Doc. 196.-fights along the Rapidan.
A National account.
headquarters army of the Potomac, Sunday, October 11, 1863.For some days past it has been evident that this army would not long remain in the vicinity of Culpeper, and every one who knows any thing of our own and the rebel forces, understood that it would be impossible for us to advance. Hence, the only question for General Meade to solve was how to get his immense trains and stores away in safety. On Wednesday, the seventh instant, General Meade received information that led him to believe that an extensive rebel raid was contemplated upon his right and rear — information since verified. It was also ascertained that on Thursday night the rebel cavalry under Stuart, and infantry under Ewell, were crossing the Rapidan in the vicinity of Robertson's River, and making toward Springville, via James City, and I presume it was this information which led to the strategy of the last two days. General Meade was fully apprized of the rebel strength, and knew that by making a demonstration on their right and centre he would compel them to abandon their enterprise in order to protect their lines of communication with Gordonsville and Richmond. Consequently a strong force of cavalry, under Buford, appeared at daylight on Saturday at Germania Ford, ten miles below Raccoon Ford, while infantry and cavalry appeared in force at the fords in the vicinity of Cedar Mountain. Kilpatrick was also sent out to the right to attract and engage the advance of the enemy at James City, ten miles south-west of Culpeper. It is said that General Buford crossed at Germania Ford. On Friday night the First and Sixth corps, who had been encamped along the base of the Cedar Run Mountains and extending down to Raccoon Ford, built fires and advanced their lines to the river. They had previously been strengthened by two divisions; so that at the break of day on Saturday a most formidable array of Union soldiers appeared, ready to cross the river at several points simultaneously. General Kilpatrick had also during Friday night moved to the right, and at daylight on Saturday morning engaged the enemy at James City. He was instructed not to bring on a general engagement, as the plan was to lure the rebels back to their right and centre by the demonstrations in those quarters — a plan which would be thwarted by bringing on a general engagement upon our right. Consequently, after a half hour's skirmishing, he fell back in the direction of Culpeper, and took position near Bethel Church, where a support of infantry was posted, and to which place they were followed by the rebels. Here a part of our cavalry dismounted and deployed as infantry, and for a short time the fight was brisk indeed; but the rebel force proving too strong, or abiding by his orders, Kilpatrick fell still further toward the main body of the corps, posted two miles west of Culpeper. In this movement a part of the One Hundred and Twentieth New-York volunteers was captured; but they did not long remain prisoners, for, watching their opportunity, a brigade of our cavalry, of which the Fifth New-York and Fifth Michigan were a part, dashed upon the guard having the captives in charge, and rescued all but some twelve or fifteen. The ruse of threatening to cross the river by the First and Sixth corps had its desired effect. Immediately upon the discovery of our forces by the rebels, signals were displayed, calling upon the infantry to come back to check our advance. Accordingly Ewell recrossed the river during the forenoon, and took up his line of march toward the Orange and Alexandria railroad, where they had a series of works, leaving only Stuart to demonstrate upon our right, north of the river. This, then, was the position of the forces on Saturday night at dark, with every prospect of a bloody fight on the coming day. Buford was at Germania, the First and Sixth corps extending from Raccoon Ford to Cedar Run; Kilpatrick, supported by the Second and Third corps, to the west of Culpeper, from three to four miles distant. Ewell had moved back from his position in the morning, and faced Newton and Sedgwick, while Stuart fronted French, Warren, and Kilpatrick in the vicinity of Bethel Church. On Sunday morning at two o'clock our infantry force, both at the Rapidan and west of town, commenced moving toward the Rappahannock, their trains having all been sent back the night before, leaving the entire cavalry of Pleasanton to cover the retreat. Gregg had come up by forced marches during Saturday; so our cavalry force was by no means insignificant. Our infantry all reached their present camping ground in excellent  order during the day, their pace accelerated a trifle perhaps by the sound of cannon in the direction of the town they had left in the morning. But not so fortunate the cavalry; for they had a day of skirmishing by which to remember the inauguration of the second annual race over the Centreville course. After the infantry had all passed over Mountain Run, a small stream just north of Culpeper, and the roads had become cleared, Kilpatrick and Gregg took up their line of march, and, skirmishing the while, advanced in the direction the infantry had taken. Kilpatrick came up by the way of Culpeper, while Gregg took the road toward Sulphur Springs. I do not learn that Gregg met with any enemy on the line of his march; but Kilpatrick did, and in his encounters with them confirmed his old reputation for dash and daring. Kilpatrick retreated slowly from Bethel in the morning, Stuart's men showing themselves continually, and annoying him with their welldirected fire; but he met them with “tender in kind,” until he had crossed Mountain Run, where the rebels ceased to trouble him. Here, at about twelve o'clock, he heard for the first time in the day heavy firing of artillery off to the eastward, in the direction of Germania Ford, and he knew that Buford was being hotly engaged. He immediately sent out scouts to open up communication with Buford, and learned that a junction was expected to be formed before night at Brandy Station, whither he bent his way, taking along his trains of ambulances leisurely, and not anticipating further molestation. But upon reaching the hill just south of Brandy he discovered that a division, at least, of the enemy had slipped in between the rear of the infantry and his advance, and was strongly posted, waiting his coming. He halted but a moment, just long enough to take in the whole scene, when he shouted — and the word was carried back along the line, not a poetic burst or a devotional exclamation, but one suited to the times and the feelings of the rough, brave men he commanded--“Boys, yonder are the cusses.” Turning to the Michigan brigade, who led his advance, and who glory not in euphonious appellatives, he called out, “Come on, you wolverines; now give them hell!” and, suiting his own action to his precept, he sprang to the head of his column and led such a charge as one does not see often, even in this age of valor. Three regiments of rebels were drawn up by companies across the road, twelve platoons deep, flanked by a regiment on either side. It was upon this strongly posted force, directly at the centre, that our horsemen charged, while exposed upon the front and flank to a most murderous fire; but on they went, shouting, sabring, and trampling down the enemy with the. fury of demons. To withstand such a charge was simply impossible, and the rebels broke in confusion and scattered in all directions. When once through the main body, our forces turned, and with shot and shell poured upon the retreating rebels a very demoralizing testimonial of their high regard for the tools of this rebellion. In this charge we lost a few in killed and wounded, and a few are missing; but we know also that the rebel surgeons will have to use the trepanning and amputating instruments, and will have to bury quite a number of their patients. Our own wounded are being brought in to-night, and are being sent to Washington per rail.
