Doc. 118.-Lieutenant Davis's exploit.
Fair Oak station, on the Nine Mile Road from Richmond, May 28, 1862.A gallant exploit has just been consummated by Lieutenant Frank C. Davis, company D, Third Pennsylvania cavalry, one sergeant and ten men. General McClellan was very anxious to communicate with the gunboats on the James River. Lieutenant Davis was detailed by Colonel Averell for this purpose. It was of the utmost importance that the communication should be opened. It was a known fact that the enemy were picketed all through this country, and the danger of capture was imminent, and it was only by shrewd dodging from point to point that the Lieutenant consummated his errand successfully. The distance was some fifteen miles, but the party were obliged to make some twenty-five miles before reaching their destination. The feat was accomplished with so much success that General McClellan returned his thanks in a letter to the Lieutenant and his command. It runs thus:
headquarters army of Potomac, May 27, 1862.Sir: I am instructed by the Major-General Commanding, to express to you his thanks for the very discreet, prompt and satisfactory manner in which you and the small party under your command performed the important duty assigned to you by Colonel Averell, of communicating with the commander of the gunboats on the James River. (Signed)
Lieut. Davis, Third Pennsylvania Cavalry:
Lieut. Davis, Third Pennsylvania Cavalry:
R. B. Marcy, Chief of Staff.
Lieutenant Davis and Sergeant Vandergrift, with the command of ten picked men, started on Sunday morning, and proceeded in the direction of the James River, to reach the point opposite City Point. After proceeding about four miles, he learned that six of the enemy's pickets were posted in the woods near by. He avoided these, and about one mile further on came across a negro, who stated that about three hundred yards further on were twelve mounted rebel pickets at a house. The Lieutenant avoided these by making a detour to the left, and took a by-road leading over to the Richmond and Charles City road. The night before some seventy-five rebel cavalry passed up this road, but were not in sight at this time. The white people all along this road were terrified at the sight of Union soldiers, as this small party were the first they had ever seen. A short time previous to the arrival of the Union party at this point, a rebel foraging party had passed down the road. The Union troops were now between two parties. In no wise daunted, they proceeded up the road towards Richmond about for miles, through a deep wood, and came out into an opening and caught sight of the river, some three miles in the distance.  The Lieutenant halted here and hid his men in the woods, and proceeded alone to a cross-road, to reach an eminence that gave him a view of the country around. While there one of the Union gunboats threw a shell into a rebel party some distance above. The Lieutenant then returned to his command, avoiding the Richmond road, as it was full of the enemy, apparently. He got a negro, belonging to Mr. Hill Carter, to pilot him down to the landing. The darkey stated that his master had acted as colonel in the rebel army at Williamsburgh, but he got enough of it, and had left the army. While passing through this man's plantation the old chap rode down and demanded, “Are you Yankee troops or confederate?” The Lieutenant answered that they were Union troops. Mr. Carter then stated that he did not allow confederate troops to come on his plantation, as the gunboats shelled them, and would soon destroy his house. The Lieutenant assured him that he should be protected as far as they went. The Lieutenant got an old boat and two slaves to row him out to the Galena, Captain Rodgers. When about one half a mile from the boat he was met by a cutter from the ship. The message delivered was verbal, as the undertaking was very hazardous, and no writing was given. It was a gallant exploit all through, and was the first communication opened with the army. The party returned in the night, and reached camp at this point at eleven o'clock on Monday morning. While the Lieutenant was on board the Galena, a squadron of the rebel cavalry entered the small town on the opposite side of the James River at City Point, at the mouth of the Appomattox River. Two shells were thrown into the town, and the enemy “skedcladled.” The Galena is very much cut up by the enemy's shot. She will be obliged to go into dock before she can go into action again. The battery she was engaged with mounted thirty large guns. A lot of shot are still sticking in her below the water-line. Colonel Samuel W. Owen, with a battalion of the Third Pennsylvania cavalry,--together with a body of infantry, all under the immediate command of General Naglee, made a reconnoissance yesterday some two miles in advance of this point. They drove in the enemy's pickets, killing one. They found the enemy in force, posted with artillery. The reconnoissance accomplished, the whole party returned without accident, the enemy not deeming it proper to follow, although outnumbering the Unionists largely. The Eighth Pennsylvania cavalry, Col. Gregg, a few hours later, met a body of the rebels, engaged them and drove them toward Richmond. Colonel Gregg had three men killed.