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Fighting at Honeyville

The following article was is from the The Page News and Courier, Luray, Virginia.

Bloodshed on the river - a little known Civil War action in Page

Page News & Courier

Heritage and Heraldry

Bloodshed on the river - a little known Civil War action in Page

Article of October 9, 1997

On the afternoon of May 7, as portions of "Stonewall" Jackson's army continued its screening action on the main body's march to McDowell, portions of the 6th Virginia Cavalry and one company of the 9th Louisiana Infantry stood posted on the east side of the Shenandoah River near Sommerville and the Columbia Bridge in Page County. The Louisiana men were part of the famous "Wheat's Tigers" that were part of General Richard Taylor's Louisiana Brigade. Taylor was himself the son of President Zachary Taylor and distant cousin to many Taylors who then resided in the county.

Poised near the river, the Confederates were attacked in the early afternoon as forward deployed pickets of the 13th Indiana Infantry opened fire. Hearing of firing, Brigadier General Jeremiah C. Sullivan, commanding the bluecoat brigade, ordered Colonel Robert S. Foster, commanding the 13th Indiana, to deploy with six companies to drive the Confederates back. Captain Wilson was to remain behind with four remaining companies of the 13th.

Taking six companies, Foster moved past Honeyville "about two and a half miles" and came upon the Confederates "advance guard" immediately in his front atop a hill. By this time, a company from the 7th Louisiana, under Major Davidson Penn, was moving in the direction of the action along the river. Deploying three companies on the sides of the road, Foster continued forward along the road with the other three companies.

Driving the Confederates through Sommerville to Dogtown, Foster redeployed his infantry at Sommerville. While five of the companies were positioned on the heights on the left of the road, companies B and I were placed near the remains of the burned Columbia Bridge "about two miles up the road, to the right of and distant about two and a half miles from Dogtown." A half hour rest that Foster allowed his men was shortly thereafter disturbed when a Captain Conger of Company B, 1st Vermont Cavalry rode in and reported to Foster. With no further resistance in his front and no loss of men, Foster, the tinner-turned army officer, figured it best to call off the pursuit and return to camp to resume the attack upon the enemy the following morning. Conger's men would bring up the rear of the Hoosier companies. The skirmishers were quickly called back in and the march began back toward Honeyville.

After moving a short distance, the colonel called the column to a halt at Sommerville where he called in the companies left on the heights and awaited the cavalry. In the pause, Foster received a dispatch from General Sullivan encouraging the break-off of the pursuit and heeding the colonel to "beware of a surprise." No sooner had the dispatch been received, when a courier from the Vermont men rode in bearing a message announcing that they were surrounded and needed his assistance. Frustrated that the Green Mountain state men had not followed as ordered, but had "gone some four miles up the river, and encountered the reserve of the enemy," Foster ordered the six companies of the 13th to "about face," and calling upon Captain Wilson to bring up the reserve companies, set off quickly toward the river.

Taking position on the heights above the road, and to the left of Sommerville, most of the Indiana men engaged the Confederates at a distance of one hundred yards, and drove their skirmishers back two or three hundred yards on to their main body. Gripped for a half-hour in a "most terrific fire from the enemy," the Confederate force attempted to turn the Federal flank. Observing this, Captain Wilson was soon ordered to with the Federal reserve at "double-quick" to the left. With the Confederate threat countered, the Federal cavalry was able to escape by swimming the Shenandoah River.

The small engagement near Honeyville costs the Federal forces twenty-nine killed, wounded, captured, and missing, including the sergeant-major of the regiment. Colonel Foster reported that his number engaged included 180 men. The unnumbered Confederates who were captured were entirely from the 7th Louisiana Infantry.
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