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[280] around to the north of Richmond, Kilpatrick, with the remainder and main body of the force, about 1,500 strong, proceeded in a southeasterly course, going into camp on the night of March 1st near Atlee's Station, nine miles from the city, on the Virginia Central Railroad. This raid was so well timed by the enemy that there were only two regiments of cavalry on the right flank of the Army of Northern Virginia to oppose them. These were the 1st North Carolina, Colonel Cheek commanding, and the 2d North Carolina, Colonel Andrews commanding, in winter-quarters near Milford Station, in Caroline county, nearly fifty miles from the picket lines on the Rapidan river, and so depleted were they by details for picket and other duties, that the effective cavalry force in hand with which to operate against this raiding party, consisted of 200 men from the 1st North Carolina Cavalry and fifty men from the 2d North Carolina Cavalry. General Jas. Gordon, the gallant and lamented Gordon, to whose brigade these regiments belonged, was absent on short leave, so Major-General Wade Hampton entered into the minutest details in handling this shadow of a force against the bold movements of Richmond's would-be destroyers.

After preparing several days' rations, this force mounted at 8 o'clock Monday, February 29th, and moved down the Fredericksburg Railroad in the direction of Hanover Junction, accompanied by two pieces of Hart's Battery of Artillery, that was wintering near. General Hampton, this Gideon who always accomplished the most magnificent results with the least possible loss, well knowing that his force was too small to seriously embarrass the movements of the enemy by direct attack, kept his men in hand, preserving their spirits and the strength of them and their horses, waiting to strike the enemy a blow under the fifth rib when it was possible to be accomplished. All of Monday night and Tuesday we were in the saddle and on the alert, though not all the time in motion. Keeping at a respectful and safe distance from Kilpatrick, and avoiding an encounter, General Hampton was keeping himself, through his scouts, thoroughly posted on the movements of the enemy.

Tuesday night, March 1, 1864, the light of camp-fires at Atlee's Station, nine miles from Richmond, was plainly visible several miles to our front, and between us and Richmond. Fires that were doubtless made to guide Dahlgren, were as brilliant to us as to him, so toward them we immediately took our line of march, the vicinity of which we reached shortly before midnight. Our progress was necessarily slow, on account of the rain which had fallen continuously


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