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Union - Official Report on the Battle of Harpst Ridge, Va

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Union - Official Report on the Battle of Harpst Ridge, Va

Post  Uncle Billy on Sun Jan 20, 2013 10:45 pm

July 31, 1861
Headquarters Army of the Shenandoah, New Market, Va

Department of War, Washington City
Secretary of War Cameron

Sir:

It is with great pleasure I report the defeat of the enemy north of New market this morning. The battle took place along a ridge locally known as Harpst. The contest included my entire force which was opposed by Gen. Hebert's full corps plus elements of General Johnston's army, recently arrived from eastern Virginia.

My intent was to deny the enemy the ability to move back south towards his base of supplies. Being familiar with this country, my plan was to move my main force as quickly as possible through New Market and up onto the heights of Shaeffer Ridge. I had received word that the reinforcing infantry and cavalry brigades had rendezvoused with my own infantry and cavalry detachments near Krohs' Mill. I sent Gen. Seitzinger to this force to assume overall command and personally deliver instructions to it, to march directly to the South Branch Rd. and then southwest to join the rest of the army.

The main force took possession of the unoccupied Shaeffer Ridge. I was surprised the rebels allowed this lodgement. I had expected to find their cavalry on the ridge with the purpose of delay, so that their infantry would have time to get up and contest the place. I received word from Gen Seitzinger that he and his staff had observed a large enemy force near Mrs. Warner's farm and moving west. As I later learned, this was a force commanded by Gen. Johnston. About this time, my division commanders, Generals Neugeboren and Elsnerr reported enemy movement in their front. However, instead of continuing south to confront us, Gen. Hebert's men turned east. It was apparent that he meant to make a junction with Johnston's force and then give battle on terms more to his liking.

Both Neugeboren and Elsnerr sent forces north, down the ridge, to try to make contact and force a fight where the weight of our superior force would easily defeat them. The rebels would have none of it and avoided our men as they continued east. When they reached the road that crosses Harpst Ridge they tuned onto it in their effort to join with Johnston. Generals Elsnerr and Thode rapidly moved east along the ridge and latched onto the fleeing rebels.

As the battle began to develop, I received word from Gen. Seitzinger that our second force had made contact with Johnston's men. He had led them back to the south, further separating the enemy forces. In the process, Gen. Goroff's cavalry took possession of the enemy's artillery. Gen. Seitzinger and I conferred and it was decided that he would add a brigade and battery from the main force and deal with Johnston. He was confident he had sufficient forces to handily whip him.

The fight for Harpst Ridge itself became more intense as the enemy began to build strength on our left. I sent Col. Humm to support Elsnerr's left. He soon reported that the enemy was there in force and asked for assistance. I had been observing the fight on our right and had intended to sweep the enemy off the ridge from south to north. I had ordered Gen. Neugeboren's division to the south side of the ridge to implement that strategy which would also guarantee that Johnston and Hebert would fight as separate forces. I quickly rode to our left and decided that although it was unlikely the enemy could successfully fight their way up the hill our men were defending, I would nevertheless counter march Neugeboren's men to the opposite flank and destroy the main strength of the enemy directly.

Once Gen. Neugeboren's men went into action I received messages from Elsnerr and Thode that enemy resistance was failing. I ordered the attack to continue with full vigor. At the same time Gen. Seitzinger reported that Johnston's force had been defeated and he and Gen. Neumann's infantry were also pursuing with the intent of getting into the rear of the enemy and doing some mischief there. At this point, the enemy realized the hopelessness of his situation and withdrew to the east into the mountains.

Our losses were not great with 384 killed and approximately 1540 wounded or missing. Many of the wounds are not serious and those men will be able to quickly rejoin their units. It is estimated that the enemy has sustained losses twice as great as ours. Gen. Neumann reported that his men came upon Gen. Johnston's baggage train. It would seem the general carries substantial finery and sets a fine camp table. No longer. I have forwarded a few items for your inspection.

With the arrival of Gen. Johnston, it is apparent that the rebel government takes umbrage at this army's presence in their breadbasket. The transfer of Johnston's army to the Shenandoah will make it easier for the army now rebuilding near Washington City to resume offensive operations in eastern Virginia. I request an additional 15,000 men in order to confront and destroy Gen. Johnston's full force. Once I have dispatched Johnston, I intend to march first to Staunton, then to Lynchburg and put the torch to the military institute located there.

I remain your obedient servant,

Lt. Gen. M.T. Georgia, Commanding

_________________
I can make this march and I will make Georgia howl.
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Uncle Billy

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