HEADQUARTERS ELEVENTH REGIMENT INDIANA,
Camp McGinnis, June 14, 1861.
DEAR SIR: Having been notified that several hundred rebel troops were quartered at Romney, Hampshire County, Virginia, drilling there, impressing Union men, and in other ways oppressing loyal citizens, I determined to disperse them, if possible. For that purpose I left Cumberland at 10 o’clock on the night of the 12th instant, with eight companies, in all about five hundred men, and by railway went to New Creek Station, twenty-one miles distant.
A little after 4 o’clock I started my men across the mountains, twenty-three miles off, intending to reach the town by 6 o’clock in the morning. The road was very fatiguing and rough, leading along high bluffs, and narrow passes, which required great caution in passing, so much so, indeed, that with the utmost industry I did not get near Romney until about 8 o’clock. In a pass a mile and a half this side the town my dashed ahead and alarmed the rebels. In fact, I afterwards learned that they had notice of my coming full an hour before my arrival.
In approaching the place it was necessary for me to cross a bridge over the South Branch of the Potomac. A reconnaissance satisfied me that the passage of the bridge would be the chief obstacle in my way, although I could distinctly see the enemy drawn up on the bluff, which is the town site, supporting a battery of two guns, planted so as to sweep the road completely. I directed my advance guard to cross the bridge on the run, leap down an embankment at the farther entrance, and observe the windows of a large brick house not farther off than seventy-five yards. Their appearance was the signal for an assault. A warm fire opened from the house, which the guard returned, with no other loss than the wounding of a sergeant. The firing continued several minutes. I led a second company across the bridge, and by following up a ravine got them into a position that soon drove the enemy from the house and into a mountain to its rear.
My attention was then turned to the battery on the hill. Instead of following the road, as the rebels expected, I pushed five companies in skirmishing order, and at double-quick time, up a hill to the right, intending to get around the left flank of the enemy, and cut off their retreat. Hardly had my companies deployed and started forward, and got within rifle range, before the rebels limbered up and put off over the bluff in hottest haste. Between their position and that of my men was a deep precipitous gorge, the crossing of which occupied about ten minutes. When the opposite ridge was gained we discovered the rebels indiscriminately blent, with a mass of women and children, flying as for life from the town. Having no horse, pursuit of the cannoneers was impossible. They went off under whip and spur. After that I quietly marched into the place, and took possession of the empty houses and a legion of negroes, who alone seemed unscared by our presence. After searching the town for arms, camp equipage, &c., I returned to Cumberland by the same road, reaching camp at 11 o’clock at night. My return was forced, owing to the fact that there was not a mile on the road that did not offer half a dozen positions for the ruin or rout of my regiment by a much smaller force.
The loss of the rebels we have not been able to accurately ascertain. A citizens of Romney admitted two killed. My own surgeon dressed the wound of one man. A number of tents were taken. Quite a number of rifles were destroyed, and, among others, I have a Major Isaac Vandever prisoner, a gentleman who, from accounts, has been very active in exciting rebellion, organizing troops, and impressing loyal citizens. I have also an excellent assortment of surgical stores, which, with the tents, I have taken the liberty to convert.
My regiment behaved admirably, attacking coolly and in excellent order. Where all behaved gallantly, I cannot single out officers for praise. Sufficient to say they conducted themselves like veterans, and in such a manner as to entitle them to your confidence in any field.
I beg to call your attention to the length of our march-eighty-seven miles in all, forty-six of which was on foot, over a continuous succession of mountains, made in twenty-four hours, without rest, and varied by a brisk engagement-made, too, without leaving a man behind, and what is more, my men are ready to repeat it to-morrow.
I have already received your approval of my enterprise, for which I am very much obliged. One good result has come of it: the loyal men in that region have taken heart. Very shortly I think you will hear of another Union company from that district. Moreover, it has brought home to the insolent “chivalry” a wholesome respect for Northern prowess.
Very truly, sir, your obedient servant,
Major-General PATTERSON, Chambersburg, Pa.
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I, Vol. II. With additions and corrections. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1902.