Report of Gen. Stuart of his expedition in rear of the enemy's lines.
We lay before our readers this morning the highly interesting report of Gen. J. E. B. Stuart
, of his famous expedition in rear of the enemy's lines:
Hdq'rs Cav. Brigade, D. N. V., June 17, 1862.
--In compliance with your written instructions I undertook an expedition to the vicinity of the enemy's lines, on the Pamunkey
, with about twelve hundred cavalry and a section of the Stuart horse artillery.
The cavalry was composed of portions of the 1st, 4th and 9th Virginia cavalry, (the second named having no field officer present was, for the time being, divided between the first and last mentioned, commanded respectively by Col.
and Col. W. H. Fitzhugh Lee
,) also, two squadrons of the Jeff.
legion, commanded by Lieut. Col. W. T. Martin
; the section of artillery being commanded by 1st Lieut. Jas. Breathed
Although the expedition was prosecuted farther than was contemplated in your instructions, I feel assured that the considerations which actuated me will convince you that I did not depart from their spirit, and that the boldness developed in the subsequent direction of the march was the quintessence of prudence.
The destination of the expedition was kept a profound secret, (so essential to success,) and was known to my command only as the actual march developed it.
The force was quietly concentrated beyond the Chickahominy
, near Kilby's Station, on the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad, and moved thence parallel to and to the left of that road.
Scouts were kept far to the right to ascertain the enemy's whereabouts, and advanced guard flankers and rear guard to secure our column against surprise.
I purposely directed my first day's march towards Louisa
, so as to favor the idea of reinforcing Jackson
, and camped just opposite Hanover Court-House, near Southaven bridge (R., F. and P. Railroad,) twenty-two miles from Richmond
Our noiseless bivouac was broken early next morning, and without flag or bugle sound we resumed our march, none but one
I however, immediately took occasion to make known my instructions and plans confidentially to the regimental commanders
, so as to secure an intelligent action and co-operation in whatever might occur Scouts had returned indicating no serious obstacles to my march from that to Old Church, directly in rear of, and on the overland avenue of communication to New Bridge
I proceeded, therefore, via Hanover Court-House, upon the route to Old Church.
Upon reaching the vicinity of Hanover Court House, I found it in possession of the enemy; but very little could be as certained about the strength and nature of his force.
I therefore sent Col. Fitz Lee
's regiment, 1st Virginia cavalry, to make a detour to the right and reach the enemy's route behind him, to ascertain his force here, and crush it if possible; but the enemy, proving afterwards to be one hundred and fifty cavalry, did not tarry long, but left — my column following slowly down, expecting every moment to hurl him upon Lee
; but owing to a bad marsh, Col. Lee
did not reach the intersection of roads in time, and the cavalry (the regular 6th) passed on in the direction of Mechanicsville
This course deviating too much from our direction, after the capture of a sergeant, they were allowed to proceed on their way.
Our march led thence by Taliaferro's Mill and Edon Church to Haws
's shop; here we encountered the first pickets, surprised and caught several videttes, and pushed boldly forward, keeping advanced guard well to the front.
The regiment in front was the 9th Virginia cavalry, (Col. W. H. F. Lee
,) whose advance guard, entrusted to the command of Adj't Lieut. Robins
, did admirable service--Lieut.
R. handling it in the most skillful manner, managing to clear the way for the march with little delay, and infusing, by a sudden dash at a picket, such a wholesome terror that it never paused to take a second look.
's shop and Old Church the advanced guard reported the enemy's cavalry in force in front.
It proved to be the 5th regular cavalry, (formerly the 2d, commanded by yourself.) The leading squadron was ordered forward at a brisk gait, the main body following closely, and gave chase to the enemy for a mile or two, but did not come up to him. We crossed the Tolopotomoy, a strong position of defence which the enemy failed to hold, confessing a weakness.
In such places half a squadron was deployed afoot as skirmishers till the point of danger was passed,
On, on dashed Robins
, here skirting a field, there leaping a fence or ditch, and cleaning the woods beyond, when, not far from Old Church, the enemy made a stand, having been reinforced.
The only mode of attack being in column of fours along the road.
I still preferred to oppose the enemy with one squadron at a time, remembering that he who brings on the field the last cavalry reserve wins the day.
The next squadron therefore moved to the front, under the lamented Capt Latane
, making a most brilliant and successful charge, with drawn sabres, upon the picket ground, and after a hotly contested hand-to-hand conflict put him to flight; but not till the gallant, captain had sealed his devotion to his native sell with his blood.
The enemy's rout (two squadrons by one of ours) was complete; they dispensed in terror and confusion, leaving many dead on the field, and blood in quantities in their tracks.
Their commander, Capt. Royall
, was reported mortally wounded. --Several officers and a number of privates were taken in this conflict, and a number of horses, arms, and equipments, together with five guidons.
The woods and fields were full of the scattered and disorganized foe, straggling to and fro, and but for the delay and the great encumbrance which they would have been to our march, many more could and would have been captured.
