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23rd Virginia Infantry
Report of The Battle of Kernstown
Colonel Samuel V. Fulkerson, commanding Fourth Brigade
At the Battle of Kernstown, March 23, 1862, the 23rd
Virginia Infantry was part of the Fourth Brigade commanded by Col.
Samuel Fulkerson. Fulkerson's report includes the action east of Middle
Road and Sandy Ridge as well as his description of the fight for the
stone wall on the Glass Farm. He mentions being in column of divisions.
Colonel A. C. Cummings, 33rd Virginia Infantry confirms the same for his
regiment as it followed Fulkerson in the open ground east of Sandy
Ridge. Those excerpts are included as well.
SIR: On the night
of the 22nd instant, while in camp, near Strasburg, I received an order
from the major-general commanding to have my baggage packed and move my
command, consisting of the Thirty-seventh Virginia Volunteers, commanded
by Lieutenant Colonel R. P. Carson; the Twenty-third Virginia
Volunteers, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel A. G. Taliaferro, and the
Danville Artillery, commanded by Lieutenant A. C. Lanier, at dawn on the
following morning on the road toward Winchester.
marched off and proceeded about 10 miles, when I was filed off from the
road to the left about one-half mile and placed in a piece of woods. I
was then ordered to take my infantry force and scour a body of woods
standing still farther to the left and extending parallel with the road
leading to Winchester. I threw forward skirmishers and proceeded through
the woods, followed by the Second Virginia Volunteers, Colonel Allen.
When I reached the open land, and finding no enemy in the woods, I
reported to the major-general commanding, when he rode forward and
ordered me to turn a battery of the enemy, which had opened fire upon us
from a commanding hill across the fields in my front, and at the same
time he informed me that I would be supported by General Garnett.
I threw my command
into column by division at full distance, the Thirty-seventh in front,
and, after tearing down a portion of a plank fence, entered the fields
directly in front of the enemy's position, from which he instantly
opened a galling fire upon us. After going in that direction for some
distance I turned a little to the left, which brought the right flank of
my command next to the enemy's position. The ground at this point being
marshy and several fences interposing, the advance was a good deal
retarded but steady, the enemy all the while throwing shell and shot
into the column with great rapidity.
On the enemy's
right and near his position stood a small cluster of trees. I thought
that if I could so direct my course as to place that grove between me
and the enemy's guns I would be protected from his fire. But so soon as
I had reached the desired point a battery placed in the open ground
beyond the trees opened a terrible fire upon me. I then turned still
farther to the left and took shelter in a piece of woodland, into which
the enemy poured a very hot fire of shell and grape for some half an
In the mean time
the enemy threw a heavy column of infantry on the brow of the hill below
his guns, seemingly for the purpose of resisting a charge upon the
position. My advance up to this point, a distance of about half a mile,
was under a fire that might well have made veterans quail. But my
officers and men pressed steadily forward, instantly closing up when a
break was made in the column by the enemy's shot. I then moved across a
hill and took position in a hollow, where General Garnett had his
brigade sheltered, and reported my position to the major-general
commanding. At this point I was much annoyed by the enemy's shell, but
only had one man wounded by it.
In a short time
the Twenty-seventh Virginia Volunteers (Colonel Echols) moved forward as
skirmishers and soon engaged the enemy, when I instantly put my command
in line under cover of some timber and moved forward across a field
under a most destructive fire of musketry. I reached a stone fence,
which extended from the left flank of our forces, already engaged with
the enemy, behind which I took position, thus forming the left of our
line. On reaching the stone fence I found two regiments of the enemy a
short distance in the field beyond, which were evidently trying to get
possession of the same fence. My command at once opened a very
destructive fire, which in a short time strewed the field with the dead
and wounded of the enemy. He withstood the fire but a short time, when
he gave way and fled to the woods in his rear and to a stone fence which
joined to and ran at a right angle with the fence behind which I was.
My command had
been greatly reduced by furloughs and men on the recruiting service.
Many of my officers were also absent on recruiting service or sick. I
went into the action with 397 men in the Thirty-seventh and 160 in the
Twenty-third, making a total of 557. The artillery was not engaged.
I have to regret
the loss of several valuable officers, who were killed or wounded. In
the Thirty-seventh Lieutenant J. C. Willis was killed. Captain R. E.
Cowan and Lieutenant P. S. Hagy were, I fear, mortally wounded, and the
latter taken prisoner. Captain James Vance and Lieuts. George A. Neel
and P. S. Hagy were wounded (the latter mortally, I fear) and taken
prisoners. Captain Thomas S. Gibson and Lieutenant Charles H. C. Preston
wounded. The enemy's cavalry got in the rear and captured some
ambulances with some for my wounded.
Twenty-third Captain Walton and Lieutenants Crump and Curtis were
wounded. Captain Sergeant is missing.
Lieutenant-Colonel Taliaferro, of the Twenty-third, and
Lieutenant-Colonel Carson and Major Williams, of the Thirty-seventh, I
am especially indebted for their distinguished gallantry throughout the
SAM. V. FULKERSON,
from Lt. Col. A. Taliaferro's (commanding 23rd Virginia Infantry)
The morning report
of that day gave us only 2 captains, 6 lieutenants, 9 sergeants, and 160
men, rank and file, fit for duty, the regiment being sadly reduced by
leaves of absence to re-enlisted men. Of this number I have to report 3
killed, 14 wounded, and 32 missing.
About 3 p. m. on Sunday we came in sight of the enemy's
batteries, having marched a distance of about 40 miles from 8 o'clock
the previous morning. After remaining in a strip of woods west of the
Winchester turnpike my regiment, by the general's order, was marched by
flank about half a mile in a northwesterly direction, when it was formed
in line of battle, and advanced in line a short distance through a flat
woodland immediately in the direction of the enemy's batteries, planted
upon a commanding eminence a little west of the Winchester turnpike and
southwest of Kernstown. Here, under a heavy fire from the enemy's
battery, the regiment was formed, by the order of the general, into
column of divisions, and advanced in a north westerly direction through
an open space, when it was formed again in line, and marched by flanks,
still in the same general direction, thought the open space for about
1,000 yards, all the time within full range of the enemy's guns and
exposed to a heavy fire from their batteries. My regiment followed
immediately in rear of Colonel Fulkerson's command, defecting a little
to the west, which it was intended to support. After passing through the
open space before referred to my regiment crossed a ridge running
northeast and southwest, and afterward occupied by our artillery.
Colonel Fulkerson's command, which was in advance, formed on the north
side of the ridge. My regiment, after passing some 200 or 300 yards
along the base of the ridge, remained, somewhat sheltered by the ridge
and timber, for about an hour under a moist terrific fire of shot and
shell from the enemy's batteries (now upon our east), changing position
so as to keep within supporting distance of our artillery.