Reports of Brig. Gen. George A. McCall, U. S. Army, with congratulatory response and orders
DECEMBER 20, 1861.---Engagement at Dranesville, Va.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME 5 [S# 5]

DRANESVILLE, December 20, 1861.

General MCCLELLAN.

        Ord's brigade, with the First Rifles and Easton's battery, had a brisk affair with four regiments and a battery of the rebels at 12 m. to-day. I arrived during the action, and sent for Reynolds, who was left at Difficult Creek. The enemy was defeated, and fled before Reynolds arrived. We have found 40 killed of the enemy and 10 wounded on the field. Our loss, 2 killed and 3 wounded. We have taken two caissons, with the harness, the horses having been killed, The Rifles behaved finely. Lieutenant-Colonel Kane very slightly wounded, but still in the field. I have collected the dead and wounded, and am about to move back to camp.

GEO. A. McCALL,
Brigadier-General, Commanding.

 

HEADQUARTERS MCCALL'S DIVISION,
Camp Peirpoint, December 22, 1861.

Brig. Gen. S. WILLIAMS,
Assistant Adjutant-General General.

        GENERAL: I have the honor to present for the information of the General-in-Chief a more detailed account of the affair at Dranesville on the 20th instant, together with the reports of Brig. Gen. E. O. C. Ord, commanding Third Brigade of my division, and the commanders of the Sixth Infantry, Lieut. Col. W. M. Penrose; of the Ninth Infantry, Col. C. F. Jackson; of the Tenth Infantry, Col. J. S. McCalmont; of the Twelfth Infantry, Col. J. H. Taggart; of the First Rifles, Lieut. Col. T. L. Kane; of two squadrons of the First Cavalry, Lieut. Col. J. Higgins; and Easton's battery, Capt. H. Easton, Pennsylvania Reserves.
        On the evening of the 19th, having learned that the enemy's pickets had advanced to within 4 or 5 miles of our lines and carried off two good Union men and plundered and threatened others and that their reserve was in the neighborhood of Dranesville, I gave written instructions to Brigadier-General Ord to move with his brigade at 6 a.m. on the 20th to surround and capture this party, and at the same time to collect a supply of forage from the farms of some of the rank secessionists in that vicinity.
        Brig. Gen J. F. Reynolds, with the First Brigade, was directed to move on to Difficult Creek, to be ready to support Ord in the event of his meeting a force stronger than his own.
        At 10.30 a.m. on the 20th I received a dispatch from General Ord, written on the march, informing me that the guide had learned on the way that there was a full brigade, but without artillery, at Herndon's Station, 500 infantry and cavalry at Hunter's Mill, and 200 infantry between Dranesville and the Potomac. I immediately mounted my horse, and with my staff and an escort of cavalry moved rapidly forward to overtake, if possible, Ord's brigade. I stopped for a few moments with Brigadier-General Reynolds at Difficult Creek, and having directed him to be in readiness to move forward rapidly in case he should be required to support Ord, I rode on. When within about 2 miles of Dranesville I heard the first gun fired by the enemy. It was soon answered by Easton's battery, which imparted to me the fact that the enemy had artillery with them.
        A rapid ride soon brought me to the field, where Ord was hotly engaged. I found Easton's battery judiciously placed, and in full blast upon the enemy's battery, about 500 yards in front, on the Centreville road. Here I stopped to observe the practice of our battery, while one of my staff rode off to ascertain where General Ord was. While here, admiring the beautiful accuracy of the shot and shell thrown by this battery upon the battery of the enemy, a force of infantry and cavalry made their appearance from cover on the enemy's right, moving in a direction to turn our left. Colonel McCalmont, whose regiment was on the left, was notified of this movement, but a few shell from our battery skillfully thrown into their midst checked their advance and drove them back ignominiously to cover.
        Not hearing anything of General Ord, I sent out in search of him on our right, where brisk firing was at the time going on. Here was the Ninth Infantry, Colonel Jackson, who had gallantly met the enemy at close quarters and nobly sustained the credit of his State.
