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[330] This latter alternative, however, to be adopted only in two contingencies--one in the event of the rebels attacking us; the other, should it be found desirable to. offer them battle even on their own ground, with a fair prospect of success, and in the event of General Getty's operations being in any way dependent on such action. This, briefly, was the plan laid down by General Keyes, and the object sought to be attained by the expedition which I accompanied.

Pursuant to general orders, the commanders of brigades, batteries, and detachments reported at corps headquarters, Tuesday evening, for special instructions for the order of march. On the following morning (Wednesday) the encampment was alive and busy with the hum and motion of preparation. A little before daylight the advance troops of General Getty's command were on the march, and the rear-guard was yet hurrying forward when trumpet and drum called the troops composing General Keyes's expedition into line. At the appointed hour, almost to the minute, the advance cavalry videttes took the road to Baltimore Cross-Roads, followed immediately by the head of the advanced column. The troops carried but two days rations and one hundred rounds of ammunition per man, the march, as much as possible, being unencumbered by baggage-wagons and trains, rapid movements and long marches being anticipated. Only one wagon was allowed to each brigade headquarters, one to each regimental battery, one to the New-York cavalry, and two to the Pennsylvania cavalry. A proper allowance of ambulances — so read the orders — were allowed to each column.

Scarcely had the head of the first column begun to move on the outskirts of the encampment when General Keyes and staff rode from Headquarters toward the front. The General's staff on the occasion was composed of the following officers: Medical Director Mulford, Major White-head, Major Jackson, Captain Howard, and Captain Rice.

Though the kindness of Captain Howard, I was mounted on a captured secesh horse, which kept me well up with the staff during the march and the many inspections personally made by the General during the two days of our operations. The usual line and order of march were observed during the expedition.

In this order the expedition took up the march for Baltimore Cross-Roads — the first designated halting-place on the route to Bottom Bridge. The morning, like many succeeding ones, was cloudy and threatening rain, and for the first mile the route lay through an opening in the woods, the road being in many places flooded, and in others very badly rutted and cut up. At eight o'clock the sun came out warmly, which seemed to increase the hilarity and good humor of the men, as they sang, joked, and laughed along the road. The first point of interest reached was St. Peter's Church, where General Washington was married. The memories attached to the sacred edifice from this circumstance appeared to be known to many in the ranks — men who served in the Peninsula campaign — and, from time to time, as the church came in view, the veterans pointed it out to their younger companions, with an explanation of the interest attached to it. Once or twice the columns had to be halted from the impediments on the broken roads; but these halts were of short duration, General Keyes not permitting the slightest relaxation of energy at any point or under any circumstances. When about half the distance between White House and Baltimore Cross-Roads had been gained, Brigadier-General Terry joined in with his staff, and the two generals rode on together, chatting on military matters. Precisely at twelve o'clock the head of the advancing column reached Baltimore Cross-Roads.

The whole force was then halted for dinner, and General Keyes, with his staff, rode to the front. Once on the road, inquiry was made as to the appearance of rebels, when the General was informed that rebel pickets had been seen within three or four miles of White House every day for several days, and that they had fallen back before our videttes that same morning. General Keyes, having gone to the extreme front, was informed by Colonel West that he had been chasing the bushwhackers from the woods around Baltimore Cross-Roads, and that he thought the enemy was in some force right in front of his line of videttes. Skirmishers were sent out to support the cavalry, with orders not to press the rebels till further orders. So matters stood while the troops rested.

A quartermaster of one of our regiments was seized by rebel scouts or guerrillas at Baltimore Store in less than fifteen minutes after the troops marched past. Straggling was by special orders strictly prohibited, invalids and bad marchers being enjoined to remain in camp. It was impossible, however, to prevent a few from dropping to the rear; but none, so far as I can learn, had been captured but the quartermaster, for whose disobedience of orders there can be no palliation. On learning the fact Lieutenant Duryea and a detail of men were sent off in pursuit; but some time after he returned unsuccessful, reporting that, from a curve of the road branching from the store to the Chickahominy, his party had been fired at, a soldier beside him at the time being hit with a slug shot, but fortunately not hurt.

General Keyes determined on making his headquarters at Baltimore Cross-Roads, for a few hours, it might be, or for the night, according to circumstances. For a couple of hours, therefore, he was engaged in disposing of his troops as they came up, selecting the regiments according to their experience in the field or his own knowledge of their reliability in any emergency. Mounted videttes were again sent out to picket the numerous roads that branch off in every direction toward the Chickahominy. The encampment was made to present to the eye ground prepared for a terrible resistance to an anticipated attack, rather than the halting-place for a few thousand men. Artillery, cavalry, and infantry were disposed

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