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Famous victory at Harrisonburg

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Famous victory at Harrisonburg - 12/2/2012 6:09:53 PM   


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The following is the official report of General Palmer to our commander, General MT Georgia, on the victory won by Union forces at Harrisonburg:

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)

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, as of 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 placement of his men and their fortitude. A solid barrier of battle smoke screened 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’m 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). The 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 the opportunity to respond 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 separate 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. With the intelligence gleaned from intercepted messages and the enemy just yards away, divisional artillery was ordered limbered and temporarily moved back into town, which it did 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 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

This was the second battle in an ongoing multi-player campaign run by the Kriegspiel HITS & Couriers group. There were, IIRC, 14 players and it was a hugely enjoyable battle. To find out more, our forum is at
We play Scourge of War using fog of war settings, in line with Kriegspiel principals.

PS. General Palmer has graciously allowed me to post his fine report here. I am a mere courier. There are more AARs, on the same battle, at the Kriegspiel forum. Highly recommended.

< Message edited by Blaugrana -- 12/2/2012 6:42:31 PM >
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