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The Second Mass and Its Fighting Californians

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Following is a newspaper article that appeared in the National Tribune. August 18, 1910 written by George A. Manning.  Most of the miss-spellings have been left intact.


The Fight Near Dranesville - The" Good" Union Men With Mosby - The House In the Mountains.

In August, 1861, I enlisted in Co. F, 2d Cal. Cav., known as the Sacramento Rangers, which regiment, after being drilled and equipped at Camp Alert, near San Francisco, was distributed to different points on the Pacific Coast, Co. F being assigned for duty at Beneccia, Cal., to protect the arsenal and ordnance buildings there.

I was promoted to Lance Corporal, and early in January, 1862, while holding down that prominent and important position, I was detailed as First Sergeant of the provost guard in San Francisco. I was subsequently promoted to Corporal and Sergeant, and was still serving as First Sergeant of the provost guard when late that Fall Capt. J. Suel Reed obtained permission from the Governor of California to raise the Hundred for active service in the East, to be applied to the quota of Massachusetts. At that time I had been recommended by Gen. George Wright, commanding the Department of the Pacific, for a Second Lieutenancy in the 2d Cal. Cav., and was detailed from headquarters to assist in organizing the Hundred. That company was raised in a few weeks, and took steamer for New York via Panama. In the meantime that genial gentleman and model soldier, Maj. D. W. C. Thompson, of San Francisco, had obtained permission from the Governor of California to raise the battalion (400 men) for the same purpose.

By request of Maj. Thompson I was detailed to assist in organizing the battalion. I was appointed by Maj. Thompson, Adjutant, Quartermaster, Commissary, and General Drill Master. Quarters were procured in Platte's Music Hall and recruiting and drilling commenced at once.

Co.s A, B, and C left San Francisco in March via Panama, Co. D. following on the next steamer. We landed in New York and proceeded to Readville, Mass., where we were equipped and mounted as part of the 2d Mass. Cav., and transferred to Virginia.

The five companies were the only California troops who saw service in the East during the civil war. They were made up of clerks, miners, ranchers and occasionaly an old veteran who had seen service on the plains fighting Indians. Nearly all of them were at home in the saddle, and as nearly every man in California carried a six-shooter they were handy with the gun.

Mr. Munson, of Mosby's Rangers, says that they were "notoriously hard fighters." He ought to know, for we had met the Rangers many times before the fight of Feb. 22, 1864, near Dranesville, of which I will tell.

Starting After the Enemy

On the morning of Feb. 20, 1864, a detachment of the 2d Mass. Cav. and a small detail from the 16th N. Y. Cav. started from camp with a roving commission after the enemy. Maj. J. S. Reed was in command of the column, which comprised Co. M, commanded by myself, with 41 men; a detail of 21 men from Co. E, commanded by my brother, Lieut. W. C. Manning; a detail of 17 men from the 16th N. Y. Cav., in command of Lieut. Cannon, and Co. B, 2d Mass. Cav., numbering 45 men, under Lieut. Dabney; making a total of 127, including officers, 51 of whom were Californians.

