HEADQUARTERS CAVALRY CORPS,
February 13, 1864.
Col. R. H. CHILTON,
Chief of Staff, Army of Northern Virginia.
COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the cavalry division, from the battle of Groveton Heights, August 30, 1862, to the recrossing of the Potomac, September 18, 1862 :
On the night of the 2d [of September] the command bivouacked near Fairfax Court-House, except Robertson's brigade, which, by a misapprehension of the order, returned to the vicinity of Chantilly before the engagement.
While these events were occurring near Fairfax Court-House, the Second Virginia Cavalry (Col. T. T. Munford) had proceeded, by my order, to Leesburg, to capture the party of marauders, under Means, which had so long infested that country and harassed the inhabitants. Colonel Munford reached the vicinity of Leesburg on the forenoon of the 2d, and, learning that Means with his command was in the town, supported by three companies of the Maryland cavalry on the Point of Rocks road, he made a circuit toward Edwards Ferry, attacked from that direction, and succeeded, after a heavy skirmish, in routing and driving the enemy as far as Waterford, with a loss on their part of 11 killed, 9 severely wounded, and 47 prisoners, including 2 captains and 3 lieutenants. Our own loss was Lieutenant Davis killed and several officers and privates wounded. In this engagement, Edmund, a slave belonging to one of the men, charged with the regiment and shot Ever-hart, one of the most notorious ruffians of Means' party. The enemy's papers acknowledged that their entire force of 150 men of the First Mary]and and Means' company were, all but 40, killed or captured, stating that our force was 2,000. Colonel Munford's entire force was 163 men, of whom but 123 were in the charge.
On the morning of the 3d, General Fitz. Lee, pursuant to instructions, made a demonstration with his brigade and some horse artillery toward Alexandria, Hampton's brigade moving by way of Hunter's Mill to the Leesburg turnpike, below Dranesville, encamping near that place. Robertson's brigade, having also crossed over from the Little River turnpike, encamped near the same place on the same night. Meantime the main army was moving by a flank toward Leesburg. Demonstrations were also kept up toward Georgetown and the Chain Bridge, Robertson's brigade moving in the direction of Falls Church. Between Vienna and Lewinsville he encountered the enemy's pickets, and, after a brief skirmish, drove them in. Ewing posted a portion of his cavalry with one piece of artillery near Lewinsville to prevent surprise, he then drew up the remainder of the cavalry in a conspicuous position near the church, and opened with his two remaining pieces. The enemy replied with two guns, and the firing continued until nearly sundown, when, perceiving several regiments advancing to assail his position, General Robertson, in accordance with his instructions, retired.
The cavalry followed the rear of the army to Leesburg, and, crossing the Potomac on the afternoon of the 5th, Lee's brigade in advance, moved to Poolesville. He encountered at that point a body of the enemy's cavalry, which he attacked, capturing the greater portion. The reception of our troops in Maryland was attended with the greatest demonstrations of joy, and the hope of enabling the inhabitants to throw off the tyrant's yoke stirred every Southern heart with renewed vigor and enthusiasm.
The main army moving to Frederick the next day, the cavalry resumed their march on the flank, halting at Urbana, Hampton's brigade in advance. The advance guard had the good fortune to rescue from a member of the enemy's signal corps a bearer of dispatches from President Davis to General Lee. The dispatches, fortunately, by the discreetness of the bearer, had not fallen into the hands of the enemy, and were eventually safely delivered. At Urbana the main body was joined by Robertson's brigade, at this time under command of Col. T. T. Munford.
