Report of Lieut. Col. Thomas S. Garnett, Forty-eighth Virginia Infantry, commanding Second Brigade.
Hdqrs. Second Brig., First Div., Army Valley District,
Camp near Liberty Mills, Va., August 15, 1862.
Major: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the Second Brigade in the battle near Cedar Creek on the 9th instant:
By order of General Winder, commanding First Division, the Second Brigade was ordered about 3.30 p.m. to march to the front, passing the First Brigade; to rest its right near a school-house in the vicinity of the battle-field. Remaining in this position until General Early’s brigade had driven in the cavalry pickets, I received orders to move rapidly forward along the main road toward the enemy’s position. In executing this movement the brigade was fired upon by the enemy’s batteries, killing 5 and wounding 6 men of the Forty-eighth Virginia Regiment. To prevent any further accident the brigade was filed to the left in the woods, and proceeded along the slope of a hill parallel to the road until it had marched to a point where the road emerges from the woods into a field directly in front of the enemy’s batteries. Here General Winder ordered me to file to the left along a by-road in the woods, and to follow it as far as I could under cover of the woods. On reaching this last position I was to place the brigade in line of battle and charge the nearest battery by a flank movement while our artillery engaged it in front. On reconnoitering the position of the battery a heavy body of infantry was discovered in its rear, and a long line of cavalry behind a fence covered with brush, on the left of the battery, commanding perfectly the field the Second Brigade would necessarily cross in reaching its destination. I reported these facts immediately to General Winder through Lieutenant White, acting aide-de-camp, and received orders on his return to remain where I was for a few moments. This was the last order I received from General Winder, whose untimely death none more deplore than the Second Brigade. We were proud to be under his command, and mingle our sorrows with those of the nation at his early fall.
General Taliaferro, now assuming command, ordered such a disposition of the Second Brigade as would afford some protection to the batteries on our right and some 400 yards to the rear. The Twenty-first Virginia Regiment formed the extreme right, and the Forty-eighth Virginia Regiment was placed on the left of the Twenty-first, and were designed to repulse any charge of the enemy on our batteries, as ordered by General Taliaferro. The Forty-second Virginia Regiment and First Battalion formed our left, and commanded a field nearly at right angles with that in front of the Forty-eighth and Twenty-first. In this position skirmishers were thrown forward and on the extreme left. A courier was left with Major Seddon, with instructions to report any movements of the enemy in a thick woodland on his extreme left, which was supposed to be occupied.
At this juncture General Jackson and staff arrived, and I received orders from the general to look well to my left flank and to report at once to General Taliaferro for re-enforcements. Accordingly, Captain Wilson, assistant adjutant-general, Second Brigade, and Lieutenant White, acting aide-de-camp, were sent in different parts of the field to insure an early interview with the general and to secure without delay the support required. Before these officers returned the enemy had advanced rapidly, already engaging our right. With coolness and determination the regiments on the right delivered their fire, keeping a superior number of the enemy at bay. Firing now commenced on the left, and hastening to the position occupied by the First Virginia Battalion I discovered the enemy in heavy force rapidly advancing, not more than 50 yards from our front, bearing down upon us also from the left, delivering as they came a most galling fire. Unable to withstand this fire from front and flank, the First Virginia Battalion gave way in confusion, and rendered abortive every effort of its corps of gallant officers to reform it. Finding our left turned, I rode up to Major Lane, commanding the Forty-second, and ordered a change of front to meet the enemy in this new direction; but before this could be executed he fell mortally wounded, and the movement could not be accomplished before the enemy had commenced a fire in their rear, producing some confusion and disorder. The other regiments, all the while engaged in front, were also attacked in rear, now that the left flank was turned, producing much disorder in their ranks. In this double fire, front and rear, fell the gallant officers, Lieutenant-Colonel Cunningham, Major Lane, and Captain Deyerle. Re-enforcements coming up, portions of different regiments were reformed, and assisted in driving the enemy discomfited from the field.
The terrible loss in this brigade resulted from its left flank being turned, thereby subjecting it to a double fire. Had re-enforcements momentarily expected, arrived ten minutes sooner no disaster would have happened. The long list of killed and wounded officers* accompanying this report is the best evidence of their courage and fidelity in the discharge of duty.
Lieutenant-Colonel Cunningham, as all who knew him expected, behaved with distinguished bravery and coolness. His place is not easily filled. The same may be said of Major Lane, Major Seddon, and Captain Hannum, commanding regiments, and of the officers attached to their commands.
It would be improper to close this report without calling attention of the general to the acts of savage brutality perpetrated by the enemy upon our officers and men who fell into their hands temporarily as prisoners. Such fiendish barbarity is not to be found in the history of warfare among civilized nations.
To the members of my staff all praise is due for their bravery and efficiency in the discharge of every duty. They consisted of Captain Wilson, assistant adjutant-general; Lieutenant Dabney, aide-de-camp, and Lieutenant White, First Virginia Battalion, acting aide-de-camp.
For further particulars the general is referred to reports from regimental commanders, herewith inclosed.
THOS. S. GARNETT,
Lieut. Col., Comdg. Second Brig., First Div., A. V. D.
Maj. W. T. Taliaferro, Asst. Adjt. Gen., First Division.
*Embodied in No. 27.