Report of Maj. Gen. J. E. B. Stuart, C. S. Army, Commanding Cavalry, Army of Northern Virginia.
Battle of Gettysburg
HDQRS. CAVALRY DIVISION, ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
August 20, 1863.
Col. R. H. CHILTON,
Chief of Staff, Army of Northern Virginia.
General: I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of the Cavalry Division, Army of Northern Virginia, from the time of crossing the Rappahannock on June 16, to July 24, when, having recrossed the Blue Ridge after the Pennsylvania campaign, our pickets were re-established on the south bank of the Rappahannock:
After holding in check a cavalry force at least double our own for months, with a command stretched on the outposts from the Blue Ridge to the Chesapeake, engaging in numerous hand-to-hand encounters, illustrating the superiority of southern cavalry, it was with joy that the order of the commanding general to advance was received by the cavalry. I was instructed by the commanding general to leave a sufficient force on the Rappahannock to watch the enemy in front, and move the main body parallel to the Blue Ridge and on Longstreet's right flank, who was to move near the base of the mountains, through Fauquier and Loudoun Counties.
The position of the enemy as far as known was as follows: His cavalry massed in Fauquier, principally from Warrenton Springs to Catlett's Station, with the Twelfth Corps and other infantry supports, the main body of Hooker's army being in Stafford and Lower Fauquier, hastening to interpose itself between our main body and Washington, with a corps or two confronting A. P. Hill's corps at Fredericksburg, having made a lodgment on the south side of the river there, near the mouth of Deep Run.
I accordingly left the Fifteenth Virginia Cavalry (Major [C. R.] Collins), W. H. F. Lee's brigade, on the Lower Rappahannock, cooperating with A. P. Hill, and directed Brigadier-General Hampton to remain with his brigade on the Rappahannock, in observation of the enemy during the movement of our forces, and directed also Fitz. Lee's brigade (Col. T. T. Munford temporarily in command) to cross on the morning of the 15th at Rockford, and take the advance of Longstreet's column, via Barbee's Cross-Roads, and put Robertson's and w. H. F. Lee's brigades en route to cross the Rappahannock lower down (at Hinson's Mills), while Jones' brigade followed, with orders to picket the Aestham River the first day.
The movement was not interrupted the enemy having disappeared from our front during the night, and our march continued to within a few miles of Salem, to bivouac for the night. Scouting parties were sent to Warrenton, where it was ascertained the enemy had withdrawn his forces to Centreville the day previous.
General Fitz. Lee's brigade, having encamped near Piedmont, moved on the morning of the 17th (Wednesday), by my direction, toward Aldie, via Middleburg, with the view, if possible, to hold the gap in Bull Run Mountain as a screen to Longstreet's movements. W. H. F. Lee's brigade was kept near the plains, reconnoitering to Thoroughfare Gap, while Robertson's brigade was halted near Rectortown, to move to the support of either.
I accompanied Fitz. Lee's brigade as far as Middleburg, where I remained to close up the command, and keep in more ready communication with the rear. The brigade, moving to Aldie, being much worn and the horses having had very little food, was halted by its commander near Dover, to close up, and pickets sent forward to the Aldie Gap. These pickets were soon attacked by the enemy's cavalry, advancing from the direction of Fairfax, and were driven back on the main body, which took a position just west of Aldie, on a hill commanding the Snickersville road, but which was liable to be turned by the road to Middleburg.
Simultaneously with this attack, I was informed that a large force of the enemy's cavalry was advancing on Middleburg from the direction of Hopewell. Having only a few pickets and my staff here, I sent orders to Munford to look out for the road to Middleburg, as by the time my dispatch reached him the enemy would be in the place, and retiring myself toward Rector's Cross-Roads, I sent orders for Robertson to march without delay for Middleburg, and Chambliss to take the Salem road to the same place.
At Aldie ensued one of the most sanguinary cavalry battles of the war, and at the same time most creditable to our arms and glorious to the veteran brigade of Brig. Gen. Fitz. Lee. They fought most successfully, punishing the enemy with great severity, and maintaining their position till the dispatch received from me made it necessary to move farther back, on account of the threatening attitude of the force at Middleburg. This brigade captured 134 prisoners, among whom were a colonel and captain, several stand of colors, together with horses, arms, and equipments. A large number of the enemy's dead, including a colonel, were left on the field.
Brigadier-General Robertson arrived at Middleburg just at dark. I ordered him to attack the enemy at once, and, with his two regiments, he drove him handsomely out of the place, and pursued him miles on the Hopewell road, the force appearing to scatter. He captured a standard and 70 prisoners.
Chambliss' brigade, approaching from that direction, caught that night and early next morning 160 and several guidons, the colonel and a small detachment only escaping. It was the First Rhode Island Cavalry. Horses, arms, and equipments were captured in proportion. Among the captured were included a number of officers.
Our own loss in Robertson's brigade was slight, excepting Major [James H.] McNeill, Sixty-third [Fifth] North Carolina Cavalry, whose wound deprived us of the services of a most valuable officer, and Lieutenant-Colonel [Edward] Cantwell, Fifty-ninth North Carolina troops [Fourth North Carolina Cavalry], captured.
Major Heros von Borcke, of my staff, being sent by me with the attacking column, behaved with his usual fine judgment and distinguished gallantry. Our loss in Fitz. Lee's brigade was heavier, as the fighting was more desperate and continued. His report, which I hope to forward with this, will state the casualties.
We occupied Middleburg that night, and on the 18th took position around the place with Robertson's and W. H. F. Lee's brigades, and directed Fitz. Lee's brigade to take position at Union, on my left, while Jones' brigade was expected to arrive that day.
The enemy soon made such encroachments on our left that I deemed it requisite to leave Middleburg out of my line of battle, keeping pickets, however, close to the enemy. Slight skirmishing continued.
A general engagement of cavalry was not sought by me, because I preferred waiting for the arrival of the cavalry still in rear (Jones' and Hampton's brigades), and I confined my attention to procuring, through scouts and reconnoitering parties, information of the enemy's movements.
In one of these, Major Mosby, with his usual daring, penetrated the enemy's lines, and caught a staff officer of General Hooker, bearer of dispatches to General Pleasonton, commanding United States cavalry near Aldie. These dispatches disclosed the fact that Hooker was looking to Aldie with solicitude; that Pleasonton, with infantry and cavalry, occupied the place, and that a reconnaissance in force, of cavalry, was meditated toward Warrenton and Culpeper.
I immediately dispatched to General Hampton, who was coming by way of Warrenton from the direction of Beverly Ford, this intelligence, and directed him to meet this advance at Warrenton. The captured dispatches also gave the entire number of divisions, from which we could estimate the approximate strength of the enemy's army. I therefore concluded in no event to attack with cavalry alone the enemy at Aldie. As long as he kept within supporting distance of his infantry at that point, my operations became necessarily defensive, but masking thereby the movement of our main body by checking the enemy's reconnaissance and by continually threatening attack. Hampton met the enemy's advance toward Culpeper, at Warrenten, and drove him back without difficulty, a heavy storm and night intervening to aid the enemy's retreat.
On the 19th, the enemy showed signs of an advance, and our pickets beyond Middleburg were driven back upon the main body, composed of Robertson's and W. H. F. Lee's brigades, posted far enough west of the place not to bring it under fire. The enemy, with a large force of cavalry, advanced, attacking with dismounted men deployed as infantry. This attack was met in the most determined manner by these two brigades, which rough roads had already decimated for want of adequate shoeing facilities, Chambliss commanding Lee's brigade upon the left and Robertson's on the right. Brig. Gen. Fitz. Lee s brigade in the meantime was occupied with the enemy on the Snickersville turnpike, opposite us. The enemy finally gained possession of a woodland in front of our line of battle, and while our brave men met and repelled every attempt to advance from it, yet our charges invariably brought us under a severe carbine fire from these woods, as well as a fire from the artillery beyond.
Appreciating this difficulty, I withdrew my command to a more commanding position a half mile to the rear, where we possessed every advantage, and could more readily debouch for attack. In withdrawing, while riding at my side, the brave and heroic Major von Borcke received a very severe, and it was thought fatal, wound in the neck from one of the enemy's sharpshooters, who, from a stone fence a few hundred yards off, poured a tempest of bullets over us. I will not pause here to record the praise due this distinguished Prussian.
