Battles and Official Records
The First Battle, June 19, 1861
The 13th Virginia Infantry Regiment was initially a part of the Confederate forces at Harpers Ferry, commanded by General Joseph E. Johnston, and the Regiment was mainly on sentry duty along the Potomac River.
The first time the Regiment was sent into the "storm" of action against the until now "unseen" enemy was a day in May 1861, when the Regiment reacted on an alarm issued because of Union forces approaching Shepherdstown. Nothing came of the alarm and instead of a storm of Yankee bullets, the Regiment experienced a most ferocious hailstorm. On June 15th 1861 Confederate forces under A. P. Hill were ordered to Romney to check a Union advance in that direction. The new soldiers found rapid marches a very difficult experience and there was considerable straggling. This would change however, as they later became part of Stonewall Jackson’s foot cavalry. The first real action of the Regiment took place on June 19th 1861, when at New Creek Depot on the Potomac River, companies B and I together with the 3rd Tennessee charged 250 Federals across the river and captured two cannons and a stand of colors. On June 21st the Regiment was sent back to Winchester and more sentry duty and inactivity.
Battle of 1st Manassas - July 21, 1861
The battle of (1st) Manassas was a big disappointment for the soldiers as the Regiment missed it altogether, arriving at Manassas Junction late in the afternoon on July 21st, and then being directed towards the right of the Confederate line (away from the battle) to protect the lower fords of Bull Run.
The Regiment had waited impatiently at the Piedmont Station on July 20th as brigade after brigade except theirs was sent to Manassas. When the Regiment finally boarded the train, there was only room for six companies (under A. P. Hill), so the other four companies (under James A. Walker) boarded another train. The cars were delayed due to several derailings and false alarms about A. P. Hill in the first train being captured. At one point the engineer and train-crew of Walker’s train fled, all the while everyone could hear the sounds of the battle. The Regiment arrived too late. To add to the misery, the two parts of the Regiment were sent to different parts of the battlefield, rejoining the next day.
The men were, of course, disgusted that they had been deprived of taking part in the glorious victory that most people, at the time, believed would be the decisive and conclusive battle of the war.
Lewinsville, September 11th 1861
SEPTEMBER 11, 1861.--Union reconnaissance from Chain Bridge to Lewinsville, Va., and action at that place.
No. 15. -- Report of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, C. S. Army, with congratulatory orders.
HEADQUARTERS NEAR FAIRFAX CROSS-ROADS.
Near Fairfax Stations, September 14, 1861.
SIR: Herewith I inclose two reports (of Brigadier-General Longstreet and of Colonel Stuart) of the affair of Lewinsville [Nos. 16 and 17]. I am much gratified at having this opportunity of putting before the Department of War and the President this new instance of the boldness and skill of Colonel Stuart and the courage and efficiency of our troops.
Connected with this communication and these reports is a recommendation from General Longstreet, General Beauregard, and myself for forming a cavalry brigade and putting Colonel Stuart at its head. A new organization of the cavalry arm of our service is greatly needed, and greater strength as well as an effective organization. Our numbers in cavalry are by no means in due proportion to our infantry and artillery, yet without cavalry in proper proportion victory is comparatively barren of results; defeat is less prejudicial; retreat is usually safe.
You will observe that I propose that Colonel Stuart shall be withdrawn from the immediate command of the First Regiment of Virginia Cavalry. Should this be done, as I hope it will be, other arrangements are necessary in the regiment. As they have served immediately under my eye, and as I thus know them thoroughly, I feel it my duty to make further suggestions.
The regiment so far is exclusively Virginian. By all means keep it so, where it can be done without prejudice in other respects. State pride excites a generous emulation in the Army, which is of inappreciable value in its effect on the spirit of the troops. I therefore recommend that Capt. William E. Jones, who now commands the strongest troop in the regiment and one which is not surpassed in discipline or spirit by any in the army, be made colonel. He is a graduate of West Point, served for several years in the Mounted Rifles, and is skillful, brave, and zealous in a very high degree. It is enough to say that he is worthy to succeed J. E. B. Stuart. For the lieutenant-colonelcy I repeat my recommendation of Capt. Fitzhugh Lee. He belongs to a family in which military genius seems an heirloom. He is an officer of rare merit, capacity, and courage. Both of these officers have the invaluable advantage at this moment of knowledge of the ground which is now the scene of operations.
I do not recommend Maj. Robert Swan of that regiment for promotion in it, because, though personally known to me as a capable and gallant officer, yet his service and experience in the Army heretofore have been in the infantry. I am informed that he would prefer that branch of the service. I therefore recommend his transfer to it. Being a Marylander, it would be preferable to place him in a Maryland regiment. He would be likely thus to serve our cause most effectively.
