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[193] The leading squadron was ordered forward at a brisk gait, the main body following closely, and gave chase to the enemy for a mile or two, but did not come up to him. We crossed the Tolopotomoy, a strong position of defence which the enemy failed to hold, confessing a weakness. In such places half a squadron was deployed afoot as skirmishers, till the point of danger was passed.

On, on dashed Rodins, here skirting a field, there leaping a fence or ditch, and cleaning the woods beyond, when, not far from Old Church, the enemy made a stand, having been reinforced. The only mode of attack being in column of fours along the road, I still preferred to oppose the enemy with one squadron at a time, remembering that he who brings on the field the last cavalry reserve wins the day. The next squadron, therefore, moved to the front, under the lamented Capt. Latane, making a most brilliant and successful charge, with drawn sabres, upon the picket-guard, and after a hotly contested hand-to-hand conflict put him to flight, but not till the gallant Captain had sealed his devotion to his native soil with his blood. The enemy's rout (two squadrons by one of ours) was complete; they dispersed in terror and confusion, leaving many dead on the field, and blood in quantities in their tracks. Their commander, Capt. Royall, was reported mortally wounded. Several officers and a number of privates were taken in this conflict, and a number of horses, arms, and equipments, together with five guidons. The woods and fields were full of the scattered and disorganized foe, straggling to and fro, and but for the delay and the great incumbrance which they would have been to our march, many more could and would have been captured.

Col. Fitz Lee, burning with impatience to cross sabres with his old regiment, galloped to the front at this point and begged to be allowed to participate with his regiment, the First Virginia cavalry, in the discomfiture of his old comrades — a request I readily granted — and his leading squadron pushed gallantly down the road to Old Church; but the fragments of Royall's command could not be rallied again, and Col. Lee's leading squadron charged, without resistance, into the enemy's camp, (five companies,) and took possession of a number of horses, a quantity of arms and stores of every kind, and several officers and privates. The stores, as well as the tents, in which everything had left, were speedily burned and the march resumed — whither?

Here was the turning-point of the expedition. Two routes were before me, the one to return by Hanover Court-House, the other to pass around through New-Kent, taking the chances of having to swim the Chickahominy, and make a bold effort to cut the enemy's lines of communication. The Chickahominy was believed by my guides to be fordable near Forge Bridge. I was fourteen miles from Hanover Court-House, which I would have to pass if I returned, the enemy had a much shorter distance to pass to intercept me there; besides, the South Anna River was impassable, which still further narrowed the chances of escape in that direction; the enemy, too, would naturally expect me to take that route. These circumstances led me to look with more favor to my favorite scheme, disclosed to you before starting, of passing around. It was only nine miles to Tunstall's station, on the York River Railroad, and that point once passed, I felt little apprehension; beyond, the route was one of all others which I felt sure the enemy would never expect me to take. On that side of the Chickahominy infantry could not reach me before crossing, and I felt able to whip any cavalry force that could be brought against me. Once on the Charles City side, I knew you would, when aware of my position, if necessary, order a diversion in my favor on the Charles City road, to prevent a move to intercept me from the direction of White Oak Swamp. Beside this, the hope of striking a serious blow at a boastful and insolent foe, which would make him tremble in his shoes, made more agreeable the alternative I chose.

In a brief and frank interview with some of my officers, I disclosed my views, but while none accorded a full assent, all assured me a hearty support in whatever I did. With an abiding trust in God, and with such guarantees of success as the two Lees and Martin and their devoted followers, this enterprise I regarded as most promising. Taking care, therefore, more particularly after this resolve, to inquire of the citizens the distance and the route to Hanover Court-House, I kept my horse's head steadily toward Tunstall's station. There was something sublime in the implicit confidence and unquestioning trust of the rank and file in a leader guiding them straight apparently into the very jaws of the enemy; every step appearing to them to diminish the faintest hope of extrication. Reports of the enemy's strength at Garlick's and Tunstall's were conflicting, but generally indicated a small number. Prisoners were captured at every step, and included officers, soldiers and negroes.

The rear now became of as much interest and importance as the front, but the duties of rearguard devolving upon the Jeff Davis Legion, with the howitzer attached, its conduct was intrusted to its commander, Lieut.-Col. Martin, in whose judgment and skill I had entire confidence. He was not attacked, but at one time the enemy appeared in his rear, bearing a flag of truce, and the party, twenty-five in number, bearing it, actually surrendered to his rear-guard, so great was the consternation produced by our march. An Assistant-Surgeon was also taken: he was en route, and not in charge of the sick. Upon arriving opposite Garlick's, I ordered a squadron from the Ninth Virginia cavalry to destroy whatever could be found at the landing on the Pamunkey. Two transports, loaded with stores, and a large number of wagons were here burnt, and the squadron rejoined the column with a number of prisoners, horses and mules. A squadron of the First Virginia cavalry (Hammond's) assisted in this destruction.

A few picked men, including my aids, Burke,

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Tunstall (3)
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