APRIL 15, 1862 - Reconnaissance to the Rappahannock River, Va.
Report of Captain Robert F. Dyer, Co. C, First Maine Cavalry.
CAMP 1ST ME. CAV., Warrenton Junction, April 15, 1862.
We left camp at 9.30 a. m. and proceeded on the line of the railroad. Met two contrabands, who informed us that they left camp of General Smith on the opposite side of the river at 9 o'clock oats night; also informed us that a portion of the Confederate Army under his command were encamped there, supposed to be from 5,000 to 7,000 troops; that they were constructing a bridge across the river 2 miles above the railroad, with the intention of crossing, and they were also throwing up earthworks. We then proceeded along the line of the railroad, coming to a house occupied by an Irishman, who informed us that the distance to the river was 2 miles, when it could not have been over three-fourths of a mile. We then proceeded about one-half of a mile to an unoccupied house, where we halted. Adj. B. F. Tucker, accompanied by Musician A. W. Ingersoll, advanced about one-fourth of a mile to an old earthwork to reconnoiter upon the opposite shore, where they discovered plainly with the naked eye a line of rebel earthworks at intervals for 2 miles; could also see the blacks at work upon them, and through a field glass could see everything within the line distinctly; should judge that there were from 150 to 200 horses picketed in the rear of a grove; could also see a large white house, which we supposed was the headquarters, as we could see a rebel flag flying near the house; could not discover any guns within the earthworks, but judge that the encampment contained from 3,000 to 4,000 troops.
Thinking that we had examined sufficiently we were on the point of leaving, when they opened upon us from a masked battery at the southern extremity of their encampment, throwing canister, one shot striking near Lieutenant Tucker and Ingersoll, another striking about 20 feet from the center of my company in the rear. Immediately another battery opened upon us from the center of their line, throwing 10-pound shot, striking about 40 feet in rear beyond the first shot. Then a third battery opened from the extreme north of their encampment, throwing about a 12-pound shell, after which they came thick and fast from the three batteries, making a cross-fire. There were thirteen shots struck within the vicinity of us before we were able to get out of their range. After getting out of range we thought it was not prudent to make the reconnaissance any farther up or down the river, from the fact of their having such a body of horse within their encampment and being able to cross the river by fords and a bridge.
On our return, a short distance from Bealeton Station, two black women having seen us, came about a mile to meet us, and informed us that they had seen 11 mounted men upon this side of the river this morning dressed in gray uniform, some of whom they knew to be rebels; also that they were in the habit of meeting in the vicinity of Liberty Church a blacksmith named Robert Willis, said Willis being in the habit of coming into our camp and gaining information in regard to our pickets and the position of our encampments which he was known to communicate to the enemy, and they were contemplating to cross the river and surround us to-night or to-morrow night. The same information in regard to the blacksmith Robert Willis was given us from various sources. After leaving there we struck off to the left and visited the Randolph plantations, but could discover nothing further in regard to the enemy.
I remain very respectfully, your obedient servant,
ROBT. F. DYER.