Most respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. E. JOHNSTON,
Cross Keys and Port Republic - June 1862
The Regiment participated in Stonewall Jackson’s Valley campaign, which ended with the battles of Cross Keys . The 13th’s action in the Battle at Cross Keys started by being ordered to secure the right flank from a Union turning movement. Later the Regiment participated in the confederate attack in support of Trimble’s brigade. Moving forward the 13th found itself facing three Union cannons supported by three regiments. Laying down and firing, the fire was effective enough to drive the crew from one of the guns on two different occasions. Lacking protection the Regiment moved further right into some woods. At the same time the Federals fell back too, and the grayclads together with Ewell’s men resumed the attack and repulsed Union General Fremont. The next day the Regiment marched to Port Republic arriving in time to participate in pursuing the retreating Federals.
Gaines Mill June 27, 1862
This battle took place on the second day of the Seven Days Battle which ended Union General McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign. The battle was already raging when General Ewell’s Division which included the 13th Virginia, arrived on the battlefield. Ewell was ordered to attack the Union line, a formidable hillside with swampy ground around it. The 13th charged near the McGehee farm into heavy Federal fire and soon found themselves in close quarters fighting amid marshy ground and underbrush. A retreat was ordered and after a rally Ewell ordered the Regiment back into the swamp. After four hours of bitter fighting, the men withdrew around dusk. The Federals, too, withdrew and the Army of Northern Virginia gained the field. Of the 250 men that entered the battle for the 13th Virginia 27 was killed and 84 wounded – nearly half of those engaged. Colonel Walker praised the Regiment for it’s determination and bravery, and noted that the heavy loss among company officers was the best evidence of their gallantry.
Cedar Mountain - August 9, 1862
This battle was probably THE battle of the 13th Virginia Infantry Regiment. After the war veterans of the Regiment referred to this battle as "pre-eminently our fight". The fight started with the Regiment placed in the middle of the Confederate line and at the extreme left regiment of Early’s brigade. To the left of the 13th, the Stonewall brigade was placed (under James A. Walker). The Federals closed in on the Confederates and the fighting was intense for several minutes. Then the two brigades just to the left of Early’s brigade fell back as well as several regiments to the right. Only the 13th and 31st Virginia stood their ground in that sector of the battlefield. Walker recognized the danger to a Confederate artillery piece right in front of him and ordered both regiments forward to protect the gun. At the same time the Federals had enveloped the left flank of the 13th, but still the men fought in good order. Walker withdrew the regiment 200 yards, halted, and rallied.
At this time, when everything looked grim for the graycoats, and that the mighty Stonewall Jackson would suffer a defeat, A. P. Hill arrived with the last of Jackson’s division. He noted that few regiments were "standing firm" and was undoubtly pleased to find his former command among these regiments. Encouraged by the reinforcements the 13th recaptured it’s position from the Federals and stood firmly for about ten minutes while exchanging shots with another blue line in a cornfield. The Federals then collapsed and the graycoats cleared the field of the enemy infantry but were immediately attacked by Federal cavalry on the left of the Regiment. The men executed a "left wheeel" and poured a volley into the flank of the union cavalry, which broke the attack.
The pride in the Regiment was justified. Their stand had bought Stonewall Jackson precious time. Colonel Walker praised his mens’ bravery and discipline. General Early declared that "the men of the Regiment are capital fighting men, there being none better in the Army". He also cited Terrill for great gallantry and recommended Walker for Brigadier General, which recieved Ewell’s endorsement. Although in the midst of the heavy fighting the Regiments’ loss was two killed and 32 wounded.
2nd Manassas - August 28th - 30th 1862
As Stonewall Jackson withdrew from Manassas Junction, he placed his corps at a low ridge creased by an unfinished railroad-bed. Early’s brigade (incl. 13th Virginia) was placed on the left of the Confederate line. When a Union Division marched into view on the Warrenton Pike at sunset, unaware of the Confederate position, Jackson attacked with his brigades in the center and right and a fierce encourter broke out. Towards sunset Early’s brigade was ordered to the right, but baffled by the terrain and the darkness, the brigade halted, never directly engaging the enemy on August 28th.
On August 29th a Federal attack was expected and enemy movement from Manassas toward the Confederate right suggested the Federals might try to turn the Confederate right flank. Early’s brigade was ordered to the extreme right and guard against such a maneuver. The 13th and 31st Virginia Infantry Regiments was sent towards Manassas as a strong outpost. The enemy envelopment never materialized, however, and around 10.30 a.m. the two regiments became a welcoming party for the advance elements of Longstreet’s command under Brigadier General John B. Hood.
