Capt. Clerment L. Best

Note: This report is printed in Vol. 51, Serial 107, of the Official Records. The introduction to this supplemental volume states: This volume contains documents discovered too late to be included where they belong. They supplement a number of other volumes, and contain material from Big Bethel (June 10, 1861) through Bull Run, various operations in Virginia in 1861 and 1862 into Maryland in 1862.

Report of Captain Clermont L. Best, Fourth U. S. Artillery, Chief of Artillery, Second Corps, Army of Virginia.

Hdqrs. Artillery, Second Corps, Army of Virginia
Culpeper, August 13, 1862.

       Major:   There being but five brigades composing the corps, and each of diminished strength, it was deemed proper that no more than one battery to each brigade should be brought into action.  These batteries had been previously designated, and were placed in position on the most favorable points, supposed by the brigades to which they were respectively attached. General Crawford, having with his brigade preceded the remainder of the corps by one day, had already selected a point for his guns, the most commanding, certainly, on our side of the field. The topography of the ground was such that to obtain an effective play the remaining guns were ranged to the right and left of this point, at suitable intervals, presenting a slightly crescent form of about three-quarters of a mile in extent. The opposing batteries were posted on the slope of a conical hill to the left, just under cover of a slight eminence to the front and center, and again near a dense woods on our right, the pieces pretty well masked and each position commanding ours. I do not think they outnumbered us in guns, but one battery on the hill slope, of two guns, was evidently of heavier metal. Their practice was not of a superior order, judging from the large amount of shot hurled at us and the results as appended to this report.

       The battle commenced in earnest with artillery about 3 p.m. For two hours about sixty cannon, mostly rifled, were playing into each other without cessation, the distance between the combatants averaging about 1,400 yards. Our batteries were directed upon theirs, but turned upon their infantry whenever discovered. At 5 p.m. Major-General Banks directed the artillery to cease firing in order to advance the infantry.  The order was obeyed but in about half an hour it was discovered that the enemy’s infantry was also advancing in force, and opportunity being favorable to fire over the heads of our men with safety, the cannonading was resumed and continued until night ended the conflict. Though the day was intensely warm and our position such as to receive a converging fire from the enemy, officers and men stood firm and unflinching to the end. Captains McGilvery, Robinson, and Roemer were constantly under fire, working their guns with coolness and discrimination. Captain Knap, Lieutenant Muhlenberg, and Lieutenant Cushing were more immediately under my observation during that terrible afternoon, and I am sure I do the but justice in saying never were men more earnest in their work. Well done, I can truly say for officers, non-commissioned, and privates of all the batteries. That their afternoon’s work proved very destructive to the enemy is to my mind beyond question. At dark the batteries were retired about half a mile to the rear, during which movement a gun and caisson were lost by becoming mired and entangle in a small stream. They could not be extricated before the enemy’s sharpshooters had reached them. The gun, however was spiked and its limber and horses saved. No other loss in material. The batteries not in action were posted favorably in rear of the field for such service as the exigencies of the conflict might create. We had but little occasion for using canister, and the ammunition proved, generally, to be of good quality, the total rounds expended being 3,213. The following batteries were engaged: Company F, Fourth U. S. Artillery, Lieutenant Muhlenberg in command; Captain Jos. M. Knap’s Pennsylvania battery; Captain J. Roemer’s L, Second New York; Captain F. McGilvery, Sixth Maine; Captain O. W. Robinson, Fourth Maine. Lieutenant E. R. Geary, of Knap’s battery was slightly wounded in the elbow.

       C. L. BEST,
       Captain, Fourth Artillery, Chief of Artillery.

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