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At Sycamore Springs, a contiguous plantation lying immediately above the one just mentioned, and which was noted for its great hospitality in the olden time, is a private ford, where the cavalry leader designed crossing the Chickahominy with his command into Charles City county, for he had been informed by reliable scouts before leaving camp near Richmond that the river at this point was fordable. But owing to heavy rains having fallen this ford was not in a condition to give such relief as the great exigency of the case required. On the approach of Colonel W. H. F. Lee to the river he discovered an immense volume of water, which had overflowed its banks, rushing madly before him. This was, indeed, a most startling surprise to the leader of the Ninth. Here was an insurmountable barrier in the shape of a swollen river confronting him, with a powerful enemy menacing Stuart and his whole command with annihilation.

Captain Jones R. Christian, of the Third Cavalry Regiment, who accompanied Colonel Lee as guide, and who resided at Sycamore Springs, and was perfectly familiar with this locality and the ford, was unable to point out any relief, as he too was greatly disappointed in finding the river so high as to render it unfordable. This was, indeed, a most trying situation, but Lee determined on crossing the Chickahominy at this point at the peril of his life. After making a careful survey of the river and sounding the ford he, with others, plunged into the flood with the heads of their horses turned up stream. The effort to reach the opposite shore was a protracted one and came near resulting in the death of men and horses, for in swimming the river the feet of the latter became entangled in driftwood and roots of trees. Lee recrossed the Chickahominy in the same manner and reported the scheme of swimming the river with the command as impracticable. The next scheme was to construct a bridge at this point, if possible. Axes and other implements were procured and large trees standing on the banks of the river were felled in such manner that the tops might reach the opposite shore and thus form a substantial bridge.

But as they fell the current swept them down the stream as if they were reeds. This mode of escape was now abandoned and everything looked gloomy for the Confederates. At this juncture Stuart arrived. With eagle eye he at once saw his dilemma. The writer followed him from the time he began his campaigns in the Peninsula until he was cut down at Yellow Tavern, but never saw him the least excited under fire or elsewhere. When Stuart reached the ford he never dismounted. He sat erect in his saddle and occasionally

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W. H. F. Lee (4)
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