As soon as these reinforcements started to extend the Confederate line, Early’s brigade moved back to the Confederate center, which was under attack. Then the Union assault shifted to the Confederate left (A. P. Hill’s Division), and Early was ordered further left to back up Hill. Just as the sun was beginning to set, the Federals succeded in breaking the Confederate line between two of Hill’s brigades (Gregg’s and Thomas’) and forced the graycoats back 300 yards. Almost out of ammunition, ranks thinned, the exhausted soldiers prepared to fight with bayonets and rock. At this moment Early was summoned to rescue the Confederate line. In this moment of crisis, one of Gregg’s men recalled: "A shout behind us paralyzed us with dread and some turned their head expecting a Union attack from the rear. But the yell came from Early’s brigade and a regiment of Louisianians". The counterattack slammed the Federals back across the railroad and some hundred yards further. Early yelled at his officers to stop the men, but they kept on going and finally Early shouted: "Well, damn you, if you will go, go on". This counterattack came, according to A. P. Hill, at a most opportune moment and shut down the last Federal assault of the day. The men slept where they were and occupied the Confederate line as Hill’s men went to the rear to get ammunition.
On August 30th the Union started assaulting the Confederate center and left, then shifted to the left. Early suddenly realized that his brigade was the extreme left and that his flank was unprotected. Early had been given to understand that some of Hill’s brigade was still on his left (hidden by woods), but hadn’t been told, that they too had been ordered to the rear for ammunition and hadn’t been replaced. Federal sharpshooter started to harrass the brigade and Union skirmishers walked forward. Early sent word to Hill, , whose troops arrived and drove back the marksmen.
Even though the Federals kept up the assault on the Confederate line throughout the afternoon. Early’s men saw very little action. Some of the regiments included the 13th ended up in the reserve line. Late in the afternoon when Longstreet’s corps launched it’s attack on the Federal left flank, Jackson’s corps moved forward in their turn. The 13th was ordered to investigated reports of Union activity of the left, but no Federals was located. Thus ended the battle of the 2nd Manassas for the 13th Virginia Infantry Regiment. The records showed that the entire battle cost the Regiment a total of 2 killed and 29 wounded.
Chantilly/Ox Hill - September 1, 1862
After the Confederate victory at 2nd Manassas the Confederates caught up with the Union Army on September 1st at Chantilly. Early’s brigade, which the 13th was a part of, was initially in reserve, but General Starke on the Confederate left, fearing a Federal assault, requested Early to move his brigade to the left. Early agreed and without informing Lawton (the Division commander) or Stonewall Jackson, and relying on the Louisiana Brigade that was in the front line to cover the position he was leaving, moved his brigade just as a violent thunderstorm started. On the way to the new position Early heard a racket of musketry that seemed to be coming from the position he’d just left. On arrival at the new position he discovered that the 13th, 25th and 31st Virginia were not with him.
Investigating what was going on he found the three missing regiments fighting off a Federal contingent, who had broken through the Louisianans in the front line. The Louisiana regiments ran back through the units of Early’s brigade that were about to march off to the left. The commanders of the three Virginia regiments stayed where they were, forming a barrier behind which the Louisiana men could rally. Once more the Union forces got the worst of it, being repulsed everywhere along the line and went into retreat as night fell. General Early was at his proudest of his men following this action. For the 13th the roster shrank with another 2 killed, 14 wounded, and 2 missing.
Sharpsburg - September 17th, 1862
The night before the battle Early’s brigade spent on Alfred Poffenberger’s farm on the extreme left of the Confederate battleline. As the battle started at dawn, the brigade was ordered further left to assist Confederate Cavalry General J.E.B. Stuart’s Horse Artillery. The brigade was ordered back to the West Woods, but the 13th Virginia was at the request of J.E.B.Stuart retained to support the Horse Artillery. The Regiment was placed in the cornfield north of A. Poffenberger’s farm, where they spent the time during the heavy fighting at Miller’s cornfield.
When the fighting changed to the West Woods as the Division of Union General Sedgwick started it’s attack on the West Woods, the 13th went into action acting as skirmish line for the artillery. The brigade of Union Brigadier General Gorman was leading the attack. As the Union Divison charged into the West Woods the 1st Minnesota and the 82nd New York of the leading Union brigade advanced three times into Poffenberger’s cornfield and three times they were driven back by the 13th Virginia. The cornfield north of A. Poffenberger’s farm lent itself to a debacle similar to the one which occurred in the Miller Cornfield.
At this time Captain John Pelham of the Horse Artillery decided to move a section of twelve pound Napoleons a short distance to the north in order to flank the Union right at Nicodemus Farm. When they pulled north across the plowed field, the teams and limbers got bogged down in the soft mud. The 13th Virginia was brought in to manhandle the field pieces up the slope to the crest west of the barn. With about fifty men to each artillery piece, the infantrymen slung their weapons and shouldered and dragged the guns and their limber chests into battery. With the guns deployed John Pelham ordered the infantrymen to fan out and commence firing into the retreating 19th Massachusetts and 1st Minnesota, of Sedgwick’s Division, which were retirering from the West Wood onto the farm.