On the night of the 21st we went into camp at a farm house about 10 miles above Dranesville. A detachment of the 13th N. Y. Cav. camped there with us, and the next morning the two detachments started for headquarters, taking seperate routes. Our column took the Dranesville Pike. I noticed that the rear of the column was straggling badly, and I rode back to the head of Co. B, urging the officers to keep the men closed up. I stopped a few minutes to talk to Lieut. Dabney and light a cigar, and as I left him I took out my watch and noticed that it was 10:50 o'clock. When I again reached the head of the column Maj. Reed was riding about 40 yards in advance with Charley Binn, a supposed deserter from Mosby's Rangers, who was acting as guide. At that place there was a thicket of small pines on our right, and on our left a rail fence enclosing an open field. I had hardly time to take in the situation before I heard a single shot, followed almost at once by a volley coming from the thicket on the right just in advance of the place where Maj. Reed was riding. Thinking that the advance guard had been attacked, I gave the command "Forward!" The words had scarcely left my lips before a volley reached us from the thicket, and my command faced to the right to receive an expected charge from the enemy. With carbine and pistol they fired an occasional shot. Thinking that the enemy would charge thru the thicket, I cautioned then to reserve their fire and be ready to receive them. When the firing commenced in front Maj. Reed rode back thru the column to the rear, and that was the last I ever saw of him. He was killed. Where Binn went the Lord only knows. There was a short lull in the heavy firing, and I rode back to the rear of my company, and, calling Lieut. Manning, directed him to take down the fence and form his command in the field; that I would hold the enemy in check until he got ready and fall back on him. As I was about to turn my horse to ride back to the head of the column, I felt a sharp stinging pain in my leg, and my horse made a jump that nearly unseated me. As I rode back the firing from the thicket commenced in volleys again, but no foe was in sight all this time. It seemed to be the tactics of the enemy to charge up thru the thicket almost to the edge of the road and deliver a volley or two, then fall back to repeat the same tactics aver and over again. They had the bulge on us, and meant to keep it.

A Duel in the Road.

At about the fourth charge of one of the Rangers either having a little more "sand" that the rest or being unable to control his horse, broke from the brush, coming out into the road almost directly in front of me, firing two shots in quick succesion, the first one going wild, the second one striking my horse in the neck just forward of the right shoulder. Almost simultaneously with his last shot my pistol went off, and he fell from his horse onto the hard pike. Whether it was a bullet from my pistol that struck him or one from the pistol of one of my men I never knew nor wanted to know. All of this happened in just a few seconds, but as I raised my pistol to fire I got a good look at his features, which so impressed me that I can recall them vividly to-day. He was the only one of the enemy I saw during the fight. At that time several of my men were killed and wounded, and the Partisan Rangers were getting in the deadly work from ambush, just like a lot of Missouri guerrillas.

My command was standing in line. Not a man had broken from the ranks. They were watching every opportunity to get in a shot by locating the enemy by the sound of the crack of their revolvers, while I was waiting the movement of Lieut. Manning in getting his men thru the fence and forming in the field, which he succeeded in doing, but alas; too late.
I turned to speak to Gosson, one of my men, who was wounded in the arm. My horse went down on the hard pike, falling on my leg, which caused me such excruciating pain that I nearly fainted. My horse arose to his feet again, made a lunge sidewise, and we both rolled into the ditch by the side of the pike, and I was lost to the world for awhile. When I returned to consciousness I was a captive in the field about 20 yards for the fence, supported in the arms of Simonton, one of my men, who was wounded, and another wounded man from Co. E was dousing me with cold water.
I could not tell the time of day, as I had been seperated from my watch as well as other loose personal property, probably by those who had despoiled the body of Maj. Reed. My cavalry boots were in the possession of one of the Rangers, who was standing near, and a boy about 14 or 15 years of age, named Hutchinson, was trying to shoot me. I learned that one of the Rangers, who had some knowledge of surgery, had removed my left boot to get at my wounded leg, from which he cut out about 22 No. 4 shot. (I can count about that number of scars whenever I want a reminder of the fight.) The boot was then taken by one of the other Rangers, who, knowing that boots always came in pairs, removed the other one. About a month before that date I was ordered out on a scout around the Blue Springs country, with instructions to arrest every male member of the Hutchinson family old enough to shoot. In making my raid among the lot captured was this boy and father. Owing to the pleadings of his mother and sisters I was induced to release the boy, who then wanted to shoot me, because, as he said, I had taken his father prisoner.

"Rangers" and "Guerrillas."

