Report of Brig. Gen. Jubal A. Early, C. S. Army, commanding Fourth Brigade.
Headquarters Fourth Brigade, Third Division,
August 14, 1862.
Captain: I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of my brigade in the battle on Cedar Creek, near Slaughter Mountain, in Culpeper [County], on Saturday, the 9th instant:
Early on the morning of that day I was ordered by Major-General Ewell to move forward to the cavalry camp of General Robertson, picketing the road at suitable points to the right and left, so as to prevent surprises by the enemy’s cavalry on our flanks, and the Forty-fourth Virginia Regiment and six companies of the Fifty-second Virginia Regiment were detached for that purpose. With the balance of the brigade I reached General Robertson’s headquarters. After some time spent in observing the enemy’s cavalry in our front my brigade, by direction of General Ewell, was advanced on the road toward Culpeper Court-House to a school-house at the intersection of a road from Madison Court-House with the road to Culpeper Court-House, and was placed in the woods by the side of the road, the Thirteenth Virginia being extended to the left behind the school-house, so as to command the road from Madison Court-House; the Fifty-eighth Virginia Regiment being placed in a clump of pines to the right of the Culpeper road, so as to command the fields to the right, and the rest of the brigade along the edge of the woods to the left of the latter road, between the Thirteenth and Fifty-eighth Regiments. While this operation was going on two pieces of Captain Johnson’s battery, under Lieutenant Terry, which had been carried to the right near the foot of the mountain, opened on the enemy’s cavalry, as did some pieces in front of General Robertson’s headquarters, and were responded to by some pieces of the enemy, posted in rear of their cavalry toward Culpeper Court-House, but this firing lasted only for a few minutes, and the enemy’s cavalry, which had at first moved back, soon returned to its former position. After I had remained near the school-house something less than an hour, Capt. A. S. Pendleton, of General Jackson’s staff, came to me and informed me that General Jackson had ordered an advance; that General Trimble would advance on the right over the side of the mountain (Slaughter), supported by the Louisiana Brigade, of General Ewell’s division, and that I would advance from the position I then occupied, and be supported by General Winder with three brigades of General Jackson’s own division, and he directed me to advance as soon as I received a message from General Winder that he was in position to support me. While waiting for the message from General Winder I reconnoitered the ground in front, and the position of the enemy’s cavalry, which was in the field of Mrs. Crittenden’s farm, to the left of the Culpeper road, deployed as skirmishers, supported by about a squadron in reserve. My command was concealed from this cavalry, and I determined to advance upon it, if possible, so as not to be seen until within a short distance of it and I discovered a way which I could, in all probability, do so. On riding back to the school-house I found a courier from General Winder with the information that he was ready. I then commenced my movement, being about 2 p.m., and made a detour to the left, passing through the edge of a woods and behind a hill until I reached the place where I proposed to form my line of battle.
