The Battle of Monterey Pass
A Wild and Desolate Scene
The 1st West Virginia Cavalry arrived and were ordered to charge the Confederate cannon on this side of the bridge. Seeing the West Virginians in their front, Confederate Captain William Tanner ordered the cannon to fire its last two shots before the gun was captured. Immediately thereafter, the West Virginians, supported by portions of Custer’s brigade, began storming through the long line of wagons. In some instances, they were ordered to shoot the lead horses of the wagon train, putting a halt to their escape, while collecting their bounty and setting many Confederate wagons on fire.
As the Union cavalry descended South Mountain, area citizens witnessed a Fourth of July like no other. They saw the fires from the wagons extending from Monterey Pass down South Mountain and continuing into Maryland, when the battle finally ended at Ringgold just after dawn. They were also able to see the fires extending from Leitersburg to Ringgold, as the 1st Vermont Cavalry cut its own path of destructions through the wagons that were at the head of the column, moving towards Williamsport, Maryland.
“Then we turn out attention to the foremost end of the train, all the while making more noise that a “pack of wild Indians.” We find it a hot place, as we have it hand-to-hand. Sabers and revolvers are used rather freely. We soon begin to take in prisoners. The road on which we were charging was a good turnpike and downgrade. I, being mounted on a good horse and being so enthused that when I got fairly underway I could not realize whether I was riding or flying. I knew I was going through the air at a terrible rate. Thus we went until we reached the foot of the mountain.”
-- Private Joseph A, Lesage, 1st West Virginia Cavalry
“As the advance came up to the train, they received a heavy volley of musketry, which at once showed the exact position of the enemy. Onward they dashed, and a hand-to-hand combat ensued. The scene was wild and desolating. The road lay down a mountain side, wild and rugged. On either side of the road was a heavy growth of underbrush, which the enemy had taken as a fit place to conceal themselves and fire upon us.”
-- Major Charles Capehart, 1st West Virginia Cavalry