Near this place I remained with the command until September 12, covering the front of the army, then near Frederick City, in the direction of Washington. My left, consisting of Let's brigade, rested at New Market, on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad; my center, Hampton's brigade, near Hyattstown, and my right, Robertson's brigade (Colonel Munford commanding), in the direction of Poolesville, with one regiment (the Twelfth Virginia Cavalry) at that point. The enemy having advanced upon my front, Hampton's brigade became engaged in several skirmishes near Hyattstown, driving the enemy back on every occasion ; and, on September 8, ascertaining that the enemy were about to occupy Poolesville, I ordered Colonel Munford to proceed to that point and drive them from the place. Munford's advance guard had just reached the town, when the enemy appeared with three regiments of cavalry and four pieces of artillery. Munford selected a position and opened fire with a howitzer and Blakely, when the enemy also brought up two pieces and returned the fire. Their guns had scarcely opened when their cavalry suddenly advanced and charged the howitzer. They were, however, received with two rounds of canister, which drove them back, and the Seventh Virginia Cavalry (Captain Myers commanding) charged them. They also charged the Blakely, but Colonel [A. W.] Harman, with about 75 men of the Twelfth Virginia Cavalry, met and repulsed them. Lieutenant-Colonel Burks, in temporary command of the Second Virginia Cavalry, held the cross-roads commanding the approach to Sugar Loaf Mountain, and kept the enemy in check with his sharpshooters.
The loss on this occasion was 15, killed, wounded, and missing.
The cross-roads were successfully held for three days, during which regular skirmishing and artillery firing took place, when, on the 11th, the enemy advanced in force with infantry. Having maintained the present front even longer than was contemplated by the instructions covering the investment of Harper's Ferry (found in the orders appended to this report), the cavalry was withdrawn to within 3 miles of Frederick.
Lee's brigade having fallen back from New Market and crossed the Monocacy near Liberty, Robertson's brigade was ordered to retire in the direction of Jefferson, and Hampton's brigade was directed to occupy Frederick City, in the rear of the army then moving toward Middletown. Hampton's pickets were thown out on the various roads leading in the direction of the enemy's approach, and about midday on the 12th he was notified that a heavy force was advancing on the National road. As two squadrons had been left on picket at the bridge over the Monocacy between Frederick City and Urbana, it was of great importance to hold the approaches by the National road until the squadrons were withdrawn; and, with this end in view, a rifle piece was added to the two guns already in position on the turnpike, and a squadron from the Second South Carolina Cavalry, under Lieutenant Meighan, sent to support the batteries. The enemy soon appeared and opened fire on the cavalry, when, the squadrons at the bridge having rejoined him, General Hampton slowly retired to the city, sending his artillery on before to occupy a position commanding the ground between the city and the mountain. The enemy now pressed forward, and, planting a gun in the suburbs of the city, supported by a body of cavalry and a regiment and a half of infantry, opened fire upon the crowded thoroughfares of the place. To secure a safe retreat for the brigade, it was necessary to charge this force, which was gallantly done by the Second South Carolina Cavalry, Colonel Butler; Lieutenant Meighan leading his squadron in advances The enemy were scattered in every direction, many of them killed and wounded, 10 prisoners taken, among them Colonel Moor, Twenty-eighth Ohio, and the gun captured. Unfortunately, five of the horses attached to the piece were killed, so that it could not be removed. The enemy's account, subsequently published, admits the repulse of their force and the capture of the gun. After this repulse the enemy made no further efforts to annoy our rear. The brigade retired slowly, bringing off the prisoners captured, and bivouacked that night at Middletown, Lieutenant-Colonel Martin having been left, with his command and two pieces of artillery, to hold the Catoctin Mountain.
Munford was, in the meanwhile, ordered to occupy the gap in this range, near the town of Jefferson. The force under his command consisted at this time of only the Second and Twelfth Virginia Cavalry, the Sixth Virginia having been left at Centreville to collect arms, &c.; the Seventeenth Battalion detached before crossing the Potomac on an expedition into Berkeley, and the Seventh Virginia Cavalry having been ordered, a day or two before, to report to General Jackson for operations against Harper's Ferry.
