To find a cavalry battlefield… on the back roads of Frederick County, pt 3

Posted on November 15, 2014 by

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Alright… so where is the portion of the battlefield, of November 12, 1864, where the 7th Virginia saw their heaviest fighting of the day?

As I mentioned yesterday… after coming to the aid of the 11th Virginia Cavalry, on the south bank of Cedar Creek, the 7th and the 12th moved to Middle Road to join the rest of Gen. Thomas Rosser’s Division. Ultimately, while Rosser thought he faced the bulk of the enemy on Middle Road, the main thrust of Custer’s cavalry advanced south, down the Back Road. Though the 11th did quite well for itself… even pushing the Federals back… eventually the size of the Confederate force became obvious to the Federals. McDonald wrote:

…it was now evident to Custer how small was the force opposed to his division. Fresh squadrons were put to the front, the broken ones reformed, and the whole division moved forward. The Bath men [part of the 11th] was pushed back, and though the Third Squadron came to their aid, it too was driven, and the Eleventh fell back in disorder.

Apparently having received word that the 11th was in need of help, Rosser sent the 7th and 12th to the rescue. Here’s the catch… how did they get there, and where, approximately did they arrive?

Well, my best guess was based on what Pennington said (that the fight took place about a mile and a half distant from Cedar Creek), and what McDonald said in the following statement…

They [the 7th and 12th] reached the field just as Custer had forced the Eleventh into a hasty retreat. But in passing over the ridge along a blind road crossed by deep gutters, the column broke into single file, at points, and reached the field in bad shape.

To me, it was clear that they did not backtrack down Middle Road, toward Cedar Creek, to regain Back Road (the portion of Back Road which is now the beginning of Cedar Creek Grade… where the village of Marlboro is located). As McDonald stated, the regiments passed over the ridge along a blind road, from Middle Road, and entered Fawcett’s Run “valley”, where the 11th was located. The question was, however, which road did they take? The best that I can tell, there are two road traces left from the period that are possible… Tuckahoe Lane and Serenity Lane.

Though the scale doesn't show the names of the lanes, the entrance to Tuckahoe Lane is just off Middle Road (it becomes Fawcett's Run Lane on the other side of the ridge), just to the south of Marlboro Road. You can see the entrance just south of the point where Rt. 628 is shown on the map. From Middle Road, the entrance to Serenity Lane is further to the south. Though you won't be able to see the entrance lane from Middle Road, the portion of the lane that feeds from Back Road/Cedar Creek Grade  is the first and only lane seen to the south of Tuckahoe/Fawcett's Run Lane.

Though the scale doesn’t show the names of the lanes, the entrance to Tuckahoe Lane is just off Middle Road (it becomes Fawcett’s Run Lane on the other side of the ridge), just to the south of Marlboro Road. You can see the entrance just south of the point where Rt. 628 is shown on the map. From Middle Road, the entrance to Serenity Lane is further to the south. Though you won’t be able to see the entrance lane from Middle Road, the portion of the lane that feeds from Back Road/Cedar Creek Grade is the first and only lane seen to the south of Tuckahoe/Fawcett’s Run Lane.

Tuckahoe, it seems, is too far to the north, but Serenity Lane, as I mentioned yesterday, is about a half mile from the Brent House. Additionally, the manner in which it snakes across the ridge seems to match the description “along a blind road by deep gutters”. While I wasn’t able to drive from Cedar Creek Grade all the way along Serenity to the ridge (it is a private road), the map seems to suggest a perfect plane down which cavalry would have advanced.

Right or wrong, and based on what little I had to go on, my estimations are that the 7th and 12th entered (in that order) onto the Fawcett's Run Valley about where Serenity Lane crooks to the south.. moving northwest into the fields against Pennington's flank.

Right or wrong, and based on what little I had to go on, my estimations are that the 7th and 12th entered (in that order) onto the Fawcett’s Run Valley about where Serenity Lane crooks to the south.. moving northwest into the fields against Pennington’s flank.

Looking northwest, at the corner of Serenity Lane and Cedar Creek Grade.

Looking northwest, at the corner of Serenity Lane and Cedar Creek Grade.

Looking through the orchards that border the northwest edge of Serenity Lane.

Looking through the orchards that border the northwest edge of Serenity Lane.

The view through a stone wall from the period, that still stands along Cedar Creek Grade, and about mid-way between Fawcett's Run Lane and Serenity Lane. Looking from this position into the Fawcett's Run Valley, this would have offered an excellent view of the cavalry action on November 12, 1864, though I believe the plane across which Col. Marshall and the 7th charged is out of view.

The view through a stone wall from the period, that still stands along Cedar Creek Grade, and about mid-way between Fawcett’s Run Lane and Serenity Lane. Looking from this position into the Fawcett’s Run Valley, this would have offered an excellent view of the cavalry action on November 12, 1864, though I believe the plane across which Col. Marshall and the 7th charged is out of view.

So, there you have it… my attempt to stand, on the 150th anniversary of the fight, in the vicinity of where my great-great grandfather was wounded. I may never pinpoint the location, but I believe I’ve found the general area… within about a mile square.

Oh… since I mentioned it… the Brent Farm was a site identified briefly in McDonald’s account of the battle that day, and also in a slightly longer recollection by Captain Foxhall Daingerfield (11th Virginia), in a letter in 1897. It was here, before the 7th and 12th Virginia arrived, that the fighting turned into a “dead lock”…

As the Federal column charged in columns of overwhelming weight, it was met by the charge of a single Squadron of Confederate Cavalry charging in line. When near “Brent’s House,” about one mile North of Cedar Creek, one of these Confederate Squadrons struck the head of the Federal column with such impetuosity as to throw it into confusion and double it back upon itself, so interlacing the string with the advancing forces as to produce a dead lock, absolutely blockading the road just at “Brent’s House”.

As for my great-great grandfather, he survived and actually returned to duty… living twenty-eight more years before passing away on February 15, 1892.

James Harvey Mayes, ca. 1880

James Harvey Mayes, ca. 1880