The ride around General McClellan. [from the Richmond, Va., times, May 22, 1898.] Colonel John S. Mosby tells about General Stuart's brilliant feat of war. The Colonel on scout duty.He brought information about McClellan's movements, which induced the General to move on the enemy.
In June, 1862, the battle of Fair Oaks, or Seven Pines, had been fought, almost in sight of Richmond; the Army of the Potomac was lying on the peninsula between the James and Pamunkey, and astraddle the Chickahominy, a narrow, deep and sluggish stream that meanders between them and empties into the James. Its base of supply was at the White house, on the Pamunkey—once the property of Martha Washington—which was connected with the army by railroad and telegraph. The left wing extended to within three or four miles of the James; its front and flanks were supposed to be protected by the swamps and the river. The infantry pickets were in sight of each other; cavalry videttes were not needed to give notice of the approach of an enemy. For the first time since the war began, Stuart's cavalry corps was idle and behind the infantry; his headquarters were on the Charles City road, about two miles east of Richmond. Men who had been educated in war by service on the outposts soon grew restless and weary of inaction in the rear. During the greater portion of the first years of the war I had been a private in Stuart's Regiment—the 1st Virginia Cavalry—and had  been made Adjutant when Stuart was promoted to be a Brigadier-General, and my Captain (William E. Jones) became the Colonel; but lost my position on the reorganization of the army in the spring of 1862. The Confederate government ordered elections for officers in all the regiments, and thus attempted to mix democracy with military discipline. Jones, who was one of the ablest officers in the Southern army and a stern soldier, was rotated out; Fitz Lee was elected, and wanted another adjutant. So I gave him my resignation. A smile of fortune was really masked under a frown. When our army retired from Centreville, two months before, my regiment had been the rear-guard, and I had conducted several scouting expeditions for the purpose of discovering McClellan's movements, which had elicited Stuart's commendation in his report to General Johnston. So Stuart asked me to come to his headquarters and continue to do that kind of work for him. This was the origin of my partisan life, that was far more congenial to me than the dull, routine work of an adjutant. According to my estimate, the loss of my commission did not weigh a feather against the pleasure of being directly under the orders of a man of original genius.
An opportunity.One morning he invited me to breakfast with him—none of the staff were at the table. Stuart asked me to take a small party and find out whether McClellan was fortifying on the Totopotomoy. This was a creek on McClellan's extreme right that emptied into the Pamunkey. That was the very thing I wanted; an opportunity for which I had pined. In a few minutes my horse was saddled. I rode over to the camp of the 1st Virginia and got three men from my old company, who had marched with me from Abingdon the year before—Pendleton, Crockett and Williams. We started off as joyful a party as if we were going to a wedding. When we reached the road leading to the Totopotomoy I learned that there was a flag of truce on that road that day. Not wishing to disturb a peaceful meeting, but not willing to lose a chance for adventure, we determined to move on farther north toward Hanover Courthouse, and explore the region along the Pamunkey. So, making a wide detour to the north the next day, we got down among McClellan's outposts that had never been disturbed since his advance on Richmond. His headquarters were a few miles off at Cold Harbor; the White House on the Pamunkey was the depot where military stores were landed  and forwarded to the army by railroad. The line of supply was therefore parallel, and not perpendicular to his front. This formation is called in technical language forming front to a flank. The infantry outposts did not extend to within several miles of the river. For a considerable distance on his right, therefore, McClellan's communications were not covered by his infantry. I learned from citizens that the only protection to the railroad was a thin veil of cavalry. Of course, if there were no infantry there would be no fortifications about there. I saw now that I had discovered McClellan's vulnerable point—the heel of Achilles, and hastened to give Stuart the information. It was a hot day in June; I found him sitting out in the front yard in the shade. All were in high glee; news had just come that Jackson had defeated Fremont and Shields at Cross Keys and Port Republic. Being worn out by a long ride, I laid down on the grass and related to Stuart what I had learned, and told him he could strike a heavy blow at McClellan's communications. After I had finished, he said, ‘Write down what you have said,’ and called to a courier to get his horse ready. I went to the adjutant's office and wrote down what I had told him, but thinking he only wanted it as a memorandum, did not sign it. It was addressed to no one. When I returned, an orderly with two horses was standing ready for them to mount. Stuart read the paper, and told me I had not signed it. So I went back to the office and put my signature to it. He went off at a gallop, followed by the courier. They rode to General Lee's headquarters, a few miles off, and returned in the afternoon. General Lee's orders authorizing the Pamunkey expedition is dated June 11th, the day after my return. Stuart's quick penetration saw the opportunity and instantly seized it. Orders were immediately issued to get ready to march. Activity now succeeded inaction in the cavalry camps. On the 12th we started with about 1,200 cavalry and two pieces of artillery, and, marching through Richmond, moved in a northerly direction on the Brooke road. I rode that day with the old company to which I had belonged when I left Abingdon in the beginning of the war. I knew where we were going, but said nothing. The cavalry headquarters were left in charge of the adjutant. I was present when Stuart told him goodby. The adjutant asked him how long he would be gone. There was a poetic vein in Stuart, as there is in most men of heroic temperament. His answer was ‘It may be for years and it may be forever,’ which suggested the parting from Erin and Kathleen Mavourneen. 
