War of the Rebellion: Serial 012 Page 0433 Chapter XXIII. SKIRMISHES NEAR WILLIAMSBURG, VA.

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Numbers 7. Report of Brigadier General William H. Emory,

U. S. Army, commanding First Brigade, Cavalry Reserve.


SIR: At the moment of arriving under fire with my own brigade on the 4th instant I received orders from General Stoneman directing me to take Benson's battery, Averell's cavalry, and Barker's Illinois cavalry (one squadron) and occupy the road to the left and communicate with General Smith's pickets. Following a wood road, and when we were about striking the great highway leading from Yorktown to Williamsburg on a narrow road skirted on both sides by dense thicket and ponds, the enemy's cavalry in column of fours charged on the advance guard, which was for a moment thrown into confusion. The promptness of Captain Benson, who immediately unlimbered and fired, put the enemy to the right-about. Colonel Averell's cavalry was then brought to the front, a squadron dismounted as skirmishers on each flank, who routed the enemy's dismounted skirmishers, and the advance was impeded but for a few moments. The enemy was driven so closely that he was compelled to retire toward Lee's Mill, near Yorktown. He formed in line of battle in an open field where the roads fork, leading by the banks of the James River. The artillery being then opened on him his ranks were broken. After one or two ineffectual attempts to reform he fled toward James River. I sent repeated requests for a regiment of infantry to guard the battery while I pursued across the country, where artillery could not follow, but none reached me until next morning.

The capture of two infantry prisoners and the information communicated by General Stoneman led me to believe an infantry force was intercepted and still between us and the Yorktown lines. My orders being to communicate to the rear with the pickets of General Smith's column I remained in that position all night and sent to the rear, but found no pickets to communicate with, General Smith's column having taken another road-that on the York River side.

At 10 o'clock at night General Hooker, with one brigade, passed to my rear on the main road to Williamsburg. As I was about marching at 5 o'clock next morning I received an express from General Hooker saying the enemy was in force 2 miles in front, and asking for my battery. I immediately marched with my whole force to his support, leaving Major Barker, with his squadron, to guard the rear and left, having previously ascertained very nearly to my satisfaction that the enemy's force (like my own, composed entirely of cavalry and artillery) had retreated by a road leading along the beach of the James River under cover of a gunboat, and it afterward was reported to me that this gunboat, mistaking their own cavalry for ours, shelled it. Unless their artillery was put on board the steamer it must have been abandoned, and will be found in our rear, as we had certain information that the cavalry passed by the road to our left and that the artillery did not. I remained supporting General Hooker, sending out parties to reconnoiter the enemy's right and to occupy the ground between our left and the James River, until 1 o'clock, when General Heintzelman came up, who sent me with my command, cavalry and artillery, to guard an attack on the left and rear from the direction of the Williamsburg road