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Doc. 63.-occupation of Harrisonburgh, Va.

General Fremont's despatches.

headquarters Mountain Department, army in the field, Harrisonburgh, June 7.
To Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War:
the army reached this place at two o'clock yesterday, driving out the enemy's rear-guard from the town. Severe skirmishing continued from that time till dark, the enemy's rear being closely pressed by our advance. At four o'clock the First New-Jersey cavalry, after driving the enemy through the village, fell into an ambuscade in the woods, to the south-east of the town, in which Colonel Windham, of that regiment, was captured and considerable loss sustained. Colonel Cluseret with his brigade, subsequently engaged the enemy in the timber, driving him from his position and taking his camp. At about eight a battalion of Colonel Kane's Pennsylvania regiment entered the woods under the direction of Brigadier-General Bayard, and maintained for half an hour a vigorous attack, in which both sides suffered severely, driving the enemy. The enemy attempted to shell our troops, but a few shots from one of our batteries soon silenced his guns. After dark the enemy continued his retreat. Full particulars will be forwarded by mail.

J. C. Fremont, Major-General.

Headquarters, army in the field, Harrisonburgh, Saturday, June 7, 1862, 9 o'clock P. M.
Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War:
The attack upon the enemy's rear of yesterday, precipitated his retreat. Their loss in killed and wounded was very severe.

Their retreat is almost by an impassable road, along which many wagons were left in the woods, and wagon-loads of blankets, clothing, and other equipments are piled up in all directions.

During the evening many of the rebels were killed by shells from a battery of General Stahl's brigade.

General Ashby, who covered the retreat with his whole cavalry force and three regiments of infantry, and who exhibited admirable skill and audacity, was among the killed.

General Milroy made a reconnoissance, to-day, about seven miles on the Port Republic road, and discovered a portion of the enemy's forces encamped in the timber.

J. C. Fremont, Major-General Commanding.

New-York Tribune account.

Fremont's headquarters, Harrisonburgh, Va., June 7, 1862.
The march from Newmarket, yesterday, was without opposition, until the advance — guard reached Harrisonburgh. Rebel cavalry showed themselves occasionally in front, but not in large numbers. They were drawn up in line some miles before Harrisonburgh, and as their numbers were hid by the woods, a halt was made, and two regiments of cavalry sent forward through the fields, in hope to capture the rebels by a flank movement. Two guns were placed on the hill to cover the advance. Before their position was reached by the flanking column, the rebel line wheeled into column, and rode off. A few shells were sent after them, which had no other effect than to scare a number of our own scouts, who were so far in advance as to be directly under fire, and were very nearly hit.

The entrance to Harrisonburgh was not disputed. A company of Connecticut cavalry under Capt. Fish, rode through the main street, and discovered two or three hundred rebel cavalry in line at the opposite end of the town, who fired on them without injury. When all the cavalry had come up, a force, consisting of the First New-Jersey, First Pennsylvania, two companies Fourth New-York, and two companies Connecticut cavalry — in all, about eight hundred, under command of Col. Windham, of First New-Jersey regiment, was ordered forward by Gen Fremont, to take possession of the town and reconnoitre a short distance beyond. Before this column moved, a report was brought by a scout that there were three hundred rebel cavalry within a mile of the town, who were prevented from retreating by the destruction of a bridge a short distance in advance, and that they were rapidly rebuilding the bridge, and would be able to advance in an hour. This information was communicated to Colonel Windham.

About half-past 1 o'clock, Colonel Windham moved his force, and went through the long main street of the town at a rapid trot, Arriving on the other side, the column turned to the left, and advanced through two or three fields to the summit of a hill overlooking an open valley, from which rose another hill beyond, covered with woods. No enemy was in sight. The cavalry were halted, and skirmishers sent ahead and on the flanks. They were gone some time, and returned with no satisfactory report. Nevertheless, Col. Windham, though he had reached the point beyond which he was ordered not to push his reconnaissance, decided to advance. With full knowledge that the enemy was some — where in front of him, whom he might have to charge at any moment, he nevertheless hurried on his tired horses, advancing for more than two miles at an unbroken trot. The enemy's cavalry [186] were suddenly discovered in front, drawn up, as usual, across the road, and extending into the woods on either side. It was impossible to determine their force, and there was no support within three or four miles. But Col. Windham determined to attack, and without any attempt to discover by skirmishing the strength or position of his enemy, or whether any infantry were opposed to him, ordered a charge, and rashly led his own regiment, the First New-Jersey cavalry, straight up the hill.

