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Battle of Cedar Mountain
Harper's Weekly Articles

The following articles are transcribed from Harper's Weekly Journal of Civilization, dated August 30, 1862:

Headquarters, Army of Virginia

Cedar Mountain, August 13 - 5p.m.

To Major-General Halleck, General-in-Chief:

          On Thursday morning the enemy crossed the Rapidan, at Barnett's Ford, in heavy force, and advanced strong on the road to Culpepper and Madison Court House. I had established my whole force on the turnpike between Culpepper and Sperryville, ready to concentrate at either place as soon as the enemy's plans were developed.

          Early on Friday it became apparent that the move on Madison Court House was merely a feint to detain the army corps of General Siegel at Sperryville, and that the main attack of the enemy would be at Culpepper, to which place I had thrown forward part of Generals Banks's and McDowell's corps, who was in the advance, near the Rapidan, fell slowly back, delaying and embarrassing the enemy's advance as far as possible, and capturing some of his men.

          The forces of Generals Banks and Siegel, and one of the divisions of General McDowell's corps, were rapidly concentrated at Culpepper during Friday and Friday night, Banks's corps being pushed forward five miles south of Culpepper, with Ricketts's division of McDowell's corps three miles in his rear.

          The corps of General Siegel, which had marched all night was halted in Culpepper, to rest for a few hours.

          On Saturday the enemy advanced rapidly to Cedar Mountain, the sides of which they occupied in heavy force.

          General Banks was instructed to take up his position on the ground occupied by Crawford's brigade, of his command, which had been thrown out the day previous to observe the enemy's movements. He was directed not to advance beyond that point, and if attacked by the enemy to defend his position and send back timely notice.

          It was my desire to have time to give the corps of General Siegel all the rest possible after their forced march, and to bring forward all the forces at my disposal.

          The artillery of the enemy was opened early in the afternoon; but he made no advance until nearly five o'clock, at which time a few skirmishers were thrown forward on each side under cover of the heavy wood in which his force was concealed.

          The enemy pushed forward a strong force in the rear of his skirmishers, and General Banks advanced to the attack.

          The engagement did not fairly open until after six o'clock, but for an hour and a half was furious and unceasing.

          Throughout the cannonading, which at first was desultory, and directed mainly against the cavalry, I had continued to receive reports from General Banks that no attack was apprehended, and that no considerable infantry force of the enemy had come forward.

          Yet toward evening the increase in the artillery firing having satisfied me an engagement might be at hand, though the lateness of the hour rendered it unlikely, I ordered General McDowell to advance Ricketts's division to support General Banks, and directed General Siegel to bring his men upon the ground as soon as possible.

          I arrived personally on the field at seen p.m. and found the action raging furiously. The infantry firing was incessant and severe.

          I found General Banks holding the position he took up early in the morning. His losses were heavy.

          Ricketts's division was immediately pushed forward, and occupied the right of General Banks, the brigades of Crawford and Gordon being directed to change their position from the right and mass themselves in the centre.

          Before this change could be effected it was quite dark, thought the artillery fire continued at short range without intermission.

          The artillery fire at night, by the Second and Fifth Maine batteries in Ricketts's division, of General McDowell's corps, was most destructive, as was readily observable the next morning in the dead men and horses and broken gun-carriages of the enemy's battery which had been advanced against it.

          Out troops rested on their arms during the night in line of battle, the heavy shelling being kept up on both sides until midnight.

          At daylight the next morning the enemy fell back two miles from our front, and still higher up the mountain.

          Our pickets at once advanced and occupied the ground.

          The fatigue of the troops, from long marches and excessive heat, made it impossible for either side to resume the action on Sunday. The men were, therefore, allowed to rest and recruit the whole day, our only active operation of the cavalry on the enemy's flank and rear.

          Monday was spent in burying the dead in in getting off the wounded.

          The slaughter was severe on both sides, most of the fighting being hand to hand.

          The dead bodies of both armies were found mingled together, in masses, over the whole ground of the conflict.