In making the advance from this position I found it necessary to march the greater portion of the brigade in line across a corner of woods through which the Culpeper road leads, so as to get in reach of the cavalry. I sent forward the Thirteenth Virginia Regiment, under Col. James A. Walker, deployed as skirmishers, a short distance into the woods behind which I desired to form line of battle, and as soon as the skirmishers had advanced the required distance the brigade was formed in a meadow on the north of a branch of Cedar Creek, in an oblique direction to the Culpeper road and to the left of it. While the line was forming a few shots were heard on the left of the skirmishers, which proved to have been fired on a body of cavalry, which immediately gave way. As soon as the line was formed I directed the skirmishers to advance, taking care to bear to the right, so as to cross the road and come into the fields beyond, in order to form upon the brigade, and ordered the brigade forward, sending the Twelfth Georgia Regiment, which was on the right, by flank to form behind a ridge, beyond which was the enemy’s cavalry. The brigade moved forward through the woods in handsome style until it came up with the Twelfth Georgia Regiment, when the whole advanced until it came in sight of the enemy’s cavalry. About this time Colonel Walker’s skirmishers commenced firing, as did the regiments on the right, and the cavalry scampered off. The brigade continued to move forward, swinging around the corner of the woods and coming out into the open field in line of battle. It had by this time got to the right of the Culpeper road and moved in pursuit of the enemy’s cavalry through the fields in a direction parallel to the road until it came to a farm road running from Mrs. Crittenden’s house, on the right, perpendicularly to the Culpeper road. Here it was halted for a few minutes behind a fence running along the farm road, and the Thirteenth Regiment was drawn in and formed on the left. The fence was then pulled down and the brigade moved forward in line to the crest of a hill which commanded a view in front of what afterward proved to be the battle-field. As soon as the brigade reached the crest of this hill three batteries opened on it, and a large body of cavalry was discovered in a wheat field in front to the left. I ordered the men to retire a few steps and lie down, so as to avoid the effects of the enemy’s artillery. The Seventh and Eighth Brigades were then some distance to the right on the side of the mountain, and General Winder’s command was about three-quarters of a mile to the rear. The hill sloped down in front, and farther on was a corn field running back to the crest of the next hill, along and behind which were posted the enemy’s batteries, and it was evident that there was a depression behind this hill in which large bodies of infantry might be concealed. There was woods also on a hill in the rear of the wheat field, in and behind which infantry might be placed under cover, and to the left was a woods through which my flank might be turned. The opening of the batteries and the halting of the cavalry in its flight convinced me that the enemy intended to make a stand here and that he was in force. The hill upon which I was being a commanding one, from which the enemy’s movements might be observed, and, though my left was exposed, being a strong position in itself if the woods on my left could be occupied, I determined to hold it, and sent my aide (Lieut. S. H. Early) back to General Winder for re-enforcements, with directions to come along the Culpeper road, as that was clear. My left at this time rested on the Culpeper road where it runs between the field in which I was and the woods to the left. General Winder was met with the head of his column just crossing the branch of Cedar Creek, half a mile in my rear. A short time after Lieutenant Early was sent to General Winder I sent Maj. A. L. Pitzer (a volunteer aide) to ask that some pieces of artillery should be sent up. Before this request could be complied with by General Winder, Captain Brown, of the Chesapeake Artillery, with one piece, and Captain Dement, with three pieces, came up through the fields in rear on a gallop, and were posted, by my direction, a little in advance of my right near a clump of cedars, where they had a good cover for their horses and caissons and occupied a commanding position. They very soon opened fire upon the enemy, and were followed in a short time by some pieces from General Winder’s command from the corner of the field where the road from Mrs. Crittenden’s crosses the Culpeper road.
About this time the pieces with the Seventh and Eighth Brigades opened fire from the mountain, and a very brisk cannonading was kept up for some time — perhaps for two hours or more. The shells from the enemy’s pieces burst over and around my men constantly, doing some damage occasionally, but not a great deal. I observed that the fire from our own guns was having considerable effect, and I saw one of the enemy’s batteries compelled to change its position. In the early part of the cannonading I sent an aide to tell General Winder that the enemy’s batteries might be attacked with advantage by the left, but in a short time afterward movements were observed in front that induced the belief that the enemy was sending infantry to our left, and notice of this was sent to General Winder, with the caution to be on the lookout; but just before my aide reached the place where General Winder was this gallant officer received a mortal wound from a shell, and the information was communicated to General Jackson in person, he having arrived on the ground. Not