Farley and Mosley, were pushed forward rapidly to Tunstall's, to cut the wires, and secure the depot. Five companies of cavalry, escorting large wagon-trains, were in sight, and seemed at first disposed to dispute our progress, but the sight of our column, led by Lee, of the Ninth, boldly advancing to the combat, was enough. Content with a distant view, they fled, leaving their train in our hands. The party that reached the railroad at Tunstall's surprised the guard at the depot, fifteen or twenty infantry, captured them without their firing a gun, and set about obstructing the railroad, but before it could be thoroughly done, and just as the head of our column reached it, a train of cars came thundering down from the “grand army.” It had troops on board, and we prepared to attack it. The train swept off the obstructions without being thrown from the track, but our fire, delivered at only a few rods' distance, either killed or caused to feign death every one on board, the engineer being one of the first victims, from the unerring fire of Capt. Farley. It is fair to presume that a serious collision took place on its arrival at the White House, for it made extraordinary speed in that direction. The railroad bridge over Black Creek was fired under the direction of Lieut. Burke, and it being now dark, the burning of the immense wagontrain, and the extricating of the teams, involved much labor and delay, and illuminated the country for miles. The roads at this point were far worse than ours, and the artillery had much difficulty in passing. Our march was finally continued by bright moonlight to Talleysville, where we halted three and a half hours for the column to close up. At this point we passed a large hospital, of one hundred and fifty patients. I deemed it proper not to molest the surgeons and attendants in charge. At twelve o'clock at night the march was continued, without incident, under the most favorable auspices, to Forge Bridge (eight miles） over the Chickahominy, where we arrived just at daylight. Lee, of the Ninth, by personal experiment, having found the stream not fordable, axes were sent for, and every means taken to overcome the difficulties by improvised bridges and swimming. I immediately despatched to you information of my situation, and asked for the diversion already referred to. The progress in crossing was very slow at the point chosen, just above Forge Bridge, and learning that, at the bridge proper, enough of the debris of the old bridge remained to facilitate the construction of another — materials for which were afterward afforded by a large ware-house adjacent — I moved to that point at once. Lieut. Redmond Burke, who in every sphere has rendered most valuable service, and deserves the highest consideration at the hands of the government, set to work with a party to construct a bridge. A foot-bridge was soon improvised, and the horses were crossed over as rapidly as possible by swimming. Burke's work proceeded like magic; in three hours it was ready to bear artillery and cavalry, and as half of the latter had not yet crossed, the bridge enabled the whole to reach the other bank by one o'clock P. M. Another branch of the Chickahominy, still further on, was with difficulty forded, and the march was continued without interruption towards Richmond. Having passed the point of danger, I left the column with Col. Lee, of the First, and rode on to report to you, reaching your headquarters at daylight next morning. Returning to my command soon after, the prisoners, one hundred and sixty-five in number, were transferred to the proper authority; two hundred and sixty mules and horses captured, with more or less harness, were transferred to the quartermaster departments of the different regiments, and the commands were sent to their respective camps. The number of captured arms has not been, as yet, accurately ascertained. A pole was broken, which obliged us to abandon a limber this side of the Chickahominy. The success attending this expedition will no doubt cause ten thousand or fifteen thousand men to be detached from the enemy's main body to guard his communications, besides accomplishing the destruction of millions of dollars' worth of property, and the interruption, for a time, of his railroad communications. The three commanders, the two Lees and Martin, exhibited the characteristics of skilful commanders, keeping their commands well in hand, and managing them with skill and good judgment, which proved them worthy of a higher trust. Their brave men behaved with coolness and intrepidity in danger, unswerving resolution before difficulties, and stood unappalled before the rushing torrents of the Chickahominy, with the probability of an enemy at their heels, armed with the fury of a tigress robbed of her whelps. The perfect order and systematic disposition for crossing, maintained throughout the passage, insured its success, and rendered it the crowning feature of a successful expedition. I hope, General, that your sense of delicacy, so manifest on former occasions, will not prompt you to award to the two Lees, (your son and nephew,) less than their full measure of praise. Embalmed in the hearts and affections of their regiments, tried on many occasions requiring coolness, decision and bravery, everywhere present to animate, direct and control, they held their regiments in their grasp, and proved themselves brilliant cavalry leaders. The discipline maintained by Lieut. Col. Martin in his command, and referred to in his report, is especially worthy of notice, as also his reference to the energy displayed by First Lieutenant James Breathed, of the Stuart horse artillery. I am most of all indebted to First Lieut. D. A. Timberlake, Corporal Turner Doswell, and private J. A. Timberlake, Fourth Virginia cavalry, Second Lieut. James B. Christian, and private R. E. Fray, Third Virginia cavalry, who were ever in advance, and without whose thorough knowledge of the country and valuable assistance rendered, I could have effected nothing. Assistant
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.