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Doc. 217. affair near Williamsport, Md.


Captain Robinson's official report.

Headquarters Co. D, First Reg. Va. Brigade, U. S. Volunteers, Four Locks, near Williamsport, Md., Dec. 9, 1861.
Col. S. H. Leonard, Commanding Williamsport and Vicinity, Md.:
sir: I have the honor to report that, on Friday afternoon, the 6th inst., my pickets at Dam No. 5 and Back Creek were fired on by the enemy, by cavalry at the former place, and infantry at the latter. The sergeants in charge of each of those pickets immediately communicated with me here, and I despatched reinforcements to both places; but after some shots had been exchanged all remained quiet during the remainder of that day and night. The sergeant at dam No. 5 reported three wounded on the side of the enemy, but none of our men were hurt at either place.

On Saturday afternoon, about half-past 3 o'clock P. M., I was apprised of the advance of the enemy in strong force in the direction of Dam No. 5. I immediately took my second lieutenant and twenty men of my command to-ward the Dam, and sent my first lieutenant with ten men to Fankell's Ferry, that point being opposite and in close approximation to the road leading from Little Georgetown to the Dam. The enemy perceived this party, and at once opened fire on them; he returned the fire, and he believes with effect. Before I could arrive with my party at the Dam, rifle-shots had already been fired there, and within a short distance of the Dam myself and party were fired on with shot and shell from rifled cannon. The enemy ceased their fire at the Dam, and kept up an incessant fire at us until dark, bringing all their guns to bear on us, the number being six; their firing was very regular and accurate, and although none of my party were hurt, there were many narrow escapes. Under cover of the darkness I succeeded in reinforcing the picket, and on my return to Headquarters also despatched what available men I had left, as a reinforcement, to my first lieutenant at Fankell's Ferry, at which place an incessant firing on the enemy's side, from rifles, was kept up all night, and answered by us with musketry, which appeared to be unheeded by them, although my lieutenant reports seeing several fall, until I obtained from the reinforcement sent to the Dam by you a squad of six men armed with the Enfield rifle, the sound of which they seemed to fear. At the Dam, musketry firing recommenced about nine o'clock P. M., on the part of the enemy, the object of which seemed to be to cover a party endeavoring to destroy the wooden cribs of that work, as we could plainly hear the noise made in endeavoring [458] to effect this. We opened fire on them, and the firing was kept up on both sides until about two o'clock in the morning, shortly after which the reinforcement sent me by you arrived. Nothing further was done until daylight, when the enemy commenced throwing shot and shell across the Dam, and also at Fankell's Ferry — their object at the latter place, in particular, appearing to be the destruction of property. At Dam No. 5 they succeeded in setting fire to and destroying a barn. Firing at each of the above places was kept up all day, with little intermission on both sides. I am happy to be able to state that none of my company were wounded, although one man of the Massachusetts regiment was severely so. I have great pleasure in speaking well of the prompt action and willingness on the part of some of the Union men in this vicinity in rendering me all the assistance they could, not only in showing me the best points for cover for some of my small party, but also in handling the musket with them. I have learnt, from reliable information, that the enemy's known loss in killed and wounded amounted to twelve--seven at the Dam, and five at Fankell's Ferry; but I believe it to have been heavier. Two of their cannon burst, and one was rendered unserviceable by the breaking of the axle of the gun-carriage. Also, that their total force was about fifteen hundred strong. From what shot and shell we have picked up, their guns appear to be of the latest improved pattern. The enemy appear to have left this district, with the exception of some few pickets, as nothing is observable of them in force from Fankell's Ferry or the Dam, at which place they left behind them a considerable quantity of intrenching tools. I have the honor, &c.,

Gilbert Robinson, Captain Commanding Post.

An “eye-witness” gives the following account of the attack:

Williamsport, Md., Sunday, December 8, 1861.
I have just returned from Dam No. 5, about seven miles above this on the Potomac, where a sharp skirmish has been going on all day. When the firing was first commenced, about four o'clock last evening, by the rebels on the other side of the river, Capt. Robinson's Company, of Col. Lehman's regiment, the Virginia First, who were on picket duty at that point, were the only men we had present; but they were reinforced this morning about two o'clock by Company C, Capt. Wm. H. Jackson, of the Thirteenth Massachusetts, Col. Leonard, who left this place last night about ten o'clock.

The rebels opened the battle by throwing shell and canister in rapid succession. They had four or five ten-pound rifled cannon, and one large Parrott gun; but when they had ceased firing at dark last evening, had succeeded in doing nothing but destroy Mr. Stanhope's house, which stood close by the river on this side. They also threw several cannon balls into several other small buildings which stood in the neighborhood of Stanhope's house. Our men had no artillery, and returned the fire occasionally with small arms. Some of our men were in and about the buildings toward which the enemy's shot was directed, but most of Capt. Jackson's company were stationed along a fence running parallel with the river, on the brow of the hill on this side of the river. There was also a large hill on the opposite side, and it was on the top and the slope of this hill that the rebel cannons were planted.

The firing ceased at dark last evening, but was renewed with shell and canister at daylight this morning. It was at once as brisk and unceasing as it had been yesterday, but was immediately returned vigorously by Capt. Jackson's company, who had by this time arrived and taken their position on the top of the hill. As soon, however, as the rebels had discovered their position this morning, they elevated the range of their artillery, and the second shell they threw struck a large barn on the brow of the hill, a little to the right of Robinson's men, belonging to John Sterling, which immediately took fire and was burned to the ground. Some of the Massachusetts boys, who had been enjoying a nap on the hay-mow during the after part of the night, had just left the barn when the shell struck it. Mr. Sterling had barely time to get his horses and cattle from it, and lost his entire crop of grain.

The cannonading ceased about nine o'clock this morning, but was renewed again about four this evening, and kept up till dark, since which time there has been no firing on either side. The enemy's shells, this evening, were directed toward Sterling's house, which stood a little in the rear of the barn, but they did not succeed in hitting it.

None of our men were killed or wounded, save James Kenney, of Company C, of the Massachusetts Thirteenth, who received two pretty severe flesh wounds in the thigh and in the calf of the leg. He was wounded while coming up the hill from the river, where he had taken his position during the night, with some others, behind Stanhope's house. He was first struck in the thigh, and in an effort to get away was again struck in the leg. He was lying in Sterling's house this evening, while the shells of the enemy were flying thick and fast about it; but he will soon be on his way to Boston, from whence he hails. It is not known how many the rebels lost, but several were seen to fall, and taken into a couple of houses which stand on the Virginia side. Kenney was wounded by a Minie ball, which seemed to be the only kind of small shot the rebels used. The firing of small arms was very brisk on both sides during the whole day.

We expect some artillery here daily, but the rebels have removed from the Dam, and will not likely appear soon again. They showed themselves about a thousand strong.


--N. Y. Times, Dec. 13.

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