          The burying of the dead was not completed until dark on Monday, the heat being so terrible that severe work was not possible.

          On Monday night the enemy fled from the field, leaving many of his dead unburied and his wounded on the ground and along the road to Orange Court House, as will be seen from General Buford's dispatch.

          A cavalry and artillery force, under General Buford, was immediately thrown forward in pursuit, and followed the enemy to the Rapidan, over which he passed with his rearguard by ten o'clock in the morning.

          The behavior of General Banks's corps during the action was very fine. No greater gallantry and daring could be exhibited by any troops.

          I can not speak too highly of the coolness and intrepidity of General Banks himself during the whole of the engagement. He was in front and exposed as much as any man in his command. His example was of the greatest benefit to his troops, and he merits and should receive commendation of his Government.

          Generals Williams, Augur, Gordon, Crawford, Prince, Green, and Geary behaved with conspicuous gallantry.

          Augur and Geary were severely wounded, and Prince, by losing his way in the dark, while passing from one flank to another, fell into the hands of the enemy.

          I desire publicly to express my appreciation of the prompt and skillful manner in which Generals McDowell and Siegel brought forward their respective commands and established them on the field, and of their cheerful and hearty co-operation with me from beginning to end.

          Brigadier-General Roberts, Chief of Cavalry of this army, was the advance of our forces on Friday and Saturday, and was conspicuous for his gallantry and for the valuable aid he rendered to General Banks and Crawford.

          Our loss was about fifteen hundred killed, wounded and missing, of whom two hundred and ninety were taken prisoners. As might be expected from the character of the engagement, a very large proportion of these were killed.

The enemy's loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners, we are now satisfied, is much in excess of our own.

          A full list of casualties will be transmitted as soon as possible, together with a detailed report, in which I shall endeavor to do justice to all.

John Pope,

Major-General Commanding

          The following account from a Herald correspondent, who was an eye-witness of the fight, will also be found interesting:

Early in the Morning

          General Pope had sent General Banks's command to the front, and the division of Generals Augur and Williams were placed in position about a mile and a half this side the ground which had been the scene of the skirmish of the previous day.

Subsequently, in the Afternoon

          Crawford's brigade, of General Williams's division, composed of the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania. Tenth Maine, Fifth Connecticut, and Twenty-eighth New York regiments, with Best's battery of Regulars, moved forward and occupied a piece of high ground lying between Cedar Creek and Crooked River, some four miles north of the point where the Culpepper and Gordonsville turnpike crosses the Rapidan River. About three-fourths of a mile south of this pint rises the Cedar Mountain, a spur of the great Thoroughfare Range. It was from the slope of this eminence that the enemy first opened their fire upon the Union troops.

The First Intimation of the Enemy

          The first intimation our advance received of the presence of the enemy was at the moment when, after emerging from the timber on the north, it began to cross Spring Creek. At once a battery of heavy guns, posted in the thick timber half-way up the mountain side, belched upon the troops both shot and shell, while another battery of smaller guns at the foot of the mountain gave them a similar reception from the cover of some timber about three-eighths of a mile to the westward.

Our Reply

          Preparations were at once made to reply to these civilities, and Best's battery of Parrott guns was immediately planted on the crest of the rising ground we occupied, and began replying to the two batteries of the enemy. In the mean time the infantry were posted in line of battle on the right of the battery,and cheerfully awaited the order which would bring them more actively into the deadly conflict.

The Rebel Infantry Appear

          For some time this contest of shot and shell was kept up; but at five o'clock the rebel infantry were discovered in strong force upon our right and in front, supporting the rebel batteries. The fact was at once communicated by rapid couriers to the main body of our troops. Immediately the division of General Augur, with the remainder of General Williams's division, were thrown forward with prompt dispatch, and posted advantageously upon the right of General Crawford, and directly fronting the dense timber where the rebel infantry, in strong force, were plainly visible.

