The Richmond Daily Dispatch
August 1, 1863
|Gen. R. S. Ewell|
(Library of Congress)
Our army Correspondence.
Madison C. H., Va., July 28, 1863.
Having been on the march with Ewell's corps since Thursday, the 23d, I have had no opportunity of communicating with you, and no means of forwarding a letter had the opportunity of writing been presented. I have just arrived here, and have only time enough before the closing of the mail for Richmond to give some particulars of the fight at Manassas Gap, on the afternoon of the 23d, the day we left Winchester.
Generals Longstreet and Hill preceded Gen. Ewell, and passing through Chester's Gap, in the Blue Ridge, Wright's brigade, of Anderson's division, was detached by Gen. Hill, and left to guard the pass until Gen Ewell, who was in the rear, should have sufficient time to come up, cross the river at Front Royal, proceed without interruption down the Valley and cross the mountains at a point lower down. Not long after the departure of the corps of Hill and Longstreet, the Yankees, estimated by some at one or two corps, advanced from the direction of Centreville and Manassas, with the purpose of taking possession of the Gaps near Front Royal and prevent the "escape" of that portion of our army that had not attained the Eastern side of the mountains.
Thursday morning they advanced to Manassas Gap, preceded by cavalry, who attacked Gen. Wright's brigade, which advanced to meet them, and after considerable skirmishing drove them back upon the main body of infantry which advanced to their support and poured down upon the brigade in several columns. The fight became general, and although against most fearful odds, our men heroically met the onset and held their ground firmly. The strength of superior numbers, however, seemed likely to prevail, and the brigade, although fighting most gallantly, were compelled to fall back gradually, and did so in good order.
The timely arrival of General Rodes, with his splendid division, the advance of Ewell's corps, changed the fortune of the day and put a speedy end to the conflict. Although Wright's brigade, even falling back, had thus far succeeded in thwarting the enemy's purpose, it is difficult to estimate the consequence had it not been relieved of the great disadvantages under which it was contending, by the opportune coming up of Gen. Rodes. The latter, after throwing a pontoon bridge across the Shenandoah at the junction of the two forks, immediately advanced, formed in line of battle and threw out skirmishers.
Although his men had marched nearly twenty-five miles that day, the necessity of relieving their gallant comrades in arms, and the sight of the hated foe, caused them to forget the fatigue they had already undergone. The enemy, drawn up in three lines of battle, were soon repulsed by this new accession of strength, yet inferior in numbers to themselves. Our artillery also being brought to bear, their first line, after driving back our skirmishers, was broken, and fell back in confusion and disorder.
The second line advancing were dealt with in like manner, and met a similar fate. The third, after a show of resistance and determination to maintain the ground, fell back some distance and lay upon the ground to avoid the havoc our artillery and small arms were making in their ranks. The enemy had two batteries of artillery, which were not used. One was so planted that it could not be brought to bear on our men with any effect; the other was in a position on which we had an enfilading fire. If they had more it was not observed, but they fired not a single shot with artillery during the fight.
We had several pieces, which were served with admirable precision and great effect, as could plainly be seen at every discharge, which extorted loud cries of pain from the wounded Yankees, to which our men responded with cheers. The ground was literally blue with the killed and wounded. Our loss is estimated at one hundred and fifty killed and wounded.
The division of Gen. Edward Johnston, which followed that of Gen. Rodes, was moved up within supporting distance during the fight, and, it is said, left the rations they were preparing on the fire. The division of Gen. Early was at the time encamped about three miles from Winchester. Night coming on space and putting an end to the conflict, the Yankees withdrew from the field. Gens. Rodes and Johnston, accompanied by Wright's brigade, then marched beyond Front Royal, encamped for the night, and next morning proceeded on the march up Luray Valley.
I have been unable to procure a list of killed and wounded, which loss fell chiefly on Wright's brigade, readily accounted for by the vastly superior odds against which they had to contend before reinforcements came up. Col. Edward Walker, of the 3d Georgia, was severely wounded in the thigh, and is doing well.
The Yankees finding no opposition to obstruct them, took possession of Front Royal Friday morning, Gen. Early being a day's march in the rear, and thus prevented from crossing the river at that point, deemed it prudent to turn to the right at Cedarville, about three miles from Front Royal, and marched down the Valley, striking the Winchester and Staunton turnpike again at Middletown. The whole corps which the enemy confidently believed would be effectually cut off from the main body of our army is now safely out of their clutches.
P. S.--The numerous friends of Gen. Kemper will be gratified to learn that his family, who reside in this place, are in receipt of very recent information from the North stating that he had passed the crisis of his case, and is in a fair way of recovery. His lower extremities were paralyzed from the effect of his wound — received in the groin — but no doubt is entertained by the surgeon that he will recover the use of his limbs.