Tuesday, May 24, 2011
IT WAS THE FINEST LITTLE FIGHT I EVER SAW...Schuylkill Countian Lieutenant Edward H. Lieb And The 5th U.S. Cavalry at Kellys Ford March 17, 1863
In March, 1863, in a fierce cavalry fight at Kelley's Ford, the rebels under Lee, were handsomely whipped. Lieutenant Edward. H. Leib,of Pottsville, of the Fifth United States Cavalry, participated in the engagement, and subsequently wrote us the following account of it:
On the 16th of March a cavalry force under the command of General Averill moved up the Rappahannock to the Orange and Alexandria Railway for the purpose of crossing the river at Kelly's Ford and marching in the direction of Culpepper, where a strong force of the enemy's cavalry were assembled under the command of General Fitzhugh Lee. The column arrived at the ford on the morning of the 17th, and, after a sharp skirmish, overwhelmed the enemy's pickets, effected a crossing, and then moved in the direction of Culpepper Court-House, and about one mile from the ford a stubborn and desperate combat ensued, and during a struggle of four hours' duration the enemy were driven back about six miles. General Averill, finding that his ammunition was about exhausted, then withdrew his troops and recrossed the ford at dark, the enemy following him with some slight demonstrations.
This was the first cavalry engagement of the war in which a division was engaged on each side. The National forces consisted of seven volunteer regiments, the Sixth New York battery, and detachments from the regular cavalry which included three squadrons (C, E, G, H, I, and K) of the regiment under the command of Lieutenant Leib. The enemy's forces consisted of five regiments of cavalry and a battery.
At the second attempt of the enemy to rally, the regiment seized the opportunity and made a brilliant charge which forced them into a rapid retreat and won the commendation of General Averill. The National loss was eighty-four killed, wounded, and missing. The enemy's loss was one hundred and thirty-three. A large number of horses were killed and wounded on each side.
A letter from Lieb to the Miners Journal:
Camp Near Falmouth, March 20, 1863. I suppose you have heard of the cavalry, and of the success of the last trip we were on over the Rappahannock. We crossed at Kelley's Ford; had quite a fight with the rebels, and have taught them one thing, that we can whip them in a fair stand-up fight. We left camp for our trip on the 16th, and arrived at Morrisville at dusk. There we camped over night, and at two in the morning we started for Kelley's Ford, and there met the enemy. We had quite a time in crossing, but we were determined to cross, and we did. I am sorry, however, to state that we lost some good men while effecting the passage. We took about twenty-five prisoners and killed several of the rebels. We then, after getting the artillery over safely, moved on the road for Culpepper Court House; but we had not gone far before our cavalry came upon General Lee's brigade with himself at its head. They made a charge, but our men met them splendidly and drove them back. But they were not satisfied, and soon came over on our right flank. I must here state they made a grand mistake. The Fifth and First Cavalry were there, and your humble little friend had the honor of commanding the Fifth on the occasion. I was ordered to charge, which 1 did, leading the gallant regiment. We drove them, and I suppose they will admit that they were never driven so before. We kept it up until they got out of sight, and we were ordered back by the General, or rather Captain Reno, who commanded the brigade. Captain liaker had command of the First Cavalry. I was then ordered to move up in line of battle with the regiment, which I did through the thick woods and marshy ground, into a clearing. It was hot work to get there, but we made them leave, and obeyed our orders to drive them. As soon as we arrived about two hundred yards in the opening, they opened one whole battery on my command. It was rather a hot place, but the men stood it like Spartans, and held their ground until ordered to fall back, which was done in splendid style. We again foiled the enemy under the hottest fire I ever saw. The men were a little confused, but did not break or straggle. When the enemy saw our line moving back, their cavalry made a charge down the road. We could see that they meant to do some tall charging, but we moved up to meet them with drawn saber, and they turned and tied. They do not like our eold steel. They here broke and ran up to their entrenchments, scattering in every direction. It was the finest little fight I ever saw, and the old Fifth had the work to do. The regiment had the advance after crossing the ford on the other side, and in conjunction with the First United States Cavalry, had the rear guard in crossing the ford. On this side of the river I had the rear guard back to Morrisville.
I would not have missed the fight for a great deal, and hope soon to again show the country that we can whip the rebel cavalry every day in the week. The army is now in fine spirits, and our cavalry fight is all the talk in camp. The cavalry arc for the present the tigers of this army, and hope soon again to meet the rebel cavalry. Yours, E. H. L.
EDWARD H. LEIB
Was born in Pennsylvania. He was engaged in civil pursuits at the beginning of the rebellion against the United States, and at once enlisted in the Washington Artillery (an independent organization) April 16, 1861, and marched with his company, which was the first to arrive at Washington from the North, for the defense of the capital, where he served until May, when he was appointed, from Pennsylvania, a second lieutenant in the Fifth (old Second) Cavalry, to date from April 26, 1861, and was promoted a first lieutenant June 10, 1861. He joined on the 18th of May, and participated, five days afterwards, in the capture of Alexandria. He served in the Manassas campaign and was engaged in the battle of Bull Run, where he re-established the picket-line after the battle, and held it until relieved by volunteer infantry, when he returned with the detachment of the regiment to the defenses of Washington, where he served during the winter of 1861-62, and participated (commanding a company) in the Manassas, Virginia Peninsular, Maryland, and Rappahannock campaigns, and was engaged in the skirmish at Cedar Run, the siege of Yorktown, the battle of Williamsburg, and in almost daily skirmishes with the enemy during the advance towards Richmond, the battle of Hanover Court-House, the reconnaissance towards Ashland, the action at Old Church, where he won the brevet of captain, to date from June 13, 1862, for gallant and meritorious services; with the advance-guard when General "Stonewall" Jackson made his movement to join General Lee, and brought up the rear-guard before the battle of Gaines's Mill, and with five companies disputed the movement of the enemy; the battle of Gaines's Mill, the skirmish at Savage Station and the battle of Malvern Hill, on picket-duty at St. Mary's Church and in front of Malvern Hill, with the regiment as a part of the rear-guard of the Army of the Potomac during the evacuation of the Peninsula, the battles of South Mountain and Antietam, and the skirmish near Shepherdstown.'
