Report of Colonel William H. Lytle, Tenth Ohio Infantry.
Hdqrs. Montgomery Regiment, Tenth O. V., Camp Scott, Carnifix Ferry, September 11, 1861.
Sir: I have the honor to report that agreeably to your orders, I proceeded with my command on yesterday, September 10, at 3 o’clock, to reconnoiter the position of the enemy, supposed to be in force in the neighborhood of Gauley River, yourself accompanying and directing the advance with me. Our road led uphill through a densely-timbered forest, and as I advanced I then sent out flanking parties to the right and left and skirmishers in advance of my column. After passing through the woods for half a mile our skirmishers were suddenly engaged in front, and I pushed on to their relief until I reached a cleared space on the summit of the hill, where for the first time the enemy came in view, posted in force behind an extensive earth work, with twelve guns in position, sweeping the road for over a mile. A ravine separated the hill by which we approached from the right of the breast-works of the enemy, which were composed of logs and fence rails and extended for over a mile to the right and left of their intrenchments, affording secure protection to their infantry and riflemen.
When the head of my column reached a point opposite the right center of their earthworks their entire battery opened on us with grape and canister with almost paralyzing effect, my men falling around me in great numbers. I ordered the colors to the front for the purpose of making an assault on their battery, perceiving which, the entire fire of the enemy was directed towards us. The men rallied gallantly on the hill-side under withering volleys of grape and canister with small-arms, and a part of three companies, A, E, and D, actually moved up within pistol-shot of the intrenchments, and for some time maintained a most unequal contest. Both my color-bearers were struck down. The bearer of the State color, Sergeant Fitzgibbons, had the staff shot away and his hand shattered, and in a few moments afterwards was shattered in both thighs while waving his colors on the broken staff. The bearer of the national color, Sergeant O’Connor, at the same time was struck down by some missile, but recovered himself in a short time, and kept waving his color in front of the enemy’s lines.
About this time I received a wound in the leg, the ball passing through and killing my horse. Perceiving the fearful odds against us, I directed the men to place themselves under cover. A portion rallied behind two log houses in front of the battery and kept up a spirited fire for at least one hour before any other regiment came into action, and the remaining portion of the right wing, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Korff, resumed in good order its position under cover of a corn field in front of the right of the battery, from which position, having been soon after supported by artillery, a steady fire was maintained against the enemy until night, after which Companies G, H, I, and K, and a great portion of D and E, by order of General Rosecrans, remained on the ground during the night, throwing out their pickets, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Korff.
While the right wing of the regiment under my command engaged the enemy on their center, a portion of the left wing, consisting of Companies I, F, K, and C, under command of Major Burke, pushed through the woods on the left of the road and assailed the stockades of the enemy’s infantry, a deep ravine intervening. This portion of the command held its position, in face of a terrific fire, until every round of ammunition was expended and the companies relieved by artillery, when it rejoined the right wing, already in position in front of the enemy’s battery, the men dragging our guns through the woods in their progress and helping to place them in position.
For men for the first time under fire the conduct of the regiment was highly creditable. Having been disabled in the early part of the action I was necessarily separated from a greater portion of the command, but among those who came under my own notice I would especially mention Captain S. J. McGroarty, commanding the color company; Lieutenant Jno S. Mulroy, Company D; Lieutenant Fanning, Company A. Both Lieutenant Fanning and Captain McGroarty were severely wounded, the latter while rallying his men around his colors and the former in leading his men to the attack. Captains Steele and Tiernon are also worthy of special mention for their gallantry. I would also mention the name of Corporal Sullivan, Company E, who in the midst of a galling fire went across the front of the enemy’s batteries and returned with water for the wounded.
Of the portion of the regiment under Major Burke that officer makes highly honorable mention of the names of Captain Ward, Company I; Captain Robinson, Company K; Captain Hudson and Lieutenant Hickey, Company C; Captain Moore, Company D; Sergeant-Major Knox, for their gallantry and intrepidity under a most destructive fire, and also of the chaplain, Rev. W. T. O’Higgins, who remained on the field during the action in performance of his sacred duties.
I beg leave to inclose a list of killed and wounded of the command.
All of which is respectfully submitted.
Wm. H. Lytle,
Colonel Tenth Ohio Regiment, U. S. V. I.
Brigadier-General Benham, U. S. A.,
Commanding First Brigade.
Source: Official Records Series 1, Volume 5. Chapter 14, pp. 136- 137