The enemy did not attack our new position on the 19th. Jones' brigade came up on the evening of the 19th, and was ordered to the left, near Union, General Fitz. Lee's brigade being farther to the left, looking out for Snicker's Gap and the Snickersville pike.
Hampton's brigade arrived on the 20th, too late to attack the enemy, still in possession of Middleburg. A continuous rain was also an obstacle to military operations. Skirmishing, however, continued principally on our left, beyond Goose Creek, where Colonel Rosser, with his regiment (Fifth Virginia Cavalry), attacked and drove the enemy's force across the stream in handsome style. He was supported by Brigadier-General Jones with a portion of his brigade.
I was extremely anxious now to attack the enemy as early as possible, having, since Hampton's arrival, received sufficient re-enforcement to attack the enemy's cavalry, but the next morning (21st) being the Sabbath, I recognized my obligation to do no duty other than what was absolutely necessary, and determined, so far as was in my power, to devote it to rest. Not so the enemy, whose guns about 8 a.m. showed that he would not observe it. Had I attacked the enemy, I would have encountered, besides his cavalry, a heavy force of infantry and artillery, and the result would have been disastrous, no doubt.
Hampton's and Robertson's brigades were moved to the front to a position previously chosen, of great strength against a force of ordinary size, or against cavalry alone; but although the enemy's advance was held in check gallantly and decidedly for a long time, it soon became evident that the enemy, utterly foiled for days in his attempt to force our lines, had, as usual, brought a heavy infantry force--part of the Fifth Corps, under General Vincent--to his support, and its advance was already engaged in conjunction with the cavalry.
I therefore directed General Hampton to withdraw to the next height whenever his position was hard pressed, and sent orders at once to Colonel Chambliss and General Jones--the former having informed me that the enemy was advancing in heavy force in his front--to afford all the resistance possible, and General Jones to join to his left, and, retiring apace with the main body, to effect a junction with it at Upperville, where I proposed to make a more determined stand than was compatible with our forces divided. The commands were from 4 to 6 miles apart.
In retiring from the first position before Middleburg, one of the pieces of Captain [J. F.] Hart's battery of horse artillery had the axle broken by one of the enemy's shot, and the piece had to be abandoned, which is the first piece of my horse artillery which has ever fallen into the enemy's hands. Its full value was paid in the slaughter it made in the enemy's ranks, and it was well sold.
The next position was on the west bank of Goose Creek, whence, after receiving the enemy's attack, and after repulsing him with slaughter, I again withdrew en échelon of regiments in plain view, and under fire of the enemy's guns. Nothing could exceed the coolness and self-possession of officers and men in these movements, performing evolutions with a precision under fire that must have wrung the tribute of admiration from the enemy, even, who dared not trust his cavalry unsupported to the sabers of such men.
In the meantime, Jones' and W. H. F. Lee's brigades were hotly engaged with another column of the enemy moving parallel to this, and were gradually retiring toward Upperville, before reaching which point, however, the enemy had pressed closely up, so as to render an attempt to effect a junction at Upperville hazardous to those brigades, and also made it necessary for Hampton's and Robertson's brigades to move at once to the west side of Upperville, on account of the number of roads concentrating at that point, so as to favor the enemy's flank movements.
I was anxious on account of the women and children to avoid a conflict in the village, but the enemy, true to those reckless and inhuman instincts, sought to take advantage of this disinclination on our part, by attacking furiously our rear guard. In an instant, the same men who had with so much coolness retired before the enemy, wheeled about, and with admirable spirit drove back the enemy, killing, wounding, and capturing a large number. In this, General Hampton's brigade participated largely and in a brilliant manner. His report, not yet sent in, will no doubt give full particulars.
After this repulse, which was not followed up, as the enemy's infantry was known to be in close supporting distance, I withdrew the command leisurely to the mountain gap west of Upperville.
The enemy attacked Brigadier-General Robertson, bringing up the rear in this movement, and was handsomely repulsed. The brave and efficient Colonel [P. G. ] Evans, of the Sixty-third North Carolina troops, was, however, severely, and it was feared fatally, wounded, his body falling into the hands of the enemy.
Jones' and W. H. F. Lee's brigades joined the main body near the gap, and positions were taken to dispute any farther advance. The day was far spent. The enemy did not attack the gap, but appeared to go into camp at Upperville. In the conflicts on the left, the enemy was roughly handled. Lieutenant-Colonel [M.] Lewis, Ninth Virginia Cavalry, was very severely, and it was believed fatally, wounded, and left in the hands of the enemy. The reports of brigade commanders will show further details of these encounters.
Fitz. Lee's brigade being before Snicker's Gap, did not participate in these operations. By night, part of Longstreet's corps occupied the mountain pass, and the cavalry was ordered farther back for rest and refreshment, of which it was sorely in need, leaving ample pickets in front and on either flank.
When the mist had sufficiently cleared away next morning, it was evident the enemy was retiring, and the cavalry was ordered up immediately to the front, to follow. The enemy was pursued to within a short distance of Aldie, and a number captured. Colonel Rosser, Fifth Virginia Cavalry, having been sent across from Snickersville early to reconnoiter, contributed very materially to the vigor of this pursuit. Major [John] Eells, of his regiment, a gallant and meritorious officer, was killed in a charge upon the enemy near Goose Creek Bridge. Our lines were much farther advanced than before, and Monday, the 22d, was consumed in their re-establishment.
Our loss in these operations was 65 killed, 279 wounded, and 166 missing. I resumed my own position at Rector's Cross-Roads, and, being in constant communication with the commanding general, had scouts busily engaged watching and reporting the enemy's movements, and reporting the same to the commanding general. In this difficult search, the fearless and indefatigable Major Mosby was particularly active and efficient. His information was always accurate and reliable.
The enemy retained one army corps (Fifth) at Aldie, and kept his cavalry near enough to make attack upon the latter productive of no solid benefits, and I began to look for some other point at which to direct an effective blow. I submitted to the commanding general the plan of leaving a brigade or so in my present front, and passing through Hopewell or some other gap in Bull Run Mountains, attain the enemy's rear, passing between his main body and Washington, and cross into Maryland, joining our army north of the Potomac. The commanding general wrote me, authorizing this move if I deemed it practicable,-and also what instructions should be given the officer in command of the two brigades left in front of the enemy. He also notified me that one column should move via Gettysburg and the other via Carlisle, toward the Susquehanna, and directed me, after crossing, to proceed with all dispatch to join the right (Early) of the army in Pennsylvania.
Accordingly, three days' rations were prepared, and, on the night of the 24th, the following brigades, Hampton's, Fitz. Lee's, and W. H. F. Lee's, rendezvoused secretly near Salem Depot. We had no wagons or vehicles excepting six pieces of artillery and caissons and ambulances. Robertson's and Jones' brigades, under command of the former, were left in observation of the enemy on the usual front, with full instructions as to following up the enemy in case of withdrawal, and rejoining our main army. Brig. Gen. Fitz. Lee's brigade had to march from north of Snicker's Gap to the place of rendezvous. This brigade was now for the first time for a month under the command of its noble brigadier, who, writhing under a painful attack of inflammatory rheumatism, nevertheless kept with his command until now.
At 1 o'clock at night, the brigades with noiseless march moved out. This precaution was necessary on account of the enemy's having possession of Bull Run Mountains, which in the daytime commanded a view of every movement of consequence in that region. Hancock's corps occupied Thoroughfare Gap.Moving to the right, we passed through Glasscock's Gap without serious difficulty, and marched for Hay Market. I had previously sent Major Mosby with some picked men through, to gain the vicinity of Dranesville, find where a crossing was practicable, and bring intelligence to me near Gum Springs to-day (25th).
As we neared Hay Market, we found that Hancock s corps was en route through Hay Market for Gum Springs, his infantry well distributed through Iris trains. I chose a good position, and opened with artillery on his passing column with effect, scattering men, wagons, and horses in wild confusion; disabled one of the enemy's caissons, which he abandoned, and compelled him to advance in order of battle to compel us to desist.
