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Expedition to Hardy and Hampshire.

Report of General Early.

New Market, February 6th, 1864.
General,--On the 28th January leaving Imboden's and Walker's brigades near Mount Jackson, to guard the Valley, I moved from this place with Rosser's brigade, Thomas's brigade, all the effective men of Gilmer's and McNeil's Partizan Rangers, and four pieces of McLanahan's battery towards Moorefield, in Hardy. I arrived at Moorefield with Rosser's brigade and the artillery on the 29th, and early next morning (the 30th) Rosser was sent to intercept a train on its way from New Creek to Petersburg, and get between the garrison at the latter place and the railroad. After cutting through a heavy blockade on. the mountain between the South Branch and Patterson's Creek, which was defended by a regiment, Rosser succeeded in reaching and capturing the train after a short fight with its guard, which consisted of over eight hundred infantry and a small body of cavalry, all under Colonel Snyder. The guard for the train broke and ran to the mountains, and only a few prisoners were captured. Rosser's loss, in killed and wounded, was about twenty-five, and the enemy's much heavier. Ninety-three loaded wagons were captured, but the teams from forty-two of them were run off by the drivers during the fight, and being considerably smashed their wagons were burnt. Fifty wagons with their teams were brought off, one having been overturned in the night and broken to pieces, so as to be useless. The wagons were loaded with commissary stores and forage; but as the wagons crossed the mountains from Patterson Creek to Moorefield in the night, a great deal of the loading was thrown out by the drivers, and much of it was plundered before steps could be taken to rescue it. After the trains were captured, Rosser moved towards Petersburg, and got possession of the [268] roads from Petersburg down Patterson's Creek and through Greenland Gap, and the same evening Thomas's brigade arrived at Moorefield, and was crossed over the South Branch to within ten miles of Petersburg. Early next morning both forces moved upon Petersburg, but on arriving there it was found that the enemy had evacuated during the night, taking a mountain road to the head of New Creek, through a pass where it was impracticable to follow him, especially as there was a dense fog, rendering it difficult to discern objects at a short distance. The works at Petersburg were found to be very strong, with a ditch around them, and very strong abattis. There were large bomb-proof shelters, and appearances indicated that a good deal of work had been done lately. The works were destroyed as far as practicable, and some commissary stores and forage, and about thirteen thousand cartridges were secured. Thomas's brigade was then marched back to Moorefield, and Rosser was sent down Patterson's Creek to collect cattle and cut the Baltimore and Ohio railroad. He reached the road on the 2nd at the mouth of Patterson's Creek, and destroyed the bridge over the north branch of the Potomac. He also destroyed another bridge over the canal, and a lock of the canal itself. In the meantime a considerable cavalry force had made its appearance at Romney, and Rosser returned to Moorefield, which place he reached on the 3rd, with a number of cattle and sheep. McNeil crossed over to the eastern ridge of the Alleghany, and brought off over three hundred cattle.

After Rosser's return, I gave orders for the troops, trains, &c., to start back early next morning, as we had accomplished all we then could, and accordingly every thing but the cavalry was in motion very soon; and after Thomas's brigade had gone about four miles from Moorefield, a considerable force of the enemy's cavalry, with some artillery, made its appearance below Moorefield, on the road from Romney. I ordered Thomas's brigade to be brought back towards Moorefield, and Rosser to retire through Moorefield, and taking a position on the south fork of the North Branch, I awaited the approach of the enemy until after 12 o'clock, when he showing no disposition to attack, but contenting himself with manceuvering very cautiously, and Rosser's cavalry being too much reduced in numbers to attack the enemy's cavalry, which was in view and largely exceeded his own in numbers, I resumed my march back without molestation from the enemy, crossing over to Lost river that night and the next day (the 5th) to this valley. A large portion of the cavalry force which appeared at Moorefield went from Martinsburg and Charlestown, a brigade under Colonel Fish having lately been sent to the lower valley. [269] I have been informed that a force of infantry was following the cavalry, but I am not certain of this. I did not think it prudent to leave the trains and cattle to the risk of capture, while I was being amused by cavalry at Moorefield, and I therefore moved back according to my original purpose. We brought off 50 captured wagons with their teams, 1,200 cattle, 500 sheep, 78 prisoners (1 major, 3 captains and 74 enlisted men), and some commissary stores. We got all the cattle we could. Many persons ran off their cattle to Maryland, and a number of those brought off will not answer for beef at present. We could have got as many sheep as we wanted, but they could not be driven. We found the people of Moorefield and the adjoining valley very true to our cause and exceedingly kind and hospitable to our men. I think the enemy will hardly occupy Petersburg again, and if he does not, as soon as things get quiet, some more cattle can be gotten.

