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[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


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