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From General report of Lieutenant-General Wade Hampton.

In the beginning of the spring of 1864 the enemy made an expedition, which may be regarded as the beginning of operations in the last campaign. This was the attempt made by Kilpatrick, with a heavy body of cavalry, to capture Richmond. As my command was called into service on this occasion, I begin my narrative of active operations of my division by inserting the official report which was sent in by me at that time. Before doing this, however, the following letter, which throws some light on the movements, is given:

headquarters, March 6th, 1864.
General,—In advance of the report that I shall make, I write to suggest some considerations which have occurred to me. In the first place, my observations convinced me that the enemy could have taken Richmond, and in all probability would have done so, but for the fact that Colonel Johnson intercepted a dispatch from Dahlgren to Kilpatrick, asking what hour the latter had fixed for an attack on the city, so that both attacks might be simultaneous. Kilpatrick had said on his retreat that with Butler's force he could and would take the city. I regard the force to defend Richmond inadequate as at present located; and if a determined and concentrated attack is made, grave apprehensions of the result are to be entertained.

But if Kilpatrick will not risk another attack, there are but two modes of egress from his present position, not, of course, including that by water. He may, under cover of a feint from the Peninsula, endeavor to pass by Hanover Courthouse, across Little Page Ferry, and thence to the Rappahannock; or he may cross into Gloucester, go to Urbanna, cross the river there and escape by the Northern Neck. A judicious disposition of a proper force of infantry can defeat either attempt to escape. The Mattadaquin and the Totopotomoy creeks, with very little work, would make most excellent defensive lines, where an enemy can be checked by a small force; and both of these creeks head near the railroad. A force distributed along the line of [523] road from Richmond to Fredericksburg would not only be in position to cutoff any advance from the Peninsula, but also to defend the city itself. If a force of infantry was posted at Fredericksburg, it could put such works across the Northern Neck that Kilpatrick could not get by without very great assistance from Meade. Perhaps, too, a battery on the lower Rappahannock might be of great service in preventing transports from approaching Urbanna. I advise that scouts should be sent from my command to obtain reliable information of the movements of the enemy at Gloucester and Yorktown.

The boats on the Pamunkey and the Mattapony should be removed. Whilst at Tunstall's Station I made a reconnoissance of the positions there and up to Hanover Courthouse. The Mattadaquire Creek can be forded only at two places with artillery—one, the lower ford, near Hampstead, Mrs. Webb's place, where the ground is very defensible, and the other at Rowland's Mill, the dam of which is now broken. If this dam is repaired, a large inundation would be formed, preventing any crossing for some distance up. There is an intermediate ford which can be used only by horsemen, and which, I am told, can be easily blockaded. I have not availed myself of my leave of absence, as the weather has been so favorable for the movements of troops; and if my presence here is longer necessary, I will cheerfully forego my visit home. I beg you will let me know what disposition, if any, you have made for the proposed relief of Butler's brigade, and what orders have been given to General Rosser. I forward General Young's report as to the recent crossing of the enemy at Ely's Ford. From this it appears that no blame can be attached to the officer commanding the pickets, but the line of pickets and couriers seems to have been defective. I shall give such instructions as will guard against the recurrence of a similar unfortunate affair. I make the suggestions contained in this letter merely to bring them to your attention, and if you think them of any value, you can communicate them to the General Commanding, or can make whatever use of them you think best.

I am, very respectfully yours,

Wade Hampton, Major-General. Major General Stuart, Commanding Cavalry.


The official report, to which reference is made in the foregoing letter, was sent in a few days after this, and is as follows:

headquarters, March 8th, 1864.
Major,—At 11 o'clock A. M. on the 29th ultimo I received a dispatch from one of my scouts, conveying information which I embodied in the following dispatch to Major-General Stuart, dated ‘Millford, 11:30 A. M. Sergeant Shadbourne reports enemy moving. Gregg moved to front Thursday. Tuesday whole army paid off, and prepared to march last night. Kilpatrick receiving marching orders. Three days rations passed Sheppard's, near Madden's, supposed to be coming to Ely's Ford. Part of Second Corps on same road. Whole army seems in motion. Sutlers and women ordered to rear. Acknowledge receipt of this.’ At 12:30 I sent the following message to General Stuart: ‘Citizens report to General Young a Yankee cavalry brigade at Mount Pleasant, moving towards Central Road. No reports from pickets.’ Not hearing from General Stuart, at 10:30 P. M. the following message was sent to him: ‘Enemy were at Beaver Dam at seven o'clock. North Carolina brigade has moved down with artillery. Have ordered Maryland cavalry to join me. Young at Spotsylvania Courthouse. Have received nothing from you.’ These dispatches gave all the information I had received of the movements of the enemy. As soon as I could learn what direction he had taken, I sent all the mounted men of the North Carolina cavalry brigade who were present, 253 from the First regiment and 53 from the Second, with Hart's battery, to Mount Carmel Church. On the morning of the 1st March I joined the command and moved to Hanover Junction. Not hearing of the enemy here, proceeded to Hughes Cross Roads, deeming that an important point, and one at which he would be likely to cross. When the column arrived here, the camp-fires of the enemy could be seen in the direction of Atlee's Station, as well as to the right on the Telegraph or the Brooke road. I determined to strike at the party near Atlee's, and with that view moved down to the station, where we met the pickets of the enemy. I would not allow their fire to be returned, but quietly dismounted one hundred men, and supporting them with the cavalry, ordered Colonel Cheek to move steadily on the camp of the enemy, whilst two guns were opened on them at very short range. The attack was made with great gallantry; the men proving by their conduct that they were fully equal to the most [525] difficult duty of soldiers—a night attack—in which officers and men behaved in a manner that not only met but surpassed my highest expectations. The enemy, a brigade strong here, with two other brigades immediately in their rear, made a stout resistance for a short time, but the advance of my men was never checked, and they were soon in possession of the entire camp, in which horses, arms, rations and clothing were scattered about in confusion. Kilpatrick immediately moved his command off at a gallop, leaving one wagon with horses hitched to it, and one caisson full of ammunition. These were taken possession of by Colonel Bradley Johnson, who came up to that point in the morning from the direction of Meadow Bridge. He also picked up a good many prisoners, whose horses had been captured in the night attack, and who were cut off from their command owing to the extreme darkness of the night, for the attack was made in a snow-storm. I could not push on till daylight, when I found that the enemy had retreated rapidly down the Peninsula. We followed to the vicinity of Old Church, where I was forced to discontinue the pursuit, owing to the condition of my horses. Under orders from the Secretary of War, I took my cavalry, together with some other commands around Richmond, and moved subsequently to Tunstall's Station, in the hope of being able to strike a blow at the enemy. But he retreated to Williamsburg, under cover of strong reinforcements, which had been sent to meet him. My command was then brought back to its old camp, having been in the saddle from Monday night to Sunday evening. We captured upwards of 100 prisoners, representing five regiments, many horses, arms, &c. When it is taken into consideration that the force with which I left camp numbered only 306 men, and that this number was reduced by necessary pickets and scouts, I hope the Commanding General will not regard the success achieved by the command as inadequate. They drove a picked division of the enemy from his camp, which they occupied from one o'clock at night till daylight. They forced this body of the enemy to take a route which they had not proposed to follow, whilst the other force under Dahlgren was prevented from forming a junction with Kilpatrick by the interposition of my command between the two. This brought about the precipitate retreat of Dahlgren and his ultimate death, with the destruction of his command.

