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[564] within a very short distance of the guns, intent upon capturing them.

Once across the river, the bridge was held, though some of the men were entirely out of carbine ammunition, and resort was had to Colt's revolvers, in which the officers took a conspicuous part. The enemy, however, succeeded in effecting a crossing some distance to the left, and the brigade fell back fighting to the vicinity of Gainesville, where the troops disappeared in a belt of timber, passing through a line of Sixth corps infantry skirmishers there concealed, whom the enemy, not seeing, made bold to charge, and were repulsed with great loss, the officer leading the charge being among the killed.

When General Kilpatrick saw that Custer's brigade was safe across Broad Run, he directed him to fall back slowly, and fighting if pursued, and then started, accompanied by an orderly only, to join General Davies, whom he had notified previously by an aid that he was cut off, and must make his way to the pike leading from Thoroughfare Gap to Gainesville. To many not acquainted with the circumstances this might seem a foolhardy errand, having to recross Broad Run, which he did at the bridge, and to run the gauntlet of skirmishers for more than a mile; but General Kilpatrick would rather have lost his own life on that field than to lose a brigade, the fate of which then hung in the balance; and while having the utmost confidence in the ability and coolness of General Davies, he at the same time realized the fact that his own presence would do something toward encouraging the troops, particularly as some of them had been associated with him for years. Providence permitting, he succeeded in reaching the command with ten or a dozen gallant spirits, both officers and men, who, seeing the noble conduct of their General, resolved to accompany him without orders. Fortunately, as the sequel will show, Dr. Capehart, Chief Surgeon of the brigade, was familiar with that section of country, and avoiding the main road leading to Thoroughfare Gap, reached the pike a short distance above the village of Haymarket. The difficulty of this movement will be understood when it is stated that this reduced brigade was attacked in the rear by both Hampton's and Jones's brigades, and that Fitz Lee was ready to confront it on the Thoroughfare Gap road, which they expected Davies would take when cut off. When General Kilpatrick reached the command, he at once ordered the Harris Light (Second New-York) to act as rear-guard. So hard pressed were they in rear and flank, that the choicest spirits — because the bravest, both officers and men — of the command joined the rear-guard, and nobly did they withstand the onsets of the enemy, and even mocked them — while exulting at the idea of even driving a moiety of Kilpatrick's command — in their beast-like yelp, and hurled them back on more than one occasion by the sword alone. At one time the rear-guard and the advance of the enemy were all mixed together. The enemy's advance wearing a uniform similar to that worn by our own troops, in the excitement of the moment it was not easy to distinguish one from the other. As an instance of this, I may state that a rebel urged Lieutenant Whittaker, of General Kilpatrick's staff, to press forward. Whittaker, supposing it was some of our own men, upbraided him for wishing, as he supposed, to press past and abandon the wagons. By half-past 7 o'clock in the evening both brigades were in camp at Gainesville, having been engaged nearly all day fighting a combination of infantry and cavalry, with a loss, all told, as now appears — including killed, wounded, and missing — not to exceed one hundred men, instead of three hundred or four hundred, as was at first reported by stragglers. And instead of losing eight or nine wagons, the actual loss is only two, and one of these got mired, and the other broke down. No horses or mules were lost. In this retreat Elder's battery took a conspicuous part, and was handled with consummate skill.

General Kilpatrick, upon bringing his Second brigade into camp, reported personally at headquarters, and received the thanks of both Generals Meade and Pleasanton for the able manner in which he had discharged the important duty that had been intrusted to him, and the skill he displayed in extricating his command from the most trying positions in which a command can be placed. It is just such emergencies that test the capacity of a commanding officer, and General Kilpatrick, all through the trying scenes of Monday, showed that he was fully equal to the occasion, for nothing but cool judgment and discriminate action, with hard fighting, saved the division from the trap the enemy had laid for it. Generals Kilpatrick, Custer, Davies, Colonels Alger, Mann, Sawyer, and in fact a large majority of the officers and men, deserve particular mention for preserving intact, almost by superhuman exertions, the hard-earned reputation of the cavalry corps.

General Merritt reports that the enemy have so completely destroyed the Orange and Alexandria Railroad between Warrenton Junction and the Rappahannock River, that it will take two months to reconstruct it; and in the opinion of engineers, it will be much easier and save time to construct almost an entire new road than to attempt to repair the old one. They have filled the cuts — of which there are several — with trees and earth; burnt the culverts and bridges, blown up the abutments, destroyed the ties, and miles of rails, by heating and twisting them.

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B. J. Kilpatrick (8)
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