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[124] the direction of Cumberland. The rendezvous was reached, where McNeill's men were joined by about. 12 others from Company F, Seventh Virginia, and Company D, Eleventh Virginia, Rosser's brigade. When Fay and Hallar had reported, a night ride was at once made over mountain and valley, on icy roads and through snow drifts of such uncertain depth on the mountain top, that the men were compelled to dismount and lead their horses. The Potomac was crossed before daylight; but notwithstanding their fatiguing haste, it was too late to reach Cumberland over the unpicketed national road, as had been planned. Dauntless, however, the men refused to abandon the enterprise, and resolved to advance on a shorter route, guarded by two lines of pickets. McNeill, Fay, Vandiver and Kuykendall riding in advance, encountered a Federal cavalry picket within two miles of Cumberland, whose challenge was first answered by ‘Friends from New Creek,’ and next by a quick charge, a pistol shot and the capture of the party. From these captured pickets the countersign ‘Bull's Gap’ was extorted, and the prisoners themselves, mounted on their own horses, were forced to accompany the Rangers until the adventure was ended.

The second picket post, a mile nearer the city, was taken by a ruse. It consisted of five men of the First West Virginia infantry cozily enjoying the early hours before day in a shed behind a log fire. At the approach of McNeill's party one of the pickets picked up his musket and advancing a few steps made the usual formal challenge, which Kuykendall answered according to army regulations. But the Rangers continued to crowd up and with a dash closed in around the fire, capturing the pickets without firing a gun.

This success secured for McNeill the entry into the slumbering city without alarm being given. With the promptitude which the nearness of daylight demanded McNeill detailed two squads of ten men each to make

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Potomac River (United States) (1)
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