        By this time Captain Scheetz, of my staff, reported that he had found General Ord near the center front. Proceeding there, I found the Rifles and a part of the Sixth Infantry Pennsylvania Reserves engaged under a brisk fire with the enemy. Having met General Ord. we moved forward, and the position where the enemy's battery had been placed was soon gained, and here we had evidence of the fine artillery practice of Easton's battery. The road was strewed with men and horses; two caissons, one of them blown up; a limber; a gun-carriage wheel; a quantity of artillery ammunition, small-arms, and an immense quantity of heavy clothing, blankets, &c.
        The battle was now over and the victory won. With my consent General Ord made an advance of about half a mile, but nothing further was to be done, as the enemy in full flight had passed beyond our reach. I then recalled Ord, and prepared for the return of my command. I ordered the harness to be taken off the enemy's horses which lay dead in the road and to be put upon horses of my escort, and brought away the perfect caissons and the limber.
        Early in the day, not knowing what force might be thrown forward front Centreville to support the troops we had encountered, I had called forward Brigadier-General Reynolds, First Brigade, and Brigadier-Gen-eral Meade, Second Brigade, from Camp Peirpoint, to the support of the Third Brigade. Both these distinguished officers promptly brought forward their commands, and I only regretted that the fine disposition of the regiments and battery of Ord's command, together with the gallantry of Colonels Jackson, McCalmont, and Taggart, and Lieutenant-Colonels Kane, Higgins, and Penrose, and Captain Easton, had left nothing for Reynolds and Meade to do. The rout of the enemy was complete; but as I did not consider it justifiable to bivouac at Dranesville when my ammunition was much exhausted and the enemy might easily throw 10,000 or 20,000 men between me and my camp during the night, I ordered every arrangement to be promptly made for the return march. Some time was required to prepare our wounded (60 officers and men) to be transported to camp, and it was very nearly dark before I got the column in motion. Our killed and wounded, as well as so many of the rebel wounded as could be moved, were brought away.
        The troops we had engaged and defeated were the First Kentucky Regiment, Col. Tom Taylor, about 800 strong on the field; the Tenth Alabama, Colonel Forney, 900 strong; a South Carolina regiment, whose colonel was not known to the prisoners in our possession, who informed me that no intercourse between different regiments was ever allowed, and a Virginia regiment. The Kentucky prisoners informed me they believed a fifth regiment was present, as two or three regiments had left Centreville at 3 a.m., and they, the Kentucky and Alabama regiments, together with Captain Cutt's Georgia battery and Stuart s Virginia regiment of cavalry, left at 5 a.m. The whole were under command of Brigadier-General Stuart.
        General Ord reports as worthy of notice his personal staff, and also Colonels McCalmont and Jackson, Lieutenant-Colonel Kane, Captains Easton, First Pennsylvania Artillery; Niles, First Rifles; Bradbury, Sixth Infantry Pennsylvania Reserves; and Dick and Galway, Ninth Infantry Pennsylvania Reserves.
        The number of killed found in front of the position occupied by the Ninth Infantry, Colonel Jackson, is in my estimation proof enough of the gallantry and discipline of that fine regiment; but where all behaved nobly it is difficult to discriminate. I must, however, call your attention more particularly to Brig. Gen. E. O. C. Ord, commanding Third Brigade, for whose able disposition of his regiments and battery and personal exertions to encourage and urge on his men too much credit cannot be accorded him.
        To Capt. H. J. Biddle, assistant adjutant-general, of my staff; Lieut. H. A. Scheetz, aide-de-camp; Captain Clow, brigade commissary, acting aide-de-camp; and Lieut. E. Beatty, ordnance officer, acting aide-de-camp, my thanks are due for their gallantry in carrying orders under fire and for encouraging and urging on the men, and also to Captain Chandler Hall, brigade quartermaster, who was energetically employed in collecting forage. It is proper to mention that deeming it necessary to leave one of my staff at headquarters to superintend the telegraph and to order forward the reserve, viz, the Second Brigade and three squadrons of cavalry, if required, the lot fell upon my aide-de-camp Lieut. Elbridge Meconkey, who discharged this responsible duty entirely to my satisfaction.
        Seven prisoners were taken.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

