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[202]

Official report of Colonel Cesnola.

headquarters cavalry brigade, Chantilly, December 1, 1862.
Brig.-Gen. Stahel, Commanding First Division:
General: I have the honor of transmitting the following report of the reconnaissance in which my brigade took part.

The first day my brigade was in advance with one hundred and fifty men as advance-guard, under command of Major Knox, Ninth New-York cavalry, who proceeded to Upperville, rather as a scouting than a reconnoitring party, and performed his duty well.

The second day my brigade was in the order of march in the rear, and such it remained until we reached Snicker's Ferry. During that march small camps found in the woods, and fires whose ashes were still warm, cautioned me that the enemy was perhaps not very far distant, so I redoubled my vigilance, sending out on my rear scouts to the right and left, arid arrested several civilians, whom I questioned. By threatening to send them under escort to Fairfax Court-House, I obtained some useful information as to the whereabouts of the enemy, their strength, and where last seen. Some had seen them that very morning. Being in the rear, I did not consider it necessary to communicate these facts, as Col. Wyndham in the advance had doubtless possessed himself of the same information.

In crossing the Shenandoah River, I took the main road and continued to advance carefully, leaving at short distances small pickets, whose duty it was to keep communications open with the strong picket I had left at Snicker's Ferry, to be informed immediately if the enemy were to make his appearance at any point between the ferry and my command.

Thinking that my chance for this time was not that of fighting, but only to act as a support, I detailed several small detachments, mostly taken from the First Virginia and the balance of the Sixth Ohio, to act as flankers, and other small ones to scour the road and search all the houses within a mile on both flanks. Then escorts arrived bringing me orders from you to take charge of prisoners and send them to the rear. I then detailed Lieut. Wight, of the Fourth New-York cavalry, my acting Assistant Adjutant-General, and ordered him at once to take charge of the prisoners, to take from them their papers, arms and horses, if any, and gave him sufficient force to keep in check the prisoners, who were becoming every moment more numerous. Lieut. Wight acted very wisely in making his headquarters on the other side of the Shenandoah River, and I have been quite satisfied with the manner in which he carried out and even anticipated my orders.

With my command, which by detachments was decimated so much as to represent scarcely one hundred men, I met you, who ordered me to take the town of Berryville by assault, and with yourself at our head we charged through the main street of Berryville, scattering in every direction whatever we met with. When arrived at the outskirts of the town I formed line of battle, and then yourself took the command of a portion of the Ninth New-York cavalry and charged to ward the right side of the wood, and I, with the balance of my command, charged to the left, on the road which leads to Winchester. I met three squadrons of the enemy drawn up in line of battle, covering a large building containing commissary stores, as if awaiting my arrival. I did not give them time to see the difference in numbers, but charged upon them. They broke and ran, not liking our sabres. I pursued the enemy to within five miles of Winchester, but the horses gave way, and I was obliged to leave them behind; so when I returned to Berryville I had with me but one officer and nine men.

When I charged on the left I passed through a small camp and discovered a large building containing commissary stores. I succeeded in capturing it; but the small force I had did not permit me to detail any more men from it; so I continued to charge on the flying squadrons. Seeing that the enemy did not want to have a hand-to-hand fight with us, and, having better horses than ours, I would not be able to capture them, I contented myself with firing at them, dismounting about a dozen of them, wounding some, and the balance keeping the open field. Halting my command, I immediately detached a squad of men, under Capt. R. F. Coffin, to take possession of the commissary stores.

During the halt, to give my horses a short rest, orders came from yourself to re-form at once, as my rear was menaced. . . . .

I beg leave to state that all the officers and men of the different regiments under my command have proved themselves zealous in the discharge of their duty, and I have no word of reproach to address to any body.

The Ninth New-York cavalry fought with bravery, and if they had more drill and discipline the men would have certainly been worthy of the name of veteran soldiers.

I recommend captain f. Coffin, of the Ninth New-York cavalry, as a good and brave officer, and also Lieut. Herrick for his bravery. More knowledge of the art of war would make him a splendid officer.

I have a word of praise, also, for Major Knox, who commanded the Ninth New-York cavalry. He has done as much as could be done by a citizen-soldier.

On the third day of the expedition, by the strategical march through Leesburgh, instead of Aldie, my command arrived safely in camp at Chantilly.

L. P. Di Cesnola, Colonel Fourth New-York Cavalry, commanding First Cavalry Brigade, Gen. Stahel's Division, Eleventh Corps of the Army of the Potomac.


New-York times account.

General Stahel's headquarters, Chantilly, Dec. 1, 1862.
A brief account of the recent reconnoissance by General Stahel, who returned to this place last evening, I have already telegraphed you. As this was one of the most important movements of the kind that has recently been made — both


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Henry Stahel (4)
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