A Sharp Collison.From the direction we took the impression prevailed that we were going to reinforce Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley. The command bivouacked that night about twenty miles front Richmond, and a few miles from Hanover Courthouse. Early the next morning Stuart asked me to go in advance with a few men to the court-house. This settled any doubt I may have had about the expedition. I had not asked him a question and he had not spoken to me on the subject of my recent scout since our interview on my return. I started off and soon struck the same road over which I had ridden four days before. Just as we got in sight of the village, a squadron of the enemy came, reconnoitered us, and as we simply halted and did not run away, rightly concluded that a support was behind us and left in a hurry. One of the men was sent to inform Stuart of their presence, but they had gone when his column came up. The column pushed on and in two or three miles came upon the enemy's pickets, and now began a running fight, or rather a fox chase for a mile or two. The 9th Virginia Cavalry, commanded by W. H. F. Lee (a son of General Robert E. Lee), was in advance, and as we were ascending a hill, one of the men came dashing back and said the enemy's cavalry was coming down upon us. We could hear but could not see them. I was sitting on my horse by Stuart, who had halted to close up the column. Latane's squadron was in front. There was an order to draw sabres; Lee said ‘charge men.’ The squadron dashed forward with that wild demoniac yell which the enemy often afterward heard and can never forget. There was a sharp collision in the road. Latane was killed; Captain Royall, commanding on the other side, was wounded, and his squadron routed. It was a detachment of the 2d U. S. Cavalry we had met; Fitz Lee had been a Lieutenant in the regiment. He came on the ground in a few minutes, and several of his old company, who had been captured, recognized him. We could not stay to perform for Latane the last duty we owe to the dead—
Not a soldier discharged his farewell shotFrom prisoners, it was learned that their camp was about a mile away. The column moved on. When we got there we found the tents, camp utensils and commissary stores, but Royall and all his  men were gone. McClellan's headquarters, surrounded by camps of cavalry, infantry and artillery, were only a few miles away. We were on their flank and had simply broken through the shroud of cavalry that covered his depot and line of communication. To have done this and no more with all the preparations that had been made would have been a good deal like the labor of a mountain and the birth of a mouse. It would have been easy for Stuart to have retraced his steps; the way was open and could not be occupied by the enemy's cavalry, even if there were no resistance for several hours. The Southern cavalry was in its prime; the Northern cavalry was just going to school. It would have been impossible to place any obstacle in the way to prevent our return. The danger was all in front; not behind us. A mile or so on one side was the Pamunkey, an impassible river; within six miles on the other were the camps of Fitz John Porter and a division of cavalry. A man of mediocrity would have been satisfied with what he had done; to have gone back would have been a grand anti-climax to such a beginning. But if he had had no choice between going back or going on there would have been little merit in what he did. While the men were plundering the camp, Stuart had a few minutes conference with the two Lees. I was sitting on my horse within a few feet of them, buckling on a pistol I had just got, and heard all that passed. Stuart was urgent for pressing on to Tunstall's station, on the railroad, nine miles ahead, in McClellan's rear; Lee of the 9th agreed with Stuart.
O'er the grave where the hero was buried.