Doc. 57.-action near Franklin, Va.
Howard's battery, two sections of the Seventh Massachusetts battery, the Eleventh Pennsylvania cavalry, and five regiments of infantry — the Ohio Sixty-second, Illinois Thirty-ninth, Pennsylvania One Hundred and Third, New-York One Hundred and Thirtieth, and Massachusetts Sixth--all under command of Col. Spear, Eleventh Pennsylvania cavalry, left Suffolk, with two days rations, for a little business excursion toward Franklin. Indications of rebel forces were seen during the day on our side of the Blackwater, and their pickets were chased by the scouts of the Eleventh. Soon after sunrise, this morning, the whole force reached Beaver Dam Church, two miles beyond Carsville, and three miles short of Franklin, when the videttes brought in the exciting news that a squad of our pickets, some dozen in number, had boldly charged on a large rebel force of cavalry and a battery, at a point a mile or so beyond, toward Franklin. These tidings raised the ardor of the Eleventh, and under the lead of Col. Spear, its commander, and Major Stratton, who headed the charge, the force, consisting of companies A, B, G, and I, made a most dashing and brilliant charge on the rebel corps, which proved to be four companies of the Second Georgia regiment of cavalry and two pieces of the far-famed rocket battery, presented to Gen. McClellan in Europe, and captured from him by the rebels. As soon as our force made its appearance, a most ignominious skedaddle ensued. It commenced a mile from Franklin, and was followed by the dash and abandon that have made “Spear's cavalry” the crack corps of Peck's division, until the force reached the floating bridge at Franklin, and the retreat was covered by the batteries across the Blackwater. The boys returned from their charge with twenty rebel prisoners from the rocket battery, and the Second Georgia cavalry, Col. Joel R. Griffin, thirty-five guns, seven horses, a quantity of accoutrements and equipments, and, best achievement of all, two of twelve pieces of the rocket battery. This arm, with its noisy projectile, full of sound and fury, is regarded as most formidable by the cavalry, as it introduces great consternation among horses. We captured caissons, two guns, and a quantity of rockets, four large horses, and all the men who worked the guns. Nearly all the captured prisoners were wounded, mostly by sabre-cuts, some of which were severe, but none fatal. The prisoners were a sorry set, most of whom expressed joy at being captured, and at the promise of food, and exemption from a forced military service. “Butternut,” and the coarsest gray, constituted their clothing, and they received food, especially coffee, with ravenous appetites, assuring us that only “hard tack” --ten crackers a  day — formed their regular rations, and that they were the victims of a conscription, from which they were glad to escape by the oath of allegiance. Conversations with the prisoners inform us that there are about three thousand troops in and near Franklin, and that they are strongly fortified with fifteen pieces of artillery, two pieces of which, at least, are very large siege-guns, procured since the recent set — to we had with them, of which I lately advised you. These forces are all under the command of General Robinson and General French. If those we have captured are specimens of the rest, the artillery constitutes all the formidable force the enemy has. The cavalry were mounted on but tolerable horses, with rifles and fowling-pieces that can only be loaded when the men are dismounted, without sabre or pistol. One regiment of our boys would be good for three such. Col. Spear, with characteristic courage, asked leave to follow up his advantage, feeling sure that he could wipe out Franklin with the force under his command, but, for reasons that are doubtless sufficient, a despatch from headquarters--fifteen miles distant--orders us to return at sunrise in the morning, and accordingly we are bivouacked in this place for the night, having accomplished this really brilliant success without the slightest loss or injury, with the exception of one or two slight bruises received by the falling of horses. It is really one of the neatest little affairs of the season, and our entire force award all the praise to the Pennsylvania Eleventh; the only regret of the rest of us being that we were not able to participate in the achievement any further than to be at hand to support, in case our services were needed.