Doc. 41.-raid in Hardy County, Virginia.
Richmond Enquirer account.
camp near Newmarket, January 9, 1864.we have just returned from a ten days raid behind the enemy's lines. Our force consisted of a portion of Fitz Lee's cavalry division, under General Chambliss, and Rosser's brigade, under General Rosser--all under the command of Fitz Lee. Fitz Lee's division had already been reduced by his pertinacious but ineffectual efforts to capture Averill, to but a moiety of his proper number; while Rosser's brigade had just achieved a successful tour around Meade's army, and, as a matter of course, was greatly diminished. We started with about one thousand one hundred men in all. It was raining when we started, and soon commenced snowing. Many consoled themselves for such an inauspicious beginning with the old adage that “a bad beginning makes a good end.” We hoped against hope, and kept up light hearts, though at every step the weather and the roads got worse. As we entered the mountainous regions, the snow became hail, and snow and rain, and they all mixed and froze as they fell. The roads were like sheets of glass, while the little mountain streams, that the road crossed and recrossed a thousand times, with their icy battlements and buttresses at every ford, presented barriers more formidable than large rivers. It was impossible to get the artillery and the wagon train over the first mountain. It was as much as could be expected of a horse to transport himself up and down those icy inclined planes. So the wagon train and artillery, after waiting awhile, for more favorable weather, were sent back. The second day the weather became worse, and on the third day it was no better. Many of the men, frost-bitten and frozen, fell out of ranks, and stopped at the farm-houses, waiting for a thaw. Fitz Lee, however, pushed on, after recruiting a day at Moorfield, in Hardy County, Virginia. Fording the south branch of the Potomac, we entered the Moorfield Gap, in the Patterson Creek range of mountains. This range of mountains has acquired a sort of historical importance, from being regarded, by general consent, as the dividing line between Union and secesh. All the gaps in the mountain, including pig-paths and highways, have been blockaded by the Yankees with falling timber, except those that they have garrisoned. Removing the obstructions which were found there, our column gradually succeeded in worming itself through this gap. As the head of the column emerged and came in view of the Patterson Creek Valley, to the astonishment and delight of every one, a train of forty wagons was discovered, meandering “its slow length along.” On it came, right into our ravenous jaws. In the rear of the train marched an infantry guard of one hundred men. As soon as they passed our front, Rosser's brigade darted down the mountain side after them, leaping fences and ditches in their course, and galloping with headlong fury over the frozen swamps that filled the valley. Every wagoner in the train could see Rosser, with his brigade, dashing like a thunderbolt down the mountain side after them, with a war-whoop that penetrated to their very souls as it echoed and reechoed along the valley. Presto, cheque! and immediately, as if by the power of a magician, the unsuspecting train that was pursuing the even tenor of its way, became a surging, chaotic mass. Driver after driver leaped from his post of duty and ran to the woods. The mules, however, in many cases did not abate their speed, but, as if shunning a fate that consigned them to the short rations of Dixie, redoubled their energy and refused to be halted. All the wagons were captured, and about sixty of the guard, who at first ran without firing, until they had gotten a position on a hill-side, flanked by an impassable ditch, and here they made quite a stubborn resistance for a while. That same evening General Chambliss went up the creek a short distance, and, having invested a stockade fort of the enemy, garrisoned with twenty men, obtained its surrender. The next morning we proceeded down the valley of Patterson's Creek, collecting all the cattle and horses that could be found — the Yankee garrison at Williamsport having set fire to their fort and escaped to the mountains when we approached. The next day we invested Burlington, where  the Yankees had constructed a fort impregnable to an enemy armed with merely small arms. Here again they set fire to their fort and took to the woods. We succeeded, however, in capturing fifteen or twenty of them. General Lee then sent his cattle and disabled men toward Romney, and with the rest of his command, now reduced to little over four hundred men, proceeded toward Ridgeville, where he encamped. The next morning, at four o'clock, we took up the line of march for New-Creek, but by the time we reached the top of Nobby Mountain, within seven miles of New-Creek, the weather became so intolerable that we turned back, and coming on through Romney, thence through gorges and over mountains of ice, toiling for several days, we reached the valley. The object of the expedition was, I believe, to get cattle. Six hundred of these and about three hundred horses, thirty wagons, and three hundred and twenty mules — not to mention about one hundred Yankees — were the fruits of this expedition. When it is remembered what natural obstacles were encountered and overcome, what a Siberian icebergian spell of weather reigned during the whole trip, it will be a matter of surprise that the trip was made at all, without considering the importance of its results. Dr. Johnson said: “The wonder is not that bears dance so well, but that they dance at all.” So it may truly be said of this expedition, that the wonder is not that it was done so well, but that it was done at all.