Lewisburg, West Virginia, 1862

Letter, George Jenvy to Father
Dated May 23, 1862.
Lewisburg, West Virginia.
Published in Marietta Home News, June 6, 1862.

Col. George Crook defeated General Henry Heth at that place on May 23, and Ohioan Jenvy, serving in a West Virginia Cavalry unit made up mostly of southern Ohioans, witnessed the fray from the western heights overlooking Lewisburg.

Letter courtesy of Dudley Acker

"Another Account Incidents, & c."

George Jenvy of this city bugler in the 2nd Virginia Cavalry, in a private letter to his father, gives the following interesting account of the fight, as seen from his standpoint:
I was sleeping in a large barn a short distance from camp, when I was awakened by the bugle sounding "Boots and Saddles". I aroused the other boys with me, hastened to camp, & fell into line, where we learned that the rebels were advancing in force, and that our pickets had been driven in.
We marched to the hill that overlooked the town and on the opposite rising ground we could see the rebels drawn up in line of battle, awaiting our approach. Nothing was heard for some time, when the ball was opened by an irregular fire from the rebels and our skirmishers, which lasted but a few minutes. A lull followed for a brief space, when a volley succeeded, the like of which I never heard before. It sounded as though every gun had been fired by one will, and I never heard a more welcome sound in my life. I knew at once that volley came from men who were cool and determined, and I felt that the victory was surely ours if our men only kept up the fire they opened with.
Meanwhile the cavalry had remained unmolested. They saw a few bombs bursting over the edge of the town and hill, but as yet none had reached them, and they turned their attention to the fight that was going on in the gardens and fields beyond, when a rebel shell burst over their heads and reminded them of the fact that they enemy's battery had got the range of our position. The contents of this unwelcome intruder came whizzing around our heads and among the horses; and from that time we had as much as we could do to watch the shells and get out of the way before they exploded.
Fortunately the battery was captured before it did us any injury and the enemy soon retired over the hill in full retreat. Our cavalry hung on their rear until the rebels had crossed the Greenbriar bridge, which they burned after them, and thus ended the chase.
Of course the first thing after the rebels had been helped out of town was to pick up our dead and wounded - and the ambulances were soon in full play, while wagon loads of dead bodies passed by. The first house I entered there lay on the floor twelve wounded rebels, and one of our men shot through the heart. I looked at the wounded as they lay on the floor. The first one I saw was wounded through the stomach, and his shirt was saturated with his blood. He was on the eve of passing into a better or worse land, as his face clearly indicated. He was suffering intense pain and was supplicating God to have mercy on his soul. There the poor fellows lay, writhing and groaning in terrible agony. The spectacle was so sickening that I was compelled to get into the open air.
I walked up the street and soon heard groans coming from another house. Looking through the window I saw several dead bodies stretched out on the floor. The next door being open, I entered and found twelve more wounded rebels. One had the back part of his head shot off leaving his brains exposed. His face was so covered with blood that his own father would not have recognized him. He was still alive, moaning away the painful moments. His lamp was almost extinguished.
After seeing most of the wounded I went to the battlefield. They had been engaged in removing the dead all the morning, and yet on the ourskirts of the field I counted twenty dead that had not been gathered up. Behind a fallen log three dead bodies were lying just as they were shot. They were shot in the head or breast and seemingly while in the act of discharging their pieces. In another place in a bed of clover lay a gunner, matchlock in hand, with one bullet hole through the brain and another through the jaw. He fell while in the act of discharging the largest cannon the enemy had.
Most of our wounded are shot through the arms and fingers, and others in the legs. I was talking with one who was wounded in the breast just over the heart. The ball had passed through his belt, through his clothes and was spend on one of the bones over the heart, not having force enough to penetrate. Another told me he was shot through the leg while marching up to the fight, by someone from behind a house. He turned around but could not discover his dastardly foe. A rebel citizen shot dead one of our wounded while going to the surgean for assistance; while another citizen raised his gun to shoot another boy wounded in the face. His gun missed fire, and the boy coolly took note of the house and the features of the man, and in the evening took the colonel of the 36th and showed him the house -- and rumor says somebody is to swing.

Web Publishing Copyright © 1996 Larry Stevens

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Last updated May 14 1996