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Doc. 77-cavalry fight near Aldie, Va.

General Pleasanton's despatch.

headquarters cavalry corps, camp near Upperville, 5.30 P. M., June 21, 1863.
Brigadier-General S. Williams:
General: I moved with my command this morning to Middleburgh and attacked the cavalry force of the rebels under Stuart, and steadily drove him all day, inflicting a heavy loss at every step.

We took two pieces of artillery, one being a Blakely gun, together with three caissons, beside blowing one up. We also captured upward of sixty prisoners, and more are coming in, including a lieutenant-colonel, major, and five other officers, beside a wounded colonel, and a large number of wounded rebels left in the town of Upperville.

They left their dead and wounded upon the field. Of the former I saw upward of twenty. We also took a large number of carbines, pistols, and sabres. In fact, it was a most disastrous day to the rebel cavalry.

Our loss has been very small both in men and horses. I never saw the troops behave better, or under more difficult circumstances. Very heavy charges were made, and the sabre was used freely, but always with great advantage to us.

A. Pleasanton, Brigadier-General.

E. A. Paul's narrative.

Upperville, Va., Sunday, June 21--5 P. M.
This has been truly a glorious day for that portion of the army commanded by General Pleasanton.

On Saturday but little advance was made, our forces in front bivouacking at night in a piece of woods but a short distance west of Middleburgh. At eight o'clock this morning active hostilities were resumed, and there has been a running fight up to several miles west of this town. The contest, as well as the result, must be particularly gratifying to the commanding general, for he has met the famous General Stuart in pitched combat, half a dozen times, and in all cases defeated him, and caused his forces to fall back precipitately.

Stuart, all along the road between Paris and Middleburgh, told the inhabitants that he would certainly drive our forces back to Manassas, and there whip them. Per contra, he has himself been driven back to the Blue Ridge, and from the stone where I am seated penning these lines, I can see the smoke of his guns fired in the defence of Ashby's Gap. So hard pressed was he, and so fearful that his defeat might result in an entire rout, that at Common or Hatch's Run, three miles west of Middleburgh, he sent an express messenger, ordering up a brigade of infantry to meet him at Rector's Cross-Roads. The wished — for assistance came, but it availed him little. Our men nerved themselves to the task, and drove every thing before them — the enemy, in their haste, throwing away their accoutrements, provisions, clothing, wagons, cannon, and camp equipage. Three cannon have been captured, a number of horses, and more than one hundred prisoners, representing nearly every State in the Confederacy.

Moving out of Middleburgh this morning, the troops under General Buford took a road to the right, leading to Unionville, while General Gregg moved up the main road direct toward Ashby's Gap, passing through Rector's Cross-Roads. Colonel Vincent, with the Eighty-third Pennsylvania, Sixteenth Michigan, Forty-fourth New-York, and Twentieth Maine infantry, also moved up this road in advance, two companies in advance of each regiment deployed as skirmishers, while other companies acted as supports. Fuller's [317] regular battery was placed in the first favorable position west of the town, and fired several shots before receiving any response. The enemy finally opened fire with two guns, and a brisk cannonading was kept up for half an hour, when the caisson of one of the enemy's guns was exploded by a shell thrown from a section of Fuller's battery, commanded by Lieutenant Kelly, and another shell broke the limber of another piece. Both guns were captured by the cavalry. The rebels at another point abandoned a brass howitzer and caisson.

They fell back from one position to another until they reached their present one on the mountain. The strongest resistance was made at Comell's River, Goose Creek, and just above the Upperville bridge, over Goose Creek. The enemy had made every arrangement to destroy the bridge, but General Kilpatrick, whose brigade was in the advance — in fact, it was during the whole day, pursuing the retreating forces — ordering a charge to be made as he reached the bridge, completely frustrated the design. Captain Coons, of the Harris Light cavalry, led this charge, while the Fourth New-York advanced as dismounted carbineers, enfilading the bridge.