Col. Fitz. Lee
, burning with impatience to cross sabres with his old regiment, galloped to the front at this point and begged to be allowed to participate with his regiment (the 1st Va. cavalry) in the discomfiture of his old comrades — a request I readily granted — and his leading squadron pushed gallantly down the road to Old Church; but the fragments of Royall
's command could not be railed again, and Col. Lee
's leading squadron charged, without resistance, into the enemy's camp (five companies) and took possession of a number of horses, a quantity of arms and stores of every kind, and several officers and privates.
The stores, as well as the tents, in which everything had been left, were speedily burned and the march resumed whither!
Here was the turning point of the expedition.--Two routes were before me, the one to return by Hanover C. H., the other to pass around through New Kent, taking the chances of having to swim the Chickahominy
, and make a bold effort to cut the enemy's lines of communication.
The Chickahominy was believed by my guides to be fordable near Forge Bridge.
I was fourteen miles from Hanover C. H., which I would have to pass if I returned; the enemy had a much shorter distance to pass to intercept me there; besides, the South Anna river
was impassable, which still further narrowed the chances of escape in that direction; the enemy, too, would naturally expect me to take that route.
These circumstances led me to look with more favor to my favorite scheme, disclosed to you before starting, of passing around.
It was only nine miles to Tunstall's Station
, on the York River Railroad; and that point once passed, I felt little apprehension; beyond, the route was one of all others which I felt sure the enemy would never expect me to take.
On that side of the Chicka
hominy infantry could not reach me before crossing, and I felt able to whip any cavalry force that could be brought against me. Once on the Charles City
side, I knew you would, when aware of my position, if necessary, order a diversion in my favor on the Charles City
road, to prevent a move to intercept me from the direction of White Oak Swamp
Besides this the hope of striking a serious blow at a boastful and insolent foe, which would make him tremble in his shoes, made more agreeable the alternative I chose.
In a brief and frank interview with some of my officers.
I disclosed my views, but while none accorded a full assent, all assured me a hearty support in whatever I did.
With an abiding trust in God, and with such guarantees of success as the two Lees
, and their devoted followers, this enterprise I regarded as most promising.
Taking care, therefore, more particularly after this resolve, to inquire of the citizens the distance and the route to Hanover Court-House.
I kept my horse's head steadily towards Tunstall's Station
There was something of the sublime in the implicit confidence and unquestioning trust of the rank and file in a leader guiding them straight apparently into the very laws of the enemy; every step appearing to them to diminish the faintest hope of extrication.
Reports of the enemy's strength at Garlick
's and Tunstall
's were conflicting, but generally indicated a small number.
Prisoners were captured at every step and including officers, soldiers, and negroes.
The rear now became of as much interest and importance as the front, but the duties of rear guard devolving upon the Jeff.
Davis Legion, with the howitzer attached, its conduct was entrusted to its commander, Lieut. Col.
, in whose judgment and skill I had entire confidence.
He was not attacked, but at one time the enemy appeared in his rear bearing a flag of truce, and the party, twenty-five in number, bearing it, actually surrendered to his rear guard, so great was the consternation produced by our march.
An assistant surgeon
was also taken — he was en routs,
and not in charge of the sick.
Upon arriving opposite Garlick
's. I ordered a squadron from the 9th Va. cavalry to destroy whatever could be found at the landing on the Pamunkey
Two transports, loaded with stores, and a large number of wagons were here burnt, and the squadron rejoined the column with a number of prisoners, horses and mules.
A squadron of the 1st Va. cavalry (Hammond
's) assisted in this destruction.
A few picked men, including my Aids, Burke
, and Mosley
, were pushed forward rapidly to Tunstall
's to cut the wires and secure the depot.
Five companies of cavalry, escorting large wagon trains, were in sight, and seemed at first disposed to dispute our progress; but the sight of our column, led by Lee
, of the 9th, boldly advancing to the combat, was enough.
Content with a distant view, they fled, leaving their train in our hands.
The party that reached the railroad at Tunstall
's surprised the guard at the depot, fifteen or twenty infantry captured them without their firing a gun, and set about obstructing the railroad, but before it could be thoroughly done, and just as the head of our column reached it a train of cars came thundering down from the ‘"Grand Army;"’ it had troops on board, and we prepared to attack it; the train swept off the obstructions without being thrown from the track, but our fire, delivered at only a few rods distance, either killed or caused to feign death every one on board, the engineer being one of the first victims from the unerring fire of Capt. Farley
It is fair to presume that a serious collision took place on its arrival at the White House
, for it made extraordinary speed in that direction.
The railroad bridge over Black creek
was fired under the direction of Lieut. Burke
, and it being now dark the burning of the immense wagon train and the extricating of the teams involved much labor and delay, and illuminated the country for miles.
The roads at this point were far worse than ours, and the artillery had much difficulty in passing.
