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[525] The Colonel seeing the way the thing was working, at once turned and came back, and ordered the colored infantry to his support, which they did at a double-quick, but, as usual, the rebels failed to appear when met with the same number of men.

On Friday, the eighteenth, the two companies of the command were called to take the direct road in search of the rebel force, and either whip them or compel them to fall back, the Colonel, during the night; having received word that they had strong reinforcements, and were ready to dispute his way to Heathville. This intelligence was communicated, as usual, by the plantation negroes. The Colonel had no earthly wish to go to Heathville, but still would give the rebels a brush before he left. The troops advanced on the rebels, who were found posted at the old spot, behind barricades and fences. Their forms could plainly be seen, and from appearance, they appeared to be at least five hundred strong; over two hundred horses could be distinctly counted. The forces commanded by the Colonel consisted of one hundred and forty men in the line of advance--twenty as a reserve, and forty as a support to the cavalry, there being little dependence on the cavalry — from the former fight the day before, although I am satisfied there were some noble and daring spirits among them. The colored infantry were now deployed to the right through a grove, and as they began to advance the rebels fired several volleys. The infantry again advanced, and opened on them by file. This had its effect, and on the second volley several horsemen were seen to fall, and soon the rebels began to run, and had the charge been made as soon as ordered, their whole force would have been captured.

We learned the command consisted of over six hundred men, a portion being the advance of a large force sent by General Wade Hampton, consisting of a portion of the Seventh Virginia cavalry, and the Forty-ninth Virginia infantry, intended for the purpose of capturing this expedition, they having the idea that we would take the direct road to Heathville.

The command was then marched back to the boats, and all embarked safely, the rebels, however, appearing on the beach before we left. The Commodore Reed opened her broadside on them, and sent them some grape and shell, which had the effect to make them decamp instantly, and the wharf we had built was destroyed again, and all the boats steamed up the river to Lloyd's landing, on the south side of the Rappanannock river, some thirty miles above the Tappahannock, in Essex county, Virginia. The horses were again landed safely, and we took the direct road to Lloyd's, passing through a fine country, stocked with horses, sheep and cattle, a large number of which we succeeded in capturing. The country was highly cultivated; acres and acres of flowing grain presented itself to the eye. On the road we burned the large and extensive flouring mills of Colonel R. T. M. Hunter, late United States Senator, now a strong rebel. The mills were filled with Confederate flour; before they were consumed, a liberal portion was delivered to the poor families connected with these extensive estates. The forces then proceeded on to Lloyd's. Here we received information that General Wade Hampton was in the rear of Sheridan, whose force had just passed on Saturday through New Town and Hampton, close after him; also, that the Ninth and Forty-ninth Virginia, of his command, had crossed over into Richmond county to intercept us, but were too late. Soon after, our cavalry pickets who were out on the road to New Town, came back and reported the rebels advancing. We made a short turn (after securing all the stock), and made direct for the cover of the gunboats, the cavalry in the meantime burning all the mills containing Confederate flour, and visiting the extensive lands and mansion of Mr. Hunter. A large number of negroes left his plantation and followed us to the boats. We got our stock all on the transports, and started them again to Point Lookout. At Tappahannock we landed, and again had a skirmish with the rebels, we holding possession of the town with the infantry, while the cavalry made some large hauls on the rich planters in the immediate vicinity. In the evening, the rebels having driven in our pickets, the colored infantry were again called up in battle line.

The cattle, horses, and farming utensils having been all safely deposited on board, the boat started on the down trip, the gunboats giving the rebels at Union wharf a salute. Here we .again landed with a few men, and found that the rebels in large force had been there, and were sadly disappointed in not finding us. We reached the Point late on Monday night, having been away eight days, capturing on the route two hundred horses and mules, four hundred head of cattle, and fifty sheep, bringing away four hundred contrabands, and farming utensils to a large amount. Taking it in the whole, the raid was one of the most successful of the war, and it is not saying too much when we say that the success of the expedition depended greatly on the sagacity and skill of the acting General commanding.


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