As Hancock had the right of way on my road, I sent Fitz. Lee's brigade to Gainesville to reconnoiter, and devoted the remainder of the day to grazing our horses, the only forage procurable in the country. The best of our information represented the enemy still at Centreville, Union Mills, and Wolf Run Shoals. I sent a dispatch to General Lee concerning Hancock's movement, and moved back to Buckland, to deceive the enemy. It rained heavily that night. To carry out my original design of passing west of Centreville, would have involved so much detention, on account of the presence of the enemy, that I determined to cross Bull Run lower down, and strike through Fairfax for the Potomac the next day. The sequel shows this to have been the only practicable course. We marched through Brentsville to the vicinity of Wolf Run Shoals, and had to halt again in order to graze our horses, which hard marching without grain was fast breaking down. We met no enemy to-day (26th).
On the following morning (27th), having ascertained that on the night previous the enemy had disappeared entirely from Wolf Run Shoals, a strongly fortified position on the Occoquan, I marched to that point, and thence directly for Fairfax Station, sending General Fitz. Lee to the right, to cross by Burke's Station and effect a junction at Fairfax Court-House, or farther on, according to circumstances. Fairfax Station had been evacuated the previous day, but near this point General Hampton's advance regiment had a spirited encounter with and chase after a detachment of Federal cavalry denominated Scott's Nine Hundred, killing, wounding, and capturing the greater portion, among them several officers; also horses, arms, and equipments. The First North Carolina Cavalry lost its major in the first onset--Major [John H.] Whitaker--an officer of distinction and great value to us.
Reaching Fairfax Court-House, a communication was received from Brig. Gen. Fitz. Lee at Annandale. At these two points, there were evidences of very recent occupation, but the information was conclusive that the enemy had left this front entirely, the mobilized army having the day previous moved over toward Leesburg, while the local had retired to the fortifications near Washington. I had not heard yet from Major Mosby, but the indications favored my successful passage in rear of the enemy's army. After a halt of a few hours to rest and refresh the command, which regaled itself on the stores left by the enemy in the place, the march was resumed for Dranesville, which point was reached late in the afternoon. The camp-fires of Sedgwick's (Sixth) corps, just west of the town, were still burning, it having left that morning, and several of his stragglers were caught. General Hampton's brigade was still in advance, and was ordered to move directly for Rowser's Ford, on the Potomac, Chambliss' brigade being held at Dranesville till Brig. Gen. Fitz. Lee could close up.
As General Hampton approached the river, he fortunately met a citizen who had just forded the river, who informed us there were no pickets on the other side, and that the river was fordable, though 2 feet higher than usual. Hampton's brigade crossed early in the night, but reported to me that it would be utterly impossible to cross the artillery at that ford. In this the residents were also very positive, that vehicles could not cross. A ford lower down was examined, and found quite as impracticable from quicksand, rocks, and rugged banks. I, however, determined not to give it up without trial, and before 12 o'clock that night, in spite of the difficulties, to all appearances insuperable, indomitable energy and resolute determination triumphed; every piece was brought safely over, and the entire command in bivouac on Maryland soil. In this success the horse artillery displayed the same untiring zeal in their laborious toil through mud and water which has distinguished its members in battle.
The canal, which was now the supplying medium of Hooker's army, soon received our attention. A lock-gate was broken, and steps taken to intercept boats. At least a dozen were intercepted, and the next morning several loaded with troops, negroes, and stores were captured by Colonel Wickham, Fourth Virginia Cavalry, commanding rear guard. I ascertained that Hooker was on the day previous at Poolesville, and his army in motion for Frederick.
I realized the importance of joining our army in Pennsylvania, and resumed the march northward early on the 28th. General Hampton was sent by Darnestown to Rockville, and the other brigades took the direct route to the same place. General Hampton encountered small parties of the enemy, which, with a number of wagons and teams, he captured, and reached Rockville in advance of the main body. The advance guard of W. H. F. Lee's brigade had a running fight with the Second New York Cavalry, but the speed of their horses deprived us of the usual results in captures. At Rockville, General Hampton encountered what he believed to be a large force of the enemy, and, moving up W. H. F. Lee's brigade quickly to his assistance, I found that the enemy had already disappeared, having retreated toward the Great Falls.
Rockville was speedily taken possession of. This place is situated on the direct wagon road from Washington City to Hooker's army, and, consequently, on his route of communication with Washington after crossing the Potomac. The telegraph line along it was torn down for miles.
Soon after taking possession, a long train of wagons approached from the direction of Washington, apparently but slightly guarded. As soon as our presence was known to those in charge, they attempted to turn the wagons, and at full speed to escape, but the leading brigade (W. H. F. Lee's) was sent in pursuit. The farthest wagon was within only 3 or 4 miles of Washington City, the train being about 8 miles long. Not one escaped, though many were upset and broken, so as to require their being burned. More than one hundred and twenty-five best United States model wagons and splendid teams with gay caparisons were secured and driven off. The mules and harness of the broken wagons were also secured.
The capture and securing of this train had for the time scattered the leading brigade. I calculated that before the next brigade could march this distance and reach the defenses of Washington, it would be after dark; the troops there would have had time to march to position to meet attack on this road. To attack at night with cavalry, particularly unless certain of surprise, would have been extremely hazardous; to wait till morning, would have lost much time from my march to join General Lee, without the probability of compensating results. I therefore determined, after getting the wagons under way, to proceed directly north, so as to cut the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (now becoming the enemy's main war artery) that night. I found myself now encumbered by about 400 prisoners, many of whom were officers. I paroled nearly all at Brookeville that night, and the remainder next day at Cooksville. Among the number, were Major [James C.] Duane and Captain [Nathaniel] Michler, Engineers, U.S. Army.
At Cooksville, our advance encountered and put to flight a small party of the enemy, and among the prisoners taken there were some who said they belonged to the "Seven Hundred Loyal Eastern Shoremen."
Brig. Gen. Fitz. Lee reached the railroad soon after daylight, the march having continued all night. The bridge at Sykesville was burned, and the track torn up at Hood's Mills, where the main body crossed it. Measures were taken to intercept trains, but trains ran to the vicinity of the obstruction, took the alarm, and ran back. The various telegraph lines were likewise cut, and communications of the. enemy with Washington City thus cut off at every point, and Baltimore threatened. We remained in possession of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad nearly all day.
The enemy was ascertained to be moving through Frederick City northward, and it was important for me to reach our column with as little delay as possible, to acquaint the commanding general with the nature of the enemy s movements, as well as to place with his column my cavalry force. The head of the column, following a ridge road, reached Westminster about 5 p.m. At this place, our advance was obstinately disputed for a short time by a squadron of the First Delaware Cavalry, but what were not killed were either captured or saved themselves by precipitate flight. In this brief engagement, 2 officers of the Fourth Virginia Cavalry (Lieuts. Pierre Gibson and [John W.] Murray) were killed. Gallant and meritorious, they were noble sacrifices to the cause. The ladies of the place begged to be allowed to superintend their interment, and, in accordance with their wishes, the bodies of these young heroes were left in their charge. The fugitives were pursued a long distance on the Baltimore road, and I afterward heard created a great panic in that city, impressing the authorities with the belief that we were just at their heels. Here, for the first time since leaving Rector's Cross-Roads, we obtained a full supply of forage, but the delay and difficulty of procuring it kept many of the men up all night. Several flags and one piece of artillery without a carriage were captured here. The latter was spiked and left behind. We encamped for the night a few miles beyond the town (Fitz. Lee's brigade in advance), halting the head of the column at Union Mills, midway between Westminster and Littlestown, on the Gettysburg road. It was ascertained here that night by scouts that the enemy's cavalry had reached Littlestown during the night, and encamped.
Early next morning (June 30), we resumed the march direct by a cross route for Hanover, Pa., W. H. F. Lee's brigade in advance, Hampton in rear of the wagon train, and Fitz. Lee's brigade moving on the left flank, between Littlestown and our road.
About 10 a.m. the head of the column reached Hanover, and found a large column of cavalry passing through, going toward the gap of the mountains which I intended using. The enemy soon discovered our approach, and made a demonstration toward attacking us, which was promptly met by a gallant charge by Chambliss' leading regiment, which not only repulsed the enemy, but drove him pell-mell through the town with half his numbers, capturing his ambulances and a large number of prisoners, all of which were brought, safely through to our train, but were closely followed by the enemy s fresh troops. If my command had been well closed now, this cavalry column, which we had struck near its rear, would have been at our mercy; but, owing to the great elongation of the column by reason of the 200 wagons and hilly roads, Hampton was a long way behind, and Lee was not yet heard from on the left.
