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Doc. 63. Gen. Kautz's cavalry expeditions.

in the field, May 10, 1864.
The cavalry division under command of General Kautz has just reached City Point, after one of the most daring and successful raids during the war. The great railroad from Weldon to Richmond has been repeatedly cut, its bridges burned, and the inpouring of reinforcements to the threatened rebel capital and to beleaguered Petersburg has been stopped for a fortnight to come.

General Kautz's division had been for some time lying at Getty's Station, near Portsmouth, awaiting the signal for the general advance of the Union armies. It is composed of two cavalry brigades. The first, consisting of the Third New York and First District Columbia cavalry, is under command of Colonel S. H. Mix, of the Third New York, and the second, [465] composed of the Fifth and Eleventh Pennsylvania cavalry, is commanded by Colonel S. P. Spear of the Eleventh. In addition to the howitzer battery attached to each regiment, a section of the Eighth New York battery, under command of Lieutenant Morton, was attached to the expedition.

The command left Getty's station at daybreak on the morning of the fourth, simultaneously with the ascent of the James river by General Smith. We passed through Suffolk at midday, but were unable to prevent the inhabitants of that town from sending couriers in advance to telegraph our approach. The column halted for the night at Andrew's Corners, about fifteen miles from Suffolk, where some slight annoyance was experienced from the bushwhackers.

For eight miles the woods were on fire. The combustion was caused by the men, as they rode along, throwing the inextinguishable matches, in common use in the army, into the underbrush, after lighting their pipes. At nine in the evening the scene was magnificent. The country was lighted up in every direction by countless columns of luminous smoke, that rose from the thick black mass that surmounted the flames. At twelve P. M. the march was resumed and the column passed through Windsor at daybreak.

This whole section of country is densely wooded, mainly with the pine and cedar, and presents a feature almost entirely new to our army in the matter of fences. Although so near our lines, and likely at any moment to be the scene of military operations, the fences remain standing, an indisputable proof of the scarcity of visits by the soldiers of either side to the neighborhood.

We pushed on rapidly for the Blackwater, intending to cross if possible at the Blackwater bridge; but, discovering that the rebels, informed of our approach, had massed a heavy force to receive us, General Kautz turned to the north, and moved on Fernsville. The advance dashed into the village, and captured the picket and a mail-carrier, who, believing us to be rebels, had not attempted to escape until too late. It was here discovered that the rebels had built two forts to protect Blackwater bridge, which crosses the Blackwater within two miles of the village. As it would be impossible to effect a crossing here without serious loss, the head of the column was turned toward Smithfield, and rebel couriers flew before us to publish our approach. After a short march, however, we turned again to the north, and, marching rapidly along country roads, succeeded in reaching Wall bridge, before the small rebel picket stationed there could be reinforced. Colonel Spear's advance charged across the bridge on foot, before the rebels could entirely destroy it, and after a sharp conflict captured ten of the enemy, and wounded a rebel lieutenant. Lieutenant Prudhomme, Assistant Adjutant-General of the First brigade, was severely wounded while charging with the advance.

We were at length across the Blackwater. By skilful manoeuvring we had succeeded in forcing the much-vaunted defensive line which the rebels have long deemed invulnerable to a cavalry raid. Nothing remained between us and the great Southern railroad but the Nottoway. We halted at dark at Wakefield, on the Norfolk and Petersburg railroad, and tore up the track for a long distance.

At two o'clock on Saturday morning we were again in the saddle and a few hours afterward Captain Pierce, of the Third New York, charged into Lyttleton and captured a rebel commissary, ten men and three wagons loaded with ammunition, rations and forage. One of the wagons proved to be one that had last year been captured from Company H, Eleventh Pennsylvania volunteers, by the rebels. At this point the horses began to give out, and all equestrians met upon the road were dismounted without ceremony. So little was it expected that the Yankees would be able to penetrate this country, that we were invariably taken for rebels by the inhabitants, until we approached Homer's Well. We were warmly welcomed by some of the natives, who notified us that a large force of Yankees were endeavoring to cross the Blackwater. Others again, who conversed with some of the officers under the impression that they were rebel soldiers, regretted that the war was not yet over, and seemed to belong to the party of our “peace on any terms” politicians of the North.

