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The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies

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OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 11, Part 2 (Peninsular Campaign)
Page 516 THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN,VA. Chapter XXIII.

and pistols. They fled in the direction of Bottom's Bridge. I directed the immediate tearing up of the track and cutting the wire, which was done in a very few minutes, and the result reported to General Ewell and to the commanding general. General Ewell decided to await further orders at Dispatch. I determined to push boldly down the White House road, resolved to find what force was in that direction and, if possible, rout it. A train of forage wagons with a few cavalry as escort was captured before proceeding far, and farther down several sutler's establishments. The prominent points on the roads were picketed by cavalry, all of which fled at our approach, and long before the column of cavalry had reached half-way to the White House the fleeing pickets had heralded the approach of what no doubt appeared to their affrighted minds to be the whole Army of the Valley, and from the valley of the Pamunkey a dense cloud of smoke revealed the fact of the flight and destruction in the path of a stampeded foe.

All accounts agreed that Generals Stoneman and Emory, with a large command of cavalry, infantry, and artillery, had gone in the direction of the White House, where Casey was said to be in command. I found no resistance till I reached Tunstall's Station; here I found a vacated field work and captured a cavalry flag near it. This work, as well as the evidences of recent encampments along the line of railroad, showed that one of the great results anticipated from my late expedition - the detaching a large force to protect the enemy's line of communication - had been accomplished.

At the crossing of Black Creek near this place the enemy had a squadron drawn up on the farther bank in line of battle and what appeared to be artillery on a commanding height beyond. He had destroyed the bridge over this difficult stream, whose abrupt banks and miry bed presented a serious obstacle to our progress. The artillery was ordered up to the front and a few well-directed rounds of shell dispersed the squadron, as well as disclosed in a scrambling race an adroitly-formed ambuscade of dismounted men on the bank of the stream, and produced no reply from what was supposed to be artillery. A small part of dismounted men under the daring Captain Farley soon gained the farther bank and scoured the woods beyond, while the ever-ready and indefatigable Blackford set to work to repair the crossing. It was dark, however, before it could be finished, and we slept on our arms till morning, finding ample corn for our jaded horses at Tunstall's Station.

The conflagration raged fearfully at the White House during the entire night, while explosions of shells rent the air. I was informed that 5,000 men held the place. Early next morning I moved cautiously down, catching the scattered fugitives of the day before as we advanced, till, coming in plain view of the White House at a distance of a quarter of a mile, a large gunboat was discovered lying at the landing.

I took the precaution to leave the main body about 2 miles behind, and proceeded to this point with a small party and one piece of artillery. Colonel W. H. F. Lee,the proprietor of this once beautiful estate, now in ashes and desolation, described the ground and pointed out all the localities to me, so that I was convinced that a few bold sharpshooters could compel the gunboat to leave. I accordingly ordered down about 75, party of First Virginia Cavalry (Litchfield's Company D), and partly Jeff. Davis Legion and Fourth Virginia Cavalry. They were deployed in pairs, with intervals of 40 paces, and were armed with rifle carbines. They advanced boldly on this monster, so terrible to our


Page 516 THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN,VA. Chapter XXIII.
OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 11, Part 2 (Peninsular Campaign)
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