Taken from the National Tribune December 6, 1906 edition.
The 11th Pa. Cav.
Scouting and Fighting Around Suffolk, Va.
Editor National Tribune: I was pleased to read Comrade Weaver's letter in the National
Tribune. I am always pleased to hear from any of the boys of the old 11th Pa. Cav., or
about old the regiment. I have no doubt that some of Co. I was from places other than
Lancaster County, and the few of them may have been from Germany, but as Capt. Herr and
most of the men were from Lancaster County, of course the company was credited to that
place. If Comrade Weaver had been with the company when we captured the Rocket Battery on
the 2d of December, 1862, he would have thought rebs ran from the 11th and were good
sprinters, though a goodly number of them, with the Rocket Battery, came back with us to
Suffolk, and the heads of some of the prisoners showed they come in contact with our
At that little ruction Co. I was on picket, and when the balance of the 11th came in
within supporting distance, Co. I. led by the gallant Lieutenant (afterwards Major) Roper,
charged the enemy and we were soon among them with the saber. That was a grand saber
charge, with good results. There are exceptions to all rules, and if the 11th had to get
away from the Johnnies occasionally, "Dere was de' casion foh it." Too many
"Cornfeds" as we used to call them. I have no doubt but Comrade Weaver was a
good soldier, and in following his General and Colonel, who never asked their soldiers to
go for they would not lead, even if it was through mud and brush, proved his mettle as one
of the 11th.
I will write a little screed about a scout that preceded the battle of Kelly's
Crossroads, or Deserted House, and of that fight. Word was brought to Gen. Peck,
commanding officer at Suffolk, that Gen. Pryor (Confed), with his command, was on a
foraging expedition between Franklin, on the Blackwater, and Suffolk, where our forces
were stationed. Col. Spear was ordered to send out a detachment of the 11th Pa. Cav. to
fine the whereabouts of Pryor. About half the Regiment, under command of Col. Stetzel, was
ordered out on scout. We started out on the South Quay road at dusk of evening, Co. G in
advance, about 20 men under command of Lieut. Gontz of Co. G as advance guard, eight of us
in extreme advance. Col. Stetzel said he intended to charge through the enemy's camp and
come to Suffolk by way of the Sumerton road. The advance guard was ordered to move on
steadily until fired on by the Confederate picket, and then charge being supported by the
battalion of the command. The Johnny on picket was a brave fellow. He challenged the
advance three times before he fired at close range. The bullet from his gun barely missed
Comrade Breth, catching his horse in the hip. The horse staggered over into a ditch at the
side of the road and fell. Comrade Breth got off rather quickly and footed it into camp.
Another comrade's horse fell and he also was dismounted cavalry. The Confederate reserve
picket had a fire built near the road at the station, and when our advanced guard charged
past, opened on them with their pistols. It was very dark in the lumps of powder burning
and flying through the air was a beautiful slight. Col. Stetzel had "heart
failure" and instead of following the advance halted the command. When Lieut. Gonz
found we were not supported he returned with his boys, receiving the same salute as they
did at first. Col. Stetzel concluded he had found Pryor's command, and giving the order
" Fours right about wheel," we've returned to camp, left in front. We afterwards
found out that it was a good thing for us that we turned back, as the Johnnies had cut a
large tree across the road and had artillery planted behind it to sweep the road. We
certainly would have got it in the neck if we had gone through. The following evening,
Jan. 29, 1863, Gen. Corcoran ("Mike," as his Legion called him) was ordered out
with the 13th Ind., as fine a regiment as ever went into battle the 11th Cav always