Every means was taken to ascertain what the nature of the enemy's movement was; whether a reconnaissance feeling for our whereabouts, or an aggressive movement of the army. The enemy studiously avoided displaying any force, except a part of Burnside's corps, and built no camp-fires in their halt at Frederick that night. The information was conveyed promptly to the commanding general through General D. H. Hill, now at Boonsborough, and it was suggested that the gap which I held this night was a very strong position for infantry and artillery. Friday, the day on which, by the calculation of the commanding general, Harper's Ferry would fall, had passed, and, as the garrison was not believed to be very strong at that point, I supposed the object already accomplished. I, nevertheless, felt it important to check the enemy as much as possible in order to develop his force. With a view to ascertain what the nature of this movement was, I had, before leaving Frederick, sent instructions to Brig. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee to gain the enemy's rear from his position on the left.
On the morning of the 13th, I moved forward all of Hampton's command to the support of Colonel Martin. Foiled in their attack on the preceding evening, the enemy appeared in front of Colonel Martin, at daylight on the 13th, and endeavored to force their way through the mountain. Their advance guard was driven back, when they posted artillery on the turnpike and opened fire on Colonel Martin, who held the mountain crest. This was responded to by a section of rifle guns under Captain Hart, whose fire was so effective that the enemy's battery was forced several times to change its position. The skirmishers on both sides had meanwhile become actively engaged, and the enemy was held in check until he had marched up to the attack two brigades of infantry, which was the only force we were yet able to discover, so well did he keep his troops concealed. About 2 p.m. we were obliged to abandon the crest, and withdrew to a position near Middletown. All this was duly reported, in writing, by me, through General D. H. Hill, to the commanding general.
In the engagements at the gap in the Catoctin and near Middletown the Jeff. Davis Legion and First North Carolina Cavalry, respectively under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Martin and Colonel [L. S.] Baker, conducted themselves with the utmost gallantry, and sustained a hot fire of artillery and musketry without flinching or confusion in the ranks. Captain-[T. P.] Siler, a gallant officer of the First North Carolina Cavalry, had his leg broken during the engagement.
The enemy soon appeared in force crossing the mountain, and a spirited engagement took place, both of artillery and sharpshooters, the First North Carolina, Colonel Baker, holding the rear and acting with conspicuous gallantry. This lasted for some time, when, having held the enemy in check sufficiently long to accomplish my object, I withdrew slowly toward the gap in the South Mountain, having given General D. H. Hill ample time to occupy that gap with his troops, and still believing that the capture of Harper's Ferry had been effected. On reaching the vicinity of the gap near Boonsborough, finding General Hill's troops occupying the gap, I turned off General Hampton, with all his cavalry except the Jeff. Davis Legion, to re-enforce Munford, at Crampton's Gap, which was now the weakest point of the line. I remained myself at the gap near Boonsborough until night, but the enemy did not attack the position. This was obviously no place for cavalry operations, a single horseman passing from point to point on the mountain with difficulty. Leaving the Jeff. Davis Legion here, therefore, and directing Colonel Rosser, with a detachment of cavalry and the Stuart Horse Artillery, to occupy Braddock's Gap, I started on my way to join the main portion of my command at Crampton's Gap, stopping for the night near Boons-borough. I had not, up to this time, seen General d. H. Hill, but about midnight he sent General Ripley to me to get information concerning totals and gaps in a locality where General Hill had been lying for two days with his command. All the information I had was cheerfully given, and the situation of the gaps explained by map. I confidently hoped by this time to have received the information which was expected from Brig. Gen. Fitz. Lee. All the information I possessed or had the means of possessing had been laid before General D. H. Hill and the commanding general. His troops were duly notified of the advance of the enemy, and I saw them in line of battle awaiting his approach, and, myself, gave some general directions concerning the location of his lines during the afternoon, in his absence.
Early next morning I repaired to Crampton's Gap, which I had reason to believe was as much threatened as any other. Brigadier-General Hampton proceeded, as directed, toward Burkittsville. As General Jackson was then in front of Harper's Ferry, and General McLaws, with his division, occupied Maryland Heights, to prevent the escape of the Federal garrison, it was believed that the enemy's efforts would be against McLaws, probably by the route of Crampton's Gap. On his way to the gap, Brigadier-General Hampton encountered a regiment of the enemy's cavalry on a road parallel to the one which he was pursuing, and, taking the Cobb Legion, Lieutenant-Colonel [P.M. B.] Young, at once charged them, dispersing them, killing or wounding 30 and taking 5 prisoners. Our loss was 4 killed and 9 wounded, among the former Lieutenant [J. F.] Marshall and Sergeant Barksdale, and among the latter Lieutenant-Colonel Young and Captain [G. J.] Wright, all of whom acted with remarkable gallantry.
