaton and Trimble and Lieutenants Deeter and Simes, One hundred and tenth Ohio, are among the many officers more or less severely wounded. Lieutenant Deeter has since died. I cannot too highly commend their gallantry. Capt. J. P. Dudrow, One hundred and twenty-second Ohio, and Lieut. R. W. Wiley, One hundred and tenth Ohio, were each slightly wounded while acting as aides-de-camp upon my staff.
The enemy was pursued on the 20th to Fisher's Hill, about one mile and a half south of Strasburg, Va., on the Staunton turnpike, where he was strongly fortified in an apparently impregnable position. This brigade bivouacked with the corps near Strasburg. About 12 m. on the 21st the brigade, except the Ninth New York Heavy Artillery, which was detailed as wagon guard, moved with the corps to the right of Strasburg, and was formed again upon the extreme right of the corps. In compliance with an order from Brigadier-General Ricketts, I ordered forward the One hundred and twenty-sixth Ohio, commanded by Capt. G. W. Hoge, to aid in driving the enemy from a hill in our front. The regiment soon became engaged with the enemy. The Sixth Maryland, commanded by Capt. C. K. Prentiss, was soon after ordered forward to its support. After a brisk fight the two regiments charged and took the heights, thereby gaining a very important position, upon which the troops bivouacked for the night. In this affair the One hundred and twenty-sixth Ohio had 4 enlisted men killed and 17 wounded, and the Sixth Maryland had 7 enlisted men wounded. Captains Hoge and Prentiss displayed great gallantry in this action.
The brigade remained in the position occupied on the night of the 21st instant until about 12 m. of the 22d instant. The Sixth Maryland, being on the skirmish line, was constantly engaged with the enemy's skirmishers. At the hour last named, as directed by Brigadier-General Ricketts, the brigade moved off to the right and upon the enemy's left and, with the First Brigade, Third Division, as a support, attacked and drove the enemy from two hills, which he held in considerable force. So rapid was his flight that he abandoned shelter-tents, blankets, and a considerable amount of infantry ammunition. During this advance I ordered the Sixth Maryland to push forward upon the extreme left of my skirmish line to resist an attack from the enemy in that direction, which it was successful in doing. In this attack portions of the One hundred and tenth and One hundred and twenty-second Ohio were thrown forward as a strong line of skirmishers under the command of Lieut. Col. M. M. Granger, One hundred and twenty-second Ohio, Major Aaron Spangler, commanding the One hundred and tenth Ohio. Colonel Granger and Major Spangler exhibited their usual skill and good judgement in the successful management of troops. The skirmishers were pushed over the crest of the hill and to within long rifle range of the enemy's main works, in which were mounted heavy guns. The brigade was formed behind the crest of the hill confronting the enemy. Although near the enemy he was not able to do us much injury with his artillery. Sharp skirmishing continued until about 4 p. m., when the Eighth Corps commenced an advance some distance farther to the right and upon the left flank and rear of the enemy. A heavy fire had been opened upon the enemy's works by artillery to my rear and left.
My skirmishers were pressed forward with orders to halt near the enemy's works and open fire upon his gunners. The whole line soon after advanced and charged the works, capturing many prisoners and four guns, and dispersing the rebel infantry in all directions. As we charged a battery opened upon my men still farther to our left. The Eighth Corps came up on our immediate right, and with them we moved forward without delay and charged the second battery, capturing it also.
At about this time the whole army commenced advancing, the Eighth Corps and Third Division, Sixth Corps, being fully upon the enemy's left flank and rear, pushed forward with wild arid victorious shouts along the entire line of the enemy from his left to extreme right, capturing all his artillery in position, and capturing and dispersing his troops. Not a regiment or company of the enemy left the field in anything like order. Of the number of pieces of artillery captured this brigade is entitled to the credit of capturing eight at least. The number of prisoners captured by the brigade I cannot state. Many of the captured prisoners were left behind to be picked up by others in the rear. It is said that through neglect to place guards over captured artillery others who came up later guarded arid claimed it as their capture. The brigade pursued the enemy with the corps all night. The pursuit of the fugitive enemy was continued by the infantry to Harrisonburg, Va., at which place the army arrived on the 25th instant. Thus ended the glorious victory at Fisher's Hill, the enemy's supposed "haven of security."
The loss in my brigade on the 22d was very light, considering the result attained.
