and a fight, in which artillery was employed for a short time, ensued — the enemy retiring after a brief contest. The loss on either side was small. General Averill's orders were understood to be to proceed along the road toward Culpeper and Gordonsville, and by a dashing flank movement to keep the enemy's troops, known to be located in that vicinity, employed, while detachments from the main column were engaged in the most important duty of cutting off the rebel army of the Rappahannock from its base of operations. Unfortunately, Gen. Averill's command did not protect the right of the main body, and, as a consequence, the operations at different points were materially interfered with. His guns were heard on Thursday, and from prisoners subsequently captured, we learned that a large force had been encountered at Rapidan Station, on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, and after a short fight, General Averill retired. At all events he was not seen, nor his anxiously listened for guns were not heard again. General Buford went to the left after crossing Kelly's Ford, and had a skirmish with the enemy. The enemy charged and were repulsed; before they advanced again an abattis was constructed out of trees; the enemy charged, received a volley and retired, leaving one dead man on the field. General Stoneman, with the bulk of his command, remained near Kelly's Ford until nightfall, when the order to march was given, and the whole force crossed and bivouacked a short distance beyond a little rivulet — now much swollen by the recent rains — known as Fleshman's River. Here, in an open ploughed field, the troops slept soundly, without other protection from a cold, pitiless rain-storm that prevailed all night, than that afforded by their blankets and rubber cloths. The night was dreary in the extreme. All fires were prohibited, all bugle calls were suspended, and orders were delivered sotto voce, so that the enemy should have no opportunity whatever of judging of the number or position of the force. These precautions were carefully observed during the nine days campaign, and to this may be attributed in part the success of the enterprise with so little loss. Thursday morning, (April thirtieth,) the whole command was aroused from slumber before daylight; after a little shaking and wringing, “boots and saddle” was whispered to the different commanders, and we were soon upon the road again. The facility with which man adapts himself to any circumstances — particularly if a little disagreeable in point of fact — was exemplified this morning. The night had been cold and wet, just about as disagreeable weather as one meets during a lifetime, and nearly every body was drenched to the skin, and yet not a man could have been found willing to own that he was in any way uncomfortable. In fact, the comfortable night's rest obtained in three inches of mud and water, was the boast of every one. “Never slept better in my life,” said a gentleman of the medical persuasion, who had just wrung the water out of his blankets and seated himself in a soaked saddle, and who the day before was suffering the torment of rheumatic pains from head to foot. What the worthy doctor expressed, all experienced. Our pickets were charged upon during the night by strolling rebel cavalry, but the camp was not alarmed; in fact, the affair was not generally known in camp. The same movement was repeated at early dawn, without damage. Our troops are quite conscious of their strength, and will not easily be scared from their purpose. The command, which had before been culled of all sick men and doubtful horses, was culled again to-day, and all pack animals save about twenty, all weak horses, and all sick or weak-kneed troops were sent back across the river. The command was at last in light marching order. To-day, being well within the enemy's lines, great caution was exercised; proceeding a few miles through a piece of woods in parallel columns, a large open space of rolling ground was reached, when a halt was made in the woods, and the whole district was patrolled for an enemy. These precautionary plans were carried out during the whole expedition. The exercise of caution was particularly necessary to-day, because cannonading could be heard on the right — supposed to be in General Averill's command. The advance of General Buford's column arrived near Minot's Ford, on the Rapidan, at one o'clock P. M. Lieutenant Penn Gaskell, Aid-de-Camp, with a squadron of the Fifth cavalry, crossed, and dashing up the river, caused some one thousand six hundred rebel infantry — assembled to protect the crossing at Raccoon Ford, two miles above — to leave in great haste. They succeeded in escaping with a piece of artillery which they had intended to use upon the head of General Gregg's column. Lieutenant Penn Gaskell followed the flying fugitives for five miles on the road toward Orange Court-House, (capturing a lieutenant and nine men — mostly artillerymen,) and General Gregg crossed the river at Raccoon Ford without difficulty. At night the whole force encamped on a hill commanding the ford, with orders to be in the saddle at two A. M. Friday, May first, another cold, wet night, was passed in the open air, and all pretended to enjoy it hugely, and the men were standing to horse at the hour indicated, but the march was not commenced till after daylight — a guide was wanted. Major Falls, of General Gregg's staff, foraged to supply the deficiency, and soon after caused much amusement by dashing along the line at the head of the column with a reliable contraband astride his horse behind. To-day, at Orange Spring, a lieutenant on Jackson's staff, named Mount, was captured while returning from Fauquier County, where he had been on a short leave of absence. He alleges he was captured only when his horse became unmanageable. The approach to Orange Spring was very quiet, and so close upon a column of rebel cavalry that they were forced to throw away several wagonloads of provisions, and abandon their jaded
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Rebel reports and Narratives.
Doc . 91 .- General Sherman 's expedition.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.