Tag Archives: Alfred N.A. Duffie

The Washington Raid Ends

July 13, 1864 – Following his unsuccessful attempt to capture Fort Stevens, Lieutenant General Jubal Early led his Confederate Army of the Valley away from the outskirts of Washington and back into Maryland.

Confederate Gen. Jubal Early | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

The Confederates fell back northward, moving through Rockville and then turning west toward Poolesville and the Potomac River beyond. They reached the Potomac almost exactly 30 days after being detached from the Army of Northern Virginia.

Early’s forces completed their river crossing on the 14th and gathered at Leesburg, Virginia. They had a long supply train filled with captured goods from Maryland, along with about 1,000 prisoners, horses, cattle, and $220,000 taken from Hagerstown and Frederick as reparations for Federal destruction in the Shenandoah Valley.

Early’s raid had been a success in that it caused great panic in Washington, and it diverted Federal attention and resources from other theaters. It also boosted Confederate morale and temporarily brightened the dimming hope that European powers might recognize Confederate independence. But it had not caused the Army of the Potomac to weaken itself enough for General Robert E. Lee’s army to break out of Petersburg.

At the capital, President Abraham Lincoln expressed frustration that Early’s army had been allowed to escape back to Virginia. None of the six nearby generals took the lead in pursuing the Confederates until Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, the overall Federal commander, assigned Major General Horatio G. Wright to lead the operation.

Wright’s force consisted of his own VI Corps, elements of XIX Corps, and several units that had been assigned to defend Washington. The pursuit began a full day after Early withdrew, with the Federals not arriving at Poolesville until the 15th. Confederate cavalry guarded the river fords to delay a Federal crossing.

By that time, Major General David Hunter’s Army of West Virginia had finally arrived at Harpers Ferry, burning and plundering homes on their march through their army’s namesake. Hunter received orders to join forces with Wright to pursue and destroy Early, with Wright in overall command. When Hunter protested that he outranked Wright, Grant placed Hunter’s army under command of Brigadier General George Crook while Hunter handled the army’s administrative duties from department headquarters.

Wright hoped to trap Early’s Confederates between his force and Crook’s, but he had trouble communicating with Crook due to Confederates cutting telegraph wires in the area. Crook’s 7,000 Federals crossed the Potomac near Harpers Ferry on the 15th and advanced to Hillsboro.

Early began moving his 12,000 Confederates out of Leesburg the next morning, heading west toward Snickers Gap in the Blue Ridge on his way back to the Shenandoah Valley. Wright’s 17,000 Federals took the entire day to cross the Potomac. During this time, a Federal cavalry detachment set out to locate the Confederates and clashed with troops guarding their wagon train around Purcellville.

When Crook learned of this engagement, he ordered Brigadier General Alfred N.A. Duffie’s cavalry to seize the wagon train. Duffie dispatched a brigade under Colonel William B. Tibbits, which spotted the Confederates about a mile north of Heaton’s Crossroads. Tibbits positioned his troopers and guns on a ridge and opened fire around 2 p.m.

The Confederate guards immediately abandoned the wagon train. The Federal assault became confused as some troopers stopped to seize the wagons and others confronted the Confederates. Major General John C. Breckinridge organized an infantry force to stop the Federal advance, while cavalry rode around to the enemy’s rear. Tibbits and a fraction of his brigade escaped capture and returned to Hillsboro. They seized or burned 80 wagons, but they had to leave the rest and all their cannon behind.

Had the Federals attacked with a larger force, they could have stopped or even destroyed Early’s army. Crook advanced to Purcellville that night, with Duffie’s cavalry skirmishing briefly with Confederate troopers at Woodgrove. By this time, the Confederates were moving through the Blue Ridge.

Wright and Crook joined forces as they pushed west toward Snickers Gap on the 17th. The Confederate rear guard prevented Federal cavalry heading the advance from crossing the Shenandoah River. Wright received word that the Confederates were merely skirmishers and Early’s main army was farther west. This was incorrect, as Early’s main army was guarding the river crossings.

Wright assigned Colonel Joseph Thoburn to lead three brigades around the Confederate left (northern) flank and seize Castleman’s Ferry. As the Federals moved on the 18th, Thoburn learned that the Confederates were massed on the riverbank. Both sides added reinforcements, with the Confederates holding a ridge near the Cool Spring plantation. Thoburn led his Federals across the Shenandoah River and lined them up behind stone walls.