In retiring with the prisoners and ambulances, Lieut. Col. W. H. Payne, Fourth Virginia Cavalry, temporarily in command of the Second North Carolina Cavalry, was taken prisoner, in a gallant attempt to cut off a body of the enemy by a flank movement on the town.
The delay in getting up re-enforcements enabled the enemy to regain possession of the town, by no means desirable for us to hold, as it was in a valley completely commanded by the heights in our possession, which were soon crowned by our artillery. Our position was impregnable to cavalry even with so small a force. We cut the enemy's column in twain. General Fitz. Lee in the meantime fell upon the rear portion, driving it handsomely, and capturing one of Kilpatrick's staff and many other prisoners.
Our wagon train was now a subject of serious embarrassment, but I thought, by making a détour to the right by Jefferson, I could save it. I therefore determined to try it, particularly as I was satisfied, from every accessible source of information, as well as from the lapse of time, that the Army of Northern Virginia must be near the Susquehanna. My numerous skirmishers had greatly diminished--almost exhausted--my supply of ammunition. I had this immense train in an enemy's country, very near a hostile army, and, besides, about 400 prisoners, which had accumulated since the paroling at Cooksville. I therefore had the train closed up in park, and Hampton, arriving in the meantime, engaged the enemy farther to the right, and finally, with his sharpshooters, dislodged the enemy from the town, the enemy moving toward our left apparently to reunite his broken column, but pressing us with dismounted men on our left flank. General Fitz. Lee's brigade was put at the head of the column, and he was instructed to push on with the train through Jefferson for York, Pa. and communicate as soon as practicable with our forces. Hampton's brigade brought up the rear.
We were not molested in our march, which, on account of the very exposed situation of our flank and the enemy's knowledge of it, was continued during the night. The night's march over a very dark road was one of peculiar hardship, owing to loss of rest to both man and horse. After a series of exciting combats and night marches, it was a severe tax to their endurance. Whole regiments slept in the saddle, their faithful animals keeping the road unguided. In some instances they fell from their horses, overcome with physical fatigue and sleepiness.
Reaching Dover, Pa., on the morning of July 1, I was unable to find our forces. The most I could learn was that General Early had marched his division in the direction of Shippensburg, which the best information I could get seemed to indicate as the point of concentration of our troops. After as little rest as was compatible with the exhausted condition of the command, we pushed on for Carlisle, where we hoped to find a portion of the army. I arrived before that village, by way of Dillsburg, in the afternoon. Our rations were entirely out. I desired to levy a contribution on the inhabitants for rations, but was informed before reaching it that it was held by a considerable force of militia (infantry and artillery), who were concealed in the buildings, with the view to entrap me upon my entrance into the town. They were frustrated in their intention, and although very peaceable in external aspect, I soon found the information I had received was correct. I disliked to subject the town to the consequences of attack; at the same time it was essential to us to procure rations. I therefore directed General Lee to send in a flag of truce, demanding unconditional surrender or bombardment. This was refused. I placed artillery in position commanding the town, took possession of the main avenues to the place, and repeated the demand. It was again refused, and I was forced to the alternative of shelling the place.
Although the houses were used by their sharpshooters while firing on our men, not a building was fired excepting the United States cavalry barracks, which were burned by my order, the p]ace having resisted my advance instead of peaceable surrender, as in the case of General Ewell. General Fitz. Lee's brigade was charged with the duty of investing the place, the remaining brigades following at considerable intervals from Dover. Maj. Gen. W. F. Smith was in command of the forces in Carlisle. The only obstacle to the enforcement of my threat was the scarcity of artillery ammunition.
The whereabouts of our army was still a mystery; but, during the night, I received a dispatch from General Lee (in answer to one sent by Major Venable from Dover, on Early's trail), that the army was at Gettysburg, and had been engaged on this day (July 1) with the enemy's advance. I instantly dispatched to Hampton to move 10 miles that night on the road to Gettysburg, and gave orders to the other brigades, with a view to reaching Gettysburg early the next day, and started myself that night.
My advance reached Gettysburg July 2, just in time to thwart a move of the enemy's cavalry upon our rear by way of Hunterstown. after a fierce engagement, in which Hampton's brigade performed gallant service, a series of charges compelling the enemy to leave the field and abandon his purpose. I took my position that day on the York and Heidlersburg roads, on the left wing of the Army of Northern Virginia.
On the morning of July 3,pursuant to instructions from the commanding general (the ground along our line of battle being totally impracticable for cavalry operations), I moved forward to a position to the left of General Ewell's left, and in advance of it, where a commanding ridge completely controlled a wide plain of cultivated fields stretching toward Hanover, on the left, and reaching to the base of the mountain spurs, among which the enemy held position. My command was increased by the addition of Jenkins' brigade, who here in the presence of the enemy allowed themselves to be supplied with but 10 rounds of ammunition, although armed with the most approved Enfield musket. I moved this command and W. H. F. Lee's secretly through the woods to a position, and hoped to effect a surprise upon the enemy's rear, but Hampton's and Fitz. Lee's brigades, which had been ordered to follow me, unfortunately debouched into the open ground, disclosing the movement, and causing a corresponding movement of a large force of the enemy's cavalry.
Having been informed that Generals Hampton and Lee were up, I sent for them to come forward, so that I could show them the situation at a glance from the elevated ground I held, and arrange for further operations. My message was so long in finding General Hampton that he never reached me, and General Lee remained. as it was deemed inadvisable at the time the message was delivered for both to leave their commands.
Before General Hampton had reached where I was, the enemy had deployed a heavy line of sharpshooters, and were advancing toward our position, which was very strong. Our artillery had, however, left the crest, which it was essential for it to occupy on account of being of too short range to compete with the longer range guns of the enemy, but I sent orders for its return. Jenkins' brigade was chiefly employed dismounted, and fought with decided effect until the 10 rounds were expended, and then retreated, under circumstances of difficulty and exposure which entailed the loss of valuable men.
The left, where Hampton's and Lee's brigades were, by this time became heavily engaged as dismounted skirmishers. My plan was to employ the enemy in front with sharpshooters, and move a command of cavalry upon their left flank from the position lately held by me, but the falling back of Jenkins' men (that officer was wounded the day previous, before reporting to me, and his brigade was now commanded by Colonel [M. J.] Ferguson, Sixteenth Virginia Cavalry) caused a like movement of those on the left, and the enemy, sending forward a squadron or two, were about to cut off and capture a portion of our dismounted sharpshooters.
To prevent this, I ordered forward the nearest cavalry regiment (one of W. H. F. Lee's) quickly to charge this force of cavalry. It was gallantly done, and about the same time a portion of General Fitz. Lee's command charged on the left, the First Virginia Cavalry being most conspicuous. In these charges, the impetuosity of those gallant fellows, after two weeks of hard marching and hard fighting on short rations, was not only extraordinary, but irresistible. The enemy's masses vanished before them like grain before the scythe, and that regiment elicited the admiration of every beholder, and eclipsed the many laurels already won by its gallant veterans. Their impetuosity carried them too far, and the charge being very much prolonged, their horses, already jaded by hard marching, failed under it. Their movement was too rapid to be stopped by couriers, and the enemy perceiving it, were turning upon them with fresh horses. The First North Carolina Cavalry and Jeff. Davis Legion were sent to their support, and gradually this hand-to-hand fighting involved the greater portion of the command till the enemy were driven from the field, which was now raked by their artillery, posted about three-quarters of a mile off, our officers and men behaving with the greatest heroism throughout. Our own artillery commanding the same ground, no more hand-to-hand fighting occurred, but the wounded were removed and the prisoners (a large number) taken to the rear.
The enemy's loss was unmistakably heavy; numbers not known. Many of his killed and wounded fell into our hands. That brave and distinguished officer, Brigadier-General Hampton, was seriously wounded twice in this engagement. Among the killed was Major [W. G.] Conner, a gallant and efficient officer of the Jeff. Davis Legion. Several officers and many valuable men were killed and wounded whose names it is not now in my power to furnish, but which, it is hoped, will be ultimately furnished in the reports of regimental and brigade commanders.