Arriving at Upperville, two squadrons of the First Maine were ordered to charge through the town, which they did in the most gallant manner. The rest of the First Maine and the Fourth New-York acted as supports. Just beyond the town considerable force of the enemy was massed. The First Maine, Sixth Ohio, Tenth New-York, Second New-York, and Fourth Pennsylvania charged upon them furiously. The resistance was greater here than at any other point. Two of our regiments were in the road, and one on each side. They charged and were repulsed; the enemy charged and were likewise repulsed. Several charges were made with like results, untill the two forces became jammed in together, and a regular hand-to-hand conflict took place, lasting more than twenty minutes. In the first loss charge the enemy placed sharp-shooters along the stone walls at the side of the road, and our troops suffered from their fire. General Kilpatrick also arranged a similar reception for the enemy, and thus the two forces swayed to and fro under a galling cross-fire. The officers and men on both sides fought like fiends, and in the excitement many of the enemy were killed who might have been taken prisoners. General Kilpatrick nearly lost his own life in attempting to save the life of the colonel of a North-Carolina regiment. Finally the enemy yielded, and fell back, hotly pursued by General Kilpatrick's bloody brigade, until the concentrated fire from a battery warned General Gregg that it was time to withdraw his men. The brigade of regulars which had been sent up as a support, much to the amusement of all about, wheeled and hurried out of range. The Harris Light and First Maine marched out of range as slowly and deliberately as if going upon parade. No troops in the world ever stood. such a terrible fire more unflinchingly.

From Rector's Cross-Roads to Upperville was almost a rout. The enemy turned at bay near Upperville. The Fourth New-York charged, with General Kilpatrick at their head, and, breaking, retired, leaving General Kilpatrick a prisoner. The Fourth, however, promply rallied, charged again, and the General was rescued. The troops, with the single exception noted, all behaved well, as did most of the officers. General Kilpatrick, commanding the cen tre, was always in the right place, and inspiring the men under him by his dashing example. He led several charges in person, the most dashing of all being the onset west of Upperville. Colonel Gregg, commanding the loft, discharged his duties promptly and like a brave man. General Gregg, commanding this division, and General Pleasanton, were near the front all day, carefully watching every movement. The former had a horse killed under him by a round shot. The conduct of Colonel Vincent, commanding the infantry, is everywhere spoken of in the highest terms. Captain Armstrong and Lieutenant Estes, of General Kilpatrick's staff, on two occasions, after delivering an order, led a column against the enemy under a most terrific fire, and excited the admiration of all for their gallant conduct and excellent example.

While the centre and left were engaged with General Stuart in person, General Buford, with varying success, was fighting “Alphabet” Lee on the right. At this hour he has the enemy in front forced back to the mountains.

The rebels alone the line of march are completely chopfallen at the ill success of their favorite General Stuart, and they predict that he will yet pay us off.

Strange as it may appear, while our loss is comparatively trifling, that of the enemy is very heavy. We have already as many dead rebels in our possession as our entire loss in killed. Besides, it is known that they carried off several ambulances loaded with their own dead. Our is about ten killed and one hundred wounded. Among the enemy's killed is Colonel Wilcox, of the Ninth Virginia cavalry. The colonel of a South-Carolina regiment is a prisoner, and the colonel of the Fifty-ninth North-Carolina is seriously wounded and a prisoner.

Indianapolis Journal account.

Aldie, June 23, 1863.
Editor Journal: Pleasanton's cavalry has won new laurels, additional lustre attaches to our name, and we are far removed from that derisive contempt in which our arm of the service has been held for many months. On the morning of the twenty-first, we attacked Stuart's force at Middleburgh, and, after an hour's stubborn resistance, they were in motion toward Ashby's Gap, no doubt impressed with the idea that there was more safety than gallantry in such a movement. General Buford, commanding the First division, followed up closely on the right, and Gregg, with his Second division, was close at their heels on the left. It was a running fight, and [318] continued from “early morn till dewy eve.” Eight miles, the distance from Middleburgh to Ashby's Gap, were passed over by the contending forces, the rebels in their retreat posting batteries on every commanding hill by which our progress was stayed until the superiority of our guns or a flank charge compelled a further retrograde on the part of the enemy. General Kilpatrick led many brilliant charges on the left; but on the right of Upperville, Gamble's brigade, comprising the Eighth and Twelfth Illinois and Third Indiana, made one charge and repulsed three, that confirmed the very few incredulous in the belief of the genuine pluck of this brigade. They drove three rebel brigades to the rear of the town; and when the rebels, stung with chagrin at the idea of being compelled to fall back before one third their number, re-charged furiously, our line continued unbroken, and the enemy recoiled in dismay before a stormy greeting of cold iron. Here the most desperate fighting and bloody work of the day occurred. Some half-dozen charges were made by our forces and equally as many by the rebels for the possession of the place, but Stuart was forced to sullenly retire to his stronghold, the Gap, as night closed upon the bloody scene. Pickets were thereupon established along our entire line, while the main force retired to the vicinity of Middleburgh and passed the night.

