commanded by General Butler
He told me I was the only cavalry officer on the ground, and that he wished me to take a party of cavalry to reconnoitre Butler
's position, to remain in the vicinity of his outposts, and, if possible, induce the belief that I commanded but an advance body of troops, and that he might soon expect an attack.
But that, in truth, he had no troops with which to defend Petersburg
, and that the place would be captured unless General Butler
could be amused with this false opinion, until Beauregard
could arrive from the South
I inquired where I should find my cavalry command.
He told me that he had none, but that he would exert himself to get together a body of mounted citizens, and that with these I must perform that duty.
With characteristic energy he set about to improvise such a command as he had described, and in that chivalrous community it was not long before I found myself at the head of a body of thirty mounted citizens, armed with such weapons as each man could obtain.
My most serious difficulty was in procuring a horse for my own use. But I succeeded in buying a very fine one, for which I had to pay a price large even in the depreciated currency of the war. One cavalryman who had been at home on a furlough, was the only enlisted soldier who joined me, and the only one who was killed on this tour of duty.
As we passed beyond the limits of Petersburg
, on the City Point
road, we saw encamped on our right the regiment of North Carolina infantry, as if thrown forward to engage General Butler
, and what guns we had were mounted on the fortifications on that side.
It was evident that our brave commander was not dismayed, and that he was ready to use every available force at his disposal.
Toward the close of the day we came in view of the enemy's outposts, and at once began the work of observation, taking care to make as great display of our force as possible, but when night closed in we retired to the rear.
These tactics were repeated the next day, and the next.
There was a barn which stood outside the Federal
lines, equi-distant between us, which contained a supply of forage.
The Federals would occupy it by day, but would be withdrawn at night, when my men would visit it to procure food for their animals.
When we first came in sight of the enemy's pickets, General Roger A. Pryor
, now a brilliant advocate of the New York bar, who was at that time in Petersburg
, and had joined us as a volunteer, was very solicitous that we should engage them.
But I would not allow it to be done.
I did not explain to him General Pickett
's orders, and he retired from what appeared to be so purposely and inglorious a service.
A collision with my loose array I knew might spoil the