General Hampton then drew near the gap, when Colonel Munford, mistaking his command for a portion of the enemy's cavalry, ordered his artillery to open upon him. This order was on the point of being executed, when Hampton, becoming aware of his danger, exhibited a white flag and thus averted this serious misfortune. Hampton's brigade remained at the gap for the night.
Next morning, upon my arrival, finding that the enemy had made no demonstration toward Crampton's Gap up to that time, and apprehending that he might move directly from Frederick to Harper's Ferry, I deemed it prudent to leave Munford to hold this point until he could be re-enforced with infantry, and moved Hampton nearer the Potomac. General McLaws was advised of the situation of affairs, and sent Brig. Gen. Howell Cobb with his command to hold Crampton Gap. General Hampton's command was halted at the south end of South Mountain, and pickets sent out on the roads toward Point of Rocks and Frederick. I proceeded, myself, to the headquarters of General McLaws, to acquaint him with the situation of affairs, and also to acquaint myself with what was going on. I went with him to the Maryland Heights, overlooking Harper's Ferry, which had not yet fallen. I explained to him the location of the roads in that vicinity, familiar to myself from my connection with the John Brown raid, and repeatedly urged the importance of his holding with an infantry picket the road leading from the Ferry by the Kennedy farm toward Sharpsburg; failing to do which, the entire cavalry force of the enemy at the Ferry, amounting to about 500, escaped during the night by that very road, and inflicted serious damage on General Longstreet's train in the course of their flight.
I had ordered Colonel Munford to take command (as the senior officer) at Crampton's Gap, and hold it against the enemy at all hazards. Colonel Munford gave similar instructions to the officers commanding the two fragments of infantry regiments from Mahone's brigade, then present, and posted the infantry behind a stone wall at the eastern base of the mountain. [R. P.] Chew's battery and a section of navy howitzers, belonging to the Portsmouth Battery, were placed on the slope of the mountain, and the whole force of cavalry at his command dismounted and disposed on the flanks as sharpshooters. The enemy soon advanced with overpowering numbers to assail the position, his force in sight amounting to a division (Slocum's) of infantry. They were received with a rapid and steady fire from our batteries, but continued to advance, preceded by their sharpshooters, and an engagement ensued between these and our infantry and dismounted cavalry. Colonel Parham, commanding Mahone's brigade, soon after arrived with the Sixth and Twelfth Virginia Infantry, scarcely numbering in all 300 men, and this small force for at least three hours maintained their position and held the enemy in check without assistance of any description from General Semmes, who (Colonel Munford reports) held the next gap below and witnessed all that took place. General Cobb finally came with two regiments to the support of the force holding the gap. At his request Colonel Munford posted the new regiment, when the infantry which had been engaged, having exhausted their ammunition, fell back from their position. The enemy took advantage of this circumstance and suddenly advanced, and the fresh regiments broke before they were well in position. General Cobb made great efforts to rally them, but without the least effect, and it was evident that the gap could no longer be held. Under these circumstances Colonel Munford (whose artillery had exhausted every round of ammunition and retired) formed his command and moved down the mountain on the Boonsborough road to the point where the horses of the dismounted sharpshooters were stationed. The enemy were at the forks of the Harper's Ferry and Boonsborough roads before many of the cavalry reached it, the infantry having retired in great disorder, and the cavalry were the last to give up their position.
In this hot engagement the Second and Twelfth Virginia Cavalry behaved with commendable coolness and gallantry, inflicting great injury with their long-range guns upon the enemy, and their exertions were ably seconded by the troops under Colonel Parham, who held his position, most gallantly, until overpowered.