He then marched to Old Town and Cumberland, Md., and thence in the direction of Romney, Va., until he was ordered to participate in the pursuit of the enemy, who was raiding in Maryland. He marched two hundred miles in that State and Pennsylvania, when he was sent to St. James College, near Williamsport, Md., and soon thereafter was engaged with the enemy near Halltown, the skirmishes near Union and Upperville, the action at Markham's Station, the skirmishes at Manassas Gap, Snicker's Gap, and Little "Washington, the actions at Amissville and Hazel Run, the battle of Fredericksburg, and the reconnaissance near Falmouth.
He served during the winter of 1862-63 near Falmouth, Va., and was employed on picket and outpost duty until March, when he was engaged with the enemy at Kelly's Ford (commanding a detachment of the regiment), the first cavalry battle of the war, and which resulted in a decisive victory for the National troops. He was complimented on the field by General Averill for the gallant conduct of the regiment. He participated, April and May, 1863, in General Stoneman's raid towards Richmond, and was engaged in the combat near
Brandy Station, the skirmish at Shannon Hill, and the engagement at Fleming's Cross-Roads, where he was distinguished for gallantry.
He was promoted a captain April 13, 1863, and joined his company on the 17th of May, and participated in the Pennsylvania and Central Virginia campaigns, and was engaged in the battle of Beverly Ford, the skirmish at Aldie, the actions at Middletown and Snicker's Gap, near Upperville, the battle of Gettysburg, the actions at Williamsport, Boonsboro, Funkstown, and Falling Water; the action near, and battle of, Brandy Station, the action at Morton's Ford, the combat of Bristoe Station, and the opera. tions at Mine Run in November and December 1863.
He served at the winter camp near Mitchell's Station, Va., until February, 1864, when he participated in the actions near Barnett's Ford on the Rapidan, at Charlottesville and Stannardsville, and the skirmish near Morton's Ford. He was then assigned to Baltimore as a mustering and disbursing officer, and when General Early invaded Maryland in July, 1864, he reported to General Lew. Wallace for active service, and was engaged in the battle at Frederick, Md., on the 7th, and in conjunction with other troops brought up the rear-guard, on the 8th, to Monocacy Junction, and on the morning of the 9th he assumed command of a detachment of mounted infantry and assisted in holding the Baltimore Pike, which was the only road on which General Wallace could retire his defeated army.
Upon the termination of these operations he returned to Baltimore, and was appointed, on the 13th of July, inspector and chief of cavalry of the Eighth Army Corps, and served in that position until about the end of November, when he rejoined and commanded the regiment from the 3d of December, 1864, to the 13th of January, 1865, during which time he participated in General Torbett's raid to Gordonsville and was engaged in the skirmishes near Madison Court-House, Gordonsville, and Paris.
He participated in General Sheridan's last raid era route to join the closing Richmond campaign, and was engaged in the skirmishes near Staunton and Bent's Creek, captured a quantity of ammunition and provisions at Scottsville, and destroyed the canal-locks and some boats at that place; in the action at South Anna Bridge, where he destroyed the railroad; and finally arrived at the White House, and crossed the river at Deep Bottom and rejoined the Army of the Potomac. He was severely wounded, while commanding the regiment, in the action between Dinwiddie Court-House and Five Forks on the 31st of March, 1865. He was made a brevet major, to date from April 1, 1865, for gallant and meritorious services at Five Forks, and a brevet lieutenant-colonel, to date from April 1, 1865, for gallant aud meritorious services during the war of the Rebellion.
He rejoined the regiment at Cumberland, Md., on the 25th of June, and commanded it until the 19th of September, when he was transferred to the Southern States and served during the reconstruction period in Tennessee aud Kentucky, commanding a detachment of the regiment at Nashville, and his company at Gallatin, Franklin, and other stations, and had some field-service against guerrillas. He captured, in June, 1866, a noted outlaw near Memphis, and in October captured the guerrilla Harper and five of his men; and in November he had a successful encounter with a party of guerrillas near Black Jack, Tenn.
He was on a leave of absence from August to December, 1868; commanded Fort Harker, Kan., from December, 1868, to June, 1869; and served at Fort McPherson, Neb., and Fort Laramie, Wyo., from November, 1869, to November, 1871, when he marched to Fort D. A. Russell, Wyo., and accompanied the second detachment of the regiment, by the way of San Francisco and the Gulf of California, to Arizona, and arrived at Camp Grant February 10, 1872, where he served until February, 1873. He then availed himself of a sick-leave of absence until March, 1874, when he rejoined his company at Camp Grant, where he served until October, when he again availed himself of a sick-leave of absence until September, 1875, when ho rejoined his company at Fort Lyon, Col., and served at the station, having some field-service, until June 5, 1876, when he moved by rail to Cheyenne and participated in the Sioux campaign in Northern Wyoming, Montana, and Dakota, and was engaged in the affair at War Bonnet (Indian Creek), Wyo., and in the skirmishes at Slim Buttes, Dak. Upon the disbandment of the expedition at Fort Robinson, Neb., in October, he was assigned to Fort McPherson, where he had station until May 9, 1877, when he ceased to be an officer of the army. He is now employed as a special agent in the office of the Commissioner of Pensions at Washington.