The sharpshooters of the 13th Virginia and Captain John Pelham’s artillerists made the position of the 19th Massachusetts too hot to hang on to. The guns, loaded with double shot canister, pounded the New Englanders’ flank. Every time the Union soldiers attempted to move, the 13th Virginia drove them to cover. The two retreating Federal regiments could not endure more and retreated north through the Nicodemus barnyard and beyond. They were the last Union regiments to leave the West Woods. The struggle around the West Woods was costly to both sides. In twenty minutes 2210 Union soldiers of some 5000 engaged were injured or killed. Although heavily, engaged the 13th Virginia only suffered one killed and five wounded. This was the last major fighting on the left of the Confederate line as the fighting shifted towards the center, and late in the day, further towards the right.
1st Fredericksburg - December 13, 1862
On the night of December 12th the regiment marched to the vicinity of Hamilton’s Crossing, south of Fredericksburg. December 13th was cold, foggy and with light snow on the ground. The brigade, commanded by James Walker as Jubal Early was commanding the Division (Ewell’s), was placed in the second line, supporting A. P. Hill’s Division. This sector was the right of the Confederate line and it was assaulted in the morning. Around noon a Union Division (that of Major General George Meade) penetrated the first line and made a big gap in the Confederate line. They were threatening to trap one of A. P. Hill’s brigades and capture Hill’s divisional artillery.
Early’s men, including Walker’s brigade, was ordered forward at the double-quick. The butternuts smashed into the Federals, and pushed them back. A. P. Hill acknowledged the timely assistance by stating that "the brigades came crashing through the woods at the double-quick and the enemy, completely broken, fled in confusion". In hot pursuit the Confederates drove the bluecoats across a railroad and followed them into an open field beyond.
When reaching the railroad Walker realized, that his left was unprotected. Further pursuit seemed hazardous and Walker later wrote: "I had no trouble in getting my men to fight, but a good deal to get them to stop". Restraining the brigade, Walker took position on the railroad determined to hold it. A Federal column moved into the woods on Walker’s left and he detached the 13th Virginia to hit the advancing enemy in the flank. This attack, coinciding with a counterthrust from the front by Thomas’ brigade of Hill’s Division, inflicted heavy losses and reestablished Hill’s line on the left of the gap. After dark Walker’s the brigade withdrew 150 yards into the woods, thus ending the battle, which cost the 13th Virginia 3 killed and 19 wounded.
January 01, 2020
2nd Winchester & memories of Gettysburg
The Regiment did not participate in the Gettysburg Campaign, as it was placed as provost guard in the town of Winchester. General Early’s Division had captured the town on June 14th, with scouting and reconnaissance assistance from the 13th Virginia. Company H was from Winchester and knew the country and at General Early’s request they had helped him scout the Union positions. As the men of Company H was marching together with Early the Orderly Sergeant of the Company, James Haymaker, called out to the general, reminding him, that all the men of the Company lived nearby and "would do the work up clean" if he would let us go and see our girls. Early laughed and said he would see about it. Placing Company H on a hill to observe the enemy, the rest of the Regiment participated in the assault at the West Fort.
During the night the Federals left Winchester. Early forgot to relieve Company H, but he did deliver the fun he had promised as well as giving the 13th Virginia a reward for its service; assignment as the garrison of Winchester. The Regiment lost little time in making itself at home. Abundant food and new clothes were in large supply from the Federal left overs. The Regimental Headquarter was established in the court house square. The 13th Virginia would be spared the trial of the Gettysburg campaign.
Wilderness - May 5th & 6th, 1864
The 13th spend the morning at Somerville Ford to investigate a report that the Federals were crossing there, but there were no enemy in sight. The Regiment then marched back to the main army and the sound of battle. They advanced along the Orange Turnpike and joined the main battle line to the left of the road, where they busied themselves with making a waist high breastwork. Then the Federals charged. The butternuts rose, fired, and broke the attack. This was repeated several times until sunset.
The battle resumed the next day. For 11 hours the Federals threw themselves at the Confederate line, but never came closer than 50 yards. Heavy sharpshooting continued until around sunset, when the Regiment took part in General Gordon’s attack on the Federal right. Gordon succeeded in throwing the Federal right flank into great confusion, and the 13th in it’s attack got possession of part of the Union line, but the growing dark and thick woods caused confusion among the Confederates and the battle closed. The Regiment even had to withdraw or they would have being surrounded as the Federals fanned to both sides of the trench. The next day the Federals were gone, moving on towards Spotsylvania Court House. The price of the battle of the Wilderness was 4 dead and 14 wounded in the Regiment.
