No. 14. Report of Major John Mix, Third New York Cavalry, of reconnaissance and skirmish on Leesburg road, Virginia.
CAMP BATES, NEAR POOLESVILLE, MD.,
November 4, 1861.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of my reconnaissance on the 21st ultimo:
In compliance with the instructions of Brigadier-General Stone, I crossed the Potomac at Edwards Ferry about 7 o'clock a. m., with a party of 3 officers and 31 rank and file, Captain Charles Stewart, assistant adjutant-general, accompanying the party. A line of skirmishers, consisting of two companies of the First Minnesota, commanded the line of the hill to the right and front. After carefully examining our arms and equipments, we moved quickly forward on the Leesburg road. The house to the right, about 2 miles from the landing, known as Monroe's, was found vacant, and appeared to have been left in great haste, most probably during the cannonading of the 20th. At this passing the road enters a thick wood, with a great growth of underbrush, impenetrable to our flanking at the gait we were moving. They were consequently drawn up the road and ordered to proceed at a slow gallop. The road was here so narrow and crooked that they could not keep over 40 paces in the front. Three hundred yards from the house a road crosses the one we were upon, running to the bridge over Goose Creek on the left and to Leesburg on the right. I, however, kept straight on, as the road presented little opportunity from observation, and would sooner reach the high and open country around the enemy's breastworks to the left and front. Soon after reaching this point we drove in a vedette of the enemy, who took the alarm too soon to allow a reasonable chance of our capturing him, and I did not wish to fatigue our horses by useless pursuit.
A negro whom we had met reported that a regiment of infantry and a body of cavalry had left the immediate neighborhood that morning at daylight, and taken the Leesburg road. With this intelligence we proceeded on our way, and when about 1,200 yards farther in the woods our advance suddenly halted and signalized the enemy in sight. Pushing rapidly forward, we saw the bayonets glistening above the brush; but for the thick undergrowth but few of the enemy could be seen. In an instant the head of the columns "by fours" came upon the road within 35 yards of us, and 5 yards of one of our men (Sergeant Brown), who held his position when he discovered them. At the same moment a rise in the ground disclosed to me a long line of bayonets pushing rapidly forward with the evident intention of flanking the road on our left. I immediately directed a fire upon us from a distance of not over 30 yards. We retired at a smart gallop about 100 yards, when a turn in the rod protected us from their fire, which was now very rapid, but ineffective. Within 30 yards of their column a horse was shot, another stumbled and fell, leaving 2 men almost in the ranks of the enemy. These men were rescued and brought back in a most gallant manner by Captain Charles Stewart and Lieutenant George E. Courand, and were quickly mounted, when we formed for a charge, but the enemy had deployed to the right and left of the road and again compelled us