Hearing of the attack at Crampton's Gap, I rode at full speed to reach that point, and met General Cobb's command just after dark, retreating in disorder down Pleasant Valley. He represented the enemy as only 200 yards behind, and in overwhelming force. I immediately halted his command, and disposed men upon each side of the road to meet the enemy, and a battery, which I had accidentally met with, was placed in position commanding the road. The enemy not advancing, I sent out parties to reconnoiter, who found no enemy within a mile. Pickets were thrown out, and the command was left in partial repose for the night.
The next morning, more infantry and a portion of the cavalry having been brought up to this point, preparations were made to repulse any attack, Maj. Gen. R. H. Anderson being now in immediate command at this point. The battle of Boonsborough, or South Mountain, having taken place the evening previous, resulted unfavorably to us, and the troops occupying that line were on the march to Sharpsburg. The garrison at Harper's Ferry surrendered during the forenoon. Late on the afternoon previous, Brig. Gen. Fitz. Lee arrived at Boonsborough and reported to the commanding general, having been unable to accomplish the object of his mission, which his report will more fully explain. His command was assigned to the important and difficult duty of occupying the line of battle of the infantry, to enable it to withdraw during the night; and early next morning his command was charged with bringing up the rear of that column to Sharpsburg, while Hampton accomplished the same for McLaws' command, moving out of Pleasant Valley to Harper's Ferry.
I reported, in person, to General Jackson at Harper's Ferry, and thence rode, at his request, to the commanding general, at Sharpsburg, to communicate to him General Jackson's news and information. Our army being in line of battle on the heights overlooking the Antietam, I was assigned to the left, where Brig. Gen. Fitz. Lee's brigade took position after his severe engagement near Boonsborough between the enemy and his rear guard, Munford's small command being on the right.
On the afternoon of the 16th the enemy was discovered moving a column across the Antietam to the pike, with the view of turning our left beyond the Dunkard church. This was duly reported and the movement watched. A little skirmishing took place before night. I moved the cavalry still farther to the left, making way for our infantry, and crowned a commanding hill with artillery, ready for the attack in the morning. General Jackson had arrived in time from Harper's Ferry, with a part or his command, on the night before, to take position on this line, and the attack began very early next morning. The cavalry was held as a support for the artillery, which was very advantageously posted so as to bring an enfilading fire upon the enemy's right.
About this time Lieut. Col. John T. Thornton, of the Third Virginia Cavalry, was mortally wounded at the head of his regiment. To the service he was a brave and devoted member. In him one of the brightest ornaments of the State has fallen.
This fire was kept up with terrible effect upon the enemy, and the position of the artillery being somewhat endangered, Early's brigade was sent to me by General Jackson as additional support. The enemy had advanced too far into the woods near the Dunkard church for the fire to be continued without danger of harming our own men. I accordingly withdrew the batteries to a position farther to the rear, where our own line could be seen, and ordered General Early to rejoin his division, with the exception of the Thirteenth Virginia Infantry, commanded by Captain [F. V.] Winston, which was retained as a support for the artillery. The artillery opened from its new position, at close range, upon the enemy with still more terrible effect than before. The Thirteenth Virginia Infantry, being within musket range, did telling execution. Early's division now pouring a deadly fire into their front, while the artillery and its support were bearing so heavily upon their flank, the enemy soon broke in confusion, and were pursued for half a mile along the Williamsport turnpike. I recognized in this pursuit part of Barksdale's and part of Semmes' brigades; and I also got hold of one regiment of Ransom's brigade, which I posted in an advantageous position on the extreme left flank after the pursuit had been checked by the enemy's reserve artillery coming into action. Having informed General Jackson of what had transpired, I was directed by him to hold this advance position, and that he would send all the infantry he could get in order to follow up the success. I executed this order, keeping the cavalry well out to the left, and awaiting the arrival of re-enforcements. These re-enforcements were, however, diverted to another part of the field, and no further engagement took place on this part of the field beyond a desultory artillery fire.
On the next day it was determined, the enemy not again attacking, to turn the enemy's right. In this movement I was honored with the advance. In endeavoring to pass along up the river bank, however, I found that the river made such an abrupt bend that the enemy's batteries were within 800 yards of the brink of the stream, which would have made it impossible to have succeeded in the movement proposed, and it was accordingly abandoned.
