7 - Battles of Opequon Creek, or Winchester, and Fisher's Hill (Series I, Volume 43)

No 42: Report of Brig. Gen. Daniel D. Bidwell, U.S. Army, commanding Third Brigade. September 28, 1864 [Excerpt]

Sir: In obedience to orders from division headquarters, I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the Third Brigade, Second Division, Sixth Corps, in the battle at the Opequon Creek on the 19th instant:

We broke camp at 2 a.m. on the morning of the 19th and moved to the Berryville and Winchester pike, where we had the advance of the infantry column of the army. Crossing the Opequon River, and having proceeded about one mile and a half toward Winchester, we came up to the calvary line, engaging the enemy, and were ordered to take position on the left of a deep ravine and also form the extreme left of the general line. This position was taken up by the regiments in this brigade in the following order: The One hundred and twenty-second New York Volunteers were moved into a rail breast-work the calvary had thrown up and the Seventy-seventh New York Volunteers were placed fifty paces in rear, in support; the Forty-third New York Volunteers were placed on the left, in rear of the One hundred and twenty-second New York Volunteers, in echelon, the Forty-ninth New York Volunteers on their left, with their left refused and the Seventh Maine on the left of the Forty-ninth New York Volunteers, with its left still more refused and resting on Abraham's Creek, and the Sixty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers in reserve, in rear of the last three mentioned regiments. While making the dispositions the enemy opened on the brigade with a battery, which did us considerable injury. As soon as the brigade was in position a skirmish line was thrown out crossing Abraham's Creek and connecting with a dismounted calvary skirmish line. About noon I was ordered to have my skirmish line advance, connecting and guiding with the line of the First Brigade of this division, which was on our right. This was done and our line advanced about 300 yards. Shortly afterward the lines of battle were all ordered to advance, we guiding to the right. In executing this movement the regiments on the left of the One hundred and twenty-second New York Volunteers were moved so much more rapidly as to be able to conform to the direction of the general line when we had reached the most advanced point gained in this charge. The enemy making a charge on the skirmish line on the left of the creek, which charge also threatened our left, I had the Sixty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers moved to protect that flank, and some of the regiments of the brigade on our right having been thrown into confusion by advancing too rapidly and the enemy charging them, I had the Seventy-seventh New York Volunteers deployed on the right of my line, and at the same time ordered Battery M, Fifth U.S. Artillery, to take position on my right, which, opening fire, checked the advance of the enemy. In this position we remained about two hours, when we were again ordered to advance. The enemy had been pressed back on the right of our general line and retreated across our front to our left. As before, I was ordered to guide and connect with the First Brigade of this division, which in advancing kept obliquing to the right, and as the enemy were accumulating in large numbers in a piece of woods on our left, I had to throw the Forty-third New York Volunteers in the skirmish line, who extended their intervals as we advanced toward Winchester. In all this maneuvering the battery before spoken of followed us up and went into position and opened fire as each successive crest was gained. After having nearly reached Winchester the enemy all disappeared in our proper front, and the whole brigade line was formed facing to what had been our flank, the Nineteenth Corps came up and prolonged our line to the left. We were then again advanced about half a mile, but the enemy being in full retreat, and it growing dark, we were halted and bivouacked for the night. This was the close of the action before Winchester.

Herewith I send a nominal list of casualties in this engagement…

On the 20th instant we pursued the enemy and came upon them in their intrenchments at Fisher's Hill, near Strasburg, when two regiments of this brigade, the Forty-ninth and Seventy-seventh New York Volunteers, were thrown forward as skirmishers and pickets, with their left resting on the Strasburg and Winchester pike, and the remainder of the brigade went into camp for the night. About 2 p.m. the next day the skirmish line was moved forward and prolonged to the right, and this brigade moved about one mile west of the Strasburg and Winchester pike, taking position on the right of the Second Brigade and on the left of the First Brigade, and at the same time deployed the One hundred and twenty-second New York Volunteers as skirmishers in our front, who attempting to advance, found such a heavy line of the enemy in the front as to effectually resist their advancement. Shortly afterward a regiment of the Third Division charged through them, attempting to dislodge the enemy, but were repulsed, and they fell back through our lines. Just at dark the First Brigade of this division charged the enemy at this point and drove them from their position, when we took position in the woods on their left in two lines, which we intrenched during the night. The One hundred and twenty-second New York were withdrawn and two companies of the Seventh Maine were advanced as skirmishers. In this position we remained until about 4 p.m. of the 22nd instant, when we were ordered to advance and take possession of a crest immediately in front of the enemy's position, guiding on the First Division on our left. We moved forward to the crest designated and halted. In executing this maneuver we were exposed to a heavy artillery fire, and the brigade on our right, being still more exposed than we, halted in an old rifle-pit about 100 yards in rear of our front line. In this position we remained from twenty minutes to half an hour, when reports having come that the left of the enemy had been turned, and they showing uneasiness on our right, we were ordered to charge their works in our front, which had been considered by them to be impregnable. At the command "forward" the brigade started considerably in advance of the First Division and the remainder of this division, and succeeded in planting simultaneously the colors of the One hundred and twenty-second and Forth-third New York Volunteers in an earth-work of the enemy, containing four guns, which were captured, together with about 150 prisoners. Some men of the Forty-third New York Volunteers and Sixty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers turned and fired two of the guns on the retreating enemy, who fled in wild confusion, when the whole brigade started in pursuit. Arriving near the Winchester pike they found the enemy had one piece of artillery with a slight support, which they were about to open on us, when the Forty-third New York Volunteers charged and captured it, shooting the horse of the major of the First Louisiana, in command of it, capturing him, together with the colonel of the Twenty-sixth Georgia, who was at the time in command of the Georgia brigade. The brigade then followed the enemy up the pike until halted, where they remained until joined by the Forty-ninth and Seventy-seventh New York Volunteers, who had during this time been skirmishing in front of the Nineteenth Corps. Here we remained until the pursuit of the enemy was taken up by the whole army.

Annexed you will find a numerical list of casualties on this occasion…

I am, major, very respectfully, your obedient servant.

No 47: Report of Capt. David J. Taylor, Sixty-first Pennsylvania infantry. October 1, 1864

Major: In connection with the fact of our (Third) brigade capturing the rebel battery at Fisher's Hill, on September 22, 1864, I would most respectfully make the following statement:

The battery in question was directly in front of our brigade. On the right of my regiment was the Seventh Maine, and on my left, between my regiment and the First Division, [sic] and before we reached the work the Forty-third New York had formed and assaulted with us. Our (Third Brigade) line reached the work and the guns before any other troops. While still continuing our pursuit of the flying enemy, the First Brigade of our division came up in our rear and near the battery and opened fire with musketry, many of the bullets falling in our ranks, which were nearly 500 yards in advance. I hurried back and endeavored to stop the firing. I then learned that the First Brigade had placed a guard on the guns that we had captured. In my judgment the true position of the First Brigade was too far to the right to be of any use in assaulting this particular point. They must necessarily have inclined to their left very much to gain it; in doing so they would either have obliqued across our front, or come up in our rear, which they did do.

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

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