previous next

[550] heavy loss in the recent engagements at Jack's Shop, James City, etc.

A few unimportant skirmishes followed the “Buckland Races,” but that amusing occurrence may be regarded as the termination of the cavalry campaign.

I think you will agree with me that the cavalry have “done well for the Republic” in this campaign. They have met and fought the enemy all along the roads from the Rapidan to the Rappahannock, advancing on the Federals by two routes. They guarded the flank of General Lee as he marched to intercept Meade, doing the work so perfectly that the Federal General never at any time could ascertain a single fact in relation to Lee's movements. They drove the enemy, after a fierce and final struggle at Brandy, clear across the Rappahannock. They did the same on the next day at Warrenton Springs. They damaged the retreating columns seriously, to say the least, at Auburn. They drove them across Bull Run, and took possession of the fords in front of Centreville. They penetrated to the enemy's rear at Frying Pan, and made them fall back from Centreville to Fairfax Court-House, and intrench, under the impression that the “rebel army” was in their rear. They got Kilpatrick “between two fires” at Buckland's, and broke to pieces his entire command — killing, capturing, or driving back on their heavy infantry reserves the best cavalry in the whole Federal service. They effected these results, besides furnishing General Lee with thorough and reliable information of every movement and design on the part of the enemy.

And yet these services of the cavalry have not been more important than upon other occasions. The high reputation for courage and efficiency which they have received has not been the result of better generalship on the part of the commanders, or greater gallantry on the part of the men. It has all resulted from a circumstance already alluded to. The infantry of the army were held in reserve, and had an opportunity to see the cavalry at work and observe the results. I am disposed to think that some of the most intelligent and candid men in the infantry honestly adopted the old prejudice, and believe that the cavalry did all the straggling and none of the fighting. Far from the field of cavalry operations, which are generally off on the flanks of the army, or in the rear or the front, these honest and sensible men repeated the sneers handing from regiment to regiment, and ended by believing every calumny which was circulated. This is the only explanation I can think of for the naive and enthusiastic applause which greeted the charge at Warrenton Springs. A gallant and dashing little affair, it is true; but only one of a thousand such which occur on every expedition of the cavalry. The infantry broke out into rapturous plaudits on that occasion, and evidently thought that such things rarely occurred — that the cavalry had “turned over a new leaf.”

I repeat that the misfortune has been heretofore that the brave boys of the infantry did not see their comrades of the cavalry at work; and not finding them prominent in the middle of the big battles, believed they preferred the rear and did no fighting. It is fortunate that this hallucination is exploded. The gallant blood of noble hearts which flows in every cavalry fight cries aloud against this cruel calumny. While the infantry are resting after their toils, the cavalry are fighting; and it would astound some of those who have been in the habit of repeating the sneers alluded to, if they could know how much precious blood — of field officers, company officers, and noble men in the ranks — is shed in almost every skirmish which occurs upon the outposts. But, enough, I am glad the infantry have seen the cavalry at work.

P. S.--One incident of the late campaign has been omitted through inadvertence, though well worthy of notice. On the evening of the fight for possession of the Warrenton Springs ford, the enemy, puzzled to death at our movements, and determined to use every means to penetrate Lee's designs, advanced from Rappahannock Station by Brandy toward Culpeper Court-House, with two divisions of cavalry and some infantry. Our army had, of course, gone on, by the upper fords, and General Stuart had deserted that part of the field of operations for one more attractive beyond the Rappahannock. He had, however, left. Colonel Rosser with a force of less than two hundred cavalry and one piece of artillery at Brandy, to repel any advance in that direction. The enemy appeared suddenly, in the evening, as I have said, and commenced a furious attack upon Rosser. He dismounted his command, and deployed them as sharp-shooters; and with these and his single gun received the assault. He was speedily forced, of course, to fall back; but this was done gradually, his piece retiring from hill to hill, and continuing to fire upon the enemy. The only hope which Colonel Rosser had was in Colonel Young, commanding the South-Carolina cavalry, and his own Cobb legion, Butler's brigade. Young was above Culpeper Court-House when he received Rosser's message, and immediately pushed on, and threw himself into the affair with the dash and gallantry which are a matter of course with him. He dismounted his entire brigade, scattered them over a front of a mile, advanced upon the Federals, and kept up such a hot fire upon them that, they were completely checked and driven back. Night had now come, and ordering his men to build camp-fires along his entire front, Colonel Young brought up his brass band to the front and made it play “Dixie” and the “Bonnie Blue flag” till midnight.

The consequence of this unique proceeding, on the part of the gallant Colonel, was pleasing. A mile and a half of camp-fires, and a brass band playing “Dixie,” defiantly, could be accounted for upon no other hypothesis than the presence of a strong force of General Lee's army; and having reconnoitred the heavy body of troops evidently in their front, the enemy concluded that

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Fitz Lee (5)
Rosser (4)
James George Young (2)
J. E. B. Stuart (1)
George G. Meade (1)
B. J. Kilpatrick (1)
Ferdinand D. Cobb (1)
B. F. Butler (1)
Buckland (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: