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Report on the Action North of Harrisonburg

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Report on the Action North of Harrisonburg

Post  WJPalmer on Sun Dec 02, 2012 5:17 pm

To: Lt. Gen. M.T. Georgia
Re: Action North of Harrisonburg: Report of 8th Division/1st U.S. Corps
Brig. Gen. William J. Palmer reporting for Gen. Elsnerr (indisposed)

Sir:
In the action instant the 8th Division, consisting of Col. Murray Jones’ Eighth Bde. (Col. Weather’s commanding), my Ninth Bde., and Capt. Arnold’s Battery B, 10th U.S. Artillery, stepped off on the Harrisonburg Pike at 10:00. In short order Rebel courier and other suspicious activity was discovered on the heights west of town compelling us to deploy as a caution just northwest of town. Our division took position on the right/north flank with Col. Murray’s/Weather’s brigade on my left and my brigade and divisional artillery on our extreme right. Pushing out a few hundred yards toward the western ridges, we assumed a defensive posture as we awaited confirmation of the enemy’s location. Up to this time there had been no sightings of enemy infantry, and the remainder of the corps was aggressively searching for Rebel activity south and southeast of the town. From our vantage, we viewed and reported unusual enemy courier and other activity suggesting a traitorous presence somewhere to the west of our division, screened by the heights of the ridge.

At approximately 10:40 we received orders to withdraw to a position on the north side of Harrisonburg, which was done, again with Murray’s Bde taking the left and the 9th Bde and battery the right. As it developed the timing of this move was extremely fortuitous because almost immediately thereafter the Rebels began descending the western heights in great force across a front which would have significantly overlapped our former position. Col. Weather’s sharp eye gave the first alarm of the enemy movement and quickly moved his brigade to face the approaching enemy on his front. This consisted of the brigades of Ray and Moutons. My brigade then fell in on Col. Weather’s right to meet the onrush of Hebert’s and Neal’s brigades then moving astride the Mummasburg Road. At this time still another enemy movement became visible to our right/north as two more brigades streamed down the western heights in what would become an attempt overlap and turn our flank. Prisoners captured subsequently confirmed these to be the Rebel brigades of McKinney and Winchester.

Very fortunately, the response of our leadership to these reports was quick. Almost immediately, General Thode’s 6th division with the Tiger Brigade began moving to relieve the situation on our left, moving aggressively across the deep RR cut. This maneuver compelled the Rebels to divert much of Ray’s brigade and some of Mouton from the assault on Col. Weather to the refusal of the enemy’s right flank, immediately west of town. Also, General Seitzinger’s 1st Division went into march on the double-quick from the hills southeast of Harrisonburg. They would eventually deploy on our right, north and northeast of town.

Still, at 11:05 the outcome of the battle was very much in doubt. Facing Col. Weather’s boys on our left were Moutons’ brigade, and elements of Ray’s and Neal’s. On the Coloradan’s front were 3 regiments of Neal’s Rebels, as well as Winchester’s, McKinney’s and Hebert’s brigades. The fighting was heavy and desperate all across the line. Remarkably, in the face of such odds, Col. Weather’s force inflicted some 200 more casualties than it took: a tribute to his skill in the placement of his men and their fortitude. A solid barrier of battle smoke screened view from all but the most fleeting glimpses of the ferocious fighting raging with our Division’s Mainers and Coloradans. The Rebel yell was wildly intermingled with the war-whoops of our Indian Home Guard (IHG) regiment, which skillfully executed a move from the 9th Brigade’s left flank to meet the renewed flanking threat on our right. During this movement an incident occurred that, I am convinced, saved the immediate moment for us. An unfortunate Rebel courier was captured by the IHG carrying a dispatch from the Rebel leader to subordinates (decorum prevents me from describing the fate that subsequently befell the unfortunate messenger). This communication, translated into Cherokee and Arapahoe and spread through the regiment, told of the enemy leader’s confidence that the “cowards” before them would be swept from the field and that an assault on their (i.e., our) guns was eagerly anticipated. Our Indian comrades, enraged over the insult to their manhood and the honor of their brigade, shortly thereafter had an opportunity to respond personally as they received the determined charge of the 14th/17th Arkansas regiments of Hebert’s brigade. This assault turned out to be quite brief with the enemy decisively beaten in savage, close combat. (My report of the unfortunate incidents of scalpings and mutilations that followed will be forthcoming under separate cover).

Nonetheless, the Coloradans had no choice but to gradually fall back in the face of the overwhelming force before them. Considering the intelligence gleaned from intercepted messages and with the enemy just yards away, divisional artillery was ordered limbered and temporarily moved back into town, which was accomplished without loss. The front was ultimately stabilized and the tide turned by the efforts of Col. Weather’s and Gen. Thode on our left (after repulsing the Confederates on their front, they turned to deal with the crisis that remained to the right), and the timely arrival of Gen. Seitzinger’s 1st Division, arriving from the south via Harrisonburg. Had Gen. Seitzinger’s force arrived even a moment later, I fear all would have been lost on the right. My brigade, fairly exhausted from its exertions, was thus afforded a brief respite to recover stamina and cohesion before joining in the hot pursuit by the entire corps which clinched ultimate victory.