Spotsylvania - May 12th - 19th, 1864
The regiment arrived at General Lee’s new battle line at Spotsylvania Court House on May 9th and was placed in reserve at a salient in the Confederate center known as the "Mule Shoe".
On the morning of May 12th the Union threw a corps (Hancock’s) against the "Mule Shoe" and captured almost all of the salient. General Lee send in General Gordon’s Division. Hoffman’s Brigade of which the 13th was a part of, was ordered to General Doles position at the west side of the "Mule Shoe". Upon arrival the men of the 13th noticed a battery on their left suddenly swing their guns around and begin to fire down the line across the rear of the Regiment. Not knowing of the Union penetration at the opposite part of the "Mule Shoe", the men shouted to the gunners, that they were firing on their own men, but the artillery continued to fire. Then a series of orders send the confused Virginians to the rear to the vicinity of the Harrison House, where they found themselves facing Generals Lee, Ewell and Gordon. Gordon told Lee about his plans, and Lee gave his approval, but stayed at the front apparently prepared to lead the men himself. Gordon noticing this tried to convince Lee otherwise, but Lee didn’t listen. The soldiers then realized what was happening and began to shout to their commander to go back and that they would retake the broken line. Finally a Virginian identified as Sergeant Richard Roberson of Co. I of the 13th Virginia grasped Traveller’s (Lee’s horse) bridle and led the commander to the rear. Lee offered no resistance or complaint.
At the double-quick the Virginians of Hoffman’s brigade charged forward. Anticipating a Union volley when reaching the works, they dived for the ground as the Federals opened fire, only to jump up and continue the assault. The Federals ran and the brigade recaptured the trenches on the east side of the "Mule Shoe". With this accomplished the 13th continued to advance up the line behind the traverses as the Federals ahead of them leaped out of these and ran to their rear. The Regiment advance to about 150 yards south of the east angle, where they stopped due to the enemy fire from enclosures along the west face of the angle. More Confederate reinforcements arrived as the heavy Union fire continued. The day’s misery was worsened by continuous rain and drizzel. After sunset the soldiers were ordered not to sleep, an order enforced by officers who kept wakening the exhausted soldiers, as another Union attack was expected. Around dawn the new Confederate line had been build at the base of the "Mule Shoe" and the butternuts pulled back.
As the Union forces eventually moved further southeast, the Confederates probed in order to establish the whereabouts of the Federals. On May 19th Ewell’s corps moved forward to the Ny River, where they found the Federals and a battle started. The 13th Virginia came into the battle as the Confederate left fell back in disorder. The Virginia Regiments of Hoffman’s brigade moved up, halted and with a loud yell and a charge promtly chased the Federals down a hill, waded through knee-deep mud and followed its opponents up a second hill, where it halted. The enemy attempted to dislodge the Virginians, and an hour-long battle ensued ending with a Federal withdrawal. After darkness the brigade withdrew reaching their original entrenchments around 2 a.m. "very much fatigued and not much pleased with flanking".
The whole Spotsylvania campaign added another 45 men to the casualty list. The fighting on May 12th had cost 7 dead, 13 wounded, 4 men taken prisoners and 1 missing. The fighting on the 19th had the price of 4 killed, 3 wounded and 4 prisoners of war. A further 8 men was wounded and 1 killed during the stay in the trenches at Spotsylvania.
Bethesda Church - May 30, 1864
During the afternoon the brigade was ordered to support the brigade of Rodes, who was engaged with the enemy. The brigade marched and halted near Bethesda Church. At 6 p.m. they were ordered to charge. With a yell the graycoats advanced under a hail of Union bullets, jumped a fence and entered a vegetable garden on the other side. In the center of the garden a cabin was located and when reaching the cabin the center of the Confederate line stopped. As the casualties increased the confusion grew. The 13th protected by woods didn’t loose as heavily as other regiments and continued forward until they realized, that they were near isolation. They took cover and remained there for another hour. During this time Colonel Terrill was ordered to take command of the Brigade. It was the last time the men saw him alive as he was killed shortly thereafter. After dark the Regiment disengaged and fell back about a mile.
This short action cost the Regiment dearly with 3 killed, 12 wounded and 2 taken prisoners. Lieutenant Colonel George (Gus) Goodman, who had been with Regiments since it was organized, took over the Regiment after Terrill. The new commander also a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute.
Cedar Creek - October 19, 1864
Confederate Veteran March 1894.
BATTLE OF CEDAR CREEK TRIBUTE TO EARLY.