Very respectfully,

Report of General Rosser.

Headquarters Rosser's brigade, February 9th, 1864.
Major,--On the morning of the 28th ult., in obedience to an order from General J. A. Early, I moved my brigade and a battery of four pieces of General Imboden's in direction of Moorefield, Hardy county, where I arrived early on the evening of the 30th. The infantry having failed to get up, I spent the remainder of the day in constructing bridges across the south and north forks of the South Branch, and early on the morning of the 31st moved my command across the mountain in direction of Patterson's creek, upon which, I had been informed by reliable scouts, was a large supply train encamped, destined for Petersburg.

In crossing the mountain I encountered, when in about two miles of the creek, a regiment of infantry blockading the road by felling trees across it, and by digging it away when constructed upon the side of a hill, &c. By dismounting a few men I soon dislodged them, and drove them entirely through the gap.

The obstructions were soon removed by the pioneers of the brigade, and the road reconstructed where it had been dug away. The brigade then fairly through, I pressed vigorously upon the enemy, who was then retiring in direction of Williamsport to meet the train which was then [270] moving up. Upon my approach his wagons were parked and all disposition made to meet my attack. The enemy's force (I have since learned numbered 1,100 men), I saw at a glance was much larger than my own. I dismounted three or four hundred men, and with the remainder in the saddle, I charged him front, flank and rear. The first onset was repulsed, but one piece of my artillery coming up (the enemy having none), my troops were much elated by this seeming advantage, and I charged him again, which was very successful, driving him into the mountains, and giving me possession of the entire train of ninety-five wagons and teams, excepting a few of the latter, that were cut away during the fight and run off, and the regiment I sent to occupy the road in rear of the train, failing to get up in time. These mules and a few ambulances were allowed to escape. The conduct of my men on this occasion, entitles them to their country's gratitude; indeed I believe it is the first instance during this war where cavalry attacked successfully a superior force of infantry. I lost in the action twenty-four men killed and wounded. The enemy's acknowledged loss, in killed and wounded, was eighty. I captured forty prisoners, two Captains and one Major. The train, which was heavily loaded with commissary stores, bacon, rice, coffee, sugar, &c., was turned over to General Early. Many of the wagons, however, had to be destroyed in consequence of the want of mules to bring them off — a number having been killed in the action and others ridden off by the fleeing enemy. On the morning of the 1st, I moved into Petersburg, the enemy having escaped upon one of the back roads, which it was impossible for me to guard with my small force.

The enemy in evacuating this place left almost all his baggage and a large supply of provisions, which fell into the hands of my men. From this place I proceeded, in obedience to instructions from General Early, down Patterson's creek, with the view of driving out the cattle, and for this purpose I sent Major Gilmer's and Captain McNeil's commands, under the command of the latter, into the Alleghany mountains, and placed one regiment in Mechanicsville Gap to prevent “Averill,” whom I expected from Martinsburg, from getting between me and General Early. I then pressed down the creek to its mouth, at which place there was a guard of one company, which I captured, and I destroyed here the railroad bridges across Patterson's creek, the Potomac and canal. I also destroyed one engine, all the property belonging to the road, the bridge for the pike across the canal, and one canal lock.

Learning that the enemy was in Romney in considerable force, and [271] that he was struggling for the gap at which my regiment was posted, I abandoned the idea of going to Cumberland, and turned back in direction of Moorefield, evading the enemy, who had forced the gap and got in my rear, and brought out safely all my prisoners and cattle. Upon the expedition I captured twelve or thirteen hundred head of cattle, five or six hundred sheep, ninety-five wagons and eighty prisoners. Only fifty of the wagons were saved and brought to the valley. Everything else is now safe in the valley.

I am, Major, most respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

Thos. L. Rosser, Brigadier-General. Major H. B. McClellan, A. A. General Stuart's Cavalry Corps.


Headquarters cavalry corps A. N. V., April 7th, 1864.
Respectfully forwarded. The bold and successful enterprise herein reported furnishes additional proofs of General Rosser's merit as a commander, and adds fresh laurels to that veteran brigade, so signalized for valor already.

J. E. B. Stuart, Major-General.

Headquarters Army Northern Va., 19th April, 1864.
Respectfully forwarded for the information of the War Department. General Rosser acquitted himself with great credit in this expedition.

R. E. Lee, General.
Respectfully submitted to the Secretary of War, by order,

Samuel W. Melton, Major & A. A. G. A. & I. G. O., 30th April, 1864.
A. G.--Noted General Rosser exhibited both judgment and valor, and accomplished valuable resulsts in this expedition.

J. A. S., Sec'y. 4th May, 1864.

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