Many acts of daring bravery were performed by officers and men of this command. Lieut. R. W. Wiley, with Privates 0. A. Ashbrook, One hundred and twenty-sixth Ohio, William Wise and Elias A. Barr, Company I, One hundred and tenth Ohio, rushed in advance of the line and captured Captain Ashby (brother of the late rebel General Ashby) and twenty-one men. Sergt. Albert J. Rouston and Private Elias Wreights, Company B, One hundred and thirty-eighth Pennsylvania, were the first in a fort in which they captured one officer and thirty men. Each party brought their prisoners away securely. Other instances of similar character might be mentioned.
The loss in my command in killed and wounded from the 19th to the 22d of September, 1864, inclusive, was 4 officers and 54 enlisted men killed, and 25 officers and 314 enlisted men wounded, making an aggregate of 397 killed and wounded.
Hereto appended will be found a summary of casualties by regiments.
Throughout the two engagements Lieut. Col. Otho H. Binkley, Maj. Aaron Spangler, One hundred and tenth Ohio; Col. William H. Ball, Lieut. Col. M. M. Granger, and Maj. Charles M. Cornyn, One hundred and twenty-second Ohio; Capt. G. W. Hoge, One hundred and twenty-sixth Ohio; Capts. C. K. Prentiss and J. J. Bradshaw, Sixth Maryland; Maj. Charles Burgess, Ninth New York Heavy Artillery, and others, displayed great bravery, skill, and energy in the discharge of their important duties. Col. M. H. McClennan, One hundred and thirty-eighth Pennsylvania, remained upon the field at Opequon gallantly doing his duty until from exhaustion he was obliged to go to the rear. He was weak and still suffering from a recent illness. One or two officers only are known to deserve censure and punishment for their inefficiency and bad conduct. First Lieut. John A. Gump, acting assistant adjutant-general; First Lieut. J. T. Rorer, brigade inspector, Capt. J. P. Dudrow, Lieut. Charles H. Kuhn, and Lieut. R. W. Wiley, acting aides-de-camp on my staff, were conspicuous for bravery and good conduct. Their promptness in the delivery of orders, and skill and good judgment in carrying them out, entitle them to the highest praise. The already great length of this report forbids my making special mention of acts of distinguished bravery by members of my staff. Captain Dudrow and Lieutenants Gump and Rorer each had one horse shot and Lieutenant Wiley had two horses shot under him while in the discharge of their duty. Orderly Lewis B. Paul, One hundred and twenty-sixth Ohio, was wounded and had his horse killed under him while carrying the brigade flag in the battle of Opequon. Orderly Lewis H. Shreeve, Sixth Maryland, also had his horse shot under him. Orderly Richard Netz, One hundred and twenty-sixth Ohio, and those just named were cool and gallant. My orders were throughout received from Brig. Gen. J. B. Ricketts, commanding division, and through members of his staff. To General Ricketts and each member of his staff I beg to acknowledge my gratitude and obligations for their kind courtesy and uniform generous treatment. Regimental reports of operations and a nominal list of casualties are herewith transmitted.
I am, captain, very truly, your obedient and humble servant,
J. WARREN KEIFER,
Colonel 110th Volunteer Infantry, Commanding Brigade.
Capt. ANDREW J. SMITH, Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen, Third Division, Sixth Army Corps.
Report of Capt. Clifton K. Prentiss, Sixth Maryland infantry, of operations September 19-25.
HDQRs, SIXTH REGIMENT MARYLAND VOLUNTEERS,
September 27, 1864.
