Hunter's Raid on VMI, June 1864
Union Operations Report, June 2-6, 1864
This text is from the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (O.R.)-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXXVII/1 [S# 70] MAY 26- JUNE 29, 1864--The Lynchburg Campaign. No. 1.--Reports of Maj. Gen. David Hunter, U.S. Army, commanding Department of West Virginia, including operations June 2-July 14.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF WEST VIRGINIA,
Camp near Staunton, Va., June 8, 1864.
GENERAL: I have the honor to report that on my arrival at Harrisonburg, on the afternoon of the 2d instant, I found the enemy occupying a strong intrenched position at Mount Crawford, on the North River, where it is crossed by the Valley turnpike, his right at Rockland Mills, and his left at Bridgewater.
I spent the following day in ascertaining the enemy's force and position, and early on the morning of the 4th, after sending a force of cavalry to amuse him, I moved my column by a side road and crossed the Shenandoah at Port Republic. This movement was so little expected that we found a large supply train of the enemy at this place, and our advance cavalry captured a part of it, with supplies and horses.
I encamped about one mile south of Port Republic, and on the morning of the 5th, at an early hour, advanced on the Staunton road. At 6 a.m. my advanced cavalry met that of the enemy, and after a sharp skirmish drove them, with a loss of 75 men killed, wounded, and missing. At the village of Piedmont, seven miles southwest of Port Republic, I found the enemy in force advantageously posted.
The battle opened with artillery at 9 a.m., the enemy using several guns of long range and heavy caliber. At 10 o clock the First Brigade of Infantry, under Colonel Moor, advanced on our right and drove the enemy from his advanced position in a wood behind his line of defenses constructed of fallen timber and fence rails. Colonel Thoburn, with the Second Brigade of Infantry, took position on elevated ground on our left, supporting the batteries and ready for action where most needed. At 11.30 the fine practice of our artillery had silenced the enemy's batteries, and the cavalry, under Major-General Stahel, was massed in rear of the infantry on our right.
At 1 o'clock the First Brigade attacked the enemy's line in front, but failed to carry it, and fell back after a spirited contest. At 1.30 the enemy was observed to be massing his force on our right, opposite the first Brigade, and orders were immediately sent to Colonel Thoburn to move his brigade across the open valley between, and attack the enemy's position in flank. At 2 p.m. the enemy made a determined attack on the First Brigade, which gallantly sustained itself, assisted by Von Kleiser's battery and a cross-fire from Morton's and Carlin's batteries on our left. Meanwhile Thoburn's brigade, having crossed the valley, fell upon the enemy's exposed flank with decisive effect, crushing his whole line and driving a portion of his force over the steep bank into the river, which covered his left. Simultaneously Colonel Moor's brigade rushed over the works in front, and a brigade of cavalry, under Colonel Wynkoop, charged upon his right flank and rear. The enemy fled in confusion, leaving over 1,000 prisoners in our hands, including 60 officers.
The killed and wounded are estimated at 600 men. Brig. Gen. William E. Jones, commanding forces, was killed on the field and his body fell into our hands. From papers found upon his person it is ascertained that the enemy's force was between 6,000 and 7,000 men, and 16 guns, among them two 20-pounder Parrotts, and one 24-pounder howitzer. In addition to his loss upon the field, the enemy in his precipitate retreat lost an equal number at least by straggling and desertion. General Vaughn, upon whom the command devolved, fell back upon Waynesborough with the wreck of his army.
On the next day, June 6, I occupied Staunton without opposition, capturing 400 sick and wounded, who were paroled, and large quantities of commissary and ordnance stores, which were destroyed or distributed among the troops. All the railroad bridges and depots, and public workshops and factories in the town and vicinity, were also destroyed. A rebel force under General McCausland and Col. William L. Jackson, stationed at Buffalo Gap, to oppose the advance of General Crook, on hearing of our occupation of Staunton, fell back precipitately and escaped southward. General Crook, with his whole command, in fine condition, joined me to-day, having brushed away the enemy's corps of observation and destroyed the Virginia Central Railroad west of this place.
These results have been accomplished with a loss to this command of less than 500 men in killed and wounded. On the march and in action the troops have behaved admirably. The combined force, now in fine spirits and condition, will move day after to-morrow to the accomplishment of its mission.
I am, general, very respectfully, your most obedient servant.
ADJUTANT-GENERAL U.S. ARMY.