By Capt. S. D. Buck, THIRTEENTH VIRGINIA INFANTRY,
As you paid me the compliment to copy my letter to the Baltimore Sun, " Burning Bridge over Rappahanock," I send you, from my manuscript, an account of the battle of Cedar Creek. I have written 170 pages of manuscript of the war as I saw it, and this article is part of a chapter. The battle was fought October 19, 1864.
No one can appreciate the desperation of this grand move without closely examining a war map. Having been born and raised almost in gunshot of this field, I see every road and defile as I write. Gen. Early has been accused of recklessness in fighting this battle. Such was not the case. It was a necessity, as the only possible way to prevent troops from being sent to Grant from the Valley. Hazardous? Yes, so was every move we made. Gen. Early, one of the best and bravest Generals of the war, was sent to the Valley to fight, though a forlorn hope, and no man in the army could have done more. Why Gen. Sheridan did not crush him in two weeks has always been a mystery to me. Four to one were the odds we had to contend with. Sheridan had as many cavalry as we had in all.
Minute description of the surroundings is necessary for a correct understanding of the move in contemplation. Our army was in camp on the old line known as Fisher's Hill, over a mile south of Strasburg, while Sheridan was camped north of Cedar Creek, a small stream flowing southeast and emptying into the north branch of Shenandoah River. The Valley Pike crosses Cedar Creek two miles north of Strasburg, and Sheridan was strongly posted on its high embankments, rendering a direct attack simply hopeless. Our right rested on the Shenandoah above Strasburg, while our left was on the same river below. Upon our right was Maurerton Mountain, and the Shenandoah River, a swift stream, fordable every few miles, hugged the base of this mountain for several miles. There was no road between the river and the mountain, yet Early dared to separate his army and send half of it, under command of the gallant Gordon, in single file, through the bushes where it was often almost impossible for men to stand, a distance of over three miles. The march was made cheerfully in the dead of night when the only sound was the continued tread of the men and the oft repeated command, "Close up." On this memorable night our division, under the gallant Pegram (Gordon's old division) and Ramseur's division, broke camp (Starvation) and marched to the river, where wagons had been placed and a bridge made for us to cross upon. After crossing we rested some hours before starting in single file for Sheridan's rear. After a most terrible march we came out at Pitman Farm, where we struck the main road leading from Strasburg to Front Royal. We were then on Sheridan's left flank, but the river flowed between the two armies and had to be forded) so we continued our march upon the main road. Every tree was familiar to me. As a boy I walked and rode almost daily over this section. At Hill's Lane we filed to the left, and it was plain we had to cross at Bowman's Ford. [I used to hunt squirrels and partridges all over these grounds, but now I was bunting men, and found game plentiful.] In this lane we halted for the men to close up. As soon as this was accomplished we hurried to the river and waded through, without considering the disagreeable wetting to be endured.
The cavalry had crossed and captured the pickets. Gordon's men followed and soon struck the extreme left and rear of Sheridan's line. It was a complete surprise. Men were captured in bed, not knowing we were nearer than Fisher's Hill. Gordon's and Ramseur's divisions were in front, and ours in reserve. These two divisions drove every thing before them, and while this was being done Gen. Early had worked his way close up to the enemy in front, and at daylight he struck a terrible blow, driving them back upon us only to be pressed out of shape, a broken, routed army. On they rushed to Belle Grove, three miles, where they were in readiness with a fresh division to meet us. Upon these fresh troops many stragglers had rallied. Our division was ordered forward, and in a few minutes were hotly engaged. Driving the skirmish line in, we struck the line of battle, and as we got closer found a heavy battery on our left doing much damage. Our brigade, commanded by Col. Hoffman, bore to the left and charged, driving the artillerymen from their guns and the support back. Here, to my surprise, we were halted and ordered to reform. Col. Hoffman could not see well, or he would not have stopped at this point, so I called him as he was passing, on horse back, and pointed out our danger, but he still insisted upon reforming before making a second charge. Seeing the enemy advancing upon their battery, which would be turned on us again, I urged Col. H. to allow me to move with a few men and hold the battery. To this he consented, and with about fifty men we charged across the river, captured the five guns, turned them on the enemy, and held them until Col. H. came to our assistance. Gen. Pegram came up at this time and Col. H. told him of our charge, and the General said he would have those guns christened to my honor, but Sheridan objected, and in the afternoon the battery was recaptured.