The Federals repelled three assaults before night fell, and Thoburn ordered a withdrawal back across the river. The Federals sustained 422 casualties, while the Confederates lost roughly the same number. Early retained control of the river, as Wright and Crook continued debating how best to pursue his army.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 20429; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 436-37; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 11055; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 9611-42, 11331-41; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 469-71; Lewis, Thomas A., The Shenandoah in Flames: The Valley Campaign of 1864 (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 88-89; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 538-40; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 279, 415-16

The Droop Mountain Engagement

November 6, 1863 – An engagement occurred as part of Brigadier General William W. Averell’s Federal raid on Confederate supply lines in West Virginia.

Brig Gen W.W. Averell | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

On the 1st, Averell led 5,000 Federals (two mounted infantry regiments, four cavalry regiments, and an artillery battery) southward from Beverly toward Lewisburg in the Greenbrier River Valley. His goal was to destroy the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad, which Major General Samuel Jones, commanding the Confederate Department of Southwestern Virginia, used to transport troops and supplies between Virginia and the west. Two days later, Brigadier General Alfred N.A. Duffie led 1,700 Federals out of Charleston, West Virginia, to link with Averell at Lewisburg.

Averell’s Federals advanced on the Staunton Pike to Greenbrier Bridge, and then moved through Camp Bartow and Green Bank. Under continuous harassment from Confederate partisans, the Federals reached Huntersville around noon on the 4th. Averell dispatched two cavalry regiments to destroy a 600-man Confederate force guarding Marling’s Bottom.

Colonel William J. Jackson led the Confederates. He was a cousin of the late Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, but he did not have his troops’ respect and was thus nicknamed “Mudwall.” Jackson’s men fell back to Mill Point, where Jackson requested reinforcements from Brigadier General John Echols, who commanded an infantry brigade at Lewisburg.

Averell tried cutting Jackson off the next day but failed, and the Confederates withdrew to the crest of Droop Mountain. Echols led his 1,700 troops and six cannon out to reinforce Jackson; they arrived on the 6th and Echols assumed overall command. This combined Confederate force ascended the summit of Droop Mountain and formed a line of battle at 9 a.m., with infantry on the right (eastern) flank, artillery in the center, and Jackson’s cavalry on the left. According to Averell’s report:

“On the morning of the 6th, we approached the enemy’s position. The main road to Lewisburg runs over Droop Mountain, the northern slope of which is partially cultivated nearly to the summit, a distance of 2 1/2 miles from the foot. The highway is partially hidden in the views from the summit and base in strips of woodland. It is necessary to pass over low rolling hills and across bewildering ravines to reach the mountain in any direction.”

Averell opted not to attack directly. He instead sent his infantry and a cavalry company around the Confederates’ left to attack their flank and rear. Meanwhile, the artillery would demonstrate against the rest of Echols’s force. A guide failed to lead the flanking troops around Jackson’s horsemen, and they began trading fire around 1:30 p.m.

Averell brought up his dismounted cavalry to link with the infantry’s left. He also brought up the rest of his artillery as Echols moved his Confederates behind breastworks. After holding about an hour, the Confederates, outnumbered two-to-one, broke around 3 p.m. and fled down the south side of the mountain.

Averell directed a pursuit, but it was halted by darkness. The Federals captured a cannon and a battle flag in their victory. Echols raced to get back to Lewisburg before Duffie’s Federals could get there; Echols had to move 28 miles before Duffie moved 10. Echols won the race nonetheless, passing through Lewisburg on the 7th and escaping. Averell arrived at the town at 2 p.m. and learned from Duffie, who had just arrived, that Echols was gone.

The Federals sustained 140 casualties (45 killed, 93 wounded, and two captured), while the Confederates lost 255 (33 killed, 100 wounded, and 122 missing). The Federals destroyed vast amounts of Confederate supplies and, on Sunday the 8th, they advanced toward Dublin based on intelligence that Echols’s men were regrouping there. The pursuers soon found their path blocked by felled trees and other obstructions.

Averell and Duffie, their men exhausted even without having cleared the road, agreed to end their expedition. Although the Federals scored a victory at Droop Mountain, they did not accomplish their main goal of destroying the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad. And as soon as they withdrew from Lewisburg, the Confederates returned.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 339; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 366-67, 369; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 430-31; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 228, 707-08