Report of Brig. Gen. Edward Johnson, C.S. Army, Commanding Army of the Northwest, of the Battle of McDowell 

STAUNTON, Va., May 17, 1862.


        MAJOR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the battle of McDowell, which took place between the forces of General Milroy, on the part of the Federals, and a portion of General Jackson's forces, under my immediate command, on the afternoon of May 8: 

        Early in the day, being in advance with my own brigade, I reached Setlington's Hill, fronting McDowell and to the left of the pike, about 1Ѕ or 2 miles distant. The troops having been halted upon the top of the Bull Pasture Mountain, about 2 miles back, with a party of 30 men and several officers I reconnoitered the enemy's position in the valley of McDowell and also in my immediate vicinity, and found one or two regiments posted on the right on a high hill and commanding the position on which I was, but at very long distance. I saw the enemy in McDowell posted in various positions, but such as could be commanded by artillery.

        The enemy soon threw out small skirmishing parties, which were engaged by our men and driven in. I then sent back for re-enforcements or some portion of my brigade. The Fifty-second Virginia Regiment first came up, and I posted it on the extreme left of the hill as skirmishers, and it was not long before they entered upon a brisk skirmish with the enemy, repelling them and driving them off handsomely.

        Soon after the Forty-fourth and Fifty-eighth Virginia and Twelfth Georgia Regiments came up and were posted as follows, viz: The Twelfth Georgia on the crest of the hill fronting the main body of the enemy, the Fifty-eighth and Fifty-second on the left, and the Forty-fourth on the right, near a ravine. A very heavy fire was opened on the right between 4.30 and 5 p.m., at which time I was making a reconnaissance on the hill on the right of the position of the Forty-fourth. I immediately repaired to the field, and a very sharp fight continued for some time, when the Twenty-fifth and Thirty-first Virginia Regiments coming up I posted them on the right, when the fight became very terrific, my men holding the line upon the crest of the hill and driving back the enemy with great loss.

        At this time General Taliaferro's brigade came up. The Twenty-third and Thirty-seventh Virginia Regiments were advanced to support the center of our line, which was occupied by the Twelfth Georgia Regiment, with the most heroic gallantry. The Tenth Virginia Regiment was ordered to support the Fifty-second, which, having driven the enemy from the left, was advanced to make a flank movement upon him.

        At this time the enemy advanced a strong column on the extreme right, with a view of flanking our position. General Taliaferro's brigade, with the Twelfth Georgia Regiment, met this movement of the enemy principally. To defeat it, however, I ordered several companies of the Twenty-fifth and Thirty-first Regiments to a position in the elevated woods on the right and rear of our position, but commanding the position of the enemy.
Colonel Campbell's brigade coming up about this time was, together with the Tenth Virginia Regiment, ordered down the ridge in the woods to prevent a flank movement of the enemy, which they effectually did.

        The battle raged with terrific violence from about 4.30 to 8.30 p.m., the enemy all the time playing upon us with their artillery.

        In all the attempts of the enemy to advance up the hill they were repulsed by the gallantry of our men with very great slaughter.

        After dark the fire somewhat ceased. The enemy withdrew from the field with haste, leaving their dead unburied, burned his stores at McDowell, destroyed large quantities of ammunition, camp equipage, &c., and precipitately retreated in the direction of Franklin.
In consequence of a wound received by me in the leg I had no part in the affair after 8 p.m. Our victory was complete. From information received the loss of the enemy was between 500 and 1,000 killed and wounded. Large numbers of their dead were piled in various places; some in churches and other houses, and some are reported to have been burned up in the house which contained their commissary stores.

        Being compelled to leave the field in consequence of my wound, and not having received brigade and regimental reports, I have no certain data of my loss, but I do not believe it to exceed 60 killed and 200 wounded. 

        The brigade commanders and the regiments generally behaved with remarkable coolness and courage. The following-named officers, commanding brigades and regiments, I would mention as having behaved most gallantly, viz: General Taliaferro, Colonel Conner, Twelfth Georgia Regiment; Colonel Scott, Forty-fourth Virginia Regiment; Colonel Campbell, Forty-eighth Virginia Regiment; Colonel Harman, Fifty-second Virginia Regiment; Lieutenant-Colonel Board, Fifty-eighth Virginia Regiment; Major Hawkins, Twelfth Georgia Regiment; Colonel Smith, Twenty-fifth Virginia Regiment; Lieutenant-Colonel Jackson, Thirty-first Virginia Regiment; Colonel Taliaferro, Twenty-third Virginia Regiment; Colonel Fulkerson, Thirty-seventh Virginia Regiment; Colonel Gibbons, Tenth Virginia Regiment, and Colonel Hoffman, Thirty-first Virginia Regiment, who, though sick, repaired to the field during the engagement and assumed the command of his regiment.

        Colonel Gibbons, of the Tenth Virginia Regiment, fell while leading his regiment into the fight. Colonel Harman, of the Fifty-second Virginia Regiment, was wounded early in the engagement, but did not leave the field. Colonel Smith and Major Higginbotham, of the Twenty-fifth Virginia Regiment, were wounded. 

        To my medical staff I am greatly indebted for the efficiency they displayed, particularly to Surg. R. W. Lunday, medical director Of my forces, for his zeal and activity in making preparation for the removal of the wounded from the field and attention to them afterward ;and to Assistant Surgeons Opie and Etheridge, whose coolness and efficiency on the field attracted my attention, and the latter of whom was severely wounded. 

        Lieut. Col. Abner Smead, my assistant adjutant-general, and Col. W. H. Harman, my aide-de-camp, behaved most gallantly throughout the action, affording me great assistance in rallying the men and conveying orders. 

        Lieut. Ed. Willis, one of my aides, I had placed in charge of my artillery on that day, and he, consequently, was not in the engagement. 

        Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

        E. JOHNSON, 
        Brigadier-General

        Maj. R. L. DABNEY, 
        Assistant Adjutant-General.

        Source: O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME 15 [S# 15]

Edward Johnson's Biography

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