Report of Lieut. William W. Rowley, Twenty-eighth New York Infantry, Acting Signal Officer, Second Corps.
Hdqrs. Signal Camp, Second Corps, Army of Va.,
Fairfax, August 16, 1862.
Sir: I have the honor to report that on Friday, the 8th day of August, 1862, the Second Corps, Army of Virginia, was encamped at Hazel River, 7 miles from Fairfax [Culpeper Court-House], on the Sperryville road. At this time we held communication with Thoroughfare Mountain and Culpeper, General Pope being at the latter place. About 1 p. m. a message was sent to General Banks through our lines from General Pope for him to start immediately with his command for Culpeper. A great many orders were transmitted through the line to and from General Pope to Generals Banks and Sigel, it being the only mode used to transmit orders. Lieutenants Pierce and Harvey were upon station at Culpeper, Lieutenant Halsted upon Butler Mountain, Lieutenant Fralick upon station at Hazel River, and Lieutenant Spencer upon Thoroughfare Mountain.
In compliance with orders, General Banks’ whole command, except Lieutenants Halsted and Fralick, started for Culpeper, Lieutenants Halsted and Fralick remaining upon their respective stations. Our whole force encamped at Culpeper.
On Saturday morning I was ordered by General Banks to accompany him, with all the signal officers not on duty, to the front, which was about 5 or 6 miles from Culpeper. Accordingly, in company with Lieutenants Harvey, Fortescue, and Miner, I went to the front with General Banks, Lieutenant Spencer being still upon Thoroughfare Mountain, Lieutenant Briggs being with General Buford, who had occupied Madison Court-House, keeping communication with Lieutenant Spencer.
As we were leaving Culpeper for the front I received a message from Lieutenant Spencer that the mountain was surrounded by a regiment of the enemy’s cavalry, and that he would be obliged to abandon his position. General Banks, by order of General Pope, immediately ordered the Twenty-eighth Pennsylvania to proceed to the mountain, retake it, and protect the signal officer. Not knowing the safety of Lieutenant Spencer, I dispatched Lieutenant Harvey and men with the Twenty-eighth Regiment to occupy the mountain, and open communication with us at Culpeper and also at the front near Cedar Run Mountain. This left me but two signal officers, Lieutenants Fortescue and Miner. Early in the morning I had sent Lieutenant Fortescue to the front with instructions to open communication with Lieutenant Spencer. He did not succeed, as Lieutenant Spencer had been compelled to abandon his position. Lieutenant Spencer succeeded in regaining his position upon the mountain top in advance of Lieutenant Harvey, but was soon joined by Lieutenant Harvey with the regiment of infantry, and have since held the position.
General Banks arrived upon the ground occupied by our advance about 11 a.m. There was no position upon which we could get so as to command the field of battle, and as our troops were massed, there was noting to be done in the way of signaling until Lieutenants Spencer and Harvey arrived upon the top of the mountain. Lieutenants Fortescue and Miner volunteered their services to General Banks as aides upon the battle-field.
The enemy opened with artillery about 2 p. m. and continued until about 4 p.m., when the infantry was brought into action. We were kept busy carrying orders from the general from 2 p. m. until 9 p. m., when the battle for the day was terminated. We were so much exhausted that no attempt was made to get Lieutenant Spencer that night, but early the next morning Lieutenant Miner succeeded in opening communication with him. Lieutenants Fralick and Halsted were ordered in on Saturday, and joined me about midnight. General Buford was compelled to leave Madison, Lieutenant Briggs going with him. Lieutenant Briggs joined me on Monday all right. Lieutenant Pierce remained at Culpeper, by orders of General Banks, to receive communications via the mountain.
Too much cannot be said of the conduct of officers and men of the signal corps. Those who were not in the battle were upon duty else-where by orders of General Banks. Lieutenants Spencer and Harvey were of very great benefit to General Pope. Their reports were correct, simple, and lucid, giving exactly the position and strength of the enemy, by which General Pope acknowledged to me he was greatly indebted. Lieutenants Fortescue and Miner acted with great coolness upon the battle-field, carrying messages from the general commanding in the thickest of the fight. My horse was killed by a shot while riding him. None of our flagmen were in the battle.
I cannot discriminate between the officers, as all were on duty and did their duty fully and satisfactorily. Lieutenant Spencer, by his careful observations and watchfulness from the mountain, which was very much exposed, being at times inside the enemy’s lines, and the exactness of his reports, is deserving of the highest commendation.
I am, yours, respectfully,
W. W. ROWLEY.
Capt. Samuel T. Cushing,
Assistant Signal Officer.