Notwithstanding the favorable results obtained, I would have preferred a different method of attack, as already indicated; but I soon saw that entanglement by the force of circumstances narrated was unavoidable, and determined to make the best fight possible. General Fitz. Lee was always in the right place, and contributed his usual conspicuous share to the success of the day. Both he and the gallant First Virginia begged me (after the hot encounter) to allow them to take the enemy's battery, but I doubted the practicability of the ground for such a purpose.
During this day's operations, I held such a position as not only to render Ewell's left entirely secure, where the firing of my command, mistaken for that of the enemy, caused some apprehension, but commanded a view of the routes leading to the enemy's rear. Had the enemy's main body been dislodged, as was confidently hoped and expected, I was in precisely the right position to discover it and improve the opportunity. I watched keenly and anxiously the indications in his rear for that purpose, while in the attack which I intended (which was forestalled by our troops being exposed to view), his cavalry would have separated from the main body, and gave promise of solid results and advantages.
After dark, I directed a withdrawal to the York road, as our position was so far advanced as to make it hazardous at night, on account of the proximity of the enemy's infantry.
During the night of July 3, the commanding general withdrew the main body to the ridges west of Gettysburg, and sent word to me to that effect, but his messenger missed me. I repaired to his headquarters during the latter part of the night, and received instructions as to the new line, and sent, in compliance therewith, a brigade (Fitz. Lee's) to Cashtown, to protect our trains congregated there. My cavalry and artillery were somewhat jeopardized before I got back to my command by the enemy having occupied our late ground before my command could be notified of the change. None, however, were either lost or captured.
During the 4th, which was quite rainy, written instructions were received from the commanding general as to the order of march back to the Potomac, to be undertaken at nightfall. In this order two brigades of cavalry (Baker's and Hampton's were ordered to move, as heretofore stated, by way of Cashtown, guarding that flank, bringing up the rear on the road, via Greenwood, to Williamsport, which was the route designated for the main portion of the wagon trains and ambulances, under the special charge of Brigadier General Imboden, who had a mixed command of artillery, infantry, and cavalry (his own).
Previous to these instructions, I had, at the instance of the commanding general, instructed Brigadier-General Robertson, whose two brigades (his own and Jones') were now on the right, near Fairfield, Pa., that it was essentially necessary for him to hold the Jack Mountain passes. These included two prominent roads-the one north and the other south of Jack Mountain, which is a sort of peak in the Blue Ridge chain.
In the order of march (retrograde), one corps (Hill's) preceded everything through the mountain; the baggage and prisoners of war escorted by another corps. Longstreet's occupied the center, and the third (Ewell's) brought up the rear. The cavalry was disposed of as follows Two brigades on the Cashtown road, under General Fitz. Lee, and the remainder (Jenkins' and Chambliss'), under my immediate command, was directed to proceed by way of Emmitsburg, Md., so as to guard the other flank.
I dispatched Captain [W. W.] Blackford, Corps of Engineers, to General Robertson, to inform him of my movement, and direct his co-operation, as Emmitsburg was in his immediate front, and was probably occupied by the enemy's cavalry. It was dark before I had passed the extreme right of our line, and, having to pass through very dense woods, taking by-roads, it soon became so dark that it was impossible to proceed. We were in danger of losing the command as well as the road. It was raining, also.
We halted for several hours, when, having received a good guide, and it becoming more light, the march was resumed, and just at dawn we entered Emmitsburg. We there learned that a large body of the enemy's cavalry (the citizens said 15,000, which I knew, of course, was exaggerated) had passed through that point the afternoon previous, going toward Monterey, one of the passes designated in my instructions to Brigadier-General Robertson.
I halted for a short time to procure some rations, and, examining my map, I saw that this force could either attempt to force one of those gaps, or, foiled in that (as I supposed they would be), it would either turn to the right and bear off toward Fairfield, where it would meet with like repulse from Hill's or Longstreet's corps, or, turning to the left before reaching Monterey, would strike across by Eyler's Gap, toward Hagerstown, and thus seriously threaten that portion of our trains which, under Imboden, would be passing down the Greencastle pike the next day, and interpose itself between the main body and its baggage. I did not consider that this force could seriously annoy any other portion of the command under the order of march prescribed, particularly as it was believed that those gaps would be held by General Robertson till he could be re-enforced by the main body. I therefore determined to adhere to my instructions, and proceed by way of Cavetown, by which I might intercept the enemy should he pass through Eyler's Gap.
In and around Emmitsburg we captured 60 or 70 prisoners of war, and some valuable hospital stores en route from Frederick to the army.
The march was resumed on the road to Frederick till we reached a small village called Cooperstown, where our route turned short to the right. Here I halted the column to feed, as the horses were much fatigued and famished. The column, after an hour's halt, continued through Harbaugh's Valley, by Zion Church, to pass the Catoctin Mountain. The road separated before debouching from the mountain, one fork leading to the left by Smithtown, and the other to the right, bearing more toward Leitersburg.
I divided my command, in order to make the passage more certain, Colonel Ferguson, commanding Jenkins' brigade, taking the left road, and Chambliss' brigade, which I accompanied, the other. Before reaching the western entrance to this pass, I found it held by the enemy, and had to dismount a large portion of the command, and fight from crag to crag of the mountains to dislodge the enemy, already posted.
Our passage was finally forced, and, as my column emerged from the mountains, it received the fire of the enemy's battery, posted to the left, on the road to Boonsborough. I ascertained, too, about this time by the firing that the party on the other route had met with resistance, and sent at once to apprise Colonel Ferguson of our passage, and directed him, if not already through, to withdraw, and come by the same route I had followed. Our artillery was soon in position, and a few fires drove the enemy from his position.
I was told by a citizen that the party I had just attacked was the cavalry of Kilpatrick, who had claimed to have captured several thousand prisoners and 400 or 500 wagons from our forces near Monterey; but I was further informed that not more than 40 wagons accompanied them, and other facts I heard led me to believe the success was far overrated. About this time, Captain [G. M. ] Emack, Maryland cavalry, with his arm in a sling, came to us, and reported that he had been in the fight of the night before, and partially confirmed the statement of the citizen, and informed me, to my surprise, that a large portion of Ewell's corps trains had preceded the army through the mountains.
It was nearly night, and I felt it of the first importance to open communication with the main army, particularly as I was led to believe that a portion of this force might still be hovering on its flanks. I sent a trusty and intelligent soldier (Private Robert W. Goode, First Virginia Cavalry) to reach the commanding general by a route across the country, and relate to him what I knew, as well as what he might discover en route, and moved toward Leitersburg as soon as Colonel Ferguson came up, who, although his advance had forced the passage of the gap, upon the receipt of my dispatch turned back and came by the same route I had taken, thus making an unnecessary circuit of several miles, and not reaching me till after dark.
Having heard from the commanding general at Leitersburg about daylight (6 o'clock) next morning, and being satisfied that all of Kilpatrick's force had gone toward Boonsborough, I immediately, notwithstanding the march of a greater portion of both the preceding nights, set out toward Boonsborough. Jones' brigade had now arrived by the route from Fairfield. Soon after night, Brigadier-General Jones, whose capture had been reported by Captain Emack, came from the direction of Williamsport, whither he had gone with the portion of the train which escaped. The enemy's movements had separated him from his command, and he had made a very narrow escape. He informed me of Imboden's arrival at Williamsport.
Having reached Cavetown, I directed General Jones to proceed on the Boonsborough road a few miles, and thence proceed to Funkstown, which point I desired him to hold, covering the eastern front of Hagerstown. Chambliss' brigade proceeded direct from Leitersburg to Hagerstown, and Robertson's took the same route, both together a very small command.