thought; the 69th, 112th, 130th, 155th, and 164th N.Y., the 6th Mass, 165th and 167th Pa.,
Battery D., 4th U.S. Art., the 7th Mass. Battery, and 11th Pa. Cav., to see what we could
do with Pyror and his troops. A little while before daylight on the morning of the 30th,
Lieut. Roper, with his detail of the 11th Cav., charged the Confederate picket, and
supported by the Regiment soon came in sight of the enemy's campfires. It was a splendid
panorama, but the Johnnies kicked their fires around lively until they spoiled the view. A
few of their picket force, said to have been a Regiment, fell in our cavalry charge. The
rebels had planted their artillery to sweep the roads and the woods on the Suffolk side of
the plantation on which they were camped, so that when our infantry and artillery, with
the 13th Ind. on the skirmish line, came in range they saluted with a heavy artillery
fire. Our artillery went into position and the fight was on. There was where Gen. Corcoran
missed it. Pryor thought at first it was only cavalry raid on his pickets, and if Corcoran
had charged with his force he doubtless would have captured most, if not all of Pryor's
command. Col. Spear made the remark: "I am worth thousands of dollars, and I would
give every dollar I am worth to be command here for two hours." Spear urged the
General to charge the 13th Ind. and he would support them with the cavalry but the General
was afraid of been leading into a trap, so the golden opportunity was lost. The
Confederates. retreated to Franklin, carry most of their wounded with them, keeping our
cavalry back with artillery sweeping the road. One of the Confederates killed was a
captain, a fine looking man, dressing a new suit of gray. I pitied him as he lay there in
his last sleep. In the evening we returned to Suffolk with about 40 prisoners.
J.B. Stalb, Co. G, 11th Pa Cav., Hastings, Pa.
JANUARY 30, 1863.--Engagement at Deserted House, or Kelly's Store, near
No. 2.--Report of Brig. Gen. Michael Corcoran, U. S. Army.
HEADQUARTERS CORCORAN' S IRISH LEGION,
Suffolk, Va., February 1, 1863.
MAJOR: I have the honor to report that, in compliance with orders received
from Maj. Gen. John J. Peck, at 9.30 p.m. on Thursday the 29th ultimo I
proceeded to take command of the troops designated for the expedition to
attack the rebel force under General Roger A. Pryor.
Arriving at the point previously arranged for the rendezvous of our troops
at 12 o'clock I found most of the regiments already on the ground or had
passed them on their march thereto.
At I a.m. on Friday, the 30th, everything being in readiness I commenced
the march in the order according to the annexed supplement. I continued the
march until, arriving near the Nansemond County Poor House, I ordered a
halt for about ten minutes, after which we proceeded on toward the Deserted
About 1 mile from the latter place our advance guard, at 3.20 a.m., met the
enemy's pickets posted in strong force on the road and in the woods. They
were promptly charged, some being killed and others taken prisoners. The
charge was continued by two companies of Colonel Spear's cavalry up to the
enemy's front, who were drawn up in line of battle. I pushed forward
Captain Follett's battery of the Fourth U.S. Artillery, supported by the
Thirteenth Regiment Indiana Volunteers, and two sections of Captain Davis'
(Seventh Massachusetts) battery, supported by the One hundred and thirtieth
New York Volunteers. They gained an open space in front of the enemy, whose
camp-fires were burning. The other regiments of the command, which were in
line of battle along the south side of the road, were ordered to lie down
when the artillery firing commenced.
Captain Follett's battery first opened at 3.40 a.m. on the north side of
the road, and the enemy immediately replied with twelve pieces, some of
which were of a larger caliber than our own. Captain Davis took position on
the south side of the road, and our own guns and the enemy's kept up an
incessant and very rapid fire until 6 a.m.
