Skirmishing around Wincester

This late in the war, Confederate records are sparse, and details few, but the 13th regiment seems to have missed the Aug. 16, 1864, fight at Guard Hill near Front Royal.

There, Wofford’s Brigade of Georgians was surprised by Union cavalry while crossing the Shenandoah River along with the rest of Kershaw’s Division, including Humphreys’ much-diminished Mississippi Brigade. The Georgians lost some 300 prisoners, in those days about the size of a reinforced regiment.

According to federal reports, the Mississippi Brigade numbered about 800 men, less than the size of one early-war regiment. The 13th counted roughly 200 of them, only about 20 percent of its size at the start.

On Aug. 17, the 13th went into camp at Opequon Creek, on the Front Royal and Milwood roads, but they didn’t stay long. They were soon engaged in skirmishing with some of Gen. Phillip Sheridan’s Union troops, including cavalry, They joined Gen. Jubal Early’s units in driving the Union soldiers northeast to Harper’s Ferry. They advanced as far as Charles Town and then fell back southwest to Winchester.

“A fine day,” Early’s engineer Captain Jed Hotchkiss wrote of Aug. 19, a Friday, in his daily journal which is in the Official Records. “Slight showers. Cool evening.”

Two days later, they were driving the enemy to the vicinity of Charles Town, with Kershaw’s Division, including the 13th, moving northeast on the Winchester Road. By Monday, the 22nd, they were quite close to Charles Town, Hotchkiss wrote. According to him, they skirmished all week in the vicinity and, on Friday, Kershaw’s Division had a more concentrated, though brief, fight in the afternoon. And so it went, off and on, for the next week, with casualties on both sides.

By Aug. 31, a Wednesday, the 13th was back near Winchester, where, two days later, Hotchkiss wrote, “Dispatches came in the morning stating that the enemy was moving toward Berryville in force.”

On Saturday, Kershaw’s division moved there too, across the Opequon east of Winchester. By Sunday they were in line of battle outside Berryville, at the western foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, anticipating a major engagement.

About Dick Stanley

Retired Texas daily newspaperman
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