On the left of the road was nothing but woods. On the right, for some distance before the rebel line was reached, was a field of wheat. In this field was concealed a strong body — not less than a regiment — of rebel infantry. They were not completely screened from view by the tall grain, but were visible at least to the officers and men of the second squadron. Utterly unsuspicious of such a force on his flank, Col. Windham charged at speed up the hill. When the first squadron was fairly within the line of flanking fire, the rebels poured in a volley, which, coming so close at hand, and on the flank, threw the whole squadron into confusion. Col. Windham's horse was shot under him, and he was taken prisoner. Captain Shellmere, company A, bravely striving to rally his men, was killed by a rifle-shot. All the officers bravely but vainly endeavored to rally their men, and after one or two feeble efforts to hold their ground, the first battalion was driven down the hill. Capt. Janeway, company L, who was leading the second squadron, perceiving as he advanced up the hill that the wheat-field covered a force of infantry, as soon as the first squadron was thrown into disorder by the unexpected fire on the flank, endeavored to lead his men through the woods on the left of the road, in order both to shelter them from the infantry fire and to flank the cavalry on the hill. The movement was skilfully planned, but before it could be wholly executed, part of the squadron was thrown into confusion by the retreat of the advance, which came down the hill in disorderly flight, and nothing was left but to retire. The threatened attack on the flank prevented the rebels from pursuing, and the whole force fell back. Capt. Haines, company M, was either killed or severely wounded and taken prisoner. Captain Janeway escaped unhurt. The regiment lost thirty-six killed and wounded.

For the account given thus far, I am indebted to an officer who was engaged in the fight, no part of which I saw. When the reconnoissance was sent forward, I rode through the town with the cavalry, and thence to the field where the first halt was made, and beyond which Colonel Windham was ordered not to advance. No enemy being in sight, I supposed no further advance was intended, and returned to the camp on this side of the town.

As soon as news of the repulse was received at headquarters, Gen. Bayard, with the Bucktail Rifles, four companies, and the First Pennsylvania cavalry, and Col. Cluseret with his brigade, comprising the Sixtieth Ohio and Eighth Virginia infantry, were ordered forward to hold the further end of the town and the approaches on that side. Col. Cluseret advanced, and drove one body of the enemy from their position, pursuing them for a considerable distance, capturing their camp and some supplies, without loss on his side. The other wing was less fortunate. The Bucktail or Kane Rifles, numbering one hundred and twenty-five men, found themselves opposed by four regiments of infantry, supported by cavalry and artillery in position. Before they could be withdrawn, they suffered most severely, losing nearly one half their whole number, killed, wounded, and missing. Officers and men fought most gallantly. Lieut.-Colonel Kane, who commanded them, was severely wounded, and refusing to allow his men to carry him off the field, was left behind, and is undoubtedly a prisoner. Capt. Taylor, a brother of Bayard Taylor, was wounded and captured. The acting Adjutant of the regiment, Lieut. J. J. Swaine, is probably killed.

The enemy had artillery, and used it with effect, continuing their fire after our troops were withdrawn, and after dark, while not a solitary gun could be brought up on our side. In the confusion and haste of last night, only the most fragmentary accounts could be obtained. The substance of such as could be collected and seemed most trustworthy I put into a despatch, to be forwarded to the nearest telegraph-station. This morning I write without other information, and momently expecting the mail to close. With the rapid advance of the army, mail facilities become more and more uncertain and irregular, but I hope to-morrow to be able to forward lists of killed and wounded. Whether to-day is to see a march or a battle, or whether we move at all, is still uncertain.

Jackson's progress is undoubtedly delayed by the exhaustion of his troops and breaking down of trains, otherwise he would not have strengthened and halted his rear-guard last night. Riding all day in advance, I heard, at every house along the road, that his main column passed early Thursday morning, and the rear-guard some hours later. Only a small body of cavalry, not more than a hundred in number, kept near our advance, showing themselves occasionally in line in favorable positions. Thursday night the rebels camped near Harrisonburgh. Friday, Jackson seems to have abandoned the main road and, turning to the left, endeavored to reach either a point on the river where it could be forded, or Miller's Bridge, twelve miles on the road to the left. The people of Harrisonburgh agree in stating that he did not expect Gen. Fremont to reach the town until to-night, and it is probable that when surprised by the appearance of the advanceguard, he determined to make an effort to check its further progress. The only other explanation is, that he has arrived at the place where he is obliged to make a final stand. Col. Windham's rash advance beyond the point where he was ordered, and his attack in such circumstances, still more rash than the advance, gave the enemy an [187] opportunity which they improved, and came near bringing on a general engagement at the end of a long and exhausting day's march.

Later.--As the mail closes the official reports begin to come in, hurried and fragmentary. Gen. Bayard's report severely censures Colonel Windham, of First New-Jersey cavalry, for rashness and unskilful conduct in advance and attack. The charge was made after a harassing march when the horses were staggering in the ranks from exhaustion, and the men had been without other rations than beef for three days. The repulse is wholly attributable to Col. Windham's bad conduct, and neglect or disobedience of orders.

When the Kane Rifles — the Bucktails — were sent into the woods, a large force of the enemy was almost immediately unmasked, and orders were at once sent to the Rifles to withdraw. Before this could be effected, under the terrible fire to which they were exposed, they lost in killed, wounded, and missing, fifty-five men. The regiment exhausted its ammunition, and the Eighth Virginia, ordered up to support them, had also exhausted theirs.

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Windham (12)
J. C. Fremont (6)
Cluseret (3)
Bayard (3)
Bayard Taylor (2)
Edwin M. Stanton (2)
John Kane (2)
Janeway (2)
J. J. Swaine (1)
Stahl (1)
Shellmere (1)
R. H. Milroy (1)
Stonewall Jackson (1)
Haines (1)
Fish (1)
Doc (1)
Ashby (1)
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June 7th, 1862 AD (2)
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