long afterward a line of skirmishers from the enemy was seen advancing across the corn field in front and several regiments in rear supporting them. A body of infantry also commenced moving up toward my right, which rested near the clump of cedars where the guns of Brown and Dement were posted. The hill there falls off rather abruptly to the right, and as infantry could have come up under cover of this hill very near to me, I sent to General Jackson for a brigade to support my right, which was promised. The enemy’s skirmishers had halted in the edge of the corn field nearest us, as had the regiments which supported them, and before the brigade promised me came up, very unexpectedly to me, several of our pieces from the left dashed down the slope of the hill in front of my left to within close range of the enemy’s skirmishers, which they had not seen. The enemy’s skirmishers and the infantry in their rear commenced moving and firing on them immediately, and seeing their danger, I at once ordered my brigade forward at double-quick, which order was complied with, the men rushing down with a shout and reaching the pieces just in time to save them. At the same time a fire was opened from the woods to the left by some troops of General Winder’s command, and the infantry fight thus began. The enemy’s front regiments soon began to give way, and other regiments were seen advancing through the wheat field to the left and additional regiments through the corn field in my front. I rode to my right, and threw the Twelfth Georgia Regiment to the left along the crest of a ridge, which made a curve in front, affording it a very good natural defense and enabling it to give the enemy a flank fire. Just as I completed this movement I observed a brigade passing from the rear to my right, which proved to be one of Major-General Hill’s brigades, commanded by Colonel Thomas. I immediately proceeded to post this brigade to the right of the Twelfth Georgia Regiment and at right angles with it, where it also had a strong position. After getting this brigade in position — during which operation my whole left was excluded from my view — I rode toward the left, and found that the pieces of artillery that had been advanced had retired, and that the left regiments of my brigade and all the troops to their left as far as I could see had fallen back, and the enemy were advancing up the slope of the hill. I saw at once the critical position in which we were placed. The Twelfth Georgia Regiment, the four companies of the Fifty-second Virginia Regiment, with Lieutenant-Colonel Skinner, and a part of the Fifty-eighth Virginia Regiment, under Major Kasey, of my own brigade, had not given way, and Colonel Thomas’ brigade was still left on my right. These troops were then isolated and in an advanced position, and had they given way the day in all probability would have been lost. I could not, therefore, go to rally those of my regiments which were retiring, but dispatched Major Hale, my acting assistant adjutant-general, to do so, and I immediately rode to the right to urge the troops there to hold their position. After doing this I rode again toward the left and discovered the enemy retiring before some of our troops which were again advancing. These I discovered to be a portion of my own brigade, which had been rallied, and a part of General Taliaferro’s brigade. I road up to them, and while I was here the enemy attempted to retrieve the fortune of the day by a cavalry charge along the Culpeper road, which was, however, successfully repulsed by a fire from the Thirteenth Virginia regiment — Colonel Taliaferro’s regiment, of General Taliaferro’s brigade — and a number of parties from other brigades.
This was after sunset, and the troops which had rallied and driven the enemy back advanced into the corn field. I rode off to the right again and found the troops there maintaining their ground against a body of infantry in front of Colonel Thomas’ brigade, which kept its position for some time. The ammunition of my own regiments being nearly exhausted, as was that of Colonel Thomas’ brigade, I directed them to maintain their ground at all hazards and use the bayonet if necessary, and they did not waver for a moment. I did not order an advance from this position because it would have had to be made under great disadvantages and with great danger of being attacked on the right flank. The position of these troops was all the time, until the enemy had entirely given way, in advance of the line, and I was satisfied that they could accomplish more by maintaining their position than by advancing.
A little before dusk the last of the enemy’s regiments left the ground on the advance of our troops to the left into the corn field, and we were left masters of the battle-field. In a short time I was informed by Major-General Hill, who came where I was, that General Jackson’s order was to advance in pursuit of the enemy on the Culpeper road and that his division was advancing. I informed him of the fact that the whole of my ammunition was exhausted, and that my brigade was much fatigued and in some confusion; but as he expressed the opinion that I ought to advance, I collected the brigade and did advance until I was met by General Ewell, who had come up from the right, and was by him ordered to wait until the other two brigades of the division came upon the road from the right and follow them, which I did, and was shortly after halted and ordered to bivouac for the night.
Johnson’s battery, attached to this brigade, had accompanied the Seventh and Eighth Brigades, and its movements were under the direction of the major-general commanding the division.