Passing to the right of the Sussex Courthouse, the column reached Homer's Well at twelve o'clock M., where by some means our true character was discovered, and a courier sent ahead. Upon reaching Bolling's bridge, which crosses the Nottoway, we found that the rebels had torn up the centre planks and were in rifle-pits upon the opposite side. Captain Pierce, with his squadron, charged on foot across the bridge, and drove the enemy into the woods. The missing planks were replaced by fence rails, and the column was soon across the stream, and moving rapidly on Stony Creek station, where a battalion of the Holcome Legion, under Major Siegler, were intrenched in the houses. The carbineers of the Third New York were dismounted, and moved forward as infantry skirmishers, under command of Major Jacobs, while two bodies of troops forded the creek and got in the rear of the enemy, cutting off all retreat. The howitzer batteries, and the three-inch rifles of the Eighth New York battery, opened on the place, and after a desperate resistance the enemy were driven into the turnpike, where they surrendered. The two bridges at this place were soon in flames, and the track torn up for a considerable distance. The communication between Richmond and Weldon was thus for the first time during the war effectually broken.

Three thousand rebel troops had passed [466] through Stony Creek station just previous to our arrival, and five thousand more were on their way from Weldon. Owing to the destruction of telegraphic communication, however, they discovered that something was wrong, and stopped at the bridges below, which they proceeded to fortify. Large quantities of provisions and forage were found at Stony Creek, and all that could not be carried off were destroyed, together with some cotton, and a large number of railroad tools.

During the night Colonel Spear was sent with his brigade to attack Jarrett's station, about fifteen miles below Stony creek. This point was reached early in the morning; but the enemy, over a thousand in number, held a strong position in the woods around the station, and succeeded in repulsing a desperate charge of the Eleventh Pennsylvania. Upon the arrival of the Fifth Pennsylvania, however, with the howitzer batteries, the attack was renewed, and after two hours of fighting the enemy were driven from the place, with the loss of over twenty killed and an unknown number wounded. Forty prisoners were taken here. Immense quantities of supplies of every description were destroyed at this place, and the buildings composing the station, together with a large water-tank, were consumed by fire.

In the meantime General Kautz with Mix's brigade, had moved down to White bridge, where the railroad crosses the Nottoway, about six miles from Stony creek. Here three thousand rebels, under Colonel Tabb, of the Fifty-ninth Virginia, were found intrenched in a fort commanding the bridge. The rebel skirmishers extended for a mile along the railroad, and were soon engaged in a sharp conflict with the carbineers of the Third New York, under Major Jacobs. The First District Columbia, under Major Baker, entered the woods on the extreme left, and succeeded in turning the enemy's position. This regiment is armed with the sixteen shooters, and the accuracy and rapidity of their firing soon threw the right of the enemy into confusion. The howitzers and Lieutenant Morton's three inch-battery now opened on the rebels, who commenced retreating rapidly in the direction of their fort. Spear's brigade soon made its appearance, coming up the railroad track, and completed the discomfiture of the enemy, who fled in confusion. The enemy were driven pell-mell into their fort and numbers of them captured, and the bridge, under a heavy discharge of musketry from the fort, was set on fire and guarded until completely destroyed, when our forces were withdrawn.

The excessive heat of the weather, and the hard service they had been compelled to endure, had completely used up the horses, and a halt was made for necessary rest for both man and beast, at Sussex Court-house. We found a hotel at this place, where a few who were desirous of partaking of the luxury of a glass of apple-jack, discovered that the selling price of that beverage was three dollars a glass. At daybreak on Monday the march was resumed, and General Kautz, having discovered upon reaching Lyttleton that it was rumored through the country that General Smith was in the neighborhood of Petersburg, the column was headed to the north, and we began our march for City Point. A few miles from Lyttleton the advance met and scattered a party of home guards, under Major Belger. No further annoyance was met with, and at evening the column had reached the Norfolk and Petersburg railroad, about four miles south of the latter place. The track was torn up and the bridge burned here, cutting off a train of cars that had gone down the road, which may easily be captured or destroyed whenever a party is sent down the road for that purpose.