Diverging from Jones' line of march at Cavetown, I proceeded with Jenkins' brigade, by way of Chewsville, toward Hagerstown. Upon arriving at the former place, it was ascertained that the enemy was nearing Hagerstown with a large force of cavalry from the direction of Boonsborough, and that Colonel Chambliss needed reenforcements. Jenkins' brigade was pushed forward, and, arriving before Hagerstown, found the enemy in possession, and made an attack in flank by this road, Jones coming up farther to the left, and opening with a few shots of artillery. A small body of infantry, under Brigadier-General Iverson, also held the north edge of the town, aided by the cavalry of Robertson and Chambliss. Our operations were here much embarrassed by our great difficulty in preventing this latter force from mistaking us for the enemy, several shots striking very near our column. I felt sure that the enemy s designs were directed against Williamsport, where, I was informed by General Jones, our wagons were congregated in a narrow space at the foot of the hill, near the river, which was too much swollen to admit their passage to the south bank. I therefore urged on all side the most vigorous attack to save our trains at Williamsport. Our force was very perceptibly much smaller than the enemy's, but by bold front and determined attack, with a reliance on that help which has never failed me, I hoped to raise the siege of Williamsport, if, as I believed, that was the real object of the enemy's designs. Hagerstown is 6 miles from Williamsport, the country between being almost entirely cleared, but intersected by innumerable fences and ditches. The two places are connected by a lane and perfectly straight macadamized road. The enemy's dismounted skirmishers fought from street to street, and some time elapsed before the town was entirely clear, the enemy taking the road first toward Sharpsburg, but afterward turned to the Williamsport road. Just as the town was cleared, I heard the sound of artillery at Williamsport.
The cavalry, excepting the two brigades with General Fitz. Lee, were now pretty well concentrated at Hagerstown, and one column, under Colonel Chambliss, was pushed directly down the road after the enemy, while Robertson's two regiments and Jenkins' brigade kept to the left of the road, moving in a parallel direction with Chambliss. A portion of the Stuart Horse Artillery also accompanied the movement. The first charge was gallantly executed by the leading brigade (Chambliss'), now numbering only a few hundred men, the Ninth and Thirteenth Virginia Cavalry participating with marked gallantry. The column on the flank was now hurried up to attack the enemy in flank, but the obstacles, such as post and rail fences, delayed its progress so long that the enemy had time to rally along a crest of rocks and fences, from which he opened with artillery, raking the road.
Jenkins' brigade was ordered to dismount and deploy over the difficult ground. This was done with marked effect and boldness, Lieutenant-Colonel Witcher, as usual, distinguishing himself by his courage and conduct. The enemy, thus dislodged, was closely pressed by the mounted cavalry, but made one effort at a counter-charge, which was gallantly met and repulsed by Col. James B. Gordon, commanding a fragment of the Fifth North Carolina Cavalry, that officer exhibiting under my eye individual prowess deserving special commendation. The repulse was soon after converted into a rout by Colonel Lomax's regiment (Eleventh Virginia Cavalry), Jones' brigade, which now took the road, under the gallant leadership of its colonel, with drawn sabers, and charged down the turnpike under a fearful fire of artillery.
Lieutenant-Colonel Funsten behaved with conspicuous gallantry in this charge, and Captain [S.] Winthrop, a volunteer aide of Lieutenant-General Longstreet, also bore himself most gallantly.
The enemy was now very near Williamsport, and this determined and vigorous attack in rear soon compelled him to raise the siege of that place, and leave in hasty discomfiture by the Downsville road. His withdrawal was favored by night, which set in just as we reached the ridge overlooking Williamsport. An important auxiliary to this attack was rendered by Brig. Gen. Fitz. Lee, who reached the vicinity of Williamsport by the Greencastle road very opportunely, and participated in the attack with his accustomed spirit.
Great credit is due the command for the fearless and determined manner in which they rushed upon the enemy and compelled him to loose his hold upon the main portion of the transportation of the army. Without this attack, it is certain that our trains would have fallen into the hands of the enemy, for, while some resistance was made by General Imboden, still, the size and nature of his command, the peculiar conformation of the ground, overlooked by hills and approached by six plain roads, go to show conclusively that not even a display of Spartan heroism on the part of his command could have saved those wagons from the torch of the enemy. I communicated with him after opening the road, by a lieutenant, whom I met but a short distance from the town. Officers present with General Im-boden during the attack assure me I am right in the foregoing opinion. I was apprised when about midway that Lieutenant-General Longstreet had arrived at Hagerstown.
As a part of the operations of this period, I will here report that about 60 of the wagons belonging to Lee's brigade, while in the special charge of General Imboden, en route to Williamsport, near Mer-cersburg, were captured by the enemy. A court of inquiry has been convened to inquire into the circumstances of this capture. I therefore forbear animadversion on the subject.
My command bivouacked near Hagerstown, and I took position that night on the road leading from Hagerstown to Boonsborough.
The next day (July 7), I proceeded to Downsville, establishing there a portion of Wofford's brigade, sent me for the purpose by General Longstreet, and posted Jenkins' cavalry brigade on that portion of our front in advance of the infantry. Robertson's brigade, being small, and the enemy being least threatening from that direction, was assigned to the north front of Hagerstown, connecting with General Jones, on the right, on the Cavetown road. The Maryland cavalry was ordered on the National road and toward Greencastle, on a scout.
On the 8th, the cavalry was thrown forward toward Boonsborough, advancing on the different roads, in order, by a bold demonstration, to threaten an advance upon the enemy, and thus cover the retrograde of the main body. The move was successful, the advance under General Jones encountering the enemy on the Boonsborough road, at Beaver Creek Bridge, from which point to the verge of Boons-borough an animated fight ensued, principally on foot, the ground being entirely too soft from recent rains to operate successfully with cavalry. This contest was participated in in a very handsome manner by the other brigades (Fitz. Lee's, Hampton's, now commanded by Baker, and W. H. F. Lee's, commanded by Chambliss) and the Stuart Horse Artillery. Prisoners taken assured us the main cavalry force of the enemy was in our front, which, notwithstanding their known superiority in numbers and range of fire-arms, was driven steadily before us, our brave men, nothing daunted or dispirited by the reverses of the army, maintaining a predominance of pluck over the enemy calculated to excite the pride and admiration of beholders. Just as we neared the village, Jenkins' brigade, under Ferguson, moved up on the Williamsport road, driving the enemy on that flank in such a manner as to cause him to begin his withdrawal from the village to the mountain pass. His batteries had been driven away from the hill by the Napoleons of McGregor's battery, which, for close fighting, evinced this day their great superiority over rifled guns of greater number.
About this time, I was informed that the enemy was heavily re-enforced, and that our ammunition, by this protracted engagement, was nearly exhausted; and, despairing of getting possession of the town, which was completely commanded by artillery in the mountain gap, and believing that, in compelling the enemy to act upon the defensive (all that day retreating before us) the desired object had been fully attained, I began to retire toward Funkstown, excepting Jenkins' brigade, which was ordered to its former position on the Williamsport road. The enemy, observing this from his mountain perch, tried to profit by it with a vigorous movement on our heels, but was foiled. As the last regiment was crossing the bridge over Beaver Creek, a squadron of the enemy more bold than its comrades galloped forward as if to charge. Steadily a portion of the First North Carolina Cavalry awaited their arrival within striking distance, but, before reaching their vicinity, the enemy veered off across the fields, when a Blakely gun of Chew's battery, advantageously posted on a point, marked their movement, and, although the squadron moved at a gallop, never did sportsman bring down his bird with more unerring shot than did that Blakely tell upon that squadron. In vain did it turn to the right and left. Each shot seemed drawn to the flying target with fatal accuracy, until the enemy, driven by the shots of the Blakely and followed by shouts of derision of our cavalry, escaped at full speed over the plain. The command moved leisurely to the vicinity of Funkstown, and bivouacked for the night.
The fight of the 8th administered a quietus to the enemy on the 9th, and my command kept the position in front of Funkstown assigned to it the night before.
The left of our main line of battle now rested just in rear of Funkstown, on the Antietam, and some infantry and artillery were thrown forward as a support to the cavalry beyond.
The enemy advanced on the 10th on the Boonsborough road, and our cavalry was engaged dismounted nearly all day. General Jones was farther to the left, on the Cavetown road, and the infantry was placed in position covering Funkstown, with dismounted cavalry on each flank. The enemy's advance was handsomely repulsed, in which Lieutenant-Colonel Witcher's cavalry, on foot, behind a stone fence immediately on the left of the turnpike, performed a very gallant part, standing their ground with unflinching tenacity. On the left, a portion of Fitz. Lee's brigade, under Captain Wooldridge, Fourth Virginia Cavalry, who handled his skirmishers with great skill and effect, compelled the enemy's infantry to seek cover in a body of woods at some distance from our lines.
In this day's operations, the infantry before mentioned participated very creditably, indeed, in the center, and I regret exceedingly that I have not the means of knowing the regiments and commanders, so as to mention them with that particularity to which by their gallantry they are entitled; but their conduct has no doubt been duly chronicled by their commanders, and laid before the commanding general, a part of which was under his own eye.
