On the march to battle at Cedar Creek
In obedience to Orders, I have the honor to submit the following report of
the operations of the 44th Georgia, Company C under the command of
Captain Clark J. Van Buskirk in the field from October 17 to October 19,
Responding to a call to arms just five days removed from the previous
weekend’s skirmishes the 44th Georgia, Company C made arrangements
to join a larger force of the Army of Northern Virginia, Longstreet’s Corp
and Jackson’s Corps along the Valley Pike south of Middletown, Virginia.
Arriving in camp beginning in the afternoon of October 17th we set up the
Company street on a crest north east of the Belle Grove plantation,
aligning our tents eastward of Lieutenant Mallette and Captain Van
Buskirk, who was assigned as Officer of the Day for 5th Regiment Staff.
Under a crescent moon we huddled around the campfire with a watchful
eye on the heavens, studded by Venus, Jupiter and Mars, as
temperatures began to drop. Our view of the camps from the high ground
provided us a panoramic view as the tent cities expanded, highlighted by
the orange glow of dozens of campfires and silhouettes of canvas tents.
The gentle hum of cows in the adjacent pasture mixed with the snoring of
fellow confederates, accompanied in their symphony by the banter from
the 24th North Carolina Contingency.
Throughout the night the campfires of the 5th regiment were tended in a
courteous manner by an anonymous soldier whose insomnia was greatly
appreciated by the troops. Saturday morning we fell in for Dress Parade
and morning drill around 10 o’clock, joining in with Longstreet’s Corps for
Around 12:30 we were summoned to form up and prepare for battle,
witnessing the indoctrination of a fresh fish into the fray. We marched
towards the tree line abutting the plantation and for the better part of the
next ninety minutes practiced shoulder arms and order arms. As the
afternoon sun approached the Appalachian Mountains the winds picked
up and me maneuvered northward, hidden in our advance by the rolling
terrain of the Valley. Completing a sweeping flank movement we formed
up perpendicular to the Valley Pike, forming the left wing of the gathering
Confederate forces, flanked on our left by a contingent of artillery. To our
front we witnessed the advance of rebel cavalry who skirmished with
Yankee horsemen in a clash of pistol and saber. Supported by infantry our
boys in grey battled effectively before relinquishing their position to reform
to the West.
A line of Federal infantry pursued the retreating Confederates only to be
greeted by a large force of Grey infantry, halting the Union advance. Having
been spotted by Union officers more infantry was deployed towards our
position, creating an L shaped Federal line. Colonel Duffie ordered an
advance and the combined forces of the 5th Regiment and Longstreet’s
Corps pounced upon the hapless Yankees, enveloping their right and
forced their retreat.
With a series of successful volleys and advances the ground soon became
littered with Blue uniforms. Eventually a cease fire was called and we
returned to camp having overwhelmed our opponent, routing them in the
Morale was high as we tended to our rifles, dined on local fare and took
advantage of the closeness of the sutlers. Not even the absence of
proximate privys spoiled our mood, although the latter was cause for
complaint and discomfort through the evening. Private Bo “saw the
elephant” and we contemplated his return the next day. We were witness
to a cannonade at dusk between the two armies and most turned in early
or visited the Ball being held in town.
Sunrise revealed that the miracle of Insomniac Fire was not to be
repeated, and Sergeant Sasor was relegated to employing his skills of
ember reclamation to stave off any PreCaffein badgering of the Lieutenant,
making note of the ice that had formed on the water buckets overnight.
Private Bo graced our presence by coming to Camp in uniform, ready to
confront our opponent and exercise his Right to Bear Arms. As the first
rays of the New Day permeated the countryside the Honor of unfurling the
flags was bestowed upon Yours Truly. Soon thereafter the smells of bacon,
pork roll and coffee infiltrated the air, and, as we had done the day prior,
we assembled for weapons inspection and Sunday Service with Chaplain
Tillett, celebrating his 32nd year of Services on familiar ground.
Shortly thereafter we formed up again to participate in an attack in an
effort to drive the blue belies from the Valley, taking the precautions of
securing our tents, stowing our valuables and draining the pickles.
Colonel Duffie led on horseback, mounted upon a steed that exhibited an
abundance of nervousness, a trait more apt to deliver the beast to an
evening meal than another campaign. Advancing through artillery after
several effective rounds of cannon fire, maneuvering through a field
populated by hidden obstacles that felled soldiers and disrupted our lines
we commenced the battle, pushing the enemy hard, driving them rapidly
northward, pursuing them down the pike with a multitude of volleys.
Barely had we fired each round that we advanced, the rudderless flag of
the Regiment hoisted on high and preceding the charge. We closed to
within mere yards of the enemy time and again, managing to counter the
chaos of the moment with effective corrections by our line. As we
approached a stream by the Heater House our advance slowed, then
faltered. The union forces, rallied by General Sheridan, having risen from a
nap after a long ride from the vicinity of Westminster, were rejuvenated
and the tide began to turn. We met stronger resistance, taking many
casualties along our line.
We were commanded to fall back and did so several times, struggling each
time to maneuver amongst the rocks and incline of the ground, climbing
the ridges we had so skillfully mastered on the attack. During these
adjustments of our position I saw many of our troops fall. The Regiment
fought gallantly, taking a stand to preserve the retreat of the rest of the
All ground which we had gained earlier was lost during the afternoon, and
we were obligated to leave the field in the hands of the enemy. The battle
having ended, we reformed and prepared to break camp, having burned a
great deal of powder, glad for the pleasantry of the weather and the
fellowship of friends, new and old.
To that end, let us ALL gather soon under the sycamore and march in
unison before cheering and adoring supporters, shouting our allegiance
and commitment to The 44th Georgia, remembering the sacrifices being
made by those in harm’s way in defense of freedom as well as those who
offer their support to the cause. May God’s Grace fall upon them and their
families for their commitment to Duty.
Corp. Jim Marshall
44th Georgia Volunteer Infantry, Co. C.
The Johnson Guards