I was a member of the 13th Virginia Infantry, organized by Gen. A. P. Hill, molded by the bravest of the brave, Gen. James a Walker, and made invincible by the courage and example of Col. James B. Terrell. No command could boast of three such officers, hence the reputation it gained. For an opinion of this gallant body of men I refer my reader to an oration by Gen. Walker at the unveiling of the A. P. Hill monument at Richmond. From this charge we gathered solidity and moved on, driving the enemy into and through Middleton. Here we were halted over night upon Valley Pike, north of the town and at the toll gate. We remained at this point all day waiting for orders to move forward. A great victory had been won only to be thrown away not lost, as many suppose, and as history claims, by the return of Sheridan not one bit of it. The fault lies at our own door. Our men, feeling victory was complete, gave way to the disposition to clothe themselves from the enemy's camp, deserted their comrades. Fully one third of our army could have been found away from their commands, and by so doing sacrificing their country. Comrade, was you of this number? If so, you caused the disaster, not Sheridan. Shame, shame! Had every man been at his post we would not have lost this battle, and none of the poetry of Sheridan's ride would ever have been written. We held our position until ordered back, and we (Pegram's brigade, commanded by Pegram in person, also Johnson's North Carolina brigade) marched in line of battle from Middleton to Cedar Creek, where we had to break to cross the bridge. At Stickley's, south of the bridge, Gen. Pegram rallied about 100 men) and we again checked the enemy's cavalry, but soon a brigade charged us, and we made the best retreat we could. Knowing the country thoroughly, I went to the mountain and got into camp at Fisher's Hill by 10 o'clock that night, taking a pretty good regiment of men with me who were lost in the stampede. Most. of our artillery was lost near Strasburg, occasioned by the breaking of a small bridge, and could have been saved had any one in authority known of it. In my retreat that night I met with an officer whom I piloted to the river, where we both jumped in, and where the Colonel disappeared, either killed, drowned or taken prisoner. If he is alive and sees this article I would like to hear from him. We retreated up the Valley next morning. My mother and sisters went over the battle field next day expecting to find my dead body, but I was very much alive, in a foot race for safety further South. Gen. Gordon did some beautiful fighting at Cedar Creek, but when he is accredited with planning the battle I feel it is an error. It was Gen. Early's plan, and it bore his ear marks daring in the extreme fully in keeping with the man and all of his movements in front of Sheridan. Suppose Early had had as many men as Sheridan, does any sane man for one moment believe the Valley of Virginia would have fallen into the hands of the enemy? Never! Many good soldiers criticise Gen. Early, but one moment's reflection should change their harsh judgment to praise and admiration. For weeks he confronted Sheridan's hosts with a mere handful of men, knowing all the time how he was outnumbered. His duty was to keep Sheridan from sending troops to Grant, and he did this, but not until 40,000 marched upon 10,000 could Early be shaken off. Gen. Lee's letter to him removing him is a deserved compliment. Early was the only man in the army who would have dared to have taken such chances. He sacrificed himself for his country, and in future years will be regarded as one of our ablest Generals.
Sheridan's loss, according to Maj. Pound's History of the Valley Campaign, in this battle, was 569 killed, 3,425 wounded, and 1,770 missing, total, 5,764. Our loss was 3,100 killed, wounded and missing.
J. T. Lyon, of Forty third Battalion of Virginia Cavalry, writes again : Farmwell, Va., Feb. 2. In my article published in the January VETERAN there is a mistake. It should have been Ramseur's division, not Ransom's. He too was killed at Cedar Creek, when General Gordon made that Jacksonian move, surprising Sheridan's army, routing and driving them in great confusion toward Winchester. Early's troops, instead of following up their victory, fell out of ranks to plunder the yankee camp. Sheridan promptly reformed his troops and returned the same day and defeated Early, and caused him to lose all he had gained and more too. But if ever soldiers were excusable for such conduct Early's poor half famished men surely were. They had been marching and fighting from the first of May, at the Wilderness, at Cold Harbor, at Lynchburg, at Salem, West Va., and then to Washington and return. It is estimated that from June to September Early had marched his little army over four hundred miles.
Hatchers Run - February 6, 1865
On February 5th Pegram’s division was deployed to support the picket line as a response to a Union advance at Hatcher’s Run near Petersburg. The next morning the regiment was deployed in two wings as skirmishers. The infantrymen dug half circles of dirt, big enough to protect three men. Just as this job was finished the Federals attacked. Captain Buck, who was in charge of the right wing, found his job difficult as a log house fifty yards behind his invited sulkers, so occasionally he had to go back a drive them forward, while at the same time attempting to hold the line. The Federals, however, finally worked their way around and to the rear of the 13th, which had to withdraw. The Regiment rallied and joined the rest of the Brigade. Later in the day the gray coats attacked and recovered some ground. The Federals then extended their trenches and on the night of the 7th the Confederates had to withdraw to their former position.
Although the action did not sound of much, the price the small regiment had to pay was high: 3 killed, 12 wounded; and 10 taken prisoners of which 2 later died.