He was, then, one of Mosby's guerrillas. I make a distinction between Mosby's "Partisan Rangers" and Mosby's "guerrillas." In the Spring of 1884, in Coeur De Alene City, Idaho, I met an old Johnny. We went across the lake together. On the way across we swapped stories, and, learning that I had belonged to the 2d mass. Cav., he said he was one of Mosby's Partisan Rangers, and from his knowledge of the Dranesville fight and other little facts connected with our actions in Virginia, I had no doubt of it. During our trip across the lake an old acquaintance of his tried to get into the conversation but I noticed that my Ranger friend gave him the cold shoulder. After the man left us I said: "You don't seem to take very kindly to your friend." "No," he replied, "he was a ---- Missouri guerrila."

As I lay on my back minus watch, purse, hat, boots, etc., and unable to move, a Ranger officer with a detail of men came up and ordered the men to take the prisoners down to the pike near a house, and turning to me, very kindly inquired about my injuries, and wanted to know what had become of my hat, boots, etc. I told him that he would probably find them among his men. He called a man named Stewart, and had him take charge of me and to see that every article taken from me was returned. First came my hat, but minus the cord, which was afterward returned, then watch, purse, and, last of all, but very reluctantly, my boots.

The Good "Union" Men.

I noticed many familiar faces of the good, honest "Union" men that I had many times seen at their homes in the surrounding country, who were mixed in with the Rangers that day. The fact is that nearly every man living in Virginia within the field of Mosby's operations was aiding him or fighting in his ranks. Mosby had at times a perfect knowledge of the movements of our troops, and while these "good, honest" farmers were proffessing their Unionism to us they were gathering information, and sending it by members of their family thru lanes and byways to him.

I was so thoroly helpless from my injuries that there was quite a debate as to the advisability of taking me with them, but finally they concluded that an officer of my rank was to good a thing to leave. As all the carriages they could procure were filled with their own dead and wounded, they decided to put me on a horse and carry me that way until they could find another carriage, which they assured me would be in a very short time. I think it was almost 3 p. m. when the column started, my friend Stewart and myself bringing up the rear. During the hours of daylight my friend Stewart divided his time in supporting me on my horse and keeping the guerrillas from stealing my boots that hung on my saddle: but as the day began to wane they dropped off singly and in pairs, to their homes to resume the roll of good Union men. At dark we halted at a house, and Stewart tried to get some kind of a vehicle, but did not succeed, as the man told him that he had none at home. When he was told by Stewart that he wanted it for a wounded Union officer, he answered, "Shoot the --- Yankee: that's the best way to get rid of him." I had passed the man's house several times before, and had talked with him as a Union man, but it was so dark he did not recognize me. After the most fearful ride of my life we arrived at the house in the mountains some time after midnight, where I was laid on a lounge in a room where there were several people. On another lounge was a young man and bending over him a woman and a doctor were dressing his wound. After the doctor had got thru with him he came over to me. I told him that the way my leg pained me from ankle to hip I was afraid my whole leg was dislocated. After pulling and twisting for awhile he had my leg carefully bathed and bandaged, which gave me so much relief that I dropped asleep.

My Wounded Roommate.

When I awoke the woman was still with my wounded roommate, whom I recognized as the youth who fell on the pike in front of me in the fight that day. He recognized me, and said that I was the man who shot him. I understood afterward that he died that morning.

The first and only time I ever saw Col. Mosby was that morning when the prisoners were mustered on the lawn ready for the march to Richmond. I was packed out of the house and laid on the grass, and when the prisoners were lined up by their mounted guard they found out that I could not march, so the officer in command sent a man to report the fact to Col. Mosby, who shortly appeared. Mosby asked me if I could ride a horse if they fixed a mattress on him, so I could recline on it. I told him that perhaps I could, but I preferred boarding there awhile if it was agreeable to the landlord. He smilingly replied that no doubt the rest of the prisoners would prefer to do so too, as our friends were liable to come that way any time. After they had lashed the bed tick on the horse I was lifted in place, and so commenced our six days' march to Richmond and Libbey. - George A. Manning, Lewiston, Idaho.