on a special expedition to Ashland, a distance of seven miles, for the purpose of destroying the railroad and supplies. Great caution and haste were essential, as it was known that General Stuart, with his rebel cavalry, was rapidly making for that point. Our forces arrived in sight of the town at daylight, and formed in line of battle. The First Massachusetts cavalry, Major Sergeant commanding, was selected to charge through the town, which the men did in gallant style, driving a regiment of Virginians, under Colonel Mumford, of Fitz Hugh Lee's division, before them. They then dismounted, set fire to the railroad depot, destroying rolling stock, stores and supplies in great quantities; also tearing up miles of the track of the Fredericksburg and Richmond railroad. As they left the town they saw several of the enemy make their appearance, and it was decided to make another charge into the town to drive them off. The rebels retreated into the houses, and as our men passed through poured a murderous volley into their ranks, wounding Captain Motley, Lieutenant Smith and Lieutenant E. Payson Hopkins, son of Professor Hopkins, of Williams College, Massachusetts, who was left motionless in the road, and all fell into the hands of the enemy. We also lost about twenty-five men in killed and wounded, who likewise fell into the hands of the rebels. It was at first intended by General Davies to shell the town in retaliation, but having accomplished everything for which he had started, and aware of the approach of J. E. B. Stuart, with a large force, retired to our main column. We were now within sixteen miles of Richmond, and at once took up the line of march directly toward the city, the First division in advance and the Second in the rear. We marched and fought all day and night, the enemy being constantly reinforced, until at daylight, when within three miles of Richmond, the force opposed to us in front were two brigades of infantry and a brigade of cavalry, while in our rear was Stuart, with two brigades of cavalry, together with every man that could be raked up in Richmond. We now turned to the left on the Meadow bridge road, leading to Mechanicsville, pressing the enemy steadily back. When about four miles on the road we found the enemy strongly intrenched, behind fortifications composing the outer line of the Richmond defences. The position was a strong one, being situated upon a hill, commanding our whole corps, and our preservation depended on our driving them out. General Sheridan was equal to the emergency. The enemy was already pursuing us closely in the rear. The General ordered General Custer to take his gallant brigade and carry the position. General Custer placed himself at the head of his command, and with drawn sabre and deafening cheers, charged directly in the face of a withering fire, captured two pieces of artillery, upward of a hundred prisoners, together with caissons, ammunition and horses, which he brought off in safety. It was, without exception, the most gallant charge of the raid, and when it became known among the corps, cheer after cheer rent the air. The rebels retreated behind the Chickahominy, destroying in their flight Meadow bridge. In the rear Colonel Gregg's brigade, of the Second division, and a portion of the Third division, under General Wilson, were hotly engaged with Stuart. General Wilson sent word to General Sheridan that the enemy were driving him slowly back. General Sheridan sent word that “he must hold the position at all hazards; that he could and must whip the enemy.” Colonel Gregg's brigade, being reinforced by a regiment from the First brigade, charged the enemy and drove them nearly a mile. The day was now ours. The enemy had disappeared from our front, and we succeeded in rebuilding the Meadow bridge, and the First and Third divisions crossed, covered by the Second division, which, in turn, withdrew and also crossed without being annoyed by the enemy. The rebels, previous to crossing the river, planted a large number of torpedoes in the road, two of which exploded, fortunately, however, killing nothing but two horses. The rebel prisoners were at once set at work, and compelled to dig carefully with their fingers for the remaining infernal machines. Twelve of these beauties were unearthed in the space of a couple of hours, and placed in the cellar of a lady with strong rebel proclivities, living on the road. She protested in the strongest terms against the indignity, but was told that if she did not handle them they would not explode. The rebels still continued to show themselves in our front until we had passed Mechanicsville, where General Merritt, by making a demonstration, as though the column were moving toward White House, caused them to destroy a bridge, when we turned short to the right upon the road to Bottom's bridge. We now encamped on the old Gaines' Mill battle-field, and moved at seven o'clock on the morning of the thirteenth, marched in a southeasterly direction, crossed the York river road at Despatch Station, and camped early in the day at Bottom's bridge. It was now necessary to ascertain the whereabouts of General Butler's forces. For the past three days it had rained incessantly; our men were without rations and horses without forage, and the entire command fatigued, hungry and jaded. An officer of General Sheridan's staff, with two men, was sent in the direction of the James river, to ascertain the whereabouts of the gunboats. He returned at daylight, and reported that he could find no sign of them. An escort of sixty men was at once despatched to Yorktown, to have supplies forwarded to Haxall's Landing, where the balance of the corps marched, a distance of ten miles. Arriving in proximity to the James river, the booming of cannon and whistling of shot over our heads admonished us that our friends were
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Table of Contents:
Doc . 16 . operations in Tennessee .
Doc . 19 . the siege of Suffolk, Virginia .
Doc . 36 . General Rousseau 's expedition.
Doc . 59 . battles of Spottsylvania , Va: battle of Sunday , May 8 , 1864 .
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