Our march was finally continued by bright moonlight to Talleysville
, where we halted three and a half hours for the column to close up At this point we passed a large hospital, of one hundred and fifty patients.
I deemed it proper not to molest the surgeons and attendants in charge.
At 12 o'clock at night the march was continued, without incident, under the most favorable auspices, to Forge Bridge, (eight miles,) over the Chickahominy
, where we arrived just at daylight.
, of the Ninth, by personal experiment, having found the stream not fordable, axes were sent for and every means taken to overcome the difficulties by improvised bridges and swimming.
I immediately dispatched to you information of my situation, and asked for the diversion already referred to.
The progress in crossing was very slow at the point chosen, just above Forge Bridge; and learning that, at the bridge proper, enough of the debris of the old bridge remained to facilitate the construction of another — materials for which were afforded by a large warehouse adjacent — I moved to that point at once.
Lieutenant Redmond Burke
, who, in every sphere has rendered most valuable service, and deserves the highest consideration at the hands of the Government
, set to work with a party to construct the bridge.
A foot bridge was soon improvised, and the horses were crossed over as rapidly as possible by swimming.
's work proceeded like magic; in three hours it was ready to bear artillery and cavalry, and as half of the latter had not yet crossed, the bridge enabled the whole to reach the other bank by 1 o'clock P. M. Another branch of the Chickahominy
, still further on, was, with some difficulty forded, and the march was continued without interruption towards Richmond
Having passed the point of danger, I left the column with Col. Lee
, of the 1st, and rode on to report in person to you, reaching your headquarters at daylight next morning.
Returning to my command soon after, the prisoners, one hundred and sixty-five in number, were transferred to the proper authority; two hundred and sixty mules and horses captured, with more or less harness, were transferred to the Quartermaster Departments
of the different regiments, and the commands were sent to their respective camps.--The number of captured arms has not been as yet accurately ascertained.
A pole was broken which obliged us to abandon a limber this side of the Chickahominy
The success attending this expedition will no doubt cause ten thousand or fifteen thousand men to be detached from the enemy's main body to guard his communications, besides accomplishing the destruction of millions of dollars' worth of property, and the interruption, for a time, of his railroad communications.
The three commanders, the two Lees
, exhibited the characteristics of skillful commanders, keeping their commands well in hand, and managing them with skill and good judgment, which proved them worthy of a higher trust.--Their brave men behaved with coolness and intrepidity in danger, unswerving resolution before difficulties, and stood unappeased before the rushing torrents of the Chickahominy
, with the probability of an enemy at their heels, armed with the fury of a tigress robbed of her whelps.
The perfect order and systematic disposition for crossing, maintained throughout the passage, ensured its success, and rendered it the crowning feature of a successful expedition.
I hope, General, that your sense of delicacy, so manifest on former occasions, will not prompt you to award to the two Lees
(your son and nephew) less than their full measure of praise.
Embalmed in the hearts and affections of their regiments tried on many occasions requiring coolness, decision, and bravery, everywhere present to animate, direct, and control, they held their regiments in their grasp, and proved themselves brilliant cavalry leaders.
The discipline maintained by Lieutenant-Colonel Martin
in his command, and referred to in his report, is especially worthy of notice, as also his reference to the energy displayed by First Lieutenant James Breathed
, of the Stuart horse artillery.
I am most of all indebted to 1st Lieut. D. A. Timberlake
, Corporal Turner Doswell
, and private J. A. Timberlake
, 4th Virginia cavalry, 2d Lieut. James R. Christian
and Private R. E. Frayser
, 3d Virginia cavalry, who were ever in advance, and without whose thorough knowledge of the country and valuable assistance rendered I could have effected nothing.
Assistant Surgeon J. B. Fontaine
, 4th Virginia cavalry, (the enemy giving him little to do in his profession,) was bold and indefatigable in reconnaissance, and was particularly active in his efforts to complete the brigade, Captain Heros Von Bercke
, a Prussian cavalry officer, who lately ran the blockade, assigned me by the Honorable Secretary of War
, joined in the charge of the first squadron in gallant style, and subsequently, by his energy, skill, and activity, won the praise and admiration of all.
To my Staff present my thanks are especially due for the diligent performance of the duties assigned them.
They were as follows:
First Lieut. John Esten Cook
, Ordnance Officer, (my principal staff officer for the occasion,) 1st Lieut. C. Dabney
, A. D. C., Rev. Mr. Longstreet
, Capts. Farley
, Towles Fitzhugh
, and Mosby
, rendered conspicuous and gallant service during the whole expedition.
My escort, under Corp'l Hagan
, are entitled individually to my thanks for their zeal and devotion to duty, particularly privates Carson
, of the Jeff.
Davis Legion, and Pierson
, of the 4th Virginia cavalry.
Herewith are submitted the reports of subordinate commanders, marked A, B and C, and a map, D, showing my route, and papers E, containing recommendations for promotion, and F, containing congratulatory orders published to the command upon its return.