I beg to express my great satisfaction at the conduct of officers and men. Colonel Cheek, who was in command of his detachment, displayed ability, gallantry and zeal. Major Andrews, of the Second [526] North Carolina, also bore himself well, and gave assistance; while the artillery behaved admirably. I cannot close my report without expressing my appreciation of the conduct of Colonel Bradley T. Johnson and his gallant command. With a mere handful of men he met the enemy at Beaver Dam, and never lost sight of him until he had passed Tunstall's Station, hanging on his rear, striking him constantly, and displaying throughout the very highest qualities of a soldier. He is admirably fitted for the cavalry service, and I trust that it will not be deemed an interference on my part to urge, as emphatically as I can, his promotion.

Captain Lowndes, Lieutenant Hampton and Dr. Taylor, of my staff, accompanied me, and rendered me great assistance. I have the honor to be,

Very respectfully yours,

Wade Hampton, Major-General. Major McClellan, Acting Adjutant-General.

When the attack on Kilpatrick was made, Dahlgren, who had been repulsed by the local troops in a feeble attack made on the city, was camped either on the Brooke turnpike or the Telegraph road. He had a body of picked men with him, and his object was, in case Richmond was taken, to free the Federal prisoners, to destroy the city, and to assassinate our authorities. Having failed in his assault, and hearing the attack on Kilpatrick; he immediately sought safety in flight. With a portion of his command he crossed the Pamunkey, was attacked the same night by a few furloughed men of the Ninth Virginia Cavalry, under direction of Captain Fox and Lieutenant Pollard, together with a small detachment of the Home Guard of the county, was killed, and most of his men were captured. Upon his person were found the papers which proved the execrable and atrocious nature of his enterprise. As the authenticity of these papers has been denied, it may not be out of place for me to state here what I know regarding them. As already stated, I followed Kilpatrick when he retreated, and I halted on the night of the 2d March near the house of Dr. Braxton, and not far from that of Mr. Lewis Washington. I remained during the night at the house of the former, and moving off at a very early hour the next morning, I met Mr. Washington, who asked me if I had seen a courier who was in search of me. Replying to him in the negative, he informed me that this [527] courier had stayed at his house the night previous, and had exhibited to him the note-book of Dahlgren, in which he read the diabolical plan, which was subsequently made public. The details of this plan, as stated to me by Mr. Washington, were precisely similar to those published; so, unless the parties who killed Dahlgren, or the courier who bore the dispatches on to Richmond, not finding me, wrote the orders and memoranda in the captured note-book—a supposition entirely incredible—there can be no shadow of a doubt but that Dahlgren was the originator of the plot to burn and sack Richmond, to assassinate the President of the Southern Confederacy, and that, though not as successful as Booth in his attempt on the life of the Federal President, he deserves as fully as the latter the execration of all honorable men.

Kilpatrick having recruited at Yorktown, moved out, as if to attempt to force a passage through my lines in order to rejoin the Federal army. Anticipating a movement of this sort, I had concentrated my command near Fredericksburg, and was prepared to meet him on more equal terms than at our last encounter. To prevent his crossing the river below me, I had the wharves at Urbanna destroyed. When he found that he could not cross there, and that my command was in position to dispute his passage, he returned to Yorktown, and placing his cavalry on steamers, he transported them safely but ingloriously to Washington. Colonel Bradley T. Johnson, with a small body of cavalry, co-operated with me during these movements against the enemy, and rendered most efficient service.

The following extract from ‘General Orders No. 10, Headquarters, Department of Richmond, March 8th, 1864,’ conveys the thanks of Major-General Elzey, commanding, to my command:

The Major-General Commanding begs leave to tender to Major-General Hampton and his command his sincere thanks for their cooperation in following up the enemy, and their gallant assault upon his camp at Atlee's Station on Tuesday night, in which the enemy's entire force was stampeded and completely routed, leaving in the hands of General Hampton many prisoners and horses.

By command of

Major-General Elzey. (Signed) T. O. Chestney, Acting Adjutant-General.

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