APRIL 2, 1862. - Reconnaissance to the Rappahannock River, Va.
Report of Colonel John F. Farnsworth, Eighth Illinois Cavalry.
HEADQUARTERS EIGHTH ILLINOIS CAVALRY,
April 3, 1862.
COLONEL: Yesterday, in compliance with orders from the general commanding this corps, I made another reconnaissance to the Rappahannock River.
Leaving camp at about 9 o'clock a. m., and dividing my regiment into two columns of about equal strength, I detached one company from each column to act as skirmishers. We proceeded in this manner, Lieutenant-Colonel Gamble leading the column which marched upon the right and I that which marched upon the left of the railroad. Our skirmishers, when formed in line, covered a territory of at least 4 1/2 or 5 miles wide, taking the railroad as a center, and the two columns from 3 to 4 miles apart, and striking the river 2 miles above and below the railroad bridge. I found no enemy until within little over 1 mile from the river, when 10 mounted pickets concealed in the skirts of a woods fired upon my skirmishers as they approached through an open field, not, however, hitting either my men of their horses. Instantly upon firing they turned their horses and fled. About an equal number of my men pursued them rapidly down the road to the river, firing upon them as they could get opportunity. The rebels, upon approaching the ford of the stream, turned to the right and left into the woods, no doubt fearing that the water would so check their flight, if they entered it, as to enhance their danger. After following them some distance in the woods I called my men back. At least one of the enemy was badly wounded in the skirmish. Lieutenant-Colonel Gamble saw no enemy until he came around upon the high ground near the railroad bridge, when the rebels commenced firing shells at his column from the other side of the river. They fired twenty-three shots from two guns. They, however, did us no damage. We then returned by routes a little different, taking forage as we came.
I should mention that Lieutenant Hotopp, in command of the company of skirmishers in advance of Colonel Gamble's column, while passing to the extreme right, became entangled in a thicket. When he extricated himself my men were not in sight. In endeavoring to make his way to them he was suddenly set upon by 5 rebels, and had a narrow escape from being captured by them. He shot one or two of their horses, and, being well mounted, escaped form them. Directly afterward the lieutenant met a squad of the Fourth New York Cavalry, told them of his adventure, and desired them to go with him and capture the rebels. Instead of that, however, they took the lieutenant a prisoner and brought him to camp.
My opinion, based upon all the observation and information I have been able to gather, is that there are no rebel soldiers this side the river with the exception of a few scouts and spies, and that there is but a small force still remaining upon the other bank.
Very respectfully, yours, & c.,
J. F. FARNSWORTH,
Colonel, Commanding Eighth Illinois Cavalry.
Colonel J. H. TAYLOR,
Chief of Staff and Adjutant-General.