At about 5.15 a.m. I gave orders for the infantry to advance. This order,
twice repeated, was not promptly executed, through cause which I reported
verbally to the major-general yesterday. On learning this I immediately
ordered an advance a third time and went in person to the One hundred and
sixty-seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Militia and sent orders to the
regiments in the rear to advance in succession in the order of battle
previously assigned. I found the One hundred and sixty-seventh without a
single field officer. The colonel, I afterward learned with regret, was
seriously, if not mortally wounded, and the lieutenant-colonel and major
had their horses killed under them and were temporarily hurt. I asked if
there was any officer present who would take command of the regiment. The
adjutant promptly responded and used all exertions to get the men forward,
but did not succeed. They became a confused mass, mixed up with other
regiments, and filled up the entire road, leaving it impassable and
creating a temporary confusion among some other regiments in the rear. The
lieutenant-colonel came up to me about this time and requested permission
to take his regiment to the rear in order to restore confidence and have
them reformed. I became convinced this must be done, and consequently
ordered the Sixty-ninth Regiment New York National Guards (who behaved
throughout with admirable steadiness, although suffering severely from the
enemy's shell) and the One hundred and fifty-fifth New York Volunteers to
take position in line of battle about 800 paces in the rear and stop any of
the command from retiring beyond that point. One company of Spear's cavalry
was placed on the road for a similar purpose. I rode down to see this order
executed, and on returning to the front in company with Colonel Spear, at
5.40 a.m., determined to charge the enemy with the bayonet, and ordered two
pieces of artillery to be placed on the road and formed the Thirteenth
Indiana and One hundred and thirtieth New York on the right and left,
strongly supported by Spear's cavalry. These orders were promptly attended
to, and at 6 a.m. they all moved forward under command of Colonel Spear. I
ordered up the other regiments and formed them in successive lines of battle.
The enemy rapidly retreated at our apparent approach, and were vigorously
pursued until our infantry advance was stopped by thick woods and marsh. On
the concentration of our forces at this point I ordered the One hundred and
thirtieth New York Volunteers to be thrown forward as skirmishers on each
side of the road and a portion of Spear's cavalry to reconnoiter on the
road, who soon reported the enemy's artillery strongly posted about 2 miles
in front. Our skirmishers here were under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel
a, and continued to advance steadily. The enemy on perceiving them came
forward with their peculiar yell to dislodge them, but were quickly driven
back with much loss. They tried this three times with the same result.
Lieutenant-Colonel Thorp acted bravely and exhibited much coolness and good
judgment. Two pieces of Captain Davis' battery, supported by the
Sixty-ninth New York National Guards, meanwhile took position on the road
and opened on the enemy.
It may be necessary for me to state that from 5.30 a.m. the remainder of
our artillery were almost entirely without ammunition. The men of the
command had eaten nothing up to this time, 10.15 a.m., and had made a rapid
march. I therefore ordered a halt for the purpose of giving them time for
breakfast and awaiting fresh supplies of ammunition. I consulted the
colonels and chiefs of commands and decided to endeavor to take the enemy
in flank by moving along the old Franklin road.
At about 11 a.m. Colonel Foster reported to me, and I immediately placed
him in command of the entire infantry. Soon after, the One hundred and
twelfth Regiment New York Volunteers and three pieces of the Second
Wisconsin Battery, with a fresh supply of artillery ammunition, reported.
My thanks are due to these commands for the prompt manner in which they
marched to the scene of action and the desire they manifested to join in
the pursuit of the enemy. The two howitzers attached to the Eleventh
Pennsylvania Cavalry were present and were brought to boar on the enemy
while on their retreat in the morning.
At 12 m. everything was in readiness and I altered the former determination
and decided to attack the enemy in front, and again moved forward for that
purpose, leaving the One hundred and twelfth New York Volunteers, two
pieces of the Second Wisconsin Battery, and two companies of Spear's
cavalry to hold the Deserted House. The enemy had commenced his retreat. We
pursued with all possible haste toward Cartsville. At Pecosin Creek the
Thirteenth Indiana Volunteers, as skirmishers, came up with their rear
guard, strongly posted on the opposite bank, and a sharp skirmish ensued.