General Banks Now Rode on to the Field

          and directed the operation, the best possible disposition being made for the continuation of the fight now inevitable, and each moment developing in proportions. The manner in which he handled his troops and provided for every emergency, together with the personal gallantry he displayed, being constantly under fire, are subjects of general commendation with officers and men.

General Geary in Advance - Bravery of the Command

          General Geary's brigade, of General Augur's division, had the advance, which through the brunt of the first part of the day's fight it maintained with skill and courage. This gallant brigade consisted of the Fifth Ohio, Seventh Ohio, Twenty-ninth Ohio, Twenty-eighth Pennsylvania, and Snapp's battery. No sooner had these troops formed in order of battle than the rebels opened musketry fire upon them from two sides and in from, while the rebel batteries also directed their death-dealing missiles among the brave fellows, that on the mountain being very destructive in its effects. Notwithstanding this terrible concentrated fire, the troops, under their courageous General (Geary), never faltered or winced.

The Battle Becomes General

          It was not till half past five that the battle became general. Then artillery replied to artillery, musketry to musketry, while infantry me infantry in repeated shocks of deadly strife. Reckless valor and desperation marked the progress of the fight, which continues without pause or lull, with terrible cannonading, until darkness put a stop to the carnage. I have witnessed many battles during this war, but I have seen none where the tenacious obstinacy of the American character was so fully displayed.

The Determination of Our Troops

          Our troops fought with the coolness and valor of veterans, standing up to the flight unfalteringly and unblenchingly in the teeth of a raking an destructive fire of cannon and musketry. No sooner did a volley of musketry or discharge of artillery mow down the ranks of a regiment than the wide gaps were filled up and new fronts presented.

Our Artillery Pay with Effect

          Once informed of the position of the enemy in force, our artillery opened with terrible effect upon them, compelling regiment after regiment to break and fall back our of range, within the shelter of the dense timber.

Death of the Rebel Generals Winder and Trimble

          As regiments thus fell back fresh troops were in quick succession brought up to confront the deadly storm of iron hail from the union guns, and it was while leading up some of those fresh regiments that Generals Winder and Trimble were killed.

The Rebel Artillery -- Charges and Capture of Rebel Guns

          The rebel artillery was served with deadly effect, and at one time it was determined to take one battery that gave the greatest annoyance by the bayonet. A portion of the District of Columbia troops charged most gallantly one of these batteries, and succeeded in taking two of the rebel guns, with bu little loss to our brave men. Portions of Augur's and Williams's divisions, including Crawford's and Gordon's brigades, made three dashi9ng bayonet charges upon the rebel artillery Each time the brave fellows were repulses with loss, the enemy's overpowering infantry support being too much for our troops to cope with; but uncowed and undauntedly they returned to the charge with increased desperation and renewed vigor. The terrible and continuous infantry fire from the woods with which they were met each time demonstrated unmistakably that our forces were greatly outnumbered by the foe.

The Eighth and Twelfth Regulars

          attached to General Banks's corps, commanded by Captain Pitcher, did excellent service. Captain Pitcher was wound severely, though not dangerously, in the knee, by a musket-shot; but he nevertheless kept the field at the head of his men until the close of the conflict.

The Infantry Cease Firing

          With the setting in of night the musketry firing ceased, but the artillery on the mountain kept up an intermittent firing until near midnight. At twilight our troops withdrew to a small copse of wood, about half a mile to the rear of their first position, where they were joined soon after by the corps of Generals McDowell and Siegel, who formed on their rear. It was then that the hungry  and wearied troops of General Banks were relieved by portions of these fresh troops. The former fell back half a mile, where, in a pleasant clover field, they rested on their arms from the fatigues of the day.

A Brilliant Night

          The night was unusually lustrous, a bright moon shedding its radiance all around, and causing all prominent objects to be as plainly distinguishable as in the day. In the west loomed up Thoroughfare Mountain, from whose peak flashed at intervals a rebel signal light, indicative of the presence of the enemy, and to us, at the time, an assurance that the conflict of the past day would be resumed on even a larger scale, and with casualties and losses proportionate to the increased numbers to be engaged.

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