Owing to the great ease with which the position at Funkstown could be flanked on the right, and, by a secret movement at night, the troops there cut off, it was deemed prudent to withdraw at night to the west side of the Antietam, which was accordingly done.
July 11 was not characterized by any general engagement, excepting that General Fitz. Lee, now on the right, toward Downsville, was compelled to retire upon the main body; and the main body having assumed a shorter line, with its left resting on the National road, just west of Hagerstown, Chambliss' brigade was sent to that flank, and General Fitz. Lee's, also. The enemy made no movement on Jones' front, embracing the Funkstown and Cavetown roads.
On the 12th, firing began early, and the enemy having advanced on several roads on Hagerstown, our cavalry forces retired without serious resistance, and massed on the left of the main body, reaching with heavy outposts the Conococheague, on the National road. The infantry having already had time to intrench themselves, it was no longer desirable to defer the enemy's attack.
The 13th was spent in reconnoitering on the left, Rodes' division occupying the extreme left of our infantry, very near Hagerstown, a little north of the National road. Cavalry pickets were extended beyond the railroad leading to Chambersburg, and everything put in readiness to resist the enemy's attack. The situation of our communications south of the Potomac caused the commanding general to desire more cavalry on that side, and, accordingly, Brigadier-Gen-eral Jones' brigade (one of whose regiments, Twelfth Virginia Cavalry, had been left in Jefferson) was detached, and sent to cover our communication with Winchester. The cavalry on the left consisted now of Fitz. Lee's, W. H. F. Lee's, Baker's, and Robertson's brigades, the latter being a mere handful.
On the 13th, skirmishing continued at intervals, but it appeared that the enemy, instead of attacking, was intrenching himself in our front, and the commanding general determined to cross the Potomac. The night of the 13th was chosen for this move, and the arduous and difficult task of bringing up the rear was, as usual, assigned to the cavalry. Just before night (which was unusually rainy), the cavalry was disposed from right to left, to occupy, dismounted, the trenches of the infantry at dark, Fitz. Lee's brigade holding the line of Longstreet's corps, Baker's of Hill's corps, and the remainder of Ewell's corps. A pontoon bridge had been constructed at Falling Waters, some miles below Williamsport, where Longstreet's and Hill's corps were to cross, and Ewell's corps was to ford the river at Williamsport, in rear of which last, after daylight, the cavalry was also to cross, excepting that Fitz. Lee's brigade, should he find the pontoon bridge clear in time, was to cross at the bridge; otherwise to cross at the ford at Williamsport.
The operation was successfully performed by the cavalry. General Fitz. Lee, finding the bridge would not be clear in time for his command, moved after daylight to the ford, sending two squadrons to cross in rear of the infantry at the bridge. These squadrons, mistaking Longstreet's rear for the rear of the army on that route, crossed over in rear of it. General Hill's troops being notified that these squadrons would follow in his rear, were deceived by some of the enemy's cavalry, who approached very near, in consequence of their belief that they were our cavalry. Although this unfortunate mistake deprived us of the lamented General Pettigrew, whom they mortally wounded, they paid the penalty of their temerity by losing most of their number in killed or wounded, if the accounts of those who witnessed it are to be credited. The cavalry crossed at the fords without serious molestation, bringing up the rear on that route by 8 a.m. on the 14th.
To Baker's (late Hampton's) brigade was assigned the duty of picketing the Potomac from Falling Waters to Hedgesville. The other brigades were moved back toward Leetown, Robertson's being sent to the fords of the Shenandoah, where he already had a picket, which, under Captain [L. A.] Johnson, of the North Carolina cavalry, had handsomely repulsed the enemy in their advance on Ashby's Gap, inflicting severe loss, with great disparity in numbers.
Harper's Ferry was again in possession of the enemy, and Colonel Harman, Twelfth Virginia Cavalry, had in an engagement with the enemy gained a decided success, but was himself captured by his horse falling.
Upon my arrival at the Bower that afternoon (15th), I learned that a large force of the enemy's cavalry was between Shepherdstown and Leetown, and determined at once to attack him in order to defeat any designs he might have in the direction of Martinsburg.
I made disposition accordingly, concentrating cavalry in his front, and early on the 16th moved Fitz. Lee's brigade down the turnpike, toward Shepherdstown, supported by Chambliss, who, though quite ill, with that commendabIe spirit which has always distinguished him, remained at the head of his brigade. Jenkins' brigade was ordered to advance on the road from Martinsburg toward Shepherdstown, so as by this combination to expose one of the enemy's flanks, while Jones, now near Charlestown, was notified of the attack, in order that he might co-operate. No positive orders were sent him, as his precise locality was not known.
These dispositions having been arranged, I was about to attack when I received a very urgent message from the commanding general to repair at once to his headquarters. I therefore committed to Brig. Gen. Fitz. Lee the consummation of my plans, and reported at once to the commanding general, whom I found at Bunker Hill. Returning in the afternoon, I proceeded to the scene of conflict on the turnpike, and found that General Fitz. Lee had, with his own and Chambliss' brigades, driven the enemy steadily to within a mile of Shepherdstown, Jenkins' brigade not having yet appeared on the left. However, it soon after arrived in Fitz. Lee's rear, and moved up to his support. The ground was not practicable for cavalry, and the main body was dismounted, and advanced in line of battle. The enemy retired to a strong position behind stone fences and barricades, near Colonel [A. R.] Boteler's residence, and it being nearly dark, obstinately maintained his ground at this last point until dark, to cover his withdrawal.
Preparations were made to renew the attack vigorously next morning, but daybreak revealed that the enemy had retired toward Harper's Ferry.
The enemy's loss in killed and wounded was heavy. We had several killed and wounded, and among the latter Col. James H. Drake, First Virginia Cavalry, was mortally wounded, dying that night (16th), depriving his regiment of a brave and zealous leader, and his country of one of her most patriotic defenders.
The commanding general was very desirous of my moving a large portion of my command at once into Loudoun, but the recent rains had so swollen the Shenandoah that it was impossible to ford it, and cavalry scouting parties had to swim their horses over.
In the interval of time from July 16 to the 22d, the enemy made a demonstration on Hedgesville, forcing back Baker's brigade. Desultory skirmishing was kept up on that front for several days with the enemy, while our infantry was engaged in tearing up the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad near Martinsburg. Parts of Jones' brigade were also engaged with the enemy in spirited conflicts not herein referred to, resulting very creditably to our arms, near Fairfield, Pa., and on the Cavetown road from Hagerstown, the Sixth and Seventh Virginia Cavalry being particularly distinguished. Accounts of these will be found in the reports of Brigadier-General Jones and Colonel Baker.
It soon became apparent that the enemy was moving upon our right flank, availing himself of the swollen condition of the Shenandoah to interpose his army, by a march along the east side of the Blue Ridge, between our present position and Richmond. Longstreet's corps having already moved to counteract this effort, enough cavalry was sent, under Brigadier-General Robertson, for his advance guard through Front Royal and Chester Gap, while Baker's brigade was ordered to bring up the rear of Ewell's corps, which was in rear, and Jones' brigade was ordered to picket the Lower Shenandoah as long as necessary for the safety of that flank, and then follow the movement of the army. Fitz. Lee's, W. H. F. Lee's, and Jenkins' brigades, by a forced march from the vicinity of Leetown, through Millwood, endeavored to reach Manassas Gap, so as to hold it on the flank of the army, but it was already in possession of the enemy, and the Shenandoah, still high, in order to be crossed without interfering with the march of the main army, had to be forded below Front Royal.
The cavalry already mentioned, early on the 23d reached Chester Gap by a by-path, passing on the army's left, and, with great difficulty and a forced march, that night bivouacked below Gaines' Cross-Roads, holding the Rockford road and Warrenton turnpike, on which, near Amissville, the enemy had accumulated a large force of cavalry.
On the 24th, while moving forward to find the locality of the enemy, firing was heard toward Newby's Cross-Roads, which was afterward ascertained to be a portion of the enemy's artillery firing on Hill's column, marching on the Richmond road. Before the cavalry could reach the scene of action, the enemy had been driven off by the infantry, and on the 25th the march was continued, and the line of the Rappahannock resumed.