Our artillery way quickly placed in position and opened, receiving no
reply. After a few min utes I ordered the artillery to cease fire and
Colonel Spear to charge the enemy across the bridge, which he did in his
usual gallant and fearless manner. He continued on nearly 2 miles beyond
Carrsville and returned, reporting the enemy entirely out of sight.
I then concluded that all attempts to get them to engage were useless, and
therefore farther pursuit unnecessary. Major Wheelan, with six companies of
Dodge's New York Mounted Rifles, reported at this time and was immediately
assigned to duty. We returned toward Suffolk, halting at the Deserted House
at 6 p.m. to give the men time for rest and food.
Details were ordered to bury those of the enemy's dead who, in their
flight, were left on the field, and among whom was a lieutenant, as
indicated by his uniform.
We fired, according to Captain Follett's official report, 1,140 rounds of
shot and shell, and the ground occupied by the enemy was strewn with dead
soldiers, horses, broken rammers, sponges, knapsacks, and cartridge-boxes;
and innumerable pools of blood on the roadside and in the woods gave full
proof of the immense havoc our artillery created during the night
engagement. I ascertained, from information received on the way to
Carrsville, that 25 wagons were believed to have been impressed for the
purpose, and were driven off filled with their killed and wounded. I
visited a large farm house occupied by Mrs. Mulholland, which they had used
as one of their hospitals. Both floors of the building were covered with
blood and pieces of bone and flesh. My informant told me that 40 wounded
had been there, among whom were 4 officers. A prisoner asserts that our
first shell killed one of their colonels.
The Thirteenth Indiana Volunteers, with its accomplished
lieutenant-colonel, I found ever ready to obey all orders promptly and
cheerfully, and did signal service. Of the Sixty-ninthNew York National
Guards and the One hundred and fifty-fifth New York Volunteers, as they
belong to my own command, I do not desire to speak as flatteringly as they
deserve. What I have a right to say of Colonel Spear, commanding the
cavalry, would scarcely add to his already high reputation as one of the
most accomplished officers in the service, a thorough disciplinarian, and
one who does not know what fear is. He led every charge in person, and I
found him, his lieutenant-colonel, majors, adjutant, and other officers and
entire command ever ready to perform every duty assigned them with the
greatest alacrity. His perfect knowledge of the country was of incalculable
service to me.
Colonel Foster is also too well known to the major-general for me to
endeavor to elevate his military character beyond that very high standard
he has already earned and attained. I must, however, state that he fully
maintained this character and rendered me most efficient service from the
time of his arrival.
Captain Follett, as chief of artillery, acted with great judgment, and
himself and officers, as also Captain Davis and officers and the men of
both batteries, cannot be spoken of too highly for their coolness and
indomitable courage during such a severe engagement.
I was most ably assisted by Captain Blodgett, my assistant
adjutant-general; Lieutenant Tracey, my aide-de-camp, and Lieutenants
Hughes and Winterbotham, detailed on my staff. They carried my orders and
messages everywhere under the most galling fire, and all are alike
deserving of the highest praise and commendation. Captain Blodgett was
slightly wounded in the left knee by a piece of shell.
I also desire to mention the excellent soldierly qualities of Private James
Collins; Company E, of Colonel Spear's regiment, who was detailed to me as
For specific accounts of meritorious conduct of subordinate officers who
did not come under my own observation I beg leave to refer you to
Dr. Hand, the medical director at this post, was present and directed the
transportation of our wounded and relieved and prevented much suffering.
Dr. Dwyer, surgeon of the Sixty-ninth, took charge of the building occupied
as our hospital, and, with the assistance of Dr. Nolan, surgeon of the One
hundred and fifty-fifth, and Assistant Surgeons Ewen, Spencer, Fawcett and
others, rendered good service in that department.
Quartermaster Cooke, of the One hundred and fifty-fifth New York
Volunteers, was placed in command of the transportation and gave most
The number of prisoners taken by us has not been generally mentioned in the
official reports to me, but I believe them to be about 30. Our total loss
is as follows:(*)
Killed. Wounded. Missing.
