Thursday, October 18, 2012

Take The Focus To Charlestown

The Battle of Charlestown fought October 18th 1863 was a part of the Bristoe and Mine Run Campaigns.

General Robert E Lee sent Confederate Brigadier General John D Imboden’s cavalry on a raid into the Shenandoah Valley to attack the Union garrison at Charlestown, West Virginia.  Lee was hoping this would move some of the Union forces in his front.  Imboden got to Berryville on October 17th 1863 where the Cavalry skirmished with a company of the Union 1st New York Cavalry, driving them into Charlestown.  The Union Commander Colonel Benjamin L Simpson was inexperienced having been in service only 17 days, believed that Charlestown was not the target, and so choose not to move his small force to Harpers Ferry.

Imboden advanced at dawn on October 18th 1863 driving the Union pickets in along the south of Charlestown.  The Union 9th Maryland made a stand in the Jefferson County Courthouse, and left one company from the Loudoun Rangers Cavalry and the 6th Michigan Cavalry to “take care of themselves”.  Imboden offered to negotiate a surrender with Simpson, but the Union General refused.  The Union Cavalry tried to fight their way out of Charlestown and head for Harpers Ferry, but northeast of town they ran into the Confederate 18th Virginia Cavalry and the 62nd Virginia Mounted.  The Union troopers found a weak spot in the Confederate right, cutting their way out.  The Cavalry lost 2 men killed, and 17 made prisoners.

Imboden still in Charlestown had his artillery brought up, and demanded the Union surrender a second time.  When Simpson turned him down again Imboden had the town shelled.  Under fire Simpson abandoned the courthouse and moved his men to a field near where the cavalry had fought.  Imboden had men in the woods facing the field, they fired and deadly volley into the Union soldiers.  Simpson finally surrendered.

The remains of the 6th Michigan and Loudoun Rangers were joined by the 17th Indiana Battery and Cole’s Maryland Cavalry from Harpers Ferry, arrived to reinforce the garrison, but were about 15 minutes to late.  There was a fierce fight throughout the afternoon, but they were not able to drive Imboden off.  Around 5 pm the 34th Massachusetts Infantry arrived at the fight having marched 18 miles from Barrysville.  They attacked Imboden, who choose withdraw under the cover of darkness with his prisoners and supplies stolen from Charlestown.

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