General Pleasanton's “official report” correctly says it was a disastrous day for the rebel cavalry. Our loss was insignificant in comparison with the enemy's. Some of their dead were left on the field, while we captured most of their wounded, besides capturing and recapturing fifty Federals and rebels; the wounded inmates of a hospital at Upperville. The latter were taken to Upperville after the fight of the sixteenth at this place. None of our captured had been paroled.

Our loss is not yet definitely ascertained, but will not amount to over seventy-five killed and wounded.

The casualties of the Third cavalry are as follows: Orderly Sergeant Charles Johnson, company C, shot through right knee, making amputation necessary; Sergeant Peters, company C, wounded in the shoulder severely; private Balser Noah, in the face, slightly; Sergeant W. H. Hyden, company F, in the foot, slightly. The Third Illinois lost four killed and fifteen wounded. The Twelfth Illinois lost twelve wounded.

The loss in rebel officers at this fight was much more serious than usual. Several captains, lieutenants, and majors, with Colonel Meriwether Lewis, of the Ninth Virginia cavalry, were left on the field; the latter mortally wounded, was found in a ravine by members of the Third cavalry, and conveyed to a neighboring farm, where in his dying agony he groaned out his remorse at the folly of his cause. He was a man of more than ordinary intelligence. His death-struggle at sunset brought tears to the eyes of those beholding the scene. It was then he uttered the honest sentiments of his heart — his supreme love for the Union over the cause of secession.

Yesterday our cavalry returned to Aldie, and moved out on the Leesburgh pike to Dover, where they are now encamped with the expectation of resting and recruiting the men and horses for at least a day or two. But alas! the uncertainty in the tide of events decreed otherwise. Two hours of repose was all they had until the rebels were reported driving in our pickets. Throughout the corps bugles sounded the “saddle-call,” and the Second brigade, First division, Colonel Diven, was sent forward to find out the intentions of the advancing foe. Skirmishing on the Leesburgh and Middleburgh pike ensued, and two or three charges by squadrons were made by our men and the rebels, respectively.

The rebels proved not to be in force, but as their main body was momentarily expected to appear in sight, we were kept in constant readiness to resist any attack, and consequently little rest was obtained yesterday by the wearied cavalrymen.

Last night Pleasanton's artillery was posted to command all the approaches to Aldie, and as the rebels appeared on our front this morning, the cavalry was again drawn out in line of battle, where it remains at this writing.

Away off on the hills and down the ravines we now and then see a quick flash and a column of blue smoke curling upward, telling us that our skirmishers are vigilant and doing their duty.

Half a dozen different bands are discoursing sweet music along the lines this evening, and I verily believe, should Stuart with all his cavalry appear in solid column on the front, our fellows would go down on them with a rush that could forebode nothing but destruction to the rebels.

Our men are in the best of spirits. The victories of the past week have convinced the men of their ability to accomplish great and daring deeds, and established mutual confidence between men and officers. All have faith in the present management of the cavalry.

Another fight may occur at any time in this vicinity, but, should such be the case, the rebels will be the attacking party, for we are disposed to rest.

The disposition of Hooker's infantry is a little different from what it was three days ago, while the rebels are doubtless sending a considerable force through Thoroughfare Gap. Should Lee attempt to reach the Potomac by way of Leesburgh, he will be seriously opposed, for, at an hour's notice, Hooker can throw a formidable force of veterans on his front.

The weather continues most favorable for all our operations, the atmosphere of these mountains being a comfortable medium between heat and cold.

Fairfax Station is our base of supplies, and the many fine farms in this vicinity afford luxurious grazing for our horses.

Loudon County has been reported all right for the Union, but the loyal element is not found here, and I deem it just that we should appropriate what we cannot well do without.

John Hood, Commissioner for the District Court of Eastern Virginia, amidst persecution [319] has stood faithfully by the Union, and he is the only loyal man now known in all this vicinity. He welcomed the arrival of our army, and will mourn its departure should such a thing occur.


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