As we neared Petersburg canonading could be distinctly heard, and from the reports of the rebels we learned that battles were being fought daily. General Longstreet was said to be wounded, and General Jenkins killed, although they claimed to have repulsed our troops every time.

On Monday night the column bivouacked at Zion church, about six miles from City Point, and entered that place this morning about ten o'clock, after having successfully accomplished every object of the expedition, bringing with them one hundred and fifty prisoners, thirteen of whom were officers.

The Second expedition.

City Point, Virginia, Tuesday, May 17, 1864.
To-day Brigadier-General Kautz again entered City Point on his return from another still more daring and successful raid within the enemy's lines than he made a few days ago.

Arriving at this place on the tenth from his raid upon the Weldon and Petersburg railroad, he crossed the Appomattox on the eleventh, and the next morning at sunrise, leaving behind all sick men and horses, again set out to destroy rebel communications with their capital. He moved his diminished division — consisting of two brigades: the first composed of the Third New York cavalry, under Major Hall, and the First District Columbia, Major Baker, Major Jacobs of the Third commanding; and the Second brigade Fifth Pennsylvania, Major Kline, Eleventh Pennsylvania, Lieutenant-Colonel Stetzer, commanded by Colonel Spear, of the Eleventh, and one section of the Eighth New York, Third Battery, Lieutenant Morton--rapidly in the direction of Chesterfield Court-house, crossing the Petersburg and Richmond Railroad, in the vicinity of Fort Darling, and thence on the arc of a circle of about fourteen miles radius from Richmond, until at midnight he struck the Richmond and Danville railroad, at Coalfield station, eleven miles from Richmond.

After destroying the track for a long distance, burning the depot, a few cars and a large amount of wood, he proceeded immediately [467] down the road to Powhatan, where the same process was repeated.

Again he pursued his course along the track, until he came to the Appomattox river. Here it was found the enemy had become apprised of our movements, and had strongly reinforced the detachment guarding the bridge, and as the column advanced, opened upon it from the opposite bank with several pieces of artillery. The enemy's force and position made it from this side impregnable. General Kautz then moved his division down the river, by a circuitous route, a few miles, until he came to a long and high county bridge, which was found partially destroyed.

This he repaired and crossed, and at daylight on the morning of the fourteenth, again struck the railroad at Chula, in rear of the enemy. At this place was found and captured and destroyed a powerful locomotive and a train of cars, which, during the evening before, had brought up additional reinforcements for the defence of the bridge. Here, too, the destruction of the railroad and appendages was thoroughly accomplished.

While this was being done, the Eleventh Pennsylvania, which at this time had the advance, was ordered to make a detour on the left or west side of the railroad, for the purpose of destroying a bridge over Swift creek, which lay between our forces and the Appomattox river, about one and a half miles distant from Chula Station. As the Third New York came up, the carbineers of that regiment were ordered to dismount and proceed directly by the track to the same point.

The Eleventh met the enemy first near the bridge, and were driven back by a hot fire from the rebel sharpshooters, who were lying in rifle-pits and among fallen timber. The Third then came down on a double-quick, and as they came within range, commenced a vigorous fire, at the same time deploying right and left as skirmishers, taking advantage of trees and brushwood to cover their advance. In a few minutes they recovered all which had been lost, and more, for they reached the bridge, though at the sacrifice of many of their best men.

