Late skirmish on the Potomac.
the first North Carolina cavalry
--appearance of the enemy — Stirring Appeal to the soldiers — a gallant charge — Retreat of the enemy — the Lose to the enemy — incidents, &c.
[correspondence of the Richmond Dispatch.]
Camp W. S. Ashe. Nov. 27, 1861.
The 1st North Carolina cavalry has been in a fight at last; and a brilliant little affair it was. Indeed, it is said to have been the most brilliant foray of the war; and, as one of the participants in the charge, I will endeavor to give you a report of the whole affair.
On the morning of the 25th instant a large body of Federal cavalry, numbering over 100, dashed down upon our pickets, stationed along, or near, a stream known as "Difficult Run
, " about eight or nine miles from our camp.
, company A, commanding the post, seeing their approach, gave our signal, but they not returning it properly, he ordered his command present to fire upon them.
A few shots were fired--one of which, we have since learned, took effect, breaking the leg of a Yankee, and wounding his horse.
They immediately wheeled and fled — that is, the Yankees
— and made sundry extravagant reports along their route returning to their camp.
As it was evident that large bodies of them had been prowling along our lines for several days with mischievous purposes, our commander, Col. Ransom
, determined yesterday (26th) to take a sufficient force with him, and see if he could not succeed in capturing them.
Accordingly on yesterday morning, a detail of 120 men was made for the purpose, who proceeded about 12 o'clock to our line of pickets; relieving the two companies who had been out the night and day past.
The companies thus relieved constituted also a portion of the scouting party, they having been ordered to the rear as a reserve or rear guard.
We passed on for several miles without our lines, and in a westwards direction; turning our course towards Vienna
we learned that a large body of the enemy's cavalry was only about half an hour in advance, and ascertaining that there were fine prospects for a fight the countenances of the men brightened up with lively expectations.
It soon became very evident that we were near upon them, and our Col.
ordered a halt, immediately west of Vienna
; and riding along our column, already formed into fours, with his face beaming with joyous emotions, he told us that we were on them; "and now, boys," he says, "I want you to show them the stuff you are made of. They are between us and our camp, and we must put them through, no difference what their numbers are! " "We are ready," was the spontaneous expression of nearly every man; and on we went, through town and out in the direction of our camp.
We had not reached the summit of the hill immediately South of the deserted village, before our scout reported them just at the foot, on the other side, in unknown numbers.
Rising the hill, our front ranks poured a sharp fire into their column, front their rifles and carbines, and instantly the clear, loud tones of our Col. Ransom
rings along the on tire line, heard above the shouts and rattle in front, "Charge, boys ! charge ! I know you wont disgrace yourselves !" And then, such a wild, keen shout as rent the air, never yet has fallen upon my ears, and our column commenced pouring down the hilt.
On, on they flew, and louder, rose the shouts; and as I sped down the road, on my gallant charger, rapidly passing man after man, I soon found myself gazing upon the splendid bodies of the Yankees
, their beautiful blue overcoats spreading on the evening air, as they had wheeled after firing one or two perfectly harmless rounds at us. Maj. Gordon
fed on the column, and very soon was far ahead of any of his men. We all knew now that their entire force was flying rapidly before us, and every man of us strove the harder to overtake and capture his prisoner.
We had chased them a bout a mile, capturing and killing several, when they made a sudden wheel to the right, and made out in direction of their camp with all the speed of hard-spurred horses; but gaming an eminence about 600 yards from where they wheeled, they made an effort to rally their men and offer fight.
It was now supposed that they were falling out upon a reenforcement of infantry, and some of our officers made an effort to arrest the progress of our men, in order to obtain the advantage of the situation, and give them another charge in better order.
But a few men rushed on needlessly — dashed out the lane, and made good time towards the blue coats, who again fired another harmless volley.
Some four or five of our men, from Company D., and one or two from some other company, returned the fire and charged the whole body of the enemy, who immediately wheeled and put spurs, and went at a death rate again in direction of their camp.