The commanding general having decided to recross the Potomac, the delicate and difficult duty of covering this movement was assigned to Brig. Gen. Fitz. Lee, while I was directed to ford the river that afternoon with Hampton's brigade at an obscure ford, and, proceeding to Williamsport, cross the river again at that point, so as to create a diversion in favor of the movement of the army. Hampton's brigade did not reach the ford until dark, and, as the ford was very obscure and rough, many got over their depth and had to swim the river. The duty assigned to Brig. Gen. Fitz. Lee was accomplished with entire success, and he withdrew his command safely to the south side of the Potomac on the morning of the 19th.
Hampton's brigade crossed the Potomac a short distance above Williamsport, while a part of the Twelfth Virginia Cavalry dashed across the river immediately at Williamsport, chasing a few of the enemy's pickets from the place. I was also aided in this demonstration by a battalion of infantry under Captain [W. W.] Randolph, of the Second Virginia; also by a detachment of the Eleventh Georgia, and, it may be, by small detachments of other regiments, and a section of the Salem Artillery and one of the Second Company Howitzers. The bridge over the canal was destroyed, but a very good road was constructed without much labor under the aqueduct over the Conacocheague. Having moved out the command, including Hampton's brigade, upon the ridges overlooking Williamsport, active demonstrations were made toward the enemy.
On the 20th the enemy were drawn toward my position in heavy force, Couch's division in advance. Showing a bold front, we maintained our position and kept the enemy at bay until dark, when, having skirmished all day, we withdrew to the south bank of the Potomac without loss.
During the Maryland campaign my command did not suffer on any one day as much as their comrades of other arms, but theirs was the sleepless watch and the harassing daily petite guerre, in which the aggregate of casualties for the month sums up heavily. There was not a single day, from the time my command crossed the Potomac until it recrossed, that it was not engaged with the enemy, and at Sharpsburg was several times subjected to severe shelling. Their services were indispensable to every success attained, and the officers and men of the cavalry division recur with pride to the Maryland campaign of 1862.
I regret exceedingly that I have not the means of speaking more in detail of the brave men of other commands, whose meritorious conduct was witnessed both at Sharpsburg and Williamsport, but whose names, owing to the lapse of time, cannot be now recalled, and I have no reports to assist me. Brigadier-General Early, at the former place, behaved with great coolness and good judgment, particularly after he came in command of his division, and Col. (since General) William Smith, Forty-ninth Virginia Infantry, was conspicuously brave and self-possessed. One of the regiments of Ransom's brigade, also becoming detached from the brigade, behaved with great gallantry, and for a long time held an important detached position on the extreme left, unaided.
The gallant Pelham displayed all those noble qualities which have made him immortal. He had under his command batteries from every portion of General Jackson's command. The batteries of Poague, Pegram, and Carrington (the only ones which now recur to me) did splendid service, as also did the Stuart Horse Artillery, all under Pelham. The hill, held on the extreme left so long and so gallantly by artillery alone, was essential to the maintenance of our position.
Maj. Heros von Borcke displayed his usual skill, courage, and energy. His example was highly valuable to the troops.
Cadet W. Q. Hullihen, C. S. Army, was particularly distinguished on the field of Sharpsburg for his coolness and his valuable services as acting aide-de-camp. I deem it proper to mention here, also, a young lad named Randolph, of Fauquier, who, apparently about twelve years of age, brought me several messages from General Jackson under circumstances of great personal peril, and delivered his dispatches with a clearness and intelligence highly creditable to him.
Private R. T. Clingan, Company G, Cobb's Georgia Legion, one of my couriers, was killed while behaving with the most conspicuous bravery, having borrowed a horse to ride to the field. He had been sent to post a battery of artillery from his native State.
Captain [R. E.] Frayser, Signal Corps, rendered important services to the commanding general from a mountain overlooking the enemy on the Antietam.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. E. B. STUART,