3rd VA Cavalry
From the War Diary of Lieutenant Colonel William R. Carter, CSA
M’ch 17: Boots & saddles sounded at 7 a.m. & Regiment soon on the road to Kelly’s ford via Brandy Station, 3rd squadron, under Cap’t Chappell, being in front & 1st under Cap’t Field in the rear. Moved at a brisk trot as far as Miller’s house & here formed in order of battle, 1 ½ miles below Brandy Station. Col. Owen called around his company commanders & asked them to do their duty & to see that their men did the same. Remaining here a few moments the Brigade moved off down the road at a brisk gallop; the 3rd Regiment being in front preceded by the sharpshooters. Soon came in sight of the enemy with their right wing resting on the river at Wheatley’s ford & their left extending a short distance beyond Brook’s house. They had a large number of dismounted sharpshooters posted behind a stone fence connecting these two places & a heavy mounted reserve drawn up in the fields & woods, on both sides of the road, branching off from Wheatley’s to Kelly’s ford. Our sharpshooters were soon engaged with theirs, and throwing down the fence about 100 yards below Brandon’s house, the Regiment came into the field & fell back to Brown’s house & in Wheatley’s field to form. Here all were met by Gen. Lee, who ordered Col. Owen to charge the enemy. This was doen in gallant style, Regiment sweeping down the fence along the road & passing through an opening between the rail fence, running at right angles across the field from Brook’s house, and the rock fence. We found it impossible to get through the stone fence to them & so the Regiment turned across the field to our left, to some straw shacks & wheeled down towards Wheatley’s ice house, hoping to be able to get at their right flank. But observing this, the enemy’s sharpshooters, who had fled from the approach of the column, returned to their posts & poured a hot fire into it as it passed & crowded into Wheatley’s houses & garden. Several of our number were wounded. On our left was the 5th Regiment, under Col. Roper, advancing to charge the enemy’s right flank. But getting to the house of G.T Wheatley, they were unable to advance because of obstructions placed in the outlet by the enemy. Blocked up here all remained a considerable time under a galling fire from the enemy posted in & around Wheatley’s houses at a range of not more than 75 yd’s. Here S’g’t G.M. Betts, company C., fell, and moving out from this position a few hundred yards, Maj. Puller of the 5th Regiment was killed. The 1st, 2nd & 4th Regiments charged the enemy as they advanced through Wheatley’s field from behind the stone wall. Here Maj. Breckenridge of the 2nd was captured — this was the first charge. We moved through Wheatley’s field into a field of Miss Wheatley (place occupied by Lampkin) & the 3rd charged again through the triangular lot in front of Lampkin’s house. But owing to the narrowness of the gate & the confusion produced by the 5th attempting to pass out at the same time, not more than 15 or 20 men followed the Col. Into the lot, who charged up to within 50 y’d’s of the fence on the west of Wheatley’s field. Finding it impossible to dislodge the enemy’s sharpshooters from behind the fence, this party retired through another gate by Lampkin’s sable. The enemy’s fire was concentrated upon these gates & they wounded several & killed J.T. Wilkins, company C, & W.W. Young, company B at this place. Maj. Pelham of the artillery fell in this field, shot in the head by a shell. This was the second charge.
Retiring from this charge we moved over on the main road leading from Brandy Station to Kelly’s ford & formed a line of battle near Caster’s run on the farm of Jas. Newby. The 1st, 5th & 3rd Regiments charged on the left of the road facing towards Kellysville; while the 2nd & 4th charged on the opposite side, making a line of the entire Brigade. The enemy formed in the edge of the woods opposite & advanced with the sharpshooters across the field & with a battery of 3 guns in Brown’s field; they were gallantly met by our sharpshooters & our Brigade remained some time exposed to a galling fire from the enemy’s sharpshooters before they were ordered to charge. Presently our artillery opened upon them& soon the order came for a simultaneous charge of the whole Brigade, commencing on the right. The 3rd commenced the charge by fours, and advancing 300 yards, were fronted into line & ordered to charge in line; but owing to the inequality of the ground, this was found impracticable & they were again ordered to charge by fours. A battery of 3 of the enemy’s guns was playing on us from the moment we commenced the charge. Some of the men passed several hundred y’d’s beyond the Battery, causing the most of the gunners to desert their pieces, & were only prevented from capturing the guns by a double fence which intervened & a heavy line of sharpshooters posted in the edge of the woods & behind the fences. Finding no impression could be made upon the enemy, we fell back to Caster’s run the point which the charge was commenced & reformed, the enemy not daring to follow us into the open fields. Ordered back on the road to within two miles of Brandy Station. Here we remained till about sunset; then ordered to follow the enemy on his retreat across the river. Marched to ½ mile of Kelly’s ford & hearing that the whole force had recrossed the river, we returned to the same camp at 12 P.M. This was the heaviest loss that our cavalry have sustained in a fight during the war. It was as follows:
Killed Wounded Missing Total
1st Regiment 1 7 0 = 8
2nd 1 18 15 = 34
3rd 4 37 3 = 44
4th 2 17 16 = 35
5th 2 9 0 = 11
Maj. Pelham Killed 1 = 1
Many of these were very slightly wounded. Those in the 3rd Regiment who were sufficiently wounded to go to Hospital & the killed are as follows: Company A.— Private J.E. Reynolds wounded seriously. Company B.— W.W. Young killed; L’t G.C. Mellen, J.B. Herbert & private A.W. West wounded. Company C.— S’g’t G.M. Betts & private J.T. Wilkins killed; Lt Jas. W. Hall wounded very seriously. Company D.— Privates Jas. E. Adams, L.A. Marston & F. Mountcastle wounded. Company E.— Corpl. Jno. R. Foster wounded in the arm. Company F.— L’t B.W. Lacy & Se’g’t Apperson wounded. Company G.-Private J.W. Bryant, H.F. Goodman wounded & private I.S. Fowler killed. Company H.— L’t Jas. V. Garner, Private Jas. Green, E. Cage & Thos. Walker wounded. Company I.—Corp’l A.A. Dance wounded. Company K.— Private Henry W. Edmonds, J.R. Cunningham, L. Scott, & C.A. Bondurant wounded. Thus ended this day. While the loss on our side was heavy, in men & horses, the enemy, in attempting to cross the river, lost more in killed than our own; and which we had to mourn the loss of some of our best men, are succeeded in preventing the enemy from accomplishing their purpose of making a raid through the country & destroying the rail road Bridge across the Rapidan. Our men with vastly inferior numbers & with horses which had not been fed in some time, held the insolent foe in check.
No feed tonight for horses or men. Wagons left for Orange C.H. at 10 a.m.
M’ch 18: Remained in same place & this evening got some corn for our horses. Wounded treated at Brandy Station & sent off to Gordonsville.
Carter, LtCol William R., CSA. Sabers, Saddles and Spurs. Shippensburg: Burd Street Press, 1998. Pages 49-54.