Finally, I would be remiss without recognizing the achievements of those who played a decisive role in the action north of Harrisonburg: Col. Weather performed splendidly handling his brigade with great gallantry and aplomb as set forth, supra. Generals Thode and Seitzinger decisively turned the Rebel tide with their timely arrival on the field and aggressive actions on our left and right respectively. Please accept our genuine thanks, Gentlemen.

Your Obedient Servant,
Brig. Gen. William J. Palmer


Last edited by WJPalmer on Sun Dec 02, 2012 10:56 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Report on the Action North of Harrisonburg

Post  Martin on Sun Dec 02, 2012 5:31 pm

Nice AAR Ron. Thanks.

Interesting to se how things felt from the other side, and glad we were able to cause you some anxiety Very Happy

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Re: Report on the Action North of Harrisonburg

Post  Blaugrana on Sun Dec 02, 2012 5:51 pm

Great AAR, Ron, on a very exciting battle. Thanks!

Would it be OK to copy this and post it to the NSD and Matrix forums?

Jeff

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Re: Report on the Action North of Harrisonburg

Post  WJPalmer on Sun Dec 02, 2012 5:52 pm

Blaugrana wrote:Great AAR, Ron, on a very exciting battle. Thanks!

Would it be OK to copy this and post it to the NSD and Matrix forums?

Jeff

Certainly!
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Re: Report on the Action North of Harrisonburg

Post  Mr. Digby on Sun Dec 02, 2012 6:33 pm

Your right wing which was just 2 regiments with the battery behind held out far longer than I thought. I regret also that some of our flanking units that were intended to go past your right wing were not moved forwards with anything like sufficient resolve! There was perhaps too much flanking and not enough attacking, our left was possibly extended further than it need have been. I do believe there were some slackers in the Rebel ranks this day and when the retreat was announced I found that everyone made for the hills without any attempt to hold a line as we fell back. It fell to my brigade to try and do this and even though I stabilised a position for a few minutes here and there, eventually my brigade was completely destroyed, one regiment surrendering and the other two routing.

Had there been any attempt at mutual support or the other brigade commanders near me deploying some of their units as back-stops to slow the enemy attack perhaps we should all have got away.

As it was my regioments were, I feel, sacrificed for the benefit of others.

When I got to the Hoffman farm and across Willoughby Run to see many of our regiments halted and still fresh and willing I was all the more angered and ashamed of Rebel officres this day! Some men ran faster than they needed to and did not think to stop and help their fellow formations to get off the field!

Col Neal's men in particular were a useless rabble and broke early, yellin' and hollerin' and runnin' amok among my lines and no doubt contributing only to the early collapse of the withdrawal into a rout.

I was ashamed to wear the Southern Uniform that day. I believe some of our officers need a firm talking to and perhaps some might go back to their pre-war jobs!

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Re: Report on the Action North of Harrisonburg

Post  kg little mac on Sun Dec 02, 2012 7:13 pm

The Confederacy needs a few battle-hardened GCM veterans. The Union is flush with them.
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Re: Report on the Action North of Harrisonburg

Post  Uncle Billy on Sun Dec 02, 2012 8:01 pm

The Confederacy needs a few battle-hardened GCM veterans. The Union is flush with them.
This is quite true. And the good guys need one more. You!

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Re: Report on the Action North of Harrisonburg

Post  kg little mac on Sun Dec 02, 2012 8:21 pm


I officially and sincerely ask Digby to forgive my trespasses and grant me a truce. I cannot in good faith stand idly by any longer whilst his boys go badly supported by evangelical zealots schooled not in tactics but in biblical verse. I dearly love the FG, but his place rests inspiring the boys to fight hard and die in battle with honor, not physically leading them to do so. For at that task, he is all too good.

I'd like to join the Confederacy's ranks and try to stop these vermin hordes stealing our fine silver or die trying.

If not, I'll go back to my plantation and make arrangements to start moving to Mexico immediately.

I'm also going to recruit Hood and Swinder to join the cause.
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Re: Report on the Action North of Harrisonburg

Post  MajorByrd on Sun Dec 02, 2012 8:34 pm

The more rogues to hang after the Second Battle of New Market, the better.
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Re: Report on the Action North of Harrisonburg

Post  Uncle Billy on Sun Dec 02, 2012 8:38 pm

I'd like to join the Confederacy's ranks and try to stop these vermin hordes stealing our fine silver or die trying.
Traitorous scum! Very Happy

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Re: Report on the Action North of Harrisonburg

Post  Baldwin1 on Sun Dec 02, 2012 8:45 pm

Glad to have you join our ranks Soldier. Father General, Soldier and Digby on the same side, did hell freeze over? confused
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Re: Report on the Action North of Harrisonburg

Post  Martin on Sun Dec 02, 2012 8:52 pm

Kg little mac, Hood and Swinder too? I do believe the Confederate Valley Army has just doubled in size, Baldwin. Not that straggling is a problem.......oh dear me no!

You are all most welcome, gentlemen.

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