This position was held for upward of an hour under a deadly fire; but all attempts to destroy the bridge were fruitless, as it was wet with a recent rain, and could not be burned. The order was finally given to withdraw, as the work at the depot had been accomplished, and a further demonstration could only have resulted in a useless waste of life, the enemy, from his reinforcements, undoubtedly numbering two, if not three, to our one. Besides, too, if rumor could be credited, a strong force of cavalry was endeavoring to find and intercept us.

Leaving, then, the Danville road, the column was turned in the direction of the Southside railroad, striking it the same day just before sunset at Wellville and Black's and White's Stations. This road, with station-houses, cars, &c., was also effectually destroyed for several miles. Marching again nearly all night and the day following, Brunswick Court-house, but a few miles from the North Carolina state line, was reached at dusk of the fifteenth, Sunday.

Here, for the first, horses and men were allowed to rest, except to tear up track, fight or feed. At sunrise the march was resumed toward the bridge on the Weldon and Petersburg railroad, over the Meherren. From prisoners captured and information derived from reliable sources, it was ascertained that the enemy was apprised of our coming, and had collected a force of six to eight thousand (?) and a battery of artillery to resist us, and not only to resist at that point, but to prevent our further advance, while other forces in our rear should cut off our retreat by the route over which we had passed.

General Kautz, however, with consummate skill, completely baffled their expectations. He pressed his column forward until he drove in the outer line of the enemy, and then, while they probably imagined he was preparing for battle, turned short to the left and crossed the railroad at Jarrett's station, eight or ten miles above them. This place was destroyed by this same division of General Kautz the week before, and was now partially repaired, only to be again destroyed. Near here was also a pontoon train, consisting of a dozen or more boats, which the rebels had used in repairing the bridge over the Nottoway. These were burned.

The march was then continued toward City Point by way of Prince George Court-house. As we came to a long bridge on our course, which crossed the Nottoway, and over which we must pass, a party of rebels were found cutting it down, and throwing the planks into the stream. The First District of Columbia, then in advance, at once charged them, and held the place until it was again ready for crossing.

The last attempt made to interfere with our progress was made near Prince George Courthouse by a detachment of rebel cavalry, aided by a considerable force of guerrillas, who endeavored to cut off the Fifth Pennsylvania, then in rear. Quite a skirmish ensued, but the Fifth proved too much for the bushwhackers and their associates. At four o'clock this afternoon the division entered City Point, having made a complete circle in the most vital section of the Confederacy, and effectually destroying or interrupting for some time all railroad and telegraphic communication between the South and its rebel capital.

Another account.

It was noon of May the twelfth that General Kautz, with his noble division of cavalry, commenced a movement which had for its object the destruction of the four main railroads leading to Richmond. The men who were to perform this arduous duty had just returned from a raid of a similar character, and were thoroughly [468] fatigued from the effects of long marches, loss of sleep and short allowances of food. But their patriotism instilled into them an energy that demonstrated that the work to be done would be faithfully and successfully performed, as the subjoined sequel will show.

The same day they started began their daring exploits. But a few hours out they had turned the rebels' right flank. Here was a point gained for our main army to work upon, and which was not lost by it. After this manoeuvre they pushed on and reached Chesterfield Court-house, where they visited the jail, and found confined in it three persons who had been imprisoned for refusing to take up arms against the United States Government. Releasing these, the command pushed rapidly on to Coalfield pits, within twelve miles of Richmond, on the Danville road. Here the work of destroying the track was commenced, the depot burned, and the mails captured. Bivouacking about four miles beyond, about daylight next morning started for Powhatan station, where they arrived at half-past 8 A. M., driving the rebel pickets before them. Here, too, the track, depot, several cars and a large amount of forage was destroyed.

The next point visited was the bridge at Matoax. Being built of iron and solid masonry, no attempt was made to destroy it, as it was defended by four pieces of artillery, which would have caused a sacrifice of life that would not have warranted its destruction. After reconnoitering for a while in the vicinity, the command struck off on the road to Goode's bridge, on the Appomattox. On their arrival at the site, they found that the bridge had been removed by the rebels. In the astonishing short time of four hours the men had thrown a structure across the stream, marched over it, and burned it again, so that the rebels could not use it.

