June 13th Report of Captain W. H. Werth, Commanding Chatham Grays, Virginia Cavalry

CAMP YORKTOWN, June 13, 1861.

I beg leave to make the following report of the movement of the troops under my command at the battle of Bethel Church on the 10th instant:

By the order of E. B. Montague, major of the Virginia battalion at Bethel, my company, the Chatham Grays, was placed in the redoubt to the rear of the church to defend the right wing in case of a discomfiture. From this point I was detailed, by your orders, to take position at the ford on the creek, about one mile below the bridge. I crossed my command over the open field under a shower of shell and canister, which the enemy poured into us from their battery, but sustained no damage.

A portion of the Fifth New York Zouave Regiment (three companies) was at this time advancing down the opposite bank of the stream for the purpose of crossing the ford, and thereby turn our left flank. I saw the movement, and at once took double quick and made the distance of over a mile in about nine minutes, beating the zouaves, and getting in position at the ford in time to cause them to halt. I obstructed the ford in all conceivable ways by felling trees, &c., and then placed my first platoon on the northwest side, under cover of an old mill-dam, whilst my second platoon I placed in ambush on the opposite side, where the road leading to the ford could have been raked for four hundred yards with deadly effect.

At 10.10 o’clock one naval howitzer, with a detachment from the Howitzer Battalion, reported to me for duty. I at once placed the gun in position one hundred and twenty yards up the creek from my infantry, where I had a beautiful range for grape or canister on a spot in the try, where I had a beautiful range for grape or canister on a spot in the road on the opposite side of the stream over which the enemy would of necessity pass in attempting the passage of the ford. From this point I had the pleasure of getting one good shot at the enemy, which, from the sudden rout of the party at which it was aimed, must have, done much damage. I also threw down all the fences on either side of the creek, and cleared all the undergrowth and large timber, so that after the enemy had passed the range of the howitzer from its first position I could limber up and in two minutes have it in position to deliver its fire between my two platoons and immediately upon the ford.

At 10 to 11 a.m. the Southern Guard, Captain —–, reported to me for duty. I at once joined this command with my company, all entirely concealed from the enemy. At a little past 11 o’clock, so completely ambuscaded was my entire force, one of the enemy sent down to examine the ford came up to within twenty yards of my position, and did not suspect the presence of any force until I ordered him to ground arms, which he instantly did, and I had the pleasure of taking him prisoner. He had a fine musket, accouterments, and forty-five rounds of cartridges. I placed him under guard, and afterwards forwarded him to headquarters. All the men under my command displayed a wonderful degree of coolness for troops who had never been under fire, and I am assured, if we had been so fortunate so fortunate as to have been attacked by a force five times our strength, that the command would have made a desperate resistance.

At sundown I was ordered to withdraw.

This special report is rendered necessary by my being detached from Major Montague’s battalion.

With high respect, I am, sir, yours, &c.,

Captain Chatham Grays, Virginia Volunteers.

JOHN B. MAGRUDER, Colonel, Commanding Division.


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.