Report of Maj. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, C. S. Army, commanding Third Division, of the Battle of Cross Keys
HDQRS. THIRD DIV., VALLEY DIST., June 16, 1862.
Maj. R. L. DABNEY, Asst. Adjt. Gen., Valley District.
MAJOR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the action of the 8th instant at Cross Keys between the division commanded by me and the forces under Major-General Fremont:
I was ordered on the 7th by the general commanding to occupy the advance, and my division encamped for that night near Union Church. The enemy made a reconnaissance in the afternoon, and going forward I found General Elzey drawing up his own and General Taylor's brigades in position. I at once determined to meet the enemy on the ground selected by General Elzey.
On the morning of the 8th the enemy advanced, driving in the Fifteenth Alabama, Colonel Cantey, from their post on picket. The regiment made a gallant resistance, enabling me to take position at leisure. The campfires left by the regiment-- no tents or anything else-- were the camps from which the enemy report to have driven us. At this time I had present Elzey's, Trimble's, and Steuart's brigades, short of 5,000 men, Taylor's having been ordered to Port Republic. The general features of the ground were a valley and rivulet in my front, woods on both flanks, and a field of some hundreds of acres where the road crossed the center of my line, my side of the valley being more defined and commanding the other. General Trimble's brigade was posted a little in advance of my center on the right, General Elzey in rear of the center, and General Steuart on the left; the artillery was in the center. Both wings were in woods. The center was weak, having open ground in front, where the enemy was not expected. General Elzey was in position to strengthen either wing.
About 10 o'clock the enemy felt along my front with skirmishers, and shortly after posted his artillery, chiefly opposite mine. He advanced under cover on General Trimble with a force, according to his own statement, of two brigades, which were repulsed with such signal loss that they did not make another determined effort. General Trimble had been re-enforced by the Thirteenth and Twenty-fifth Virginia Regiments, Colonel Walker and Lieutenant-Colonel Duffy, of General Elzey's brigade. These regiments assisted in the repulse of the enemy. General Trimble in turn advanced and drove the enemy more than a mile, and remained on his flank ready to make the final attack.
General Taylor, with the Eighth Brigade, composed of Louisiana troops, reported about 2 p.m., and was placed in rear. Colonel Patton, with the Forty-second and Forty-eighth Regiments and Irish Battalion, Virginia Volunteers, also joined, and with the remainder of General Elzey's brigade was added to the center and left, then threatened. I did not push my successes at once, because I had no cavalry, and it was reported, and reaffirmed by Lieutenant Hinrichs, topographical engineer, sent to reconnoiter, that the enemy was moving a large column 2 miles to my left. As soon as I could determine this not to be an attack I advanced both my wings, drove in the enemy's skirmishers, and when night closed was in position on the ground previously held by the enemy, ready to attack him at dawn.
My troops were recalled to join in the attack at Port Republic. The enemy's attack was decided by 4 p.m., it being principally directed against General Trimble, and, though from their own statement they outnumbered us on that flank two to one, it had signally failed. General Trimble's command, including the two regiments on his right, under Colonel Walker, is entitled to the highest praise for the gallant manner in which it repulsed the enemy's main attack. His brigade captured one of their colors.
As before mentioned, the credit of selecting the position is due to General Elzey. I availed myself frequently during the action of that officer's counsel, profiting largely by his known military skill and judgment. He was much exposed. His horse was wounded early in the action, and at a later period of the day was killed by a rifle-ball, which, at the same time, inflicted upon the rider a wound that forced him to retire from the field. He was more particularly employed in the center, directing the artillery. General George H. Steuart was severely wounded, after rendering valuable aid in command of the left.
I had Courtney's, Brockenbrough's, Raine's, and Lusk's batteries. The enemy testifies to the efficiency of their fire. Captain Courtney opened the fight, and was for hours exposed to a terrible storm of shot and shell. He and Captain Brockenbrough have been under my observation since the campaign opened, and I can testify to their efficiency on this as on former occasions. The loss in all the batteries shows the warmth of the fire. I was well satisfied with them all.
The history of the Maryland regiment, gallantly commanded by Col. Bradley T. Johnson, during the campaign of the valley, would be the history of every action from Front Royal to Cross Keys.
On the 6th instant, near Harrisonburg, the Fifty-eighth Virginia Regiment was engaged with the Pennsylvania Bucktails, the fighting being close and bloody. Colonel Johnson came up with his regiment in the hottest period of the affair, and by a dashing charge in flank drove the enemy off with heavy loss, capturing the lieutenant-colonel (Kane) commanding. In commemoration of their gallant conduct I ordered one of the captured bucktails to be appended as a trophy to their flag.
The gallantry of the regiment on this occasion is worthy of acknowledgment from a higher source, more particularly as they avenged the death of the gallant General Ashby, who fell at the same time. Two color-bearers were shot down in succession, but each time the colors were caught before reaching the ground, and were finally borne by Corporal Shanks to the close of the action.
On the 8th instant, at Cross Keys, they were opposed to three of the enemy's regiments in succession.
My staff at Cross Keys consisted of Lieut. Col. J. M. Jones and Maj. James Barbour, Adjutant-General's Department; Lieuts. G. Campbell Brown and T. T. Turner, aides, and Capt. Hugh M. Nelson, volunteer aide. These officers were much exposed during the day, and were worked hard over an extensive field. Their services were valuable, and were rendered with zeal and ability. Lieutenant Brown was painfully wounded by a fragment of shell toward the close of the fight.
I append a list of casualties, showing 42 killed, and 287 killed, wounded, and missing. I buried my dead and brought off all the wounded except a few, whose mortal agonies would have been uselessly increased by any change of position.
Some of the enemy's wounded were brought off and arrangements made for moving them all, when I was ordered to another field. There are good reasons for estimating their loss at not less than 2,000 in killed, wounded, and prisoners. On one part of the field they buried 101 at one spot, 15 at another, and a house containing some of their dead was said to have been burned by them, and this only a part of what they lost. They were chiefly of Blenker's division, notorious for months on account of their thefts and dastardly insults to women and children in that part of the State under Federal domination.
The order of march of General Fremont was found on a staff officer left in our hands. It shows seven brigades of infantry, besides numerous cavalry. I had three small brigades during the greater part of the action, and no cavalry at any time. They made no bayonet charge, nor did they commit any particular ravages with grape or canister, although they state otherwise. Colonel Mercer and the Twenty-first Georgia tried to close with them three times, partly succeeding in overtaking them once. That officer is represented to have handled his regiment with great skill, and, with the Sixteenth Mississippi, Colonel Posey, was the closest engaged.
Brigadier-General Trimble, Seventh Brigade, had the brunt of the action, and is entitled to most thanks. Col. Bradley T. Johnson (First Maryland), Col. Carnot Posey (Sixteenth Mississippi), Col. J. T. Mercer (Twenty-first Georgia), Captain Courtney (of the Courtney Battery) are officers who were enabled to render highly valuable service.
I regret that I cannot go more into details of those lower in rank, whose gallant services are recompensed by the esteem of their comrades and their own self-approval; after all, the highest and most enduring record.
I inclose a copy of General Fremont's order of march on the day of battle, and detailed reports of the killed and wounded, names and regiments of the officers killed and wounded, and tabular statements of the same according to regiments; also the official report of Col. J. A. Walker, commanding the Fourth Brigade.
R. S. EWELL,