get through the narrows of New River, our forces should join the night of the seventeenth, and then, combined, we could fight on the eighteenth the whole force of the enemy, and, if successful, could pursue his vanquished column to Raleigh, burn his stores, and press our advantage as far as we desired. This was my reasoning. I would not move upon the town in the evening of the seventeenth; first, because the result would then be problematical, and that problem would likely be favorably solved on the arrival of General Heth's command. A grand result would then be easily obtained. Had I attacked under the circumstances, and had I failed, nothing could have shielded me from condemnation as a rash officer, who perilled all and lost all, when a few more hours would have doubled his force. I confidently expected at nightfall on the seventeenth, that the enemy, in superior force, would attack me in the morning, or that a junction with General Heth would enable me to attack his whole force, which was apparently concentrated around Princeton. He was in plain view under my glass — his wagons deliberately parked, his regiments exercising, and all the appearances given which indicate the purpose to give battle. My forces were masked to him. He could have no idea of its amount. In this fact was my safety, until Heth could come up. It seems Brigadier-General Heth did advance to the mouth of the East River, and found the enemy had abandoned tents and camp-equipage, both there and at French's, where he had been fortifying. The General passed on until he came within four or five miles of Princeton, on the evening of the seventeenth, when, hearing in the country from somebody that I had been repulsed and was retreating, he fell back in the night to the mouth of East River. His courier arrived at my position (one mile from the courthouse) about nine A. M., on the eighteenth, conveying to me the information that General Heth's force was now so required in another direction as to forbid further pursuit of the enemy, with a request to return Colonel Wharton to a post in the district of New River, indicated by the General commanding said district. The enemy had, during the night, vacated Princeton, taking the Raleigh road, his rear passing Blue Stone River about sunrise. I ordered my battalion of mounted-rifles to follow him. I ascertained that on the night of the eighteenth he encamped about ten miles from Princeton, in a very strong position, having some seven regiments with him in retreat, in all from five to seven thousand men. On the nineteenth, I again sent forward on his line of retreat, and ascertained that he had passed the Flat Top Mountains, had burned some of his caissons and gun-carriages, and had abandoned some of his wagons the preceding night. He was now twenty-five miles from Princeton. Nothing was now left to me but to return to the district whose interests are under my charge. I left a company of mounted men at Princeton, with orders to remain until General Heth could relieve them, and with the rest of my command I returned to this point. I left seventy-one of the enemy wounded in Hospital at Princeton, too badly shot to be moved at all. His surgeons were left in attendance, and a chaplain was permitted to be with them. I return a list of twenty-nine prisoners. The men themselves have been marched to Abingdon, where three others from the same army have been confined, whose names you have already. My Quartermaster has made return of our captures, among which I may mention about thirty-five miles of telegraph wire, horses, mules, saddles, pack-saddles, medical instruments, medicines in panniers, tents, a few stores, eighteen head of cattle, a number of wagons, and some excellent muskets and rifles. These last have been taken in charge by my ordnance officers, and will be issued to my command, unless otherwise ordered. Reviewing the whole movement, I have only to regret that Brigadier-General Heth did not join me on the seventeenth, and did not communicate to me his whereabouts during the day or night. All was accomplished that I anticipated from the movement, except the capture of prisoners. The invasion has been signally repulsed, and the enemy has been demoralized and broken. The country he threatened so imminently has been relieved. It is a triumph of strategy merely, without loss on our part. My list of casualties will only exhibit two killed on the field, and two seriously wounded, who will die; and some ten or twelve wounded, but not dangerously. The enemy has lost largely; and indeed I should not be surprised if, in killed and wounded, his loss reaches four hundred. One of his regiments scattered in the woods, threw away guns and uniforms, and its members are daily picked up by the country people. Your obedient servant,
H. Marshall, Brigadier-General, commanding.
Articles Captured from the Enemy.
Princeton, Va., on the sixteenth and seventeenth instant, viz.: Twelve bell tents, two wall tents and flies, five horses, eighteen mules, thirty-five pack saddles, four wagons, a lot of incomplete harness. Respectfully,
List of Prisoners Captured.
May 16, 17, 18, 1862.Twenty-eighth Ohio, Colonel Moore.--Privates Charles Cross, Daniel Chantemp, Company G; John Yagel, H. A. Miller, Company H; Charles Hertwick, Company F; Christian Ludwig, Corporal John Keen, Company C.