Fort Steadman - March 25, 1865
The situation was desperate for the Confederate army. The only good news was that the regiment had been reunited with it’s former commander of the Regiment, James A. Walker, who had taken over Early’s division after Pegram’s death at Hatcher’s Run. The regiment was now located on the confederate left near Fort Stedman.
As a last desperate measure to dislodge the Union from the Petersburg line, General Robert E. Lee decided to attack on his left in the hope of severing the Union forces below Petersburg from their supply depot at City Point on the James River as well as to ease the situation on the Confederate right.
General Gordon, corps commander, prepared several divisions including Walker’s, to attack. A party of men with axes was designated to clear obstructions around Fort Stedman, from whence the Confederates hoped to penetrate the Union line.
Around 4 a.m. the signal shot sounded to begin the assault. The 13th and 49th Virginia led the division in the attack. The men had been ordered to be silent until reaching the Union line. The surprise was complete and Fort Stedman quickly fell to the gray coats. The Union response, however, was fast with reinforcements quickly assembling around the confederate break-through, while the confederate reserves was too few. Thus greatly outnumbered, the confederates soon found them in a precarious situation and withdrawal orders was given. It was 8 am and by now the open ground between the Fort and the Confederate lines was a treacherous route with deadly crossfire. Rather than facing this gauntlet some opted to surrender, while others with determination pulled back towards own lines. General Walker was among the last to return.
Another 17 casualties: 5 killed, 8 wounded and 4 prisoners, was registered on the Regimental Roster, which had showed that 120 men was present before the attack of Fort Stedman.
Appomattox - April 9, 1865
The regiment was among the last soldiers of General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, that saw action. On April 9th General Gordon tried to punch a hole in the encircling Union line. The 13th was positioned south of Appomattox Court House and suffered three casualties: 2 wounded and 1 taken prisoner. The breakthrough had failed and the Army of Northern Virginia had to surrender.
When arms were stacked at the formal surrender on April 12th, Captain Cullens regiment surrendered with 63 men.
The History of the 13th Virginia Infantry Regiments starts officially on May 9th 1861, when the Regiment was organized into Virginia state service at Harpers Ferry. At the time the state of Virginia included what is now known as the state of West Virginia, which later was to have some effect on the Regiment in 1863, when the western part of Virginia was accepted into the Union as West Virginia. On July 1st 1861 the Regiment was accepted into Confederate service.
The Regiment was composed of companies from neighboring counties, as was all Virginia Regiments if possible. The companies of the 13th came from the north central and northwestern regions of Virginia. Orange County provided companies A, C, and F. From adjoining Culpeper County came companies B and E. Neighboring Winchester County furnished company H and Louisa County came with company D. Hampshire County provided two companies I and K. Company G was raised by Southern sympathizers in Maryland.
The original Companies B and E did not serve throughout the war, but was mustered out in November 1861 and January 1862, due to their period of service had expired. In March 1862 two new companies B and E was formed in Culpeper County and mustered into the Regiment.
Company G was dismissed in 1862 as a result of the Conscription Act, because the members was nonresidents of the Confederate States being Marylanders.
Regimental organization and strength
A standard regiment consisted of 10 companies of about 100 men each.
Each Company consisted of line officers, non-commissioned officers (Sergeants and Corporals) and the soldiers (Privates). The commanding Officer of a Company was a Captain, with two other officers to assist him: a 1st Lieutenant and a 2nd Lieutenant.
In addition to the companies came the field officers and staff, i.e. Colonel (the Commanding Officer of the Regiment), Lieutenant Colonel (Second in Command), Major, Adjutant, Quartermaster, Chaplain, Surgeon or Assistant Surgeon, Sergeant Major, Ordnance Sergeant, Quartermaster Sergeant, Hospital Stewards, Musicians etc.
All of this amounted to a little over a 1000 men, if the Regiment was up to full strength, which allmost never was the case in either the Confederate or the Union Armies. In fact after the first serious battle, all regiments would never again reach the orginal strength for the rest of the war.
The 13th Virginia never put a 1000 men in the field. The highest number was 550, which was the regimental strength from the time of acceptance into Virginia state service (May 1861) and untill shortly after the first major battle at 1st Manassas (July 1861). Upon entering the battle of Gaines Mill of the Peninsular Campaign the number was down to 250. During this battle the 13th alone suffered a further 111 casualties. At the time of the battles of Sharpsburg and Gettysburg the regiment was down to an all time low of around 90 men.
The Confederate Army asked in February 1864 its soldiers to re-enlist for the remainder of the war. The Roster after the re-enlistment showed 314 men. This number, however, only lasted for a couple of months. After the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Campaigns the Roster again showed around 100 men, which was the average strength of the 13th for the rest of the war. The Regiment was present at Appomattox with 63 men.