Report of Col. Turner Ashby, Seventh Virginia Cavalry, of the Battle of Kernstown, Va., March 23, 1862
CAMP NEAR WOODSTOCK, VA., March 26, 1862.
DEAR SIR: In reporting the part performed by troops under my command in the engagement of Sunday, the 23d, it is proper to state that four companies of cavalry, under Maj. O. R. Funsten, were, by your order, sent by me to the extreme left of your line, and acted under your orders directly.
Having followed the enemy in his hasty retreat from Strasburg on Saturday evening, I came upon the forces remaining in Winchester within a mile of that place and became satisfied that he had but four regiments, and learned that they had orders to march in the direction of Harper's Ferry.
On Sunday morning I moved my force of cavalry, battery of three guns, and four companies of infantry, under Captain Nadenbousch, to Kernstown, where, after firing a few shots and pressing in the direction of Winchester with cavalry, I learned that the enemy was increasing his force and intended making a stand. He had thrown skirmishers out to threaten my guns, when I ordered Captain Nadenbousch to protect them against him, which he did by driving him from his place in the woods most gallantly; and it was with extreme regret that I found it necessary to order him to fall back, which I did, owing to the enemy's getting in position upon my left with artillery and infantry, to command the position taken by Captain Nadenbousch.
Accompanying this you will find Captain Nadenbousch's report. Upon falling back, which I did for one-fourth of a mile, I received your order to prepare for an advance, and learned that your force had arrived. My orders being to threaten the front and right, I placed two guns to bear upon the front and one upon his left, where I kept up an incessant fire with some visible effect, gaining ground upon him, when I ordered a charge upon his extreme left, where I drove their advance upon the main line, losing 1 lieutenant (Thaddeus Thrasher) killed and 6 privates wounded. We, however, took 6 or 7 prisoners.
The loss of Lieutenant Thrasher is a great one to his company and regiment, as his boldness and efficiency had made their mark in the regiment.
One man was taken prisoner upon the left of Captain Turner's company, having been thrown from his horse and ordered to the rear.
When the firing ceased at twilight I ordered my guns back to the rear and the cavalry to cover the flank of Colonel Burks' command, coming out in the turnpike, and after they had passed remained at Bartonsville with my companies until 2 o'clock on Monday morning, when the enemy again advanced cautiously.
Colonel, Commanding Cavalry.
HDQRS. VALLEY DISTRICT, April 7, 1862.
Colonel Ashby will please state the number of men engaged on March 23.
By order of Major-General Jackson:
A. S. PENDLETON,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General
Owing to the arduous duties imposed upon my cavalry companies up to the time that the enemy left Strasburg upon his retreat to Winchester I started in pursuit with one company (Captain Sheetz's), with orders for Captains Bowen and Turner to come on during the night (Friday). After reaching Newtown, or on the way there, I dispatched an order for all of the companies to come up. When I sent Captains Bowen and George W. Myers to Clarke County I left Captains Shands and Harper upon the back road. I proceeded with such of Captains Turner's and Sheetz's companies as were fit for duty toward Winchester, Captains Henderson and Marshall coming up while I was skirmishing with them and Captain Baylor being on the Front Reval road.
These companies having had insufficient forage and rest for one week or more, reduced their number in the fight of the 23d to not more than 150 upon the right with me, and I am informed by Major Funsten that he had but 140 men.
I feel that an explanation is due for my ranks being so small; but when I assure you of the poor condition of my men and horses, and not expecting a fight until next day, will explain the absence of so many.
Source: O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME 15 [S# 15]