considerable cavalry camp some miles above, on the Winchester pike, I determined to send out a reconnoitering party on that road with a force of infantry to return on two parallel roads west and beat up the hiding places of these marauding patrols. I sent forward Captain Cole's cavalry company, accompanied by Captain Wilkins and Captain Beman, of my staff, the latter to make a sketch of the country southwest of this with a reference to the cross-roads. I ordered one section of the artillery, under Captain Matthews, and the Fifth Connecticut and Forty-sixth Pennsylvania (encamped on that road) to follow, the two infantry regiments to turn to the left and return to camp by the middle road and the ridge road, both running nearly parallel to the pike within a distance of 3 miles west. The cavalry and artillery were to return on the pike when the infantry turned off.
The cavalry came in sight of the advanced vedettes of the rebels soon after leaving the outer posts of our own pickets (say 3 miles above), which, however, retired some miles up, where they joined the main body, deployed on both sides of the pike in the woods. Here they made a stand, and being in much superior force to our cavalry, were able to hold their advantageous position until they observed that detachments of our infantry were getting towards their rear, when they fled up the pike without again halting. Captain Matthews, tried his new guns on them as they fled with very satisfactory results, as he reports to me. He could have punished them earier, but it was reported that our infantry would be able to reach their near and cut off the retreat of the whole command.
I regret to report that we had 3 privates of the cavalry wounded. The horse of Captain Cole was killed under him, and that of Captain Wilkins, assistant Adjutant-general, so badly wounded as to be permanently disabled.
The officers and men behaved very gallantly while under fire of men sheltered for the most part by the trees.
My staff officers speak with high praise of the cool and daring conduct of Captain Cole and Lieutenant Vernon, of the cavalry.
My two staff officers (Captain Wilkins and Captain Beman) exposed themselves, I fear, almost to rashness.
I inclose a report of Captain Wilkins of this reconnaissance.
If the results were not important, the effect has been to stir up the blood of the men and put them in good spirits for any work ahead.
I hear the cavalry have shown themselves again this morning 3 or 4 miles west of this, seizing horses and committing depredations on all citizens supposed to be loyal. I have but one company of cavalry, and cannot pursue and punish these marauders as I could wish. I propose, however, to send out a pretty large guard of infantry to occupy those cross-roads, and, if possible, get possession of some of these rebel robbers.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. S. WILLIAMS,
Major COPELAND, Assistant Adjutant-General.
P. S.-I get nothing but the same contradictory reports from W-[Winchester]; by some that the rebels are going off, by others that they are thought re-enforced. Citizens from the vicinity of the skirmish yesterday report that the rebels had 6 killed and 7 wounded. I think the report very probable, as we had several amateur officers with their rifles present who had very deliberate aim upon the rebel troops. Major