They were holy pursued, with a reckless prayers unparalleled, by as many of our men as could break ranks and pass the blockaded portion of the road; for, mean while, our men overtaking and capturing about twenty in the road and fields before they had wheeled to the right, and the command having been is sued to rally, the road had become almost impassable, and no alternative was left but for our men to leap the fences and take through the fields, which several did quite successfully, pursuing the fugitives about two miles, to a point beyond the railroad, and so contiguous to their lines that they deemed it inadvisable to go farther.
now coming up to the angle in the road, he ordered the rally to be sounded; but the wild notes of the bugles had no restraining influences upon the impetuous daring of the brave men so hotly engaged in pursuing the flying Yankees
Attaining their ardent desires as successfully as possible they returned, and in an hour we were looking around upon the fruits of our first fight and first victory--26 prisoners, besides two killed, and one severely wounded, and left in care of a citizen, 16 Sharp
's rifles, 24 Navy repeaters, 26 sabres and belts, 17 horses, with all their equipage, with many other articles of importance, all amounting to some five thousand dollars in value, were the result of our expedition.
The prisoners, as you will discover on their arrival in Richmond
, are fine looking specimens of Yankees — nearly all genuine Americans
Their officers made their escape, except two Sergeants
and two Corporals
Those taken regretted very much that we had not taken their commissioned officers.
One of those killed was supposed to be Lieut. Lane
, of Philadelphia
All were splendidly equipped, but not well mounted — their horses being quite ordinary.
The arms taken, supplied in part a great desideratum in our army; and had we all been as anxious to look after and secure the remaining arms, so hastily thrown away by the frightened rascals as we were to get possession of their persons, we could have got many more pistols and guns.
Several incidents connected with the engagement — or rather the fright
-- are worth recording, but it is impossible to embody them all in this letter.
There were instances of individual valor and daring so numerous, and so intrepid and unparalleled, that a chronicler of the events of the day would fail to discharge a duty were they not brought into an honorable mention.
And it is with no desire to disparage the claims of others that I would ask to notice the gallant conduct of Sergeants E. Green
, and privates Nim Triplett
, J. I. Todd
, S. J. Brown
, and D. P. Mast
, of Company D; Lieut. Roane
, Company K; Primrose, of Company H; Sergeants Hogart
, of Company B, and one or two others whose names I can not now ascertain, who constituted the body that fired upon and charged the whole force of the enemy rallied on the hill mentioned.
To Major Gordon
belongs the honor of having killed the two and firing the shots that wounded others.
He also charged upon a body of about forty of the enemy, fired into them, commanded the whole force to surrender, as he gallantly bore away his prisoner.
He has been, in connection with Capts. Folk
, and other officers, noticed by Col. Ransom
in his official report.
These having been so honorably mentioned, and so justly, also, in that report, it is the humbler name I have sought to individualize, and trust that if my knowledge and pen have neglected any worthy individual, some other will do him justice.
Lieut. Col. Baker
, than whom no more able and popular officer commands in the whole army, was sadly deprived of the honor of having his name connected with the affair — he being the junior officer
was left in command of the camp on that day. Many other officers were likewise on duty in camp and on picket, and much to their regret had no opportunity of distinguishing themselves on the field.
I should have mentioned in another place that the forces engaged on the part of the enemy consisted of three companies from the 3d Pennsylvania regiment, and numbered, from our best information, about 180 men. Our force was the detailed men, 120 in number, with the relieved pickets as a rear guard, making us but little over 200 men, not half of which had any opportunity of getting properly into the charge.
Not one of our men was hurt, excepting Private B. R. Brown
, slightly wounded by the fall of his horse in attempting to leap a ditch, and an other man or two slightly wounded from same cause.
We had, I believe, one or two horses wounded, while the enemy had several killed.
There are other incidents connected with the affair which I must reserve for another letter. M. V. M.