Officers 2 9 ....
Non-commissioned officers 3 21 1
Privates 18 65 14
Total 23 95 15
Total casualties .... .... 133
The whole command arrived at headquarters in most excellent spirits at I
a.m. on the 31st ultimo, making a march of 32 miles in about twenty-four
I cannot close without returning my sincere thanks to Maj. Gen. John J.
Peck, commanding this post, for the high honor he conferred on me
intrusting the command of this important expedition to me and leaving in
his special orders and dispatches so very much to my own discretion. I
endeavored to execute everything to the best of my ability, and hope that
all I have done meets his approbation.
I am, major, with high respect, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General, Comdg. at Battle of Deserted House, Va.
Maj. B. B. FOSTER,
Order of march of force under command of Brig. Gen. M. Corcoran, United
States Volunteers, from signal station near Suffolk, Va., from 1 to 3.20
a.m. Friday, January 30, 1863:
Six companies Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, under command of Col. Samuel
P. Spear; Thirteenth Regiment Indiana Volunteers, under command of Lieut.
Col. C. J. Dobbs; Battery D, Fourth U.S. Artillery, under command of
Captain Follett, acting as chief of artillery; two sections Seventh
Massachusetts Battery, under command of Cap-tam Davis; One hundred and
thirtieth Regiment New York Volunteers, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel
Thorp; Ambulance Corps; Sixth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, under
command of Colonel Follansbee; One hundred and sixty-seventh Regiment
Pennsylvania Militia, under command of Colonel Knoderer; the hundred and
fifty-fifth Regiment New York Volunteers, under command of Colonel McEvily;
train; one section Seventh Massachusetts Battery, under command of
Lieutenant --; Sixty-ninth Regiment New York National Guards, under command
of Colonel Murphy, and two companies Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, under
JANUARY 30, 1863.--Engagement at Deserted House, or Kelly's Store, near
No. 3.--Report of Col. Samuel P. Spear, Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry.
HDQRS. ELEVENTH PENNSYLVANIA VOL. CAVALRY,
Camp Suffolk, Va., February 1, 1863.
SIR: Inclosed herewith I have the honor to transmit a list of the killed
and wounded in an engagement in which my regiment was engaged for thirteen
hours, being three hours and eleven minutes under a most tremendous fire of
shot and shell from the enemy's heavy guns.
This is the fifth heavy engagement that the regiment has taken an active
part in since October 1, 1862, in the vicinity of Blackwater.
The recent battle took place on the morning of the 30th of January, 1863,
at the Deserted House, 9 miles west of Suffolk, Va. The enemy consisted of
16 pieces of heavy artillery, 1,200 cavalry, and 6 regiments of infantry.
Our force was 12 pieces of artillery, 5 regiments of infantry, and my re,
meat, the Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry. The cavalry opened the engagement
by a charge on the enemy's pickets, and was from that moment till the end,
as before stated, constantly in the hottest of the battle. Lieut. Col.
George Stetzel and Majs. Samuel Wetherill and George T. Cornog were present
with the regiment and rendered prompt and valuable services during the
entire engagement. The non-commissioned officers and men performed their
duty in excellent style, and during a crashing fire they proved an ornament
to the service and an honor to their State. It will be seen by the inclosed
list that Capt. Albert J. Ackerly had his horse killed by a piece of a
shell, and that Capt. John B. Loomis and my adjutant, A. A. Menzies, had
their horses instantly killed by a heavy shot. My own horse was seriously
and perhaps mortally wounded by a shot in the breast.
Both officers and men are worthy of the highest commendation for their
coolness, courage, and undaunted bravery.
I most respectfully request that permission may be granted to have
inscribed upon the regimental colors the words, "Blackwater" and "Deserted
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
S. P. SPEAR,
Colonel, Eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry.
Hon. ELI SLIFER,
Secretary of State