Forward to Chorea station the line now moved. Here it was ascertained that three trains, heavily loaded with troops, had arrived. One train remained, while the two others ran down immediately to the junction of Southside and Danville railroads. Here considerable railroad property was destroyed, much to the discomfort of the enemy, who sent a locomotive down to reconnoitre. About daylight of next morning, Saturday, the Eleventh Pennsylvania cavalry formed on the left, with the Third New York cavalry on the right. A demonstration was made upon Flat creek bridge. While Lieutenant Schriver was leading a charge across this bridge he fell, mortally wounded. The enemy were in strong force, and the contest waxed fierce for a time.

While it was going on, another portion of the command, the Fifth Pennsylvania and First District of Columbia cavalry, were doing important work — the demolition of the telegraphs, locomotives, cars, track and ties of the railroad. From this point it pushed for the Southside railroad, by the way of Deep creek. At the road leading from the latter place to Petersburg it was learned that five thousand rebels were in position about three miles beyond. The scouts were driven in, and General Kautz ordered the Fifth Pennsylvania to proceed on that road a few miles, to create the impression that we were marching toward Petersburg.

While this was going on the main body was moving on to Wellville. Colonel Spear's brigade then marched to Wilson's depot, six miles beyond. After destroying much at both points, the command continued on to Black's and White's. Here a large amount of supplies were destroyed, together with the depots and tracks.

On Sunday the command had reached Brunswick Court-house, where all the commissary stores were rendered useless. Monday morning brought them to within four miles of Hicksford, where preparations had been made to entrap the command. A large force of cavalry, infantry and artillery were awaiting the approach of this body of Union troops, who proved to be too discreet for the rebels' plan of capture. Instead of striking Hicksford, the cavalry turned off to Jarrett's, and destroyed the telegraph and water-tank.

Pushing on to Nottoway bridge, it was found that that portion of the road which had been destroyed by the previous raid, about a week before, had been repaired, and that a train had passed slowly over it. From this point the command went forward to Freeman's bridge, and finding the rebels endeavoring to destroy it, drove them away, repaired the damage, and crossed by daylight.

The last day out, Tuesday, Belcher's mills were reached and destroyed. Before departing from the mills, the rear of the column was attacked by the rebels. A brisk fight ensued, and the rebels received severe punishment from the gallant men under the brave Colonel Spear, who was in command. The march continued on, taking the right hand road at Harrison's for City Point. The rebels continued to harass our rear until it reached the Suffolk and Petersburg railroad. A culvert on the line of this road, which had once before been partially destroyed, but since repaired, was again rendered useless. Tools found in the vicinity shared a similar fate. Other damage was inflicted upon the road, and and finally the whole force moved directly on to City Point, which was reached about sundown on Tuesday.

The brave officers who were in command, and the men who composed the expedition, have won for themselves new and unfading laurels. They have shown that they are ready to make any sacrifice which tends to cripple the enemy and advance the cause of the Union. For more than a fortnight they have endured fatigue, loss of sleep and hunger. It was about the second of this month when they started on their first raid, which ushered in this campaign, and they had but fairly returned, when, on Thursday last, they were off again on this second raid.

Their last expedition traversed a great deal of the ground over which they before passed, and in doing this they again laid waste a great deal [469] of what they before destroyed. After their first raid the rebels partially repaired and reestablished the communications that were broken then. This last raid has done the work more effectually, and now it will be a long while before the rebels can repair the damages. Our cavalrymen enter heartily upon the work. They are determined that the rebels' lines of communications shall remain broken, and to this end they intend to bend their energies.

The expedition lost six killed, twenty-eight wounded, and seven missing. The enemy lost heavily in the several encounters. We could have captured large numbers of the enemy, but this was not deemed advisable, as to have kept them would have retarded the movements of our troops at a time when it was absolutely necesary to be free from all encumbrances.

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A. V. Kautz (12)
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