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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.
 
Report of Colonel Samuel V. Fulkerson, Thirty-seventh Virginia Infantry, commanding Fourth Brigade.

 
 
HDQRS. BRIGADE, ARMY OF THE NORTHWEST,
Camp near Mount Jackson, Va., March 26, 1862.
 

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.
 

Accordingly I 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 hour.
 

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.
I immediately detached a portion of the Thirty-seventh and placed them in position at the junction of the two stone fences for the purpose of dislodging that portion of the enemy which had taken shelter behind one of them. This was soon effected, and the enemy driven entirely from the left flank of our line. He left one stand of colors upon the field.
In a short time the right wing of our line gave way, it being nearly night, and the enemy advancing to the position just left by our right wing, thus placing himself on my right flank, threatening my rear, I ordered my command to fall back to the next piece of woods. Some stone fences and a mill-pond produced some confusion and separated a few of my men from their regiment, and on the opposite side of the pond a few were captured by the enemy's cavalry. I rallied the remainder in the woods, intending to render such assistance as I could to Colonel Burks, who was now engaged with the enemy. But it being dusk and the firing having ceased, and seeing Colonel Burks retiring through and adjoining field, I proceeded to my encampment, near Newtown.
 

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.
 

In the Twenty-third Captain Walton and Lieutenants Crump and Curtis were wounded. Captain Sergeant is missing.
My whole loss is as follows: In the Thirty-seventh, 12 killed, 62 wounded, and 39 missing; total loss in Thirty-seventh, 113. In the Twenty-third, 3 killed, 14 wounded, and 32 missing; total, 49. Aggregate in both, 162.
I cannot speak in suitable terms of the brave conduct of my officers and men, and where all acted so well it would be unjust to discriminate.
 

To 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 contest.
My adjutant, William S. Rice, exhibited great courage and coolness in executing my orders.
Surgeon Daily and Assistant Surgeon Dennis, of the Twenty-third, deserve great praise for their attention to the wounded under the hot test fire.
Appended I transmit a list of the killed, wounded, and missing.
 

Respectfully,
 

SAM. V. FULKERSON,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.
Lieutenant A. S. PENDLETON,
 

This excerpt from Lt. Col. A. Taliaferro's (commanding 23rd Virginia Infantry) report:
 

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.
 
From Colonel A. C. Cummings, 33rd Virginia Infantry:
 

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.
 

 

END