SIR: I have the honor to report that on the 19th of September, at 2 a. m., the regiment of which I have command broke camp near Clifton farm; near Berryville, and moved with the division, marching in two columns, in a westerly direction across the country to the Winchester and Berryville pike which we struck three miles from Berryville. At this point we could hear the cavalry engaging the enemy on the west side of the Opequon River. After a short halt on the east bank, we crossed the Opequon at a ford some 500 yards south of the road and marched with all possible speed to the support of the cavalry. We found the cavalry skirmishing with the enemy three miles from Winchester, and we went into position in two lines in the rear and threw forward skirmishers to relieve the cavalry. Our lines were formed on the edge of a woods and on high ground at the head of a ravine running from the Opequon. The troops went into position in the following order, the line being at right angles with and across the Berryvllle and Winchester pike: The Second Division, Sixth Army Corps, on the left of the pike; the Third Division on the right of the same; the First Division in reserve; the Nineteenth Army Corps on the right of the Sixth Army Corps. In this position we had some artillery practice, and our skirmishers were successful [in reaching] a crest 300 yards in our front, to which our artillery was advanced. This position we held until twenty minutes of 12 m., when the entire line was ordered to move forward on the enemy. This our division did with alike gallantry and success for a distance of one mile and a quarter, under a heavy fire of infantry and artillery and with both flanks exposed, as the Second Division did not keep pace with our rapid advance, but at one time halted and lay down, and the Nineteenth Army Corps did not succeed in advancing to the line we occupied until about 3 p. m. We were at one time obliged to fall back some 200 yards from the position we had taken, but the men were soon rallied and reoccupied the same ground, and with the assistance of Colonel Edwards' brigade, of the First Division, were so enabled to extend our lines as to protect our flanks. Our position was a strong one, and though the enemy made repeated efforts to dislodge us, using their artillery with great accuracy, we yet held our position until the Nineteenth Army Corps, re-enforced by the Eighth Army Corps, was successful in driving the enemy in its front, and by 4 p. m. they had turned the enemy's flank so that his lines were at right angles with the lines in our front. At this time we were again ordered forward, when the enemy were muted and driven in great confusion from the field. Our division moved forward until we held possession of the heights beyond Winchester, the enemy having fled in the direction of Strasburg. We went into camp for the night on the left of the Strasburg road, on the outskirts of Winchester.
In this action our regiment had 1 officer and 7 enlisted men killed and 5 officers and 26 enlisted men wounded. Three times on this day were the color bearers shot down, yet the colors never fell. Col. John W. Horn, while encouraging his men to withstand one of the enemy's assaults, was very dangerously wounded. Capt. Henry J. Hawkins and John R. Rouser are supposed to be mortally wounded. Lieut. Demarest J. Smith, while leading his company gallantly into a charge, was badly wounded, and Lieut. William H. Burns, while bearing our colors forward, was struck with a shell, crimsoning our colors with his blood.
At 5 a. m. September 20 we marched via Strasburg pike, keeping on the right of the road; halted for breakfast beyond Newtown, from which we marched to Strasburg, where we found the enemy had taken up a strong position on Fisher's Hill, south and west of the town. Here our troops were massed in a woods on the right of the road and remained until about 2 p. m. of the 21st, when our division moved in two columns toward the left of the enemy's line, when my regiment was detached from the brigade for the purpose of supporting a portion of the skirmish line of the Second Division, which had been broken and driven back in great confusion. I was successful in driving the enemy to a line of works he had constructed of rails. At dusk, on receiving orders from the assistant adjutant-general of Third Division, Sixth Army Corps, drove him from his works. In this charge my men acted with great gallantry, and the enemy was so entirely surprised that he offered but feeble resistance, though I have reason to believe he was in considerable numbers. In this action I lost seven enlisted men wounded.
At 12 m. the 22d my regiment was withdrawn from the skirmish line and joined the brigade and division as they moved oft to the enemy's extreme left, where the division formed in two lines (Second Brigade in front) and moved on, driving their skirmish line before us for three-quarters of a mile, when my regiment was detailed to go on the skirmish line; formed a connection on my left with the Second Division and on the right with troops of our division, commanded by Major Spangler, of One hundred and tenth Ohio Volunteers. In this movement I was entirely successful in driving the enemy and securing a good position, where I was ordered to halt. This position I held until about 6 p. m., when the Second Division, on my left, and the Third Division, Sixth Army Corps, on my right, charged the enemy and drove them in confusion. At this time I received orders, by Lieut. R. W. Wiley, from Colonel Keifer to form my regiment in the rear of Major Spangler's and await orders. Up to 5 a. m. 23d neither Major Spangler nor myself having received orders, and supposing they had been sent but failed to reach us (as has since proved to be the case), we marched via the Staunton pike and overtook our brigade at Woodstock, and after receiving four days' rations we marched to one mile south of Edenburg, where we arrived and at 4 p. m. went into camp. At 5 a. m. September 24 marched for New Market, three miles beyond which we went into camp for the night. Most of this day our cavalry were skirmishing with the enemy. Marched at 6 a. m. September 25 on the left of the road; arrived at Harrisonburg at 4 p. m. the same day. Our division went into position in two lines on the east side of the town, where we are at present encamped.
Very respectfully, &c.,
CLIFTON K. PRENTISS,
Captain, Commanding Regiment.
Lieut. JOHN A. GUMP, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
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