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Hot night fight at Stony Creek. From the News leader, May 6, 1908.

Virginian guided a flank attack at Farm he was born On—Movement which broke Wilson's great Raid.

Working through a swamp in the dark with talk of ‘Dominecker’ which was found to be unfounded.

Captain W. R. Brooks, of the Hampton Legion, now a resident of Abbeville county, S. C., is publishing a series of extracts from his forthcoming book on scout services with Hampton in the Civil War. In one of these articles, recently published he tells a story of special interest to people in this part of Virginia. After describing the return from the fight with Sheridan at Trevillian's, and General M. C. Butler's interview with General R. E. Lee in the latter's tent at Petersburg, he says:

We moved in a column of fours through the city of Petersburg and after clearing the city struck out in a southerly direction, skirting the Petersburg and Weldon railroad. After getting out about seven miles we halted for the night and bivouacked in a field filled with shocks of bearded wheat. The bearded wheat was the forage for our horses (would kill the average horse now) but our poor tired animals appeared to enjoy it. How the men were provided with rations I cannot now recall, but in those days we were young and did not quail before hardships. Well, we spent the night in the wheat-field and bright and early by daylight the twenty-eight day of June, we were mounted and set our for Stony Creek, thirteen miles away, reaching there in time. Meantime General Hampton had come down from Richmond on the train and joined us, our vigilant and restless scouts (God bless them) kept us informed of Wilson's whereabouts and movements. On the strength of their information General Hampton posted the Holcombe Infantry Legion (in which my old friend Dick Anderson, now from Edgefield, S. C., was a private, youthful but a first class gallant soldier) and the cavalry dismounted with our right and left resting on a swamp, about two or three [153] miles from Stony Creek Station on the Petersburg and Weldon railroad and a short distance from Sappony church.

Wilson undertook to break through our lines shortly after dark by making a most determined assault with his dismounted cavalry and horse artillery. We gave him a warm reception and drove him back. He renewed the attack at intervals throughout the night, always with the same result; when we would lay down behind the line of breastwork—thrown up on the shortest notice—of fence rails, logs, rocks or any old thing in reach that would stop bullets and relieved each other with naps of sleep, always, however, with their guns ready to fire at their sides. Up we would jump on the approach of Wilson's lines and pour a volley from the Enfield rifles into their ranks in the dark, which Wilson's men could not stand. This was kept up all night — a most remarkable combat.

Now let me give the facts of an incident that came within the knowledge of the couriers, for we were active participants. Some time after midnight General Butler rode down our lines to the right to reconnoitre. He came upon the Thirteenth Virginia cavalry, commanded by that slendid specimen of a soldier, Lieutenant-Colonel Phillips. Colonel Phillips informed General Butler that the Yankees had one of their batteries in the yard of the mother of one of his men, Young Eppes. That the young man, born and raised there, was thoroughly familiar with the locality, and could pilot a column on the west side of the swamp, pass Wilson's left and get in his rear. General Butler sent for the young man and learned from him that a flank movement was practicable. General Butler reported this to General Hampton, saying that if he was furnished with one hundred picked men he would get in Wilson's rear before daylight. General Hampton rather reluctantly consented but directed General Butler to select his men and undertake the movement.

The selecting and organization of the 100 men was the of a very short time. We moved off with young Eppes by General Butler's side at the head of the column, with officers and couriers immediately at their heels. Passing down the swamp as quietly as mice, protected from view by the darkness and dense thicket, we moved through a level broom sage [154] old field which muffled the tread of the horses and got beyond Wilson's extreme left. We could hear the officers in charge of the battery in Mrs. Eppes's field, giving orders for the firing. After getting some distance beyond Wilson's left, the guide thought the crossing through the swamp was sufficiently firm to get us over, consequently we turned in, but had not proceeded far when the young man suggested he was afraid it would not be safe on account of the boggy condition of the swamp. He said there was another crossing lower down, so we pulled out and proceeded further down, made a second attempt and again the guide thought it was too boggy. We could hear the old soldiers in the rear saying ‘the dominecker has struck that boy, but the old general will sit up with him until he finds a way over.’

The sequel will show how unfounded were their criticisms. When we pulled out a second time General Butler remarked with some impatience, ‘Is there any other place we can cross,’ ‘Yes, sir,’ replied the guide, ‘there is a better crossing lower down, still.’ Well, we proceeded to the third crossing, started in and the guide suggested that he was afraid that was not safe, General Butler then turned to him and said, ‘Now young man, if you do not conduct this column over this swamp I will have you tied to your horse and send you in front.’ The result was we moved rapidly across, rather boggy in some places, dismounted, sent the horses back and deployed in open order, as far as a hundred men would reach. With that formation we were immediately in Wilson's rear.

Daylight was near at hand when we moved up and opened fire before the enemy had any knowledge of our presence. The scene that followed baffles description; as Old Bill McKinley says, the ‘fur flew.’ When General Hampton heard our fire in Wilson's rear he pushed forward to the main line and our friends, the Yankees, were literally between two fires. There was but one thing for them to do—get out of that ‘neck of woods,’ and they did so without ceremony or leave.

They were completely demoralized; they would rush through our thin line of skirmishers in squads of twenty or thirty, decorated with all kinds of paraphernalia they had stolen from the people on their raid. It was not uncommon for our boys to [155] have personal encounters with them, when the butts of our rifles served a good purpose. When we formed and moved up to attack it, it was discovered that the ‘dominecker’ had not struck our gallant young guide, Eppes, who was among the foremost in the fray. He was more familiar with the swamp than any of us, and may have been over cautious as a pilot across it, but it was not fear or timidity, as his subsequent conduct proved.

Instead of crossing the Petersburg and Weldon railroad at or near Stone Creek Station, as the Yankee general, Wilson, evidently intended, he took a long circle with his demoralized troopers. How or when he reached Grant's lines this deponent sayeth not, but that he had about the roughest time of his life I think it will not be denied.

The Yankee raiders lost 1,200 prisoners, and besides there were numerous dead and wounded left on the fields and byways. But this, though bad enough, was not the worst of it for Wilson, for the demoralization produced by the mode of their escape was even more damaging to his troops than the losses.

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James Wilson (13)
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