After Action Report
Lt. Col. Carl Fowler
It is my duty to inform you of actions taken September 26 to 28,. I ordered contingents of the III Corp south to Anderson, Virginia, in search of a crossing of Cow Creek. Maj. Mann commanded the 72nd NYVI supported by the 71st Penn, 28th Mass, and pioneers of the 2nd Wisconsin along with Cannon from the 1st Ohio Light, 13th Independent, and the 5th US Artillery under the command of Maj. Thomas Osborn, and the 1st Cavalry (Dragoons) under the command of Lt.Steve Kerns. My forward patrols arrived in the morning of Sept. 26.
The only viable crossing was Hawes' Crossing which needed improvements. Pioneers began making repairs while camp was established. Defensible positions were constructed as a Confederate force was believed in the area. An artillery position was established on a knoll overlooking the crossing. Work was completed on the evening of Sept 26 and pickets were posted in the outlying woods.
On the morning of Sept 27, I ordered a detachment from the 1st Dragoons to assist in placing a battery of artillery at an overlook to north-east so as to protect our front. At about 11:20 o’clock, a Confederate Brigade struck this position. The battery was unable to respond and were forced back across Cow Creek, taking a position south-east of the crossing. Three Confederate units advanced across the field. These were later identified as elements of the 42nd Virginia Infantry, 8th Alabama, and the 1st Texas, under the command of Lt.Col. Henry Wagner, and their artillery was subsequently identified as that of Hurt's Battery 1st and 2nd Co, and Co B, C.S.Marines.
I sent our infantry forward with support from Maj. Osborn’s artillery. The Confederates took heavy casualties. Our men fought bravely and were able to halt the advance at Cow Creek. Fighting continued for some time but as the enemy weakened I ordered Maj. Mann forward. With assistance from Lt. Kern’s cavalry striking the Confederate left flank, our forces were able to force a Confederate withdrawal from the field. Units from the 71st Penn and 28th Mass nearly captured a Confederate artillery battery while the 72nd NYVI, under Command of Capt. Henry Hobbs, forced the main contingent of Confederates back. The Confederates withdrew.
I ordered our units back to our primary position at Hawes' Crossing. The crossing was damaged by Confederate artillery and again repaired. I sent a cannon forward with an escort by Cavalry in an attempt to establish a battery on the knoll to the north. Lt. Kerns was struck by the advance force of a counter attack by the Confederates and was again forced back to the crossing. With cover fire provided by their own artillery, the Confederates advanced with a superior force. My reserve forces had not yet arrived and I was forced to withdraw from the positions along Cow Creek and the enemy was able to gain the crossing.
Heavy fighting ensued and I withdrew to our secondary defenses. The Confederates advanced against our defenses but suffered heavy casualties. Constant fire from our artillery took its toll of lives. The advance was halted when canister fire was used against the Confederate forward units. Our men were able to hold at our secondary defenses. Sunset brought an end to the hostilities and the Confederates ceased the advance. I was able to consolidate our defenses and pickets were posted. The night proved to be quiet.
The morning of Sept 28 brought news that the Confederates had abandoned the crossing and apparently withdrawn from the field during the night. Reserve units had arrived and I ordered scouts from the 1st USSS forward to reconnoiter our front. I ordered a general advance of Cavalry and infantry across Cow Creek to the high ground to the north-east. We had occupied this ground but short time when the 1st USSS returned to advise a large Confederate force converging on the area.
Battle lines were formed and a defensive posture was taken when our line was hit on the right flank. Heavy fighting ensued. Many brave men under my command were lost. Maj. Mann and Capt. Hobbs rallied the men to fight on but against the large force to the front, were pushed back to the crossing. Confederate artillery and infantry rifle fire were heavy. A stand was made at the crossing but a strong push by the Confederate 8th Alabama Infantry cut off the crossing from nearly half of my forces. We were forced to wade Cow Creek to avoid being cut off all together. A heavy Confederate artillery barrage took its toll and I ordered a general withdrawal to our secondary defense. Again, our artillery were able to slow the Confederate advance to allow for our remaining forces to reach our line. The 1st US Cavalry continued to harass the enemies left flank, making enough inroads to force a repositioning of the Confederate units. There was no further advance of the Confederate forces. I ordered a general cease fire at this time and the Confederates were able to gather their dead and wounded.
Reserve units of the 69th NYVI and the 7th West Virginia arrived and a counter attack was ordered. At about 2:10 O’clock, I ordered our men forward. The Confederates had attempted to consolidate their position when the attack was started. Heavy fighting ensued with the enemy suffering heavy casualties. Lt.Col. Wagner’s men fought bravely but were eventually driven back by an artillery barrage and withdrew to the crossing. Maj. Mann was able to maneuver his units and with a major push by Capt. Hobbs and the 72nd NYVI, they were able to force the Confederates from the crossing and back to the north. Their casualties continued to mount and I saw there was a general withdrawal. Lt. Kerns took his cavalry forward and was able to break up the defensive stand made by what was left of the 8th Alabama. The fighting slowed and I ordered my units to halt.
I am pleased to inform you, Sir, that we currently hold the crossing but there was a heavy cost in men’s lives. I found Maj. Mann severely wounded and I ordered my Surgeon to attend to him personally. I am told he will be convalescing for a time but is expected to recover. Our hold is precarious at best and I am requesting further reserves be sent to this location. The Confederate forces are still north of our position and I am, as yet, unable to determine their numbers. Unless orders are received to the contrary, I will improve our defenses here and settle the men into winter camp.
Lt. Col. Carl Fowler