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[569] miles from Charlottesville, which place he had received orders to reach if possible. The rebel pickets on the opposite bank withdrew over the hills as our force crossed, and soon after the enemy opened with artillery, without, however, doing any injury to our men, who were sheltered by the hills on the other side of the river.

Owing to the peculiar topography of the country, which was wooded and hilly, the exact location of the enemy was not at first discovered, and a squadron of the First regulars was deployed up the river on our right to reconnoitre the enemy's position, while a squadron of the Fifth regulars, under command of Captain Ash, was sent down the river on our left for a similar purpose. Discovering an artillery camp some distance down the river, Captain Ash, with his squadron, consisting of. only sixty men, immediately charged it, destroying the huts, blowing up six caissons, and burning two battery-forges, together. with a quantity of harness belonging to the battery.

Captain Ash's gallantry, and the bravery of his men in accomplishing this feat in the face of a rebel cavalry brigade (Wickham's) drawn up in the woods not over three hundred yards distant, are universally mentioned in terms of the highest commendation. The enemy seemed entirely at fault as to our strength, and for some time made no direct advance. Flanking columns of infantry were afterward seen, however, moving on our right and left, and General Custer, having ascertained to his satisfaction that Wickham's brigade of cavalry, together with a considerable force of infantry, were in his immediate front, seeing the hopelessness of advancing further in that direction, determined to recross the river. While on the other side of the river, five trains of cars were distinctly heard at Charlottesville, undoubtedly bringing up reinforcements. On crossing to the north bank of the river, the bridge, together with a large flouring-mill, was burned by order of General Custer.

The utter impracticability of reaching Charlottesville with his insignificant force being apparent, General Custer retired-his column up the Stannardsville road, halting soon after dusk to feed the horses, jaded by their march of over forty miles. Several faint charges were made on our rear-guard by a small pursuing party, but no casualties were sustained by our men.

Owing to the hilly nature of the country and the bad condition of the roads, it was found necessary to halt for the night eight miles south of Stannardsville, in order to recuperate the exhausted artillery-horses.

Lieutenant-Colonel Stedman, of the Sixth Ohio, commanding the detachment of five hundred men from General Gregg's division, being in advance of the main body and ignorant of the fact that the column had halted, continued the march toward Madison Court-House, arriving there some time during the night. Orderlies were despatched by General Custer to Colonel Stedman, directing him to return, but owing to the darkness of the night and the distance Colonel Stedman had advanced beyond the main column, they were unable to intercept him.

By this, General Custer was left with only one thousand men, nearly twenty miles from any infantry support, and in extreme danger of being intercepted and cut off by a vastly superior force of the enemy. Understanding the peril of this isolated condition, General Custer was prepared for any emergency which might arise. Should he be intercepted and find himself unable to retire by the road he went out, he was prepared to strike to the northward into the Luray Valley, returning through one of the gaps of the Blue Ridge. The skilful manner in which he subsequently completely outgeneraled the enemy, rendered this route unnecessary.

Early yesterday morning the column began its march toward Madison Court-House, being but slightly harassed by the enemy, who seemed to be manoeuvring not for the specific purpose of fighting, but with the intention of surrounding and capturing General Custer's whole party. A short distance below Banks's Mills, the point at which General Custer intended to recross the Rapidan, is Burton's Ford, from which is a road running north-west, and striking the Stannardsville road two miles from the river. At the junction of these roads, on an eminence, a large force of rebel cavalry was discovered posted. They were immediately charged and driven back in confusion on the Burton's Ford road, while our artillery, which was soon placed in position on the hill formerly occupied by them, poured in a well-directed fire upon them, the first shell killing three of the enemy.

In the first charge, thirty rebel prisoners were taken, who stated that the whole of Wickham's brigade, commanded by Stuart in person, was in our front, the major portion being at Banks's Mills Ford awaiting Custer's approach. Without a moment's hesitation, General Custer conceived and executed a plan for his extrication from his perilous situation. Ordering another charge upon the enemy on the Burton's Ford road, and leading it in person, as he is wont to do, he again drove back the rebels still further toward the Ford, until their allies at Banks's Mills, comprehending the danger of their friends' position, and believing Custer determined to cross at Burton's Ford, came down the river to their support. It was then that Custer's tactics became apparent to the astonished enemy.

Facing his battle-lines by the flank, his whole force was almost instantly moving down the road with the speed of the wind toward the Stannardsville road, which striking, he wheeled to the left, and reaching Banks's Mills Ford, recrossed the river, thus completely eluding the mass of the enemy, who seemed confident of “gobbling” his whole command. The tactical ability displayed by General Custer, is spoken of in the most complimentary terms.

There can now be no impropriety in disclosing the object of the late movement. It is doubtless generally known that the reconnaissance by Custer, supported by infantry, was a simple diversion

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