Battle of Fisher’s Hill

After Action Report

(Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Vol. 43, pages 369-371, 389-391)

Tenth West Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment,
3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division

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Report of Col. Thomas M. Harris, Tenth West Virginia Infantry, commanding Third Brigade, of operations September 22.

Harrisonburg, VA.,
September 28, 1864.

LIEUTENANT: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the Third Brigade, First Division, Army of West Virginia, in the action at Fisher’s Hill, on the 22d instant: The Third Brigade (consisting of the Tenth West Virginia, Maj. H. H. Withers; Eleventh West Virginia, Lient. Col. Van H. Bukey; Fifteenth West Virginia, Maj. J. W. Holliday; Fifty-fourth Pennsylvania, Maj. E. D. Yutzy, and Twenty-third Illinois, Capt S. A. Simison) numbered on that occasion 1,485 officers and men for duty. The First Division on that day was formed on the left of the Second and the Third Brigade on the left of the First. The Second being absent, my position was thus on the left of our lines. The command being formed in two lines, the aggressive movement was initiated by a detour of two or three miles through woods and ravines to gain a position in the dense woods on the side of North Mountain, on the flank of the enemy’s works, unobserved by him. Just before reaching the desired point a portion of our lines became exposed to his view in passing across a narrow strip of open ground, and was at once opened upon by his artillery with some effect. We were still moving by the flank, and pressed rapidly forward until our right rested nearly in rear of his works, when we came at once to a front and charged rapidly down the side of the mountain. The charge was made in gallant style, accompanied by deafening cheers and a rapid discharge of musketry at the onset. So sudden, unexpected, and demonstrative was this charge, and so fairly directed against the enemy’s flank, that he was at once stricken with terror, and that portion of his infantry stationed on his left and near to us fled at the first discharge of arms and cheer from our men, and by their confused and rapid flight carried panic and consternation with them as they went. Our rapidly advancing lines became constantly more and more confused by the men of the rear line, who were possessed of the most physical strength, courage, and activity, pressing forward into the front line; the men of my command becoming thus mingled with those of the First Brigade (Colonel Wells), and finally the officers and men of this character throughout the entire command had the advance and quickly planted our flag and had possession of the guns on the left of the enemy’s position; but without pausing or giving him time to rally or change his front, they continued to press forward in the manner above described, taking position after position and capturing guns at each, until he was finally driven in confusion from the whole of his long line of works and completely routed, our pursuit only terminating with the coming of darkness, the charge having been made after 4 p.m., and our men having passed rapidly over hill and hollow, through woods and open ground for a distance of three or four miles. During the greater portion of this time I was engaged in urging forward the more timid and weak, and driving from cover the cowardly, that I might thus maintain a reserve for the support of the brave fellows who had gone forward in the event of their being brought to a stand or meeting with a repulse. Consequently, I cannot speak from personal observation, except in general terms, of the valiant conduct of that portion of my command which was with our advance. I only know that the color-sergeant of the Tenth West Virginia claims to have been the first to plant our flag on the enemy’s works, and that he seems to be well supported in this claim by his comrades who stood by his side, and that the Twenty-third Illinois and Eleventh West Virgima brought out each a battle-flag. Many also of my officers and men from the various regiments claim to have captured guns as they advanced.

The conduct of my command, both of officers and men, was in the main very satisfactory, but that of a large portion of it, including nearly if not quite all my officers, was above all praise.

My losses in this affair were very slight, as will appear from the accompanying list of casualties, but many of the wounds are of a severe character, having been made by shells.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

T. M. HARRIS
Colonel Tenth West Virginia, Commanding Third Brigade,

Lieut. F.L. BALLARD,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, First Division.

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Report of Col. Joseph Thoburn, First West Virginia Infantry, commanding First Division, of operations September 22.

HEADQUARTERS FIRST INFANTRY DIVISION,
ARMY OF WEST VIRGINIA

October 2, 1864

CAPTAIN: I submit the following report of the part performed by the First Infantry Division at the battle of Fisher’s Hill on the 22d ultimo:

The Second Brigade of my division was still on duty at Winchester, the First and Third Brigades, commanded, respectively, by Cols. George D. Wells and T. M. Harris were with the Second Division, held in reserve during the forepart of the day. About 2 o’clock in the afternoon we were moved, under the supervision of General Crook, through woods and ravines, so as to be unobserved by the enemy, until we gained a position on the eastern slope of the Little North Mountain, upon the left of the enemy’s line of works. The First Division moved by the right flank in two lines and to the left of the Second Division – Colonel Wells’ brigade composing the first line and Colonel Harris’ the second; our lines being at right angles to that of the enemy, which extended through the open field up the mountain slope to the edge of the woods, under the cover of which our troops were moving. When the left of my line had nearly passed the left of the enemy’s line of works the order was given “by the left flank” and the whole command moved in two lines down the slope to the edge of the woods. A few minutes before this the enemy had discovered our position and had commenced shelling us from their works on the opposite hill. The command emerged from the woods yelling and firing, and found the enemy running from their works in disorder. A vigorous pursuit was at once made, each man apparently vying with the others who could shout the loudest and fire the fastest. The open field for several hundred yards down the slope was interspersed with little clusters of field pines and briars, making serious obstacles to the advance of regular lines, and by the time the division had reached the foot of the hill the lines were completely broken, and, as at the battle of Winchester, both brigades were merged into one large body of advancing soldiers, the bolder and stouter men being nearer the front, and the rear pushing eagerly forward and shouting and hurrahing and firing after the fast receding foe. The pursuit was kept up without orders, and on the second hill we came to a pretty strong line of works that were extended rearward to the right to protect the enemy’s left flank, which was carried without difficulty, and in which were captured three pieces of artillery. Fearing that we would come upon some strong fortified position of the enemy I, at this point, tried to arrest the advance of the division until the lines would be in a measure reformed and good order restored, but the bold, restive spirit of the men would not be repressed. While I would be stopping a few, others would break away, shouting and firing after the retreating enemy, so I had to abandon the idea of good order and lines and let them go ahead. On approaching the next hill, which was covered with woods, the enemy endeavored to make a more stubborn resistance, and our advance was for a short time driven back, but the rear soon closed up and General Crook, approaching at the time and cheering the men forward, a rush was made up the steep acclivity and the enemy again routed and more guns captured. At this point we were joined by the Third Division of the Sixth Corps, and throughout the remainder of the charge the men and officers of both commands mingled together in one body. The Second Division of the Army of West Virginia had previously to this mingled with the First Division. The charge was continued until the pike was reached and we advanced along the pike one mile to Round Top Mountain, when a halt was made, the enemy being then out of hearing. The command was fairly exhausted, having made a charge of five miles in length. After a half hour’s cheering and congratulating the men laid down and slept without dinner, supper or blankets, having stripped themselves before the engagement. The advance was made in rear of the enemy’s works. The prisoners and guns that were captured were left for others to pick up. Two battleflags were captured by the men of my division. My loss was 1 officer killed, 1 enlisted man killed, and 77 wounded. Officers and men, with few exceptions, behaved with great gallantry, and are deserving of highest praise.

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

J. THOBURN
Colonel, Commanding.

Capt. P. G. BIER
Assistant Adjutant-General

Tenth West Virginia Infantry
Battle of Fisher’s Hill
1 Killed, 9 Wounded, 0 Missing – Total Casualties 10

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Updated 28 March 2010