Battle of Deserted House

NEW York Times – SUFFOLK, Va., Saturday, Jan. 31, 1863.

The most stirring episode in the dull existence of Gen. PECK’s forces, that has yet taken place, occurred yesterday. It was ascertained on Thursday evening that PRYOR had crossed the Blackwater on Sunday with a considerable force, during the afternoon, probably on a foraging expedition, as he had a train of twenty-two wagons. Preparations were immediately made to surprise him before daylight, and at midnight, the One Hundred and Thirtieth New-York, Lieut.-Col. THORP, and the One Hundred and Sixty-seventh Pennsylvania, Col. KNODEREX, of GIBBS’ Brigade; the Sixth Massachusetts, Colonel FOLLANSHER; Thirteenth Indiana, Lieut.-Colonel DOBBS, and the One Hundred and Twelfth New-York, Col. DRAKE, of FOSTER’s Brigade; the Sixty-ninth New-York, Col. MURPHY; and One Hundred and Fifty-fifth New-York, Col. MCEVILY, of CORCORAN’s Brigade, with the Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, Col. SPEAR; the Seventh Massachusetts Battery, Capt. DAVIS; and Battery D, Fourth Regular Artillery, departed under command of Gen. CORCORAN, and after a march of eight miles over muddy roads, espied the enemy about 4 o’clock, at a spot called the Deserted House, on the right of the Old Workhouse Road. The Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry drove in their pickets; the batteries of FOLLETT and DAVIS were planted on the right and left of the road, flanked by skirmishers detached from the Thirteenth Indiana and One Hundred and Twelfth New-York, while the infantry, headed by the Thirteenth Indiana, remained in column along the road as a support.

A sharp fire was opened, and continued until 6 o’clock, during which time a caisson of FOLLETT’s Battery was struck by a shell and blown up, a gun was disabled, and two guns rendered useless by the swelling of the papier mache moulding of the shenkle shells. The bursting of the caisson killed three men and three horses. In addition to the loss upon both batteries, the infantry in the road suffered considerably, while awaiting orders to move. At 6 the enemy retreated, leaving a battery section of two guns planted in the road. It would have cost, perhaps, fifty men to take them, and not being worth the sacrifice of life, a detour was made, in pursuing the fugitives, to avoid them. This necessitated some loss of time, and the enemy were again encountered two miles beyond, where they made a short stand and retired to Carsville, six miles further, after once more stopping to fire. At Carsville a short artillery skirmish took place, during which the Thirteenth Indiana gaily charged down a hill, engaged the enemy for five minutes with musketry, and scattered their line. A rout ensued, when the Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry followed them to the Blackwater and finally charged, killing nine and wounding many more. By this time it was four in the afternoon, and our troops returned, reaching Suffolk at midnight, after stopping a few hours on the road.

The loss of the enemy, was not definitely ascertained. They took off a quantity of dead and wounded, but left about fifty behind, among whom were the corposes of Col. POGUE, Major DEYERLY and a Lieutenant. Twelve prisoners fell into our hands, who stated PRYOR’s force to have been 2,500 infantry, 500 cavalry, and 12 pieces of artillery, which now comprises his entire strength, excepting a company which he had left to guard his camp, near the banks of the Blackwater, where he has erected small earthworks. There are not more than a hundred soldiers at Petersburgh, and none between PRYOR and that city.

Our loss in killed was 23; wounded, 86; missing, 1; total, 110. The enemy were successful in procuring forage, but paid dearly for it Gen. CORCORAN was accompanied by Capt. J.J. BLODGETT and Lieut. TRACY, of his Staff, the former of whom was slightly hurt in the knee by the spent fragment of a shell. The Thirteenth Indiana, a veteran regiment of several Peninsula battles, elicited admiration from all by their fine discipline and cool behavior. They had long been out of action, and renewed old scenes with delight. The regiments of the expedition were mostly new, and behaved well under their first serious fire, with exception of the One Hundred and Sixty-seventh Pennsylvania, composed of drafted men. When ordered forward with the rest, at 6 o’clock, they remained lying in the road, to avoid the shells passing over them, and refused to stir. Gen. CORCORAN, on hearing this, rode up to them, accompanied by Col. SPEAR, and called for the Colonel. He was dangerously wounded, and did not reply. The Lieutenant-Colonel, Major, Adjutant or any Captain, were successively called for, without answer. The General then said that if any commissioned officer was there, and would advance the regiment, he should be recommended for the Colonelcy. A Lieutenant, name unknown, then rose and endeavored to comply, but without effect. The General then appealed to them, for the honor of Pennsylvania, when an Orderly Sergeant sprung up, saying, “You can draft us, but you can’t make us fight.” He was immediately struck on the head with the back of Col. SPEAR’s sword, and felled. Col. SPEAR desired to charge them with a company of cavalry, but the General thought it better to leave them as they were. The men evidently needed officers, and would then have, perhaps, fought.

The following is a corrected list of casualties:


Killed — Capt. Taylor, Co. C; Privates Oliver Washburne, Chas. M. Wood, Co. A; George Abbot, Co. H; James Woodruff, Co. B; Taylor, Co. C; Robt. Van Valkenburgh, Co. C.

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