When I arrived in King and Queen County it was reported to me that the enemy had landed troops, consisting of infantry and cavalry, at Gloucester Point from Yorktown, on the opposite shore. Not being entirely satisfied of the correctness of the report, and being determined to find out for myself, I did not discontinue the march, but proceeded to Gloucester Point, having thrown forward a reliable scout, in order to ascertain certainly if the enemy was really at the point and in what force. At Plain View my scouts returned with the information that the enemy had only spent a short time in Gloucester, and had again embarked and gone back to York.
Having again resumed the line of march, I advanced the maine column to a point about 4 miles from Gloucester Point, and sent forward a small party and established my pickets at that point, in full sight of the enemy at york and his gunboats in the river, in order that I might watch him closely to prevent his either landing in front or sending troops up the river to cut off my retreat.
I found in the river in the vicinity of Yorktown two gunboats and a large transport. I sent a party to burn the huts at Gloucester Point and also the wharf at that place, in order to prevent the landing of cavalry with facility. The enemy had frequently crossed the river with cavalry and had harassed the citizens of Gloucester and King and Queen in predatory excursions. I succeeded in committing to the flames the huts, notwithstanding the efforts of a gunboat lying in the stream, which did not cease to shell the party during the accomplishment of the work, with no casualty to us, as I am happy to inform you. The men, having been accustomed to gunboats at the White House and other points, did not seem to be at all disturbed by the large shells that were thrown far over their heads, shrieking and crashing through the woods beyond. i did not succeed in burning the wharf, as the gunboat, finding out my intention, took up a position about 50 yards from it, and from which she could sweep it with grape and canister.
I then withdrew the column to Gloucester Court-House, leaving a picket at the point, and remained at the former place, in order that I might be able to continue the arresting of deserters and disloyal persons, which I had commenced immediately upon arriving in the county. I succeeded in arresting 18 deserters, 3 disloyal citizens, and 3 free negroes, charged with ferrying over to the enemy runaway slaves, and also arrested and brought up 2 conscripts.
Having done all that I could at the time, I took up the line of march on my return on July 26. Marching by easy stages, and lying over one day at Walkerton, in King and Queen County, for the purpose of resting the horses, I arrived and reported to you on July 30.
It only remains for me to add that the hospitality of the citizens all along the road was unprecedented. There are in those counties large quantities of grain and beef, long forage, and bacon. The citizens of those counties urged me to represent to the general commanding the cavalry the necessity of keeping a small cavalry force in the vicinity of Gloucester Point, say one squadron, which would be subsisted (both men and horses) without expense to the Government, for the purpose of protecting the road leading to Richmond. If this was done, large quantities of beef, mutton, bacon, and such things as are necessary for the sick and wounded would be sent latter place. This force would keep open the road to Richmond leading from the counties of King and Queen, Essex, Middlesex, and Matthews, in all of which counties are large military stores.
While at Gloucester Point my picket reported a large transport filled