Thursday, December 4, 2014

History on Paper: The Ambush at Cedar Run

This is a clothing requisition from late 1862 written by, at the time, Captain James Harvey Larrimer of the 5th Pennsylvania Reserves (34th PA). It is also endorsed for approval by Colonel Joseph Fisher of the 5th Reserves, later brigade commander and Brevet Brigadier General.

Larrimer was a lawyer from Clearfield County and has quite an interesting story. He enlisted on May 15, 1861 as a 1st Lieutenant in Company C of the 5th Reserves. Showing much promise he was promoted to Captain of Company E on July 12, 1861. His star continued to rise and on May 1, 1863 he was promoted to Major and appointed to the staff of General Samuel Crawford, in which capacity he served through the Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Bristoe Station and Mine Run Campaigns.

In February of 1864 he accompanied a scouting party across Cedar Run south of Brentsville (just a few miles west of the Bristoe Station Battlefield) under orders from General Crawford to scout the south side of the stream to feel out the enemy. Upon crossing the run, the group was ambushed.

Major Larrimer
Captain James Carle of the 6th Reserves reported afterwards on the action. 
"When the head of the column had reached the opposite side several shots were fired from a thicket of pines a few rods in advance to the right of the road, and being in an exposed position which afforded no chance to oppose the adversary, the head of the column (about eight persons) who had crossed with the officer in charge dashed rapidly forward to a point opposite the thicket, about fifteen rods beyond, where it terminates to a point extending toward the bridge , when Major Larrimer, who accompanied the expedition, and two men fell killed and four were wounded by a volley (apparently from carbines) proceeding from the thicket. This brought the party to a halt, except two officers (the one in command) and one man, who had gone so far and were under such headway as to make it prudent to go ahead, which they did, passing the enemy masked close to the road on their right. Being thus separated from the officer in command, I assumed command of the party (consisting then of thirteen men) and went back to the terminus of this neck of timber, intending to advance along on its right to endeavor to get a view of the rebels and if possible to cut off and attack them, but the men evinced much reluctance and hesitancy in following, and it was only by force that a party would go dismounted through the thicket to where the major was lying, upon which being done, however, he was found to have been stripped of his boots, and the enemy had gone (apparently retired) to a more elevated position a little farther on, as vedettes could be seen at various points and in different directions. At first I thought to pursue and attack them, but the other officers, Captain Restieaux and Lieutenants Scudder, Schutt, and Quail, denouncing the policy of doing so with so small a party, and considering the diffidence evinced by the men from the beginning, I deemed it expedient to return to Brentsville, where I posted the men and came into camp to report to General Crawford, who ordered out two companies of infantry and all the available cavalry force attached to his headquarters to pursue the enemy. We went this time about five miles beyond Brentsville, encountering no obstacle, when it became dark and we returned to camp, having seen no traces of the enemy beyond where the skirmish had ensued except fresh tracks of horses upon different by-roads, indicating their departure in groups of from three to five each. It is impossible to judge what force they may have had concealed, but I doubt whether those engaged exceeded our own number. Our casualties were 1 officer and 2 men killed and 4 men wounded. The enemy’s could not be determined, there being one dead body on the ground and traces (by pools of blood) of some two others having lain and being carried off."
Larrimer's Grave in Clearfield.
Larrimer, dead at 36, was taken home to Clearfield and buried at Hillcrest Cemetery.  It may seem a bit insignificant at the price of a life, but fittingly after the war, the Clearfield, PA G.A.R. Post No. 179 was named in his honor.

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