In taking a retrospect of this campaign, it is necessary, in order to appreciate the value of the services of the cavalry, to correctly estimate the amount of labor to be performed, the difficulties to be encountered, and the very extended sphere of operations, mainly in the enemy's country. In the exercise of the discretion vested in me by the commanding general, it was deemed practicable to move entirely in the enemy's rear, intercepting his communications with his base (Washington), and, inflicting damage upon his rear, to rejoin the army in Pennsylvania in time to participate in its actual conflicts.
The result abundantly confirms my judgment as to the practicability as well as utility of the move. The main army, I was advised by the commanding general, would move in two columns for the Susquehanna. Early commanded the advance of that one of these columns to the eastward, and I was directed to communicate with him as early as practicable after crossing the Potomac, and place my command on his right flank. It was expected I would find him in York. The newspapers of the enemy, my only source of information, chronicled his arrival there and at Wrightsville, on the Susquehanna, with great particularity. I therefore moved to join him in that vicinity. The enemy's army was moving in a direction parallel with me. I was apprised of its arrival at Taneytown when I was near Hanover, Pa.; but believing, from the lapse of time, that our army was already in York or at Harrisburg, where it could choose its battle-ground with the enemy, I hastened to place my command with it. It is believed that, had the corps of Hill and Longstreet moved on instead of halting near Chambersburg, York could have been the place of concentration instead of Gettysburg.
This move of my command between the enemy's seat of government and the army charged with its defense involved serious loss to the enemy in men and matériel (over 1,000 prisoners having been captured), and spread terror and consternation to the very gates of the capital. The streets were barricaded for defense, as also was done in Baltimore on the day following. This move drew the enemy's overweening force of cavalry, from its aggressive attitude toward our flank near Williamsport and Hagerstown, to the defense of its own communications, now at my mercy. The entire Sixth Army Corps, in addition, was sent to intercept me at Westminster, arriving there the morning I left, which in the result prevented its participation in the first two days' fight at Gettysburg.
Our trains in transit were thus not only secured, but it was done in a way that at the same time seriously injured the enemy. General Meade also detached 4,000 troops, under General French, to escort public property to Washington from Frederick, a step which certainly would have been unnecessary but for my presence in his rear, thus weakening his army to that extent. In fact, although in his own country, he had to make large detachments to protect his rear and baggage. General Meade also complains that his movements were delayed by the detention of his cavalry in his rear. He might truthfully have added, by the movement in his rear of a large force of Confederate cavalry, capturing his trains and cutting all his communications with Washington.
It is not to be supposed such delay in his operations could have been so effectually caused by any other disposition of the cavalry. Moreover, considering York as the point of junction, as I had every reason to believe it would be, the route I took was quite as direct and more expeditious than the alternate one proposed, and there is reason to believe on that route that my command would have been divided up in the different gaps of South Mountain covering our flank, while the enemy, by concentration upon any one, could have greatly endangered our baggage and ordnance trains without exposing his own.
It was thought by many that my command could have rendered more service had it been in advance of the army the first day at Gettysburg, and the commanding general complains of a want of cavalry on the occasion; but it must be remembered that the cavalry (Jenkins' brigade) specially selected for advance guard to the army by the commanding general on account of its geographical location at the time, was available for this purpose, and had two batteries of horse artillery serving with it. If therefore, the peculiar functions of cavalry with the army were not satisfactorily performed in the absence of my command, it should rather be attributed to the fact that Jenkins' brigade was not as efficient as it ought to have been, and as its numbers (3,800) on leaving Virginia warranted us in expecting. Even at that time, by its reduction incident to campaign, it numbered far more than the cavalry which successfully covered Jackson's flank movement at Chancellorsville, turned back Stoneman from the James, and drove 3,500 cavalry under Averell across the Rappahannock. Properly handled, such a command should have done everything requisite, and left nothing to detract by the remotest implication from the brilliant exploits of their comrades, achieved under circumstances of great hardship and danger.
Arriving at York, I found that General Early had gone, and it is to be regretted that this officer failed to take any measures by leaving an intelligent scout to watch for my coming or a patrol to meet me, to acquaint me with his destination. He had reason to expect me, and had been directed to look out for me. He heard my guns at Hanover, and correctly conjectured whose they were, but left me no clew to his destination on leaving York, which would have saved me a long and tedious march to Carlisle and thence back to Gettysburg. I was informed by citizens that he was going to Shippensburg.
I still believed that most of our army was before Harrisburg, and justly regarded a march to Carlisle as the most likely to place me in communication with the main army. Besides, as a place for rationing my command, now entirely out, I believed it desirable. The cavalry suffered much in this march, day and night, from loss of sleep, and the horses from fatigue, and, while in Fairfax, for want of forage, not even grass being attainable.
In Fauquier, the rough character of the roads and lack of facilities for shoeing, added to the casualties of every day's battle and constant wear and tear of man and horse, reduced the command very much in numbers. In this way some regiments were reduced to less than 100 men; yet, when my command arrived at Gettysburg, from the accessions which it received from the weak horses left to follow the command, it took its place in line of battle with a stoutness of heart and firmness of tread impressing one with the confidence of victory which was astounding, considering the hardness of the march lately endured.
With an aggregate loss of about 2,200 killed, wounded, and missing, including the battle of Fleetwood, June 9, we inflicted a loss on the enemy's cavalry confessedly near 5,000.
Some of the reports of subordinate commanders are herewith forwarded; others will follow; and it is hoped they will do justice to that individual prowess for which Confederate soldiery is most noted, and which the limits of personal observation and this report deprive me of the power of doing.
Appended will be found a statement of casualties and a map; also a list of non-commissioned officers and privates whose conduct as bearers of dispatches and otherwise entitle them to favorable mention.
The bravery, heroism, fortitude, and devotion of my command are commended to the special attention of the commanding general, and are worthy the gratitude of their countrymen.
I desire to mention among the brigadier-generals one whose enlarged comprehensions of the functions of cavalry, whose diligent attention to the preservation of its efficiency, and intelligent appreciation and faithful performance of the duties confided to him, point to as one of the first cavalry leaders on the continent, and richly entitle him to promotion. I allude to Brig. Gen. Fitz. Lee.
I cannot here particularize the conduct of the many officers who deserve special mention of less rank than brigadier-general without extending my remarks more than would be proper. To my staff collectively, however, I feel at liberty to express thus officially my grateful appreciation of the zeal, fidelity, and ability with which they discharged their several duties, and labored to promote the success of the command.
Maj. Heros von Borcke, assistant adjutant and inspector general (that gallant officer from Prussia, who so early espoused our cause), was disabled in Fauquier, so as to deprive me of his valuable services on the expedition, but it is hoped that the command will not long be deprived of his inspiring presence on the field.
Maj. Henry B. McClellan, my adjutant-general, was constantly at my side, and with his intelligence, ready pen, and quick comprehension, greatly facilitated the discharge of my duties.
The untiring energy, force of character, and devotion to duty of Maj. A. R. Venable, my inspector-general, and Lieut. G. M. Ryals, C. S. Army, provost-marshal, deserve my special gratitude and praise.
The same qualities, united to a thorough knowledge of much of the country, are ascribable to Capt. B. S. White, C. S. Army, who, though still suffering from a severe wound received at Fleetwood, accompanied the command, and his services proclaim him an officer of merit and distinction.
Chief Surgeon Eliason; Captain Blackford, engineer; Captain [John Esten] Cooke, ordnance officer; Lieutenant [Chiswell] Dab-ney, aide-de-camp; Asst. Engineer F. S. Robertson; Cadet [W. Q.] Hullihen. C. S. Army, and Lieut. H. Hagan, Virginia Provisional Army, all performed their duties with commendable zeal and credit.
Major [Norman R.] Fitzhugh, chief, and Capt. J. M. Hanger, assistant quartermaster, and Maj. W. J. Johnson, chief commissary, discharged their arduous duties in their usual highly creditable manner.
First Lieut. R. B. Kennon, Provisional Army Confederate States, temporarily attached, on two different occasions was intrusted with duties attended with great peril, which he performed in a highly successful and satisfactory manner--once in testing experimentally at, night an unknown ford on the Potomac, and again in bearing a dispatch to the commanding general from Emmitsburg.
Grateful to the Giver of all good for the attainment of such results with such small comparative losses,
I have the honor to be, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. E. B. STUART,
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