headquarters, October 12--6 A. M.The trains have all come in in safety, and in excellent order. Kilpatrick and Buford have also arrived at the river, and are in line of battle. Our forces are now in position to contest the further advance of the enemy, who appear in force south of the river. I do not think a general engagement will take place to-day, but in this I may be mistaken.
Washington, October 14, 1863.The whole of Gregg's division was ordered from Bealton Station on Saturday toward Culpeper, and arrived at Culpeper at four o'clock P. M. From thence the Second brigade of the Second division was ordered to Fox Mountain to support Kilpatrick, but finding that Kilpatrick did not need reenforcements, the brigade left them on Sunday morning and rejoined the division at Culpeper. On Sunday night Gregg moved to Sulphur Springs, arriving about nine o'clock. On Monday morning two regiments — the Fourth and Thirteenth Pennsylvania--were sent forward to Jefferson, about five miles from Sulphur Springs, and the First Maine were sent out toward Little Washington to reconnoitre. The last-named regiment encountered a large force of the enemy just beyond Amosville, and were surrounded, but gallantly cut their way out, and crossed the river at Waterloo Ford, about twelve miles above Sulphur Springs. About ten o'clock Monday morning, the enemy advanced on the Fourth and Thirteenth Pennsylvania, which were at Jefferson, with cavalry, showing heavy infantry supports in their rear, when our cavalry, seeing that they were being overpowered, fell back slowly, contesting the ground, to a large forest this side of Jefferson, where Gregg, who led these regiments in person, dismounted a portion of his men and sent them out as skirmishers, their horses having been sent back to Sulphur Springs. After stubbornly contesting the ground for nearly two hours, they were ordered to fall back slowly, and as they were doing so a heavy infantry force of the enemy was discovered on each flank, and at the same time three regiments of cavalry, having made a wide detour, attacked them in the rear. At this time the Tenth New-York was sent to the support of Gregg, and Reed's battery (M, Second United States artillery) opened on the rebel cavalry, but owing to the  short range of the guns, (which were brass Napoleons,) no serious damage was inflicted on the enemy by them. The Fourth and Thirteenth were now pressed severely in the front and our centre broken, and at the same time they were attacked on each flank and in the rear. Our men cut their way through and escaped across the river with heavy loss. The Eighteenth Pennsylvania was now dismounted and thrown out along the river-bank as skirmishers, whilst the Eighth was also dismounted, and ordered to support the battery, which had only four short-range guns, and the enemy opened on us with some twenty pieces of artillery, but our troops gallantly held the ground for several hours, repulsing the charges of the enemy, and gradually fell back on the Fayetteville road, the enemy following, but keeping at a respectable distance. Colonel Gregg had but two aids with him--Lieutenants Martin and Cutler--and both were wounded; the former severely and the latter slightly. Lieutenant Adams, Fourth Pennsylvania; Major Wilson, Eighth Pennsylvania; Lieutenant-Colonel Kettler, First New-Jersey; Major Russell, First Maryland, were wounded; and the loss of the Second brigade, it is thought, will amount to about four hundred and fifty men in killed, wounded, and missing, the Fourth and Thirteenth Pennsylvania regiments suffering most severely. Colonel Gregg is highly spoken of for the manner in which he fought his men, and it was owing to his skill and bravery that the Fourth and Thirteenth fought their way out of a precarious situation. He was at the head of his men in the thickest of the fight, and in several charges he took the lead. During the engagement the rebels charged the battery and captured one of the guns; but the First New-Jersey cavalry gallantly charged back and recaptured the piece, which was immediately turned on them with good effect. Our cavalry yesterday held the enemy in check, and there was some little skirmishing, one man being wounded while on picket last evening.