        The want of ambulances was felt on this occasion, and I would respectfully suggest that a few more be ordered to each regiment of my division, as I was unable for want of transport to bring from the field all the wounded prisoners taken in the affair. Those left I had placed in comfortable quarters in Dranesville, where they can be well attended to, but owing to this deficiency of transportation for the wounded I was compelled to leave in the hands of the enemy some of my prisoners. Last, not least, I brought in sixteen wagon loads of excellent hay and twenty-two of corn.
        The following list of killed and wounded on our side is, I regret, greater than I at first reported, viz, 7 killed and 61 wounded, including 1 lieutenant-colonel and 4 captains, and 3 missing.
        From what I have gathered from various reliable sources I am satisfied that the loss of the enemy was, at the very least, 90 killed left on the field, besides those carried off, among whom was certainly Col. Tom Taylor, commanding the First Kentucky Regiment, whom the Kentucky prisoners in my custody state they saw fall from his horse. Colonel Forney is also said to have been killed. This, however, is not so satisfactorily ascertained. General Stuart is reported by one of the prisoners to have been killed or wounded.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
GEO. A. McCALL,

Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.

 

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WAR DEPARTMENT, Washington, December 28, 1861.

Brig. Gen. GEORGE A. MCCALL,
Commanding Division, Camp Peirpoint, Va.:

        GENERAL: I have read your report of the battle of Dranesville, and although no reply is necessary on my part, yet as a citizen of the same Commonwealth as yourself and the troops engaged in that brilliant affair, I cannot refrain from expressing to you my admiration of the gallant conduct displayed by both officers and men in this their first contest with the enemy. Nearly all of your command upon that occasion are either my personal friends or sons of those with whom for long years I have been more or less intimately associated. I feel that I have just cause to be proud that, animated by no other motive than patriotism, they are among the first to revive the glory shed upon our country by the men of the Revolution and the soldiers of the war of 1812. It is one of the bright spots that give assurance of the success of coming events, and its effect must be to inspire confidence in the belief that hereafter, as heretofore, the cause of our country will triumph. I am especially gratified that a Pennsylvania artillery corps, commanded by officers who have necessarily had but limited systematic instruction, have won not only the commendation of their friends, but an unwilling compliment from the enemy for the wonderful rapidity and accuracy of their fire. I wish I could designate all the men who, nobly discharging their duty to the country, have added to the glory of our great Commonwealth. Other portions of the Army will be stimulated by their brave deeds, and men will be proud to say that at Dranesville they served under McCall and Ord.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
SIMON CAMERON,

Secretary of War.

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GENERAL ORDERS, No. 63

HDQRS. ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Washington, December 28, 1861.

        The Commanding General expresses his thanks to Brigadier-General Ord and the brave troops of his brigade, who so gallantly repelled an attack of an equal force of the enemy on the 20th instant. The General takes pleasure in observing the readiness of the remaining troops of McCall's division, and the able dispositions of their commander to repel the enemy in case of the advance of re-enforcements.
        The General would also acknowledge the distinguished services of Colonel McCalmont, Tenth Infantry Pennsylvania Volunteer Reserve Corps; Colonel Jackson, Ninth Infantry Pennsylvania Volunteer Reserve Corps; Lieutenant-Colonel Kane, Rifle Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Reserve Corps; and Captain Easton, of Easton's battery, which contributed in a large degree to the success of the day.
        By command of Major-General McClellan:

S. WILLIAMS,
Assistant Adjutant-General General.

Source:  "Official Records of the War of the Rebellion

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