I have since ascertained that the giving way of the regiments on my left, which has been mentioned, was caused by the fact that the brigade on their left gave way before the enemy’s infantry which advanced through the wheat field, and that the enemy got into the woods on the left and fired into their rear. This disorder was confined to the Twenty-fifth, Thirty-first, and part of the Fifty-eighth Virginia Regiments. Colonel Walker, who was on my extreme left, maintained his position with his regiment (the Thirteenth) and part of the Thirty-first Virginia Regiment until they were left alone and the enemy were firing into their rear in the field. He then ordered them to retire, but he again formed them and brought them forward, and contributed very largely to the final repulse of the enemy, advancing as far as any of our troops were advanced until after the conclusion of the fight. I call especial attention to his report. He is a most efficient and gallant officer, who is always ready to perform any duty assigned him, and the men of his regiment are capital fighting men, there being none better in the army. When Colonel Walker is in front with his men deployed as skirmishers I feel secure against an ambuscade. I respectfully and earnestly recommend him for promotion to the position of brigadier-general.
Lieutenant-Colonel Terrill, of the same regiment; Lieutenant-Colonel Skinner, commanding the Fifty-second Virginia Regiment; Lieutenant-Colonel Jackson, commanding the Thirty-first Virginia Regiment (severely wounded); Major Kasey, commanding the Fifty-eighth Virginia Regiment; Major Higginbotham, commanding the Twenty-fifth Virginia Regiment, and Capt. William F. Brown, commanding the Twelfth Georgia Regiment, all acquitted themselves with great gallantry.
The brigade generally acquitted itself well. The disorder in some of the regiments was, as before stated, after the troops on their left had given way and the enemy had gotten on their flank and rear, and it was after Lieutenant-Colonel Jackson, of the Thirty-first, and Major Higginbotham, of the Twenty-fifth, Virginia Regiments were both wounded and carried to the rear, leaving their regiments, which chiefly participated in the disorder, without commanders.
The conduct of the Twelfth Georgia Regiment, with which I was more than any other, elicited my especial approbation. It is a gallant, fighting regiment, and I have had occasion before to notice its good conduct. Its commander in this action, Capt. William F. Brown, who is over sixty years of age, displayed great coolness, courage and energy. He is eminently deserving the command of a regiment, and I recommend him for promotion to fill the first vacancy that may occur among the field officers of the regiment.
Captain Lilley, of the Twenty-fifth Virginia Regiment, with a small body of his regiment, including the color-bearer, attracted my attention by the gallantry displayed by them in advancing among the foremost after the regiment had got into disorder.
A body of men from the Thirty-first Virginia Regiment around their colors, advancing in the same way, attracted my attention by their gallantry. I was particularly struck by the bravery exhibited by the color-bearers of these two regiments, who, with these small bodies of men around them, were waving their flags in the very front, as if to attract a fire upon them, and advancing all the while.
Captain Brown, of the Chesapeake Artillery, and Captain Dement displayed great courage, energy, and efficiency, themselves loading and firing their pieces when their men were exhausted.
I was attracted by the conspicuous gallantry exhibited by Colonel Taliaferro, of the Twenty-third Virginia Regiment, whom I saw urging his men on.
I can also bear testimony to the gallantry and good conduct of Colonel Thomas and the officers and men of his brigade, whose timely arrival rendered my right secure, and whose deadly fire contributed largely to the repulse of the enemy.
My staff officers — Maj. S. Hale, jr., acting assistant adjutant-general; Lieut. S. H. Early, aide-de-camp, and Maj. A. L. Pitzer, volunteer aide-de-camp — displayed great courage and energy in carrying my orders under fire and in rallying and encouraging the troops. They were everywhere on the field where there was danger, each having his horse struck under him.
There were doubtless many cases of individual gallantry upon the part of officers and men to which I am not able to do justice, and I do not wish it to be understood that they are intentionally overlooked.
My effective strength in infantry on the morning of the 9th was 1,700, of which about 350 were left on picket. Subjoined is a list* of killed, wounded, and missing, showing 16 killed, 145 wounded, and 2 missing. Total, 163.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. A. EARLY,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Brigade.
Capt. G. Campbell Brown, Asst. Adjt. Gen., Third Division.
*Embodied in No. 27.