Report of Brig. Gen. William B. Taliaferro, commanding Third Brigade, of the Battle of McDowell

Valley District, Va., May 16, 1862.

        MAJOR: I have the honor, in obedience to the instructions of the major-general commanding, to make the following report of the operations of the troops under my command during the engagement with the enemy near McDowell on the 8th instant: My brigade constituted the advance of the Army of the Valley, and was held in supporting distance of General Johnson's division (Army of the Northwest), which formed the advance of the combined forces under Major-General Jackson.

        On the evening of the 8th learning that the advance was skirmishing with the enemy, I moved my brigade up to the rear of General Johnson's command, and shortly afterward received an order from the major-general commanding to move rapidly to the front to the support of that command, which was by that time hotly engaged with the enemy. My men were under a desultory fire of the enemy from the time they turned the summit of the Bull Pasture Mountain until they reached the field of battle, but pressed forward with enthusiasm and in the best order that the rocky trail through the woods and up a precipitous hill would admit of. On reaching the field I discovered that the enemy were engaging our forces (who occupied an extensive hill, or mountain spur, overlooking the village of McDowell) on the left of our position and in front; that the Twelfth Georgia Regiment was contesting with heroic gallantry the position on the left, well advanced toward the front; that the Twenty-fifth Virginia was holding the front, and I learned that the Thirty-first Virginia was holding a wooded hill across the valley to our right, which was menaced by a large force of the enemy. I at once ordered the Twenty-third Virginia (Colonel Taliaferro) to re-enforce and support the Twenty-fifth, which regiment had expended most of its ammunition, and directed Colonel Fulkerson, with his regiment (the Thrity-seventh Virginia), to move across to the wooded hill on the right, to prevent the enemy from turning our flank and to drive him from his position on the hill. As soon as the Tenth Virginia (Colonel Gibbons), which was the rear regiment, came up I ordered four companies to support the Twelfth Georgia and the remainder to the right of the Twenty-third, which position they maintained with great gallantry until I ordered them under the hill as a reserve to reenforce any position which might require support. The Twenty-third was immediately thrown forward and opened a heavy fire upon the enemy in front and on a spur of a hill to the right, and maintained the position handsomely under a terrible fire of musketry and artillery, which latter played upon my whole command from a hill beyond the turnpike, out of musket-range. 

        Colonel Fulkerson moved across, as directed, to the hill on the right with a part of his regiment, which had pressed ahead of the rest in their anxiety to get into the fight; interposed it between our troops and the enemy, who were advancing up the slope of the hill; charged and drove them precipitately before him to the base, and then returned with his command to the main field, when I directed him, with his regiment, to hold the position occupied by the Twenty-third, which I sent to the support of the Georgians. 

        At this time I moved the Tenth Virginia farther to our right, to prevent any attempt of an advance of the enemy up the valley between the two hills occupied by our troops, which the night (which was rapidly approaching) might render practicable. The troops of my command maintained this position until the close of the fight, which was protracted until after 9 o'clock at night, when the enemy's fire entirely ceased. Knowing that General Johnson, who was near me, had been wounded, I at once, as senior officer in the front, made dispositions for holding the hill during the night and resting our troops. I stationed the several regiments under cover of the declivities and ravines; threw out pickets and skirmishers, and gave orders for the removal of our dead and such of the wounded as had not been carried off the field, and had the arms of our dead and wounded and those that the enemy had left on the field collected. 

        Soon after this the enemy kindled extensive camp fires beyond the river, and their artillery was heard moving off toward their rear. At 11 o'clock General Jackson ordered me to march my command back to the wagons for rest and refreshments. 

        I have confined myself in this report to the operations of my own command, and referred to no other except that part of General Johnson's which I supported, viz, the brigade commanded by Colonel Conner. 

        In conclusion, I desire to bear testimony to the gallantry of the officers  and men of my brigade. They fought well under a most severe fire. 

        To Colonels Fulkerson (Thirty-seventh) and Taliaferro (Twenty-third), who had his horse shot under him, Lieutenant-Colonels Warren (commanding the Tenth) and Curtis (Twenty-third), and Majors Williams (Thirty-seventh) and Walker (Tenth) my thanks are due for the gallantry they displayed and the coolness with which they directed the movements and fire of their men. 

        I refer to the reports of the colonels for particular notice of the conduct of the officers and men of their respective regiments, and I desire particularly to notice the efficient services rendered me on the field by my adjutant-general (W. B. Pendleton) and my aide-de-camp (First Lieut. Philip A. Taliaferro), both of the Provisional Army. 

        It pains me to add that some of my best officers were killed and wounded. Colonel Gibbons, of the Tenth, fell early in the action while leading and gloriously cheering his men to the fight. No braver or better soldier or nobler or more Christian gentleman has offered up his life a sacrifice to our holy cause during this struggle for our liberties. 

        Lieutenants Gregory (Twenty-third) and Dye and Fletcher (Thirty-seventh) paid the last tribute of the loftiest and holiest patriotism by yielding up their lives in the bloom of manhood upon their invaded country's battle-field. 

        Captain Terry (Thirty-seventh) especially noticed for his gallantry; Captains Saunders and Williams (Twenty-third), Lieutenants Crawford and Myers (Tenth), Southall, Payne, and Garland (Twenty-third), and Wilhelm and Key (Thirty-seventh) were wounded, and deserve especial notice for their good conduct. 

        I inclose an official list of the killed and wounded of this brigade, amounting, in the aggregate, to 107 officers and men.

        I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

        WM. B. TALIAFERRO, 
        Commanding Third Brigade.

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

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

 William B. Taliaferro's Biography