Numbers 67. Report of Colonel J. B. Kershaw, Second South Carolina Infantry, of retreat from Fairfax Court-House and skirmish at Mitchell's Ford.
HDQRS. SECOND PALMETTO REG'T, SOUTH CAROLINA VOLS.,
Vienna, Va., July 26, 1861.
GENERAL: In obedience to your order, as soon as I could obtain the proper materials, I proceed to report the operations of my command from the 17th to 21st instant, inclusive, in two separate reports:
In accordance with your orders I had prepared my command to cover the movement of the advance forces from Fairfax Court-House to Bull Run whenever it should be ascertained that the enemy were approaching our position, in overwhelming force. On the morning of the 17th, at an early hour, the drums of the enemy announced their movement towards Fairfax Court-House, and soon after sunrise one of the pickets stationed on the road from Flint Hill to the Falls Church road, midway between the two points, was seen rapidly retreating across the field, having two pickets of fifty men each, consisting of Captain Haile's company and a part of Captain Rhett's, all under the command of Captain Haile, stationed on the Falls Church road, one-half under Lieutenant Canty, two miles distant from camp, the remainder about a mile farther at the barricades, under Captain Haile in person, whose orders required that they should engage the enemy when he appeared and fall back fighting.
I at once apprehended that they would be flanked and cut off, since their left was entirely uncovered by the retreat of the picket first mentioned. Accordingly, accompanied by Mr. A. E. Doby, of my staff, I visited the pickets, instructing them to fall back one upon the other, and both to retire together so soon as it was ascertained that the enemy had passed them to the left. Hearing firing in the direction of Flint Hill, I rode to the point whence the picket had retreated, and found the enemy's skirmishers occupying the open ground, as far as could be seen in the direction of the Vienna road, with a heavy column occupying the open ground, as far as could be seen in the direction of the Vienna road, with a heavy column occupying the woods in their rear, but not at that time advancing. I returned to Captain Haile's picket, renewed my caution, caused a barricade to be erected at the position of my nearest picket, and ordered them forward to the intersection of the Flint Hill road, to support Captain Haile and to observe the approach of the enemy along that road. Having made these dispositions I returned to camp, and found my regiment drawn up on their parade ground, tents and baggage packed and sent off as far as transportation had been provided for them, and ready for movement.
At this time I received your order in person directing me to recall the pickets, and immediately dispatched Mr. Edward Wallace, of my staff, for that purpose. I posted the companies of Captains Hoke and Cuthbert in the woods to the right of the Falls Church road, Captain Casson in reserve in front of my camp upon the road, Captain Rhett, with the remainder of his company, in front in the log-house on the road, Captain Perryman's rifles in a wood in front of the left of the trenches, Kemper's battery, with two pieces, occupying the trenches. By this time the enemy, after firing a few cannon shot, had deployed their line of battle directly in front and to the left of Captain Perryman's position, and it was announced to me that the movement to Bull Run had already been commenced by the withdrawal of Colonel Williams from his original position on the Alexandria road. I placed in position at the entrance of that into Fairfax Court-House three companies of infantry, under